Yes, you clicked right - the Maple series is here. ;D It took me a long time (at least, since the time I'd said I was going to do it), but I finally got it up. As always, several things have happened since the last time I updated... But I'm in a good mood, so I'll skip it. :P Instead, I'll reply to the reviews of the last chapter of The Final Warrior of Light:

WindGoddess Rune: I'm sorry it took so long... But here it is. :) It's going to be a good while before Zola returns... But she'll definitely be back. ;)

Growlmon1: Ah, I'm glad. :D I know; I felt so bad for her. :( Well, I've softened up towards Nene after playing Blue Dragon Plus... But I'm still kind of angry with him concerning Zola in chapter four of The Final Warrior of Light. XP Aw, thanks. :) And I have to thank you again, actually - you really helped me to get this uploaded, too. :)

YuukixZero16-in-yellow: Thank you! :D I know; Kaede has always been a favorite character of mine, which was what spurred me to write Maple Leaf (and its sequel) in the first place. And Kluke is always so cool. XD Thanks again. :)

Prince of Tennis' Shaman: Ah... I actually ended up on the edge of my seat a few times, and I was writing it. ;D Ah, I'm glad I could help. :D I think I would've, too. XD Well, this one was only over two weeks late this time. XP Ugh... I have to find a way to get past these blocks... Ah, that's true, though... Yes, they definitely are. :D Yes. Oh. *sweatdrops* I always love long chapters, whether reading or writing. ;) (Yes, Jiro, you don't need to say that. :P Though I can't dance, either... On second thought, I just don't know. *sweatdrops again*) Ah, that's what I was hoping for. :) I had worried that some people might find her "pyon-ing" annoying - if you're in the mind set that everyone's speaking Japanese, she does it even more - but fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Oh... Thank you! :D I know... Yes, she's just so great. :D Yeah, they are. XD (Game Jiro: Great... No one here can use a proper description... The world's coming to an end.) (Ah, you're just more of a stickler for grammar than I am... Which says a lot. ;)) Oh... I realize now that your review cut off here, but I got your PM. :)

Ultimashadow: Thanks! XD Oh, she definitely is now. ;) (Hello, Kyo. Thank you for stopping by. But Ultimashadow is right, you need to get back to your stories.) Emotionless... Hrm... If that's your impression of her after the last chapter, then I guess I must've failed with the final paragraphs. :/ Still, you said missing her, so... *shrugs* Sorry it took so long, but here it is. :)

Review replies done! :D Okay, a few important things I need to mention before we start the chapter... First of all, only including the actual written story and not the notes, each chapter of Maple Leaf will be around 6,000 words. I'm basing this on the first chapter of my story Clover Bunch (still needs editing, but will be uploaded eventually); the reason for this is that the first chapter of that story is basically an adaption of the anime's episode six with several key things changed. Since Maple Leaf is supposed to be as close to an episode of the anime as possible, it needs to be as long as an episode. Another thing is that... Well, this chapter didn't turn out quite like I planned. I don't know how good it is... That's really for you to decide. Keep in mind that I was exhausted when I wrote some of it, so if it didn't turn out that good, it's likely that it can be blamed on that. This next thing is probably the most important, so that's why I'm going to separate it from the other things:


And one more thing, though it isn't as important as the other ones - I have a new poll on my profile, and I have a feeling a few of you will think it's worth checking out (if you haven't already). ;) Okay, I think that's all I need to mention. So... Oh, disclaimer:

Disclaimer: I do not own Blue Dragon. This is just a fan fiction made by a fan for other fans. Also, in case there is any confusion, Kaede is NOT my character (see all chapters of The Final Warrior of Light for reference).

Okay, the only disclaimer for this story is out of the way... So, without further ado, I present to you the 52nd non-crossover story in the Blue Dragon fan fiction archive, and my longest going project, Maple Leaf!

She sat on the soft grass, feeling underneath the fingertips of one hand how it had been warmed by the sun; in her other hand was her stuffed dog, a constant companion and loyal friend. She glanced to her left, over at him. "Thank you for bringing me here."

He blushed a little. "I don't mind that much. You seemed like you wanted to go more than you usually do, so..."

She giggled at the way he had gotten embarrassed, then started eating another berry. She was about to reply, but she saw something over the hills that caught her attention. She stood quickly. "Is that...?"

He immediately turned around to see what had startled her so, seeing it right away. "That smoke... It's coming from where the village is!"

"Otousan... Okaasan..."

He was on his feet in seconds, and then he had turned around and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Go home and stay with Okaasan. I'm going to find out what's happening."


"Don't worry. I'll bring Otousan and meet you there, alright? Just don't leave the house."

She looked at him for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. "Okay..."

"Good. Be careful." With that, he broke into a run.

"You be careful, too!" she called after him.

"I will!"

Once the hills had blocked him from her line of sight, she took off towards the village, using the forest path that she knew by heart. That hadn't stopped it from taking longer to run through, though. In her panic, she had taken a wrong turn, and ended up losing time as she made her way back.

After she'd gotten on the right track, something caught her eye. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the rest of the village - even from here, she could see the buildings burning.

She quickly shook her head, remembering that she was supposed to stay inside, and rushed into her home.

When she entered through the back door, she saw that both her mother and father were already there. Her mother hurried towards her. "Jina-"

She didn't get to hear the rest, as something crashed into the house's roof.

She looked up, seeing that fire was already burning through the wood. It made quick work of it, and the roof started to cave in, about to fall right where she was standing.

"No!" Both of her parents reached for her, even though they already knew that she was too far away.

She just looked on in horror as the flame-covered eaves came closer, already feeling the heat from it as it closed in to hit her and-

She jerked awake, feeling her heart hammering in her ribcage. She hated it when she had that dream.

She sat up, rubbing her face, then threw the covers off herself. The first thing that caught her eye was the black, pants-like leggings. She'd worn them as a young child, but had stopped when she had gotten older. But she'd started wearing them again, after that day...

She closed her eyes, trying desperately to block the memories from her mind.

After she'd sat for a while, trying to calm the storm raging inside of her, she got out of bed - she felt she'd spent too much time in it as it was.

She remembered most of what had happened... Though thinking about Nene and everything that had happened yesterday made her feel sick inside, so she quickly pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind.

As she opened the door of her room, a door on her right opened as well.

Jiro stepped out and immediately saw her.

They stared at each other for a few minutes, stunned.

Finally, Jiro broke the silence, tears starting to spring to his eyes as he spoke. "It... It was real, then? You're really alive?"

She nodded slowly. "And... I guess that means you are, too."

He nodded as well, a little more quickly than she had.

A few more seconds passed, and then they ran and embraced each other in a tight hug.

新しい道 (あたらしい みち)/Atarashii Michi (A New Path)

He stopped with his hand on the doorknob, after feeling how her hand had tightened around his. "What's wrong, Jina?"

"I told you I wanted to be called Kaede," the annoyance in her voice was clear, but it gave away to worry with her next sentence. "The Warriors of Light... They're in this room, right?"

"Yes, they are." He sighed. "Are you going to keep acting like this?"

"Like what?"

"Like they're your enemies."

"I'm not acting like that. Not anymore, at least." She said the last part not quite under her breath. "But... I'm nervous."

His eyebrows furrowed. "Why?"

"It's just..." She sighed, bothered by the fact that she couldn't articulate how she felt to her own brother. Half a year ago, before the attack, this never would've happened. In fact, sometimes they'd even been able to understand each other's feelings without even speaking. They could just look at each other a certain way, or make gestures with their hands or head, and they would understand. And now... "It's awkward, you know? After everything that happened yesterday, I don't know whether they'll embrace me in hugs or try to kill me."

The eyebrows went up now. "Why would they try and kill you?"

She looked at him incredulously. "I was working with Nene. If that doesn't give them a reason to, I don't know what does."

Jiro shook his head. "They're not like that. They... They're good. They don't treat people like that. I haven't been around them long, but I've known them long enough to know that."

It was tiny, but a smile started to grace her lips. "Are you sure?"

He grinned, his first real one in six months. "What, you don't trust your Oniichan anymore?"

"Of course I do." She huffed, in a manner that said he was ridiculous for even thinking such a thing.

"Well, then..." Without waiting for a reply, he opened the door.

They caught the end of Shu's sentence as he said, "... just wish he'd lighten up a little, you know?"

"Wish who would lighten up?" Jiro said dryly, already knowing the answer.

Shu sat up as straight as a board. "No one."

Jiro rolled his eyes, then noticed his little sister trying to hide behind him. "Come on, cut that out. Stop using me to shield yourself."

She looked at him shyly, then moved in a way in which she tried to convey that it was the most painful thing possible, and Jiro had to keep from rolling his eyes again.

"Maro!" Marumaro, who had been stuffing his face only moments before, lit up like a candle after seeing her. "Kaede-chan is awake, maro!"

She bowed a little. "Good morning." Despite her nervousness, she had to admit that it was nice to see him again.

Bouquet stood up from her chair. "You and Jiro take a seat. I'll go get your plates."

Kaede sat in the chair next to her brother, simply because she was too nervous to sit next to anyone else. However, what she didn't know was that she would end up sitting right across from that girl from before...

Kluke smiled brightly at her. "Did you sleep well?"

"U-um... Not really." The dream nudged at her mind, but she pushed it down, refusing to speak of it.

The brightness dropped a notch, but the smile remained sincere. "That's understandable, with everything that happened yesterday. You shouldn't forget about what happened, but you should try not to worry about it right now."

She looked over when Jiro smiled and nodded. He seemed like he was going to say something else, but Bouquet had brought their food right at that moment.

Kaede was quiet throughout the meal, but everyone noticed that Jiro was talking more than usual. That wasn't saying much, but... He seemed more lively, more animated. He even got close to smiling a few times, which was something that Shu teased him about each one of those times (which had only resulted in a broken plate and spilled juice).

After he'd finished eating, Jiro leaned back in his chair. "If everyone's done, then we should clear all of this away and talk about what we're going to do next."

Marumaro sighed, laying his chin on the table. "Can't we rest a little more first, maro?"

"We'll have time to rest later." Jiro crossed his arms over his chest.

"We should take a look inside of the bag Nene threw at me," Kaede's tone was soft and quiet. "It might give us a clue."

"That's a good idea, Kaede." He tried to hide it, but he felt a smile threatening again.

Bouquet got up from her seat. "Anyone want to help me take away these dishes?" Her eyes immediately shot to Shu.

While he didn't notice this, Kluke did; she raised her hand. "I'll help you, Bouquet."

The two girls started grabbing plates, smiling at each other but glaring with their eyes.

Once they'd gone, Jiro sighed. "I can't believe they're going to fight at a time like this..."

Marumaro snorted. "Jiro, you're not really one to talk, maro."

Kaede blinked, looking between the Devee and her brother. "What do you mean?"

"He doesn't mean anything." Jiro snapped, his face flushed. When Marumaro and Shu snickered, he yelled at them, "Both of you shut up!"

As Marumaro and Shu laughed (making Jiro sputter), Kaede reached into her tunic's pocket and pulled out the bag. She hadn't opened it yet; she wanted to be with her brother when she found out what was inside.

She turned it over in her hand. It was a simple, red cloth pouch - nothing out of the ordinary. But she knew that there was a deeper secret inside of it.

Kaede was startled out of her almost cryptic thoughts when she heard something shatter, followed by loud yelling that sounded an awful lot like Kluke and Bouquet.

"Oh..." Jiro dropped his head into his hands. "The owners of the inn are just going to love us..."

Shu glared at him, his voice acidic as he said, "Well, maybe if someone hadn't thrown a plate at someone else, we could pass off what just happened as an accident."

"Well, maybe someone shouldn't instigate someone else." Jiro matched his tone, glaring right back.

"Maybe someone shouldn't be so stuck up all the time, since it's always bugging someone else!"

"Can I ask you guys a question, maro?" Marumaro raised his hand.

"What?" Shu and Jiro snapped simultaneously.

"Which one of you is 'someone', and which one of you is 'someone else', maro?"

Shu gaped at him and Jiro dropped his head into his hands again.

Kaede found that her dour mood had instantly vanished, and she dissolved into giggles, trying very hard not to fall out of her chair and roll on the floor laughing. "I'm... I'm sorry, but... It's just so... so funny..."

Jiro flushed; he'd forgotten what it felt like when his sister made light of the situations he ended up in. "Yeah. Sure. Glad you're enjoying yourself."

She was about to respond, but that was when Kluke and Bouquet walked back into the room. They were staring each other down sharply as they walked, and didn't even take their eyes away when they sat down.

Jiro gripped the edge of the table, wholeheartedly wishing that Zola was still here, not least of all so she could deal with this, and also wondering why he was being pushed into the role of looking out for everyone. "Okay, you two are stopping this right now. We don't have time for this. After we've checked what's inside of the bag and figured out what we do next, you can hit each other over the head with cooking utensils for all I care."

Actually, he found himself caring a bit about Kluke getting hit with something. But there was no way he'd say that out loud.

Kluke sighed and looked away from Bouquet, who huffed and crossed her arms over her chest.

Jiro nodded at his sister. "Go ahead and open it, Kaede."

She swallowed, suddenly finding her mouth and throat to be dry, setting the bag on the table. She pulled open the strings and looked inside. She gasped suddenly, looking very stunned.

"What is it?" Jiro grabbed her shoulder, worry putting an edge in his voice. "What's inside?"

Instead of answering, she reached in and pulled out what was inside - a piece of stone. Jiro's eyes widened when he saw it and stifled a gasp of his own - the others couldn't see what they could, were only able to see that it was very old.

When Kaede and Jiro continued to do nothing but stare at it, Marumaro started fidgeting impatiently. "What is it, maro? The rest of us want to know what's on it, too, maro."

Kaede blinked up at him, like she'd just woken up from a dream. Still not saying anything, she turned it around so they could see.

"No way!" Shu couldn't help it - that was the first thing that came to mind.

It looked like a small mural, though it seemed more likely to be a representation of a bigger one. On it was a picture of a very familiar white and dark gray creature.

It was a picture of Panda in a non-Shadow form.

As he walked into the room, a soldier near the door said, "Test 124 has been initiated, Nene-sama."

He didn't stop, didn't even give the soldier so much as a nod, continuing to cross the room.

"Energy level is at 75% and rising." Another soldier was bent over a console, occasionally typing in commands.

The one from before came to stand behind him. "The excavation's power has been increasing since the test was started. It's been estimated to be going up 10% every 7.5 minutes."

He pressed his hand against the glass that looked into the next room, the bright lights coming from it illuminating his face. "Excellent," his smirk broadened. "With the power from this and the secrets held within the Extra Seven, this world will be mine."

Deathroy waved his arms. "Mine! Mine!"

Zola sighed, leaning back against the cell wall; she didn't know how long she'd been in here, but it felt like it was well beyond hours. Many long, agonizing hours.

"Jiro..." She'd been thinking about him almost constantly. The last time she'd seen him, he'd been injured more badly than she'd seen him in a long time. And... it was because of her.

She shut her eyes tightly. Though she'd never said it in so many words, soon after she'd met Jiro, she'd promised both him and herself that she wouldn't let anything else happen to him. Now she'd gone and been the one to cause something, breaking that promise and worse, hurting him. It was true, Nene had been controlling her... But that wasn't making her feel any less guilty.

She felt helpless in this cell. Was he okay? Was he safe? To both of those questions, she didn't know what she'd do if he wasn't.

Rather suddenly, she was reminded of that moment when she'd come out of Nene's control momentarily, when she'd stared into Shu's face. She remembered what she'd seen in his eyes: a hint of despair and great sadness.

Shu... He trusted her so much, maybe even more than Jiro did (which was saying a lot). She'd been surprised by how much - while no one else noticed this at all, especially not himself, she'd noticed his adoration switching from Knight Masters to her. It had come as a surprise... but not an unpleasant one. And now that person he looked up to so much had attacked him...

She banged the back of her head against the wall. She had to get out of here somehow - even if the kids didn't forgive her, they at least deserved an apology.

She nearly jumped when the door opened. The soldier that stood in the now-open doorway pointed at her. "You're coming with me to see Nene-sama." He jerked his thumb in the direction of outside.

For a second, she looked him up and down, wondering if she could attack him and escape. But she soon reminded herself that she was staying here for the sake of the others. She stood and followed him.

He led her down a few corridors, and then stopped in front of a metallic door; he knocked on it with the back of his hand. It slid open, and Zola jerked back involuntarily when she saw Nene right in front of her.

This didn't go unnoticed by him; in fact, he seemed to be amused by it. "It's nice to see you, too, Zola. I'm glad you could join me."

"Join me! Join me!"

"If you want to call it that." She wasn't exactly afraid whenever she talked with Nene, mostly because she knew what she was dealing with. But seeing him so close had unnerved her, and there was a slight tremor in her voice.

He noticed this as well, but didn't say anything about it this time. Instead, he turned around, saying, "There's something over here that I think you will find very interesting."

"Interesting! Interesting!"

When the soldier nudged her forward, she followed him inside. She'd taken only a few steps before he moved out of the way to clear her view. Her eyes widened as she saw what was inside of the next room through the glass that provided a view of it. The lights coming from it danced across her face. "What... What is this?..."

"A secret that's been hidden for a very long time," he turned back to look at her. "But now it's time to discover the power that it holds."

"The power! The power!"

She took an unconscious step backwards. "This thing... I still don't know what it is completely, but I have to find a way to stop Nene from using it."

End of Part One

*eyecatch of Zola and Killer Bat*

Beginning of Part Two

Kaede set the stone down on the table, picture side up. "What does it mean, though...?"

Kluke leaned forward a little. "Maybe that's just how people in the old times interpreted Shadows."

"But why would they draw feet on it?" Shu shook his head. "Something's up with that thing. Did anyone else feel anything when they first saw it?"

"I did." This was a bit of an understatement - when Jiro had laid eyes on it, he'd felt goosebumps all over his arms, and - he didn't really know a better way to describe this part of it - the thing made him feel weird. The feeling paralleled how one would feel when they summoned a Shadow, but it was... different. Very different.

When everyone had nodded in confirmation of Shu's question, Kaede spoke up. "Why did Nene want me to have it, though? What does it mean?"

"I think..." Jiro laid his hand on it. "I think this has something to do with the Extra Seven."

"Maro?" Marumaro tilted his head to the side. "Jiro, what are you talking about, maro?"

"Call it a hunch if you want, but... I don't know if I've ever been more sure of something in my life. This is related to the Extra Seven."

"Maybe there's something written about it in the Extra Seven," Bouquet said. "Or there might be a clue that'll help us figure out what it means."

Shu grinned. "Good thinking, Bouquet."

Kluke grumbled something unintelligible under her breath.

"What's wrong with you now, maro?" Marumaro tried to peer at her face, unable to see her expression since her head was bent.

She lifted her gaze, but looked away from him. "Nothing."

Jiro sighed. If everyone was going to act like this, why couldn't he go and read? It wouldn't be that long... He quickly shook his head. "What are you thinking? Kaede coming back has made you unmindful." After the short inner reprimanding, he said, "We're getting off track. Since the two are related, it seems that the next thing we should do is retrieve the Extra Seven from General Rogi's ship."

"Wait a minute!" Shu shouted at him, suddenly starting to feel angry. "What about Zola?"

Jiro closed his eyes, preparing for the reaction. "We're not going after Zola."

"What did you say?"

Jiro looked at him through narrow eyes. "We. Are. Not. Going. After. Zola." He said each word slowly, deliberately.

"Why not?"

The next words were opposite of his previous ones in their tone, being delivered quickly, without missing a beat. "Because if you'd taken a moment to think it through, you'd know that we have no chance of defeating Nene the way we are. We need the Extra Seven to become stronger anyway, so it makes the most sense that retrieving it is what we do next, especially since that was our original strategy before all of this happened."

Shu grit his teeth. "I can't believe you! Who knows what Nene is going to do to her? You've known Zola longer than any of us, yet you're going to leave her when she needs us most..."

"Listen, the last thing that Zola would want is for us to go into a battle we aren't prepared for. What good are we to her if Nene defeats us? No; the best thing for us to do is continue with our original strategy. Whatever Nene is planning, he won't do it right away. Besides, Zola is more than capable of taking care of herself, especially now that she knows what kind of attack to expect. She'll be able to hang on until we can come and rescue her."

Shu stood up, staring at Jiro hard. "How could you? After everything you've been through with her, you're just going to abandon her-"

"You think I don't care?" Jiro snapped at him sharply and stood fast enough to knock over his chair, his voice having been sharp enough to make Shu move backwards. His next words were quieter, but the anger was much more pronounced. "While you and I bicker about this, it's just more wasted time, and that's time Zola doesn't have to spare. If you really wanted to help her, then you'd hold your tongue for five seconds so we could do what has to be done. But instead, you continue to act like a little child, like you have since I first met you. I don't care if you are a Warrior of Light, and how important that makes it for you to be coming on this journey - since I've known her, the only mistake Zola ever made was bringing you along."

After the words were out, Jiro fell back into his chair. He felt... he felt... he felt so drained. Had he really just said all of that?

Shu stared at him for a few moments, his expression like he'd just been slapped in the face (which, though it had been verbal, wasn't that far off). Then he took one step backwards... then another... And then he had run out of the room before anyone could stop him.

Kluke, who had been running through her mind a strategy of damage control since Jiro knocked his chair to the ground, got out of her own chair now. "I'll go talk to him."

"Oniichan..." Kaede watched her brother, upset and confused. She'd never seen him like this before... Was he like this all the time now? Was this what Nene had done to her sweet big brother?

He sighed, pressing his hands against his forehead, his elbows on the table. He wanted to tell her something... Maybe that he was fine, but he knew that he wasn't. Maybe that it would be okay, but for that one, he honestly didn't know.

From the windowsill, he could see people running around in the town's streets, hurrying to finish lunch and get ready to go back to their daily work. It was so normal...

He winced as Jiro's words echoed in his head:

"If you really wanted to help her, then you'd hold your tongue for five seconds..." "...the only mistake Zola ever made was bringing you along..."

He closed his eyes. Was Jiro right? Because of the way he acted, would Zola suffer because of him?

He spun around as the door closed behind him. Kluke was leaning against the now-closed door, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry. I tried knocking, but... I guess you were deep in thought or something." She giggled. "That's a change, isn't it?"

Instead of getting angry or laughing along with her, like she'd hoped, Shu looked away.

When he didn't say or do anything else, Kluke walked towards him until she was at his side. "Shu... I don't think that Jiro really meant what he said..."

He shook his head. "It doesn't matter if he did. He was right."

She narrowed her eyes slightly. "No, Shu-"

"He's right..." He repeated, looking down even further, his hair shielding his eyes from her view. "This whole journey, I've acted like a brat-"

"Shu, that isn't true-"

"-and even now, when Zola is in danger, I'm still acting like that. And... Something that Jiro said to me soon after we met was true - I'm dragging us down. Even if you hadn't gotten Phoenix, you'd still be more useful than I am."

Kluke's frown deepened as she racked her brain. She didn't want to say the wrong thing - she knew from past experience that once Shu started belittling himself, it was very hard to get him to stop. It had been unexpected, though; he hadn't done it in this exact way for a long while.

She swallowed, blushing slightly for a second, then placed her hand on his shoulder. His head shot up, looking slightly stunned.

She started. "Shu, we all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. But... We learn from those mistakes, and do better next time. That's part of growing up. And you still have a lot of growing to do. All of us do, me and Jiro included. So... What I'm really trying to say is that since you still need to grow more, you can't expect so much from yourself, and no one else should either."

His face softened a little. "I... I guess you're right."

"Of course I am." She winked to let him know she was joking.

This finally managed to coax a small smile out of him, even though he didn't say anything.

"Hey," she patted him on the arm good-naturedly. "We're going to get a lot more powerful before we go face Nene, right? Just think about how proud Zola is going to be when you come and rescue her!" She knew that Shu wouldn't be doing it by himself, but for the sake of cheering him up, it seemed better to put it that way.

She could see that her words had started working right away - Shu had already begun to roll the sentences around in his mind, his grin becoming wider as he did so.

Eventually, he nodded to himself. "Yeah... I just need a little more power, and then I'll get Zola out of there." He raised his fist in front of him, determination blazing in his eyes. "I'll show Jiro how much I can do!"

Kluke smiled at him fondly. Shu could be so rash sometimes... But she supposed that was what she liked about him.

As they walked back into the room, they heard Bouquet finish yelling, "... didn't have to be like that!"

Marumaro perked up when he saw them walk in. "Shu and Kluke are back, maro!"

Jiro glanced at them immediately, looking at Shu a little... worriedly? He glanced at Kaede when she nudged him on the arm, and he nodded. He stood and walked towards Shu.

In Jiro's mind, half of him screamed: What the heck are you doing? It's Shu, for goodness' sakes! But the other half reason, much more calmly: You're doing the right thing. It's time for you to start acting like yourself again.

Jiro took a deep breath. "Shu-"

"Forget it." He waved his hand dismissively. "I was right about a few things, but you were, too. So, let's just forget about it... and do what has to be done, right?" Shu winked after he'd echoed Jiro's previous statement.

Jiro scowled at him as he opened his mouth to start another one of their fights... But even as he yelled at him, and Shu yelled back, that little voice in the back of his mind, that other half said, See? I told you that you did the right thing...

After Kluke had broken up the fight - threatening to hit Shu with her frying pan always seemed to do the trick - and they'd talked some more about the plan, Jiro had gone downstairs to let the innkeepers know that they would be leaving.

Kluke sat at the table, writing a list; before they left town, it would be good to buy some supplies, and she wanted to know what they would be getting ahead of time.

When she felt a tap, she looked over her shoulder, and saw Jiro's little sister looking at her shyly. "What are you doing?"

Kluke smiled. "I'm making a shopping list. Is there anything that you need from the store?"

She shook her head. Blushing, she opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off as-

"AH!" Bouquet ran in from the next room, Marumaro chasing after her with a familiar smirk on his face.

Kluke stood, waited until they were close enough, then tripped Marumaro as he passed by.

He sat up, rubbing his face. "Maro..." When he'd taken his hand away, he looked up just in time to see Kluke's fist coming towards him.

Kluke stood akimbo, grumbling under her breath, glaring at the now half-conscious Devee.

Bouquet peered at her from her cover behind a potted plant. "Thank you, Kluke."

"You're welcome." She looked at her list, then shook her head; it would have to do.

Kaede tilted her head. "Why were you running from him, though?"

Kluke raised an eyebrow. "You mean you don't know? Marumaro's never tried anything with you?"

"What are you talking about?"

She sighed, shaking her head. "Don't worry... You'll find out eventually."

The door leading to the hallway opened, and Jiro stepped out. "I let them know we're leaving. Is everyone ready to go?"

"Pretty much..." Kluke looked around the room. "Hang on a second; I'll go get Shu."

As soon as she started walking towards their room, Kaede crossed the room speedily, not stopping until she was at her brother's side.

Jiro shook his head at her. "I should say something, but we'll talk later."

She nodded, taking his hand. He rolled his eyes, wondering absentmindedly how many times he could do that before it started to make an impact on his vision.

When Kluke returned with Shu, and then kicked Marumaro awake, Jiro nodded universally to everyone. "Okay, we're all here, so let's go over our next moves once more. Like Kaede suggested after me and Shu discussed-"

Shu snorted. "Argued."

"-with each other," Jiro narrowed his eyes momentarily, but let it go and got back to the subject on hand. "We're going to travel to the nearest Grand Kingdom outpost and find a Mechat. While we're there, we'll go through some of their data to find out where General Rogi's ship is currently located. Using the Mechat, we'll travel to said location and board his ship so we can take back the Extra Seven. Any questions or objections?"

After everyone shook their head, Jiro nodded and said, "Alright. Let's move out."

Everyone took their bags, slinging it over their shoulders and such. Except for one.

They all stared at Zola's bag for several moments, unsure of what to do.

Breaking the silence for the second time that day, Jiro said, "I'll take it." His voice sounded strained.

Kluke reached towards him. "Jiro-"

Before she could say anything else, he swung the bag over his shoulders. "It's fine." He didn't look at her, though, anyone or anything else but the floor.

"Zola..." Jiro took a deep breath. Now wasn't the time to act this way. He had to be strong. He lifted his gaze and echoed what he'd said only moments before, "Let's go, guys."

End of Part Two

*eyecatch of Jiro and Minotauros*

Chapter Preview

*cue scenes from next chapter in background*

Narrator: The Shu-tachi infiltrate the Grand Kingdom outpost to acquire a mechat and discover the whereabouts of General Rogi's ship. They seem to be successful, but they may find more trouble than they bargained for.

Shu: I don't understand the information in this computer...

Kaede: I know a little bit, since I was part of Grand Kingdom, but I still don't know how the computer works.

Marumaro: I'm still confused, maro.

Bouquet: I am, too.

Jiro: Does anyone know how to use this thing?

Kluke: I do. What's wrong with all of you?

Shu, Jiro, Marumaro, Bouquet and Kaede: The technology is too complicated!

Narrator: Next chapter of Blue Dragon: Maple Leaf - Journey's Start.

Phew, it's finally done! :D Took me long enough. XP I know it probably wasn't what was expected... But after the quick pace of the last chapter of The Final Warrior of Light, a more slow paced chapter was needed (I think the Shu-tachi would agree with me). So... Please review if you get the chance. :) I appreciate it, but it's fine if you can't. I'm scrambling to update other stories, so it's going to be slow, but I will try and update after 10 hits. It's going to be slow anyway, since Maple Leaf requires long chapters, so it takes longer to write. But... I'll try to see you soon! :D