At first Rin thought it was his alarm clock going off that woke him up. After taking a moment to get his bearings he recognized the sound as the phone in his room and fumbled for it while still half-pinned to his bed by Ruri who was dozing on his chest. He finally grabbed the receiver and put it to his ear.

"Rin-dono," Eustoma said on the other end. "It worked. Nerine found them. Meet us outside your home as soon as possible."

"Got it, we'll be out in a couple minutes," Rin replied, putting the receiver back down after. He looked down and saw Ruri lift her head to look at him.

"I don't suppose they'd give us five more minutes," she asked jokingly.

"Somehow I think this is one time neither of them is in a joking mood," Rin replied. "But I'll take a rain check on that five minutes."

Ruri smiled and gave him a quick kiss before sitting up. "Feel free to cash it in anytime."

They dressed quickly and headed for the front door, both with their respective sword hilts in hand. Rin knew his would only stun anyone it struck, but it was better than nothing. He began going over his training in his head as they joined Eustoma, Forbesii and Nerine outside.

"Primula was taken to an abandoned warehouse on the other side of the city," Nerine told them. "I communicated with her briefly and found out that Kaede is with her. Nothing has been done to them yet, but Primula did say that the area seems to be heavily guarded."

"Nothing's ever easy," Rin noted. "Let's get going then."

"Actually, Rin-chan, we thought we'd do this the easy way for once," Forbesii told him before he took off running. "Just stay very still."

With a flourish of his arm, Forbesii summoned a magic circle beneath them and, one bright flash of magical energy later, they stood just outside a chain link fence that enclosed the warehouse. Eustoma made quick work of the fence, ripping a gaping hole in it as if it were tissue paper. Predictably, the goons guarding the facility swarmed out to greet them.

"So much for the element of surprise," Forbesii lamented.

"To hell with stealth, I've been itching for a fight for hours," Eustoma told him, clenching his fists. "Rin-dono! Matsuri! Take Nerine with you and get Primula and the little missy! Ma-bou and I will deal with this trash."

Rin, Ruri and Nerine were barely away from the scene before the two rulers were in the thick of one massive brawl. Nerine gave directions as she followed, though she found it hard to keep up with the two of them. Sensing that they were nearing Primula's location, she pushed herself to catch up to Rin and put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention.

"Rin-sama, we must be careful," she urged in a hushed tone. "Primula and Kaede are very close by."

Rin nodded in response. "Right. Thanks, Nerine. You've been a tremendous help here."

Nerine blushed at the compliment while Rin relayed the information to Ruri, who also acknowledged it. The three came to a door leading into the warehouse that had been left open, presumably by one of the guards Eustoma and Forbesii were now dealing with. They made their way inside carefully, not knowing what kind of security remained to watch the hostages. A lone light shone down from the ceiling, revealing Kaede and Primula both tied to chairs and gagged. Rin would have bolted to their position had he not felt Ruri's restraining grip on his hand urging him to be more cautious. He nodded in response and proceeded towards the two quietly with Ruri and Nerine close behind. As soon as they stepped into the light, another figure emerged from the shadows. He was a massive and completely bald God who stood a full head taller than Rin. He glowered at Rin as he stalked towards him.

"Funny how even when a plan seems to fall apart it still works," he commented, his voice low and guttural. "And you've even brought another hostage for me to take as well. How considerate. So now I suppose you-"

The man had to cut off his monologue in order to dodge an attack from Rin who'd taken the opportunity to rush in and swing at him. His training blade only missed him by a couple of inches, but it served to move the man away from Kaede and Primula. Rin stood his ground between the man and them, not letting him out of his sight.

"Like I give a damn about your reasons for doing this," he spat. "And I'm not about to give you the satisfaction of gloating about what you did or why. I'm here to get them back and to help bring you down no matter what it takes."

"Stay calm, Rin. We don't want to give him any openings," Ruri told him, keeping her own blade trained on the massive God as she flanked him. She turned her attention to their target, then. "Under orders from His Majesty King Eustoma I am authorized to employ deadly force if necessary to end the threat you pose to the royal family and to this young man and his friends. Stand down now or face the consequences!"

"Nerine," Rin said as he slowly stepped towards the man and away from Primula and Kaede. "Untie Kaede and Primula and get out of here."

Nerine knew better than to argue at a time like this. Without so much as looking at the man that Rin and Ruri were closing in on she ran in, freed the two girls from their bindings and ushered them away from the scene.

"Finally," the massive God said with a sigh. "Took her long enough."

"You say that as if you wanted them to be rescued," Ruri said, now within striking distance of him.

"Of course I did," he said, grinning maliciously at her. "I hate having obstacles where I fight!"

He whirled with incredible speed for someone his size and kicked Ruri clear across the warehouse, sending her crashing through a crate in the process. Rin moved to attack but found his arm caught in one of the man's massive hands. He also found himself grabbed by the neck with the man's free hand and lifted off the ground.

"You may not give a damn why I'm doing this, but I sure do," he snarled as he choked Rin. "Before you and the bitch messed up our kidnapping attempt we were the best black op team in any realm. Now we can't even beg for work and it's all your fault!"

He hurled Rin into a steel support beam and watched him collapse to the ground. He then walked over nonchalantly, picked Rin up and drove his fist into Rin's gut. Rin felt a couple of ribs crack from the impact along with having all the wind knocked out of him. He then tossed him near an office door and stood over him gloating.

"All that talk before and you've got nothing to show for it," he said with a laugh. "Well, maybe I can get some fun out of your girlfriend hereā€¦one way or another."

Rin fought for consciousness as he watched the man stalk over towards where Ruri had been sent hurtling. He was ridiculously strong and capable, an opponent even Ruri might not be a match for. He himself, despite all the training he'd undergone recently, stood no chance; especially not with a training sword that could only shock his opponent. It was that last thought, combined with spotting a nearby fire hose, that gave Rin some inspiration. He summoned every ounce of will he had to make himself stand up and stagger over towards it.

The man, meanwhile, found Ruri just getting back to her feet from where she'd landed. The earlier blow clearly had taken a fair bit out of her, but she forced herself into a defensive stance as he approached.

"Looks like this won't be all that interesting a fight either," he commented. "But I'm sure I can find other ways to get some entertainment out of the likes of you."

"You'd better finish with me first," Rin said from behind him, his voice haggard. "Ruri, move!"

Ruri barely got out of the way as Rin turned the hose on the man full force, dousing him with water and creating a large puddle on the ground around him. He dropped the hose after several seconds and took up his sword, summoning as much will into it as he could.

"And that was supposed to accomplish what," the man asked, clearly annoyed. "Besides pissing me off even more?"

"Funny thing about electricity," Rin said, holding his sword up. "It really likes water."

Rin drove his sword down into the edge of the puddle the man stood in. The effect was immediate and dramatic. Magical energy poured out of the blade, electrifying the water and shocking the man. The man shook out of control but still tried to move towards Rin. Ruri followed Rin's lead and did the same, adding her sword's power to the shock. Just as both their blades gave out, the man collapsed to his knees and then over completely as he lost consciousness. His body startled occasionally as electricity arced around him. Ruri allowed herself a small smile before she noticed Rin had also collapsed as well. She quickly picked his head up and cradled it in her lap as she called for help in darkness of the warehouse. That, and the feeling of her tears hitting his cheek, was the last Rin registered before unconsciousness fully claimed him.


Life getting back to normal just didn't seem right to Rin as he walked to school once again flanked by Kaede, Nerine and Sia. Their attempts to get his attention that day had all failed; his mind was simply elsewhere. A week had passed since the showdown with the mercenary group that had captured Kaede and Primula and attempted to kill both him and Ruri. The group had all been captured and taken back to the Realm of Gods to be tried for their crimes. He'd spent several days laid up recovering from the beating he'd taken. Worst of all, Ruri had basically disappeared completely. No one had seen or heard from her since the rescue. Rin had begun to fear that she'd been somehow punished by her superiors.

The group stopped at a crossroads waiting for traffic to stop before they could continue. Rin was so preoccupied with his concern for Ruri that it took him a moment to realize someone had covered his eyes from behind.

"Who is it," a voice called out in a sing-song voice behind him. Rin didn't bother playing the game, instead whirling to see Ruri smiling at him brilliantly. He immediately pulled her close and hugged her.

"Sorry I didn't show up sooner," she said, hugging him back. "I had a fair bit to tend to after we took in that mercenary group."

"What all happened," Sia asked. "Dad wouldn't even tell me where you were or what was going on."

"There was a mountain of paperwork that I had to do, including apologies for dereliction of duty and full details of everything that went on during my time guarding Rin," Ruri replied with a sigh. "I really wish the Realm of Gods would consider a computer network of some kind. I never want to see a quill and scrolls ever again."

"Tell me about it," Sia said, echoing Ruri's complaint. "Dad really needs to bring things into the twenty-first century already."

"So what's next for you now that all of that's over," Kaede asked. "I assume you'll be by to pick up the things you've still got at our house?"

"Well I was kind of hoping I could steal Rin for a date this weekend," Ruri said, eyeing Rin as she spoke. "I kind of want to do some shopping and maybe stop by Flora for some cake afterwards. Then maybe-"

"Wait, what about your guard duties," Rin asked, interrupting her. "Where's all this free time going to come from?"

Ruri snapped her fingers in realization. "Oh yeah, I thought I was forgetting to mention that. I quit."

Rin's jaw hit the ground. "You quit? For real?"

Ruri nodded with a smile. "I gave it a lot of thought while I was doing that paperwork, and I talked it over with both my father and His Majesty. Being a guard taught me a lot and helped me get this far, but it's not what I want to do for my whole life. I'm not sure exactly what I do want to do in the future yet, but I do know there are other things I want to see and do and being a guard won't be conducive to letting me accomplish them."

"I'm sure your father is relieved," Rin noted.

"To say the least," Ruri replied. "What's more, my sister got wind of it and wants to get together and talk sometime. She also wants to meet you as well, by the way. She's intensely curious what kind of man could get me to give up that life."

"Just so long as she doesn't get any ideas about sharing me," Rin said with a groan.

Ruri laughed nervously at the thought. "Don't worry, so far as I know she's still happily married. Still, even if she were interested in you I'd have to cut her off. That goes for you girls as well."

"No fair, Ruri-sempai," Nerine complained. Sia nodded in agreement with her.

"Sorry, but I'm greedy when it comes to him," Ruri said, putting her arms around Rin again. "No one's ever made me feel like this before."

"More feminine," Rin asked jokingly.

Ruri laughed and shook her head at him. "No, complete."

Without further hesitation, Ruri pulled Rin close and kissed him in front of the three girls assembled around them as well as for all those driving by to see. For his part, Rin was only conscious of the public nature of their display for a moment as his thoughts focused on Ruri. Finally, he thought, they could work together to protect something incredibly precious to them both: their future.