Author's Note 1: Guess who's back! I'm sorry it took so long to return, but I have been busy and so much has happened within the last year. 2016, am I right? What a year. Hopefully 2017 will be different. I wish I could've submitted this sooner, but there was so much I wanted to put into this and that was when I didn't have writer's block, which was obviously frequent. Well without further to do, here's the long awaited continuation of AWatDR!

Chapter 16: Tribulation's Tempest

It was seven-thirty in the morning and the sun was just peaking over the horizon. The bright light from the outside world was slowly creeping into Kai's room. Shallow breaths and the occasional snore filled the air as the light of day had failed to wake the owner of the space. Of course, this wasn't because Kai was still asleep; in fact, he had been awake for about half an hour. The sounds of lax dormancy were actually from his Sekirei, who once again managed to sneak into his room during his slumber. Just like the day before, Akitsu and Haihane had both managed to gain possession of an arm. However, his most recent addition to the flock, Yahan, had taken a different route. Instead of trying to fight off her companions for a hold of Kai's limb, the shadow woman decided to take control of the largest space available: Kai's midsection. She was now straddling her Ashikabi's form as if he were a dakimakura.

"I swear, if it isn't the fights that will kill me, it's this," Kai mentally complained as he stared at the ceiling with a flat expression on his face. Though despite his momentary gripe, the young man quickly softened as he glanced down at the sleeping Yahan resting on him as he appreciated how charming and sexy the Sekirei was; especially while her tight and lithe form was wearing a nearly see-through black night robe that was tied at her chest and a pair of black panties. While not as busty as Akitsu or Haihane, she did have a modest pair (perhaps in the C-cup range) – something that he had no choice but to notice as they were pressed against his body. Her flowing black hair blanketed her back and shoulders with strands poking out in different directions. She had a small smirk cracking her lips during her slumber as her left ear rested against Kai's chest; likely being soothed by the soft heart beats of her Ashikabi. Kai smiled from the sight before him before planting his head back on the pillow. Indeed, such a view was a reward in its own right, especially after the trouble he went through the day prior.

Still, now that he was wide awake and the surrounding noise was still present, the young man knew that there was no way he'd be able to fall back asleep. However, this wasn't a loss for him. After all, seeing as how his mornings usually turned out, the swordsman found this as good an opportunity as any to avoid Miya's routine punishment. "Sorry, girls, but I'm not going to be caught by a ladle today," he thought. Carefully, Kai tried his best to wiggle his way out from his predicament, hoping to not disturb his Sekirei from their peaceful rest. He first freed his right arm from Haihane by twisting his upper arm to loosen the shinobi's hold and slowly pulling it through the gap.

With one arm free, the young man turned his attention to the left to assess the limb arrested by Akitsu. As usual, the busty geisha held the arm in her tight embrace and nestled between her bountiful bosom. Kai rested his free hand against his lips as he thought over his next plan of attack. "If I try to yank myself away, either she'll wake up or I'll end up with a dislocated shoulder. Neither of which are a good thing. I'm gonna have to get crafty." A short moment had passed until an idea popped into the young man's head. While he wasn't sure that it would work, the young man figured it was worth trying. With a determined frown, the young man slowly moved his hand over to Akitsu's left side and gently tickled her, his fingers gently running along her smooth, pale skin. Initially, the cryokinetic didn't seem receptive to the light touch from her Ashikabi, causing him to second guess if such a spot wasn't sensitive. However, this doubt changed into hope as he noticed Akitsu move slightly in response and the corners of her lips turning upwards. Kai sneered as he witnessed the progress being made and he gradually made his up the geisha's body. His fingers danced along the Sekirei's skin in calculated sections, each move focused on either moving one of her arms or having her turn slightly on her back. Every touch Kai made meant the looser he felt the woman's grip. After a few minutes, the young man was at the woman's underarm, the only region that wasn't covered by the geisha's sleeping wear. The swordsman gulped in nervousness as his fingers once again lowered onto Akitsu's body. A bead of sweat slowly snaked along the side of his face as he knew that not only was he so close to freedom, but also to the most glorious of teases known to mankind: sideboob. He let out a calming breath in order to quell his anxiety and libido so as to focus at the task at hand. "One more touch, Kai. Just one last brush of the ol' pointer…"

He was just one centimeter away from making contact with his target, one second from completing the mission before the tides of change crashed in the form of Haihane pushing his from behind as she turned in her sleep. As if in slow motion, Kai watched helplessly as the shinobi's bump caused him to lose control and cause his entire hand to grab a big chunk of Akitsu's breast. The Ashikabi's jaws dropped in silent, but screaming horror while his face became as red and hot as a piece of metal. His eyes moved to Akitsu's face and watched as she cooed and her cheeks flushed pink in response from the involuntary contact. Kai pulled his hand away and closed his eyes tightly as he prepared himself for his unofficial Sekirei to rise awake. However, there was no reprisal or response from the grope. Kai opened his left eye to check on Akitsu, only to see she was still asleep, only now on her back and with her trophy freed. Kai quickly pulled away his left arm and flexed it to circulate the blood flow. He then turned to Akitsu and Haihane, who were also unaware of what had happened. Seeing the trio still in their state, Kai nervously chuckled, humored and relieved that his Sekirei were still snoozing. "Damn, that was too close!" he thought before calming down. He then turned his attention to Yahan, who was wrapped just above his torso. Now with both hands free, the pulled Yahan's arms apart from his waist and carefully slid out from her. It was a slow process, especially since he didn't want to accidently kick or knee the umbrakinetic in the face. Once his lower body was freed, Kai carefully pulled Yahan further up onto the bed between Haihane and Akitsu before slipping off the cot. Now standing over his captors, Kai raised his hands up and spun in celebration. "Yes! I'm out! I'm free! Suck it, Mr. Miracle!"

Kai opened his closet and grab his katana, flyssa, and claymore. "Now that I got out pretty early, instead of getting my ass whooped, I can go out and do some training. After everything that's been going on, sharpening my skills isn't a bad plan." After attaching his weapons to his person and grabbing his music player from his desk, Kai approached the door and turned the knob. However, before he left, the young man turned to the three Sekirei on his cot. Seeing three powerful and beautiful women on his bed was an inviting sight. Even with Miya's daily punishment, the young man knew how lucky he was and a part of him wanted to return to the prison/paradise he worked so hard to escape from. Once more, the young man could feel his urges as a man calling for him to accompany his Sekirei to the realm of dreams. After all, it was still pretty early in the morning. He could pick up his swords anytime he wished. Kai shook his head and stared at the doorknob with a stern stare. "It's more than a little tempting to go back, but I have to do this," he reasoned to himself. "I'm not doing this just for me, but I'm also doing this for my Sekirei. I blew off training long enough and I'm getting a bit rusty. Time to sling some blades." Taking his rationale to heart, Kai turned the knob and left the room, quietly closing the door after he exited.

Kai stretched and yawned as he walked down the hall on his way to the backyard. After getting a drink of juice, the young man was rearing to get started with his exercises. As he opened the door and stepped onto the patio, he was welcomed by the sight of Miya practicing strokes of her sword. Noticing the presence of another individual, Miya glanced at her tenant and gave a welcomed smile. "Good morning, Kai. I didn't expect to see you until later."

"Morning to you, too, Miya," Kai responded in kind. "To be honest, I didn't think I'd get up so soon. But since I did, I figured I may as well kill some time before the day officially starts."

"I see," the lavender-haired woman said as Kai joined her in the yard, keeping his distance so as to not be in her way. Drawing his backswords, the young man began practicing his movements; his motions were slow with each swing involving wide arcs and piercing thrusts. As he practiced, Miya watched the young man carefully and with some interest. As a practicioner herself, it was odd watching someone fight using two swords of equal length. Normally, if a person chose to dual-wield, they instead carried a sword and dagger or knife; sometimes short swords if possible. Even so, she had to admit that the display wasn't too sloppy. Still, the landlady can tell that despite his ability, the young man was favoring his right side over his left based on the style of his attacks. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but…" Miya called to the younger duelist, causing him to pause and turn his attention to the inquiring woman. "I'm curious as to why you use two swords."

"I guess it is kinda strange, huh?" Kai admitted. "Don't get me wrong; I can use a single blade and I do. Though to me, having two swords in hand opens new avenues for attack. I can guard with my off hand and counter or I can deliver more strikes than I would with one sword. I'm not saying that double the swords means double the power. What I am saying is that I can control the flow of battle in this way."

"That's an interesting mindset," Miya said thoughtfully. "Though it's odd that you seek control in combat using a skill where control is difficult."

"I've practiced long and hard to properly dual wield. It not easy, but I continue to improve. That, and I can change my tactics to one sword if need be."

"Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. After all, you seem certain of your skills and abilities. That's an important trait for any martial artist to have."

Kai chuckled at the landlady's statement as he rubbed the back of his head. "Well I do have to consider what I might face out there."

"I understand. After all, it's hard to determine who you might meet nowadays. It's always wise to be prepared." Miya lowered her weapon and rested her hand on her chin in thought. Noticing her behavior, Kai raised a brow in curiosity. He wondered what was on the landlady's mind. "Kai."


"How about you and I spar?"

"Wait, for real?!" asked Kai in surprise from the woman's query.

"Why yes. Consider this as part of your exercise to get stronger. Also, I would love to see your skills in action."

Kai hesitated for a moment from Miya's proposal. It was true that as an Ashikabi and a man, he wanted to take any opportunity to improve himself and his craft. The fact that he was outside practicing exemplified this mindset. Still, he was uncertain as to whether or not he should take landlady's offer. As intimidating as she was, the young man was concerned that he might injure the woman based on his unorthodox style. "I don't want to hurt you, you know? Do you have any bokken or wasters lying around?"

"Oh don't worry about me, Kai. Go all out if you wish. After all, you should never pull punches against an opponent." There was something about the way Miya said the last sentence that got to the swordsman. Her tone became flatter and much more serious, as if she were giving Kai a strict warning. The young man watched as the kimono-wearing landlady changed into a waiting kendo stance – her right foot was positioned forward while her left was placed behind her. Her sword was now held to the front in a two handed grip. She stared at the youth with a cold, blanks stare that was more intimidating than usual; a stare that reflected a warrior who's experienced plenty of combat.

"That's true. But you are still my landlady," Kai chuckled nervously at the display before him. Despite his expression, the young man was experiencing a clash of emotions. A part of him wanted to back down from the woman's challenge, but there was another, more brazen side to him that was more than willing to be tested by this person. He hadn't felt such excitement since he last sparred with his brother years ago before he left to America. Kai calmed down and turned to the waiting lady. "Okay, I'm all in," Kai said as he settled into his own combat stance – body lowered and swords gripped in reverse and held in front horizontally.

The two's eyes met as they studied one another's stances. Miya was still and concentrated as she stared into the swordsman with a piercing glare. With her sword held forward, she was ready for any attack or to deliver one of her own. Kai, on the other hand, was analyzing his target with studious eyes; scanning his target for any openings as he stood in a defensive pose. "Her stance is tight," he mentally noted. "She's clearly ready for anything direct. I'll need to flank her if I want to score a hit. However, instead of going for her bait, I'll treat her to a show – give her the ol' razzle dazzle before get in my shot." With a plan set, Kai charged at the landlady, reversing his swords to a normal grip once he was in range.

The next moment, a loud clang was heard as three swords collided with one another once the two sword wielders clashed. Kai and Miya tested one another's strength as they stood locked. Despite appearances, the young man was a bit surprised that the lithe woman was able to inch forth. He freed himself from the lock with a quick hop back before going back on the offensive with numerous slashes and swings. Despite the speed of his attacks and the power behind them, Miya was able to block each strike with ease – adjusting the angle of her sword to meet her younger rival's attacks. The lavender-haired woman then countered with a slice to the chest. However, Kai backed away just before the cut could land its mark. As he landed, Miya continued her charge by leaping forward for an overhead strike. Quick to react, Kai crossed his swords over his head to block the attack; however, he was now struggling to fend off the Miya's impressive strength. In order to escape, he performed a spin kick targeted at Miya's legs in hopes of tripping her. However, Miya merely jumped out of the range of his limb; giving Kai a bit of a breather and the time to roll back to distance himself and pointed one of his swords at Miya, who rested in her earlier position.

It was finally time to spring his trap and Kai charged at the woman yet again. Miya stood ready once more as the younger man rushed at her, seemingly targeting her lower body. Once in range, the lavender-haired woman swung in the hopes of catching the Ashikabi. However, Kai slipped to the right, surprising Miya slightly as she realized it was a feint. Catching his footing, the young man proceeded to take the opportunity and thrust at the woman's left flank. Seeing the incoming swords, Miya swung her own weapon with her left hand with enough force to knock the katana out of Kai's hand and stab into the grass a few feet away. Kai was stunned by how quickly Miya reacted to his strategy and disarm him – her response was lightning fast and the force behind her swing was unreal. However, Kai was forced to recover as the tables quickly turned with him having to dodge and parry against the landlady's attacks. He slipped to the right side and tried to attack with a thrust, but Miya blocked the strike, causing his blade to run off to another angle just past her head, and then pushed his sword off to the side. Kai was stunned by the defensive swat for a second and tried to get back his bearings. However, once he gained a firm footing to the ground and attempted to counter, he was met with a sharp point stopping inches away from his face. The young man's body froze, but his heart was beating like a racehorse.

"I think we're done here," Miya said softly. Kai's eyes traveled up the length of the blade and saw the woman's serene smile before she lowered her sword. "I can see that your swordplay is fast and strong. You rely on powerful strikes and the exploitation of openings to surprise your opponent. Both skills are very important in battle."

"U-Um… Yeah, thanks," Kai said as he regained his composure and walked to retrieve his katana.

"Unfortunately, you're too focused on swinging your sword. Wide arcs are fine, but you have trouble with following up your attacks. You need to control the speed and power behind your strikes. Also, you've been so focused on dual-wielding or fighting with larger blades that you're behind with handling lighter swords." Miya slid her sword back in its sheath and continued her criticisms. "Lastly, your attacks are too conventional; I want you to focus on being more unorthodox with your skills."

"Yes. I see what you mean," Kai responded as he returned his swords to their sheaths. He fell backwards as fatigue washed over him. During the latter half of the exercise, the young man was unsure if they were still sparring and it took him everything he had to match even half of Miya's skill. Of course, that was a conservative assessment – in reality, he was trying to survive the landlady's onslaught. "Man, you're good," the young man said under his breath.

"So are you, Kai. You have plenty of potential, but you still have a long ways to go. Perhaps I should help you and your friends with training."

"That would be awesome! Thank you, Miya!" Kai said with a gracious bow. "I promise, we won't have you regret this act of compassion!"

"Oh, you are such a flatterer. Well, I better prepare the breakfast. Clean yourself off and get everyone ready."

"Right, of course!" Kai watched as Miya walked inside the house. Once she was gone, the young man collapsed to his knees, still needing more time to recover from his bout with the landlady. "Damn, Miya's strong!" he thought to himself. "Compared to the M.B.I. goons and Sekirei I've met, that lady's on a whole other level! Why is that…?"

As he mulled over the situation, a figure rose up from behind him with nary a sound and lowered beside his ear. "That was a good show," a sultry and feminine whispered.

Kai exploded from his spot in surprise and whipped around to face to ambusher. He was met with the sight of Yahan, who stood with folded arms and a slight smirk on her face, clearly enjoying the rise she got from her Ashikabi. "Why!?" was all the swordsman could say as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

Yahan chuckled from the youth's animated response. "Because you snuck out of the room without saying 'good morning.'"

"Wait, when did you wake up? I thought you were asleep."

"I was before you moved me, Kai. I'm something of a light sleeper."

"Well sorry, I didn't know I was going to be your personal mattress." Kai rose to his feet and dusted himself off. "This body is not made out of goose feathers, you know?"

"Then how come you're so comfortable?" Yahan asked to which Kai responded with a parting glance and huff. "Anyways, like I said, that was a pretty good spar you had with Miya."

"Thanks. Though I'm thinking it wasn't so much a sparring match as it was some form of punishment for something. Hell, I feel like I was being put through the ringer while Miya didn't break a sweat."

"It was that tough, huh?"

"Insanely," the young man said dryly. "Are Haihane and Akitsu also awake?"

"No. Those two are still out like lights."

Kai chuckled from the news. He may not have eluded Yahan as he previously believed, but the fact that his other two Sekirei were still unconscious meant his stealth wasn't totally wasted. "I shouldn't be surprised. Still, two out of three ain't bad." Yahan raised a brow, bemused by the Ashikabi's remark. "Alright, I'll go and get those two up. If you want, you can either help me or get ready for breakfast."

"Don't worry, I'm coming with you."

Kai gave a nod in response before he entered the house with Yahan close behind.

After getting themselves cleaned up, Kai and his Sekirei had settled at the dinner table and started eating Miya's fine delicacies. Aside from the landlady herself, Kagari was also present. "This food is great, Ms. Asama," Yahan complimented the lavender-haired woman sitting across from her graciously. "Thank you for this wonderful meal."

"You are very welcome, Yahan. Please, eat as much as you want."

"I shall!" the shadow woman chirped.

"So you're the newest tenant. I'm Kagari. It's a pleasure to meet you," the beige-haired man said with a nod.

"The pleasure is all mine."

"Tell me, how do you and Kai know each other?"

"O-Oh right! That!" Kai said, scratched the side of his face as he tried to think of an excuse.

"Kai and I were old friends from high school," Yahan answered. "I am part of a Rajput family from India and met him as a foreign exchange student. When I decided to move here to Tokyo years later, we met each other by coincidence and, seeing as I had nowhere to go, he invited me here." Yahan turned to her Ashikabi with an innocent smile, pleased by her cover story. "Isn't that right, Kai?"

It took a moment for the young man to absorb the shadowporter's story. He was astonished by the woman's quick response and fulfilling tale. Though considering her profession, it was likely she came up with that cover story for some identity or so. Recovering from the momentary stun, Kai smiled back at Kagari. "Yup, that's right!" Kai replied. "Haihane and I met her on the way back and I figured it wouldn't hurt to bring her here."

"Well now, I'm intrigued. It's nice to see you know yet another beautiful woman."

"Oh, there's no need for such flattery," Yahan replied with a feminine chuckle.

"Indeed, Kagari," Miya replied from her seat at the head of the table before turning back to Kai. "I do hope you're not bringing women here simply to fulfill some strange harem fixation. After all, such acts are still forbidden in this country and especially within these walls."

"I swear, Miya, I know that and I'm not planning anything remotely close." Kai responded with assurance through a small smile.

"Good morning, everyone," a voice called from the hall. The group turned to the door just as it slid open to reveal Uzume on the other side. "Something smells good," she replied.

"Hey there, Uzu," Haihane greeted. "About time you finally came down here."

"Sorry about that," she said. "I would've been here sooner, but I had some… work… to do…" Uzume's voiced trailed off as she noticed Yahan sitting at the table, freezing as she saw the raven-haired Sekirei eat.

Noticing the brunette's stare, Yahan turned to the buxom woman and tried to disarm her unease with a welcoming smile. "Hello there. I take it you must be another housemate," Yahan said. "I'm Yahan and it's a pleasure to meet you."

"Um, yeah… Yeah, I'm Uzume. It's good to see you, too." Uzume gave a smile to the woman as she tried to compose herself. "Sorry about that. I'm just surprised to see we have a newbie so soon," the woman explained as she grabbed a seat across from the new resident. "You really are working fast, aren't you, Kai?"

Kai only spun his eyes in annoyance from the young woman's remark. While he wanted to make a reply, the young man decided to continue eating. After all, considering Yahan was his third Sekirei, there wasn't much of a rebuttal he could muster. While Uzume ate her meal, Yahan noticed that the brunette still seemed troubled. Despite her attempt to downplay her initial reaction, the tomboy was still nervous. Even while eating, she was guarded, refraining from turning to her direction even slightly. Yahan found this behavior odd to say the least. "Perhaps I should look into it later," the spy thought as she put it on her itinerary. "Just means I have one more thing for me to do today."

Yahan wasn't the only one to notice Uzume's uncharacteristic silence as Matsu watched her from the corner of her skeptical eyes. Usually, she'd be taunting Kai further over his newest wing and making small talk with the new guest. For her to act so withdrawn was rare. Was she concerned about something? Did she know Yahan from somewhere? Matsu sighed as she felt it was too early to investigate such matters; that would be saved for later on.

It was eleven in the morning and Haihane was taking a stab (both proverbially and literally speaking) at Miya's training. With her gauntlets sharpened and a smile stretched wide, the clawed kunoichi slashed at the landlady with vicious strikes coupled with her acrobatics. The Indigo Sekirei was just as fast as ever, taking the training regimen with a mix of seriousness and fun that only someone like her could muster. Even so, Miya was still able to match the grey-haired woman with ease; blocking and dodging each decapitating swing. "Don't just rely on your claws, Haihane!" Miya called to the attacking woman. "Use your agility! Try and control my movements!" Taking the landlady's advice, Haihane jumped back and pounced once again and swung with her right claw. Just as Miya blocked the attack, Haihane twisted her body and sent a kick aimed toward Miya's head. However, Miya managed to duck under the flying foot and spun, leaving Haihane stuck upside down in the air for a slight second, before throwing her back with a swing of her sword. "Good! That's what I want to see more of!"

"Don't worry!" Haihane replied as she returned to her feet. "You'll see more where that came from!" Spreading her claws, the young woman lunged at her sparring partner yet again for another attack.

As the two women fought, Kai sat on the patio, watching the session with an entertained eye. After telling Haihane that Miya was open to practice, she was interested about the offer (though after the Ashikabi assured her that Miya was, indeed, a tough combatant, the Indigo Sekirei then became very intrigued) and took to the backyard with the lavender-haired maiden. Akitsu sat beside him, her head resting on Kai's shoulder. Unlike her Ashikabi, who was enthralled by the match, the cryokinetic's eyes were closed, seemingly ignoring the battle and simply more focused on being soothed by her master. Yahan was busy in the kitchen washing dishes to show her gratitude for Miya's hospitality and gave her the time to train her comrade.

As the bout progressed, Kai felt his phone vibrate in his pant pocket. The young man pulled it out and placed it against his ear. "Hello?" he called.

"Yo, Kai! What's going on!" greeted the voice on the line. "It feels like a year since I last heard your voice!"

"I highly doubt it was that long, Shiro," Kai said with a deadpanned tone. "So, what's happening? You sound… like you, I guess."

"Who else would I sound like? Demi Moore?" the young man retorted, only for Kai to shake his head. "Anyway, are you free later today?"

"Not really. I was pretty busy yesterday with a job interview and figured I would take it easy."

"I'm guessing you got the job?"

"That's right. I finally got me a solid nine-to-five."

"That's good to hear. Still, since you're not really doing anything-"

"Other than trying to catch a break," Kai interjected, but to no avail as Shiro continued on.

"Well then why don't you swing on by. I have a new upgrade and your uncle's basically using me as a post office for your damn cutlery mail."

"Another package? I wonder what it is this time."

"Why are you asking me? I could really care less about antique cutlery."

"It was rhetorical, Shiro," Kai replied before letting out a small groan. "So what's the new upgrade supposed to do?"

"Dude, like I'm going to tell you over the phone. You know M.B.I. is likely listening to our conversations as we speak!"

Though Kai wanted to tell Shiro that he was being paranoid over the company, the young man figured that the brunette might have a point. Considering he's an Ashikabi and likely being observed due to the Sekirei Plan and his flock, perhaps he wasn't in the position to deny the possibility of the company wire-tapping his calls. That, and he didn't want any third party to hear about Shiro's weapons business. "Alright, fine."

"Great! Meet me at about two or two-thirty. Don't be late, man!"

"Alright, deal. Later." Kai hung up his phone and slid it back in his pocket.

"Was that Mr. Nakamura?" Akitsu asked as she pulled her head off of Kai's body.

"Yep. Apparently, he has a whip gauntlet upgrade and a package for me to pick up."

"Ah. If that is the case, then I shall accompany you to our comrade's apartment."

"Are you sure you want to come? After all, this is Shiro we're talking about," Kai replied with a flat tone as he remembered how his perverted friend constantly gawked at Akitsu during their stay at the apartment complex.

"Indeed. I am willing to accompany you anywhere, no matter how dangerous; even if it's to meet such an exuberant person."

Kai snickered from Akitsu's comment. He found it enjoyable of how protective Akitsu was being and noticed that even she realized how irritating his friend could be. "Okay, fine. If you really want to come along, I guess it's fine. After all, it's only going to be a few minutes, right?"

"So you're going somewhere?" Haihane asked as she walked over to the duo. Both she and Miya had finished training and the reaper was drenched in sweat from the hard practice. Her spiky hair was a bit damp with small drops of water hanging off the pointy ends. Wet spots along her chest, arms, and legs were noticeable through the athletic tape.

"Shiro's place down in Chuo," Kai answered as she tossed the towel that was next to his left hand to the exhausted Sekirei. "He has some things to show me."

"That guy, huh? I've been wondering what he's been up to," said the grey-haired woman with folded arms and a small smirk, reminiscing over her Ashikabi's oddball of a friend. "Well, when do we leave?" Kai looked Haihane over with a quixotic glance as he noted the stained bandages and hair that was even more unkempt than usual. While it wasn't surprising that the young woman was willing to leave the house in her condition, the young man knew that her current appearance was less than optimal for her to be out in public. Haihane noticed her Ashikabi's bewildered expression and only asked with a nonchalant tone, "What? Do I have something on my face?"


As Kai was about to respond to Haihane's query, Miya approached the bandaged ninja, her face painted with a joyful smile and her appearance seemingly clean. Kai was somewhat grateful from the woman's inadvertent save as he didn't wish to comment on his Sekirei's exhausted splendor. He also noted that unlike Haihane, the lavender-haired landlady still had a serene air about her even after the merciless onslaught Haihane delivered. Though considering his first-hand experience with the young woman's technique, it wasn't too much of a shock. "I hope you're not thinking of leaving the house like that, Haihane," said the matriarch bemusedly. "Perhaps you should tidy up before you leave."

"Do I really have to?" Haihane whined as she turned to face her sparring partner. "It's really not that big of a-"

Haihane froze as she saw Miya's hannya mask appear beside the landlord, accompanied by the dark aura and murderous smile. Both Kai and Akitsu were prepared for the demonic aura as soon as Haihane started to contest and averted their glances preemptively. "It would be wise for you to clean up immediately after these training sessions. After all, it's for the sake of modesty," Miya insisted with a lower tone.

Haihane nervously chuckled. "You know what? Maybe I will change these bandages. They are a bit… damp."

Miya snickered from Haihane's passivity. "I'm glad that we're in agreement. So, when will you be back by, Kai?"

"Well, it's likely we'll be back by… maybe six o'clock, I guess?" the young man replied with uncertainty as he tried to estimate the duration of his venture. It was more than likely the young man and his party were going to do more than pick up some items. After all, he wouldn't mind playing a game or taking a swig while he was there.

"Alright. I'll likely have dinner prepared either before or after you return."

"Thank you, Miya." As Miya walked inside and headed for her room, both Kai and Akitsu rose to their feet. "Well, time to get ready. I'll go let Yahan know what's happening."

"Do you have to?" Haihane groaned. "It's already enough that Ice Woman's coming."

Akitsu turned to Haihane with an unamused stare. "Ice Woman? Your sleights are degrading in quality," the cryokinetic coldly critiqued.

"Whatevs," the Indigo Sekirei said with a wave of her hand. "Not all of them can be winners."

Kai only shook his head and continued down the hall. He arrived at the kitchen to say Yahan rinsing off the last of the dishes. The shadowporter appeared satisfied from her chore as she pulled out the sink's stopper to let the water empty. Noticing that she wasn't alone, the young woman turned to face her Ashikabi with her signature smirk. "Hey."

"Hey, yourself," Kai said with a smile of his own. "I'm going over to visit a friend of mine. You interested in tagging along?"

"Sure. I'm not doing anything right now."

"Awesome. We'll be leaving in fifteen to twenty minutes." Suddenly, the doorbell rang and both Kai and Yahan turned to the direction of the front door. Wondering who it was, the pair made their way to the entrance and opened the door. Standing there with a deafening silence and intimidating presence was a large man in a fancy suit and thick glasses. In his hand was a large cardboard box. Kai gawked at the imposing figure with Yahan standing behind him with her hands at her waist. "Hey there, big guy. Did your pet goose go missing?" Kai jeered, hoping to bring levity to the situation.

"I have a package for a Mr. Kagazaki?" the large man said in a professional and stern tone.

"Yeah, that's me," the Ashikabi confirmed. As soon as he said it, the large man shoved the box into Kai's arms.

"Best regards from M.B.I.," the man said as he straightened his shades. With his mission over, the large individual turned around and left the premises, leaving Kai blinking in confusion.

"Right… I think I know that guy…" the young man murmured as he closed the door with the tip of his foot. "I'm guessing that this belongs to you. The same thing happened with Akitsu and Haihane."

"I'm guessing these are my personal effects. I'll take the parcel up to my room. I was going up there anyway."

"Do you need any help carrying it up the stairs?"

"Don't worry. I'll take it from here," Yahan said as she took the box. Placing it on the ground, the umbrakinetic Sekirei opened a pool of shadow around her feet with both her and the cardboard cube sinking into the dark pit. "I'll see you in a bit," Yahan said before she was fully enveloped by dark energy and the vortex closed.

Kai stood by with a sweatdrop forming at the side of his head. "Okay, I don't know whether to find that cool or creepy," the young man thought.

Just outside the house on a neighbor's roof, a young woman with blue-grey hair was laying against the tiled roof of a distant house. She was a lithe woman with long, flowing hair and lengthy bangs. Her clothes consisted of a long sleeve shirt that lacking a front section that displayed the sides of her breasts all the way down to her navel and a very short skirt crossed in dark blue bands with a pair of black knee high boots to complete her outfit. For the past ten minutes, she had been spying on Maison Izumo, watching its inhabitants from a distance. She had to admit that the residents of the home were unlike anything she had seen. However, there was only one person that she was sent to find. Pulling out her goggles and aiming them at a window of the second floor, the maid was able to get a clear image of her target: Akitsu. "That's the woman the master was talking about," the lady thought to herself. The maid turned on her back and pulled out her cellphone. Dialing a number, the young woman placed the device against her ear and waited until she heard the line connect.

"Hello," a male voice greeted from the other side.

"Mutsu, it's me," the woman said.

"Taki. I take it that you have met with success?"

"I did. The Sekirei that Master Mikogami was looking for is here in the North."

"The North, huh? That might be a problem…" the young man said warily.

"It might not be. From what I was able to make out, her master said they might be leaving soon to Chuo from what I made out. Tell the young master that if he wishes to get her, then this is his best chance. I'll be keeping tabs on them in the meantime."

"Excellent. I will let him know. Thank you."

Meanwhile, in a large building located in the bustling business district of Shinagawa, a tall man who appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties stood outside the door of a room. He wore a goldenrod muffler along with a pair of skinny jeans and a tight-fitting shirt exposing his chest and accentuating his thin, yet lean form along with a pair of fingerless gloves and leather bands crossing his chest; all of which covered in black. His skin was a fair shade and his dusky hair was short and messy in appearance. Clutched in his left hand was a long nodachi sheathed in a black scabbard. This was the man the maid was talking, Mutsu - a powerful Sekirei. Hanging up his phone, Mutsu placed the item back in his pant pocket and opened the door.

The inside was a massive space almost the size of most apartment quarters with a large bed on the right side of the room and a giant flatscreen television adorning the opposite wall. Across the room was a large desk made of the finest mahogany wood and a computer resting on its surface. Typing on the desktop device was a slender teenaged boy with brown hair wearing a pair of white slacks and a white shirt with yellow rimming the ends of his sleeves and along the zipper trail as well as white frills popping out of his sleeves and an ascot tie. Hearing the older male enter, the boy leaned to the right to face him. "What did you find, Mutsu?" he asked with child-like curiosity.

"I just received a report from Taki," Mutsu reported. "She has confirmed the whereabouts of the scrap number we've been seeking."

"Really!? That's great!" the boy said as he erupted from his seat and slammed his hands on the desk. "Finally I'll get my hands on the rarest Sekirei in the game! I can't wait to add her to my collection!"

"Hold on a second, Hayato," Mutsu calmly interjected as he shook his head from his Ashikabi's exuberant behavior. "From what she told me, the target's currently located in the North and already has an Ashikabi of her own."

"Pfft! As if! The fact that she's a scrap number means that she can't be winged. So even if she's palling around with some loser, that doesn't mean she's his Sekirei. Also, what's the big deal about the North anyway? It's not like there's another Ashikabi as strong as I up there."

"Maybe not. Though trust me when I say that there's a hannya who's as scary as she is powerful. It would be best for us not to cause any unnecessary trouble that might destroy the city."

Hayato groaned from Mutsu's claim as he fell back on his chair. The juvenile found his Sekirei's petition to be nothing more than superstitious nonsense than anything legitimate. Still, despite his mental protests to such a tall tale, the boy sighed, knowing full well that the wise swordsman words may not be as far-fetched as they might sound. Demon or not, if Mutsu is spooked by some dangerous variable, perhaps it was best to take his caution under consideration. "Fine, I won't go up there... yet. But I still want to get that Sekirei now!"

"You'll get your chance soon enough. The group will be leaving that Inn soon and Taki will be keeping tabs on their location. From what she reported, the group is heading to the Chuo Prefecture."

"To Chuo? That idiot's heading straight into my arms. This is great news!" Hayato said triumphantly as he returned to his feet. With the prospect of confronting Akitsu finally within grasp, the teenager reeled his excitement back to a wide grin. "Let Mitsuki and Mitsuha know we're heading out. I'll wait for you three in the limo."

"Understood." With a respectful bow, Mutsu left the room, closing the door in the process. He sighed and folded his arms as he mentally replayed his Ashikabi's last order. Mitsuki and Mitsuha: a pair of twin Sekireis decked in yellow and black who were always at each other's throats for the most minor of issues. Honestly, he would rather be up on the roof training and honing his swordsmanship, but he had his orders. "Great. Not only do I have to watch over Hayato, but I need to keep those two from killing each other. This is going to be one long day." The dusky-haired man rubbed between his furrowed brows before progressing to the main room where the twins resided.

An hour and a half had passed since the quartet left Maison Izumo behind and the group was in the Chiyoda District. The team was traveling along the skyline with Akitsu holding Kai by fireman's carry while both Yahan and Haihane followed in suit. As the team traversed over the streets stories below them, the young man tried his best to hold back a blush of both arousal and embarrassment. For him, being carried in such a way was odd; partially due to the fact such positions were mainly switched between genders or reserved for small children (though considering how surprisingly strong Akitsu was, he reasoned his pride was only momentarily shot), but also because his body was rubbing against Akitsu's large bosom. He could feel his Sekirei's bust bounce against his body with each bounce. As much as he enjoyed the sensation of the cryokinetic's warm cleavage, the last thing he wanted to do was make such a feeling known. Though to be fair, while the feeling of large breasts did arouse him sensually, the young man was reminded of how smooth and glossy the Sekirei's nearly pale skin was along with the beauty that was her face. Kai was mesmerized by the beige-haired woman's stoic, yet sensuous stare. Her hair blew back with the breeze and her melancholic eyes focused on the path ahead. "This view is fantastic," Kai thought to himself as he watched the young woman.

"Looks like someone's having fun on the ride," Haihane sneered, snapping Kai out of his gaze. The young man turned his head to Akitsu's right side to see the kunoichi's grin meet his scowl. The grey-haired Sekirei gauntlets were attached to a leather belt given to her by Miya shortly before they left, the claws facing away from her thighs to avoid accidental cuts. On the other side of the cryokinetic, Yahan pushed forward to listen in on the conversation. "Is our master enjoying his trip or the tits?"

"Stop that!" Kai growled at Haihane, turning away from the woman as he felt his cheeks start to heat up.

"Hey, don't be like that," the playful shinobi pouted, acting as though her feelings were hurt. "I'm just saying that it must be trying to be in such close contact with those Bouncing Betties."

Kai groaned from the bandaged ninja's perverted jeer while Yahan chuckled from the sleight. "Is this how it's like when you three are together?" the umbrakinetic asked.

"Yeah, pretty much," Kai replied. "Though we're usually on the ground riding the buses and walking on the sidewalk. Honestly, I don't get why I need to travel like this. It's not like I don't appreciate this or anything, but I can travel around just fine."

"I don't think that was true…" Yahan remarked with a nervous sweatdrop running down the side of her head and a small smile.

"Considering how you nearly injured yourself before we left the Inn, this was the best course of action," Akitsu replied while still watching the world ahead of her.

Kai wanted to respond to the unwinged Sekirei and say that she was worrying over nothing. However, the young man held his tongue as he reminisced about his failed departure. Before they left, the young man figured that he could use his whip gauntlets to sling himself along the roof tops of nearby houses. After all, since he was able to grab enemies with his fangs, how would he have problems with inanimate objects? Turns out, when he tried to grab at the roof of a neighbor's house, he did manage to make initial contact with the roof and vaulted forward. Unfortunately, the fang dislodged from the building and the young man nearly landed head-first onto the ground after launching fifteen feet into the air. The only reason his face wasn't a pancake was thanks to Akitsu's intervention. Kai palmed his face after recollecting the shameful display and causing him to imagine the damage he would have likely received from his miscalculation. "Can we not talk about that slip up?" the swordsman muttered.

"Man, I hadn't seen anyone screw up on a jump since I was younger! Some kicking Sekirei tried to jump up a third story building because she thought she was so strong. Turns out she only reached the second story window sill before she landed in a nearby bush. Her mouth was full of leaves and she was covered in twigs and splinters!" Haihane began cackling like mad as she revisited the memory, enjoying the mistake one of her kin had made. Meanwhile, Kai watched the grey-haired woman with a scowl, waiting for her to finish her laugh.

"You do know our master would have been seriously injured, right?" Yahan asked.

"Maybe," Haihane replied as she wiped a tear from her eye. "But it's cool seeing as our good ol' Snow Owl swooped in to save the day!"

Kai sighed in resignation as he knew Haihane was correct in that regard. "She's not wrong about that," the young man agreed. "Thank you for saving me back there, Akitsu."

"It was my pleasure, Master Kai," Akitsu said with a nod of affirmation.

Yahan shook her head slightly from the interaction between the three. The connection her teammates had with one another was very different than those she had in the past. It wasn't about professionalism or the need for exploiting an advantage, but one of pure comradery. Even though Haihane and Akitsu had polarizing personalities, she was able to sense some level of friendship between them. Was this due to Kai's influence as an Ashikabi? Before she could ponder any further on the subject, the spy noticed there was something off. For the past couple of miles, the raven-haired Sekirei sensed a strange presence from time to time. She wasn't sure before, but now she was certain: someone was following them. The young woman turned her head slightly and glanced back. It wasn't long until she caught a glimpse of their pursuer: a woman with blue-grey hair who trailed a few yards behind. The stranger kept low to the rooftops, bobbing and weaving into whatever cover she could find. "Looks like we have a fan," Yahan thought. Wanting to investigate further, Yahan began to slow down, gradually trailing from her flock. Kai noticed the dark-haired woman falling back from the group and was about to speak, but Yahan gave an assuring smile and pressed an index finger against her lips to keep from letting her teammates get sidetracked before disappearing in a ball of shadow.

Trailing behind on a nearby roof, Taki kept her presence minimal as she tracked Kai's flock south. Considering the current speed, it was only minutes before they met with her master. She smiled as she pulled out her phone and called the Ashikabi of the South. "Hello?" Hayato answered.

"Master, the scrap number and her group are heading your way. You should be able to intercept them in a few minutes."

"Excellent work, Taki!" the Ashikabi said ecstatically. "You've done well! Hurry back here as soon as you can!"

"As you wish, Master Mikogami." Taki hung up her device and felt both elated and accomplished by her mission. "Yes! The young master is pleased by my mission! I must return to him post haste!" As the busty Sekirei attempted to continue after her prey, the young woman felt a sharp pain connecting with the side of her body as she passed the shadow of a nearby air conditioner. The world slowed down as she howled in agony, her sight still focused on the group before her. However, counting the entourage again, she finally realized that one of Kai's Sekirei was missing. Her eyes shrank in shock and fear as the world returned to normal speed and her body crashed onto the surface. Shooting her head off the ground, the woman was face to face with Yahan, who stood over her with folded arms and a calm expression. "Damn you," Taki growled as she hugged her injured side from the sharp kick the espionage agent delivered.

"Well now, this is a surprise," Yahan said. "One of Hayato Mikogami's Sekirei."

"So you know of me," replied Taki as she picked herself off of the ground.

"Not you, per se, but I'm aware of your master," Yahan clarified. "He's the Ashikabi who controls the south portion of the city. I hear that he's something of a collector of Sekirei, is he not?"

"A collector? Come now. You make him sound like a lowly otaku. Our master is a powerful and wealthy young man. He has sought Sekirei such as myself to help him realize his dream."

"Yeah, that's basically what a collector is," Yahan said as she drew her dagger. "Now tell me, what is it that you and your master are planning?"

Despite the results of Yahan's cheap shot, Taki was able to pull off a smirk. "Very well. Knowing won't do you any good either way." Yahan narrowed her gaze at the young woman as she started to explain. "As you're aware, my master is a very powerful Ashikabi and seeks the rarest and strongest Sekirei to be accepted into his fold. The scrap number that your Ashikabi has in his possession has been in Master Mikogami's sights for quite some time. She should be honored that the young master has chosen her to be included amongst our ranks."

"Your master honestly believes he can kidnap Akitsu? Mikogami truly is a child. No, I take that back. Most children aren't that naive."

Taki chuckled from Yahan's sleight. "Call him what you will. By the end of the day, the scrap number will be ours and the game will be won by Master Mikogami."

"Like I will let that happen." Yahan turned away from the woman and attempted to rejoin her team in order to redirect them.

"You won't get away," the rival Sekirei muttered. "Kiri no Tobari."

Before Yahan could reach the edge of the roof, the umbrakinetic paused as she noticed a thin haze suddenly appeared around her. Her vision was quickly becoming obscured and soon the immediate area was shrouded in a thick fog. Her vision was decreased with nothing more than a blanket of grey surrounding her. The Sekirei had no choice but to retract her paces as she was unable to gauge her jump. "I'm guessing this is why your master wanted you to return by his side."

Taki chortled as Yahan turned to face her only to watch her form being absorbed by the fog. "That's right. I am number sixty-five, Taki. Allow me to give you a demonstration of my power." Yahan stood ready as she prepared herself for the enemy's guerrilla tactics. It was obvious that she needed to deal with this obstacle before she could reconnoiter with her comrades.

Meanwhile further south from Yahan's duel, Kai, Haihane, and Akitsu were close to the border between Chuo and Chiyoda. As the trio made their way to their destination, Kai's gaze became furrowed as the young man noted Yahan's continued absence. "Yahan… I just know something's wrong. What's taking you?"

"Hey, it's probably not a big deal," Haihane assured as she sensed Kai's trepidation. Kai whipped around, surprised that the clawed Sekirei noticed the stealthier fighter's exit. "She probably went to use the toilet or something." Kai smiled in response to the Indigo Sekirei. Perhaps his worry was unfounded. After all, if there was any problem, it was likely that Yahan would be able to solve it.

Suddenly, Akitsu veered to the left, surprising Kai who reacted by wrapping tightly to her shoulder. "What the fuck!?" he exclaimed as the trio were being shot by long leather ropes and daggers from below. The two Sekirei did their best to use their agility in order to dodge the barrage of weapons, but were soon caught by whips wrapping around the women's heels. In a last ditch effort to protect her Ashikabi, Akitsu tossed Kai onto a nearby roof. The swordsman's eyes widened in surprise as he instinctively tried to grab the geisha, but was soon rolling halfway across the top of the building and hitting a steal leg of a water tank.

Aching in pain from the collision, Kai gingerly returned to his feet and walked to the ledge. "What the fuck just happened?" the young man muttered to himself as he rubbed a shoulder. He peered down and found Haihane and Akitsu on the ground and restrained with a black net and binds. Sitting near both sides of the net was a pair of twins wearing black dresses with one yellow stripe down the center and the blonde hair wrapped in ponytails. One of the twins had a rolled bullwhip attached to their side while the other was unarmed as the ropes were here tool. Surrounding the four women was a mob that wore black and white maid uniforms. "Shit…" Kai gasped as he bore witness to the show. "Did we crash a fuckin' maid convention? But then who are the Bumblebee Twins? What the hell's going on?"

As he watched the circle of maids, the far side of the crowd began to part off to the side; making way for a pair of males, the older one with black clothes holding a katana and a younger teen in white, tailor-made wear with a schiavona on the side of his waist (an Italian sword with a long, double-edged blade and a one-handed hilt designed in an intricate basket guard), to enter the center. "Well done," the boy said to the twins. "I knew I made the right choice calling you two."

"Thank you, Master Mikogami!" the two blonde girls said in unison before turning to each other with hateful scowls.

"He was obviously talking to me!" replied the girl with the whip. "I'm the one who caught the scrap number!"

"No, he was talking to me, idiot!" argued the other girl. "Whose ropes do you think are holding them down?"

"You wouldn't have caught them if it weren't for me!"

"As if, dumbass!"

As the two girls bickered, the taller man rubbed his forehead with his thumb and index finger, his aggravation starting to boil. "That's enough, you two," the taller man said with a raised, but still professional tone. He then turned his attention back to his master. "However, what should we do with the Ashikabi who was with them?"

"That guy isn't of concern. We can deal with him after this. That's if he hasn't run away." The boy approached the two down Sekirei and knelt in front of Akitsu. The cryokinetic glared at the leader with a narrowed and murderous gaze, though it was ignored by the teenager's own wide smile. "Finally, I've caught the rarest of all the Sekirei – the scrap number herself! I can't believe that it took so long for us to finally meet face to face."

"Who are you?" Akitsu questioned with a low tone, one which bordered on a growl as she continued to struggle.

"Of course, where are my manners? I am Hayato Mikogami, Ashikabi of the South. And you… You are the Sekirei of Ice; the one who can't be winged. You are the perfect addition to my flock."

"Hey, kid! You better back off if you know what's good for you!" Haihane warned as she struggled against the ropes in the hopes of freedom. The bandaged shinobi bared her teeth as she glared at the rival Ashikabi. At this time, Mitsuha was trying her best to keep her ropes tight on both Sekirei.

"Oh wow! I didn't even notice this one! Is she also-?" Hayato paused as he glanced at her back only to see her part of her crest poking through the bandages and hair. "Wing. Damn, what a waste. I guess there's nothing more to do than eliminate you."

"Like hell you will!" Haihane snarled.

Hearing the order, Mitsuha stepped forward, her whip in hand as she stared down upon her foe. Stretching her weapon, the blonde woman smiled as she readied herself for the attack. "Not so scary now, are you?" the young woman asked with a biting sarcasm.

"Heh. Considering I'm in the net but you're still sweating, I think I still am," the reaper said with an evil smirk, despite her disadvantage.

Mitsuha growled at the woman, her smile turning in a growl. Even when she was strapped to the ground, the shinobi was still cocksure. Seeing her expression angered the blonde woman; she knew all about the Indigo Sekirei and feared her reputation and strength. Tightening the grip of her whip's handle and stretching its thong, the woman began to whip at Haihane's back mercilessly. The sound of the cracks of leather meeting clothing echoed through the area.

Hayato turned his attention back to Akitsu, who still kept her gaze focused on him like a caged animal ready to strike at the first opportunity. "You know, I heard about your escape from M.B.I. a week ago. A contact in the company told me that a very interesting Sekirei that was to be shelved had managed to defeat security, freeze the entire lab floor, and gave frostbite to the very tuner who gave you that symbol. Hearing about your power, I just had to come and get you." Akitsu continued with her silent rebellion as she listened to the young boy's tale. "Once I learned that you were in Hibiya Park, I rushed over as soon as I could. Yet to my surprise, it turned out you had long since left. I made it my mission to try and find you. I used every resource I had in this city and every tool at my disposal until I managed to track your whereabouts."

"You are not my Ashikabi," Akitsu said sternly as her head faced the ground, the concrete slowly freezing under her. "The fact that you were not the one to first find me is proof that you are not my fated one." She shot her head up to face the young boy with a stare of both determination and rebellion. "Kai Kagazaki is my Ashikabi! He is the one who took me in and treated me as his own! He gave me a home and shown me love as if I were winged! You have lost that opportunity and I will never recognize your dominion over me!" The entire area fell silent from the usually calm Sekirei's loud proclamation as all were surprised by the normally stoic Sekirei's sudden outspokenness. Mikogami took a step back in brief shock while Mitsuha paused in her attack. Mutsu stood by and glanced down at the geisha, somewhat impressed by her resolve.

Haihane glanced over to her comrade's direction and smiled with a fond support by her sister, wincing from the stinging pain that was inflicted on her but still carrying her trademark smile. "You tell him, Akitsu," she thought with a genuine pride and boosted respect for the cryokinetic woman.

At the top of the nearby building, Kai watched down from his post with a tug at his heart. Even though she had yet to be winged, the young man felt the beige-haired woman's devotion from her words. The faith she had in him was as strong, if not more so, as when they first met. His hands tightened into fists and quivered as Kai tried to reign in his emotions and fight the oncoming tears. The love he had for Akitsu, Haihane, and Yahan, the resentment he harbored for Hayato for hurting and taking him away from his Sekirei, the fear of losing the people he held dear to his heart, and the confusion and helplessness of trying to get them back. "Damn you, you little punk bitch," he growled under his breath as his anger starting to seethe from every fiber of his being; unbeknownst to him, a red aura began to cloud his hands. "Akitsu needs me. All my Sekirei need me. But I can't do anything about it except sit here only wanting to act! Fuck!" Suddenly, the young man felt a presence from behind him as his hairs on the back of his neck raised up. In one fluid motion, the Ashikabi drew his flyssa and swung around in the hopes of cutting down the person who was likely a member of Hayato's peerage. However, his weapon was blocked by a dagger, whose wielder was struggling to keep the backsword from closing in on her head. Kai turned to face the figure and his eyes widened when he realized the woman before him was Yahan. The raven-haired spy's body was covered in bruises and cuts. "Yahan!" dropping his sword to the ground, Kai hurried over to his injured Sekirei and gave the woman a tight, relief-filled hug. "Thank God, you're here!"

"Whoa there, Kai!" Yahan said as she slightly pushed against Kai to release herself from his arms. The young woman was still in some pain, yet her cheeks still had a tinge of pink from the sudden show of affection. "First you nearly decapitate me and now you start to strangle me. You are a very complicated person."

"I-I'm sorry!" Kai quickly apologized. "I thought you were-! I mean Hayato's women-! Akitsu and Haihane are down and I-!" Seeing it difficult to explain the situation, the swordsman took a breath to calm down, a single tear still managing to trail from the corner of his right eye. "I thought I lost you! What happened back there!?"

"One of the South's Sekirei was after us and I headed them off. She thought she had the better of me with her game of Hide and Seek. What she didn't know was that I graduated to Seek and Destroy. Suffice it to say, number sixty-five learned her final lesson: never play spy games around with an assassin."

"I'm just glad that you're alright, Yahan," Kai said with a hand on her left shoulder to which Yahan reciprocated by holding the top of his hand. Wiping his face, the Ashikabi tended to Yahan's injuries with his Healing Wing.

"Now that you're a little less erratic, tell me the situation," Yahan said as she felt her body slowly regaining strength and the pain subsiding.

Kai explained the situation from the beginning. He told her about how the three of them were attacked by Hayato's battle maids and how his Sekirei were captured. The young man had no choice but to keep a low profile and watch from a distance as Haihane was being flayed and Akitsu was being forced to join the enemy's crew. "I don't know what to do…" Kai said with a tightened fist. "The only way down is with the stairs inside, but it would take too long to get down there. And even if I did get there in time, that swarm of servants would overwhelm me. And that's to say those bastards don't kill Haihane and Akitsu in the process. Damn it!"

Yahan folded her arms and surveyed the area. "Settle down, Kai," the espionage agent said with a calming tone. "Cooler heads always prevail. Think about Akitsu and her demeanor."

Kai took Yahan's words to heart and collected himself. "Yeah, you're right. My bad. Me having a fit won't help anybody, will it? Still, we need some way to clear out the mob. Going down there like a swashbuckler is off the table."

Yahan continued to think of a rescue plan, scanning the area for any advantage. She soon turned her attention to the water tank and its steel legs that an idea formed. While the structure appeared sturdy, there was still sign of aging based on the rust and bends in the metal. Still, Yahan knew that neither she nor Kai's would be enough to topple the framework in a normal fashion. However, there was a small detail the spy remembered from her reconvening with her Ashikabi that might be able to tip the odds in their favor. She glanced over to the sulking Kai and noticed a faint red glow around his hand. The young woman was aware of Ashikabis and their support techniques prior to being winged thanks to her studies and observations. Seeing the color of her partner's aura only meant one thing in her mind. "Kai, I think I know of a way to wash away our problems."

Kai turned to Yahan with a quirked brow, wondering for a second what she meant until she tapped at the leg of the tower. "Okay," he said with an affirmed nod. "Just tell me what to do." Yahan smiled as she saw the newfound determination in the swordsman's eyes.

Back on the ground below, Hayato recovered and snickered from Akitsu's announcement. The beige-haired woman glowered from the teen's returned jovial attitude as he watched her with a smug glare, the air around her become colder by the second. "You call that person who you were with your Ashikabi? If that's the case, then why are you still unable to be winged? If he truly was your chosen one, then you'd be carrying his mark regardless of your scrapped status. Instead, he's been constantly winging Sekirei and strengthening his bond with them while you are left to stagnate and unable to meet your potential." Hayato knelt in front of Akitsu and placed a hand on her cheek to gently turn her head to face him. "I can help you. I have the ability to give you whatever you desire. All I ask in return is for you to join my flock." Akitsu pulled away from the boy's palm and shut her eyes in the hopes of ignoring her captor as she thought of a way to escape her binds. Hayato sighed from the uncooperative Sekirei as he stood back up with his hands resting on his hips. "It seems that you won't listen to reason. At least not out here anyway. Still, I can't simply let you go." Hayato turned to the black-clothed swordsman and nudged his head. Mutsu complied with the signal and walked over to the blue shinobi, a stern expression and a hand gripping the hilt of his weapon as he stood over the young woman. "First, Mutsu will execute the Indigo Sekirei. Then I'll take you back to my home. It's not personal, but I can't allow a rare and winged Sekirei to go in case of reprisal."

Akitsu's eyes snapped open as she heard the enemy Ashikabi's plan. She rustled within the wraps in hopes of freeing herself and rescuing Haihane in vain. She could only watch as the male Sekirei drew his long sword and hover its blade over the ninja. Seeing her friend was about to be executed, Akitsu desperately tried her best to struggle in hopes of using her powers. Unfortunately, her hands were restrained, making it impossible for her to direct her powers. "Mutsu, huh?" Haihane said as she struggled against the binds. "I think I've heard that name before. Not that it matters since it's now on my To Kill List."

"I'm sorry," the tan-haired swordsman said with a sincerely apologetic tone. "I would rather face you as a warrior in battle. However, this is for the will of my master. If you weren't winged, you would've made an excellent addition to our group."

"Thanks, but I prefer my Ashikabi. At least he's already gone through puberty and is of legal age."

Mutsu ignored the sleight against his Ashikabi and raised the sword over his head. One swing. Just one swing was all it took for his weapon to cleave the vicious Sekirei in twain. Just as he was about to perform the fatal down stroke, a loud crash caught the attention of him and everyone nearby.

A few stories above them, the mob watched as a water tower fell from the roof, the cap of the container pulling open and releasing gallons of liquid upon them. Riding on the side of the falling object were Kai and Yahan with their weapons drawn, eying Hayato who stood in awe and shock from the sight before them. Any maids that were in the immediate crash zone scattered as the giant object slammed to the ground, but were subjected to a tidal wave of water that washed along immediate area. At this time, Kai grabbed Yahan and fired a line at the nearest lamppost to avoid injury and the massive amount of water that flooded the ground. Mutsu quickly grabbed Hayato and used his agility to move a safe distance from the tide with Mitsuki and Mistuha close behind. Seeing the wave of water head toward them, Haihane prepared herself by holding her breath. However, Akitsu stared forward and channeled as much strength as possible to freeze a section of the stream closest to their location, leaving a dry patch upon where the two laid. Still feeling dry, Haihane started to breathe normally as she watched the water flow past her. "Man that was too close," the kunoichi muttered accompanied by a relieved sigh.

A few meters away, Kai released his grip on the overhanging lamp and hurried over to Haihane and Akitsu with Yahan in toe. The sounds of splashing echoed through the area as the pair ran over to their trapped comrades. Any maids that staggered toward them were met with either a punch from an enraged Kai or a swift kick by Yahan. "Akitsu! Haihane!" Kai called as he slid over to the two Sekirei and used a fang from his whip gauntlet to hastily cut them loose. Yahan leaped over the trio to the other side of the net and used her dagger to help. "Don't worry, you two! We'll get you out in a second and be outta here!"

"Kai…" Akitsu called.

"Hey, took you long enough," Haihane said with a nonchalant, yet joshing tone only to be reminded of the whipping she received from a strong sting pain upon her spine. "But better late than never."

"I'm sorry, you guys," the Ashikabi said as he sliced open the last major cord to release the pair from the net before he went to Akitsu to cut off the wrappings on her hands and keels as Yahan did for Haihane. "It was only thanks to Yahan that we managed to get here in the first place."

"You're giving me too much credit," Yahan said.

"More like not enough," Kai clarified. "It turns out that I can boost strength with my newly found skill, Attack Wing," the young man said. "It was because I winged Yahan that I can now learn this art in the first place. With her help, I was able to knock down that water tower and wash out most of those bitches."

"Nice." Haihane replied. "So now we have another ace up our sleeve."

After Kai cut off the last of the binds from Akitsu's body, the now freed cryokinetic massaged her aching wrists. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. I wanted to get down that roof ASAP, but between Hayato's forces and your position, I wasn't sure-" Kai paused as a pair of silky hands wrapped behind the young man's head before he found himself pulled toward Akitsu's soft bosom. The swordsman was silenced, his mind frozen by the side of his face pressed against the nearly exposed cleavage of the cryokinetic.

"I am glad that you came at last," she said in a gentle tone. "I knew that my true Ashikabi would come for us." Kai's eyes started to water from the beige-haired woman's words. Before he returned to her side, he managed to hear her striking proclamation from the roof he was on – a proclamation that was a motivation leading to his presence. Never before had such faith been placed upon him to the point that he felt overwhelmed. The Ashikabi buried his face into the woman's bosom, calmed by the soothing attention and the calmness of her heartbeats.

Behind him, Haihane sat with folded arms as she watched the unwinged Sekirei's embrace. Though instead of feeling jealous, the kunoichi was genuinely proud of Akitsu by just how loyal she was. The Indigo Sekirei was impressed by how well Yahan and Akitsu managed to get through the machinations crafted by the Ashikabi of the South. However, it was Akitsu's stalwart attitude and surprising drive that managed to earned the woman some of her respect. "Very cool, Snow Globes. Very cool," the clawed Sekirei mused.

After a short moment, Kai pulled himself back to his feet and smiled. "Thanks, Akitsu. I swear, you have more faith in me than I do for myself."

"I speak the truth, Master Kai."

Kai gave a light nod before turning his attention to Haihane before returning his swords back to their sheaths. "Are you okay, Haihane?" he asked as he walked behind her.

"Sure, I'm just peachy. I just need to rub some dirt on it and walk it off."

Kai sat and inspected the flaying Mitsuha inflicted upon the ninja. The grey-haired woman's back was covered in shallow to moderate cuts that managed to sheer through the fabric of her robes and bandages. Her blanched skin became a red-colored canvas and the threads of her robe and bandages were soaked in blood. "If that's all it took, then there'd be no need for hospitals. Sit still, I got this." With his hands hovering over Haihane's cut back, Kai used Healing wing to close her wounds before taking a clean piece of her athletic tape from her person and wiping off the drying blood from her back. Haihane sat quietly during the procedure, only wincing slightly from the technique's effect. "How are you feeling now?"

Haihane rose to her feet and stretched her back. "Better now thanks to those magic fingers of yours."

"Good. Now let's get the fuck out of here before Richie Rich and his buddies get back."

"Sorry, but I don't think that's in the cards for you right now," a young and smug voice said from nearby. Kai whipped around and quickly stood up as he and his Sekirei were standing face to face with Hayato Mikogami and his peerage. Kai's eyes narrowed as he and his Sekirei stood defensively. "So you're the Ashikabi of the Indigo Sekirei and the one that the scrap number was holding out hope for? What a letdown. Though to be fair, I wasn't expecting much in the first place."

"That explains why your servants got washed out," Kai snorted. "First rule of battle, tike: always be ready for anything."

Hayato chuckled from the older male's swipe. "I admit that little stunt of yours caught me unawares. Of course, this all started because you fell into my trap in the first place. And now here you are digging a deeper hole for yourself. Tell me, were you expecting that?"

"Well look who's full of piss and vinegar. Not that I can't smell it from way over here even after I dropped a goddamned water tower on your ass! Why don't you go home and change your diaper, son!" Kai turned his attention to Mutsu and watched the man with a quirked brow. "And who's he supposed to be? An older brother? A bodyguard? Someone Chris Hansen needs to be called about?"

"He's a Sekirei as well," Yahan responded. "That's Mutsu, Mikogami's right-hand man and one of the strongest Sekirei in the city."

"No way! That guy's a Sekirei, too!? I thought your species were all women! With boobs! I mean… What?!"

"It's understandable for you to believe that," Mutsu said with a calm tone, his posture relaxing somewhat. "While a majority of my species is female, there are a few of us that are male. Why that is, even I don't know."

"Oh, now I remember!" Haihane said as she pounded a fist into her palm in realization of the Sekirei's identity. "You used to be part of the Disciplinary Squad, weren't you?"

"You can't be serious!" Kai exclaimed with worry.

"I remember that name being mentioned by some of the old adjusters when I was trying out for the current Disciplinary Squad. Mutsu was the name of a member from the first incarnation of the group and one of the first of us to be grown by M.B.I."

"Oh that's some straight-up bullshit!" Kai hissed as he tightened was momentarily shaken by the news. It was no wonder the man before him seemed so strong and skilled. Upon closer inspection, between the sword, his size, and his apparent age, this Sekirei was somewhat similar to Karasuba.

"So we're in the presence of a legend," Yahan murmured with interest. "I wasn't sure if they'd be joining the game as well. I had believed their involvement was at an auxiliary role."

Hayato whipped around to his Sekirei, being just as surprised by the revelation as his rival. Mutsu's eyes closed as he let out a low sigh. He had kept his affiliations of his past a secret for so long that not even his Ashikabi knew of them. "You didn't tell me that you were part of the Disciplinary Squad!" Hayato said in a sharp whisper.

"That was a long time ago. I have put that part of my past behind me and found a new purpose for my life," Mutsu responded with a shake of his head, his voice calm as he rested a palm on the butt of his sword.

Kai tightened his grip and stiffened his posture, trying his best to keep cool despite the sweat sliding from the side of his head. He already knew he had to stay on his toes when contending with Hayato and his forces, but knowing of Mutsu's earlier allegiance meant that he had to be extra diligent. "It's never easy, is it?" "So you have an old D-Squad member. Still won't stop me from beating your ass up and down this street!"

Hayato laughed from his fellow Ashikabi's threat. "Do you actually think that you still have a chance?!" the teenager asked as he drew his schiavona from its sheath, a cocky and arrogant grin spreading from ear to ear. "Mutsu alone would tear you all to shreds! Besides, I've already won this match before it started!" The Southern Ashikabi and his flock stood at the ready as they seemingly expected something to occur. A pensive silence filled the atmosphere before an impatient Hayato groaned in annoyance. "What's going on here? Where's Taki at!?"

"Suffice it to say, your Sekirei's indisposed at the moment," Yahan replied. "Last I saw, an M.B.I. chopper was scooping her up."

"Damn!" Hayato spat. Taking a breath, the teenager calmed down and reassessed his situation. Though he wasn't able to create any cover, the raw power he did possess made it unnecessary. While the numbers were even, the white-clothed aristocrat still believed he had the upper hand. "It doesn't matter. Even without Taki, I have more than enough power to put you to heel. Your Sekirei are going to be eliminated, you're going to be bleeding and crying on the ground, and Akitsu will be in my flock. Face it: you lose."

"You really believe that, don't you? Hold on there, Li'l Liberace, because you're playing the wrong notes. Here's how the song's going down: I'm going to beat your ass. My Sekirei are going to beat your Sekirei's asses. You're going to be crying like the little bitch you are. Then we're getting out of this motherfucker!"

"How dare you speak like that to our master, you dumbass!" Mitsuki hollered as she stretched out her whip. "There's no way we'll let your lowly hands anywhere near him!"

"Really?" Haihane asked as she stepped forth, a malicious glare aimed at the blonde sister – in particular, Mitsuaha. Her fingers twitched in anticipation of her awaiting vengeance from the punishment she received earlier. "I would love to see you try and stop him. After all, you and I have a score to settle." A worried look formed on Mitsuha's face as she watched the Indigo Sekirei make her presence known. Whatever fear she managed to hide back when the clawed ninja was trapped became present now that she was free.

"Yahan, Haihane, the twins are yours. Akitsu, I need you to run interference against Samurai Jack. Think you can handle it?"

"As you wish," Akitsu said as she summoned her icicles.

"The bourgeois bastard is mine," Kai drew his claymore and held it before him.

"You really are an idiot, aren't you? You should have stayed on the roof. At least then, you could've held off on embarrassing yourself further."

"So says the snowflake with the frilly ascot. Normally I wouldn't mess with kids, but with everything that went down, I'm gonna make an exception. Tell your mom that this is a free lesson in discipline!"

(Title: Rumbling of the Earth Album: Baten Kaitos ~Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean~ Artist: Motoi Sakuraba)

Taking his statement as a command, the cryokinetic sent a trail of piercing ice spikes toward the party of four at incredible speed. Mikogami's team parted in pairs to dodge the frozen road, with Mitsuki and Mitsuha jumping in one direction and Mutsu grabbing Hayato to evade in the other.

"Master!" Mitsuki and Mitsuha called in concerned unison as the frozen wall blocked their view of their Ashikabi. The two drew their weapons in an attempt to break the ice and regroup, but the sound of footsteps stopped them in their tracks.

The twins turned around and were met with the sight of Yahan and Haihane walking toward them. Haihane gave a low, yet frightening chortle; her talons clicking together in anticipation for revenge. Trailing behind her, Yahan kept a calmer demeanor as she spun her dagger in her left hand. "You really wanted to fight these two?" the raven-haired umbrakinetic asked in a monotone tone. "I thought you had higher standards for opponents."

"I still have them," Haihane said with a blood-thirsty sneer, lifting her right hand and rubbing the thumb claw against the index finger claw, producing a slight screech. "I'm just doing this for some good ol' fashion payback."

"Get away from us, you crazy bitch!" Mitsuha warned as she and her sister slowly trekked back from the pair.

"There's no way you two can take us down anyway!" Mitsuki shouted.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. Let's test that theory." Yahan questioned with a slight smile.

The kunoichi and the assassin shot forth toward the two yellow and black Sekirei. Dark aura clouded Yahan's hands while Haihane's claws were splayed out. Seeing the Sekirei advance, both yellow-and-black clad Sekirei unleashed a fury of long ranged attacks at the pair with Mitsuki shooting her threads with a wide spread and Mitsuha lashing with her whip. Using their superior agility, Yahan and Haihane dodged the onslaught, their movements almost synchronized as they weaved past the concrete shattering strikes and high-velocity bands.

Once in range, Yahan disappeared through a shadow in the air before returning beside Mitsuki with narrowed eyes. "What the fu-!?" Mitsuki's expletive was cut short as was her threads when Yahan's dagger sliced through the cords and nearly into the Sekirei's hand before she jumped away.

Mitsuha turned in the hopes of a counter attack against the spy. However, Yahan escaped using another portal, but not before shooting dark energy at the whip wielder. Mitsuha guarded against the shadow fury, but was left unprepared for Haihane, whose giant talons hovered over the shocked woman. Her skin and clothes were shredded by the razor sharp claws – blood soaked the ground and coated the tips of Haihane's weapons. Though despite the ghastly injuries, Mitsuha was still alive as Mitsuki managed to pull her away with her threads before the attack could become any more severe. "Shit!" Mitsuha cursed as her scratched up arts fell to the side in anger, blood being tossed outwards from the action.

On the other side of the ice wall, Mutsu and Hayato glanced above and saw Kai and Akitsu in coming at them from mid-air. Akitsu launched her shards at Mutsu, who proceeded to block the frozen flurry with his katana, giving a perfect distraction for Kai to swing his blade at Hayato. Seeing how his Sekirei was preoccupied, Hayato jumped back and dodged the strike before Kai's blade hit the ground. Mutsu turned to counter Kai's attack, but Akitsu put up a wall between the swordsmen, which gave Kai the chance to escape the strike and pursue the rival Ashikabi, before once again pressing her own attack upon the ex-Disciplinary Squad member. Once Kai was in range, the young man swung his broadsword at the younger opponent, who ducked under it and responded with a rising cut from his Italian blade. Kai evaded the attack by tilting his head back and using the momentum of his sword to lengthen the distance from the cut. He regained his balance and managed to block Hayato, who continued to press against his weapon. The two glared at one another as they tested their strength. Kai was surprised the younger opponent's physical prowess – despite his age and size, the teenager was inching him back. "Damn it…" he mentally cursed. "This kid isn't a push over. How is he so strong?"

Nearby, Akitsu and Mutsu were furiously trying to gain an upper hand over each other. Despite her scrapped status, the cryokinetic was able to react and match her opponent. She used long range attacks, pelting Mutsu with her frozen needles. However, Mutsu was able to dodge the attacks with his speed or block them with a swing of his sword. The veteran then closed the gap with a quick sprint and slashed, but Akitsu quickly leaped over his swing and rolled behind him before countering with her ice stalagmites. Mutsu effortlessly sidestepped the constructs and slid his weapon back in its sheath. Sensing a powerful attack, Akitsu put up a barrier to block the opponent. Despite the newly formed and thick wall, Mutsu was undeterred and proceeded to crouch. "Hasaiten," he announced before tapping the sheath of his katana, causing a minor earthquake to rock the vicinity. The ground collapsed and giant rocks launched forth in all directions.

Instinctually, Akitsu leaped back before a giant block of concrete crashed through her ice wall due to the pelting of the stones and the crumbling of the foundation. Her eyes widened in shock from the male Sekirei's attack – the amount of power he was able to produce in such a limited radius was stunning. "So much power... Is this the potential from the first generation Disciplinary Squad?" Akitsu thought with her mouth momentarily agape. Never before had she seen anyone use the elements in such a manner; only a few members of her species were able to produce such techniques. Regaining her composure, Akitsu focused on the epicenter of the destructive radius, but noticed that Mutsu was absent from the spot. She scanned the ground in order to search for him, but found nothing.

It was only a second later that she felt a presence behind her and, after turning her head, saw Mutsu behind her in the same altitude. "You should have kept your focus," Mutsu said calmly. A shocked Akitsu turned around and was about to attack, but was stunned by a strike to the gut that knocked the wind out of her. She believed that it was a punch from the newly acknowledged geokinetic only to see the pommel of Mutsu's sword connecting with her abdomen. The geisha coughed spit and blood as she fell backward from the deceptively strong hit. As she descended, the beige-haired Sekirei shot an ice needle at Mutsu's face before hitting the ground some ways down.

Mutsu moved his head to the side to avoid the attack, but the projectile still managed to cut the left cheek. He landed gracefully on his feet and touched the blood leaking from the shallow wound. The veteran Sekirei glanced at the fluid coating his fingertips then eyed the woman before him as she tried to recover from the attack and following crash. "Not a bad move," Mutsu admitted to himself. "Only Karasuba and Number One have ever caused me to bleed." He turned to Akitsu, who was kneeling in pain. The geisha was hugging her stomach and breathing heavily, her eyes focused on the ex-Disciplinary Squad member with a ferocious gaze. Despite her predicament, the samurai knew that his opponent still had some strength left in her. Yet it wasn't the woman's condition that he pondered, but the Sekirei crest marking her forehead which made him curious. "Tell me something. I know that Minaka was still unwilling to drop plans for a new D-Squad after myself and a few others left. Would you happen to know anything about that?"

Akitsu stood up from her small crater as she heard replayed Mutsu's quote in her head. D-Squad. That was a term she hadn't heard in a long time. She knew it was an archaic shortening for the Disciplinary Squad years ago when the Sekirei Plan was still in its beginning stages. However, that name was also synonymous with pain and blood. Before her mind can wander, the woman shook her head of those thoughts and regained her focus. She leered at the beige-haired man before her as icicles formed around her.

Mutsu noted the scrapped number's brief reaction to his question. To him, it was obvious that she knew something about the events that occurred after he left. The veteran drew his sword once more, intent on capturing his prey. While the mission was one tasked by his master, he knew that the cryokinetic was holding back on her knowledge.

Kai had seen the two Sekirei fight during his locking with Hayato and felt an immense sense of dread from the result. Reacting quickly, the older swordsman kicked his opponent in his side, causing him to break off the attack and allowing Kai to give himself some distance. He glanced at Akitsu through the corner of his eyes and saw Akitsu standing back up, her body and clothing covered in dust and scrapes. While glad that the woman was still able to fight, it was clear to him that even her power could only deter Mutsu for so long.

"Bastard," Hayato hissed. "That was a cheap shot!"

"Do you really want to talk about me being cheap after the shit you pulled?" Kai responded before he pressed on the attack with a decapitating stroke. Hayato ducked under the swing, evading it by just a hair. Kai then began to fire a flurry of kicks, but found Hayato blocking them with his sword before attempting to counter with a thrust. The young man sidestepped from the attack, and used a downward swing to catch the teenager from behind. However, Hayato quickly held his weapon behind him and blocked Kai's larger blade with just one hand on his sword, much to the older male's surprise. "How is it that you're matching me?"

"Matching you? Don't insult me!" Hayato pushed Kai away as he turned to face him and dashed ahead, swinging his weapon with surprising power and speed. Kai barely had enough time to dodge the strike, but the opponent's blade still reached its mark as it slid past the young man's defense and inserted itself into his right shoulder. The swordsman gritted his teeth as he felt the cold, sharp steel slicing through his skin and muscle, trying desperately to hold back a pained yell. This unfortunately left an opening for Hayato to kick him directly in the gut which also freed his blade. The young man coughed in pain as he reeled back from the blow. "I'm one of the strongest Ashikabi in the game!" Hayato attacked again, this time using a fury of piercing stabs to strike at Kai, who could barely shield against them with his broad blade as he hugged his abdomen. Though he managed to parry against many of the piercing attacks, he was unable to fully parry the raid and was cut by most of the strokes. "I have winged numerous Sekirei and their power makes me stronger!" Hayato changed tactics and slammed his saber into the ground, throwing Kai back a few feet from the impact of the strike. Weary and aching from the blood loss and pain, Kai struggled to sit up to see Hayato stalking toward him with a sinister smile. "With Mutsu by my side, the Sekirei in my flock, and the scrap number soon to be added to my collection, I'll be unstoppable. Someone like you can't even hope to measure up, let alone be a match for me." Hayato charged forth and jumped, holding his saber above his head as he approached his target.

Before the teenaged opponent struck, Kai fired a fang to a nearby wall and was dragged to the right direction, narrowly escaping the blast. "Elemental attacks! This bastard can use elemental attacks! Fuck!" the swordsman thought with a scowl. Quickly, Kai performed Attack Wing and Healing Wing, boosting strength and health recovery. While he wasn't fully recovered, he was at least able to move better than a minute before. He turned to Akitsu and cast another Healing Wing for assistance. Feeling somewhat rejuvenated, the cryokinetic turned to the swordsman and gave a thankful nod, which Kai reciprocated with a smile. Sensing an incoming attack, Kai ducked just as a large boulder hurtled toward him by Hayato. Quickly, he rolled over the front of a nearby parked car in order to avoid another large rock flying in his direction. "How the fuck can he use those attacks!? Is it because he's winged that Mutsu guy?! Then why is it I'm not able to do that shit with Yahan!" Kai peered around the headlight of the vehicle to see the enemy swipe his blade upward, sending a stalagmite shooting from the ground and piercing through the front of the vehicle. Counting his blessings that he wasn't near the driver's side door, the young man tried desperately to think of a strategy. "Okay, okay. Whining time is over. Let's think. Now from what I've seen, Hayato's using the more serious attacks for long range, but they can only travel in one direction. His short ranged attack is, I don't know, a seismic wave, I guess?"

"Come on out, coward!" Hayato called as he approached Kai's hiding spot. "I thought you were going to teach me a lesson? Or are you just starting to realize that your mouth wrote a check you can't cash?" Thinking quickly, Kai turned and pulled the hanging door off of the rest of the damaged vehicle. He returned the blade into its sheath and drew his flyssa. Once the steel slab was in his possession, the Ashikabi stood from his position and glared at his enemy as he held the door like a makeshift shield with his left hand, leaving the flyssa clutched in his right. For a second, Hayato stared at the sight baffled before cracking up in a condescending laugh; much to Kai's annoyance. "Wow! I take back what I said! You're way more broke than I thought! Who are you supposed to be!? Sparkplug-icus?!"

"Keep laughing there, Posh Spice. I might be carrying the car door, but your ass will be more busted up than a '92 jalopy."

"You can come and try!" With a swing of his sword, Hayato sent another trail of rock spikes toward Kai in the hopes of skewering him threw. Quickly, the young man rolled out of the way and sprinted toward him. Seeing his approach, Hayato launched his stones at the opponent, to which Kai either dodged or blocked with his newfound shield. Hayato tried again with his spikes, but Kai sidestepped the attack before catching Hayato with a fang to snag and reel his foe in. Once in range, the pair began a close combat battle with Hayato striking viciously at Kai while the older Ashikabi blocked and parried the attacks against him. Despite Kai's strength, Hayato was still faster and continued to move out of the range of his claymore; the only reason he was still nearby was thanks to the line of his whip gauntlet. After a few moments of trading blows, Kai changed tactics and slammed the car door against Hayato's body – catching the younger foe by surprise. Hayato shook the cobwebs out of his brain from the strike and made a piercing jab through the space for the window.

"Gotcha!" Kai's patience finally paid off and before Hayato could retract his limb, Kai stabbed his sword into the ground and grabbed Hayato's sword arm. The younger Ashikabi attempted to slip out of the hold, but it was too late as Kai shoved the metal frame against the youth again, keeping his body low behind the lower half of his shield. With all of his strength Kai hopped against the car piece and slammed Hayato to the ground. Hayato screamed in pain as he was pinned to the ground with the weight of both the older warrior and steel panel crushing his form. Once his schiavona slipped out of his clutch, Kai rolled off the nearly flattened Ashikabi, swiped the Italian sword from the ground and plucking the flyssa out of the pavement. Hayato pushed the slab of steel off of his body and rolled to his hands and knees. As he looked up, the teenager froze as he was met with the tip of his own sword pointed directly in his face. The rival Ashikabi froze, his eyes sinking into his skull as sweat trailed down the side of his face. "Hey, I'd like to make a quick deposit. I'm betting the check will clear," Kai said.

"M-Mutsu!" a frightened Hayato called.

Mutsu turned to his beaten Ashikabi with widened eyes. He saw Hayato at the mercy of Kai and was ready to leap in to defend him. Unfortunately, he was stopped in his tracks as Akitsu froze his feet to the ground. Before the Sekirei could free himself with his Hasaiten, Kai pointed his flyssa at the ex-Disciplinary Squad member. "Hold on there, Hayabusa," Kai said with a raised and commanding tone. "If you break out of the cooler, I'm cutting the cheese."

"Y-You're just kidding, right?" Hayato asked with a nervous smile. "You wouldn't p-possibly-!"

"Shut your dumbass up!" Kai ordered as he pressed the sword closer to his face. "After the shit you've pulled, you have no place to talk!" He then glanced at Mutsu. "Well? You want to keep yourself on ice or does this fool get iced?" With closed eyes, Mutsu slowly lowered his nodachi and stood back up. For added security, Akitsu took possession of the sheathed backsword and held it on the opposite side away from the geokinetic's grasp.

Then without warning, another figure appeared and crashed beside the samurai-like Sekirei. Once the dust settled, the identity of the fallen individual was revealed to be Mitsuki. The young blonde's body was covered in a series of deep cuts and scrapes – obviously Haihane's literal handiwork. She weakly pulled her face off of the ground and gazed at her master, her eyes glazed over as she tried to keep conscious and a regretful expression blanketing her face. "I'm sorry… Master…" she said weakly and apologetically before her face fell back upon the concrete. From Mutsu's point of view, he was able to see her Sekirei crest fade from the base of her neck and turned away. Even though he had seen his fair share of death and knew the rules of the Sekirei game, the veteran Sekirei still found the sight of watching his fallen Sekirei being eliminated disheartening.

Meanwhile, Hayato stared in shock from the defeated Sekirei's form. It couldn't be possible that he not only lost, but that two of his teammates fell to the same rival in one day. There was no way some upstart like Kai, a person who was so weak by comparison with only three Sekirei to his name, could stand up to one of the top Ashikabi in the city. He cursed himself, regretting the fact that he had brought so few Sekirei on the mission.

Not long after Mitsuki's demise, both Yahan and Haihane appeared on the scene, with Mitsuha wrapped tightly by her own bindings. Yahan pushed her to the ground next to her fallen sister before Haihane kept her in place with a foot on her back. "It looks like we finished just in time," Yahan said with folded arms. "I'm glad you're still alright, Kai."

Kai gave a relieved smile as he saw the ninja and assassin in good conditioned. "It's good to see you two are safe also," he said.

"Do you want us to drive the point home with this one?" Haihane said as she stretched her left claw open scraping the ground closest to the defeated Sekirei's head.

"I'll think about that in a minute," Kai replied before he turned his attention back to Hayato. "For now, what should I do with you. You've been very busy kid today and I've gotten very pissed off because of it."

"L-Look, Kai, was it? I'm sorry for what happened! You gotta understand that I only did it because Akitsu's a rare Sekirei! She's one of a kind and I just had to add her to my-!"

"Shut the fuck up!" Kai shouted with a furious yell. "I don't know what disgusts me more: the fact that you tried to destroy me and my friends so you could kidnap Akitsu, that you did it because you think they're Pokemon or some shit, or that you're sniveling like a little bitch!" The young man's grasp of the saber tightened as he grinded his teeth. He watched the teenager with a murderous glare with eyes piercing into his soul like the sword that he wanted to push forth through his cranium. The older Ashikabi's intent did not go unnoticed as Hayato watched helplessly from the ground. He tried to gauge Kai's intent, thinking that perhaps he could find some way to level the odds back to his favor. Yet all he was met with was an abyssal expression reminiscent of Akitsu's – a poker face that gave no emotion, let alone comfort. All he had were malevolent eyes that sent his spine shivering in fear as if it were trying to break from his body.

Kai knew he had the boy at his mercy and was willing to end his life, regardless of his age. If what Hayato said was true, it would be in his best interest to annihilate him. Not simply because of the obvious advantage it would bring to his quarter, but because the incident was one that echoed a situation from the past. Thoughts of vengeance clouded his memories and the primal urge of lethal retaliation bubbled within him – including the image of THAT man whose visage from years ago haunts him like a poltergeist. Kai had already lost one important woman in his life and just barely lost others on this day. He needed to slay someone – if not the target of his desires, a substitute in the form of the Ashikabi of the South would certainly suffice. With narrowed eyes targeting Hayato's skull, he pulled his arm back with the tip of the shiavona aimed in Hayato's direction. The scared Ashikabi saw the motion of the sword and tried desperately to make a plea only for a broken, cracking noise to escape from his throat.

Before he attempted a cogent rebuttal, the sword drove forth and seemingly met Hayato's skull by the perspective of the Sekirei a few feet away. "Did… Did he do it?" Haihane asked as she tried to process the possible murder she witnessed her Ashikabi commit. Even though she was not one to cry over spilled blood, the reaping kunoichi was at the edge of her seat, wondering if her beloved Ashiakbi actually went through with the act.

Akitsu was the first to notice that something was off. Despite Hayato's sudden silence and freeze, she was astute enough to notice that Hayato was still breathing and the driving of the sword did not produce any blood – in fact, the majority of the blade was still in great condition.

Indeed, her powers of observation rang true; Kai didn't kill the Ashikabi. Despite it being a logical choice, the young man redirected his hand at the last second and only allowed the sword to graze Hayato. Whether going through the act was right or wrong, he didn't know at that time. After all, he realized long ago that being an Ashikabi was a dangerous lifestyle and figured even someone as young as Hayato was aware of this aspect. Still, there was something that made him hesitate from carrying out the attack – as though something jerked his arm from meeting its mark. Perhaps his conscience played a role in the boy's sparing? He pulled the sword away from the teenager and knelt in front of him; his brown eyes at level with Hayato's golden orbs. Between the attempted murder and last ditch save, Kai wasn't sure if he actually wanted to go through with the act. However, the last thing he wanted was for Mikogami to see his uncertainty for fear that, despite his youthful age, he would likely use it against him. He needed to keep up the facade. "If I wanted to, I could have made you taste your very sword right now," Kai said with a dark, growling voice. "In fact, I should've slaughter you after what you put us through. I should gut you like a pig, hang you by your entrails, and skin your corpse. But I didn't do it and I won't right now. This wasn't because I didn't want to kill you. It sure as fuck isn't because I forgive you." At least that last part was the most truthful statement he could make.

"Then why did you spare me!?" Hayato replied, finally recovering his voice.

"The first reason is because now you know what happens when you try to fuck with me. The second is because now you owe me. One day, I'm going to ask you for a favor and you will pay me back. The day I snap my finger, you better come running. The day I send a phone call, I expect you to pick it up and act as though God has sent you a message. If you don't pay up, then I'll make you pay," Kai responded before he stood back up. "Now I'm keeping this sword you have. A valuable weapon like this belongs to someone who can actually appreciate it. Now, take off the sheath!"

"Y-yeah! Okay!" Hayato was all too happy to relieve himself of the Russian saber's scabbard as he hastily untied the item and handed it to Kai.

Kai slid his flyssa back into its sheathe before grabbing the cover of his newly acquired sword. "Good. So there is a working brain in that spoiled head of yours." The Ashikabi then turned back to Mutsu, who watched the young man with a steady, studious gaze. "You, take your Ashikabi and the surviving Sekirei out of my sight. Come back in ten minutes and you can retrieve your blade. Do we have a deal?" Mutsu glanced at Hayato, who looked back at his faithful Sekirei with a fearful smile. While he didn't wish to admit it, he knew that he underestimated Kai and wanted to leave the area as soon as possible. The geokinetic samurai gave a nod to the rival. Despite his pride taking a hit from both his prized sword and beloved Ashikabi being held hostage by the opposing party, all that mattered to him was the safety of his teenaged master. "Good. Haihane, let the man out of the cooler. And be careful. We wouldn't want him to catch his death of cold or claw."

"Let's see what I can do." The reaper walked up to the ex-Disciplinary Squad member and assessed the ice block encasing his feet. After a moment of study, the grey-haired woman raised a claw and sliced the man out of his trap. Mutsu collapsed to the ground and, after massaging his legs, stood back up.

He took a few steps forward before stopping and turning his head toward Akitsu. He glanced at the geisha and his sword, much of his face obscured by his muffler. "You truly are a worthy Sekirei, Akitsu. I can see that you'll reach your full potential soon enough." Akitsu stood silently as she hid Mutsu's sword behind his back. Though she felt some humility from hearing the man's acknowledgement of her skill, she was still wise enough to keep up her guard. Mutsu scooped up Mutsuha from the ground under his right arm and made his way to his master's location. Kai sheathed the schiavona and distanced himself from the approaching single numbered Sekirei, who proceeded to carry Hayato under his left arm.

"This isn't over, you bastard!" Hayato hollered within the Sekirei's grasp. "I'll be coming for you later on! You just wait and see!"

"Master, please," Mutsu said in the hopes of cutting his threats short so as to not aggravate the situation any further. Hayato groaned in protest, but gave in and kept silent. "The fact that you managed to survive today is a testament of your skill. Though next time we meet, you may not be as lucky."

"Took the words right out of my mouth," Kai said. "Now go and tuck the kid in." Mutsu turned around and leaped to the nearest building. Kai and his party watched as the trio retreated further south until they were out of sight. "God damn," the young man murmured as he threw his head back, reveling in relief from the hard-fought battle.

"I'm glad to see you're alright," Yahan said as she, Akitsu, and Yahan approached their Ashikabi. "It's one thing that we encountered Hayato Mikogami, but to have survived is practically a miracle."

"It was," Kai nodded. "Something tells me this only happened because that punk took us lightly."

"Let him come again!" Haihane said as she held up a gauntlet. "If he tries something again, then I'll make sure he gets the point!"

"No doubt about that. Well then, I think we've kept Shiro long enough. Let's get going."

"What about this sword, Master Kai?" Akitsu asked as she held Mutsu's blade.

Kai took a hold of the absent Sekirei's weapon and removed it from its sheathe. He had to admit that it was a very impressive nodachi and holding it was quite a privilege. The sword as a whole measured a good three feet in length and its blade still held a nice sharp edge with a beautiful hamon wave. The Ashikabi was tempted to take the weapon as his own, but decided against it. A deal was a deal and after returning the sword to its sheath, he gently set the weapon on the ground in plain sight. "Haihane, you were the one who took down the other Sekirei, right?"

Haihane chortled to signal her success. "Yup."

"Alright. After you're done with M.B.I., rendezvous with us at Shiro's place."

"You got it."

"Akitsu, Yahan, let's move."

"Yes, my master," Akitsu said.

"Lead the way," Yahan replied.

Taking hold of Kai, Akitsu took the lead with Yahan close behind the pair. Haihane folded her arms and watched her friends leave as she stood over Mitsuki's body. With folded arms, the Indigo Sekirei had an accomplished smile grew along her face with her eyes closed in thought and patience. Between the chance at payback and Akitsu's show of devotion, she felt more than a little bemused over the past events. Yet when she thought about Kai, her smile slowly flattened. Due to the bond she had with her Ashikabi, the shinobi was able to sense her Ashikabi's distraught and anger. When she was near him during his forceful surrender of Hayato, she knew that the young man had a killing intent. "Why am I concerned about this?" she wondered to herself. "I've killed before. Hell, I just eliminated one right now. This is a dog-eat-dog world. Yet watching Kai coming so close to pulling the trigger…" She tightened her arms around her chest, feeling unnerved over the possible thought of her Ashikabi taking a life. She was confused and, for the first time in her life, scared by an uncertainty. The only time she ever had an emotion similar to that was when she was around Karasuba – though that was more about fear over being the Black Sekirei's next target. "I never knew Kai could have such strong feelings. What happened to you?"

The distant whirl of helicopter blades caught Haihane's attention. Looking up, the grey-haired reaper took a couple steps back as the aerial vehicle arrived on the scene. It landed a few yards away before a few of M.B.I.'s medical staff dressed in white approached her location with a stretcher. After Haihane watched her defeated foe get prepared for recovery, she decided to make her way to catch up with the rest of her party.

"In other news today, ex-Presidential candidate Donald Trump has announced that he and Clinton are set to run together in the 2024 election. They will compete against the possible second term President, or rather RZAdent, Diggs and Vice President Grice's second terms. Tell me Trisha, do you think those two have a chance of winning."

"I wouldn't know, Zenichi. All I can say is that it's going to be an interesting race to the White House in a few years."

As the news correspondents began to laugh, Shiro glanced over at the TV screen and spun his eyes. "If those are your only alternatives, I'm glad I'm not taking part in the U.S. voting process in the future," he quipped before returning to work adjustments to a device he and his partner helped create a few days prior. With one more turn, the last nail to the object was finally tightened and the brunette wiped off some sweat from his forehead. "Finally. I told him that one of the gears for the rotary component was too lose to compensate for the string's tension," he thought aloud. Hearing a knock on his door, the young man left his seat and opened the entrance. "Yo, Kai! What it do!" Before he could give him a handshake, the young man noticed how unkempt and dirty his company appeared. "Geez, you guys look like shit!"

"Yeah… yeah…" Kai said as he scratched the back of his head. "We had a few things to take care of."

"Like what? A trip to the Wasteland? I didn't know you were trying out for the Fallout movie," Shiro quipped. "Come on in before someone mistakes you for a band of hobos." Taking up his invitation, Kai, Akitsu, and Yahan made their way inside the apartment. Both Kai and Akitsu immediately crashed on the couch while Yahan stood behind the sitting pair and inspected her surroundings. "Well hello there! How are you doing?" Shiro said as he suddenly noticed the lithe Sekirei. "I've never seen you around here before. You must be new to these parts."

"You can say that," Yahan said as she gave a light smile. "I'm Yahan, it's a pleasure to meet you."

"Yahan, eh? The pleasure's all mine," Shiro said with a flirtatious smile. "So you're another of Kai's lady friends, right? I wonder what brings you here?"


"Wait! Don't tell me!" Shiro quickly interjected as he held up his index finger to cut the young woman off. "You came because you wanted to meet the great and magnificent me, right? I'm sure that Kai mentioned how awesome I am."

"Yeah… You can say that," the assassin replied with a small smile, confused by the brunette's nature. She turned to Kai with a questioning glance, wordlessly wondering if the hyperactive male was always like this. Her silent confusion was cleared as her Ashikabi gave a small shrug to show that he had long since been used to his display. "Kai has told me that you wanted him for something, correct?"

"Hell's yeah! Yo, check it!" Shiro traveled to his table and grabbed the items he was working on. He tossed one of the pieces to Yahan, who managed to catch it and inspect it. The item was a gauntlet similar to the one Kai held, except bulkier with a three large and flexible hooks. "Like 'em? They're my newest invention. My partner and I decided that for this this tool, we'd focus on range and manipulation of the environment. With these babies you have greater strength to the point of even ripping out the ground itself."

"You're kidding," Kai held up his hand, signaling to Yahan to toss him the newly crafted gauntlet. The spy delivered the object with a toss, which Kai managed to catch, giving him and Akitsu the opportunity to inspect Shiro's craftsmanship. "You mean with this, I can basically kick people to the curb and beat them with it? That's crazy."

"Crazy like a rabid fox on Adderall, man!" Shiro shot back. "That thing right there lets you pull over heavier objects as easy as a carrot on a stick. My work buddy managed to reproduce the string you gave us and we haven't gotten enough of the stuff! The more threads we get, the stronger the already impressive tensile strength – not that big a deal, right? But then we've found that it's pretty heat resistant and that factor increases with each bind. I can only imagine what other applications we could use for it. Other than, you know, beating the shit out of people. Which I'm not against, of course." Shiro laughed heartily from the joke and his job well done. "This stuff is literally out of this world!"

"You have no idea," Kai offhandedly thought.

"What do you call these objects?" Akitsu wondered as she inspected one of the gauntlets.

"Glad you asked, my physically gifted friend! I refer to them as the Mark II: Moon Breakers! Pretty cool, huh? I wanted to call them 'Gaia Force' or 'Gaia Divide', but something tells me Hasbro would've tried to shove a trademark infringement down my throat."

"Okay…" Kai replied as he raised a brow.

"Oh, yeah. I said I had something else for you, didn't I? Hold on, I'll be right back." Shiro went to the back room and began to search for an item.

As he searched, the sounds of his rummaging were heard by Kai and his party. The Ashikabi scratched the side of his head, hoping that the package wasn't damaged considering Shiro's junk rat habit. As he waited for his friend's return, he noticed Yahan standing in deep thought. The raven-haired woman had her arms folded beneath her bosom and eyes closed in contemplation. "Hey, something wrong?" Kai asked, snapping the assassin from her trance. "I know Shiro's a weirdo, but he's not someone to worry about.

"It's not that," Yahan said as she shook her head. "Shiro keeps claiming that he isn't working alone during the manufacturing of those weapons."

"I know. He said that he found a guy to help him with the odds and ends."

"Has he ever told you who he was working with? The materials and designs are not something any tinkerer can pick up and modify."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. He hasn't told me anything about the guy other than having some kind of connection with M.B.I. and a lab at his disposal. The guy's either some employee doing some extra work on the side or some sacked shmuck who's disgruntled and is making these as some kind of vendetta. I still don't have a clue." Kai shrugged as he thought over the possibilities of the mystery man and their motivations in helping Shiro.

Yahan continued to think over the construction of the weapons. As she said, it was improbable that anyone would be able to craft and modify the whip gauntlet design to such a degree. M.B.I. was the one and only company capable of creating such weapons and very few personnel actually owned such an item – namely those within the company's stealth divisions. The only way someone would be able to help Shiro make effective armaments like those was only through someone who was linked in the development of such items – and the workers involved were a very tight-lipped bunch.

A knock was heard from the front door and Kai rose from the couch and headed toward the entrance. Unlatching the locks, he opened the door and found Haihane standing on the other side. "Hey, did someone order a fresh piece o' badass?" she asked jocularly.

"Come on in," Kai welcomed as he stood aside to allow the kunoichi passage.

"Who was that?" Shiro asked as he returned to the living room while he carried a package.

"Hey, there," Haihane said with a wave. "So what did I miss?"

"Shiro showed us his new toys," Kai replied as he stood from his seat and tossed the woman one of his newly acquired gauntlets. "Not bad, right?"

"Hey, they're not 'toys'," Shiro quickly corrected, somewhat irked by his friend's labelling of his inventions. "They're Tactically Offensive Infiltrators!"

"Yeah. That's what I said," Kai replied with folded arms, enjoying the obliviousness of his friend's moniker for the weapons. Shiro only spun his eyes as his comrade approached the table to open the package. With the cardboard cover opened, the young man opened the box inside and saw two new swords and another letter laid on top of them. The weapons were Russian swords with a long, upward-curved blade with a single edge and a curved pommel covered with gold. The blades had engravings on both sides near the grip, including with Russian writing. "Well now, these are different," Kai said as he lifted up one of the weapons. "I've seen these somewhere, but I can't remember the name of them…"

"How intricate," Yahan said with folded arms.

"Unless it's a lightsaber, I still don't get the appeal," Shiro replied with little interest. "It just looks like a weirder katana with a strange handle."

"Something tells me that you think everything is a katana."

"That's not true," the brunette replied as he feigned offense. "I think all these swords are oversized and glorified butter knives – a katana is just the more familiar of the bunch. Honestly, unless you're going to sell them, you should ask your uncle for something practical. Like money or booze. And considering how much he loves to move, the latter would be a better gift."

Kai groaned from his friend's lack of appreciation for bladed weaponry before turning his attention to a letter. "'Hey, Kai, how's it going? I figured things are getting pretty hectic about now. From what I hear, the arms business has been really picking up speed as of late. I'm sure you've managed to find a foothold in this weird anachronism that M.B.I. has created, but that doesn't mean you don't need a little help. And as I've always said, you can never have too many swords.'"

"Damn right," Haihane murmured to herself with a knowing smirk as she folded her arms.

"'This is why I have sent you another package. This time, I came upon a small village in the south of Russia on a search for a drink when I stumbled upon an old couple being harassed by some hooligans. After I taught them a lesson, the pair invited me to their home. Once I paid them back for their generosity, these kind folks gave me a pair of shashkas as thanks. Apparently, they belonged to a Cossack a couple centuries ago that the grandfather of the elderly woman took in battle near the Terek River.' I knew that's what these were!" Kai replied as he inspected the weapon again, reminded of their name. "Usually, these things have scabbards longer than the blades to the point where they covered the hilt. Since that's not the case here, I figured they were from some river or another." Kai turned his attention back to his friends who stood patiently as they witnessed the young man's outburst and accompanied pontification.

Akitsu and Yahan stood silently, with the former's hands resting on her hips while the latter Sekirei watched with a statuesque gaze. Haihane chortled from the display, finding his realization humorous. Meanwhile, Shiro shook his head with some embarrassment from his friend's fit. "Man, you're such a nerd," the brunette said with an irony so heavy that it may as well have been an anvil dropping on the swordsman's head.

Kai cleared his throat and regained his composure. "Right, my bad." The young man put the sword back in the box and skimmed the paper to find where he left off. "'I hope you find some use with these rare swords which I managed to restore to their best condition. Their light weight and cutting power should help you against fast moving enemies or for precise attacks. Anyway, I better get going. I've wanted to check out Prague for some time now; beautiful city with beautiful ladies. Maybe I'll even find Veronica Vanoza while I'm there. Talk to you soon, your uncle Kenji.'"

"It appears that your uncle is having a satisfactory venture, my Ashikabi," Akitsu replied.

"Yup, can't say I'm surprised. He's always been such a jetsetter," Kai remarked.

"Man, I wish I could bang Veronica Vanoza…" Shiro muttered under his breath, envious from his friend's uncle's opportunity.

"What should we do now?" Yahan asked.

"I don't know," Kai shrugged. He turned his attention to Shiro. "Yo, mind if we chill out for a bit?"

"Sure, man. Grab a seat while I fire up the PS5!"

"Sweet!" Kai and Shiro headed to the couch with the brunette grabbing the controllers from the coffee table between the seat and the TV. Pressing a button on one of the controllers, the Sony console activated as Kai used the remote to change to the system's station. Seeing a chance to have some fun, Haihane joined the two young men and Akitsu, grabbing a third controller as the game began to load. Yahan helped herself to the kitchen and poured herself some juice from the fridge before taking a seat close behind the group and watched as they began to jovially compete against one another.

It was now evening and Kai and his flock had long since returned to Maison Izumo. The group had finished eating and was engaged in various activities around the house. Akitsu and Yahan were busy helping Miya clean dishes and put away food. Haihane was in her room cleaning her claws of any blood stains along with keeping them sharp. Meanwhile, Kai was taking a bath in the upper floor of the inn. He lounged in the tube with everything below the shoulders was submerged in water as he rested against the side of the tub with his arms lying along its rim. For the first time since the day had begun, the swordsman felt relaxed. All the stress he had accrued, all of his worries and fears began to melt away thanks to the soothing heat of the water as he gazed at the nightly sky outside the window; the steam of the bath wafting up to the ceiling. "Man, what a day," he murmured as he slid deeper into the bath.

As he rested, Kai felt something smooth and soft gliding along his chest and pressing against the back of his neck. At first, he was non-responsive due to how relaxed he was and had in fact pressed his head further into the mysterious pillow. However, the introduction of such sensations and an arousing scent piqued his curiosity. The swordsman opened his eyes and his vision was soon met with a pair of smooth, slender, cream-colored arms binding against him chest. Realizing the limbs were obviously not his, Kai slowly turned his head back, every inch pushing against a cushioned surface behind his cranium. His jaw dropped as a creaky, low-pitched scream escaped his mouth while his body started to heat up like a cooked lobster. "Is the water that hot, Master Kai?" Akitsu innocently asked as the woman watched her partner.

After a brief paralysis, Kai dunked his head under the water, muffling his screams before appearing across the other side, his hands covering his groin from the presence of the Sekirei. However, once he was on the other side, the young man saw nothing but the cryokinetic's sexy form in all its nude, bodacious, curvy beauty. Once his eyes set their sights on her now exposed chest, he had yet one more reason for why his lower region was covered. "W-W-What are you doing here!?" Kai asked the dusky blonde woman as he continued his futile attempt to back away. "I thought you were helping Yahan or something!"

"I had already finished my chores some time ago," Akitsu said with a rather deadpan expression. "I wished to have taken my own shower, but I had no knowledge of your presence until I entered this space."

"Oh great," Kai responded with a smile as he turned away from the woman in the hopes of decreasing his libido. "I must've dozed off enough to not hear you come in."

As the young man sheepishly chuckled in embarrassment, Akitsu glanced down into the water to peek at the young man's self-censoring. She blinked in confusion. "Master Kai, why do you have your hand upon your penis?" the quixotic cryokinetic questioned.

"Gyah! Don't look down my eyes are up here!" Kai snapped before having to turn away from the buxom lady.

"Could it be that you wish to masturbate. If such sexual drives require necessary attention, perhaps I-"

"Nope! I am not having this talk! It's time for me to make like a TV show before commercials and fade!" With his body now colored in the same hue as a ripened cherry, the young man scuttled along the other side of the pool and grabbed his towel. Using it as a screen to hide his member, Kai wrapped the fabric around his waist and began to take his leave. As he passed Akitsu, the Ashikabi had stopped in his tracks as the woman wrapped her arms around Kai's body, her body pressing against Kai's back. Due to the sudden action, the pair had nearly fell onto the wooden floor had Kai not shifted his leg and adjusted for their combined weight. "Akitsu-!"

"I apologize, my master," Akitsu responded quickly, her tone seemingly wavered enough for the young man to take notice. "I did not mean to cause you distress. I only wished to show my affection after what had happened today. You risked your life today not only to recover Haihane, but myself. You defended me when I was at bay. For that, my earlier gratitude is not enough to prove the depths of my devotion." The young woman tightened her grasp around Kai's body. "Please, allow me to show you my commitment."

As Akitsu's hands slowly glided down to her master's groin, Kai caught the woman's grasp. However, his hold was not tight or rough, but one that was gentle. "You don't need to go this far. I already know how committed you are, especially after what you've displayed today," he said to the beige-haired woman. The Ashikabi turned around to face Akitsu, his gaze focused on her eyes. "You've proven your devotion in spades and because of that, I will jump into the lion's den in the depths of Hell any time you need me."

"Master Kai…" Before Akitsu could continue, Kai had already locked lips with the cryokinetic. The beige-haired Sekirei was surprised by the sudden show of emotion – she didn't expect her Ashikabi to initiate such a gesture. Though after a second, she recovered from her initial shock and proceeded to reciprocate the kiss. After a short period of intimacy, the two parted lips and Akitsu gazed at Kai with a longing stare. "Master Kai, please take me. Become one with me." Akitsu guided one of Kai's hands to her left breast as one of her own slid slowly down the young man's frame.

Between the feeling of her breast and the exploratory palm edging its way down to his manhood, Kai nervously gulped. While he was no stranger to the realm of consensual experiences, he was far from a frequent visitor. His last experience was with an ex-girlfriend he had back in high school years ago prior to his arrival to the city. However, the number of times such pleasantries occurred was only by the handful. Still, that wasn't to say he wasn't to say he had never thought of doing such a deed with either of his Sekirei, especially Akitsu. Far from it, he caught himself nearly giving in to his desires more than once. However, here he was: alone with Akitsu after having a strong heart-to-heart that affirmed their feelings toward one another. Akitsu was standing as naked as the day she was born while Kai's "close and personal friend" was standing at attention and ready to be acquainted. Perhaps this moment between them was meant to happen, he figured. If destiny was what brought them together, then the wheels of fate had been turning in order to reach this moment. As a man and an Ashikabi, who was he to deny such plays in motion. Just as the tips of Akitsu's fingernails reached the rim of the towel, the cryokinetic suddenly stopped in place. Kai noticed the pause and glanced at the young woman with a curious glance. However, what he found was an expression that was far from normal – one that was drenched in sweat with her complexion being a ghastly pale shade. Her irises became nothing more than small dots in her eyes. "Wait, what's wrong? Are you okay?" the young man asked the Sekirei with concern. At first he believed that perhaps she was also having some reservations. "Right, this is your first time, isn't it?" he asked. "To be fair, I'm a little unsure about things myself."

"Master Kai…"

"Hey, don't worry. We'll take this gently and slowly."

"Master Kai… Hannya…"

Kai heard the last word uttered from Akitsu's mouth and quirked his brow. "Hannya?" It was a pretty random word given the circumstances. "Wait, is this roleplay? You want me to get a mask or something?"

"My, my, my. It seems I have stumbled upon something most taboo," a feminine voice from behind the aroused male said. Kai's body stiffened from the sound and his entire body went from a medium brown to a shade of white that neither Akitsu, an albino, nor even most cephalopods other than dead giant squid frozen in a block of ice in the earliest states of decayed decadence could pull off. Like a key from an antique wind-up toy, the scared man turned his head around slowly, struggling to see the source of his fear that loomed behind him. What he found instead was a giant, purple, demonic visage looming over the pair like a pouncing predator standing over vulnerable prey; jaws hanging wide and terrifying eyes focused upon the pair. Exuding the murderous machination was Miya standing only a few feet away at the doorway with her hand tightening around the hilt of her sword, seemingly ready to draw and turn the bathhouse into slaughterhouse. Kai squealed like a dying swine on the Mississippi River as both he and Akitsu fell upon their backsides upon the planks that made up the floors, scuttling backwards in the hopes of keeping out of any possible swing's range. "M-M-M-Miya! I-I mean, o-oh wonderful, wise, and illustriously m-magnanimously kind L-Lady As-s-sama!" Kai quickly responded in the hopes of a stay of execution.

"I came here to check on you as I was wondered where Akitsu could have gone off to. However, I did not expect to find the two of you like this in such … ribaldry."

"…Honestly, I'm too scared to remember what that word means given the circumstance, but I'm thinking it's bad!"

"Kai, Akitsu, didn't I warn you that such sexual proclivities were forbidden within the bounds of these premises?" the lavender-haired woman asked, her voice becoming lower in tone as a threatening vibe presented itself.

"Sexual proclivities!?" Kai replied as he tried to desperately shape his face into a disarming smile. "There wasn't any of that! Right, Akitsu?" Akitsu shook her head from side to side rapidly to the point of nearly throwing her neck out. "See!? Nothing!"

"Then why is she naked and why are you... trying to peek?" Miya replied, her eyes doing their best to avoid the towel.

"Oh, oh this!?" Kai replied as he once more tried to block any possible mistakes below his beltline. The youthful male knew he was in deep trouble, but he wanted to insure he wouldn't be lobotomized due to his libido or go from Kai to Kailee. "Well…"

"I've forgotten my towels," Akitsu quickly replied.

"She's forgotten her towels!" the Ashikabi repeated in the hopes of selling Akitsu's excuse. "Come on! Towels are… difficult to remember! Obviously, I wanted to give her mine, but… Catch twenty-two!" Miya's eyes narrowed as she glared the pair down. Even with Akitsu's acknowledged inattentiveness, the landlady was well aware of what was about to occur had she not intervened. Seeing her expression and the hannya aura still present, Kai knew that she wasn't buying her excuses. Quickly, Kai grabbed Akitsu by the arm to back away further before bowing on his hands and knees. "Please forgive us, oh beautiful and generous landlady!" Kai glanced to Akitsu and was relieved to see that the cryokinetic had caught on to his plan as she joined in on the groveling. "We would never disregard your rules after you have given us residency in your home! Right, Akitsu?" Akitsu only shook her head up and down in response.

For a moment, Kai and Akitsu kept their gaze down and remained in their posture as Miya stood over them. Like a judge presiding over a case, the older woman inspected the two with a stern gaze. Kai's face was covered in sweat, not due to the increased heat in the room, but because of the scrutinizing glare he felt from the lavender-haired maiden. "Very well, you may still stay," Miya said.

Both Kai and Akitsu shot up and gazed at Miya in gratitude. "Really? Oh, thank you, Miya! Your benevolence is truly legendary!"

"However, if I find you doing such perverse things like this again…"

"Me? Perverse? Not even in my nature!"

"That goes for you, too, Akitsu. I expected better from you."

"I understand, Miya. Please forgive me," Akitsu said.

"Well since this matter has been resolved, I guess we should call this case closed," Kai said with a relieved chuckle. "I'll go ahead and get dressed and head on over to my room."

As the young man headed to the shelves to get his clothing, Miya caught the young man by the shoulder. "Not yet, Kai," Miya said. The swordsman froze and slowly turned to face the youthful elder. "I do not believe we've discussed punishment."

"Punishment…?" Kai asked nervously.

"That's right. Firstly, neither you nor Akitsu may have breakfast for a week."

Kai wanted to argue against such a steep fine – after all, it was the most important meal of the day and he enjoyed Miya's cooking. Still, the young man had no valid rebuttal worthy to defend his case. He dropped his head in defeat, acknowledging that he was already skating on thin ice. "We understand," Akitsu agreed.

"As for the next punishment…" Miya slipped a hand in her sleeve. At first, both Kai and Akitsu were confused by the action. However, all was made clear as soon as a familiar metal handle made itself known. Kai's eyes shrunk in fear from Miya's ladle appeared before him. Kai gritted his teeth in anguish as he pressed his body against the woodwork of the shelves and baskets. Akitsu also responded by nervously gulping, knowing too well the power of the seemingly innocuous cooking ware. "Don't worry. We'll take this gently and slowly," Miya said before she administered her deserved treatment.

Back downstairs, Uzume had just returned from her latest job. Slipping off her shoes, the brunette female wandered into the living room and saw Haihane sitting in front of the TV. As she watched the screen, Uzume noted the cross-shaped rips on the back of her robe, surprising the tomboy as she wondered what could cause those rips. Sensing that she was being watched, Haihane turned around to see the young woman standing at the doorway. "Yo!" the Blue Sekirei called.

"Hey," Uzume responded with a wave as she walked over to her friend. "Anything good on the screen?"

"Not unless you want to watch a something on Mermaids on Animal Planet."

"I'll pass." Uzume tried to keep her attention to the screen, but she couldn't help for her eyes to trail back to the sliced patch adorning her back.

"You're really not doing a good job with the whole 'sneaking a peak' thing," Haihane said as she glanced over at Uzume with an unamused look.

"Oh! Sorry. I just couldn't help it. What happened to you? Did you piss off Wolverine or did you get too close to a giant paper shredder?"

Haihane scoffed from the questions. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said with a denying tone. "I'm just trying a new look. You know how some people like fishnet stockings and ripped pants? I got a way to air out my back."

"Really? A fashion statement? That's what you're going with?" Uzume said with a quirked brow. "Unless you're transforming into an actual car, I want to hear real spoilers."

Haihane sighed and rested on her back with her ankles crossed while she rested the back of her head on her hands. The shinobi thought over the events of the day in the hopes to explain to her friend. She knew it was against the rules to divulge the Sekirei Plan to civilians and the last thing she needed was to put any unnecessary stress on him (she had heard a couple of screams upstairs and had an intuitive belief that they probably belonged to her Ashikabi). "All I'll say is that we had a trip to the south, some belts were involved, plenty of girl-on-girl action, and Kai got some new toys to help him whip it good. In the end, I was left satisfied."

"Okay…" was all Uzume said as a bead of sweat slid down the side of her face. Haihane's roundabout response left more questions than answers. Due to Haihane answering her requested in a nonchalant way, it was difficult for the tomboy to discern the legitimacy of her claim. Though despite this, the perverted part of her was very interested by the report. It would explain how Kai had found himself in the company of such attractive and… unorthodox women. She couldn't deny that the description of the outing wasn't somehow kinky. Or rather, wasn't somehow exciting.

Haihane smirked at the woman next to her. "Hey, Star Sapphire, you seem to have your head in the clouds," the grey-haired woman called out.

"Pssh! Whatever." Uzume scoffed with a wave of her hand in refusal.

"Is that so? Well either someone's perkier than usual or that star on your shirt's got two more points." Uzume frowned as she folded her arms beneath her sizeable breasts, their nipples poking against the thin polyester of her shirt. "Here's a tip: if you want to keep people guessing, invest in a bra."

"Says the woman wrapped in perpetual gauze," Uzume shot back.

Haihane shrugged at the sleight, knowing full-well that she walked into that jab. "Since we've been talking about my day, what about you? Where does Miss Shooting Star go after she leaves the house?"

"Oh me? It's nothing really worth talking about. Just an errand girl with a simple day and night job; an overbearing boss, some odd requests to fetch, recruiting some people. You know, nothing special."

"Okay," Haihane said as Uzume picked herself up from the ground and started going upstairs. "Just a head's up, Miya left some food in the fridge."

"Thanks," Uzume chirped before rounding around the door.

"I'm sorry, Yahan, but I have nothing more to show right now," Matsu said to Yahan as she sat behind her within her quarters. After finishing her tasks, the raven-haired Sekirei used her powers to travel to the hacker's quarters in hopes of learning of the woman's progress. "This firewall is stronger than I thought. I'll need to analyze the algorithm closer and try to break the coding. And even then I need to make sure the software I have is powerful enough to effectively deconstruct the security measures. There's no telling how long this could take"

"Right, my apologies. I guess after all of this time pursuing the information, the idea of waiting even longer has made me rather anxious for results," the nomadic umbrakinetic explained.

"Okay, okay. Still, like I said, it will take some time to unlock this thing. I promise that once I cracked these files, you'll be the first to know."

"Thank you," Yahan said with a nod.

"Anyway, what happened earlier? I was tracking your signals and found that you guys had hit a snag in the South."

"Yeah, you can call it that. It was Hayato Mikogami and some members of his flock."

"No way! You guys got caught up with the Ashikabi of the South!?"

"It was nothing we couldn't handle. In fact, we managed to take out two of his Sekirei during the encounter."

"No way!" Matsu replied, stunned by the assassin's calm admission. "Mikogami's one of the three most powerful Ashikabi in the city! The fact that you managed to survive is remarkable! But defeating two of his Sekirei is unprecedented!"

"I can't deny that. It makes me wonder what more we can accomplish," Yahan remarked, a hint of pride underlying her words. "Still, it was a close call. Especially since Mutsu's still standing."

"Wait! Did you say Mutsu!?"

"Yeah. Even Akitsu was nearly terminated by that man. The only reason we're not all stacked on his sword is because Mikogami's still something of an upstart."

"I see…" Mutsu stiffened up as she placed a hand against her chin. "I've been wondering about what had happened to Mutsu. It's good to know he's still alive, but I didn't think he'd be winged. Let alone winged to a male Ashikabi. Though since most of us are now here, it won't be long before the kamikaze blows through…"

"When are you going to tell him?" Yahan asked.

"About what?"

"Don't play coy," Yahan said as she shook her head. "I know because of my role within M.B.I. Haihane might have an inkling due to her apprenticeship with Karasuba, though personally it's difficult to tell. We need to tell Kai about the Disciplinary Squad. We both know that once she comes in…"

"I'm well aware," Matsu replied. "However, we can't tell him yet. Before he met you, Kai and his Sekirei have already faced the current iteration."

"You mean Yomi."

"Not just her. Haihane was nearly terminated by Benitsubasa."

"Oh dear god," Yomi replied as she rubbed the bridge of her nose as she felt a migraine coming on. The raven-haired woman had no idea that her friend had a heated rivalry with one of the current members of the squad. "Yet you still will not tell him because…?"

"As much as I want to, thrusting this information on him would be too much. It would be terrible to worry about an event that may or may not occur when the threats around him are very much real. This game centers on fate and opportunity. All you can do now is focus on what's prescient and relevant. We can't rush what's currently out of our control."

Yahan sighed from Matsu's insights, but had no choice but to relent. The red-haired hacker was correct in her assessment that increasing their strength and their ranks was a much more logical choice. Still, Yahan had reservations about keeping the Disciplinary Squad's history a secret. "I don't like this. Besides, he knows who the Disciplinary Squad is right now."

"'Is' and 'right now' are the key terms that he needs to be aware of. Kai only needs to worry about the current iteration and its function. I would appreciate it if you kept everything else between us."

"I still don't like this," Yahan admitted. "However, if it's for the sake of my Ashikabi, then I will follow your wishes."

"That's all I ask. Rest assured, I will tell Kai everything in due time." Yahan nodded before she lifted herself off the ground and headed for the door. After pushing the entrance and walking into the hall, the spy had found herself face to face with Uzume, who had just climbed the stairs. An awkward silence fell between them as they tried to keep from looking at each other. With the pair feeling uneasy, the two attempted to break the silence with a greeting, only to clumsily echo the action. "Sorry about that."

"No, it's all me," Uzume replied. "So…"

"Yeah… Look, is there something wrong? Have I done something to upset you?"

"What? No, no! It's not you! I've been… tired, lately."

"Oh, I see."

"Look, I'm sorry if I seemed standoffish to you. You just reminded me of someone I met at work a while ago."

"At work?" Yahan asked with folded arms and a quirked brow. "Right, Homura said you worked freelance."

"Yeah, it can be a bit stressful at times and I really didn't want to go in today, but there was something that I had to fix."

"An overbearing boss? I can relate to that," the spy said with a sentimental tone. "Those are the ones that really wear you down. Always being so demanding and arrogant."

"And so two-faced and full of themselves." Uzume chuckled from their cheeky critique while Yahan smirked with her hands on her hip. It appeared the two had found some common ground. "Let's start over again. I'm Uzume and it's nice to meet ya!"

"Yahan. It's a pleasure." Yahan took Uzume's hand and shook it. The young woman felt a sense of progress as it seemed Uzume was less guarded than she was previously.

"Well how do you like it here so far? I get that it's only been your first day, but I'm sure you've probably got an opinion about this place."

"Honestly, it's the most welcoming place I've ever been to. I'm glad I came here," Yahan said with a smile.

"I'm glad to hear that," Uzume said with a grin in return. "It's good to see Kai's got a great taste in women."

"I'll take that as a compliment. Speaking of, what about you?"

"I'm sorry?" Uzume asked with a quirked brow.

"Are you also one of Kai's…?"

"O-oh no!" Uzume hastily replied as she held up both hands. "I'm not competition. At least, not right now," The brunette teased as she stuck her tongue out in jest.

"Of course. Well, I'm heading to bed. See you tomorrow."

"See you later." Both women parted ways with Yahan entering her room on the far end of the hall. As Uzume turned her doorknob, the pony-tailed tomboy stopped and glanced down the hall to Yahan's door. She felt genuinely happy to finally get to know the new border. As brief as their forum was, the brunette felt a budding comradery for her just as she had with the other guests. Though as she replayed the discussion, Uzume remembered the taunt she made. "That's strange. Why would I say that?" she pondered, a frown forming along her brow. The young woman shrugged off the quandary. "Whatever. It was a pretty good jab anyway." She entered her room and closed the door behind her as she began to change into her sleepwear.

Meanwhile, Kai was fully dressed in his pajamas and had been lying in his cot staring at the ceiling for a good fifteen minutes. He tried to get some sleep, but was unable to enter into a slumber. Part of the reason was due to the welt Miya delivered upon his cranium thanks to her dreaded cooking utensil; despite the lavender-haired woman only gently tapping both him and Akitsu on their heads, the strike was somehow enough to cause noticeable damage. It was like being injected and only feeling the stinging pain and soreness of the muscle a few minutes later. Yet despite this, the main reason for the swordsman's restlessness was thanks to Akitsu. While he had already seen her bare chest before, the sight of her entirely nude, curvy figure had burned itself into his eyes and memory. Her large, bountiful breasts. Her curvaceous, ample ass. Her beautiful face. Her long legs. All she needed was a giant clam and the woman would've dethroned Aphrodite in terms of gorgeousness. "Totally worth it!" Kai thought with a perverse grin plastered upon his face; for the first time in a long time, the young man was about to seal his union with a beautiful woman who literally wanted him. With that in mind, of course he'd feel more prideful than a peacock.

However, his stupid grin slowly began to fade as another realization hit him. The fact that Kai nearly had such intimate relations with Akitsu made him wonder about the reactions Haihane and Yahan would have. The Ashikabi loved the unwinged cryokinetic, but he also loved the two Sekirei that were actually winged by him. He was certain that had either of them pulled the same stunt as Akitsu, their feelings would've nearly been reciprocated without a doubt. However, would going through with his sexual desires been the same as betraying the love and trust of the others. That was the last thing he would ever wish to do. Feeling a headache coming on from thinking over such a complicated conundrum, the young man yanked the pillow from the back of his head and covered his face before letting out a series of groans. "I take it back! I'm more confused than ever! Fuck!" Well, at least he still had the internet to fall back on. That was if he didn't exhaust himself with the more rudimentary stress relief first.

Author's Note 2: And that's the end of Chapter 16. Like I said, there was so much stuff to put in. The introduction of new character interactions is one thing, but a new character is always difficult to incorporate. Yet when it comes down to it, between Yahan and Hayato, it was the latter being difficult to pin down. Partially it was because I found the Yukari sections in both anime and manga form to be unbearable. Though it was really because of the conflicting personality he displayed before and after the mini-war that took place at Izumo Inn within the pages of the manga. On one hand, the character was a spoiled brat doing all he can to win: his "catch 'em all" attitude with Sekirei, his brash nature, his fixation with Shiina. However, Sakurako decided to change the character into some deep and flawed individual that the reader had to relate to with an omake. Unfortunately to me, it felt like a forced, if not sudden, one-eighty from the narrative.

With that in mind, I decided to have Mikogami depicted as a determined, egotistical teenager. He's a powerful Ashikabi and he is well aware of his position within the game as such. Since he has a bevy of Sekirei to his name, including the powerful Mutsu, I figured it would only make sense for the teen to exhibit this power and thus forcing Kai on the defense.

As for the fixation on Akitsu, it makes sense based on his need to collect and the game itself. Being a scrapped number, Akitsu is seen as a wild card – a Sekirei whose limits are far beyond those of normal Sekirei and who cannot be eliminated by conventional means due to her inability to be winged. From what I remember, Mikogami likely had a mole within M.B.I. that told him which Sekirei were to be released (this is how he learned about Shiina and possibly Kusano). I figured that this is the reason as to how he learned of Akitsu and her abilities. The only difference is that in this timeline, someone other than him managed to find and care for the cryokinetic. I figured he'd see that missed opportunity as a black spot on his record and would stop at nothing to fix that problem.