TOUGHER THAN HARD By Kondoru.

Standard Disclaimers

Thanks to JP for Betaing.

Dedicated to all those of you who wanted a sequel to `Hardest Gang in Hakodate` Enjoy!

The Five remaining Dragon Knights glowered at each other.

It had not been a good evening.

They were still hungry.

And now they all had sore behinds.

Also their blankets had been stolen.

Karasu had been escorted off to the Correction cells by an angry Kuina.

Everyone knew that was only to keep unfortunate things from happening to him in the night.

They resolved to beat up Karasu later.

But they had captured the Dragon Torc...Hadn't they?

Or was it the other way around?

The Dragon Knights common room was littered with food wrappings and empty bottles.

The Knights sat watching the Dragon Torc eat.

And eat.

And eat.

"Has she got hollow legs?" Whispered Isuka and was shushed by Fukuro.

Haruka was eating rather a lot. She had polished off a whole hamper. (Algae paste on toast, fried cave fish, live squigs, fungus chips etcetera.) and was now embarked on a second.

By way of dessert she had a terrified Kuina line up his Knights, strip them off, and give them six of the best. (Sadly they only yelled a little.)

Anyone would have thought the Knights were guilty of the heinous crime of Spelling `Torc` `Torque`...(1) Its a very bad thing.

But at long last she was tired. Haruka had been using the Torc to get rid of the excess stomach baggage (with the worry this was causing another Haruka in another dimension bad stomach-ache.) This was tiring.

"Sleepy." Grumbled Haruka (And she looked it.)

"Aren't you going to tell us the Theory of Everything first?" Fukuro asked and was promptly kicked in the solar plexus.

"Come on, girl," Kuina said with not a hint of fear or exasperation, "the beds though here."

Haruka found her feet and followed him out to the corridor.

Kuina ushered her though the nearest open door.

It was Tobis; he was doing his pre bedtime Reizu Simulator monitor. The little technician shut his computer off with a flick of his wrist.

Haruka sat down on the bunk, giving both Kuina and Tobi a nasty look. "It's hard." She complained.

Kuina went out for extra blankets.

"That's my bunk," Tobi complained, rather too bravely.

"Scram!" Haruka sent Tobi to a reality where his braids were knotted together under his nose and he was booted though the cell door.

Tobi collapsed in a heap in the corridor.

Atori picked him up; he shook his head sadly. Atori knew he had to be wary around the Dragon Torc...But this?

"So what do we do now?" Asked Atori, warily, eyes darting in the direction of Tobis cell, where Haruka had gone to ground.

"She's eating us out of house and home" added Isuka, still shocked at the amount of food that had been eaten.

"Damn Karasu and his cunning plans" Kosagi said to no one in particular.

"We do nothing" Kuina settled down to wait

"Nothing?" Tobi was trying to unknot his abused braids.

"Nothing until morning" Kuina emphasised.

Fukuro sniffed in disgust "then no doubt she will want more food!"

Kuina shook his head "I'll have a word with the rulers, they will know what to do with the Dragon Torc."

All smiled evilly.

The leaders of the reizu social order had plans for the Dragon Torc, -big plans.

"So you have secured the Dragon Torc" Taiza said thoughtfully.

Kuina nodded as best as he could from his prone position "safely asleep in the henhouse your worships."

Enran called up one of the henhouses cameras on the massive holographic readout sure enough; there was a small pile of blankets on one of the cots snores coming from under it.

Gokan sighed, "so much power in such a small body."

Kuina had to look the big brave leader of the Knights "appearances can be very deceptive the Dragon Torc is at rest now..."

"Who secured the Dragon Torc?" Asked Taiza.

"Karasu, he is not my best Knight for nothing." Kuina had to admit.

"Who is now in the penal level" Enran added calling up a smaller readout "no doubt there is a story behind that."

"Um, yes," Kuina said nervously, it was here that his brave Knights looked a lot less worthy

"The Dragon Torc took a lot of restraining."

"Did it?"

"We had to get not one but two tuck hampers to quieten it down. Understandably the Knights were rather upset at not getting their share; -Karasu is in what might be termed protective custody."

Gokan was shocked "TWO hampers? That's a whole weeks eating for one person, a very hungry person at that."

Enrans eyes went wide "how did it eat that much food?"

Kuina shook his head sadly, "that's something the medical staff are discussing in earnest right now. They want to examine the Dragon Torc; I think its best left in the henhouse, at least until it gets hungry again then it will be the responsibility of Lady Amamiku to feed. My departments a month over budget. The Dragon Torc kept on threatening to alter things. I simply couldn't risk it being activated. So I sent out for more food."

The three Rulers looked very worried, clearly they had bitten off more than they could chew.

"What do you suggest we do now?" He asked the nervous rulers.

"Go to bed now, Kuina, We will decide in the morning." Gokan reassured the Dragon Knight leader.

"Where am I?" Haruka moaned groggily. She had a headache, her stomach was feeling tight, and she was disorientated.

Nor was this her bed. It was too hard for a start.

The bedding smelt strongly of sweat, dirt...and Layze.

Dragon Knights.

Lacryma.

Oh shit.

Haruka sat bolt upright. She looked about her.

This was a Dragon Knights hole. Which one she couldn't remember. Dimly lit, a barred divider and dark metal walls.

Her bedding consisted to a pile of unwashed and rather nasty blankets. Which had now transferred their smell to her.

Haruka felt in dire need of a bath.

"Lacryma...Just my luck! What was I thinking to let Karasu bring me here?"

She knew that while the Knights had to play by her rules, now she was in their Reality, the boot was on the other foot.

The Knights Cells were not all ascetic darkness, they were bigger than her bedroom, ensuite, and were fitted with a water cooler.

Haruka was thirsty. She had seen a tin cup on the unit to the end of the bed. Managing to get to her unsteady feet, she walked over and picked it up. Mercifully it was clean.

Haruka hesitated. She knew that thanks to the Dragon Torc, the reizu-enhanced water was harmless to her. Haruka filled the mug and drank.

The water had a strange chemical taste. Haruka was too thirsty to care.

Quite unexpectedly, the door slid back. Haruka jumped, spilling water.

It was Kosagi. Kosagi who had a typically unpleasant look on her face. "Well, The Rulers have decided what to do with you."

"They have?" Haruka replied noncommittally. Already she was thinking up suitably naughty things to do with the Dragon Torc, should she be pushed into using it. "Can't I hang out with you guys?"

Kosagi shook her pink haired head.

Haruka shrugged, "but I did have a good supper."

"Too good a supper...You have no idea how lucky you are." Kosagi growled.

"No more?"

"No brekfast. It's not a good idea to use the Transporter on a full stomach."

This was unexpected. "I thought the Rulers wanted the Dragon Torc." Haruka said slowly.

"Change of plan. You're being deported before you cause a famine." Kosagi gestured. "Best empty your bowels before you go...or else you may end up with them around your ankles!" She lied sadistically. (Actual transporter disasters were often more messy than that.)

Haruka decided to take Kosagis advice for once.

The outer door of the Correction Cell slid back. Karasu would have jumped, if he had not been held firm by the force field.

This was powered down. Karasu gave himself a vigorous all over scratch. "Thank you Kuina. And Atori."

Atori sniffed.

"You're out of disgrace, Karasu," the leader of the Knights told him sternly.

"No Haruka?" Karasu asked plaintively

Kuina shook his head; "Kosagi has taken her on a trip."

"Back to Hakodate?"

Atori gave a very evil laugh "not quite."

Noein sat despondently on his throne. In front of him was a huge table loaded with pretty much every foodstuff imaginable.

Haruka was sat before it doing her best to relieve the creaking item of furniture of its potentially damaging load. The Dragon Torc was busy eating him out of Shangrila. How could he have been so foolish as to invite the Dragon Torc to his secret abode?

"So just what have you been up to?" Yu asked suspiciously. Haruka had been sleepy all day, that and peevish with stomach ache. He had called upon her, but Haruka was in no way interested in play. Come to think of it, Haruka had been out all yesterday evening. Yu thought he knew just where.

"Don't pester my daughter, she's not feeling too good." Asuka had told the puzzled Yu.

"I'll just say hello," Yu told her, "the others are wondering where she is. This will reassure them."

So he was let in, Haruka was uncharacteristically curled up in her mother's futon. Haruka was pale and surly. "Tell everyone I won't be coming out to play today, I'm under the weather. -No doubt I will be better tomorrow." Haruka had said.

"Anything I can get you? Any treat?" Yu asked innocently.

Haruka went green and gagged. The fit passed. "No, no thank you."

"I'll say Bye for now," he turned to leave, "and I suppose our black robed friends will stay away today too," he added as a spiteful jab. Yu thought he knew what Haruka had been up to.

Haruka gave a weak chuckle, "them.. Oh, they are very busy."

Karasu had received a licking from his irate comrades, but it was half hearted. They all sat glowering at each other over the bare table.

Kuina came in, "at least we tried." He told them. "Next time we capture the Dragon Torc when she has just eaten, eh?"

Eleven eyes glared at him; this was not at all funny. "Come on, its not all bad,"

Fukuro wrinkled his nose. "Yes, at least the Dragon Torc is not threatening to re arrange Reality under our feet." He snapped.

Karasu nodded

"But thanks to Kosagis bravery here." (Kosagi gave him a big smile, of unsurpassed nastiness.) "The Rulers have forgiven us, they have written off the debt, and we have been promised a tuck hamper, all to ourselves, no sharing, next week, after we have all done a few days work in the mushroom fields."

All put on extra glum faces, farmwork was for initiates...Or the disgraced.

(1) One of my pet peeves. Look both words up on Wikipedia if you will.