Chapter 9:

"Well?" Makina demanded, arms folded aggressively across her chest as she waited for someone to respond to her question.

"Makina…" Blue eyes locked onto Miyako with a disapproving look in them at the sound of her voice. Makina was no fan of the girl.

"You. Itsuki's sob story was about you. I had to let her in otherwise she would have literally broken my door down. She rambled for almost an hour and it was all some cry baby story about you. It made me want to be sick, you disgust me." The only sign that what the purple haired shikabane hime said affected the other girl was the slight twitch of her mouth and the curl of her fingers. The first to recover from the outburst and interruption was the bald monk.

"Makina Hoshimura. That certainly saves us a fair amount of time." All four of the teens, both dead and alive, turned around to stare at the man with varying degrees of confusion or, in Makina's case, indifference, on their faces.

"I don't know you. What do you want?" It was clear that Makina didn't really care, she was just asking so that they would finish their business and leave so she could beat the crap out of Miyako for causing her nightmarish day. The monk cleared his throat awkwardly, running a hand over his bald head.

"The head of the temple requested that we collect Makina Hoshimura and Ouri Kagami and bring them to the training grounds up in the mountains. He also said to look into the issue of the shikabane who had so far escaped attempts on her life by two separate shikabane hime. If we find her she is also to come with us for observation."

"Like hell that's going to happen." Miyako muttered under her breath, absently rubbing the bare skin of her arm like she used to when she was cold. The head monk, like she was going to believe anything that came from the mouths of two suspicious men who stalked teenagers.

"No." For once Makina was in complete agreement with the shikabane. She had no desire to go there; it definitely wouldn't be a warm reception. They were going to make her completely cut her ties with Keisei and that was something she had no desire to do.

"This is nuts!" Ouri found he had to agree with Hiroshige as he examined the expressions on both of the girls' faces. For once it seemed as though they would get along, although it wasn't really what he was hoping for. But the mountains? He would have to drop out of school for that. Was that really such a great idea?

"There are only two options here." The quiet monk in jeans told them calmly. "You lot either come with us willingly or we drag you back to the temple. It's up to you."

"You know I thought monks were supposed to be nice. Keisei was nice, he-" A weight settled on Miyako's shoulders and she stopped mid-sentence, slowly closing her mouth and going to sit down on the couch instead.

"As much as it sickens me to admit this I agree with her. The organisation's just full of scum like you." The two monks were admittedly startled by Makina's blunt attitude, but they weren't going to just give up and walk away.

"You can even bring that other boy with you if it will make things easier." Surely he was just picking at straws. That was hardly the greatest incentive when the point was to try and keep Hiroshige away from the people of the sect, no, to keep them all away from the sect. The people from the Kōgon sect had already played a large enough role in their lives through Keisei, they didn't want to have anything more to do with the group.

"Uh, what is your friend doing?" The good natured monk questioned them, a slightly baffled look on his face as he watched Miyako. She was sitting on the couch, absently stroking the air above her lap every now and again as she conversed with herself in a hushed tone. Of course, Makina and Ouri saw it in another way.

"That stupid cat, he's become completely attached to her. He never talks to me anymore when I need it." Ouri grumbled to himself, tearing his gaze away from the two. Makina simply nodded her head once in understanding. No-one answered the man's question. They felt that there was nothing to explain. It could make things easier if they believed her to be insane, or at least not in her right frame of mind. Perhaps they would be less inclined to drag them off to the temple with a mentally unstable shikabane.

"Umm…" Hiroshige was almost as confused as the monk, even though he theoretically knew what was happening. As they say, seeing is believing, and he couldn't see the cat. For all he knew all three of them were actually insane.

"Never mind that Yamada. The stupid creature is probably losing touch with reality, such is what she deserves for escaping death in such a disgusting manner." Miyako twitched, breaking away from her conversation to glare furiously at the bald monk before shooting a calmer look at Yamada and turning back to Black Cat.

"Whatever you say Adachi." Yamada pushed off the wall and wandered further into the apartment, intent on raiding their fridge while his partner sorted things out. His banging around and little exclamations of annoyance or triumph were the only things to fill the small place for a time, no-one else willing to make conversation.

"Hey, Adachi right?" The voice was an unfamiliar one, and when the group turned to look Hiroshige and the monk were extremely surprised to see a black cat residing on the shikabane's shoulders.

"D-did that cat just t-t-talk?" Hiroshige stuttered, completely out of his comfort zone with no idea how to react to anything anymore. Miyako was silent, watching them all with one hand resting lightly against the wall as she stood next to the entrance to the kitchen, her other hand clenched into a tight fist by her side.

"Yes, my name is Adachi." The monk was completely composed; there wasn't even the barest hint of surprise on his face or in his stature. He must have suspected something of the sort.

"Kōgon monk, we shall accept your proposition, if only to fulfil this child's selfish desires. You seem to be rather well educated, so you should know that the temple surely wouldn't be opposed to having another despicable creature such as her to help in their extermination of the undead." The cat rubbed his head gently against Miyako's cheek, as though trying to convince them that he was just a normal cat when it was frighteningly obvious that wasn't the case.

"That's rich, Cat. So you think you have some sort of authority over me, making decisions for all of us?" Makina drew herself up to her full height and glared furiously at the shikabane that was trying to pose as a loveable house pet. "I won't accept your arrogance." Miyako bit her lip nervously, her nails digging harshly into the palms of her hands, not that she noticed any pain. She had agreed to let Black Cat do the talking in the conversation, although she was worried about what he would say and what he would leave out. It was clear that he planned to talk around things and that could only cause problems. A slightly uncomfortable tugging on her shoulder informed Miyako that Black Cat had stuck his claws into her arm to grab her attention. Huffing silently she forced her fist to unclench and lifted her arm out in front of her body, allowing the now weightless shikabane to walk down the length of her arm to sit face to face with the monk.

"You think too highly of me girl. The arrogance you accuse me of would imply that I cared enough about what happened to you to choose a course of action for you. I have no qualms about saying that I care naught for any of you." He was practically purring in amusement, something that wasn't seen often. "My only true concern is existence, and I have chosen what I believe to be the best way to ensure that happens." He then proceeded to wash his face with his paw, something absurdly feline in such a tense situation. The monk Yamada spoke up from the kitchen, where he was apparently having trouble finding anything good enough to steal from the fridge.

"You make valid points cat." Yamada's voice was muffled but obviously amused by something. "I also find myself reasonably unconcerned about the actual outcome of this... visit. You seem to be quite sure of yourself and your decision, but what about the young maiden you speak for?" Miyako decided immediately that he was definitely the nicer of their guests, and she would prefer to be in his company were she to be escorted anywhere. At least he didn't insult her with every breath as she could tell the Adachi fellow was having difficulty refraining from doing. She wasn't even mad that he had successfully pulled everyone's attention to her instead of Black Cat, although she was still unnerved by it. Such intense scrutiny was overwhelming, not something she had ever had to deal with before she died.

"Uhh..." Green eyes flicked around nervously, trying to find somewhere she could look without making eye contact with anyone. Eventually she pulled Black Cat to her chest and cradled him there as though he were a normal harmless kitten and looked down at him as she tangled her fingers in his fur. "Selfish desires huh?" Chuckling humourlessly her eyes darkened, hardening, the green of her irises deepening a few shades as she contemplated how to explain herself without getting beaten up by anyone.

"Miyako doesn't have to explain herself to us. Apparently she likes to take her life into her own hands." Hiroshige bitterly informed Yamada as he finally decided to reappear in the doorway between rooms. He was trying to relieve the pressure, but it was hard to miss the hurt in his eyes – he didn't make any effort to hide it. She stiffened, shoulders hunching as she curled in on herself ever so slightly, turning so that she was leaning with her back against the wall.

"I suppose it depends on your definition of selfish." Miyako muttered quietly, the others immediately shutting up to make sure they didn't miss anything she said. "Makina... I can tell she despises that place with a vengeance, she'll never go back there." The girl in question bristled irritably, not appreciating having someone trying to psycho-analyse her. "Hiroshige should never have gotten mixed up in all this crap in the first place. It was my fault that he did, I didn't try hard enough to stay hidden." He frowned, hurt being overshadowed by confusion. It was clear though that she was talking to herself, not having the courage to confront them directly. "Ouri... Even though I yelled at him, well, I still care. It doesn't seem like a great place to be, and he would also have to deal with a pissed Makina." Makina and Ouri glanced at each other, Ouri shrugging in a gesture of 'I have no idea what she's talking about'. "I suppose I figured that if I went in their stead they might not have to go as well."

"Well now, you sure have developed some strange hero complex. Trying to redeem yourself for the hideous beast you have become?" Adachi sneered, unimpressed by her monologue. Yamada smacked him in the back of the head, shooting him a hard glare to which Adachi quickly averted his eyes. Despite their attitudes it would seem that Yamada was actually in charge of their little operation.

"Seriously, you have a foul mouth on you." Yamada scolded. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to help a friend." Miyako flinched uncomfortably as he walked over to her, lifting Black Cat from her arms to reveal harsh red marks littering her arms from where her nails had dug in, not to mention an abundance of scratch marks courtesy of the feline shikabane as he forced her to continue talking. "You're couragous even though you're shaking like a leaf." He commented lightly, causing her eyes to snap up to his in shock. The teen had been convinced that no-one could tell how scared she was, but that monk just saw straight through her!

"I..." She was going to protest her fear, but felt that there was no point, that it was hopelessly futile, a lost cause. Yamada smiled gently at her, scratching Black Cat behind an ear and eliciting a pleasured purring from the proud shikabane.

"You don't have to worry about what Adachi says, he's a grumpy git." Adachi scowled at that, turning and storming from the apartment in a childish show of temper. "I think you're trying to be noble. It's selfish that you haven't let them have any say in your thoughts, but I can imagine that you were probably right on all accounts anyway."

"W-wait! Does that mean that Miyako's leaving?" Hiroshige interrupted suddenly, eyes wide in fear and realisation.

"Well that depends. What do you think young miss?"

"Umm... Will I have to be near that Adachi person if I go?" She asked wearily, eyeing Ouri who had been silent most of the time. The expression on his face scared her because she couldn't read it.

"Nah, that guy doesn't normally have anything to do with the shikabane hime. They were just lacking people so they sent him along with me as back-up. Not that I've ever needed back-up before. As you've seen they tend to make things worse when they decide to take things into their own hands." She nodded, a weak smile gracing her lips as she turned to stare at her feet.

"If you aren't going there with the express intent of getting yourself killed then I have no problem with it." Ouri said, speaking up finally. Everyone else stared at him in varying degrees of shock or, in Yamada's case, understanding.

"That's crazy! Do you want her to leave? Do you care that little for her?" Hiroshige shouted in outrage, his clenched fists shaking in anger.

"On the contrary," he retorted, unusually calm, "I am respecting her wishes. As she said, she's being selfish, you getting defensive will not help the situation." Miyako cocked her head to one side in awe at his display of logic and self control. She shot him a grateful smile before straightening up from her slouch.

"I think... I'll go with you, on the condition that you don't come looking for Makina and Ouri again." Yamada nodded lightly.

"I never cared much for this mission anyway."

A/N: Well I finally managed to get through this chapter. This is actually version 2 - the first version sat on my usb for at least a month after I more or less finished it. After having a conversation with one of my readers whose name I can't remember right now but they know who they are I decided to try and change it around because I didn't like where it was going. Eventually I decided to keep the first half of the chapter and now, when I was supposed to be writing my speech for Tuesday, I managed to write version 2. Yes, it's been months since my last update, and no, I'm not sure when I'll be able to complete another chapter, but I do have another idea as to where it should go instead, so perhaps it won't be ending as soon as I originally thought. Also, thanks for the reviews that have come through during my absence, it's good to know that people are still finding it :)