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Chapter 3: Psychology Test

With a single mighty roar, the dragon knocked Minato right off of his feet; neither Haihane or Musubi fell, being much stronger than he.

Not affected physically or mentally by the roar, Musubi bravely charged towards the dragon and leapt high into the air, bringing her at its face level to deliver a powerful punch as it was reeling back from its roar. With a quick lurch of its neck back, Musubi's punch missed by a wide margin and she fell back to the ground; needless to say that wasn't about to stop her from trying again.

Both Minato and Haihane stood back, unsure of what exactly they should do- Haihane was considering just leaving, Minato, of course, was not.

After a moment to collect herself, Haihane turned to leave, and she would have, but Minato caught her.

"Haihane?" Minato said to her, putting his hand on her shoulder as she almost took her first step.

"This isn't my fight... I'm leaving..." Haihane said, not so much as glancing back at Minato, she stayed still though.

"It'll go after you next..." Minato said, stating the obvious.

Haihane paused, she considered that, but she didn't come up with an argument yet.

"I know... but... I'm not your sekirei... I'm not supposed to help you..." Haihane argued weakly, slowly pulling away from Minato.

"But... I want to help you... I don't want you to face this dragon alone... let me- no, let us help you." Minato said in a gentle, caring tone. Haihane quickly jerked her shoulder free from him and faced him with a cold, uncaring glare.

"Are you calling me weak?" Haihane shot back at him, Minato didn't have an immediate response, which told Haihane that she was probably right. "You don't think I can fight that thing alone, do you?"

"Th-that's not what I-"

"Then what DID you mean? Huh?"

"I..." Minato hesitated- bad idea, hesitating when answering Haihane hasn't yielded favorable results... ever... fortunately- or perhaps, unfortunately, Haihane waited for his answer without jumping to any perfectly valid conclusions this time. "I just want to protect you..."

"What?" Haihane asked, she didn't seem at surprised or shocked, it was more like a 'what' that one would say when they heard something that the speaker KNEW they would absolutely HATE, but asked them to repeat it anyways to make sure they heard correctly.

"I... don't want you to get hurt... I want to protect you..." Minato said, elaborating just a bit.

"Why?" Haihane asked in the same exact tone as before- it seemed Minato was getting nowhere with her, it was like she was only half-listening. Maybe she was doing it on purpose... no, she was PROBABLY doing it on purpose- after all, she had been already winged by another ashikabi -then for some apparantly arbitrary reason for the sake of this 'test', de-winged, choosing to become re-winged is something new and terrifying, something that would be considered betraying their previous ashikabi, which would not come easily to most, as the bond between ashikabi and sekirei is strong, even when it doesn't seem to be- take Haihane, she doesn't care for much other than television and making fun of Benitsubasa, but still she resists, for what seems to be loyalty to her Ashikabi...

Then again, maybe she was only half-listening because there was a dragon just behind them that wanted to eat them...

"Because..." Minato said, pausing to search himself for a good reason. A million correct answers flocked to the forefront of Minato's mind, all of them were acceptable, but none of them were... perfect.

'Because there is no one like you and there never will be...'

'Because I couldn't stand myself if you got hurt when I could have prevented it...'

'Because ...'



Countless thoughts in Minato's head screamed out to be heard like a million different voices vying for attention, voices that were all his. All of their answers were correct, but none of them were right.

Moments passed on the outside like torturous hours of sheer mental frustration on the inside- maybe it had been several minutes since Haihane had asked Minato 'why?' Maybe it was only a few seconds; Minato wasn't keeping track either way, he wasn't focused much on anything but coming up with the right response.

What's taking so long? Haihane thought impatiently. How difficult a question is 'why'? He's probably trying to come up with another convincing lie-

You know... he's not lying...

Wh-what? Who's that? And more importantly, how the hell did you get in my thoughts?

Irrelevant. All's that you should know about me is that you can trust me, and for that matter, you can trust him, too. More than me, even... he's your ally in this land...

For some reason Haihane did feel a bit more at ease when listening to this... suspicious voice in her head- Haihane's rule of thumb is to ordinarily the ignore advice of voices in one's head except one's own thoughts but... it was a calming, soft voice, it seemed almost familiar, like an old, close friend, or even a sibling; but Haihane had no idea who this was... well, maybe it was just a gut feeling, but Haihane felt she could at least trust this voice more than... almost anything else in this land of foreign circumstance.

Both Haihane and Minato were lost in their own thoughts, contemplating their situation, the circumstances in which they currently found themselves; both seem to have forgotten the dragon, and even Musubi. There was only each other, in this blank, empty wasteland. Without thinking, Haihane began to walk forward, her steps mechanical, almost robotic.

Before either Minato, or even Haihane had noticed Haihane's sudden advance, she was hardly a foot apart from Minato, her left hand resting on Minato's shoulder, with her claws extending safely past his body; her right hand was on his chest, her claws... less than safely tracing upwards towards his head, stopping less than an inch from his chin. Minato was awakened like this, still speechless, with Haihane so close to him.

"Because you're worth more than dragon food... I'll help you..." Haihane said softly, her voice almost in a whisper. As Haihane leaned in, Minato's breath slowed to a crawl, his tense body relaxed. Their lips connected, and the dragon, with Musubi on its head trying hard yet failing to put the massive creature into a headlock, finally fixed its gaze on the pair, previously it had its hands full with Musubi, but with Haihane now winged and primed to join the fray, it was time to take the initiative.

"Heh heh heh, we'll see how you do when you're the size of a pancake!" The dragon roared, bringing up its massive front-right leg over the pair, and then swiftly downward.

"MINATO!" Musubi screamed as loud as she could, tears of desperation streaming down her face as she knew there was nothing she could do to stop the dragon's foot herself, not without anything short of her Norito, but since she couldn't reach her Ashikabi, that was quite impossible.

And yet, Musubi's cry seemed to have more effect on the dragon, as its foot stopped just shy of crushing the pair.

"M... M-Minato?" Musubi squeaked hopefully.

The dragon let out a pained shriek as it pulled its foot back, black blood spraying from its injury as it retreated. From the previously near-crater, there stood Haihane, claws raised triumphantly in the air as she faced the dragon, Minato on the ground behind her.

"What's the matter, got a splinter in your foot?" Haihane taunted the dragon with a sly grin on her face.

"LITTLE WITCH! I'LL KILL YOU!" The dragon shrieked back as it charged- Haihane was all too ready for it.

Haihane launched like a rocket towards the dragon, claws extended straight forward, making her a bullet. The dragon swung its wing at her to try and swat her like a fly, as worked so well earlier against Musubi, but not Haihane. Haihane wasn't swatted away, instead she stuck right to the wing like an arrow into its target, her claws pierced the black skin like it was wet tissue paper.

Again the dragon shrieked with pain, again retreating out of reflex as it threw its head forward like a cracking whip, throwing the annoying pest that was Musubi away; unfortunately for the dragon, Haihane wasn't so easily dislodged from the wing. The dragon attempted flapping its wings furiously to try and throw off Haihane, though that only compounded the problem, as Haihane's claws tore their way downward until she finally reached the bottom like a cat clawing its way down the drapes.

Once more the dragon retreated from Haihane, its right wing where Haihane had ripped it apart was in tatters.

"You want some more!" Haihane challenged the dragon, ordinarily not a wise move.

"Grrr... you little... my wing's... I'll be back..." The dragon hissed vindictively, flapping its wings furiously until it had liftoff, having to have to work twice as hard with only one-and-a-half wings, but it did get airborne, and it made good its escape.

Haihane was breathing deeply, her arms sore from keeping herself on the whipping wing for what seemed like a painful forever, but was probably only a few seconds. As the dragon gained distance, its black form gradually blended with the flat, grey sky, until it was so far that its figure blurred completely and vanished from view. Haihane sighed, then fell back onto the cold ground, utterly exhausted.