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Sekirei: Guardian of the North

Chapter Twelve

Justicar and Princess

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A tall, male figure wearing black jeans and a black hoodie, carrying a long, thin black bag over one shoulder, meandered down the dimly lit and sparsely street in a somewhat seedier part of Tokyo. The other people in the area paid him little mind, sparing him a passing glance devoid of anything other than acknowledgment of his existence before continuing on their way. Soon enough, the sound of throbbing base and chattering voices, muted slightly by walls of stone. The figure stopped outside of the utterly nondescript building that the music and voices were echoing from. Exchanging a few sparse words with the bouncers at the door, he was quickly granted entrance. Slipping with ease and grace through the writhing bodies that filled the main floor of the room, he made his way to the well-furnished bar that ran along one wall and slid onto one of the stools.

"What will you have, buddy?" the barkeep asked, putting down the glass he had been wiping down, and coming over to the male.

"A pint of ale and a pint of blood..." the male said, sotto voce, and the barkeep's eyes widened and narrowed so slightly the average human would have missed it, but the speaker didn't, and inclined his head slightly at the inquisitive disbelief in the older man's eyes.

"Buy men without a name." the barkeep finished just as quietly, looking the stranger over before pouring an ale and plunking it down on the counter for him. "I'll send word up to Hime-sama*"

"Thank you kindly." the stranger said cheerfully, taking a sip of his ale as the barkeep walked down the bar slightly to pick up the small phone hanging on the wall. After speaking into it for a moment, and listening a moment more, he hung back up and returned to his previous place, no longer looking nor speaking to the stranger. A few moments later, the stranger stiffened slightly mid-sip before continuing as though he hadn't. A hand landed on his shoulder, griping it tightly, and in a flash the stranger's free hand had said wrist in a painfully-tight grip, one tight enough that he could hear bones creaking in his victim's arm.

"Hime-sama asked us to take you directly to her, sir. Please, release my companion and follow me." one of the two bouncers standing there said calmly, seemingly ignoring the discomfort said companion was in. The stranger finished his ale before getting to his feet and dropping a couple of bills into the tip jar for the bartender, who thanked him as he turned around, releasing his victim's wrist and following the un-aggressive bouncer away from the bar.

After moving through the writhing crowd, he was directed to step into a small lift, and to remember to show the proper respect to Hime-sama, otherwise he might find himself waking up naked and bloody in an alleyway...if he was lucky.

Stepping out of the lift, the stranger made his way into the dramatically dim balcony that overlooked the entire club, and found himself facing a beautiful young woman with coal-black hair, bright green eyes, and a scar over her left eye as she reclined languidly across a large and plush armchair, a trio of younger but equally gorgeous girls sitting on small cushions around her feet, eyes bright as they looked at the strange young man who had been deemed worthy of Hime-sama's personal attention.

"You know, it's been quite a while since I've heard that code phrase." Hime mused to herself, eyeing the stranger with a small smile and a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. Glancing around the guards around the edge of the booth, she snapped her fingers, and pointed at the lift, resulting in a simultaneous bow and withdrawal of each of them, leaving the stranger alone with Hime and her three girls. The smile became a full blown grin as she looked back to the young man. "Take that damn hood off, Minato, you look like the kind of person we used to beat up together."

The stranger pulled his hood back to reveal the smiling face of one Mintao Sahashi.

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Miya stared blankly at the ceiling of her bedroom, her thoughts chaotic and pained. Three days had passed since Minato had vanished into the night, and despite the considerable resources of his Sekirei, allies, friends, and family, he was still nowhere to be found. No hints, sightings, not even the faintest whisper of where he could be or had been during that time, and they were all being forcefully reminded of the skills he seemed to have gained during his time as a vigilante.

Miya sighed and rolled onto her side, staring at a picture of Minato that had taken up residence there before he had left, one that had been taken by Seo. Minato stood in the center, eyes bright with laughter, a broad smile on his face. Kusano was sitting on his shoulders, Uzume, Akitsu, and the Twins on his left, with Yume, Tsukiumi, and an embarrassed-looking Homura on his right. Leaning against his chest, smiling peacefully, was herself, with a squirming Matsu under her foot after an attempt to grope Minato. Her eyes traced over his happy visage and down to her own, and from thence to the powerful arms wrapped around her waist, and her heart ached to feel that warmth and strength behind and around her again.

Another thought came to her, and she grimaced heavily as she considered the Sekirei that weren't in the picture. Karasuba and Haihane had been absolutely furious when they found out what had happened from Takamiā€¦

Flashback Start

Their arrival was quite sudden and surprising, befitting two of the members of the Discipline Squad. In fact, the only ones who sensed their approach were Yume, for her familiarity with Karasuba, and Miya, due to her power and familiarity with the auras of all her younger sisters. The front door exploded off of its hinges in a shower of splinters, and Karasuba stormed through the wreckage, murder in her eyes and unquantifiable rage in her body. Right behind her came Haihane, whose normally relaxed expression was marred by a slight frown which, for those who knew her, was as worrisome as Karasuba's own demeanor.

"What are you doing in my Home, Karasuba?" Miya demanded coldly as she rose lithely and (given the aura of calmness around her that screamed DANGER to anyone in the room)menacingly to her feet. The threat in her tone and stance, however, was immediately and totally ignored and discarded by the two angry Sekirei.

"Shut up, you stupid bitch!" Karasuba hissed back, hand clenched tightly on the grip of her still-sheathed nodachi. "Because of you and these other fools, my Ashikabi is gone! I can no longer feel him, and I've combed the city for hours and found no trace of him!"

A flash-step later and Karasuba was holding Miya in the air by her throat, something that shocked everyone, Miya included. It seemed the anger and fear that the disappearance of her Ashikabi had induced in Karasuba had given her a boost in strength and speed.

"WHERE! IS! MY! MINATO!" Karasuba roared, her grip painfully tight on her eldest sister's throat.

"Miya-onee-sama!" the other Sekirei shouted, leaping to their feet and moving to help their sibling, only for Haihane to intercept them, razor-sharp gauntlets gleaming with deadly intent. The group came to a halt, unwilling to risk Miya's safety by attempting to defeat the two Sekirei with force.

"Karasuba, let Miya go! This isn't her fault! It's NO ONE'S fault but Minaka's!" Yume cried, stepping forward to just out of Haihane's reach, and Karasuba turned her head slightly to glare at her, eyes red from anger and from crying. "Kara-chan, please, let us tell you what happened. Pleaseā€¦trust me?"

The grey-haired Sekirei looked conflicted for a moment, before giving a soft growl of anger and frustration, and tossed Miya to their siblings before stalking into the living room and dropping into one of the armchairs, nodachi laid across her legs.

"Talk." Was all she said, and they did.

For the next several hours, Miya and the others explained to the pair of Squad members about the fight with Higa, where Minato displayed stamina and agility that no human should possess. They outlined the other oddities surrounding their mutual Ashikabi, and then finally spoke of the discovery that Minato was hardly human any longer, and who had done such a thing to him. Haihane had been horrified and deeply worried about her beloved Master, but Karasuba's concern melted before the incredible furnace of her rage.

"Minaka! Damn that wretch to the depths of Hell, Breaker take him! I'll cleave him in two and send him there myself!" the incensed swordswoman roared, getting to her feet with lethal grace, only to be stopped by the iron grip of Miya, who met the resulting glare and killing intent with steely calm. "Miya, let me go NOW! Minaka must suffer for this!"

"And he will, Karasuba, but not until we find and bring our beloved back to us. He is not safe in the city alone at night, especially not as distracted and emotionally conflicted as he is right now." The lavender haired Sekirei responded calmly, and Karasuba hissed in rejection, causing her to continue. "Protecting our Ashikabi is far more important than vengeance, Kara-chan. Minaka's time will come."

"It had better." Karasuba snarled, before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, trying to calm herself. After a minute or so, they opened again, and she nodded shortly to Miya, who removed her hand. Turning on her heel, cloak swirling around her, Karasuba stalked towards the door, yelling over her shoulder. "What are you bimbos waiting for? Get your asses in gear, we've an Ashikabi to find!"

Flashback Ends

They had searched for hours each day, working in rotating shifts so that some of them were always on the hunt, but it seemed that the skills Minato had gathered in his misspent youth had not faded, as they had come up with nothing. The thought of searching the other territories never crossed their minds.

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Minato smiled happily from his own comfortable chair, nursing a drink as he chatted amiably with one of his oldest and closest friends: twenty-three year-old Yuri Suzuki, also known as "Hime", head of the only all-female yakuza group in existence. Originally formed by Yuri's grandmother during the second World War, it was primarily a form of "underground railroad", to use the American phrase, whose purpose was to smuggle, hide, or rescue "comfort women" from the militarist ultra-radicalist loyalists that had taken over the country during that time. Over time, it grew into the second most powerful group in the country, bested only by the Yamaguchi, with whom they had an alliance of sorts.

Now, the family kept to much the same purpose, using such means as nightclubs, bars, and gambling parlors to acquire funds, which were used to create shelters and new identities for abused women across the country. Of course, it wasn't to say that they were paragons of virtue. Blood had been spilt many a time by Yuri and her people, for one reason or another, and all were actively hunted by law enforcement.

All of this made their friendship all the stranger, of course. Yuri and her family were the kind of people that were usually on Minato's hit list, but he and Yuri had...something of a history, and the coal-haired girl had been like a big sister to Yukari for a number of years whenever Yuri would visit her family holdings near the Sahashi grandparent's home.

"Not that me and the girls (referring to her three girlfriends: Hadi, Ryui, and Shala, members of a family that had served the Suzuki for many years) are unhappy to see you, Minato-kun, but why are you here? Last I heard you were living large with some very beautiful women in Northern Tokyo and working in construction?" Yuri inquired curiously, and Minato shook his head slightly, unsurprised that his friend had been keeping tabs on him.

"I can't tell you everything, Yuri, just that I'm in a pretty tough situation, and the stress got to me. I hurt someone I care about pretty badly, and I just..." he gritted his teeth and shook his head angrily, harshly chastising himself for his actions again. "I just ran. I just wanted to get away from it all, so I disappeared and started making my way here."

Yuri stared at his bowed head and depressed form for a moment, before glancing at the eldest of the three sisters that sat in their preferred place around his feet. With a flick of her finger and an utterance of the girl's name, she communicated her orders, and Hadi rose to her feet. Striding over to Minato, she looked at him for a moment before smacking him sharply across the top of his head. Ignoring his yelp, she turned on her heel and returned to fold herself back onto her cushion at her Mistress/lover's feet.

"Damnit, what was that for?" Minato hissed, rubbing his head gingerly as he glared at Hadi and Yuri equally. Hadi, despite being tall and slim, was quite capable physically, and thus that smack had hurt a fair amount.

"For being a damn fool, Minato." Yuri responded frostily. She glared at him for a long moment before scoffing and continuing with a sneer. "You're a lot of things, Minato, but I never took you for a coward!"

"Don't you dare call me a coward, Yuri!" Mintao growled lowly, his proverbial hackles raising at one of the few insults that had ever managed to get under his skin, despite his and his grandfather's best efforts. "You cannot even begin to comprehend the pressure I am under right now, the risks being taken! I have the lives of a dozen, if not more, relying on every action I make, on every word I speak!"

Yuri watched with raised eyebrows as her normally unflappable friend stood up and paced over to the railing overlooking the club, knuckles white as he gripped it tightly enough that it gave a soft groan of protest. She had assumed that he had had a bad fight with a girlfriend or something, but it appeared that the situation was far more serious than she had foreseen. Not that her chastisement was any less warranted, of course, but perhaps she would have to try a gentler and lengthier approach.

"Tell me everything, Minato. Leave nothing out." she commanded, and he scoffed lightly, shaking his head as he turned his head to smile at her sadly.

"You might end up wishing you had never said that." he sighed, moving back to his chair and sitting down slowly. He stared deeply, searchingly, into her eyes and gave one final warning. "This will change everything, Yuri. How you look at me, my family, this city...everything. And you can never speak of it to anyone other than those who already know, because if you do everyone you even thought about talking to will vanish without explanation, just before they come for you."

With that cryptic yet menacing warning, Minato leaned back in his chair and, after a moment of gathering his thoughts, began to speak.

"You might have noticed that there have been odd happenings around the city, especially since MBI took the place over lock, stock, and barrel?" he inquired, and Yuri nodded with a frown. The fact that he was asking meant it was more than a business venture taken to the extreme, which she supposed didn't surprise her. One doesn't buy the capital city of a nation out from under said nation for fun. Actually, now that she thought about it, Minaka might. The man was reputed to be certifiably insane, but even insanity had its purpose... She was drawn from her musing as he continued. "That's because there is a tournament, a Battle Royal going on inside the city, one where the participants have to fight or die. That's why he took over the city and has checkpoints going in and out, so that his troops can keep 'his' fighters trapped here. All the strange things happening around the city? Battles between participants."

"Minato-sama," Hadi started respectfully, only to stop and flush slightly as he raised an eyebrow and gave her a chastising look. Correcting herself, she started over. "Minato-kun, some of the things you're attributing to these fights are ludicrous. Water mains bursting, streets filled with craters, collapsing buildings..."

"All from battles between Sekirei." Minato told her, before making the obvious progression into just what a Sekirei was. He explained that they were aliens, despite looking perfectly human, of inhuman strength and powers. He used the examples of his own, starting with Miya, who could cut battleships in half with a swing of her sword. Tsukiumi, Homura, Akitsu, and the Twins, who bent the elements themselves to their will. Of Kuu, who literally controlled life itself. Yes, she could only grow plants right now, but would her power expand as she grew older. Finally, he told them of Yume, his first Sekirei, who controlled Light itself.

"You're insane, Minato, this whole story is utterly insane." Yuri declared flatly, eyeing him with something akin to worried speculation. "Have you been hurt, ate or drank anything strange recently?"

"Were it so simple." Minato scoffed lightly, shaking his head in amused chagrin. "No, I am deadly serious. Unfortunately, due to the problem I mentioned earlier, I fear I may be on the outs with my Sekirei, so I have little to offer you in the way of proof..."

"Not needed, I'll believe you, albeit with skepticism, for the time being. Least I can do for an old friend." Yuri replied a trifle dismissively, her brow furrowed as she considered him intensely. "I'm going to assume that you had a fight of some sort with some of your Sekirei, and since you felt responsible and guilty, you tried to run from the situation."

"More or less. I hurt little Kusano. I didn't mean to, didn't want to. One minute I find out a...horrific truth, and in the next she is slumped against the wall unconscious because I threw her into it." Minato told her, voice harsh with guilt and self-condemnation. "They trust me to care for and watch over them, and instead I hurt one of them just because I was feeling sad and angry. It's unacceptable."

"Perhaps it is." Yuri agreed thoughtfully, watching his shoulders slump slightly before she continued. "However, it is also very human, and I am sure that they don't condemn you for it."

"But I condemn myself!" he retorted sharply before sighing and shaking his head with an upheld hand to ward of her rebuttal before she could make it. "At any rate, the big issue I have right now is that many Sekirei and their Ashikabi truly love each other, and are unwilling to risk what they have and each other's safety over this stupid game. I need a way to smuggle them out of the city, or at least hide them until I finish this."

"Finish this?" Yuri asked, raising an eyebrow at his wording, and his mouth twisted into a sardonic smile.

"I'm the most powerful Ashikabi involved. The entire northern district of the city is under my direct control, and everyone knows it. I've tangled with both the East and South a couple of time, and both times they were forced to retreat worse off then they started." he explained to her, getting slightly startled looks in response. "The Ashikabi of the West has a temperament similar to mine. He only wings willing Sekirei, and doesn't seem to care about anything other than keeping his safely close to himself."

"I presume that you four are the most powerful, as you said, but that there are many more that have only a single Sekirei, maybe two? These are the ones you want to help, since they are too weak to fight any of the major players."

"Exactly. For example, at our current base at Maisson Izumo, I have a Ashikabi and his Sekirei. The Sekirei is too weak to beat any of her brother's and sister's, so her Ashikabi wants to run before she can be taken from him through death or defeat."

"I see...well, I can have my people keep an eye out throughout the city, maybe start a few subtle rumors about the North being a safe haven. Meanwhile..." Yuri hummed, pulling out a small tablet computer and tapping commands into it rapidly. Looking satisfied, she tossed the tablet to Minato, who caught it and looked at in interest.

"This is...!" he gasped, looking startled as he glanced up to meet her eyes, and Yuri smiled at him warmly.

"The deed and layout to an auxiliary compound in your territory, yes. It has everything you need to have a proper base of operations, as well as access to the old tunnels out of the city, in addition to the underground complex my family used to hide our "packages" in during the war. Perfect for your used, I should think." she said, rather pleased to be able to help her friend with this problem. She couldn't do much against the apparently godlike-beings he and his had to fight, but this she could do. She was about to say something else, when a small phone built into her chair buzzed softly. Picking it up, she answered it. Minato could hear a muffled male voice on the other end, and Yuri frowned deeply before speaking. "Send her in, but I want perimeter three blocks out. Report if anyone else approaches and asks the same."

"Yuri? What is wrong?" Minato asked, a little concerned. His friend looked at him silently for a long moment, before answering.

"A young woman named Kazehana is here to speak with you." she explained slowly, head cocked slightly. "Did you tell anyone you were coming here?"

"No, most certainly not, I am technically in enemy territory just by being in the Southern area of the city." Minato frowned. Something about the name Kazehana tickled at his mind. It was important, he knew it was, but he couldn't remember why...

Minutes later, he had his answer as he shot to his feet, hands diving into his black bag to withdraw his twin kodachi, which he raised into a ready position. He knew what she was, what she had to be. Inhumanly beautiful, with a powerful aura that swirled around her like a hurricane. The very air seemed to sing at her presence.

Sekirei.

"Oh my." she chuckled gaily, sloshing her sake bottle around a bit in her hand. "Such a reaction for little old me! Not to worry, Minato-kun, I'm not here to start trouble."

"You'll forgive me if I don't simply take a former member of the Discipline Squad at her word." he returned, and she raised sighed, raising a hand to her face, covering her eyes for a moment as she went to brush her bangs slightly. An instant later, her eyes were visible again, and everyone present shivered in instinctive fear as her cold, hard, gaze bored into them. Her aura expanded almost visibly, wind swirling around her feet as she lowered her hand back to her side.

"Wh-what are you." Yuri breathed, eyes wide in fear and shock. Everything about this woman screamed "danger", "not human", and "run!"to her very soul.

"I am Sekirei number three, Kazehana. Mistress of the Winds, Lady of the Sky. And I have come for you, Minato Sahashi, Ashikabi of the North."

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There we go. Sorry I've been on hiatus for so long with this story, I just wasn't feeling it. This chapter is a bit rough and could be better, but this is the best draft I have done so far, and I'm as pleased as I think I can be at the moment.

You know the drill, review this so I know where I am at with you guys.

*Meaning "Princess"