Taichi moved swiftly through the woods, trying to get as much ground covered before the sun came up. He'd spent his day resting on the outskirts, careful to stay out of sight. The young warrior had no idea who he could trust anymore. He'd heard rumors before that Emperor Hidou had men hiding among commoners, listening and searching for people who planned to rebel against him. A few weeks ago, Taichi would have laughed at the prospect of him getting hurt. Now it was an all-too painful reality.
As the boy walked along he began to notice a light in the distance. It started off as a small flicker, something that could have been a trick his eyes were playing on him. Eventually though, it grew bigger and it lit up the sky in ember-orange. The spot where it was coming from radiated smoke. Fire. It was fire. Taichi wasn't alone in the woods, but he wasn't about to sit back and let whatever was out there find him first.
He quieted his steps and started to move swiftly, his right hand wrapped around the handle of his sword that was still in his holster. Taichi also controlled his breathing, only allowing a heavy inhale once his lungs felt like they'd implode from lack of oxygen. Everything could be heard out here, even the sound of the smallest cricket chirping under the leaves. The light was bright now, and the smoke thicker. The fire was right beyond a layer of bushes.
Taichi walked up to it and put his hands on the brush to push it aside, peering through. He held his breath, prepared to see an evil army sent out for him. After all, only Hidou's men would be dumb enough to light a noticeable fire in the middle of the woods at night. Or... a single man would be. What? Taichi narrowed his eyes and focused in on the single figure that sat next to the fire, his back leaned up against a tree as he held his hands over the flames for warmth. Who was that? Taichi continued to watch.
The stranger had blonde hair. It was a bit on the longer side, but it was his most noticeable feature besides his blue eyes. They penetrated through the darkness of the night, giving Taichi a chill. The blue irises darted back and forth, analyzing everything around him, noticing every change. Taichi exhaled. They fell on him.
Instantly, his chest froze and his heart sped up, making him feel like he was about to be sick. He couldn't move. Perhaps the stranger would just think an animal had rustled the bush, or a gust of wind had gone by. That would be logical. Still though, his eyes. They had an icy stare, and it was locked straight on him.
The blonde stood up, and Taichi gripped his sword. He closed his hands a bit, making the hole in the brush he was peering through smaller. To be honest, he wanted to leave. He had no time to be confronting strangers when his sister was in danger. But at the same time, he couldn't move. The blondes icy stare had frozen him, and he was trapped. They would meet. It was what would happen after that that worried the warrior.
And Taichi had an ego. He couldn't be the one that was found. He had to be the surprise. He wouldn't look like he was hiding, scared. Once the blonde was close enough, once his footsteps were loud enough, and once his heavy breathing put Taichi's hairs on end, he stood from the brush and pulled out his sword.
"Who are you?" Taichi asked, glaring at the stranger.
In response, the blonde pulled out his own weapons. He reached one hand over his shoulder and one towards his lower back, pulling out two curved swords. They were shorter than Taichi's single weapon, but the blades still looked sharp. Alright, so he hadn't expected that. Still though, the brunette could take this guy. Although he seemed to be a bit taller than him, he was skinny and his hands shook even though he tried to come off as confident.
"I didn't say to take out your weapons." Taichi growled. "I asked you your name."
"Why's it matter?" The blonde asked, his gaze still cold. He stopped about ten feet away from the warrior and held his ground. "Who are you?"
Taichi raised a brow. "I asked you first."
"You came to me." The blonde retorted, wasting no time.
"Not like you were trying to hide." Taichi spat. "Making a fire in the forest, you're a real expert on staying hidden."
The stranger remained silent, his cold gaze faltering for a second. "If you're with Hidou, you might want to get out of here. If you take one step closer I'll kill you before you even know what's happening." His stare became icy again.
Hidou? The blonde thought he was with Hidou? Taichi didn't know what to make of that. What an insult! Was this kid that stupid? He held his sword tight, but asked the same question. "What makes you think I'm with Hidou? That'd be an insult. It's you who should be with Hidou. You've got the clothes to prove it."
The blonde glanced down at himself for a moment, not letting himself take too much attention off the warrior. It was true- he did look quite shady. However, it was his goal to remain in the shadows, so his black outfit suited him well. He had thick boots on, and fitted black pants. He wore thin, dark armor over his chest, a shield that would protect him from a simple attack.
"I'm not with Hidou." He said through clenched teeth. "How dare you think that."
"Why would I assume anything else?" Taichi asked. "You're out here by yourself in the woods, obviously up to no good."
The blonde eyed him. "I could say the same for you."
"I-" Okay, the stranger had him there. He shot him a glare. "Well I'm not up to no good! For your information, I'm-"
Taichi and the blonde stopped arguing and faced the direction the strange voice had just come from, both of them ready to fight off whatever was coming towards them. Only one man had shouted out at them, but as the source of the noise became clearer, both boys could see that ten men were approaching them from the shadows of the woods.
"Shit." Taichi muttered. "Good going, blondie, you got us caught."
The blonde scowled. "Hey, I was fine until you came around making trouble!"
"Trouble?!" Taichi exclaimed, but he had no time to say anything else. The men were nearing them, encircling them, trapping them.
"Look what we have here!" One of them laughed, pulling his sword from the holder on his waist. "Two of our prey in one spot! Haven't we lucked out?"
The other men snarled, laughing like hyenas as they closed the circle around them. Taichi and the blonde had backed up into each other so their shoulders were touching, both of their weapons held out.
"Two?" Taichi said under his breath so only the blonde could hear him. "They're after you?!"
The blonde turned his head, eyes wide. "They're after you?!"
The men continued to laugh.
"What do you think?" Their leader asked, eyeing the two boys carefully. "Would Hidou want them brought to him, or killed on the spot?"
"Killed on the spot!" One of the other men shouted, much to Taichi's displeasure.
"Kill them!" Another one barked.
The leader smiled sadistically. "I'd like to make them suffer. Don't you think Hidou would like it if we brought him the crushed souls of both Prince Yamato and Yagami Taichi, the boy who killed half his army?"
"Eh..?" Taichi turned his head slightly so he could speak to the blonde in a quieter voice. "Prince Yamato?!" He whispered harshly. "You're the prince?!"
"Don't get too excited." Yamato said bluntly, gripping his weapons tighter.
Taichi scowled and instantly raised his defenses towards the boy again, not happy with his answer. "I'm not. I didn't know princes could fight."
"I didn't know commoners couldn't recognize their superiors."
Oh, Taichi had a million words to say to that. He opened his mouth and let out a disgusted noise, but that was all he had time for before the first couple of men came charging. They yelled ferociously as they came at him, but Taichi was able to knock off the first two easily. They were much too hasty to hurt him, and they had a right to be. After all, Taichi was the warrior who'd killed half the evil army. But what did they want with 'Prince' Yamato?
"Eh, take that!" Another fighter shouted, running at Taichi with his sword. The brunette used his weapon to push the evil man's sword to the side before swiftly stabbing him. He fell. Three down, seven to go. Or rather... four to go. Taichi glanced over at Yamato and found that he was holding his own. He was fighting off two of Hidou's henchmen and had three others laying at his feet, dead. Okay, so pretty boy could handle his double-swords. Taichi still wasn't impressed. He was clearly the superior warrior and- shit, another fighter was running straight at him.
Taichi stepped to the side and let the man run past him, waiting for him to turn around so he could slice him. Four down. He looked back towards Yamato and found that he was facing the last of the small army- but wait... where had their leader gone?
Taichi spun around, his chest freezing once he realized he'd lost sight of the leader, the most powerful fighter. The spot where he was standing before was empty. Nothing could be heard over the sounds of Yamato fighting his opponent. Taichi wanted to scream at him to be quiet so he could listen, but the words wouldn't come to him. His journey couldn't end here. He had to find his sister. He spun around once more, his eyes narrowed and his sword held tightly in his hand.
And then, out of the corner of his right eye, Taichi saw something glistening. It hadn't been there before. Startled, he turned to see what it was, but just as he did, a small sword sliced his hand, causing him to drop his weapon to the ground.
"Shit!" The warrior exclaimed, wrapping his free hand around his bloody one. The back of it oozed blood, so much so that it was coming through his clenched fingers. Where the hell did that sword come from? Someone had thrown it, and that someone was now walking towards the injured boy with a cruel look on his face. He was smiling madly, and his eyes were wild with the want to kill.
"Not so brave now, are you boy?" The man asked, gripping another small sword. Taichi backed up, not sure what to do. He figured his opponents specialty was sword throwing, something that would be dangerous if he bent down to pick up his weapon. Unwillingly, he found himself backing up, trying to find a way to escape. He could leave his sword for now, but trying to pick up his weapon wasn't worth the risk.
"Hey, hey, hold on a second.." Taichi said nervously, raising his hands up. He glanced sideways at Yamato, who still looked busy fighting off the last-standing fighter. The blonde hadn't even noticed he was in trouble. Great. "I think we got off on the wrong foot.." A drop of sweat dripped down his neck.
"The wrong foot?" The leader asked, stunned that the young warrior would say something so ridiculous. "If you call the wrong foot killing half my men, you'd be right. I've had it out for you Yagami, and now I've finally got you."
The man smiled deviously, flashing his crooked teeth. He raised his small sword into the air, eyeing the boy as if trying to decide whether to hit him in the head or the heart. Wherever he aimed, Taichi knew it'd be precise. He gulped. Damnit. "Say goodbye, Yagami."
Taichi took one final inhale, trying to plan some last-second escape plan in his head, but nothing came to him. He could turn and run, but then the man would get his back, likely paralyzing him. He could go for his weapon, but he'd just become an easier shot. He could try another stupid make-up line, but then he supposed his death would just be drawn out and painful. Damnit. Damnit! He'd failed Hikari, and he'd barely even gotten started.
The man pulled his hand behind his head, ready to throw his weapon. Taichi shut his eyes tight, trying not to imagine the pain he was about to feel. God damn knive throwers, why were they so quick? Or rather... why had nothing happened yet?
Taichi opened his eyes just in time to hear the leader scream out in pain. He dropped his knife to the ground and fell shorty after it hit the cold dirt. The warrior looked at him quizzically- what'd just happened?!
The man cried out as he pulled an arrow from his chest, blood spewing everywhere, causing his death. An arrow- where in the world had that come from?! The way it hit his body, it looked like someone shot it from slightly higher up. Was someone in the trees?!
Taichi turned his vision upwards and scanned the dark treetops. It was hard to see, but eventually he made out a cloaked figure standing on one of the bigger branches. He had a bow in his hand and arrows slung over his back. Instantly, Taichi flashed back to when Hidou had him dangling over the side of his house. The same thing had happened then- an arrow had struck his opponent and he was narrowly saved. Was this the same cloaked figure?!
Taichi narrowed his eyes at the man, trying to figure out some clue as to who he could be. "Eh, Yamato!" The boy shouted, turning his vision towards the blonde for a split second. "Do you see- eh?!" He looked back up, but the figure was already gone. Nothing was left. He'd left as quickly as he came.
"See what?!" Yamato yelled back just as his opponent fell to the ground.
Taichi didn't even know what to say. "Er.. nothing.."
"Seeing things?" The blonde asked. "You're not acting delusional, are you? It takes guts to kill a man."
That statement angered Taichi, momentarily distracting him from the person who'd just saved his life. "I know about killing men." He began, prepared to utter the phrase that'd made him famous. "I killed-"
"I know." Yamato cut in, seemingly unimpressed. "Half of Hidou's army." He rolled his eyes.
"Why do you have such a prissy attitude?!" Taichi asked in disbelief. Usually, people were honored to meet him. Why was this boy acting so differently? Taichi didn't give a single shit if he was the prince. That meant he should have been more thankful! Right?! He'd saved his damned kingdom!
"I don't have a prissy attitude." Yamato shot back. "I just know your 'heroic moment' was a complete accident, and you know it too, so why don't you stop talking about it?"
Taichi's eyes widened. His mouth gaped and his skin grew cold. Yamato didn't- no. He couldn't! How would he have known anything?! "Don't be jealous of my skill." Was all he could say, his words shaky. Yamato seemed satisfied.
"Skill?" Yamato asked. "Is your skill what got you that?" He pointed to the injury on his hand. It was still oozing blood, and it didn't look like it was going to get better if it was left unattended. Taichi said nothing. Yamato shook his head and looked back at the boy. His fire was still going, and it looked like he had some clean water. "Sit down." He said, sounding like he thought he would regret the offer.
Taichi really didn't want to, but he didn't have another choice. If he went and wandered around by himself again, he wouldn't be able to use his hand for weeks. That wouldn't be good, considering he held his sword with that hand. He wasn't happy about it, but he obliged. The boy fell down onto the dirt and looked at the water needingly.
"Here." Yamato said simply, tossing him the can. "Don't use it all though. I need it."
"You need it?" Taichi asked, pouring some on his hand and flinching. "For what?"
"You ask a lot of questions, don't you?"
Taichi raised a brow at the boy and handed him his water back. He'd forgotten to say thank you, but to be honest, he didn't really care. "Well it'd be good to know what you're doing out here. What's the prince, all high and mighty, doing outside his spoiled little castle?"
Yamato glared at him. "You must really be dense if you didn't know that my spoiled little castle was taken over by Hidou."
Taichi bit his lip. Alright, so they had something in common, and now he'd regretted hitting the blonde with someone so sensitive. Taichi's house had been, in a sense, taken over. He'd lost his family. Had Yamato lost his? After all, no one had heard from the royals since the takeover. "I'm looking for my sister." He decided to try, giving Yamato a good opportunity to share something if he needed to, or wanted to. Perhaps if he offered up the first piece of information the prince would trust him.
Yamato eyed him suspiciously and took a drink of water. A droplet dripped down his chin and he wiped it away. "Your sister?" He asked. "How convenient. I'm looking for my brother."
Sorry this chapter took so long to post, and sorry it's a bit on the shorter side! I thought here would be a good place to end for now. As always, thank you SO much for reading! Any reviews would be appreciated. They're awful motivating.