Hello~ I'm fairly certain that this chapter is miles ahead of the first seeing as I went through it and tweaked it multiple times, as well as had a friend beta. This chapter actually gets things moving a bit into the direction I really want the story to go, but it probably won't be until the next chapter that the Fuugen feels start coming around. I find it really difficult to write Mugen in particular, and in order to get him to where I want him emotionally in terms of Fuu, it takes a little while.

Anyway, here it is. Thanks to the person who reviewed. :3

Chapter 2 / When Flying Rats Attack

Mugen shifted onto his back in front of a small fire, a scowl clearly outlined on his face in the flickering light. On such a hot and humid night, a fire was a rather stupid idea, as he had put it to his glasses-wearing comrade. Jin had merely shaken his head and mentioned something about using it to attract their missing third companion. Mugen had just stared at him for a moment, noting that a fire could also attract the checkpoint patrol if they happened to smell the fire, before also noting that attracting the wrong kind of attention could also merit its own rewards for him.

Sweat began to bead in between Mugen's shoulder blades and he flipped onto his stomach, flinging his sweaty haori off to the side. A few more tiny droplets of perspiration ran down the side of his face and he wiped them away quickly with a dirty palm. The fire wasn't extremely warm, but it was putting off enough heat to make him even more uncomfortable, and the fact that they had to keep it lit for a girl who constantly let her temper get the better of her was furthering his irritation.

It had been hours since the pink clad girl had departed from her so-called bodyguards, and he began to feel a twitch of annoyance inch its way up his spine.

She always does this shit, he mused irritably, and she wonders why we have to save her ass all the time.

"No good bitch…" he mumbled under his breath, almost wishing she would just come crawling back to them bitching about hunger and eating the entirely of their rations until they reached the next town.

"If you're going to continue to voice displeasure over the fact that she has yet to return, then either go look for her or calm yourself." Mugen shot Jin a heated glare. His daily quota of patience, which was nearly nothing as it was, was worn thin by the heat and the current subject of his thoughts.

"I could say the same for you, four-eyes. You've been sharpening your sword for how long now, waitin' for her to see the fire and come lookin' for some grub?"

The dark haired samurai pulled the whetstone away from his blade, putting them both down on the ground in front of him. He set his hands back on his lap limply, silently wondering over the girl that had disappeared hours earlier. Instinctually, he had known that it wasn't in their best interest to let her wander off unattended, but he also understood the need for a person to be alone with their thoughts. Traveling in a group with two battle-hardened samurai might provide her with protection, but it did not necessarily provide her with the privacy, or even the company that a young girl needed.

Reaching for his sword, Jin stood, sheathing it at his waist. Mugen eyed him lazily, not bothering to waste the energy to ask when he already had a solid idea as to what he intended to do. The pirate ran a hand through his sweat-streaked hair, a yawn passing over his features. He'd just sleep until the other man returned with their mutual pain in the ass in tow.

Somehow, though, he knew sleep would continue to elude him, and if he cared to look deeper into his own thoughts, he would see that it wasn't only because of the humidity. After years of striving (and succeeding) to mask his thoughts and emotions from others, he'd even managed to begin to hide certain things from himself—these things being unfamiliar thoughts and emotions that unsettled him from time to time. When he had first met Jin and Fuu, he had felt nothing except a slight curiosity, not counting the undeniable urge to kill the upright swordsman. He had been wandering aimlessly up until that point in his life, and if they would provide him with a little entertainment as well as, of course, food, then he could stomach waiting around to slay the skilled samurai.

But something had changed, as unwilling as he was to admit it to himself most days. It was only on nights like this where he was unable to fall right into a restful slumber that sometimes his mind managed to dig into some things he'd rather just let alone. The girl couldn't help but cross his thoughts some nights, though undoubtedly it was due largely to his inability to tolerate her attitude most times. However, sometimes he would find himself wondering over her in different ways…

Mugen's eyes had just drifted shut when a sudden soft scuffle alerted him, as well as Jin, to the presence of someone trying move silently just meters outside their makeshift camp. A smug grin curled on Mugen's tanned face as he felt the before-battle adrenaline begin to pump through his veins. Across the fire, he sensed Jin's own excitement for a chance at battle. The idleness of the day had been eating away at them both, and a quick battle to blow off some steam would likely give them some past due exercise.

"Well," Jin said aloud, hand gripped firmly around the hilt of his sword, "looks like we attracted attention all right, just the wrong kind of attention."

Mugen let out a quick laugh in amusement before mumbling, "Like you mind the action. You get off on the excitement of battle just as much as I do, an' you know it."

A man stepped out of the shadows of the forest, his sugegasa pulled low across his forehead. In his dark haori and hakama, he nearly blended in with the shadowed scenery except for his eyes, which gleamed eerily in the amber light of the fire. He focused on the two rogue swordsmen, both of which were seemingly nonchalant at his sudden appearance.

Not one for formalities or patience, Mugen rolled lazily onto his back, his arms folded underneath his head.

"What d'ya want? I'm tryin' to get some shut eye, here."

The unknown man's mouth twitched at Mugen's words, and the antagonizing pirate couldn't help but smirk. This one would be a fairly easy target, not to mention the perfect way to blow off some steam and clear out his thoughts.

"I am Furukawa Hayato, under the direct command of the shogun himself." He dug into the sleeves of his dark haori and pulled out a compact scroll that had been sealed shut with a dark seal. He presented it to them with a quick jerk of his hand, holding it out for them to see. Jin's eyes flicked to the scroll and studied it for a moment before sliding back up to Furukawa's face, his guarded expression even and unchanged. Mugen didn't spare the document any of his attention at all.

The man continued on after noting the acknowledgement (or lack thereof) of the two wanted men.

"You are hereby accused and convicted of numerous crimes, including theft, murder, and treason…" At the last charge, Jin raised a skeptical eyebrow, but the man left no room for comment. "You can either come with us willingly to face an honorable death in Edo for your crimes, or if you'd rather, we can slice you up into pieces and take you back that way."

A snort erupted from Mugen, who was unimpressed at the man's not-so-subtle threat.

"You really think you can take us out all on yer own?" The ruffian's eyes flashed with dangerous glee. He could sense the inevitable slaughter like he could sense an oncoming storm. "Let's see just how good you assholes are!"

Pushing his body up with his arms, Mugen whipped his legs around in a circular motion, generating enough momentum to flip himself onto his feet before rushing off into shadowy forest behind Furukawa. Screams soon erupted as splashes of red flew with every stroke of his arm, painting the blackened forest with his sword.

Momentarily spooked by Mugen's show of impulsivity, Furukawa drew his sword just in time to reflect Jin's strike. Jin jumped back at the block, slipping back into the familiar stance of his sword style. From the way his opponent was standing, he knew that he wouldn't be all that difficult to kill. There were holes in his style that Jin could see even in the dim lighting.

No, killing him would not be that difficult at all. However…

Furukawa charged forward at Jin, eyes wide with a mixture of fear and bravado. Once again, Jin parried his attacks with ease, his mind not completely in the fight. Furukawa swung his sword again, aiming for Jin's abdomen, and the samurai jumped back, avoiding the attack altogether. Overreaching, Furukawa stumbled forward a step. Seizing the opportunity, the bespectacled samurai skillfully lunged forward so he was even with his adversary before jerking the hilt of his weapon forcefully into the pressure point that rested just underneath the man's jaw. He tumbled over harder than a stack of bricks.

Eyeing his work with a particular sort of pride, Jin stood for a moment, absorbing the sound of Mugen slashing mercilessly through another enemy. Deciding that the Ryukyuan was more than capable of dealing with the remaining men, he sheathed his sword and knelt down beside the groaning samurai.

He had questions, and this man would have answers. Just by Furukawa's attitude and the fact that he had been the one to address the duo with the charges, Jin knew that he had to be the leader of the band of samurai.

"Now, about those charges…"

Ridding his sword of blood with a quick flick, Mugen rushed at another man that appeared before him. He sped forward like a demon, pushing right through the man's guard and sliding the point of his blade across his chest. The man went down in a spraying arc of blood. Mugen couldn't help but feel both pleased and disappointed at the ranging displays of skill he had encountered. He didn't have a drop of blood on him—neither his nor another's—and that meant he was damn good, a fact he liked to reaffirm quite often. On the other hand, it also meant that it was too easy. He liked to sharpen his sword on skilled warriors, not mere meat bags holding swords.

Standing in the cover of the trees, Mugen's sharp eyes had slowly begun to adjust to the darkness, and he squinted to examine the shadows for any sign of movement. When a moment passed without any hint as to the whereabouts of his remaining adversaries, the practiced swordsman raised his sword hand to his forehead, wiping away the sweat that had continued to roll down from his hairline. He hated cowards that wouldn't come out and fight more than anything, and on his long list of shit that frequently pissed him off, it nearly topped everything else. And that was saying something.

"Fuckin' pussies," he called out, trying to rile the last couple of samurai into some sort of action. Another couple seconds passed with a movement or sound, and Mugen rested the blade of his sword over the back his shoulders, tapping it against himself in annoyance.

"Aren't you guys supposed to have some sort of honor code bullshit that you have to go by? I don't think that includes hidin' behind some bushes, ya limp-dicked assholes." He started off deeper into the shadows, his metal-plated geta clinking with every stride. "Even if you don't be a man and show yourselves, best believe I'll find ya. And when I do…"

He trailed off, wading out further in the sea of darkened foliage before him. A flurry of movement appeared to his left and Mugen dashed to greet it with steel. There ya are!

Rushing forward with a vertical slash, Mugen was rather disappointed when he realized his sword was slicing through the empty fabric of a haori rather than flesh and bone. The cloth fell away from his sword in two halves as his body came to a stop.

"'The hell… You guys are even bigger pussies than I thought," he grumbled, feeling his anger beginning to spike. As he was about to throw out another insult, more movement at his back drew his attention and he swiveled on his heel, slicing through more empty fabric.

This shit is really gettin' old!

The sliding of feet against hard ground alerted Mugen to the true whereabouts of an opponent, and he immediately dashed at him. Their blades met and Mugen pushed forward against the man's blade for a quick second before pulling back and sending a second slash toward an opening at his side. Surprisingly, the man was quick enough to block it, though only barely. With his foe's arms twisted at an awkward angle to ward off the blow, Mugen's face twisted into its signature smirk. He had him now.

A strong kick at the man's sword from his plated geta threw him back just far enough for Mugen to be able to pull back his blade and take a long step forward to drive the tip of the blade vertically into the man's gut and out of the top of his back. A wave of satisfaction rolled through Mugen as he heard the man's dying cries and felt the lifeblood run down the length of Typhoon Swell and onto his double-handed grip.

"Told ya I'd get ya." He couldn't help but gloat over his victory, despite the fact that it had been certain from the beginning. He twisted his sword for good measure and the man sagged against him. Leaning to push the dying man off of him, he let a small chuckle rumble through his lithe frame. "Shouldn't 'ave played games with me. Coulda gave ya quick death, but I ain't the most forgivin' man in the world."

The abrupt pounding of wooden geta behind him had Mugen craning his head to see who was coming at him. Another samurai with his weapon drawn was only a few meters away and Mugen tried to move his sword, only to realize that it was still embedded in his latest victim.

"Shit!" He grunted, trying to swing himself and his dying foe's body around to block the attack. The body was too heavy and his sword stubbornly refused to come loose at the angle he was standing. Mugen knew it that moment that he might just be fucked.

Something small and brown whizzed by Mugen's ear as his enemy was merely a pace or two away, and suddenly the attacker let out a yell of rage as he began to claw at his face. Not missing a beat, Mugen put one hand on the dying man's shoulder and pushed him up far enough to pull his sword out. Shoving the body away, he easily swung his bloodied weapon around in a low arc to disembowel his distracted opponent. With one last groan, the body slumped into a pile of its own entrails on the ground. From underneath the shoulder of the dead man, a tiny creature managed to wedge its way out, letting out a squeak of distaste.

"Huh?" At the sound of Mugen's startled voice, Momo let out another displeased squeak before darting off into a nearby bush. "If that little rat's here, then that means…"

With impeccable timing, an extremely disgruntled Fuu fell out a tree not too far from Mugen with a yelp and he laughed in spite of himself, sliding his sword back into the sheathe at his back.

"Well I'll be damned..."