"Pull up your hood," Daichi commanded as they stepped lightly across the twigs and leaves of the barren forest floor. He was pacing forward, ahead of Kaoru, with hand facing back towards Kaoru in warning.

"I don't have a hood," Kaoru replied flatly, crossing his arms across his chest. He was standing straight up, taking no care in where he stepped; he refused to crouch like the idiot before him. They were in the middle of nowhere! There was little chance of being found.

Daichi turned to him, quickly. "Oh! I did not realize," he exclaimed and he raised his hand and conjured a thick red cloth in his hand. He held it out for Kaoru.

Kaoru took it reluctantly and held it out before him to inspect. It was a long cloak that would cover him even to his feet. The color was of a deep red, unlike anything Kaoru had ever owned. Kaoru glanced up and took in Daichi's deep emerald color of his own cloak. "Won't this make me stick out like a sore thumb?" Kaoru asked suspiciously.

Daichi sighed in exasperation. "For Heaven's sake, just put it on, lad! Do it before we are discovered."

Kaoru grumbled but did so, draping its heavy weight over his thin shoulders and drawing up the hood. It cast his features into the shadows. Carefully, he followed Daichi's precise footing deeper into the silent forest. After a few moments, however, Kaoru grew impatient.

"Where is it we're going?" Kaoru asked with his voice hushed.

Without hesitation Daichi replied, "To the North. The border is just ahead of us and the Queen's guards often patrol the area. She aims to kill off our whole race."

"Why can't you just zap us in?"

Daichi sputtered. "Because there are magical wards to keep things in and out, that's why! Geez, you are an annoying one."

"You wouldn't understand old man," Kaoru chuckled.

"Old man!" Daichi cried, utterly horrified. "I'll have you know that I am the young age of twenty-two, though it may look old to some of your age."

Kaoru stopped in his tracks, staring at his companion. "You are only that young?"

Daichi stopped as well, turning to face him. "Of course." He lowered his hood, revealing his face for the first time. Daichi was pale in color but had dusty brown hair and eyes. His nose was upturned just slightly but it wasn't unflattering, and he was built of strong stature. Most of all, his skin was free of wrinkles and of age.

"But that means you were only about fourteen when you came to me all those years ago! You were only a boy but you sounded so much older, wiser," Kaoru reasoned.

"To the young ears," Daichi replied. "Plus, I used a spell on my voice so I would sound so much more frightening." Daichi chuckled at the memory before leaning upon a tree.

Kaoru lowered his own hood. "But why would you come find me? Surely there was someone more qualified to come warn me of my abilities…"

Daichi shook his head sadly. "Unfortunately, those of us who hold black magic do not live long. It's a miracle I've survived this long and the same goes for you." He sighed and looked down. "Most of the surviving in camp are my age and younger. The elders are all at the frontline, fighting the war. So we rarely see them. I am one of those that take care of all of the young ones… But there are so many of us that keep dying. We either die by the hand of the royal army or we kill each other." Daichi looked up with a sad smile. "We aren't exactly reasonable when the insanity takes over…"

Daichi straightened up and turned his head in the direction they were heading and pulled his hood back up. "Come, we must continue."

Kaoru replaced his hood back over his newly orange hair and followed, into the further quietness of the woods. The shadows in the trees were growing long, approaching the evening and still they walked towards hostile grounds.

Suddenly Daichi paused, staring into the still empty forest ahead of them. "Will you be able to use your magic?"

Kaoru started. "What? Now? How the Hell am I supposed to do that?"

Daichi's eyes snapped to his with a frown. "Can you not feel the pull, the call, of the black magic?"

Kaoru tilted his head, trying to feel what Daichi said he should be feeling… but he felt normal. Daichi sighed. "You are such a naïve child. Here, imagine something you wish to happen like a flower blooming from this barren ground or something, and then just force it into existence."

It was impossible. Kaoru didn't believe he could do it, but yet, how else did he transport himself out of that arena? So, with little faith, Kaoru's eyes scanned the forest floor until he found a long branch lying in the dead leaves. Determined, he snatched it up and weighed it in his lithe hands, feeling for its center. "A blade," he muttered to himself before closing his eyes. He took a deep breath in, focusing only on what he wanted to happen: turn a branch into a blade.

Power fizzed beneath his fingertips almost instantly and in his surprise, Kaoru almost dropped the branch. But he regained his balance and concentrated further on harvesting that small sting of power until it grew and grew. The feeling of overwhelming power consumed him, turning into a bitter storm of rage within him that burst suddenly. And then it was gone.

His eyes flew open and he yelped at seeing that there was indeed a blade, a sword in his hand, and he dropped it. Kaoru had done it. He'd used the forbidden magic! It was a realization that made him just a little sick to his stomach. What would his family say of him now?

"Great, good," Daichi said hurriedly, looking over his shoulder. "Now gather that up and let's go. The royal army is approaching faster than I anticipated and we need to go now." Instantly a strange expression overcame Daichi until he grinned in almost a cruel fashion. "You better keep that sword close. It's gonna be a bloody battle."

"More tea!" the Queen barked out, gesturing wildly to her empty cup with her claw-like nails.

Hikaru, with more than just hatred, gathered up the teapot and marched out into the small party and poured the wretched woman tea. Steam wafted up in a torrent as he finished and pulled away, staring the old woman in the eye. "Anything else, your grace?" he bit out.

"Nothing more," she replied, waving him away as if he were a dog.

Hikaru turned away with a deathly grip upon the pot and strode away again to the side of the room to await more orders. It had only been one day and Hikaru was ready to wring his own neck.

"May I be excused, Grandmother?" Hikaru heard Tamaki say as he set the pot down onto a table behind a curtained side room.

The Queen spat in disgust, "Go then."

Hikaru stood still until he heard the curtains pulled away from the entrance and dropped again as Tamaki entered. Tamaki rounded Hikaru to stand next to him at the table. Hikaru looked up warily. "I'm going to kill her," Hikaru said lowly, careful so no one outside would overhear.

Taking it as a joke, Tamaki only laughed half-heartedly. "No you won't."

His brow ticked. Tamaki didn't know how serious Hikaru was about this. "What are you doing here?" Hikaru asked.

"I can't visit one of my oldest friends?" Tamaki asked, looking hurt.

Hikaru began to refill the teapot, and said, "You've always been closer to Kaoru…"

The mention of Kaoru's name sent them both into silence but Hikaru continued to prepare the tea. "I must go," Tamaki proclaimed abruptly. "I have duties to attend to."

"Of course," Hikaru replied, replacing the lid onto the teapot.

Tamaki turned but paused at the doorway. "I will try to find a way to save your brother."

Stiffly, Hikaru nodded once and Tamaki was gone. "But that is unnecessary," Hikaru murmured to himself as he pulled a small vial from his pocket and held it up in the candlelight. It was full of clear liquid, poison. "I will find a way to kill the old bitch myself."

So I was in New York for a week and it was a blast! It was my first time and dang was it cool. But now I am back and kicking and ready to continue my stories.