Chapter 3: The Wheels of Fate

Disclaimer: I do not own Sekirei, or any characters, major concepts, or logos associated with the series. This fan story is made for fun, not profit.

Hiroto Minaka stood on the balcony of his tower, looking like a spec before the gigantic clock face looming high above his position. The capital glittered with countless light streaming through windows and emanating from vehicles, but his position atop MBI's main office building, the sight was more like a colony of fireflies buzzing around below. To him the entire city was nothing more than a giant game board, and the people only pieces that were forced to participate in his grand scheme.

A gleeful expression came to the president's face as he pondered the events that had come into play, his high-collared cape fluttering in the evening breeze. No longer able to bear the feeling of elation, he threw his arms up and let out a chilling laugh that carried to the city and beyond. He hadn't expected the Discipline Squad to fail at the bridge, but at the same time, their defeat had opened up the door for several interesting new options that made it worth the loss.

"And with the fall of one generation comes the dawn of a glorious new plan! One that shall rock this city to its core and tear at the heartstrings of all who are involved!" Minaka screamed at the sky, his hands outstretched to the heavens. "Yes! A true love story for the ages, steeped in the greatest tragedy and incomprehensible hardship… That is the true nature of the Sekirei Plan!"

"Minaka, you bastard!" a familiar female voice screamed out from behind him.

The president turned just in time to see a fist smash him directly in the face, a stream of blood dripping from his nose as he stumbled backwards towards the ledge. Minaka's arms waved around as he teetered for a moment, slipping and tumbling from the balcony a second later. He let out a cry of surprise and caught himself at the last second, a grin appearing on his face when he saw his old friend's expression of pain and fury.

While she was tempted to stomp his fingers, she couldn't quite bring herself to end the mad scientist's life. Despite his blatant disregard for human life, Takami would have been lying if she said there had never been anything between them. They had been friends since college, and a few lonely nights together had resulted in some less than reputable activities. In a way, she couldn't help but blame herself for indulging him for so long, and playing into what he became.

Minaka struggled on the edge before pulling himself to safety, scrambling back onto the lookout like a fearful monkey. "Well that wasn't very nice, Takami. You always did have a habit of letting your emotions get the best of you." He took a moment to dust off his lab coat.

"Do you have any idea what you've done!?" she stomped towards him indignantly, her hands balling into fists. "I swear! If anything happens to my son, I'll kill you!"

"If you had the guts for that kind of thing, you would've done it years ago." He shrugged with a knowing expression, causing her anger to waver, than intensify. "Why, I'd wager you secretly wanted something like this to happen."

Takami slapped him across the face as hard as she could. "You damn well know that I didn't!"

"Come now, Takami… Just think of all the perks your son will receive while working for MBI. I remember you complaining about his lack of employment and worldliness, so consider this the perfect chance to resolve those issues."

"Wait! How did you know about that?" she blurted out, her eyes widening in anger as she came to an obvious realization. She aimed a punch at the man, only for him to duck and shuffle safely away from her. "Minaka, you ass! You've been listening in on my phone conversations again, haven't you!?"

The made scientist straightened his glasses with a crafty grin. "It's not like you tried to keep it a secret from me. After all these years, I figured you'd know better than to assume that anything happening within these walls is beyond my knowledge. You can only blame yourself for being so careless."

Takami grit her teeth violently, now angry with herself for not having expected this. "You know I never wanted my children involved in this game to begin with." She began in a softer tone that still threatened anger. "Do you honestly think someone like my son could possibly serve in the position you intend?"

"We'll see soon enough, won't we? In either case it's bound to make things a little less boring around here, and if we get some entertainment out of the boy, than it's all the better for me!"

"Don't make light of this!" she fumed dangerously. "You may take enjoyment out of toying with the emotions of others, but this is going too far!"

"Perhaps you would care to explain why? After all, things might have been different between us if you had allowed me to become a member of your family as it should have been."

Takami purposely ignored his last statement. "Minato doesn't have it in him to harm innocent people as it is. Forcing his Sekirei to commit these deeds would damage him forever, because he cares more about them than he does his own life!"

The president remained unshaken by her words. "I don't see why you seem so intent on blaming me for everything. I didn't force Minato to become involved in this game, nor did I tell him to oppose MBI by assisting in the illegal escape of Number 95. Blame him for involving himself in the plans of that disobedient Ashikabi."

"Are you implying that you didn't foresee this happening? Don't give me that crap! This madness was all your doing from the beginning."

He continued speaking without acknowledging the last part. "Regardless, it was your son and his little birds that defeated the Third Generation Discipline Squad. The fact is that the game cannot resume properly without a team of strong Sekireis to enforce the rules. Recent events make it clear to me that no one is better suited for the task than that boy!"

"I won't allow you to get away with this. He's still my son, and I intend to take responsibility, even if it means dealing with you in the process!"

"Ooh… Scary!" Minaka replied with a mocking chuckle, the light flashing menacingly off of the surface of his glasses. "It's a pity how truly empty your threats have become as of late. Minato also tried to refute my plans as well, but I was certain to remind him of what is at stake should he refuse the job."

Takami seized him by the front of his jacket, her eyes widening with fury. "How dare you threaten him!"

Despite knowing what her reaction would be, he couldn't help but smile. "Silly Takami, it was no threat… More of a promise, really."

"Damn you, Minaka! His life was never yours to toy with, no matter what the circumstances!"

"You needn't react so violently, considering I never intended any harm to come to the boy." He replied, causing her to relax her shoulders ever so slightly.

"Just what are you trying to say? No… Forget it… … I know what you're scheming, now!"

Seeing her poisoned expression only excited him, the way it always had over the years. "I wouldn't be so heartless as to kill my own flesh and blood, but I regret to say that the same reservation doesn't apply to the people around him." he explained disconcertedly.

She tightened her grip and shook the man violently. "The only reason I stayed with MBI was to protect the Sekirei and my children. Now you do this!" she shoved him back roughly before taking out a cigarette and lighting it, the smoke easing her shattered nerves.

"After all this time you're still the same as ever." He clutched the spot on his chest where she had struck him and grinned widely. "Of course you know what could happen if you prove disloyal to us. I've made it clear in the past how important your continued service is to MBI."

"The same way you did to my son, no doubt." She replied bitterly before exhaling a puff of smoke into the cool night air.

Minaka stroked his chin in an attempt to project a sense of calm. "I'm certain everything will turn out for the best." He added casually, taking the temporary ceasefire as a chance to wipe the blood from his face.

Oddly he never seemed to take offense to anything she said or did, whether it was a heated argument, a punch to the face, or a sound beating at her hands. Perhaps one of the reasons why she had been around him so long was because they could tolerate each other better than anyone else, but at the moment her patience had reached its end. The mad scientist has finally crossed the line by personally going after one of her children. It was all the more sick to note that Minato was technically his own son, despite the lack of emotional attachment.

"If you continue to do whatever you want, I'll continue to do what I feel is necessary." She replied with a resolute glare.

Just think! Your son has a very large role to play in this proud new age of the Gods, just like us! Rather than vent your anger on me, you should be proud of him!"

"He never would've been involved in this if I had my way. You can be sure of that."

"Even by your standards, this may yet prove to be a cozy little arrangement."

She shifted her gaze away from the madman. "That makes no sense! I doubt someone like you is ever capable of understanding what I wanted for my children?"

"You're far too smart a person to play dumb, Takami. Just think! Due to his employment with MBI, you'll be able to keep a closer eye on his activities. Not to mention he will be exempt from some of the more dangerous situations that the other players will be subject to. The position certainly carries its fair share of perks for everyone involved, wouldn't you agree?"

"Really now? Am I supposed to assume you did all of this out of the kindness of your heart?" she added with a grim note of sarcasm.

"Think of me what you will, but the fact is that we've all benefited in some way. You always did have a habit of resorting to anger first, but why not try and imagine the possibilities instead?"

The gray-haired woman paused, quietly weighing the situation in her mind. "You did this behind my back and posed a direct threat to my family. No matter what the conditions of this deal, I won't allow your betrayal to slide."

"Very well then, I would expect nothing less from the likes of you. It's been this way since the day we met, so why bother changing something that's always worked?"

She flicked her cigarette onto the ground, gently using her foot to stomp out the cinders while imaging Minaka's head in its place. "I'm leaving now…"

Takami considered attacking him again, but she knew by now how pointless it was to take her anger out on Minaka. The president was known for always holding all of the cards, and even from her position within MBI, she could only reel in his insane tendencies so much. Turning her back on the madman, she exited the balcony without another word, leaving her hated superior to his own misdeeds for the time being. Furious as she was, lashing out had only raised Minaka's guard, and on the inside she knew this did her little good.

Once her footsteps had died away, the CEO let out a chorus of insane laughter. "An awesome new chapter is about to unfold! Go now and prepare, my little birds, because the day of reckoning approaches… Ahahahahaha!"

Meanwhile…

Matsu had been unusually panicked since her Ashikabi received a certain e-mail from Minaka, but things only became more hectic around Maison Izumo following his return from MBI. The response from the other Sekirei had been overwhelmingly negative, but knowing that the lives of everyone around Minato had been compromised made them understand why he had given into the demands of the Game Master.

The other residents had since gone to bed for the night, but she was currently engrossed in a little research while wondering what the president was planning. It was now three in the morning, and she hadn't found anything of particular interest while traversing the enemy's computer systems and cross-referencing every major source of information available. After several more minutes of rapidly tapping away at the keys, Number 02 wiped the sweat from her brow and took a moment to rest her eyes.

"Taking a break, I see?" Kazehana asked from behind her, immediately catching the attention of her old friend.

"You've been sitting there sipping sake all night. I don't understand why you haven't gone off to bed yet.

Number 03 exhaled deeply, her breath heavily laced with alcohol. "This whole situation has me just as concerned as anybody else. Not to mention Minato's story killed my buzz and I've been trying to get it back for the last five hours."

Matsu let out an exasperated groan. "Sounds more like you just wanted some company while drowning yourself in booze. You do realize that Miya's gonna kill you when she finds all the good liquor missing from the kitchen cabinets?"

"I find that highly insulting that you think of me as nothing more than a drunk." She replied in a mockingly hurt tone, her expression becoming much more serious seconds later. "I find the Game Master's offer just as disturbing as you do."

"There's probably any number of reasons why he might be doing this, but I still can't wrap my head around it." The redhead pondered out loud before turning back to her companion. "It's pretty obvious that Minaka needs some new dogs now that the Third Generation Discipline Squad is out of commission, but I have a strange feeling there's something more to this."

"Maybe he's looking for members with experience. Granted we were both members of the First Generation, and Number 08 was the leader of the Second."

Number 02 shook her head solemnly, her expression darkening. She sunk her fingers into the floor and quivered as a familiar thought crept into her mind. "I wonder if this has anything to do with the reason I left MBI to begin with?"

Despite the lingering affects of alcohol, her words had a strange sobering affect on the other woman. "I'm not really sure…" Kazehana sat up a little straighter, her dreamy expression giving way to a frown. "Do you believe the president would make a big stink about that now? Since the game's already begun, there's not much anyone can do about it."

"I was marked for elimination, but assuming this has anything to do with that incident, it doesn't seem like Minaka to lay down such an obvious trap."

The wind Sekirei took another swig from her bottle before nodding in agreement. "I don't think he'd be willing to make a move with Miya so close at hand, especially since Minato's new position hardly seems relevant to that incident from way back."

Matsu rubbed her temples and jerked violently. "This whole thing is gonna drive me crazy until we get some answers! As a matter of fact, I've been wondering when MBI would get around to this since Number 04 paid a visit to Maison Izumo."

"You've gotta be kidding me, now… Miya actually let that dangerous killer in the house?"

"She popped in when Miya was doing some shopping. She saw me briefly when I opened the door to see what the commotion was outside, but I'm certain that even Karasuba wouldn't have started trouble knowing where she was."

"She certainly knows better after her last visit." A third voice added gleefully.

The two Sekirei almost jumped out of their skins as Miya stepped through the hidden door, an unusually cheerful expression on her face. They calmed down slightly upon noticing the absence of her sword, noting silently that she was dressed as if she had just rolled out of bed. Despite the fact that Miya was still wearing her plain white nightgown, the clothing was unwrinkled and her face and hair looked as flawless as ever.

Kazehana's complexion paled as she made a pathetic attempt to hide the bottle behind her back. "Miya! I… uh… … I can explain! The kitchen cabinet was open and I just couldn't help but…"

To her surprise, the landlady shook her head as if to sweep the subject aside for the time being. "Please forgive my intrusion." She bowed politely. "I woke up to fetch a glass of water when I overheard you ladies talking about the current fiasco."

Matsu looked surprised by her earnest response, but was grateful nonetheless. "No, it's fine. The truth is that Kazehana and I were feeling the same way about today."

"I couldn't sleep either." Number 03 explained with a nervous smile, silently wondering if she should dare. After considering for a moment, she decided to bite. "The truth is, we're both stumped about this. Do you have any idea what the Game Master could be planning?"

"I've been searching MBI's systems all night, and there's nothing that seems to relate. What could Minaka be thinking?"

Miya considered them for a moment before shaking her head. "I understand how you're feeling about this, but there's very little we can do. As harsh as this may sound, perhaps the best course of action would be to let things be and see what results from this ordeal."

"And endanger Minato and the rest in the process?" Matsu protested with a puzzled look. "We all know what the enemy is capable of, and I don't think it's wise to underestimate them."

The wind Sekirei placed her hands behind her head and rested lazily against the wall. "Believe it or not, Matsu's gone a bit paranoid here. Before you showed up, she was beginning to wonder if this has anything to do with the…"

Number 02 cupped a hand over her friend's mouth, shaking her head sternly. "Shush! In case Minato or one of the others happens to walk in on us!" she warned hastily.

Miya immediately caught on to what they were talking about and knelt down beside the others, causing them both to look up in mingled curiosity and fear. "In reality, we could say everything comes down to the person who holds those objects. It may not have been what we wanted, but the fate of all Sekirei and the fate of all humanity rests in the hands of the players of Minaka's Sekirei Game."

"I tried to prevent such a dire situation, but in the end it feels like we accomplished nothing" Matsu added despondently.

"For all his flaws, my love for that man was real." Kazehana thought out loud. "Seeing the kinds of things he's done, I'm beginning to wonder if being rejected was for the best. In doing so, it led me to find someone better… A man who truly cares about the little birds.

Matsu placed her hands in her lap and glanced over at the computer screen for a second before speaking. "I'm beginning to wonder what Takehito would have done if he were in this situation."

The landlady closed her eyes for a moment and shook her head. "I know for a fact that Takehito would never have permitted our brethren to be treated so shamefully were he still alive."

"Yeah, there's no doubt in my mind." The genius redhead agreed with a serious nod.

"I hate to be a downer, but dwelling on what might have been won't help us resolve anything right now." Kazehana gave her sake bottle a gentle shake, peering inside to see only a few more sips before setting it back down disappointedly. "Although it sounds harsh, I think Miya may actually be right about how to approach this."

"You think we should just sit back and go along with Minaka's scheme for now?"

The wind mistress shrugged lazily. "I'm not saying I like it any more than you, but we don't really have a choice right now."

Matsu stroked her chin thoughtfully. "If even I can't think up any other options, it definitely means we're screwed. Still, it doesn't sit right with me to let Minato walk into this without us knowing what the president has planned and why?"

Number 03 sat down on the floor beside her before collapsing into a lying position on the old mattress. "No matter what's about to happen, I'll put my life on the line to protect my new husband. I'm sure all of the others are willing to do the same… You understand exactly what I'm saying, right?"

"Of course, a Sekirei's main duty is to do the best for their Ashikabi." The redhead replied with a resolute stare, her face becoming much more determined. "Minaka can play with our lives all he wants, but I'll be sure to keep an eye on his movements. Let's take this chance to remind our self-proclaimed Game Master that he's not the only one capable of plotting!"

"The thoughts of my former love be forever happy." The drunken woman replied dreamily, her face becoming much more serious as she poured the final bit of sake into a pair of saucers. "Of course, that doesn't mean we'll let ourselves be jerked around. We're never helpless."

Matsu nodded quickly. "We'll teach him for underestimating the members of the First Generation Discipline Squad!"

"Definitely!" The genius Sekirei accepted the toast, both women tapping their cups together before drowning the remains in one gulp.

"My, after all these years you two are still the same as ever." The landlady smiled.

Miya backed out of the room before turned away from the others, silently wondering what would happen next. She had been neutral in the Sekirei Game for a long time thanks to the actions of her deceased husband, but seeing the actions of Minato and his Sekirei had piqued her interest in a way that she hadn't felt in years. Inside she wanted to believe that everything would turn out all right, but the faith his Sekirei had in their Ashikabi seemed incredibly ill advised to someone watching from the outside.

Minato was cowardly, easily swayed, and not particularly outstanding by any stretch of the mind, and yet all of those girls clearly felt for him the same emotions that Miya remembered feeling for her own beloved so long ago. Now unsure of what to think, the innkeeper headed downstairs to the master bedroom, quietly deciding that she would continue watching from a distance to see how everything turned out. At the very least, things around Maison Izumo were never boring…

Next Morning…

Tsukiumi stepped through the group of Sekirei standing in the foyer, her anticipation growing by the second. "Do hear this: I still do not approve of what thee have done, Minato."

Yume stepped in between them with a stubborn expression. "After hearing the full story, I figured you would have been more accepting of what happened. It's obvious to me that Minato had no choice, regardless of the results."

"So you would sign us up for this band of rogues without the approval of thy real wife." The water Sekirei protested, seemingly ignoring Number 08's words. "The Discipline Squad is a band of villainous cohorts lacking honor or reason. I shall not be a part of this!"

Matsu adjusted her glasses with a sigh. "You made this all too clear last night, Tsukiumi. The fact is we really don't have a choice in the matter."

"Plain and simple weakness, that is all thee have displayed since the day our paths first crossed! Tis nothing more than I would expect from someone who does not fight!"

"There's more than one way to win a fight! Especially when the opponent in question doesn't use what's she has up here." The genius tapped her forehead with a witty expression.

Tsukiumi scowled irritably, moving so that they were standing only inches apart. "Thou hast forgotten that this game has only one winner?! I shalt not forget this insult when the time comes to settle things once and for all!"

"That's enough!" Yume shouted, causing them both to look towards her in surprise. The outburst seemed strange coming from Musubi's lips, but because of this, she was able to easily divert the group's attention to herself. "Yelling about this isn't going to solve anything, and you both know it. Do not forget that your duty as Sekireis is to protect your Ashikabi! If anything happens to Minato, no one is to blame but yourselves! Am I understood?"

"Yes ma'am!" the two bickering women shouted simultaneously, both looking surprised by their outbursts. Normally the landlady was the only one who could elicit such a reaction out of angry Sekireis, but this woman had done so rather easily.

Minato glanced between them with a shocked expression, noticing more than ever how different Yume was than Musubi. They may have shared the same physical appearance, but while Yume appeared just as kind-hearted, she also displayed a more mature and disciplined demeanor in both speech and mannerisms. It interested him to imagine how similar the two were, while at the same time being so different.

Miya let out an innocent giggle as she stepped into the entry room. "Oh my, and here I thought I was going to have to step in. Good to see at least one of you has some sense of responsibility."

"Dost thou imply that I am in someway lacking in those regards?" the liquid manipulator asked.

"In laments terms… Yes." The purple-haired woman nodded calmly, her smile belying the demonic face floating above their heads.

Tsukiumi's face turned ghostly white for a second, but she shrugged off the feeling quickly and diverted her attention to the others. "Perhaps Number 08 is correct. As the real wife, it is my duty to focus on the safety of my husband no matter what the situation be!"

"Took her long enough…" Kazehana sauntered into the room, wrapping her arms around the others with a nonchalant expression.

Kusano ignored the continued bickering coming from the group and crept around her Ashikabi's leg, gently tugging at the side of his shirt. "Big brother… Why do we have to do this?"

"That's a pretty complicated question, Kuu." Minato scratched his chin nervously. He bent down and placed a hand on the child's head, doing his best to present a cheerful façade. "You might say this is the only thing I can do to make sure everyone I care about stays safe."

"If you don't want to do it, than big brother shouldn't." she replied with childish stubbornness.

The dark-haired ronin couldn't help but smile at her innocence. "Sometimes it's not always about what we want to do. Everyone experiences this, and it doesn't matter whether or not we're Sekireis or Ashikabis."

Tsukiumi stomped the floor, her arms crossed irritably. "Get thee hands off of his leg, brat! Thou art only a child!"

"Grrr…" Kusano growled back, glaring at the older woman like a feral kitten caught in a trap. It was humorous seeing her trying to look as menacing as a little girl possibly could, but she was doing a pretty good job nonetheless.

"Hehehe, you gotta love Kuu's crazy displays of jealousy." Matsu let out a mischievous giggle.

"Don't go adding fuel to the fire, Matsu." Minato flicked his phone open and read the time, seeing that they had roughly an hour before the scheduled appointment. "All right guys, looks like it's time to get going. I was told to show up at MBI at 10:00, so we should probably head out. Is everyone ready?"

Yume balled her hands into fists and nodded. "You don't have any reason to worry. We'll be with you every step of the way. From the looks of things, all your Sekirei are on the same page!"

The Ashikabi sweat-dropped as he tried to wriggle free from the others, only now noticing that his remaining girls were clinging to his body. Kazehana had her arms around his neck, while Tsukiumi was gripping his right arm so hard that it felt like she was trying to tear him in half. Matsu cuddled her head against his chest from the front, while Kusano merely tightened her grip around his left leg. The group embrace was beginning to cut off his circulation in several places, but it wasn't an unpleasant experience.

"Um, Thank you…" he replied in an awkward tone, his blush deepening as breasts pushed in on him from all sides. After a moment or two or struggling against them, the girls loosened their grip enough for him to escape. "Let's get going."

Miya nodded in agreement. "I'll have dinner waiting for you guys tonight. Be sure you make it back on time. You wouldn't want me wasting my time cooking for nothing, would you?"

"Rest assured, we shall." Tsukiumi replied as she followed the group to the door.

Minato gave her a small wave, his eyes catching sight of a black limousine waiting for them on the streets. Upon closer inspection, he recognized the company's logo present on the side of the vehicle. "Looks like they sent us a ride!" he replied with a note of panic.

Matsu sunk back with a look of fear, making a feeble attempt to hide behind Miya. "Good luck guys!" She squealed before shuffling away in fright.

Before any of them could react, a large man wearing sunglasses and a dark suit emerged from the vehicle, crossing over as Minato's group came to meet him. It was clear from his style of dress that the visitor was a member of MBI's private staff. A similar individual had appeared to drop of Musubi's clothes the day she winged, although Minato wasn't certain if this was the same man or not. He was large and intimidating, but seemed less so under the gaze of Maison Izumo's landlady. Miya casually watched from the doorway while doing her best to sweep the steps.

The man glanced over at the landlady before addressing the boy. "Are you Minato Sahashi?"

"Yeah, that's me." The young Ashikabi ran a hand through his hair and forced a smile.

"President Hiroto Minaka has sent me to escort you to Teito Tower immediately. You will come with us now." He stated bluntly, without leaving any room for negotiation.

Despite her usual outspokenness, even Tsukiumi seemed to lack an argument as the group followed their host to the car. Once they reached the vehicle, the agent opened the door for them to sit, revealing a large and very expensive-looking leather interior. It was a stretch limousine with enough room for all of them to sit, and several luxuries that only the wealthiest people could afford, but due to the situation, they simply sat down and endured the ride in silence. Kazehana sat across from Minato with Kusano, while Tsukiumi and Yume remained on either side of him.

Minato spent the entire ride with his heart in his throat, silently wondering what was going to happen once they arrived at the main office building. He was sweating profusely out of sheer anticipation, forcing him to unbutton the front of his jacket to cool off. Yume placed a familiar hand over his, calming the man's nerves considerably. Perhaps it was that fact that she wore Musubi's face, but her small gestures of kindness had the same affect as ever. He felt safe so long as she was beside him…

After what felt like an eternity, the limousine stopped in front of the largest building in the city, the chauffeur stepping out and opened the door for them to exit. "We've arrived…"

"Thank you, we appreciate the ride." Minato hesitated before standing up, but seeing his Sekirei united alongside him without an ounce of fear or doubt comforted him, almost as if warmth was spreading from his chest to the tips of his fingers.

Tsukiumi crossed her arms, attempting to appear nonchalant about the situation. "Thou wouldst do well to remember that we shall protect thee no matter what, my husband."

"You guys have no idea how much that means to me." He turned to the others and nodded firmly, the Sekirei returning his gesture with genuine smiles.

"Don't worry, big brother. If anyone tries to hurt you, we'll beat them up!" the youngest member of the group clenched her tiny hands confidently.

"Well said, Kuu." Kazehana gave the little girl's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

On the urging of their escort, the group ascended the steps and entered through a series of automatic doors. Minato crossed through the lobby with a slightly panicked expression, the parade of beautiful girls turning several heads as they passed on by. He guessed most of MBI's employees knew about the Sekirei Plan, although several people waiting in the entry hall were probably just visitors. Most people would probably find it surprising that such an ordinary-looking boy would be seen in the company of so many gorgeous women.

He recognized the person behind the desk as the same receptionist from the previous day, and tried to break the ice. "Um… Hello. I'm Minato Sahashi, and I was here the other day." When she gave him a pensive expression, he swallowed and continued speaking. "I don't know if you were told, but the president hired me for a special position, and I'm starting out today."

"Of course Mr. Sahashi. We've already made preparations for your arrival." The receptionist reached below her desk, pulling out a plastic card with his picture and name written on it and handing it to him. "This is your MBI Identification Card. It should grant you all of the necessary security clearance you require."

Yume leaned in from his right in an attempt to glimpse the card. "What's it say, Minato?"

"MBI Special Division Executive Administrator." He read out loud, assuming it was the official name for his current position.

Kazehana grabbed his arm and pulled him slightly closer. "Sounds like my new husband's gone and become a big shot over night. I always knew this marriage would pay off." She slurred.

The water Sekirei scowled and pointed at her competition. "Remove thy filthy hands from my husband's arm at once, thou drunken rogue!"

"This isn't the time for this, guys." Yume stepped up with a resolute glare, causing both women to subconsciously step away. She ignored them and smiled at her Ashikabi's dumbfounded expression. "Preventing outbreaks of violence has always been a specialty of mine. Maybe later I might tell you some stories."

The woman behind the desk rolled her eyes and did her best to ignore the flock as two large men in black suits stepped out of the elevator. "I believe your escort is here, Mr. Sahashi." She gestured over his shoulder.

Minato turned around in time to see more MBI agents standing behind him, but before anyone could say anything, a familiar face entered from the door behind the reception desk. Takami was wearing her usual lab coat and black pants, although her shirt appeared more casual than the previous night. She held a clipboard loosely in her left hand, a deathly serious expression adding to her usual businesslike demeanor.

"That'll be fine, boys. I'll take it from here." She spoke, dismissing the two security guards with a wave of her hand.

Her son watched them go with a blank expression, although his nerves were not any less shaken by her entrance. As a matter of fact, he was probably even more anxious knowing that his own mother was around. "Mom! Not that I'm not happy to see you, but I thought you had work to do for the you-know-what plan?"

"Today was supposed to be my day off, but it seems Minaka thought it would be easier for you if I handled the transition to your new position." She moved towards an elevator on the opposite wall before sliding her ID through the slot. "This elevator is for authorized personnel only. Hurry up and follow me."

His mother always had a way of terrifying people into doing anything she wanted without even raising her voice, a trait her son understood all to well. As the group entered the private lift, Minato noticed how much larger it was than the regular elevator, and even noted the designer interior and orchestral music. Despite being trapped in the same small space with a certain person, Kazehana busied herself with admiring the markings on the wall.

Minato waited in silence for a minute as they rode, sensing the small bits of hostility in the air until he could no longer handle it. "I'm really sorry about the trouble this might've caused you."

"Don't give me that look." Takami warned him in a distinctly parental tone. Her eyes wandered off as if she were somehow seeing through the ceiling to the top floor. "The only person I'm blaming right now is Minaka."

"I'm going to guess you already know what happened, right?" he began timidly.

"As if I would allow that bastard to catch me so unaware. I've known him longer than anyone else, and what he did to you is just the kind of thing Minaka would resort to in order to get his way! It happens all the time."

"Are you saying he did something like that to you, too?" From the deadly glaze of his mother's eyes, Minato immediately realized his daring, and quickly fell silent again. When she finally relaxed her expression, he quickly apologized. "I'm sorry for saying that."

Takami sighed exasperatedly as they stepped out of the elevator and into the hall. "Apologizing again…" she groaned. "If you didn't let your lack of nerve affect you like this, maybe you would be less liable to make stupid mistakes."

"Why wouldst thee allow thy mother to speak so brazenly?" Tsukiumi whispered irritably.

Minato rubbed his neck, forcing a smile. "Well, it's been like this for as long as I can remember. That's just how my family is sometimes, but I don't fault them for it."

"Sophistry!" she shot back aggressively before turning her head away.

They continued down the hall to the door at the end of the hallway. Takami quickly ushered them into the next room, revealing a spacious area beyond. It was a large office area with an expensive-looking mahogany deck positioned towards the rear of the room, the back wall mostly taken up by the presence of a gigantic window giving them a magnificent view of the city below. If it were not for the current situation, the sights might have been more eye-catching to the members of the group.

Although smaller than Minaka's workspace, the room was very comfortable and held a modern charm, with a large plasma screen television and three black coaches positioned around a table in the center. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, tasteful yet not overly opulent, and the office even contained it's own sound system in the form of several speakers. On the opposite wall to the desk was a large monitor resembling the one from the president's office.

"Looks like they gave you some pretty nice digs, Minato." The wind Sekirei replied in an unusually relaxed tone. "I guess the Game Master decided to provide us with some perks, considering this job wasn't your ideal profession."

Kuu ran over to the window with a childlike sense of wonder, her eyes widening as she admired the view. "It's so pretty, big brother! It feels like we're flying above the city!"

The dark-haired Ashikabi glanced after her, finding solace in his youngest Sekirei's youthful innocence. "Yeah, it kinda does now that you mention it."

"Nothing more than menial comforts, which is hardly compensation for the terrible deeds that Minaka has committed against my husband." Tsukiumi snapped indignantly.

"Yeah, tell me about it?" Minato agreed with a sense of hopelessness.

His mother raised a hand to get their attention. Once they were all looking at her, she decided to address them. "From this day forward, this level of Teito Tower will be your base of operations."

"The entire floor belongs to us, now!?" Yume asked with a look of surprise.

"That's a little strange. I didn't know the job was so involved that we would need so much space to work." Minato added in.

Takami placed a hand to her forehead and groaned, more at Minaka's arrangements than her son's obvious questions. "This floor was refurbished recently and contains workspace, computer labs, living quarters, and recreational facilities for use by the Discipline Squad. While these were once used by the Third Generation unit, your predecessor's positions were rescinded upon the deactivation of the entire group, and Natsuo's resulting termination from the Sekirei Game."

"We already have a home at Maison Izumo." Minato replied nervously. "Generous as this was, most of us would probably prefer to live there even if we have to come to work in this place."

"Minaka isn't giving you the option for his own reasons, although at the moment I'm not entirely certain whether or not your group commuting between MBI and Maison Izumo regularly would be the safest course of action." His mother responded.

Kazehana leaned in beside her Ashikabi. "She's right, considering Miya doesn't take kindly to MBI's treatment of the Sekirei."

"Not to mention that the members of the Discipline Squad naturally become infamous among participating Ashikabis and Sekireis." Takami explained with a dismal expression, her posture stiffening. "Wandering the streets may not be a good idea, since Minaka is bound to put some pressure on the players soon."

"This game is meant to be all-out war, therefore it is only natural that those lowly cowards who do not wish to fight will be forced into battle eventually. When that time comes, none of us shall be safe from danger!" Tsukiumi replied with a sense of grudging acceptance.

Minato's mother nodded in agreement. "In addition to that, it won't be safe for any of you to regularly commute, especially considering how hated the hounds of MBI are by their fellow participants. As much as it pains me to say this, Minaka's probably planning on keeping you here for observational reasons."

Yume's expression drooped slightly. "But why would the president need to keep such a tight leash on his employees?"

"Since he forced you all into accepting this position, he's probably expecting some form of retaliation or perhaps resistance. In case of this scenario he probably believes it safer to keep you all under constant surveillance while living under his thumb."

The Ashikabi grabbed the sides of his head and fought back the urge to scream. "What can we do, then? I don't want to be the person responsible for enforcing the rules of this twisted game, and I'm sure we all for the same way about this job."

"It's against the nature of a Sekirei to separate the little birds from those they love most, and yet Minaka has created a system where the sole purpose is for us to destroy each other. Being forced to do this is beyond cruelty…" Yume began sadly, her eyes reflecting a silent burning anger.

Minato looked up at his mother and pleaded. "There has to be something we can do. Maybe you can talk to Minaka about changing things. Didn't you tell us you were the Sekirei Plan's administrator?"

"I'm the administrator, not the Game Master." Takami explained bluntly, her voice betraying her annoyance. She grimaced at her oldest child. "What you need to do now is learn to stand on your own two feet for a change instead of coming to me for solutions all the time. As much as I hate how things turned out, you have to evolve with the circumstances and cope with them instead of wallowing in your own self-pity!"

"Yes, ma'am…" Minato looked at the ground, his fragile will broken by his mother's words.

"Ever since you were a child, you were always like this. Whether you like it or not, you're going to have to harden your heart to perform well in this position. If you're still unwilling to grow a spine in the midst of all-out war, it will ultimately cost you everything you've come to care about!"

Minato fought back the tears that threatened to emerge, his hands shaking violently. "I know that, and I would never want anything bad to happen to my Sekirei or my family… but I…"

"You're wrong about him!" Yume interrupted, her outburst catching the attention of the others. She stepped forward and locked eyes with Takami while refusing to back down. "Minato is a wonderful person, and I never want him to change! Why do you think everyone here cares so much about him? It was his strength of heart, not innate cruelty that brought us to him!"

"Well said, my friend!" Tsukiumi frowned and raised her fist challengingly. Kazehana grabbed her Ashikabi's arm while Kuu hugged his leg supportively, the gesture only angering the water Sekirei. "You lowly trollops! That is my husband thou art groping!"

The older woman busied herself with the clipboard, looking as if she hadn't heard a single word of Number 08's tirade. Instead of provoking them further, she gestured for the others to sit down on the couches, to which they did. Takami walked over the window on the far end of the room and looked out as the city, taking a moment to regain her professional composure before turning back to find out that they were all staring intently at her.

She exhaled once and groaned. "I suppose we should return to the original purpose of this visit… The job is rather simple for the most part, and all you need do is patrol the city when the senior staff of MBI deems a case worthy of your attention. While not on duty, everyone here is free to do whatever they wish, provided you remain on call during these times."

Minato relaxed a little bit, having taken his mother's pause to gather his nerve. "I remember the president mentioned that we would be able to sit out some events during the game. What exactly was he talking about?"

"There will be a number of situations arranged by MBI in order to prompt battles between the participating Sekireis. You will not be required to participate so long as there are no direct violations posed by the players. When the times comes you will also receive a free ticket to the final competition, so long as at least one of your team remains in the game."

Kazehana looked away from the administrator with a detestable expression, but spoke to her nonetheless. "Yeah, enough with all that static." She waved her hand dismissively. "What about the perks that come with Minato's position as a tournament employee?"

Takami actually understood why the wind Sekirei was so coldly indifferent towards her, but now wasn't the time for bringing it up. Instead she placed the clipboard she was holding into her son's arms. "The documents compiled there should explain the majority of what is expected from you as the Head of the Discipline Squad, while answering some of Kazehana's questions as well."

"Thanks mom." He replied with a half-hearted smile in the face of his mother's frown.

She continued speaking as if he hadn't said anything. "The bottom page contains several phone numbers and similar contact information. If you need anything at all, including meals and company luxuries, the staff members will provide the necessary services."

Minato ran through the pages quickly, doing his best to pick up on the business terminology and anything else important.

"Due to your position, you are free to use the company limousine as a source of transportation. Frivolous as it is, you've also been provided with a personal car by the president." She removed a key from her pocket and tossed it to him, causing her son to fumble around before catching it. "If you ruin anything, it comes out of your paycheck."

"I think we'll be fine with that much." He replied, a sweat drop running down his forehead.

The wind Sekirei snatched the paper from him and skimmed. "Speaking of which, how much are you making for this, anyway?" Her eyes lit up suddenly as she read the contents of one of the pages.

"Hold thy tongue!" Tsukiumi appeared less shocked by the figure, but was mildly impressed.

"Looks like I married a rich man, and his mother said he'd never amount to anything!" Kazehana added with a satisfied look.

"I would rather he hadn't." Takami answered, her grimace deepening as she headed towards the door on the opposite side of the room. "If you don't mind, I highly suggest we continue this little tour or our facilities in the case I'm called in to attend to injured Sekirei."

The group continued on for the next hour or so looking at different rooms on the level of Teito Tower slated to be their living space. Several rooms set aside for living, along with computer rooms, research libraries, and a kitchen. There was also a room containing an indoor swimming pool, punching bags, and several other items that would be helpful in training and fitness. Minato guessed they were made special so that even the most powerful Sekirei could use them.

The last room they explored was similar to the main office area in that it contained a giant window overlooking the city. The best part about it was a bathtub large enough to fit an entire football team. A number of hot water taps adorned the sides, and several beautiful paintings covered the surrounding walls, adding a certain level of class to the room's ambience. A large mirror covered the majority of the left wall, making their private bath area seem even larger than it was. The overall décor gave off the impression that MBI hadn't spared any money in refurbishing this floor.

As the tour reached it's end, Minato noticed that his team seemed more at ease, but he hardly felt much better himself. Yume not only noticed his demeanor, but also seemed to share these same feelings of discontent. The group re-entered the office area moments later, taking a moment to sit down as their guide ushered Minato's flock back inside.

Takami cleared her throat authoritatively. "I think I've explained everything adequately, including what is expected from each and every one of you as employees of MBI. Anything else you might need to know is detailed in those documents I handed to Minato earlier, but the rest, you will simply have to learn through experience."

"Um, mom…" Minato began nervously, raising his hand like a student in class.

"If you have something important to say, don't be so hesitant!"

The young man swallowed the lump that had begun to form in his throat. "I just wanted to know… Are you angry at me, or something?"

His mother exhaled again, silently resisting the urge to yell at him. "If you insist on asking me such a foolish question, I may as well answer." She placed a hand on her face irritably before speaking up. "When Minaka sent you such a suspicious e-mail, you should have used your head and contacted me instead."

"But why?" he asked with a slightly stupefied expression.

"After learning that I was working for MBI, you should have tried to take advantage of that instead of walking into Minaka's trap. Maybe I could have done something if you had told me about this ahead of time."

Minato felt ashamed again, his mother's presence bringing back that familiar emotion from his childhood. "I'm sorry about this…"

"Don't apologize!" Takami commanded, causing him to meet her eyes.

"Didn't you just tell me that this situation was all my fault?"

"I've accepted that we can't do anything now but deal with the consequences." Her expression suddenly became dark and foreboding as she approached her son, causing him to flinch violently. "Of course if you ever do something so stupid again, I'll have to address the issue on a more personal level! Am I understood?"

"Of course! I swear, I won't let something like this happen again!"

Takami backed away with a satisfied nod before addressing the entire group again. "All right, then. Now that we've established that, we should probably decide which Sekirei out of your group will serve as chief of the Fourth Generation Discipline Squad."

"As Minato's one true wife, I believe I should be the one to take the position." Tsukiumi folded her arms with an air of superiority. "Tis only natural that the real wife would be ranked higher than mere concubines, am I correct?"

Kuu frowned before growling like a lion cub. "No fair, why can't I be leader."

The water Sekirei glanced down at her with a sour expression. "Would thou wish to challenge me for the position, child!?" she asked, placing considerable emphasis on the last word. She clenched her fists, a small bolt of energy forming between their eyes. "It shall be a cold day in Hell when Number 09 is defeated by an insolent brat!"

"Grrrrrrrrrr!" the little girl drew herself up to her full height in an attempt to look threatening.

Minato did his best to ignore their argument, instead turning to the others. "What about you, Kazehana? Do you want the job?"

The alcoholic kicked her legs up on the couch now that the others were standing, lazily resting her hands behind her head. "You've got to be kidding me… That kind of thing never interested me much." She sat back up with a sudden realization. "However, Number 08 claimed she led the second generation. Why not her?"

Tsukiumi separated from Kuu upon hearing this. "Those two just joined us less than a day ago, and yet you wish to make either into our supposed leader." She pointed towards the other single digits, her eyes settling on their Ashikabi. "Explain thyself posthaste!"

"I just figured since Yume used the do the job, she probably has the most leadership experience. I was only thinking about the well being of everyone on the team. I don't know what I'd do without you guys… That includes all of you." He stated softly, making some of the girls blush.

"Perhaps my judgment was lacking proper consideration of the responsibilities thereof." The busty blonde folded her arms with a more tranquil expression, trying to hide the redness in her cheeks with indifference. "Very well, I accept thee as leader, Number 08."

"Sounds pretty good to me." Kazehana replied with a seductive smile.

Minato felt a chill run through his spine, but quickly looked down at the girl sitting by his feet. "What about you, Kuu?"

"Um hmm!" she hummed contentedly with a quick series of nods.

The dark-haired Ashikabi looked around the others before addressing his 'newest' Sekirei. "Looks like the choice is unanimous! So Yume, are you up to the job or not?"

She hesitated for a moment, considering the things that had been said to her the past day about the new Sekirei Plan. It disgusted her to imagine her kind being forced to kill each other in a tournament for Minaka's amusement, but at the same time, Minato had made a good point. Even taking Kazehana's previous position into account, Yume knew that she had done the job before, and was the most qualified to lead them. Also taking into account how hotheaded some of the others could be, she could use the position to keep things under control.

"I don't know exactly what will happen for here on out, no do I wish to be involved with this loveless game." Yume nodded with a resolute stare. "It may not be ideal, but I wish to ensure that we all survive until the end, and intend to carry out this goal by taking your lives into my own hands. If you'll have me, I will accept the position!"

When no one protested, Minato placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure you'll do an excellent job."

"I'll do my best." She responded quietly, earning a series of murmurs from the others.

Takami waited for the others to fall silent again before interrupting the little scene. "Before I leave, there's one more thing I would like to discuss." The group turned their attention to her, but she shook her head. "Minato, I need to speak to you alone for a moment. Would you come with me?"

Although it was stated as a request, he recognized her tone and knew instantly that it was a command. His mother motioned for him to follow her as she led him a few rooms away from the office area, eventually stopping in one of the informational labs they had passed through earlier. The room contained a handful of bookshelves and a computer desk. It was considerably smaller than the office or recreational areas, but she preferred this for several reasons.

"What is this all about, mom?" he asked, silently wondering whether or not he would dread the answer.

The older woman glanced out the door to make sure no one was around before rejoining him. She remained quiet as if expecting someone to burst in any moment, but quickly chose to speak once the apprehension had faded. "Minato, I have a private message for you to deliver to Number 02. Absolutely no one else is to hear what I'm about to say. Is that understood?"

Minato suddenly felt his nerves jump, but he did his best to quiet them. "I promise not to tell anyone else."

Takami leaned forward so that only he could hear. "Tell her that Minaka has chosen to forgive her past transgressions, so long as that which she stole from MBI remains in your hands. Did you get all of that?"

"Yes, but…" he began with a confused expression.

"Never mind that! For now, just make certain to give her that information." She gave him the mother's up and down, noticing just how ragged her son appeared for the first time that meeting. "When you come to work tomorrow, I expect you to be dressed for the occasion, instead of like a teenager wandering the gutter."

He nodded quietly, the gesture satisfying his mother. "Money a little tight lately, and the suit I wore for graduation doesn't fit anymore."

"Speaking of which, I forgot to give you this before we began that tour." Takami handed him another card, complete with his name and a series of numbers.

"Is this an MBI company credit card? After cutting my allowance, I didn't expect something like this from you!"

"It comes with the job and has a limit per month. Minaka is willing to provide a modest pay for your living expenses, although if I had my way, you would have been completely cut off by now. I think it would be a good lesson to learn, since you spend too much time relying on other people for help."

Minato cringed at the thought, having had his share of hardship lately. "Well, at least I'm not living out on the streets."

"Just make sure you pick up something appropriate, and don't overspend." She warned in a motherly tone, her expression softening moments later. "I'll check in on you later. Just don't do anything stupid for a while and we may get through this."

She muttered some quick goodbyes before slipping from the room, leaving him feeling as though she had just handed him a ticking bomb. The young Ashikabi stood completely still for several minutes in an attempt to comprehend what had just happened, but he had nothing to go off of at the moment. Minato continued pondering for what seemed like forever, but the sound of footsteps quickly brought him back to the present.

Yume cracked open the door, a smile coming to her lips as she saw him. "Hey Minato, I just saw Takami heading back to the elevator, so we figured it was safe to come looking for you."

"I was just standing here thinking about what my mother told me… That's all!"

"Is there something you would like to talk about? I know we haven't known each other for that long, but I sense you feelings through Musubi, and it seems like you're feeling a little under a weather."

The young ronin rubbed the back of his head, attempting to appear contented. "It's nothing really." He tried to shift the notion aside with a smile. "Tell the others I'll be there in a minute."

"Okay!" she replied before stepping out and closing the door again.

While Musubi might have been fooled by his false smiles, Yume wasn't nearly as easily fooled. Despite her exceedingly gentle heart, Number 08 was both intelligent and idealistic, proving that a single person could possess those two qualities at the same time. She didn't need to be bound to Minato's feelings to know that he was still nervous about this entire situation. To be honest, she wasn't certain of what was going to happen either. Resolving to let him have some time alone, she decided to avoid the other for a while, herself.

Note to Readers: Another chapter done, and this one took longer than I planned. I was hoping we could begin to get into more plot movement, but instead all we really got was a reiteration of things you guys probably knew or guessed already. Note that as the story continues, you'll see some events parallel to the canon, and those that diverge completely. I don't have any solid ideas of how this story will be mapped out yet, but this much is probably certain. As always, I apologize for any typos or errors in spelling or grammar, but I typically write this story late.

A big thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter! It was a real pick-up for me, but I'm still in dire need of support right now. If you liked anything, feel free to tell me about it so I can play off of it in the future. I would also love to hear some ideas you guys might have for where this story could go, or what could happen next. During my time writing fanfiction, I've often used ideas presented in reviews to improve my story. Remember I read your reviews and I'm open to your suggestions. Until next time, I hope you're enjoying the story!