Ryofu stared at the paper.
She felt like a complete idiot.
But here she was still staring at it.
The moonlight filtered in through her windows, her sheets clung to her legs and pooled around her waist as she sat up, still staring at this bloody thing.
Just the memory of that man was enough to infuriate her all over again. Half of her wanted to rip the paper to see if he would come so she could beat him to within an inch of his miserable life.
Another part of her wanted to rip the damn thing and draw him into a trap. Get Toutaku off her back. She doubted that it would work really, even if the blasted thing did work which still seemed rather far fetched in and of itself there was no guarantee he would just...show up or waltz right into any trap she could set like a blithering idiot.
And then with such thoughts yet another part of her recalled that she was sitting on her bed staring at a piece of paper with freaking doodles on it...
She felt like an idiot.
The only thing that kept her from tossing the thing away outright was the fact that she was not crazy, she was not on acid, and she had a fairly good memory.
That masked idiot had been standing on a wall.
Just that piece of information alone was enough to at least merit the benefit of the doubt. Let alone the fact that he'd somehow survived, and kept her alive after falling over a hundred feet.
There was a groan beside her, a sound that brought an easy smile to her lips as she turned to look at Chinkyu's bleary eyes staring up at her. "Hey you."
"Ryofu? What's wrong?" Her voice was scratchy with sleep, a croak clawing out of her voicebox.
"Nothing's wrong." She set the paper aside, laying herself down she probably wouldn't be getting much sleep with her thoughts going a mile a minute, but there was no reason to make Chinkyu worry. She wrapped her arms around her waist, bringing short haired girl closer burying her nose in that reddish hair. "Nothing's wrong. Lets get some sleep."
Naruto was fairly certain Koukin would have an ulcer somewhere along the line. The boy was so high strung. So worried about everything. Truly, his client's longevity was in danger really.
Like right now, the boy was carving a trench through the floor with his pacing as Naruto mixed his coffee.
"What the hell were you thinking?" He despaired. "Why were you hanging outside of a building?
Naruto opened his mouth, but could barely get a word in edgewise before the boy continued.
"Why were you holding a girl hostage?"
Naruto raised his finger to indicate his intent to speak.
"Why did you fall!?"
He took a breath.
"How did you survive!"
His vocal chords just started to articulate sound.
"And who the hell was that girl that you were holding anyway!?
At this point the blond didn't even bother.
"And how the hell did Unchou-san and Ekitoku-san even recognize you!"
Then Koukin looked at him expectantly, almost accusingly.
Naruto started, as though waking up. "Oh, sorry. Is it my turn now?"
Judging by the look on his face, Koukin, could in-fact, experience anger.
"Well to start, I was hanging outside of a building because it seemed like the quickest way to get information. I was holding the girl hostage because, again, it seemed like the quickest way to get information. I fell because it was the quickest way to get to the ground floor and escape those other two girls. I survived because I'm just that awesome. The girl I was holding hostage is named Ryofu Housen-" That name got Koukin to gape like a fish. "The other two girls know me from just a few days before I met you. Its a little complicated but they just know my face, not my name or anything, same for me regarding them really."
"Ryofu Housen? Toutaku sent her?"
"Well to be fair." Naruto piped. "It didn't seem like she was there for Haku-chan, it seemed like she was there for me instead. Eliminating Yoshu put my notoriety pretty high all things considered. Given the fact that it happened right after they threatened Hakufu-she assumed, correctly, that I'd be close to Hakufu while this tournament is going on."
"So they're not after Hakufu anymore?" Koukin leaned on the table, eyes wide with relieved excitement.
"To use her exact words." Naruto said. "'He'll deal with the girl soon enough, but you're much more important than a dimwit' So I apparently take priority."
Koukin sighed, a relieved slump of his shoulders. "Oh thank god." Then realizing what he said he looked up at Naruto's amused features. "I er...I mean"
"Don't worry kid, I get it. Besides I agree. Let them come at me. I can take it."
The two heard the thumping of excited footsteps on the hardwood floor turning to the kitchen entrance as Hakufu came bounding in, smiling as wide as can be. Bringing a smile to Naruto's own face.
This girl was boundless energy, always smiling, always brimming with excitement. It was invigorating really, infectious.
"Koukin! We're fighting today!"
Bouncing into the kitchen with a spring in her step she kissed her cousin good morning and immediately went to the fridge; picking out an orange. "Naru-chan, you'll come with us today right?"
He went to answer when she spoke up again. "Pleeeeaaaase!" She pouted. "You didn't come yesterday!"
He smiled. "I'll tell you what. I'll finish up some stuff earlier in the city and then I'll go to watch you kick ass!"
She smiled, pleased by the admission, oblivious to how he would have to break that promise...at least as far as she was concerned.
Minutes later, as the three set out from Koukin's home, they opened the door and froze, all three finding themselves staring at the unmistakeable face of one Kanu Unchou.
"Well..." Naruto drawled after a moment's shocked silence. "Shit."
The greenhouse was as heady as ever, the heat of the day and the musk of the flowers and plants making the air feel heavy and thick in her nostrils.
She maneuvered her way through the hanging plants and greenery, hearing the familiar snips of gardening scissors.
She sucks in a deep breath, bracing herself for this encounter. Toutaku always made her skin crawl, and she doubted that would change today.
She steps around the corner, watching the Butcher of Rakuyo snipping at some flower or other, cradling it delicately with hands that could just as easily rip out a throat.
"Ahh Ryofu-san." He greeted, turning to her and smiling. It would be almost charming to someone who didn't know him. But she could see that glimmer of malevolence behind that benign appearance. "So glad you've dropped by. I heard your evening the other day was quite interesting to say the least."
"I found your masked blond."
"So I heard." He sounded approving, but that really meant very little. "Care to tell me anything about him?"
"He talks." She said instantly. "A lot."
"Some friends of his. He compared me to one. Said her name was Kagura or something, spoke about some other guy named Inuyasha, a girl named Kagome. Those names mean anything to you?"
"Not particularly no." The youth said, snipping carefully at some more stray leaves. "Did he say anything else?"
"He's not working for Nanyo. Though he is protecting Hakufu." She smiled. "And he's expressed an inkling to kill you."
"Did he now?"
Toutaku's voice was as though he'd just heard the most delightful surprise, not taking his eyes off his work. "You'd like that wouldn't you."
Her guard immediately came up, an apprehension settling in the pit of her stomach.
Toutaku never spoke so openly about this. It was almost an unwritten rule between the both of them. Their destinies were intertwined, coiling and winding down a path that would lead the both of them to ruin. By all accounts unchangeable.
So they ignored it even as they both railed against it.
He wouldn't bring this up. He wouldn't unless...
"Do you know this flower?" He asked, smirking as he swiveled his eyes to look at her out of his periphery. "Its called the Shinku."
"Such a delicate thing; really. Only grows in tropics. Needs constant protection from the elements. So many bad things could happen to it if you just...look away for too long."
"You leave Chinkyu out of this!" She hissed.
"Chinkyu?" He questioned, so genuinely curious anyone would have believed him. "I was just discussing this flower. What on earth would make you think we were discussing sweet 'delicate' little Chinkyu?"
He straightened, wiping his hands as he smiled at her.
"At any rate Ryofu, even though I am curious as to how he got away from you of all people; you really do need to eliminate this masked man soon. I'd help you myself but I must stay here and tend to my flowers..." He smirked. "Wouldn't want anything to happen to them. If I were to go off and take too long...a few of them might very well die."
Kanu stood, grasping her weapon, a long polearm, the blade sheathed in a black silk bag as she came closer, her eyes as sharp as flint knives as she glared at them all.
"Ka-Kanu-san." Koukin was pale, his whole body freezing up like a deer caught in the headlights.
"Hey!" Hakufu waved, smiling, oblivious to her cousins tension. "We're not supposed to start fighting until later Kanu-chan."
She finished walking up to them; her face tight, her grip on the naginata tense.
Finally, Hakufu seemed to understand something was wrong, looking at her cousin. "Ummm...what's going on?"
"You might want to start by explaining-him."
She points at Naruto with her weapon, the blond holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"Huh? Naru-chan?" Hakufu wondered. "He's just Koukin's friend."
And like that the blue haired teenager found himself square in the sights of one of the most dangerous fighters around.
"I uhh...well...that is I..."
Taking pity on the kid, Naruto sighed, loudly, bringing everyone's attention back to him. "Well miss-"
"Be quiet." She cut him off. "You're a thief, your word is worth less than garbage to me."
Naruto winced. That was harsh really and even though he didn't know her, the words stung. He valued his word, any promise he made he always kept. To hear it was worth nothing, even if from a total stranger brought him down a lot more than it probably should have.
It was Hakufu who jumped to his defense. "Hey you take that back!" She shouted, all levity gone from her face as she glared at Kanu, the ferocity in her voice was surprising to each of them. "I don't know what happened but Naruto is really nice! There's no reason you should talk about him that way!"
"Look everyone just calm down!" That was Koukin, finding his courage as Kanu turned her fierce glare onto Hakufu. The boy really was protective of her. "Kanu-san. I know this all must look...incredibly strange but I...umm."
"Tell me why you sent him to attack Ryuubi-sama."
Koukin snapped his head over to Naruto "You did what!"
"Hey I didn't attack anybody!"
"What the hell did you do!?"
"He tried to take the contents of Ryuubi-sama's purse!"
"You're making that sound a lot worse than what it really was."
"How exactly is it 'good'"
"I certainly didn't attack anyone in the process! At least until I ran away!"
"What the hell is wrong with you"
"I'm telling you I-"
Once more, it was Hakufu's surprising voice that stopped them all from shouting over eachother.
Looking to each of them Hakufu crossed her arms, now she was the one glaring. "Lets all just talk about this inside."
Minutes later Koukin could be found with his eyes downcast, taking a rather unhealthy interest on the surface of the kitchen table.
"You hired Naru-chan!" She all but shouted out the words, her cheeks puffing out in indignant anger. "I can take care of myself!"
"You can." Naruto piped up from his place by the wall, unwilling to let the boy take the full brunt of this. "But, come on. He's your cousin and he just wants to make sure you're safe. Is that really so bad?"
"And it got me off the streets." He added, smiling. "Keeping nice people like me from needing to steal from pretty girls like Ribi."
"Ryuubi!" Kanu snapped.
Kanu's features scrunched up with displeasure, deciding to let the issue go. "So. You're genuinely saying that a fighter, one as strong as you was living on the streets?"
"I'm not a fighter." Naruto answered. "Not in the way you mean it anyway. And yes, I was, lets just say things have been...complicated...these last few months."
"And you had nothing to do with Taishiji?"
"That was all Yoshu's own doing. I did beat most of them into the hospital however. I'll admit to that."
"And yesterday. That was you-"
"Protecting Hakufu from Toutaku's agents." Naruto finished. "Actually, it was more an interrogation. People tend to talk more when their feet are several hundred yards above ground level."
Hakufu's face scrunched up, at his word at protecting her, her cheeks puffed out.
She was a sweet girl, she wouldn't stay mad for very long, even if she did have the attention span to actively hold a grudge. It wasn't like Koukin had done much but wound her ego just a bit.
The one that he was somewhat worried about however was Kanu. "So." He said addressing her even as she glared at him with one of the most disdainful looks he'd ever seen on someone's face. "Can we trust you to keep this secret? Anonymity as to who exactly is interested in keeping Hakufu safe definitely has its benefits.
Kanu stood up from her chair, the wooden legs scraping on the hardwood floors. "Toutaku is on edge, not knowing who you're affiliated with. So I will keep your secret. However-" She warned. "Come anywhere near Ryuubi-sama again and I'll-
Three phones ring, interrupting them. She didn't really have to finish, Naruto could grasp her meaning well enough. Stay away from that Ryuubi girl and everything would be copacetic.
They flipped their phones open. "Dock thirteen." Koukin announced.
She was staring at this stupid paper again.
She felt Chinkyu's arms wrap themselves around her neck, her lovers slim hands coiling themselves tightly as Ryofu breathed the scent of cinnamon and lilacs.
"You didn't come to class today."
"Fuck the class." She answered, leaning back. "I already know everything there anyway."
"No. I know everything there. And I'm the one that always helps you learn it for the tests"
She received a lighthearted punch to the shoulder for her humor.
She smiled, but it quickly died, her mood becoming somber.
She thought about saying something, warning her, telling her. But Chinkyu was scared enough of Toutaku as it was. Her parents lived in Europe. Her home and her friends were here in this boarding school, she had nowhere else to go.
No one but her.
So she would have to keep her safe.
She kissed at her wrists, "Nothing..."
Dock thirteen didn't have a single building more than two stories high in sight.
Which was quite an accomplishment considering they were so close to downtown.
Perhaps the two or three cranes lining the pier counted but then again maybe not considering no one could really get up there through any normal means.
Koukin, Hakufu and Kanu had all arrived at the same time, with Naruto wandering off to sneak as he'd confessed. Telling Hakufu to kick ass because he'd be watching, which brought a smile to her face.
They'd received curious looks, to say the least, from Gakushu and Ryomou, they hadn't really asked though unlike Chouhi who loudly announced "What gives Unchou?" Which was quickly waved aside with a simple "later" from Kanu.
The referee watched them all his eyes coldly surveying them for a few moments before he cleared his throat. "This will be the match to decide the contestant of the semi-finals. Nanyo academy, vs Seito private school. Seito has devoted two fighters to the matches. Nanyo has devoted four. The contest is decided when the schools respective fighters are no longer able to compete. The first round starts now, would the first two contestants step forward.
Gaku slapped his hand on Koukin's back as Chouhi stepped up, grinning and cracking her knuckles. "Go on Shuyu."
"What?" Koukin sputtered. "Me? I'm first?"
Gaku nodded. "You have to be. Ryomou and I are the strongest of us, we can't afford to waste our strength fighting Chouhi when Kanu is waiting in the wings. It'll be up to you and Sonsaku to beat Chouhi, better even if its just you, that way we have three people to fight Kanu with."
Koukin looked at Ryomou, easily the strongest of the four of them. "Is Kanu really that strong?"
The blue haired girl nodded, her face grim. "Even with three people, if we're not careful, she'll beat us all."
Only Hakufu seemed delighted by that prospect. "Oh wow this is so exciting. Kanu-chan must be brutal!"
Again Gaku slapped Koukin in the back, pushing him forward. "Go."
When the boy stepped forward, he looked every bit as nervous as he felt. Hakufu's cheering, while a nice gesture was not exactly encouraging.
"Come on Koukin! Beat her up!"
Finding a comfortable perch within a nearby warehouse where he could watch the fight, Naruto settled himself down for what he hoped would be a good show.
He just didn't know how active the audience, namely him would have to become in the near future.
Kagome returned to full consciousness with a groan., her eyes slowly prying themselves open.
The groan quickly turned into a sob of frustration as she saw herself back beneath the black roof of a cave.
It never failed.
She would flee. She was allowed to flee.
The first time she'd waited for the demoness to sleep, it had taken days but it had finally happened.
She got up and carefully left, extracting herself from the cave and then running for all she was worth.
Then when she woke up, she was back here.
She'd run four more times since.
And it was always the same. She always fell asleep, exhausted and she would wake right here again and again.
Yesterday she'd left...with the devil fox grinning from ear to ear as she bolted out of the cave. She'd run for almost the entire day. Leaving at some time after noon, until the sun dipped beneath the horizon and the moon had replaced it, only for the sun to rise again.
She'd fallen asleep when the brightness of morning was giving way to the heat of mid day beneath some tree.
She must have run for miles, even running through a river to mask her scent.
Her clothes were still cold and moist, her feet ached and scratches covered her arms and shins.
She sat up, finding Kyuubi's radiant smile staring back at her.
"I'm impressed." The fire haired demoness said. "You almost managed to get half way to a road this time."
"Go to hell!" An anger she hadn't felt since Naraku's demise bubbled up her throat from the pit of her stomach.
"I will once the current resident is done renting it." And with her smile, Kagome wasn't sure just how much of that was actually a joke.
The demon shifted in place, allowing the light of the fire to catch the edge of a familiar blade.
Kagome felt her stomach drop, a fear rushing through her whole body like the gust of a blizzard sapping her of her courage as the age old monster in the guise of a woman continued to smile.
"But before I do-" It...because that's all Kagome could call something that could smile as maliciously as that, spoke its words in a near hiss, every syllable branding itself across the Miko's flesh as her power flared. A red mist slithered over the floor of the cavern now.
Kagome stood, backing away calling her purifying powers to try and form some kind of barrier as she struggled to fight down the panic rising in her chest.
Her back collided with something that shouldn't have been there, she whirled, her hand bathed in pearl, pink light, only to feel her wrist caught in a grip that felt like fire across her skin. She struggled, tugging at her arm as she saw the hand holding her burn away, the skin becoming charred and black before her eyes, but still the hold was unbreakable.
The Kyuubi pulled her close, until they were flush against eachother, the taller creature leaning over her as she brought that sword close to her face until the tip was touching at her cheek.
Those red eyes glowed like blood soaked rubies. "-there's just one thing I'll need from you."
And Kagome felt the edge of Naruto's red blade cut open her flesh.