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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/campfires/item_id/1393193-Curse-of-Silence
Rated: 18+ · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #1393193
Guilty of nothing but silence and sadness. There is a sense of injustice that cries out.
[Introduction] A man is cursed with silence and the curse of never aging. There is an entity of chaos and malignance that destroys all that it has come in contact with. He has been framed and there are many who wish to destroy "The Demon". He has a bounty of 70,000,000 on his head. There are many after his life. They either want vengence or the bounty.

So, your characters have been wronged by the real "Demon". My character has been granted powers and also the infamous hatred of him. He is actually innocent but he can't speak unless someone says his real name Which no one knows but the Demon. All of your characters are trying to find and destroy mine. The thing is, not very many people know exactly what he looks like. Have fun!

Bio format:

Name
Age
Look
Personality
Info(fighting wise)
History
Soen Seijun
Age: 19 (actually 26)
Look: Sky blue hair down to shoulders. He has green eyes and usually carries a sad look on his face. Wears a long black trench coat and a black sash scarf. He has a white tanktop underneath and wears black pants.
Personality: Quiet because he is cursed. He will not age until the curse is broken by someone saying his real name. When this happens he will again be able to speak and time will flow for him normally. He is very caring and wishes to be kind to people, yet while in his current state he will be unable...
Info: Extremely superhuman abilities. Fast, strong, and reflexes that seem to see the future. He won't take life and will only actually harm people as a last resort. When he must fight he is more than a force to be reckoned with.
History: There was a notorious fiend known only as "The Demon" that was know far and wide as an unstoppable beast that thrived only on the joy of killing and destroying. Very few knew what he looked like. Problem was he'd taken the form of a 19 year old boy who'd never done anything truly evil or illegal. The boy was Soen who he hit with a curse that silenced him and made him live forever. The curse is so solid that he may not write his name or even spell it in the dirt. The Demon destroyed everyone who knew Soen, and then seemed to disappear for 7 years. During this period, Soen was sealed away in a small area underground. He emerges now. Is there any hope?
A Non-Existent User


Name: Yuya Curosa

Age: 18

Look: Short silver hair and violet eyes. Wears a red ribbon around her neck tied in a little bow. Wears black pants and boots along with an off the shoulders shirt with a cherry blossoms embroidered as though they were cascading down her shirt in a breeze. Left as a reminder are two horizontal scars along each of her cheeks.

Personality: Once Yuya was very sweet and kind, she still is its just buried under a series anger problem. She’s pretty cocky when she’s mad and fighting.

Info (fighting wise): Yuya won’t kill anyone… except for one person- the man she’s hunting. She’s sure to knock out any and all of her opponents with the deadly force of her kicks. Even though she usually uses her legs to fight, she also has with her, a pair of brass knuckles- which are actually pink. She uses these to maximize her defensive and offensive moves.

History: Yuya actually met Soen from her childhood. He’d passed through her village ten years ago and staid to help with the failing crops. She’d actually grown fond of the man and blushed whenever she was in his presence. Yet one night, when Soen disappeared, a horrible thing happened. Her village, and nearly everyone in it was destroyed- engulfed in flames from the demon. Yuya was the only survivor and she’d seen the face of the demon who’d massacred everyone. It was Soen. Even in the pale moonlight she recognized his face but his eyes had changed into that of a monster. Ever since then she’s trained herself so that she could hunt him down and kill him, avenging her lost loved ones.

Name: Hitomi Yoshida

Age: 20

Look: Violet hair with bangs cut on a long angle over the left side. Right eye is pitch black and left is light steel which is hidden by her hair. Wears a dark gray hooded duster and black gloves with the tips cut off to conceal the burn marks on her palms. Underneath are gray cargo pants, lavender shirt, and combat boots.

Personality: Hitomi has always been a woman of few words. Because most people find it hard to look into her unnatural gaze, she has learned to keep her head down and fade into the background. Hitomi has learned to control her emotions and rely heavily on her instincts.

Info (fighting wise): Hitomi has killed before but only in self-defense. She is not proud of her actions but will kill again if need be. Although her hands are damaged they are still her best weapon and lethal. As backup, Hitomi wields a butterfly knife expertly and carries a small dagger in her boot.

History: Born on the streets, Hitomi drifted from village to village with her older brother, Ryo. They took any odd job to afford food and shelter including bounty work when they could get it. With Ryo's charm and Hitomi's hunting skills they earned a fearsome reputation throughout the land. When they heard of the bounty on Soen, both of them saw it as an opportunity to stop roaming and finally have enough money to settle in one place.

Tracking Soen had been challenging as he alluded them at every turn. Until five years ago when they trapped and battled the man with demon eyes. From dawn til dusk the fight waged before the monster burned Ryo to death. That fateful night Soen destroyed the only family Hitomi had ever known. Her quest is no longer for money, it's for revenge.
A cool night breeze fluttered through his coat. Soen looked into the sky and sighed. It was only about a few months ago that he'd emerged from the ground. That had been the most maddening experience of his life. It would not have been so bad had he not continuosly woken up. There was a chilling night breeze blowing again. It was starting to bother him. Soen made his way through the grassy hills toward the next town. He looked down at his own hands. The Demon had almost convinced he himself that he'd been the killer of thousands. He shook his head. He tried to speak as he had everyday since he'd returned. Nothing escaped his mouth. Soen continued foreward noticing someone up ahead of him. The man seemed to be looking far ahead with binoculars. Soen froze. The man pulled out a small weapon of some sort and then shouted, "Now!!!" Soen heard multiple sheets fly off of bodies on the hilltops. They all had bows and notched arrows. He quickly ran forward hearing arrows fly through the air and hit the ground near him. He rolled in time to dodge three and then jumped no less than twenty feet in the air over the lead man. An arrow hit him on the left shoulder and he continued running until far out of range of the hunters. He would have to hide in the town. It was hard to try and hunt your curser when there are hounds at your heals.

Several minutes later he arrived in the shadows of the town of Gaje. There weren't very many people out here at night, but still, there had to be someone here who knew his face otherwise the hunters outside the town would not have known who to attack. Soen quickly slipped into the darkness of an alley. There were several homeless there. He turned and left immediately. Looks like he'd have to do something dangerous. Soen headed cautiously to the inn on the east side of Gaje.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya woke up with a start. She’d dreamt the same horrible dream every night ever since she was ten. It had been so long since she’d seen that man. Her memory of his face had blurred but she remembered the basics. Blue hair, green eyes- no those eyes were an illusion. The kindness she’d thought she’d seen in them had been nothing more than a false cloak. His true eyes were blood thirsty and ready for battle- only The Demon possessed those eyes. Yuya threw off her warm cloak. She was sweating from the nightmare. The scars on her face ached with the vivid memory she’d just relived.

Yuya got up from the hard ground. The grass under her had been pressed flat. She bent down and went over it with her hands, encouraging the grass to mask her presence. Then she picked up the few things she carried. The farm was near the road so it didn’t take long for her to return to her journey on the never-ending dirt path. She hadn’t seen a city in over a week but with the sign of farmers she knew there’d be a city no more than three days away. She tried to clear her head. Her mind was replaying the horrifying screams of that night. The night a kind stranger became her life’s obsession. She would kill him and throw his body into the sea. No one would become rich off of another mans suffering.

The fire had burned her eyes as a child. He’d set everything on fire, drawing out his pray. Her parents had left her, trying to defend the village and yet none of the parents were a match for The Demon. He cut through each of them as though they were a blade of grass. Yuya had recognized him as a stranger the village had befriended, a man who had seemed to return their kindness with even more. When she’d seen him, glowing in the light of the burning fire and the light of the moon, he’d seemed a different person entirely. He’d laughed at her when she’d pleaded with him to leave her family be. He’d butchered her parents in front of her, and her grandparents as well. Yuya had flung herself on his arm but he’d pushed her away, cutting both her cheeks. That was the only visible scaring. Except the scar from the wound that should have killed her. She’d been small back then… and he’d been sloppy. He’d cut her throat. The ribbon around her neck hid the scar. If the fisherman hadn’t seen the flames she’d surely have bled to death. But he was good with a needle and thread.

Yuya looked up at the sky as though the stars were the twinkling of the Demons eyes. “I’ll find you, Demon. I’ll find you and I’ll kill you.” She looked down the road. She could sense he was close. In the last City one man had said he’d seen someone fitting the basic description of him coming this way. If she made it to this next city before he left it, she was sure she’d find him. And when she did, she’d fight him to the death.
"Hello sir, would you like to rent a room for the night? We have plenty of space and it's only 17 ri a night." a young lady at the front desk asked Soen as he prepared to post up for the night. He nodded and smiled politely,
"Yes please, that would be nice" he tried to say. Nothing but air and a slight wheeze escaped his throat. The woman looked at him with pity for a moment,
"Oh I see, you're a mute? I'm sorry, I just need your name here and I can sign you up for a room," she said sliding forward a book full of room numbers and names. Soen handed her 17 small gold coins and signed "Swen Sayjune" on the next vacant place for a name.
"Thank you very much mister Swen! Here is your room key and enjoy your stay here at Valehaven Inn!" said the hostess sweetly. Soen nodded again and went to sit in the lobby for a while. There were a few people still there and he rarely got the opportunity to be around anyone. He looked around for a bit and saw that no one else was really coming to the inn at the moment. He was still the last one on the list. Soen slightly hoped his name would be buried within other people's who came to reserve rooms, but they all seemed to be in their hometowns. No travelers showed up. Soen made his way to his room finally. I was pretty nice. It even came with a window. He left it open. The only problem with the room was the heat. A cool night breeze wafted in. Soen smiled, "So you followed me?" he said to the wind. It was mental of course. He tightly clenched his fist in frustration at his muteness. The room began to rumble. He quickly unclenched the fist. Soen looked out the window. He gazed around the city. The dark was as easy to see through for him as daylight. He saw a few travelers coming into the city,
"This place seems nice, I could have sworn it'd be further away though!" one man said. His fellow travelers laughed and agreed with him. My hearing's definately good enough, Soen thought. He knew all his improvements, it was still strange to him though. He continued to stare at this world folded out before him. He pulled the arrow from his cloak that he'd had to remove from his shoulder. The blood on it was still bright red and had not dried, but the wound on his back had long since closed without a trace. Soen threw the arrow in the trash can near him after snapping it in half. He happened to notice a girl wander into the city that he thought familiar, but she looked so different...
Soen closed the window. He grabbed an apple out of the basket on a table in the middle of his room and flopped down onto his bed. When he bit into it there was no taste as usual. Staring at the ceiling, Soen's mind wandered to the events that precursered his framing...then deflected it. One day, he'd find The Demon and kill him. He would free himself of this curse and maybe even of this infamy. He could not die until then. He would not die guilty.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya made it into the next town- Gaje- She’d read on a sign. Now that she was here, she fought the urge to go straight to an Inn and instead wandered the streets, asking any and everyone she ran into if they’d ran across The Demon.

“Nope, don’t think I’ve run across anyone like that.” A farmer replied as he packed away his remaining vegetables that hadn’t been sold at the market.

“No, haven’t seen him.” One of three teens replied.

“Why, he your boyfriend or somethin’?” Another asked. The three boys laughed.

Yuya gave him a look that seemed as though fire were burning from her pupils. The boys were so caught of guard they backed away as quickly as possibly. “What did you say?” She asked as she raised a fist.

“N-Nothing, Ma’am.”

“W-hat?!” “Do I look like I’m old enough to be called ‘Ma’am’?”

“We’re truly sorry! Don’t kill us!” The three boys began bowing and backing away before turning and running down the street.

Yuya let out a quick and heavy sigh of frustration. “It’s not like I look that old is it?” She wondered to herself as she walked on and continued her search.


After the street lights were lit and the streets seemed completely empty, with no human other than herself in sight, Yuya called it quits for the night. As she walked around, looking for the Inn, since no one was about to tell her where it is, Yuya began looking around. At the houses that were lit and the families inside that were laughing and seemed at peace. This was disheartening and reminded Yuya just how lonely she was. “Man am I thinking about the past lately.” She grumbled as she ran her fingers through her short hair.

Luckily, she didn’t have to dwell on her memories for long. She found the inn and as she signed in, instinctively scanned the list of names- not that the Demon tended to write his name out in big red ink but it was worth the shot. A name did seem to stand out in her mind though. Swen Sayjune. It sounded strangely familiar but she just couldn’t put her finger on the name or person it reminded her of. She went upstairs and went to sleep- it was very restful considering her normal sleeping quarters.

The next morning, Yuya made sure she was ready for another long journey before she went downstairs. She signed out and decided to check the markets again for any sign of the demon. The morning stretched on and just as Yuya decided the Demon was not here, she spotted the back of light blue hair in the crowd out of the corner of her eyes. She smiled. “Alright!” She said as she cracked her knuckles, putting her fighting gloves on (tips of the gloves cut off since only her knuckles needed the protection) Then she took out her brass knuckles- the leather and metal rubbing against each other and making a noise as she tightened her fists. She ran into the crowd- pushing past any and everyone. As she came closer, he spun around.

Yuya hesitated. It was the face she remembered seeing the very first time he’d come- the face of kindness. Yuya glared at him. It wasn’t real. His kindness was nothing more than a lie. “Demon! Get ready to die!” She yelled as she swung her left fist at his face. The look he had was one of shock but nothing more. He hadn’t expected this in such a populated area. He dodged her punch, just barely. Though a thin cut began to bleed on the side of his cheek. “how suiting I give you the same scar you gave me.” He spat as her leg came up- hitting him in the ribs. He backed away. Eyes darting back and forth- he was looking for a way out. Yuya laughed- not out of joy but out of her cockiness and sense of victory. “You can’t escape, Demon. Today is your last day alive!”

He paused, staring at her, a small smirk on his face. Had he found a way out? Yuya braced herself for the chase.
Soen recognized her now. He didn't know how she'd gotten the scars, but he could guess that The Demon had done it. Soen smiled because he realized that there was someone who knew him. Someone who knew his name. Soen ate a vicious flurry of kicks. There were about 8. He dodged the last 3 and then jumped back. Yuya was right on top of him. A right hook, a mid knee, and then a high kick toward Soen's face. She was good. The crowd began to disperse. There was a loud clamor of shouts and gasps. Soen turned to run and Yuya dashed at a lightening speed around to the front of him and struck him with a hard backward roundhouse. She didn't follow through. Soen recovered instantly and dodged her late follow-up strike. The crowd wouldn't let him through however, "Face your fate DEMON!" the shouted. He turned to face Yuya who walked slowly toward him. She was enjoying this,
"I'm enjoying this y'know!" she laughed. Yep. "It's finally time for you to die at the hands of one who's life you destroyed! Those flames, those flames that you started are about to engulf you!" Yuya cried. Soen looked at her solemnly. There was nothing in his gaze but sadness. Yuya ignored it and charged blazing into Soen with a furious series of violent attacks. Soen's body shuddered constantly as if he was being shot with a machine gun. A sharp front kick sunk into his gut and then the attacking foot rose into his chin. Soen reeled backward. He wasn't trying. "Stop TOYING WITH ME!!!" Yuya screamed releasing a fiery kiai (release of fighting spirit). Her fist sailed through Soen's gut. The blood from his body shooting outwards toward the crowd behind him. Yuya gasped. She'd done it. Soen dropped to the ground. There was a fist shaped hole in him now. The Demon, was dead. The crowd drew around him and they all began to fight over him. They wanted that bounty, and they wanted it bad. Yeya was thrown out of the crowd, "Hey! Hey, I killed him get away!!!" she screamed. It was useless. She'd finally done it...but...something wasn't right. The crowd looked like an angry sea...of people. She stared on in disbelief. Soen on the other hand, was busy leaving. Hope she doesn't see me...yet, he thought. He needed her, but not in the light of the city. His wounds had already nearly healed and he whisped through the crowd easily exiting through the side.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya fell to her knee’s. She’d done it. Finally she’d avenged her family- her village. Yuya smiled and closed her eyes. Now she could rest in peace… but why didn’t it feel right?

“He’s not here!” Someone called out from the center.

Yuya’s eyes burst open. She jumped onto her feet. “What are you talking about?” Now that the crowd wasn’t crazed at the thought of striking it big, it was easy for her to push them out of the way. She drew to where the Demon’s body had landed. He wasn’t there. There was a light amount of blood in the sand but that had been trampled over and was nearly covered. If she hadn’t of fought him herself, she’d have thought it impossible for someone to have died there.

Yuya looked around the crowd. Scanning the sea of faces. There he was! Yet in an instant he disappeared again. Yuya tightened her fists. How could this be? She knew she’d killed him. Not even the best could rise from that sequence of attacks. Yuya’s eyes narrowed in a glare. The people she was facing shied away from her evil glaze. She didn’t say a word. She began running in the direction she’d seen him. She spotted a perfect opportunity.

As if she were a acrobat and used to such feet’s, Yuya grabbed onto a pole and used her feet and a few foot holds to grab hold of the roof and do a back flip, landing on the roof top safely. She began running and scanning for him and yet even as she searched, she sensed it was in vain. The Demon was long gone and she would have to start her search all over again. “Still…” She said to herself as she slowed to a stop. “If my attacks can’t kill him… what can?” She wondered. She smiled to herself. "Doesn't matter. Cuz I know I'm gonna kill you Demon. Even if it takes the rest of my life."
Hitomi stood with her back against the wall absently peeling an apple that made up her breakfast. Violet hair gave her cover as she watched the crowd disperse. Hitomi had been Gaje for three days familiarizing herself with the town's morning rituals and routines. The produce sellers out just before dawn. The market people sweeping their steps in time for their first customers. A demonic fight was anything but routine.

The tingle on the back of her neck told of the Demon's arrival long before she sighted him in the crowd. It took all her will-power not to run into square and snap his neck. Her fingers grew stiff with memory as an inferno of memories past. Ryo's screams echoed through her mind, drowning out all other noise. But through it all Hitomi controlled her intense emotions and observed the Demon's actions as well as his opponent's with dispassionate eyes. It was better to have a planned attack than dive head first into unknown waters.

The skin of the apple fell in a spiral at her feet. Hitomi cut a slice and bit into it, trying to remove the bitter taste in her mouth. The Demon had changed. In the past he loved to quench his taste for blood with the fury of battle. The more his enemy attacked, the stronger he seemed to grow. And nothing could stop him or kill him. She remembered her blade sliding into his heart all too well. But there had been something vastly different about his approach this time. The Demon had escaped by pure luck - the greed of people aiding in his escape. It was as if he resisted fighting. Although her first impulse was to deny it, instinct told her not to dismiss it completely. Whatever treacherous game the Demon was playing Hitomi vowed to get to the bottom of it.

As Hitomi ate another slice she thought of the girl. The silver-haired warrior had fought with a rage of a legion. She was obviously quite skilled with reflexes to match. But she lacked true experience and one day her arrogance was going to get her killed. Either way, the girl was determined and could be useful when the time arose.

Running footsteps rang out from the rooftops overhead. A loud curse and thud soon followed. Hitomi never left her position. The runner's heavy breathing grew closer. She silently cut the last slice off the apple, wiped the juice off the blade and flipped it closed.
The runner stood less than six feet away but still wasn't aware of her presence.

"Did anyone ever tell you that little girls should play with someone their own size? If you're looking for the Demon you're headed in the wrong direction."
Before that, Soen sat on the roof of a building. Yuya still searching frantically. In the distance, there was a strange figure standing out of everyone's sight. It was him. Soen stood so fast the average person would have thrown up from the g-force. His pupils shrank and the red around them grew large. A current of hatred burned between Soen and The Demon. He floated above a building opposite Soen. Silent breaks in the roof of the building appeared from the force delivered by Soen's jump. He bounded across the tops of them quickly and with the same silence he was cursed with. The Demon smiled,
"Toorima(Toe-ree-mah)..." oozed the name from Soen's mind. If he'd have been able to say it the name would have melted through the ground. He landed in front of Toorima and The Demon was gone. Soen's fist slammed into the ground. He was being toyed with. He sat back for a moment and stared at the sky. Would he ever be rid of the curse? Sure his name would allow him to speak, but it only allowed him to speak for ever day it is said to him. That meant someone had to say "Soen Seijun" to him every day unless he killed Toorima The Demon. Soen layed back and let the heat of the day attack him for a bit. He was pretty confindent that no one would spot him on the roof.

About an hour had gone by and Soen woke up. It was past noon now. He heard a familiar voice curse. "Did anyone ever tell you that little girls should play with someone their own size? If you're looking for the Demon you're headed in the wrong direction." said someone else. They were a good distance away, had it not been for Soen's abilities he would not have been able to dream of hearing them. He smiled. Whoever was talking had seen everything. It was obvious she wanted his blood. Soen could sense her malice. He was somewhat glad she hadn't come after him. Those two together would have dramatically compliated things. He didn't know the other woman, but he could tell she was strong. A flash of images erupted in his mind. Laughter. Sadistic and savoring torment. It was Toorima's. There were screams, flames, and tears. Someone else who was a victim. Who was it who had been killed so close to her? Soen sighed and sat up. There was no way human eyes could spot him from that distance. If only, he thought, if only Yuya was alone. The other girl would not hesitate to kill him. Not for a second. At least that's what it felt like. With Yuya, after the previous battle, he was sure she wanted him to fight back. She wouldn't rest until she'd done true battle with The Demon. Soen was sure he could get her to say his name, but with the other around...things could get dangerous quick. If he wanted to keep his head, he'd need to figure something out fast. Suddenly his senses electified. Someone had seen him. But how? It had to be the other. She had the eyes of a hunter. Soen sat tight for a moment and then bolted. Yes, he'd have to think very fast indeed. He hit the ground running...into a crowd of people. He halted and shot into the alley to the right. Another chase? He couldn't sense anything now. Whatever it was, he couldn't be caught just yet. Not with the other girl.
A Non-Existent User
"Did anyone ever tell you that little girls should play with someone their own size? If you're looking for the Demon you're headed in the wrong direction."

Yuya turned to see a violet haired woman down on the ground. She was cutting an apple and eating it piece by piece. Yuya put her hand on one hip before she jumped down on the ground. “Then where is he?” She asked as she rose and walked over to the woman. She was in no mood to do this so she didn’t bother to hide her anger and impatience. Yet only her eyes shown like fire at the woman while she stood coll and collective looking, with her index fingers in her front pockets. A way to show how serious she was.

The woman just looked up at her without a sign of seeing how ready Yuya was for a fight. “You’re good but not good enough to kill the demon.”

“What do you know any way, you old lady.” Yuya glared at her.

The woman shot her a glare just as fierce as what Yuya had given to the boys the night before. “I’m only twenty. Besides, you’re the one who lost track of him.” She smiled and took another bite of her apple.

“So you gonna tell me where he is or what?” Yuya yelled. The woman kept her smile but her eyes wandered to the right. Yuya quickly backed up and looked around the street and on the roof. Nothing.

“He’s not that close. Besides, I have no intention of making my move just yet. For now I’ll merely track him and watch his weaknesses. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to kill him for you.”

Yuya glared at the woman. “What? Like hell you will! He’s mine.”

“Calm down, why don’t we talk about this.” The woman said as she stood, throwing the core on the ground and scraping her boot in the dirt until it covered the core. Yuya began walking away. “Where are you going?” The woman asked.

Yuya didn’t turn around, or even stop. She just put her hand up. “I don’t work well with others. If you wont tell me where he went I’ll just have to start over again. A piece of advice- don’t get in my way.” She said and put her fingers in her pockets.

Even though she couldn’t see it, the woman smiled. “I guess I’ll see you later. By the way, my names Hitomi.”

“Yuya Curosa.” Yuya called back. She sighed in frustration. “She’s gonna be a pain in the butt in the end, isn’t she?” She said to herself as she walked away.
Soen sighed. There was no chase. He ambled through the alley and circled his way around to the inn again. He was sweating perfusely. Everytime he saw Toorima this would happen. He would become sick. He barely made it there. Soen wasn't even sure what had possessed him to go back. He leaned against the wall and stared at the sky. His vision began to blurr. Soen looked over to his left. There were too many people staring. He could rest here, but there was no way he'd make it out of town. He stumbled through the alley on the side of the inn and made it to the back where he collapsed again. Soen ripped off his cloak revealing the lean chest underneath. There were veins bulging near his heart which was beating so fast that it was making him hyperventilate. Soen slid sideways to the ground as his vision faded. He pulled the cloak over his body and lie there still under the dark shield. In the daylight he looked somewhat like a large bag against a bunch of junk. It was broad daylight so his chances of going unseen where slim indeed. He only hoped no one got curious.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya needed a lead and she wasn’t about to go grovel to The Hitomi lady so she’d have to do it the old fashioned way. “Did any of you see this guy lately? He’d have been around here this morning.” She asked a couple who were sitting at a table sipping tea. Yuya was ready to start over with a newly drawn sketch of the Demon. The sketch she’d had drawn for her as a reference was all wrong. He wasn’t as scary looking in person. “no, he’s far too good to let you see just how bad he is.” She said to herself- forgetting she was still waiting for a reply. She looked at them- they were looking at her with odd expressions. Yuya felt her face redden as a thin bead of sweat formed on her brow. She hated it when people thought she was crazy and she’d just given these guys a reason to. Yuya laughed nervously. “So, you seen him?” She asked.

“What is it? A dog?” One of the men asked. Yuya’s facial expression went blank but her eyebrow began to twitch in agitation.

She looked down at her picture. It was a bit scribbled and a little elementary in style but she’d gotten his facial expression down pat… and his big innocent eyes. There was no way anyone could mistake THAT for a dog. “No.” The woman corrected her husband. Yuya smiled. At least there was someone out there who knew fine work. “That’s obviously a little boy’s stuffed doll.”

Yuya slammed her hand on the table. “You have got to be kidding me.” She said through grit teeth. “It’s the demon!” She yelled.

The man and woman stared at the picture for a moment longer- as if contemplating. Yuya smiled. Now that they knew, they’d easily be able to point her in the right direction. Finally the man said with a serious tone. “That really doesn’t look anything like the Demon.” The woman nodded. Yuya tightened her fists and forced back the punch that she wanted to land across this guys face. She walked away in a huff.

Suddenly a man standing outside a sake house- holding a sign that said- “Special singing performance!” leaned over and whispered. “Hey, you wanna know where the Demon is? I saw him a while ago.”

Yuya stopped and turned. “You better not be messing with me cuz I’m in no mood.” She warned.

“I’m not pullin’ your leg. I really did see him.” He said.

Yuya’s eyes widened. She waited a minute for him to tell her where he was but he just smiled. “Well? I haven’t got all day you know.”

“Hey, I do you a favor… you gotta do me a favor.” Yuya raised her eyebrow. He just grinned even bigger. “Look, our singer bailed on us today. You look like the right size for her costume so if you fill in for her I’ll-”

“No way!” Yuya yelled. “I am not getting up and singing in front of everybody. Especially in whatever costume you’ve got.”

“Well I guess I can’t help you…” The guy began to look away.

Yuya groaned in frustration. “Fine. I’ll wear your little costume and sing your songs. But if you’re lying to me…” Before she could finish the guy dragged her inside and showed her where she could change. When she saw her costume, she screamed.

Yuya regretfully walked out of the room as soon as she’d changed. The guy whistled. “Wow, you look-”

“Don’t even think about it if you value your life and future children.” Yuya wore a small dress that was only five inches away from her hip. She kept her red ribbon- which matched the red and blue dress that had intricate designs woven in it. She wore the traditional shoes that matched the dress. She’d had to whiten her face like a normal performer might and put on the traditional red lipstick and use black eye liner to accentuate her eyes. To her horror, Yuya made herself get up on the stage. Every drunk man paused and watched her. At first, she just closed her eyes and didn’t try to sing good but when she opened her eyes to see the guy who knew the demon’s location glare at her, she stepped it up a notch and actually began singing. To her surprise the guys all liked it. They began clapping and cheering her on. Yuya began to get into it a little… that is until she saw Hitomi sitting up front and smiling at her. “You have an amazingly beautiful voice. She said. Even through the noise, Yuya could make out her words. She blushed. But the performance wasn’t over yet.
Hitomi felt herself truly smile for the first time in years as she listened to Yuya sing. The girl's voice sounded like a spring breeze blowing softly through a meadow. The particular song struck a chord in Hitomi's heart, reminding her of bittersweet memories when her brother was alive. They had often sang together when they were hired to work in the fields or clear out crates and boxes. Life had been rough, but they had gotten through it together.

Hitomi's reverie was shattered when a barstool smashed against the wall, much too close to the stage for her comfort. Scanning the room Hitomi counted fifteen men plus two guards, all heavily drunk. The best strategy would be to leave the sake house quietly and quickly out the back. Hitomi glanced back at the stage wondering if she should go through the trouble of warning Yuya and getting her off. The girl kept singing but was watching the rowdy crowd warily, balling her fists as if preparing to fight. Don't piss them off, Hitomi yelled silently to Yuya, just get off the stage.

Yuya looked like she was going to do just that when a large, balding man said something obscene. He grabbed Yuya's leg with his meaty hand and tried to pull off the stage. Hitomi could see Yuya's anger boil over in an instant. Yuya lashed out and kicked the man as hard as she could. The drunk sailed half way across the room, knocking over three other men in the midst of a fist fight. The interruption caught everyone's attention. All their energy focused on Yuya. Hitomi's felt her instincts twist in dismay. In her wrath, Hitomi knew Yuya would try to take on the entire bar. The girl needs a keeper.

The sake house was filled with loud screaming and broken glass shattered on the floor. Hitomi moved quickly through the mob trying to make a clear path of Yuya. She lashed out and struck at each attacker that came her way. With each hit, the men went down momentarily subdued. When there was enough room Yuya flipped off the stage, knocking two out on the way down and landed right next to her.

"Through the back," Hitomi yelled, pointing to the door. Yuya shook her head and pointed in the opposite direction where the manager of the sake house watched in horror as his establishment got trashed. Before Hitomi could stop her Yuya marched back through the crowd.

All attackers on the floor began to come around, their pain speeding up the sobering process. Calculating the odds, Hitomi ttought the both of them might be able to take the group down again. But the numbers were not in their favor.

Hitomi's eyes went back to the back exit. A familiar tingle of warning ran up her spine. The Demon was close by.

It turned out the night was just getting started.
A particular ruckus woke Soen from his faint. He stood with a quickness that was unlike him and moved toward it. He normally avoided this kind of thing, but he had that strange 'just in case' feeling in his mind. A few feminine screams called him in quickly. Soen covered his head with his cloak and walked into the bar. He prepared to exit as soon as he got through the door. Someone grabbed him and tried to slug him a good one with a massive fist. He ducked the drunken punch sending the the man stumbling into the wall. He ended up further into the fray. There was a loud and monotonous shouting ringing out in the bar. Soen dodged a number of drunken strikes and ended up in the middle of the fight. The two people he didn't want to see the most where exactly who he bumped into, "What the? You!!!" Yuya shouted taking a swing at Soen. He dodged it with his usual speed, and then another fist sailed toward him. Soen smoothly grabbed the wrist and slid his foot between the assailant's legs. He let the momentum pull the man down onto his neck. Soen quickly dodged another strike from Yuya only to be quickly grabbed by Hitomi. She locked his arms at the elbow from behind him,
"How's this Demon? What? Will you set me ablaze now?!" Hitomi said into Soen's ear tightening her grip. Multiple pops where heard. Yuya let loose a flurry on Soen's gut and ended it with a spin kick to his face,
"Hitomi! I'm going to kill him!" Yuya shouted delivering multiple strikes to the violent crowd around them. As soon as Yuya turned around again Hitomi rammed Soen's head into her's. Their lips connected before their foreheads. Yuya reeled backward,
"What makes you think that?" Hitomi shouted using Soen like a post and swinging around him. She knocked multiple people out with several kicks before landing behind Soen again. She let out a cry and hurled him into the crowd clearing a large path. Soen slammed into a wall and Hitomi was on top of him instantly jamming her butterfly knife into his chest. Blood shot from Soen's mouth,
"Dammit stop!!!" Yuya shouted charging through multiple drunks using her elbows to buckle them near the gut. She jumped up and thrust her foot into the back of Hitomi's head. Hitomi's lips now touched Soen's before his head crashed through the wall. He jerked foreward and his limbs were heard popping into place. He pushed Hitomi off to the side and dodged a flurry of kicks that came from Yuya. He grabbed her leg a little further up on the thigh than intended but it gave him enough leverage to swing her into Hitomi. Suddenly, multiple beer bottles smashed against his head. His eyes caught a violent flash of red and six men were sent flying with multiple bruises. Soen shivered violently and got ahold of himself. He couldn't become what he so hated,
"Die DEMON!!!" Hitomi and Yuya shouted at him. He turned just in time to catch both of the womens' kicks. Yuya's hit his face and Hitomi's hit his throat. He soared through the crowd and skidded on the ground as his vision again went black. Yuya dove at him and Hitomi cut her way through. They each grabbed an arm and met eyes. They nodded in unison and dragged him off.

Soen's eye's slowly opened. He was moving. He lifted his head to see two women attractive in their own rite glaring at him. Yuya and Hitomi. They were all in the bed of a truck,
"It's lucky this guy was getting out of town and didn't mind giving a couple of ladies and their package a ride," Hitomi said with a sly grin,
"Hey! The only reason you're still alive, 'Swen Seijune', is because SOMEONE can't leave well enough alone and let me have my duel with you! Just to let you know, I'm gonna kill you so don't you dare try to get out of this!" Yuya shouted. Yeah right. Hitomi glared but kept her smile,
"Right, just like you killed him in Gaje?"
"Shut up! Everything would have gone fine if you hadn't screwed everything up!"
"Oh stop it. Why don't you just play with dolls like a normal girl?"
"Shut up! Urgh! As soon as I'm done with him you're next!!!"
"Ha ha, looks like I have nothing to worry about. You can't possibly handle either of those tasks in your precious little head." Soen got a look of utter disbelief. They were fighting over who got to kill him. He started to make a break for it and that's when he noticed he was tied up, "Yep. Sit tight demon. Lukou is a small town. Plenty of room for me to finish you there. I'm going to enjoy it," she said. Her smile disappeared.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya and Hitomi weren’t gentle getting the Demon off the truck bed. They pushed him to the edge and Hitomi jumped off. She didn’t have a chance to turn around before Yuya kicked the Demon hard and sending him falling on his face.

Do you have to be so rough?” Hitomi asked- in truth not caring.

Yuya looked at her innocently and shrugged her shoulders. “My bad. Must’ve slipped.” She turned and smiled to herself as she grabbed her normal clothes and jumped off the side. “Thanks, buddy!” She called out as the guy drove off. Yuya and Hitomi dragged the Demon through the less busy streets of Lukou. They found an old abandoned shed and broke the lock on it, shoving the demon inside and throwing him on a pile of broken glass. Soen bit his lip as a few shards poked through his clothes and jabbed at his skin. He looked up at the two women. Both stared at each other with an intense look.

“So… you gonna go home and play with your dolls like I suggested?” Hitomi asked as she took reached for her butterfly knife.

Yuya smiled- a certain excitement seemed to show in her eyes. She stood in between Hitomi and Soen. “No way. He’s mine. You’re going to have to get through me if you want to kill him yourself.” Yuya replied in her usual cocky voice. She reached behind her back and looked down. She was still wearing the extremely short dress. Yuya blushed when she turned around and remembered just how exposed she felt. “Uh… actually, can you hold that thought?” She asked as she grabbed her shirt and pants, trying to use them to cover up as much of her skin as possible.

Hitomi laughed. “Sure, why not. You’ve got five.”

Yuya turned and began to walk to some crates that had been stored in the corner for ages. She thought she noticed the Demon’s eyes watching her so she casually kicked him in the face as she passed. “Oops, sorry.” She said, not trying to mask her insincerity. She quickly took off the dress and threw it to the side as she pulled up her pants and put on her top. As she stepped out from behind the crates she was putting on her brass knuckles. “Alright, I’m ready when you are.”

Hitomi smiled and nodded. “Alright, let’s count to three- give each other a fair chance and all.”

Yuya raised an eyebrow. “Okay… I guess that’ll work.” She rolled her eyes. “One…”

“Two…” Hitomi redied her knife.

“Three!” Just as Yuya ran at Hitomi, the woman ducked and threw her knife straight at the center of the Demon’s head. “What the-” Yuya paused and looked at the lifeless form of the Demon.

Hitomi smiled. “You didn’t actually think I’d waist my time with the likes of you?” She asked as she walked over to the demon, avoiding the blood that flowed into a puddle on the dirty floor. She knelt down casually and grabbed his hand. She checked for a pulse and a moment latter smiled as she pulled out the knife, wiping the blood on his pants.

“Then… he’s dead?” Yuya asked.

“No doubt about it.” There was a moment of silence as Yuya fell to her knee’s and stared at him. As Hitomi turned to leave, a groan broke the silence.

The two women looked to see that the Demon was slowly arousing as the deep wound on his head began to disappear.
………….

“You’re not doing it right!” Yuya yelled as Hitomi stabbed the Demon yet again. She’d given him dozens of fatal wounds but each time the Demon would slowly arouse moments later. “You’re doing it wrong!”

“I am not! He should be dead!” Hitomi yelled back. They were both going nuts trying to figure out what was going on.

“Give me that!” Yuya grabbed Hitomi’s knife and grabbed the Demons wrist, slicing it deep. She dropped it on the ground and watched as the blood flowed and then slowly lessened until finally it stopped. She picked his wrist up again. The cut was no more than a scar- and even that was fading. “What the heck is going on?” Yuya yelled.
Hitomi sat back on her heels as she watched the scar disappear. She had heard of such things before, but she didn't think it was possible. The Demon had the ability to heal himself - even from death.

Yuya growled in frustration. "Why won't he DIE!?!" She raised her hand to stab the knife into the Demon's heart. Just when the blade met the skin, Hitomi grabbed her wrist before she could complete the stroke. Faster than Yuya could follow the action Hitomi swiped the butterfly knife from her hand, wiped the blood off on the Demon's pant leg, and pocketed it into her duster.

"Why the hell did you stop me?" Yuya glared back with fury in her eyes. She looked like she didn't know who she wanted to kill more, the Demon or Hitomi.

Hitomi got up and began to pace the length of the shed. She could feel the Demon's stare at her back but she didn't stare back. Unwanted compassion sparked through her every time she looked into his eyes. Hitomi avoided direct eye contact at all costs. "Obviously stabbing him won't kill him. To keep applying a failed technique would be a waste of time and energy we don't have."

"Since when did you decided to become leader of all this?" Yuya stood up with her fists bunched at her waist.

"Since a certain little girl can't seem to control herself," Hitomi said coldly. The situation was falling apart at the seams. The last thing she needed to deal with was a little girl on a power trip.

"No one bosses me around," Yuya slipped her brass knuckles on. "He's mine to deal with however I want even if I have to tear you-

"Oh shut your trap for five minutes, would you please? I need to think." Hitomi paced back and forth. She could sense Yuya bristling in the corner and thankful she had gotten the clue to be quiet for a minute.

Hitomi went through six years of knowledge tracking the Demon. His resurrection ability would explain why he's been an unstoppable force all this time. But didn't explain the recent behavior. Through every punch, every kick, every slice of the knife the Demon had done nothing to defend himself. His actions didn't add up to what she'd experienced with him before. It was starting to really tick her off. She was missing a big piece of the puzzle and instinct told her the answers laid within Yuya.

From across the room Hitomi heard Yuya's stomach grumble. She unsuccessfully tried to hide a smile. "Hungry?"

"I'm fine," Yuya said petulantly as she crossed her arms over her chest.

Hitomi ignored the comment and knelt down behind the Demon. She retied the bonds tighter, making sure he couldn't slide out. A warm tingle went up her arms as his skin touched her skin. It had happened before during the fight at the sake house but she ignored the feeling now like she ignored it then.

"Come on, kid. I'm buying you lunch."

Yuya stood up in a rush and nearly stumbled on the broken glass. "We can't just leave him here!"

"Well, we can't take him with us either. The rope is tight and we won't be gone long." Hitomi pushed her bangs behind her ear and stared down at the Demon. She saw his eyes widen at the unnatural color of her eyes and the pain promised there. Her mouth twisted into mocking grin. She put her hair back in place as her mouth twisted into mocking grin. "Besides, if he escapes I'll find him again."

Opening the shed door just a crack, Hitomi checked for people who might walk by. When the coast was clear she motioned for Yuya to quickly follow her out. There was a noodle cart two blocks over where they could get fast and cheap food. With luck, Hitmoni would get an idea to turn things around and the Demon would stay right where he was.
Soen sat alone in the shed now. That had definately not been a pleasant experience. He couldn't help but smile at least. The two women had tried so hard to kill him, but he was alive. He sighed and leaned against the wall catching his breath. It was a good thing they stopped when they did. There was only so much he could come back from. If his body was severily damaged before he could heal there may be trouble. It wasn't that he could come back from death. It was that he simply was difficult to kill. For instance, a shot to the head. Not too difficult for him to heal. Continued shots to the head to the point of a complete facial obliteration. Much more difficult. Puncture, slash, or concusive wound. Easy. Completely removed limb. Difficult. Soen was just glad that they hadn't tried one certain thing that would have screwed him beyond belief. Decapitation. If that was to happen, there would be no hope but to fight back. He looked around again wondering if they would by any chance bring him back any food. No way. Soen stared at the ground. Even though he couldn't taste, food was still appreciated. He inched his way out of the spot with all the broken glass to sit in a less sharp spot. He still couldn't figure out how to get Yuya to say his name. Not to mention, he was glad Toorima hadn't seen her. He wouldn't hesitate to kill her if she was recognized since she was the only one left who knew his name. Soen sighed. She hated him which was the problem. She probably wouldn't bother saying he was Soen even to herself. Let alone say it to him. Soen looked at the door to the shed and then at the ropes binding him. He could still escape. The ropes weren't stronger than him and the door wasn't lockable. Even if it was, the wooded walls were weak. Yet, this was his only hope. He had to pray that they wouldn't try to take his head before he could get an opportunity to somehow show that he wasn't evil. As long as they believed he was The Demon, there's no way he'd get any chance to speak. All he could do was wait for them to get back and see where it went. What were they talking about?
A Non-Existent User
“Here you go, enjoy.” The man who cooked at the noodle shop said cheerfully as he handed them each their orders. Hitomi picked up her chopsticks and began to eat.

“Thank you.” Yuya said politely before picking up her own eating utensils.

Hitomi paused and looked at her. “Yes… thank you.” Hitomi called out to the cook.

“You’re welcome.” He said and laughed.

Moments later Yuya put down her chopsticks. “Why are you doing this?” She asked. She still had the feeling Hitomi was trouble.

Hitomi swallowed her noodles and laughed. “Actually, I’m taking the time to regroup and decide how I can get rid of both you and our friend.” She said over cheerfully as to not arouse suspicion from the cook or other customers. She began eating again. When she finished and was about to ask for seconds she noticed Yuya wasn’t eating. “Something wrong?” She asked. “You know I was just kidding earlier.” She looked at the cook “Seconds please.” He refilled her bowl.

Yuya crossed her arms and closed her eyes. “I finished already.” She replied coldly. Sure enough when Hitomi leaned over and looked in her bowl it was clean. Yuya ignored her. “Excuse me?” She called to the chef. “Is there any way you can wrap me some to go? I’d like to eat some in a more scenic area.”

The cook nodded. “You’re the first to ask me that but I don’t see the problem. Just make sure to finish it.” Yuya nodded. When he gave her a container full of the noodles Yuya stood and began to leave. She needed to get away from Hitomi. Now that her stomach was full and she was calmer, she had time to reflect on the situation. After killing him so many times and him coming back, Yuya felt like she was out of steam- she didn’t really care at the moment- she was too tired to. Hitomi finished her own noodles quickly and followed after her.

“Hey wait a minute. Why is it, no matter how hard I try to befriend you, you can’t accept it?” Yuya shrugged and yawned. She needed a nap. “Well could we at least head back? We’re going the wrong way.” Hitomi pointed out. Yuya closed her eyes and rounded the block casually to make it less apparent that her sense of direction was horrible.

As Yuya walked she noticed the smell of burning wood. When she opened her eyes and looked a block away from where the Demon was stashed, she noticed something was on fire. “Come on!” She yelled. Hitomi noticed it and followed. When they got there, there were already people putting out the fire. As the ran closer, they noticed a familiar but unexpected figure run out of the building with a girl no older than 9 in his arms. Had he saved her? No, he’d probably started the fire and was gonna eat her for lunch. “What the heck? How did you get out of my ropes. No one could…” Hitomi yelled at him. He ducked and rolled clear of the building just as some windows shattered.

Yuya noticed the ropes were broke in half. They were still wrapped around the wrist but his hands were virtually free. He sat up and let the little girl go, both smiling that she was safe. He looked up and saw Yuya and Hitomi. Hitomi cursed under her breath and pulled him up off his knee’s shoving him back to the old shack. When they got inside she lead him the corner and kicked him in the back on the knee’s making him fall down. Yuya just watched. When she got tired she spaced out. She just watched. “Now stay there. If you move again I’ll chop ya up and burn your parts. I doubt you’ll be able to heal from that.” Hitomi glared at him. Yuya doubted that would work.

She watched him sit down and stare at the ground. Without thinking about it Yuya tossed him the container of noodles. “Here. I doubt demons much care for noodles but it’s all you get.” Her voice wasn’t cold, it was flat.

“What are you doing? Let him starve. He’ll be easier to handle then.”

Yuya ignored Hitomi. Instead she yawned and walked over to an old tarp and laid down on it. She glared at Htomi. “I sleep light so don’t think about pulling anything.” She said and closed her yes. She needed sleep if she expected to get back to her normal self.
Hitomi couldn't sit in the darkness for long. There was too much going on in her head and sleep was not an option. In truth she couldn't sleep much anymore - maybe one to two hours. In a battle between the nightmares in her dreams and the benefits of sleep, the nightmares won every time. The reality of the situation meant she hadn't had a decent night in years, but she trained her body around the fatigue.

Silently, making sure she didn't wake Yuya or the Demon, Hitomi slid out of the shed and into the street. The block was still crowded from the fire before as people tried to clear up some of the damage. She blended into the crowd and listened to the chatter. Hitomi needed to understand what part the Demon played in the whole thing.

"...fire came out of nowhere.."
"...second one today. There was another two towns over. It killed..."
"...thought the little girl was going to die in..."
"...this mess. We'll never get this clean."
"...blue-haired man came out of nowhere. He saved my daughter!"

Hitomi weaved in and out the people for a good hour, pitching in to help along the way. She absorbed the information. It painted a far different picture than what she first imagined what happened. She had been so sure the Demon had set the fire, after all it was his favorite form of destruction. Then why go to all the trouble of setting a fire to kill only to save your prey in the end? Was it possible the Demon had nothing to do with the inferno in the first place? The whole thing was making her head hurt. For every question answered two popped up in it's place.

Hitomi snuck away from the street and made her way into the charred building. The smell of smoke made her want to gag, the fear rising up her chest. But she swallowed it and proceeded. She needed to know what happened with that fire. There wasn't much left. From the burn marks on the ouside walls Hitomi guessed the fire had been started from the outside. And it was definitely no accident. A feeling of malice surrounded the remains. It was the same feeling from the night that Ryo died. The memory of his death was more than she could bare. Hitomi walked away and didn't look back.

She made one stop on the way back to shed, buying a few supplies before they left town again. She walked back slowly enjoying the silence for as long as she had it. In view of the shed, Hitomi saw a small package sat in front of the door. The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Cautiously, she set her purchases down and gingerly picked up the other. In jagged letters on the front said TO THE RYOUSHI (hunter). She took the dagger from inside her boot and slit it open. A pair of charred, traditional shoes fell out - the exact pair Yuya had worn and discarded back in Gaje. There was blood soaking the heels.

Hands shaking, she opened the shed door letting the late afternoon sun fill it with light. Yuya laid still on the tarp. Oh no, please don't be... At the intrusion of brightness, Yuya made a disgusted sound and turned over on her side. She glanced over at the Demon. He sat hunched over in the same position she had left him in. Hitomi sighed with relief.

She threw a set of clothes at his knees to replace the burned and bloodied ones. He finally looked up at her in question. Hitomi shrugged, not used to explaining herself. “The blood on your clothes will raise questions if we run into people of the road.” She turned to busy herself with the supplies. His scrutiny made her uncomfortable. Spotting the shoes, she quickly hid them away from sight.

Hitomi looked back at the two and noticed the full bowl of noodles still in front of the Demon. She motioned to them with a nod of her head. “Eat. We leave at nightfall.” The sooner, the better. The shoes were a warning and Hitomi wasn’t going to take any chances.
Soen began to eat the noodles. No taste, no matter how much he tried to imagine it. Eating was almost becoming a burden although he still had to do it. Hitomi kept on staring at him. She had that "I'm trying to strangel you with my mind" look on her face. Soen choked on his noodles out of fear from her strange gaze. She smiled. Appareantly he'd been right about the look, "Wow you're pathetic, a Demon that can't fight and nearly dies eating ramen," Yuya scoffed. Soen chuckled nervously and continued eating. There was a long silence interrupted by the occasional slurp. Hitomi tapped her foot impatiently,
"I know you're used to human flesh and all, but we need you to finish so we can get outta here," she said,
"Gmpph!" Soen replied. Even if he didn't have food in his mouth, it would have come out the same. Hitomi waited a bit longer and then ended up in Soen's face. He looked up at her with a long stream of noodles still hanging from his mouth. He had that cute look a puppy gives you when he thinks he's going for a walk,
"Hurry up!" Hitomi growled. Soen began to eat very quickly. Yuya let out a sigh,
"Here, lemme solve this," she said walking over to Soen and beginning to tie him up in ropes again. Soen began to whimper now as he was dragged away from his food. Just my luck. I just imagined the taste correctly too...
A Non-Existent User
Yuya walked on one side of the Demon while Hitomi took the other. The two woman walked as casually as they could through the streets to make it seem as though they were just a small group of friends. Suddenly a man came running up them. “I just wanted to officially thank you for saving my daughter.” The man said to the Demon. Then he looked to Hitomi and Yuya. “What’s this?” He asked. For a moment Yuya thought he’d noticed the Demons hands were tied behind his back. “Who are these lovely young ladies?” He asked and looked at Yuya. “Could this be your sweetheart?” He asked.

Yuya was about to say something but she noticed Hitomi’s glare before the woman smiled. “You noticed? Aren’t these two such a lovely couple?” She asked. “It’s hard to imagine my little brothers all grown up.” She said in the most cheerful voice she’d ever used around Yuya or the Demon. She sent Yuya another glare and for some reason Yuya found herself wrapping her arms around his and giggling, as if she really were in love. Even the Demon made an effort to appear happy.

The man just laughed. “Indeed. A perfect match just by looking at them.” He say Yuya blush but it wasn’t for the reason he assumed. “My luck to the two of you.” He said.

“Thank you so much.” Hitomi replied. The group politely excused themselves and kept walking.
….

It wasn’t until they were clear out of town that Hitomi allowed Yuya to let go of the Demon. “I can’t believe you made me do that!” She yelled at Hitomi.

“Do you think I was all to happy to smile and call him brother?” She asked bitterly.

Yuya wanted nothing more than to hit he but she didn’t. She wasn’t as childish as the woman thought. She’d begun piecing the puzzle together in her own mind though some of the pieces didn’t seem to fit. She was just biding her time until she figured it out and could finally put an end to the nightmare. Whatever!” She said, rolling her eyes. “So, do you have a plan or are we just gonna walk until he drops dead?” She asked in a sour voice.
“Its tempting,” Hitomi said bitterly.

A plan was still forming in her mind and she wasn’t ready to share all the information she had just yet. Somehow she needed to figure out if the fire in the next town was related to the never-ending quest they all seemed to be on.

The group stood just on the outskirts of town as the night sky was turned pitch black. Hitomi could feel the blood-stained shoes weighing heavily in her bag. She wanted nothing more than to get off the beaten path and as far away from Lukuo as possible. But she could tell the others weren’t up to that much walking just yet. Even with their short rest, they both look tired and irritable.

Hitomi looked off in the distance. At the horizon she spotted a rundown farm not far from where they were standing. It would make adequate shelter for the evening. “You guys think you can handle trekking another mile?” She asked sarcastically.

Without waiting for an answer Hitomi pushed her bag further up her shoulder and walked off.
The group traveled in an eerie silence for the next several minutes. Soen secretely wished someone would speak. He'd grown to hate the quiet. Silence, his own personal curse. The pretend boyfriend thing earlier had surprised him. It was strange, but even though all this attention was extremely negative he was slightely enjoying it. The point still stayed on the fact that he needed to try and talk to Yuya. There was no way Hitomi would know his name so she was his only hope. Soen walked with the other two of his own free will right now even though he was obviously bound by ropes.

Once the group got to the farm Soen looked around anxiously. The sign at the entrance read: Maldra, the City of Prosperity. Of course, this sign was lying down in the dirt and looked older than the Demon himself,
"What's with that? City of Prosperity?" Yuya asked,
"Hmm, must be from a long time ago..." Hitomi said looked over at Soen with anger in her eyes, "perhaps HE knows something? Too bad he won't talk..."
"Yeah, why hasn't he said a word yet?" Yuya piped she stared annoyed at Soen,"I've never heard anything about the Demon being mute! He must be ashamed that he was caught!"
"That sounds very likely," Hitomi said. An older man who seemed to be a farmer came from inside a barn and began to walk toward them.
"Hey, here comes the farmer of this place. I'm guessing we should ask him if we can stay?" Yuya asked. A tremor shook Soen's body, and a dry rasp escaped his throat. There was something evil radiating from the farmer. His eyes grew wide. Toorima. The farmer's shadow shimmered wickedly for just an instant. Soen thought immediately to attack, but he knew what would happen. Toorima would escape the body and Soen would have seemed to simply have killed an innocent for no apparent reason. He stood stunned for a moment and stared directily at Toorima. The Demon didn't return his gaze,
"Hey ladies and gent! You need directions?" he asked. Yuya glanced over at Soen for a moment and saw the look of horror and fury on his face. She shook the bad feeling she had and walked out to the farmer,
"Um, no not exactly. We were wondering if you had any place here we could stay for the night?" she asked. Now Toorima would agree and invite them in. The farmer's brow wrinkled in thought,
"Well I don't know...unless you want to stay in the barn that is..." Even worse. Hitomi piped up,
"That'd be fine I guess. Is there any livestock in there?"
"Not in that one there ain't. Not till next week." said the farmer. Soen could sense the evil still. No doubt about it. This man was inhabited by the Demon. He had long been dead,
"Hey, why is that sign that says Maldra City of Prosperity over there?" Yuya asked curiously. The farmer got a twinkle in his eyes,
"Well, that was the name of the city that was here before the Demon passed through. Not a single survivor. Was a whole lotta years ago though. Dern shame." The two girls glared at Soen,
"Yeah...a shame," Yuya said. It was going to be a long night.
A Non-Existent User
The farmer was kind enough to show them a nice spot to stay. There was plenty of hay to lye in so it would be comfortable. “Dinner will be done in a few hours. I’ve still got some stuff to do around here but feel free to make yourself at home.” He said before he left. As soon as the door to the barn shut Yuya turned around and kicked the demon in the stomach. When he bent over Yuya kicked him in the face. He fell backwards on the hay. “You piece of crap!” She yelled bitterly. “You really like ruining people’s lives don’t you?” Yuya really hated the demon and mentally hit herself for thinking- even for a second- that he wasn’t as bad as she thought. When he’d saved the little kid she’d almost seen the part of him she first saw when she was a kid. She cursed him and didn’t need to know anymore than he was a monster.

Hitomi sighed and rubbed her temples. “Look, he really deserves that but you know its not going to do us any good.” She said as she sat down on a barrel.

Yuya looked over her shoulder and smiled. “What are you talking about? I feel much better.”

Hitomi couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Sure, maybe later. We need an after dinner activity. A way to pass the time, don’t you think?” She asked.

Yuya smiled even broader. “You know… I almost like you now.” She said as she kicked the demon one last time before going to sit on the ground. She managed to find little rocks on the floor. At first, she didn’t mind the silence but eventually she began getting bored. She glanced over at the demon who looked like he was dozing off- his cut lip and black eyes were long gone. She glanced down at the stones and smiled. She then looked over at Hitomi. The lady was deep in thought again. Yuya decided that was the worst way to go. When she’d done that she’d started to remember the cute guy she’d had a crush on as a little girl. Those memories had long been pushed back in her mind and she didn’t want to bring them back up.

Instead of thinking about it, Yuya picked up a rather decent size rock and chucked it at the demons head. His head bounced up as he opened his eyes and moaned. The sound it made was grouse but reminded her of an empty melon. She laughed and picked up another, throwing it even harder. A drop of blood fell from his forehead. He glared at her. “What’s wrong, Demon? All ya got to do is just ask me to stop and I will.” She mocked before throwing another… and another… and another. “What the heck!” She yelled as she got up. “You too good to talk to the one you left for dead? Is that what you do?” She yelled. “Huh? Go in a village and act all sweet and nice and then kill everyone off? Is that what makes you happy?” She jumped on top of him and began punching him, without her brass knuckles.

Hitomi got up and had to pull Yuya off. “What are you doing? Are you insane?” She yelled. The demons face was bloody and Yuya’s hands were messed up too. Her knuckles were bloody and she’d dislocated a few fingers. Though she wasn’t about to admit to it. Hitomi grabbed her shoulders when Yuya wouldn’t look at her.

“Whatever…” She yelled and walked away, going towards the back of the barn, behind a stack of hay to wrap her hands after she popped the two fingers back in place.

“Dinners ready for eatin’!” The farmer came in calling cheerfully. “Just need to get it to the table.” He laughed. Yuya took a deep breath and followed him and the others inside the farmhouse. She noticed how quickly the demon had healed but she also saw the pain in his eyes and a look of hate. Yuya had a strange feeling but quickly forgot about it as dinner was served. They ate a very good meal and afterwards she felt pretty tired. Hitomi was engrossed in a conversation with the farmer but the demon was only picking at his food. She noticed how tightly his hands were squeezed into a fist and for the first time, there was sweat on his brow. What was going on… she wondered.
Hitomi was in the middle of talking to the farmer about the strange fires that have been burning around the neighboring towns when she felt the heavy tip of Yuya's boot slam into her knee. She gave no physical reaction to the pain other than giving the girl a hard glare. Making sure the farmer didn't see her, Yuya gave discreetly nodded in the Demon's direction with her eyebrows raised. Inwardly frowning, Hitomi stole a glance at the Demon. He was covered in sweat as he stared daggers at the farmer and looked ready to kill.

Hitomi quickly covered her mouth with a fist and cleared her throat to get the farmer's attention. She didn't want to man to notice the strange atmosphere among Yuya, the Demon and herself. "Can I have another glass of water?"

The farmer's eyes darkened for a moment before he gave a big, toothly smile. "Sure. Not a problem." The legs of his chair scraped the wood floor as the farmer took Hitomi's glass and went into the kitchen for more water. Once the man left the room Hitomi turned to Yuya and whispered sharply, "What the hell is going on?"

Yuya crossed her arms against her chest and leaned back in her chair. "Don't ask me, ask the Demon. He's the one who looks ready to keel over."

Hitomi turned her glare back to the Demon. "Well?" When the Demon didn't answer, she leaned closer to him so he couldn't escape her fury. "Tell me what's going on right now or I'll tear you into a million pieces - farmer or no farmer."

The Demon stared right back in anger as he opened his mouth to speak. They waited for his answer only to get a muffled noise. Hitomi felt her impatience grow. "Speak up!" she said as she glanced back the kitchen door. They only had so much time before the farmer came back. Again the Demon answered in nonsense noises.

Before Hitomi could stop her, Yuya reached across the table and grabbed a fistful of the Demon's shirt. "Stop mocking us and answer the question." When the Demon grew silent, Yuya shook him violently. "What? Has the Good Samaritan Soe-"

Hitomi grabbed Yuya's arm when she heard hard footsteps coming down the hall. "Let him go," she said in a hushed voice. "We'll deal with him when we get back to the barn."

The farmer came back into the room with a pitcher of water as well as Hitomi's glass. He scanned the group with squinty eyes, his stare falling on the Demon. "Everything okay in 'ere?" Something passed between both men that made the hair on the back her neck stand up.

"Everything's fine but my companions and I are pretty tired from the long journey. I think we'll all retire for the evening."

The farmer stared at the Demon for a moment longer before turning and giving the girls another big smile. "Pardon me for keeping ya. Y'all must be exhausted." The farmer got up and showed them the door. "There's extra blankets in the loft if you need 'em. And be careful of the barn door - its got a habit of stickin'."

Yuya and Hitomi thanked the man for his hospitality as they walked into the night with the Demon between them. Hitomi breathed in the night air as she savored the cold that filled her lungs. Something strange happened back at the house that she couldn't put her finger on. Why did the farmer's friendly warning sound more like a threat?
Soen was glad to be out of Toorima's house but at the same time frustrated. He'd much rather know what he was doing than let him to his own devices. The fact that the girls couldn't tell he was mute was also not helping. Once they were to the barn Soen was thrown against the stickin' barn door. It didn't stick. He rolled onto the barn floor, and sat up to Yuya putting her boot against his face hard. He reeled back with a bloody nose before she grabbed his shirt pulling him back, "What the hell is your problem!?" she shouted. Soen opened his mouth again. The usual noise escaped. He stood up slowly as Yuya dragged him to his feet, "Say something!" she cried. Hitomi sighed,
"Come on now Yuya...it's obvious at this point beating him won't get him to talk," she said,
"Yeah? Well it sure makes me feel better!" Yuya replied, "You feeling talkative yet?" Soen's face froze. An icy fury seized his face for just a moment. He slowly pointed upward and a drop of blood hit and ran down his face. There was a barely audible creaking noise heard now that it was quiet. The two girls looked confused for a moment. They then both resolved to look up in the direction Soen pointed. Human bodies hung from the ceiling of the barn. They swung back and forth like pendelums dripping the occasional drop of red. There was a man, a woman, four children, and even a dog. They were all hung and carved deep into their flesh, "Oh my God..." Yuya gasped,
"We have to get out of here..." Hitomi said turning toward the open barn door. They dashed over to it just as it slammed shut with loud howl of wind. They tried mightily but the door didn't budge,
"I've got a bit of a problem with that...y'all leavin and all," the farmer's voice echoed through the door,
"You! Hey, let us out!!!" Yuya shouted. Soen walked up behind them and put his hand on Yuya's shoulder. She flashed him an angry glare but her fiery gaze melted in the quiet of his gaze,
"How do you like my little puppet?" the voice rang out. As he spoke it changed into a much deeper, smoother voice with a thick feel of darkness,
"Who are you?!" Hitomi shouted throwing a hard kick into the door,
"Heh heh...just call me, Swen Sayjune," he called. Hitomi and Yuya stared at Soen,
"It's...it him! He's doing it!" Yuya shouted. Suddenly fireballs exploed through the windows of the barn. It was up in flames in an insant. Hitomi grabbed Soen by the mantle scarf,
"Open the door!" she cried slamming him into it!,"
"Make me..." the voice called again. Hitomi grinned at Soen,
"Fine," she said pulling him back and ramming him into the barn doors with all her might. They splitered and there was an openning now. The girls dashed through it and Hitomi hurled Soen to the ground,
"I should have known you'd pull something demonic and crafty like this!"Yuya shouted,
"Well...I am the Demon after all..." the voice echoed. Toorima landed directly beside Soen. Soen jumped up in preparation to strike him, but with a wave of Toorima's hand he was sent flying backward into the wall of the house in the distance,
"Well girls? Are you happy now? I'm talking to you," Toorima said. He looked exactly like Soen. Yuya and Hitomi glared at him,
"So this is your true power?" Hitomi asked pulling out her knife, "should be fun,"
"This is what I've been waiting for..." Yuya said to herself. She would kill him. This was it, now was the time. The Demon laughed as an evil aura flowed around him,
"Maybe you should have let me go when you got the chance..." he scoffed. He pointed at Hitomi, "I'll burn you just like I did your brother," then he pointed to Yuya, "And you...I'll finish the job I started," Toorima taunted. He took a step forward, and the two were involuntarily pushed back, "Let's begin the end shall we?"
A Non-Existent User
Yuya’s face was twisted in hatred as she looked upon the demon. She took out her brass knuckles and put them on. There was a burning sensation in the scars across her cheeks and the one hidden by the ribbon around her neck. “die!” She spat at him.

He just laughed. “You think you can kill me? How many times do you have to try before you get the hint? Or was it that you weren’t trying?” He mocked. “Had you begun to think of me in a different light? The way you drooled over me as a mere child?”

Yuya tightened her fist as she readied to attack. “You’re a monster! No more than that!”

He smiled. “Really now? Then why had you begun to loose that hatred I see ever so clearly now? You’re getting soft.” He laughed again as Yuya cried out in anger and ran towards him. She raised her leg to kick him in the neck. Once, twice, three times she turned and kicked him in the neck with as much strength as she could. Then, as she turned around once more she swung her fist at him. He caught her hand, his smile still there, mocking her the entire time. Her kicks hadn’t done a thing- at least nothing he couldn’t heal within seconds. His grip tightened onto her fist and didn’t stop tightening. Yuya tried to pull away but couldn’t She cried out when she felt her fingers break in multiple area’s. He just laughed. Yuya used her left leg to swing at his face but he caught her leg and picked her up in the air- spinning her around and slamming her on the ground. Her spine hit a hard rock, making the attack even more painful.

Hitomi used the moment to throw her knife. It struck directly in the center of his head. His smile didn’t fade as he brought his hand up and slowly pulled out the weapon- throwing it back at her. Hitomi went to catch it but the knife was too quick. It went into her hand completely. She looked at her hand and painfully grabbed the knife, she couldn’t pull it out on her own. She looked up at the demon with his smug smile.

“That all you got?” It’s a wonder you two made it this far.” He teased as he walked over to Yuya who was forcing herself onto her hands and knee’s. He kicked her in her stomach. She coughed violently. “Dam you ! Soen- Swen- Whatever the hell you call yourself!” Yuya yelled as tears landed on her hands.

She cried out as hands grabbed her hair and hauled her up of the ground. He spun her around as he set her back down, still making her look at him. His smile changed somewhat- sending goose bumps all over her arms. He gently untied the ribbon from around her neck and let it slide down to the ground. Then he wrapped both of his arms around her neck and began choking her. She tried to pry his hands apart but with one hand useless, she just couldn’t do it. “Don’t know how you survived but I assure you this time, I’ll make sure you die like the rest in your miserable little village.” He sneered.

Hitomi was running out of time. She gripped the handle of her butterfly knife with all her might and pulled. The knife didn’t move an inch. Tears rolled down her face as the pain reached the point of unbearable. Between the knife wound and the burning of her scars, Hitomi’s hands were almost rendered useless. And all the kicks she had dealt the Demon had done nothing to stop his attack. Hitomi had no more aces up her sleeve and Yuya was in serious trouble.

The Demon picked Yuya off the ground by the neck and began to choke her. Yuya struggled to be freed from the Demon but her attempts became weaker as she lost more oxygen. The sight made Hitomi freeze as the night Ryo died flashed before her eyes. Tired after two straight days of fighting the Demon had caught her brother in a weak moment, beating him to the ground with a series of punches. She counterattacked the Demon but swatted her away like a small fly, sending her crashing into the remains of the city’s temple. Unable to move, Hitomi watched as the Demon choke the breath of Ryo before finally setting him ablaze. Now the same was happening to Yuya.

Hitomi felt years of wrath and anger build up inside her before it finally boiled over. She would not lose another person to this monster, not she could help it. With all her strength and a yell from deep in her soul, Hitomi slammed her wounded hand down on the hard ground. The pain shot up her arm, splintering through her whole body like a thousand little daggers. It took two more tries before the fractured bones finally gave way, sending the knife into the dirt at her knees. There was now a large hole in the middle of her palm.

Grabbing the knife with her good hand, Hitomi spotted the Demon and took aim. The spot Hitomi was shooting for was miniscule. She had a one and million of chance hitting it especially from such a distance, but it was the only hope she had of saving Yuya. Hitomi took a deep breath, pushing all the pain and anger out of her body, and centerd herself. Balancing the butterfly knife on the tips of her fingers, she focused on her target and let the knife soar.

The knife found purchase at the hollow point in the back of the Demon’s neck. Exactly where Hitomi wanted it to go. The Demon froze in place, his hands loosening around Yuya’s neck. With nothing left to keep her up, Yuya went crashing to the ground. She clutched her throat as she gasped for air. Hitomi ran toward them knowing that she and Yuya didn’t have much time before the Demon recovered. In a normal person, a shot to that particular pressure point would have killed them or at least sent them into a coma. For the Demon it would only take a few moments to heal from the paralysis. She needed to get Yuya way so they could regroup. And fast.

Hitomi took off in a dead run, pushing her bruised legs as far as they would take her. She slowed down just long enough to grab hold of one of Yuya’s arms and sling it around her neck. Half running, half dragging the two them made their way toward the barn for reinforcements. As they got in sight of the barn, Yuya relaxed slightly and rasped in her ear. “Took you long enough.”

A smart remark about always having to save the little girl was just leaving Hitomi’s lips when she felt something sharp pierce her side between her upper ribs. The bloody handle of her butterfly knife was lodged deep in her body, the power of the blow forcing Hitomi to her knees. She looked up with pain glazed eyes only to see the fully recovered Demon a few yards away. “Forget something?”
Soen's eyes shot open from his crammed location in the side of the house. He sat up quickly to see the two girls fighting in the distance. Soen jumped up and landed on a broken leg. Blood shot from the side of his knee and he collapsed onto the ground. Soen let out a labored groan of pain. He hadn't had nearly enough time to heal. He struggled to get to the girls. His leg was slow to recover but he proceeded to drag it behind him as he went along. A low rasp escaped his throat as he tried to cry out. No one else could die. Soen couldn't let that happen. He moved faster, then he ignored the leg. It healed quickly and he moved into full stride. Toorima turned to him just in time to catch a full force fist to the face. It caught him by surprise,
"Soen...Seijun?" Yuya rasped as she saw the face of the kind stranger for just an instant,
"TOORIMAAAAA!!!!!" Soen cried. Anger that had been exploding in his chest escaped his lungs ina voice much more youthful, and uncertain than that of Toorima's. Then it turned midnight.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya’s mind reeled with questions as she watched the two men who looked identical from far away fight one another. She didn’t understand what was going on- why ones eyes seemed hard and murderous and the others looked eager to protect. She’d yelled Soen’s name and he’d cried out in anger to the other. Then, suddenly his words cut off and he once again became silent.

Hitomi groaned as she held her side. Yuya looked over at her. It was horrible. While the two men fought, Yuya hurried to help the woman. She forced her shattered hand to move and quickly laid Hitomi down on the ground, ripping her clothing so that she could see exactly how bad it was. “You a doctor?” She asked sarcastically.

Yuya ignored her tone. “No, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been wounded enough to know a thing or two.” She replied quickly as she looked at where the knife was. She sighed out of relief. “It missed your liver.” She said with a smile. Her voice was coarse… it was hard to talk because the demon had squeezed so tightly on her neck.

“How about the gallbladder and pancreas?” Hitomi asked.

Yuya realized her hands were shaking. She focused on them until they stopped. “I don’t know.” She said as she ripped her shirt to get as much cloth as she could. She put pressure on the wound. “We can’t pull it out… If we can get it to stop bleeding…”

Hitomi shook her head. “We’re no where near a hospital or doctor…” She said in a defeated tone.

Yuya glared at her. “What do you think you’re doing?” She yelled, coughing with the pain it brought her. She held her throat. She still felt light headed with the lack of oxygen. She looked at Hitomi with eyes that showed how tired she was as well. “You’re not about to die on me. So don’t even think I’m letting you off the hook.” She said as she tightened her grip on her brass knuckles.

Hitomi looked at her. “You’re not about to go fight him are you?” She asked.

Yuya smiled. “Sure. If I can do anything to protect you… I will.” She said and stood up. She flexed her shattered hand. It barely moved. It would be useless. She began walking to the men. They were brutally fighting one another in the distance. Both seemed to crush the other only for them to regenerate in seconds. Yuya smiled. “I guess its just the legs today.” She said and smiled. Though she knew she was no match.

Suddenly, the demon- or Torima as Soen had called him looked at Yuya. A grin came across his face and he began to run towards her in a speed that seemed unimaginable. Yuya’s eyes widened. “Soen Seijun!” She cried out. “Soen, help!” She readied herself. She’d kick him as hard as she could… though she doubted it wound end well for her.

“Yuya!” She heard Soen yell out. She saw him run as fast as he could. It was close. The Deomon had his hands stretched out to meet her neck. Then, Yuya felt Soen push her out of the way just in time. “Get out of here! Find a way to get Hitomi some help!” He said as he struggled against the strength of the other Demon.

“But…” She whispered as she tried to stand.

“Go!” He yelled back. Yuya nodded, though she wanted nothing more than to get the one who’d choked her.

“Yes, go! Have a little girl save a dieing wench.” The other said mockingly.

Yuya wanted nothing more than to lung at him. Instead she got up and ran towards the barn, looking through everything. She spotted a small wagon. She could put Yuya on there and pull the cart back to the town. She pulled a few things off of it but grabbed a tarp that seemed to be in a good state. Then she pulled it out to Hitomi- it was heavy. But she’d make herself do it. Yuya struggled to help the woman onto the cart.
“Don’t bother. You gonna let him get away?” Hitomi asked as Yuya plopped her down on the cart.

Yuya glared at her. “Shut up! I can always find him again. So be quiet and rest! We’ll be in the town soon enough.” She said as she began pulling it.

“You’ll never make it.” She groaned.

“I said shut up!” Yuya yelled and pulled with all her strength to get the cart moving quickly. It hurt using her shattered hand and by the time they started down the road, she was already out of breath. “I will not give up!” She yelled over and over again. Her muscles bulged from the strain but she kept going.
Hitomi would give to the girl, Yuya definitely had grit. Although Hitomi wasn't willing to admit it aloud, she was thankful for the girl's stubbornness. No one had care that much since her brother.

The ride in the wagon was bumpy on the gravel road. Hitomi clutched her side in pain. She bit her lip to keep from groaning aloud. No matter how hard she pressed, the blood kept spilling out from between her fingers but she kept her mouth shut. Yuya had her own battle to deal especially with lifting such a heavy weight with a broken hand.

"Who's Toorima?" She asked to try and distract the both of them. Hitomi kept herself as steady as possible.

Yuya's mouth was in a harsh line as she fought her pain. Her voice came out as a hoarse whisper. "The Demon."

Hitomi felt sick to her stomach which had nothing to do with the fact they were headed downhill. "Which Demon?"

"The one that put a knife, blade first, in your side. Now shut up! We're almost there."

They rolled into the small town a few minutes later. Yuya was beyond exhausted. Losing her grip on handles, she accidentally cruised it into a pile of metal garbage cans. The knife twisted further into Hitomi's side.

Fortunately for them the noise sent a few curious people out of their homes. Yuya dropped to her knees and clutched her injured hand to her chest. "We made it," she said as she locked eyes with Hitomi.

Hitomi gave her a ghost of smile. "Good job, Yuya." It was the first she'd used the younger woman's name.

Up ahead, some of the town's people came over to the wagon to see what the commotion was about. A young man with long, light hair ran up with what Hitomi guessed was a bat. He approached with angry scowl on his face. It turned into a look of horror when he spotted all the blood. The man shouted for someone to get the vet.

"A veterinarian?" Hysterical laughter built up in her chest. She had just enough control to stop it from boiling over but it was close. Hitomi had been in enough fights to know what shock felt like.

A small elderly man with a slight limp hobbled into her line of vision. There was a gentle expression on his face. He set a black bag net to the wagon and examed her quickly, doing his best to save her from unwanted pain. Finally, when he was done, he spoke softly to Hitomi as if she was an unruly mare. "You're hand has stopped bleeding but the wound is pretty bad." He shook his head, his gaze traveling to the knife in her side. His expression was pensive. "You've lost an awful amount of blood."

Hitomi turned her head to look after Yuya. Two women flanked her side as they tried to help her off the ground. They were having little success... Yuya was unconscious. Worried, with the last of her strength Hitomi gripped the vet's night shirt with her good hand and lifted herself up in the wagon. She hauled him close. "Help her first," she said fiercely. When the vet hesitated she tightened her hold. "We both know my chances. She can be saved. Help her first and then deal with me." Whether it was pity or the wild look in her unnatural eyes, the vet nodded and limped over to help Yuya.

Hitomi sighed in relief as she laid the head down on the tarp and closed her eyes. You made it this far, Yuya. Don't give up on me now.
Toorima laughed as his fists sunk deep into Soen's gut making him arch back in soemwhat of a U shape and collapse to the ground, "Getting tired fool? What is it to you to try and save them. You realize you could be having just as much fun as I am?"
"...That's not...what I am. That's not what I'll ever become," Soen began, "I'll never turn into you!" he shouted sitting up into a hard backhand,
"Don't speak to me that way boy. You're tone is almost angry," Toorima taunted, "I'm sure you realize by now how little hope they have..."
"Why YOU!!!" Soen shouted getting up and moving toward Toorima in fury,
"Silence..." Toorima said. The words seemed to echo into Soen's mind. He suddenly dropped to a knee as a fire seemed to erupt in his throat. Toorima laughed, "Much better..." he said. Toorima walked right in front of Soen and picked him up with one hand by the throat and grinned. A fire erupted on Soen engulfing his entire body. His mouth opened to scream but nothing came out but smoke. He writhed in agony as the flames set more pain within him than he'd ever felt in his life. Toorima threw his immolated body to the ground, "Hmph, there we are. That will take you a while to get over..." he said heading in the direction of Yuya and Hitomi.
"Soen help!" Soen remembered. He looked down at his wreck of a body. His clothes were black and ashes still smoldered on them as most of his left arm was immolated and the bottom of his right leg. Soen rolled over onto his stomach and tried to push himself up onto his good arm. Toorima looked back at him,
"What are you doing?" he asked. Suddenly Soen rushed at him in one leap, "What?" Soen grabbed ahold of him and tackled him to the ground. Toorima quickly threw him off and into the air. Soen inhaled sharply and spat a large stream of flame at The Demon. Toorima didn't move as it washed over him blackening the ground around him. Soen charged through the lingering flame surprising Toorima and bit into his left arm. A look of alarm appeared on The Demon's face as Soen dropped and tore off the forearm. Still covered in much less harmful flames, Soen wrapped his arm around Toorima's right leg and drove his good leg into his crotch. Toorima fell and was stunned long enough for Soen to rip off the leg at the knee. There was a loud cry of pain from The Demon as Soen rolled away from him. He lay there for a moment as small wiry looking tenticle like projections sprage from Soen's arm and leg connecting to Toorima's removed ones. Toorima fell backward laughing as Soen stood with the new limbs and dashed off into the direction of the girls at a speed unknown to the human race. Toorima continued to laugh as he bled on the ground, "I've underestimated him. Ha ha! This game just got a lot more fun...the fool."
A Non-Existent User
Yuya watched as the townspeople began surrounding them. She’d looked at Hitomi with relief and pride. She’d been surprised when the woman had called her by her name. Some point after someone mentioned a vet, Yuya couldn’t keep herself upright. She remembered feeling herself fall at some point in time but she couldn’t remember hitting the ground. Her last thoughts were- to her surprise- of Soen. “I was wrong about him…” Yuya thought to herself. “All these years… I’ve been hunting for the wrong person… I’m sorry Soen.” She was still unsure of things but she knew what she’d seen. Two Soen’s- one who killed… and one who protected…

Yuya opened her eyes, feeling a soft bed under her. It was an old man who hovered over her. “Ah… you’re awake. You’re lucky young lady. The bruising within your throat will heal within a week. Your hand, however, is badly damaged. I haven’t seen something this badly broken in…”

“Hitomi?” Yuya couldn’t believe how sore she felt. Her voice was still raspy, and it seemed to hurt more now than before. She went to lift her hand to her thoat- big mistake. She flinched at how horribly her arms felt.

The vet just looked at her. “You pulled a lot of muscles back there. It normally takes a horse… if not two grown men to pull a wagon that size. You’re an amazing young lady to do such a thing for another human being…” As he finished his sentence, his tone changed and his gaze shifted to something else.

“Where is she?” Yuya forced herself to sit up. Pain shot through her body and she stopped halfway and laid back down.

The vet looked at her strangely. “Alright… don’t be so dramatic. She’s being taken care of by someone more qualified than me. I was able to do some things- basically keep her alive long enough for help to be sent for. She’s not likely going to live. I’m sorry but it seems your journey was pointless.” He was shocked when Yuya grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to her. “What’s with you women and grabbing my-”

Yuya glared at him. “If she dies then you’d better pick what shirt you want to be buried in.” She warned, coughing with how raw her throat felt.

“I- I…”

Yuya pushed him away and forced her legs out of bed. She could at least walk and with a little self discipline, she forced herself out of bed. “Take me to her now.” She said through clenched teeth.

“Alright! Just don’t kill me!” He said and opened the door. Yuya began to walk but it was hard to keep her balance. She realized when he’d said she’d pulled some muscles, she’d pulled more than the ones in her arms. Her back was in tremendous pain and her legs felt heavy. She made it to the door, lightheaded and ready to go back to bed. As she went to take a step, she tripped and began to fall to the ground. To her surprise, hands wrapped around her and caught her. She ended up landing in Soen’s strong arms. Her face involuntarily reddened as she looked up. “Soen?” She asked. A smile crept over his face. “Hitomi…” It was getting hard to keep her eyes open.

He shook his head. “She’ll be fine. You need to get some rest.” He said and picked her up in his arms and carrying her back to the bed she’d been in.

“I’m sorry for all those things.” She said.

“Its alright.” He said calmly. Suddenly the room darkened and Soen’s eyes turned blood hungry. “You look tired. Why don’t you sleep while I finish off your friend?” He said as he grabbed a pillow and pressed it into her face. Yuya cried out and struggled against it but he was too strong.

Yuya woke up crying. It took her a while to realize she’d been dreaming. But as she looked around, she saw she was in the same room she’d dreamt of. “Hitomi…” Yuya whispered as she got out of bed. A mirror was opposite from the bed. As she sat up- in just as much pain as in the dream, she saw her own reflection. She’d been put in a nightgown. Her hand was wrapped- but was really swollen. Her throat was black and blue with the mark of a hand aside from the white line from her scar on her neck. She stood up. She needed to find Hitomi.
Hitomi wished she could had been unconscious or at least have someone give her a jab in the jaw so she could be kicked out for while. But to her luck, or unluck depending on how you looked at it, she was awake the entire time - from transport to the backroom of a general store to the long wait for a doctor from a few towns. Through it all she said nothing. Hitomi could not focus on controlling the pain and hold a intelligible conversation at the same time. Instead she bit down on her bottom lip whenever it was too much to bare. It was worn bloody from her teeth.

The vet's wife had taken over Hitomi's care after she was placed on sheet-covered table. The gray haired woman seemed to understand her need not to talk. She simply went about removing the stained clothes and making sure Hitomi was as comfortable as possible. When they heard the vet approach with the doctor, the woman placed a light weight blanket over her body. Much to Hitomi's surprise, the elderly woman stroked her hair and smiled. "Don't worry. Your friend is doing well. Everything is going to be fine." Hitomi knew it wasn't the case but comfort was nice nonetheless. She felt herself relaxing a little. The woman left to make room for the doctor.

"Hello. My name is Ludlum. I hear you've gotten yourself into a bit of pickle." The doctor was huge. Well over six feet tall and built like a brick wall, he could barely stand up straight without hitting his head on the ceiling. Seeing his size and knowing her weakened state, she was reluctant to have him stand so close. Hitomi was pale, sweating, slightly wheezing by the time the doctor got to her side.

"May I?" Ludlum asked as he pointed towards the sheet. She nodded hesitantly. His hands were soft as he pulled sheet far enough to see her wound. Hitomi tried not to flinch at her nudity. "Well now. That's a nasty wound you have, young lady."

No kidding, Hitomi thought sarcastically. She immediately felt guilty. Ludlum was only trying to help and here she was being cranky. The doctor slid his big arm under her shoulders and lifted her upright to get a better look at where the knife was positioned. She felt his hand still at the sight of her back. He stared down at the thin lined scars that criss-crossed over most of its surface. "It was a long time ago," she said, hoping he would move on.

"I have to take it out," Ludlum said a moment later. "I don't know how much it will help but keeping it in will surely kill you."

"Are you going to cauterize it?" The thought of fire so close to her body made Hitomi shiver but she clamped down on the impulse.

He nodded solemnly. "Have to or it will get infected."

Hitomi didn't know what hurt more - the doctor pulling knife out or the sake he poured over it to the cleanse the wound. When Ludlum brought the alcohol to her lips she looked at him incredibly as she gasped in pain. "Are you trying to get me drunk, Doc?"

"It wouldn't hurt. This next part isn't going to be pretty." Hitomi took a small swallow, whooshing it around in her mouth to get rid of the bitter taste that lingered there, before spitting it out on the ground. Ludlum just shook his head as he cleaned the blood off the knife and set the blade in the furnace to be heated. She could have she heard him mumble something about being too stubborn for her own good.

The blade was blazing red from the fire. Ludlum had to place a towel over the handle just maneuver it. She knew what had to happen. In order to seal off the wound the doctor had to stick the heated knife back inside to burn it closed. Her body went rigid at the sight of it. "Brace yourself. This is going to hurt like a son of a -"

A light knock sounded at the door before it opened. The vet's wife stood in the doorway, ringing her tiny hands. "There's a young man outside. He says he's a friend of yours but I wanted to make sure before I sent him in to see the other young lady."

Hitomi started. An image of Soen flashed in her mind. After all the beatings and mistreatment, the hatred she spewed at him constantly, he had still tried to protect them from the Demon. Even now when Soen had a chance to escape he had come back to look after them. She felt heart sick and ashamed. "He's a friend. Let him be."

When the woman turned to leave Hitomi called out to her to wait. "Tell him something for me. Tell him... I'm sorry. I'm sorry from the bottom of my soul." Her voice caught. She swallowed hard and continued. "And I... and thank you."

The door quietly clicked shut as the woman left to deliever her message. Although Hitomi was tense, she couldn't help but feel relieved as well. She knew Soen would watch after Yuya. She smiled a little at the thought of Yuya letting anyone guarding her. They'd look after each other.

Ludlum glanced down at her amused expression and frowned. "Ready?"

"Just do it," Hitomi said fiercely. Before the words had barely left her mouth, the doctor was pushing the heated metal into her flesh. Ludlum was right... it did hurt that bad. She screamed. And the world finally went black.
Soen smiled at what the old woman told him. He nodded happily and wrote, "Tell her thank you for me, please!" on the notebook he'd picked up on his way in. He headed toward Yuya's room by himself as he was pointed in her direction. On his way toward it he saw the door open and had to catch Yuya in his arms.Yuya looked up at him for a moment,
"Soen! What...um..." she began obviously surprised, "I...thank you," she said. Soen smiled,
"No need miss Yuya!" he wrote. Yuya looked at him strangely,
"Hey, why don't you talk all the time?"
"Well...someone has to say my name every day or else I'm silenced," Soen wrote. Yuya thought for a moment,
"I see...so that's why I'm so important to you..." she said. Soen smiled with a strange warmth,
"Well not exactly. Anyway Yuya's going to be okay I think. You should get some rest as well. You're not in the best shape," Soen wrote,
"Oh yeah...Soen Seijun," Yuya said waiting for Soen to speak,
"Thank you Yuya," Soen said in a deep melancholy voice. It was smooth and fluid like water. Calm and clearly spoken, ecspecially for someone who hadn't really spoken in however long, "So, back to bed?" he asked. Yuya nodded not knowing why she was being obediant all of a sudden,
"But you better be certain that Hitomi's alright," Yuya said in a stubborn voice,
"Well...we'll just have to trust the doctor,"
"But I heard her scream,"
"It means she's alive,"
"It means she's in pain!" Yuya argued as Soen set her back down in her bed,
"Oh? And she wasn't before?" Soen retorted pulling the sheets back over her. Yuya silenced for a moment,
"Well...at least...could you go and check her for me?" Yuya asked with a pair of sweet puppy dog eyes. Soen chuckled,
"Alright...but you stay put," he said heading out of her room, "I'll be back" he said leaving the notebook.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya couldn’t sleep. She felt restless and wanted to know how Hitomi was. Soen had been gone too long. Yuya slammed her hand against the wall her bed was pushed up to- she forgot it was the shattered hand and bit her lower lip as she groaned in pain. She heard a giggle come from the door. Yuya looked up to see a little girl holding a glass of water. “What’s so funny?” She asked gruffly.

“You hurt yourself. You’d think you’d know better than to do that.” She said with a big grin.

Yuya rolled her eyes. “Yea well sometimes people do stupid stuff and end up getting hurt.” She used her good hand to rub her soar neck. She needed to cut out the chatter.

The girl sighed. “Oh well… I guess it doesn’t matter if we can’t talk.” She walked in and handed Yuya the glass. “Drink up- it’ll help with the soreness.” Yuya nodded her thanks. The girl smiled. “Your friend is doing just fine. The doctor’s sowing her up right now. Soen is letting her squeeze his hand for the pain. I think she’s broken it a good three times already.”

Yuya’s eyes widened. “I never-” The little girl laughed. Yuya felt light headed and fell back in her bed. She couldn’t move but she was able to watch as the little girls small from changed into that of Soen’s. The light laugh deepened and became more malicious.

“Oops, silly me- I’ve gone and ruined the surprise. Don’t bother trying to get up or scream- that stuff wasn’t water and I promise you it’ll take quite some time for it to wear off.” He said and sat down on the bed next to her. He glanced down at her nightgown. “I didn’t realize you were so matured… hehehe!” Yuya wanted to hit him- no, she wanted to kill him but as hard as she tried all she could do was blink and breath faster in frustration. Tears of frustration appeared at the corner of her eyes He smiled. “Now see, that’s what I love about you- you let your hate fuel your actions whereas Soen follows his HEART!” He mocked. “He’s a fool who doesn’t see what I’ve offered him.” Yuya looked at Toorima. He smiled as his hand reached for her neck. She closed her eyes but felt him gently touch the marks he’d given her. The simple act may have looked innocent enough but it sent a spasm of painful heat through her throat and mouth. Tears fell down her cheeks.

“Hove you ever heard the story of the scorpion? I forget exactly how it goes… but the moral of the story was to never trust that which has the nature to hurt others. The scorpion tricked a kind creature into giving him a ride across a deep river. The creature made him promise not to sting him as he crossed and he did so- gaining the trust of the creature. It began on its tail but the water deepened and it crawled on his back, then his head… then his nose. He was so trustworthy. The creature let his guard down as he reached the deepest part of the river.” Toorima paused, enjoying the pain of Yuya. “It was foolish because at that exact moment the scorpion struck him. The creature struggled to make it to shore and collapsed in a heap. He asked the scorpion why as he drew his last breath and do you know what he said in return? ‘It is in my nature’” He laughed.

“You’ve caused more trouble than I thought. You’re the only one who knows his name- though that other woman undoubtedly knows it now as well. Still… Its in my nature to not leave things unfinished. I think you’ll be the perfect bait to lure out Soen’s true nature.” He said as his eyes fell on the pad of paper and pencil. He picked it up and scribbled something down.

“Soen… come save little Yuya from a painful death. You know how I love to torture… She’ll be waiting four cities over by the old tree resting on the cliffs edge. Yuya wont be there until the three nights when the moon is full. So you should have plenty of time to help the other one recover. We’ll be waiting.”

Toorima set the paper back where it was but paused and looked at Yuya. “I think we should make sure he knows I really have you…” Toorima took Yuya’s hand and bit her finger until it bled. Then he smeared her blood at the bottom of the paper and threw it carelessly at the wall before he stood up and picked Yuya up. "Shall we?"
We're not so different you and I. How many lives have you taken, Ryoushi? Underneath all your control and restraint lies the power of darkness just waiting to be released. Admit it. You are just. Like. Me.

"No!" Hitomi shouted as she shot straight up in her bed. As cold sweat ran down her face as the voice in her nightmare rang clear in her mind. Something was wrong. She needed to check on Yuya.

Soen, who had fallen asleep in a chair next to the bed, started when he heard Hitomi shout. Watching her struggle to get up, he jumped out of his seat and gently tried to push her back down. "What is it with you two? You're in no shape to be running around. You need to rest."

"You don't understand," she gasped as she tried to twist out of his hold. But the struggling was no use. In her weakened state she was no match for Soen's strength. Hitomi laid back against the wall next to her bed in pain. She clutched her side to stop the throbbing. "Something is not right. We have to leave."

Soen smiled slightly. "You've been sleeping. How do you know something is wrong?"

"Instinct." She slid her good hand into his and looked up at him imploringly. "You have to help me get out of bed. We have to make sure Yuya is okay. Its too dangerous for the three of us to stay here."

His smile turned into a frown. Soen scanned her face to read the truth she wasn't speaking aloud. "What aren't you telling me?" Hitomi looked away. She wasn't used to explaining herself to anyone. "Trust me."

When Soen didn't answer right away, she hesitated. Hitomi scrunched her eyes closed as Toorima's words floated back to her. I've given you a gift Ryoushi wench. A part of me is now a part of you. She couldn't tell him the whole truth but she didn't want to lie either. "I know that's a lot to ask especially after the way I've treated you. But please... trust me in this."

There was a long pause between before he finally nodded. "Alright," Soen said softly. He lightly touched her face before heading towards the door. Hitomi had to fight a blush at the odd gesture. "I'll call on the doctor before I go and get Yuya. Maybe he can talk some sense into you."

The doctor came in moments later while Hitomi supported herself against the bed frame in an awkward attempt to stand. Ludlum disapprovingly crossed his large arms over his chest and scowled. "The young man told me of your intentions. I'd be crazy to let you travel in your condition. Your other friend isn't healthy enough for a journey either."

Hitomi gave a grim laugh. "Doc, do you think you can stop me from leaving?"

Ludlum reached over and pressed his fingers into her bandage, digging ever so slightly into the stitched up wound. Hitomi hissed at the pain but said nothing. His point was made loud and clear. She tried reasoned with him. "Its not safe for the town if we stay here. We have to leave."

The doctor sighed in resignation. He knew there was no point fighting a losing battle. "Make sure to change the bandages every night. And don't get them wet." Ludlum said sternly as he pointed a finger at her. "You won't survive an infection."

Hitomi thought back of her nightmare. My blood was on that knife of yours. The moment the blade entered your body you were doomed. I now course through your veins... its only a matter of time. "An infection is the least of my worries, Doc. But thanks." Ludlum simply shook his head and left.

Hitomi was slipping into the borrowed black dress and pants the elder woman provided when Soen burst through the door. A piece of paper hung from his hand - there was blood smeared at the bottom. One look at the fury on his face confirmed her worst fears. "Toorima kidnapped Yuya."

A maelstorm of emotions went through Hitomi but it was the feeling of control she held tight to. Hitomi slid on her worn gray duster as she walked briskly to the door. The weight of the knife that damned her sat heavily in her pocket. "What are we waiting for? Let's go." Hitomi pushed the nightmare away and focused on getting Yuya back.
Soen pressed his hand on her shoulder, "Miss Hitomi...there's something...what happened exactly?" he asked. Hitomi moved his hand,
"Don't worry about that! Yuya needs us right now!" Hitomi said. Soen looked at her for a moment; she could tell he thought about it,
"She won't forgive me if I let you suffer or worse yet--" Soen was interrupted by a high pitch ear splitting screech. It sounded like what you'd think a dog whistle sounded like. Then there was an severe pain in his left arm and right leg. The veins in both popped out and he clenched them tightly. Hitomi looked at him suspiciously,
“Looks like your not at your best either,” she said,
“Yes well my condition won’t kill me,” Soen replied,
“Look, we won’t get anywhere with me giving you the details. Let’s just get a move on…please,” Hitomi pleaded. Soen let out a sigh and then un-tensed his limbs.

Hours later they were well on their way to the next city, both of them determined to find their friend, “Hitomi, tomorrow I won’t be able to speak again. You must say my name in order to temporarily lift this particular part of the curse. Remember, So—“
“Soen Seijun, got it. I’ve heard it before. I’m sharper than I look y’know,” Hitomi said. Soen grinned vaguely,
“Yes I see…good. We should make it to the next city before nightfall to be honest. I just wanted to tell you before I forgot,”
“Oh, so it’s YOU who’s the forgetful one! That’s fine, as long as you don’t forget our mission I won’t have to hurt you!” she said. They came to pass a great number of large trees and reached a long field with a dirt road winding down the middle. The sun was just starting to rise. In all the time in the night, and sick, and delirium they had lost track of time. The sun just began to peak over the hills in the distance and they saw the next city, Vilshire; sat just in front of the place known as Noumitsu Yuurin…the Deep Crowded Forest. They’d have to cross through this place known for apparitions, beasts of extremely violent nature, and the occasional mysterious disappearance in order to get to La’Riant, the city of the Night.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya woke up in a daze of pain. It was hard to breath- she coughed heavily as she opened her eyes. The back of her head leaned back and found rough tree bark. As her mind cleared and she remembered what had happened with Toorima, she realized she was tied to a tree. Her arms were lifted over her head- she didn't know how long she'd been tied like that but her arms throbbed. She pulled on the ropes but flinched. Her writs were raw and her throat burned.

It wasn't until she heard laughter that she realized Toorima was lounging in the soft grass next to her. “Beautiful day isn't it?” He asked mockingly as he stared up at her.

Yuya glared at him. She was still wearing the thin night gown. “Die!” She yelled but as she opened her mouth a burning sensation erupted from her throat. All that came out was a cry of pain.

Toorima burst out in laughter as if she'd just told him a joke. “I'm sorry... what was that?” He stretched lazily in the grass before sitting up. “Oh well. Guess we should get to work.” He said and stood up. He dusted the back of his pants off. The simple action made him seem so much like Soen.

Yuya cursed. “Stop this charade! Do not pretend that you are Soen! Reveal your true form- Demon!” She yelled even though she knew the pain it would cause. He glared at her and undid her ropes, leting her fall to her knees. Yuya looked up at him. His face was still that of Soen's and it was twisted into a look of cruelty. Her legs felt weak and she couldn't lift her arms but she forced herself to stand. “What do you want?”

He smiled. “Run. I'll give you a head start.”

“And if I refuse?” She asked bitterly.

“Then Soen and Hitomi will both die in front of your eyes. I'll peal the flesh from the womans bones and pour salt in the open wounds.”

Yuya lashed out at him. It was pointless- she was too weak from her injuries... and the fact that she felt dizzy with hunger made her wonder just how long she'd been out. “I'll kill you!” She yelled.

He just laughed and grabbed her arm- pushing her towards the woods. “Then surprise me. I'll even keep my eyes closed. Now get going. Your head starts running out.” He teased. “And the longer you take... the more flesh I'll peal from her.” Yuya spat at him and turned to run but felt him jerk on her hair- harder and harder before he slammed her down on the ground. Yuya cried out. The sky began to cloud. “Ah... looks like it'll rain soon.” He said as he walked over to Yuya who was trying to crawl awany from him. He kicked her in the stomach before leaving her side for a moment. He came back with the ropes and tied her wrists tightly, slinging the rope over a sturdy branch and pulling her up off the ground until she hung there. “You know, there's still quite some time before those two get here but we don't want them arriving early. I'll just slow them down a little bit and see what happens next.” He turned and went to leave but stopped and looked back at her. “Why don't you just- hang around a while. I'll be back in time for us to finish our little game.”

He laughed as he saw Yuya struggling to remain conscious. Her vision blurred as he walked away and disappeared into the tree's. Yuya hung there- a heavy breeze picking up. “Soen... and... Hitomi will... will come.” She said as she slipped into a dark void. A light rain began a few hours later- the winds picking up. It would storm within the next few days.
Hitomi and Soen slowly walked the dirt path, vigilant of their every step. Noumitsu Yuurin surrounded them like a dark shroud. Only small pockets of light seeped through the branches of the trees. They were lucky. If the moon hadn't been full they would have been left in blackness.

The steady, constant pace of travel was bringing them closer to where Yuya was held but was leaving Hitomi weaker each hour they kept going. It took all of her strength not to stumble and draw attention to herself.

You should stop before you kill yourself.

The voice suddenly inside Hitomi's head made her trip over a root. Soen moved to help her off the ground but she held a hand up and glared at him to stop. He looked at her with concern but continued walking along his own path.

How sweet. Young Soen is playing the role of nursemaid. He always was useful. Its a shame I have to kill him.

Hitomi scanned the landscape around her, looking for any signs of an intruder. Toorima had to be somewhere close by for him to be projecting thoughts into her mind the way he was.

Where did you get a ridiculous idea like that? I'm a part of you now, remember? What you see, I see. What you feel, I feel. Here... let me show you how it works.

A surge of pain ripped through Hitomi's punctured side and hand at the force of energy. In an instant the scenery changed from the dark forest to single tree on a cliff. Swinging from a branch hung Yuya- unconscious, beaten and bloodied. Hitomi clenched her hands into fists even as blood darkened her bandages. A growl of rage formed at the back of her throat. "What have you- if you hurt her-"

Now, now, now. I would watch myself if I were you. We don't want a certain someone to take notice.

Hitomi glanced at Soen on the other side of the road. He didn't look back at her, instead watched the tree line for anything out of the ordinary. The forest was notorious of monstrous beasts and ghosts.

For a practical woman you sure are dreamer. Do you really think Soen would want you compared to Yuya? Why would he want a possessed, battle-scarred hunter when he could have someone as youthful and vivacious girl. He protects you out of duty. He protects her out of-

"No," Hitomi whispered to the void. Her eyes were unfocused as she pushed away images of happiness she was not a part of. Toorima's words struck a cord deep inside her but she knew it was trickery - tricks meant to separate the three of them. Everything he said might be true but she would not turn her back on Yuya or Soen. No matter what happened in the end, she owed them both her life and that is not an oath you leave to the dust.

Tsk, still too clouded by human emotion for my taste. But we'll fix that soon enough. Don't keep me waiting too long... I want you to be here while I rip the girl apart, one piece at a time.

Before Hitomi could yell for him to come out and fight instead of hiding away like a coward, the voice was gone. She didn't know how she knew but she did. It was as if a section of her body was left empty.

Hitomi blinked as Noumitsu Yuurin came back into full view. Thunder boomed off into the distance as the wind picked up, blowing the back of her duster high in the air. It was then she felt it, the fine hairs on the back her neck rising in warning.

Soen stopped suddenly when he saw Hitomi wasn't moving. "What is it?"

Hitomi slowly turned her body to view behind her. About fifty feet away she spotted three sets of eyes - one yellow, two red. Sensing their prey, the beasts stalked out of the trees, the sharp points of their teeth flashing as their lips curled back in hungry snarls.

The stitches in her side twitched as if Toorima was getting perverse enjoyment of the situation. Hitomi could have sworn she heard him cackle in the wind.

A little surprise to get the party started. Have fun.

Hitomi slid her foot back a few inches as she set her body in the fighting position. The butterfly knife was open and at her side before the beasts had time to track it. Not that it mattered. The beasts weren't looking at her, they were looking at Soen. She watched in building fear as the beasts edged closer to him, posing themselves to strike.

"Please," she whispered. "Not again."

Without thinking, Hitomi took off running towards them as the beasts leapt from ground. "LOOK OUT!" she shouted but she knew the words were too late.
Soen looked back at Hitomi and smiled. Suddenly he jumped higher than possible for a mortal. The two beasts thundered out of the trees on the side of him passing quickly below him and colliding with each other. Soen landed hard, like a giant weight had suddenly possesed him. Blood spattered from the heads of the large muscular forms of the dog-like monsters. They had been crushed. Soen's cloak twirled back into place as he looked over at Hitomi. He stared straight into her eyes,
"Are you alright?" he asked. Hitomi finally breathed in,
"Uh...yeah. I just thought it would be...proper to warn you," she said weakly but straightening up toward the end of the sentence. Soen had a strange gleam in his eyes. He knew what'd happened to her. Hitomi seemed to have forgotten how connected to Toorima he was. He could feel the Demon within her. At night, he planned to wait until she was asleep and then put her much deeper into her rest. That's when he'd remove Toorima from her. The only way however...was to take The Demon into himself. That's exactly what Toorima wanted. He wanted Soen to be that much more suceptable to his control, but Soen had no choice. That's exactly what he'd do,
"Come, let us continue...are you alright?" he asked. Hitomi had regained her poise,
"Yeah, let's go..."
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Ikasu Iusari
Age: 21
Look: Short blond hair with spikey bangs. His steel grey eyes seem to be able to peer deep into one's soul and mirrors his handsome features. Usually wears white flowing things. There is a sadness that plagues his soul. Attached by his past.
Info: He is what he considers a 'lover not a fighter'. He is a well known healer and cares for almost all things. He will not fight unless absolutely necessary. It takes much more than endangering his life to make him resort to violence.
Personality: Kind to everyone he meets. He is typically quiet and a pacifist. He feels he must always put on a strong face and never let his inner feelings out.
History: He was raised by a sectetive ninja clan and was trained to kill until it was all he knew. Ikasu Iusari eventually escaped the clan after being punished for trying to save innocent people from Toorima's enjoyment. He failed at this attemp miserably, but it inspired him and made him determined never to be forced to take life again. When he does battle he uses unbreakable thread wires that can easily cut flesh. He had never had to resolve anything with violence since then, he is very afraid that he won't return to himself if he must.
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In La'Riant, Ikasu sat against a tree staring into the distance. Something just didn't feel right. Children ran up to him and began tugging on his white cape. He smiled and stood,
"Oh what is it now?" he asked playfully,
"We wanna play monster again today!" a little girl shouted,
"Hahahah! Alright, where should we play today?" he asked. The little children grabbed his hands and began to run with him laughing, "Oh come on children, where are you taking me?" he laughed into the distance. (Yeah guys, feel free to take control of this character. I'd like to see what you do with him :D)
A Non-Existent User
Yuya found herself somewhere in between subconscious and consciousness. She felt a heavy wind blow through her damp nightgown. That night it had drizzled slightly. Toorima had left her there, hanging by her wrists by the rope. She forced her eyes open. Her vision was blurry. How long had it been since she'd eaten something- since the night at the farm. Two days? Three?

“Yuya!” Her eyes widened as she heard Hitomi's voice calling her. She looked around- the simple act dizzied her.

“Yuya!” Soen called.

Yuya bit her lower lip- willing herself to see two blurry figures coming her way. “Soen! Hitomi!” Yuya called- her voice was raspy and hoarse. Tears filled her eyes. “You- you're here. You came...” She smiled.
They were mere feet away when Hitomi stopped dead in her tracks. A cry of horror and pain escaped her as she was engulfed by flames. Soen stopped and tried to catch her. Yet Toorima was there behind him and severed his head. Toorima laughed with a strange look of enjoyment on his face. “NO!” Yuya cried out. She tried to gather energy to pull at the ropes but her arms ached. She couldn't move them. She cried out in rage.

He looked at her. “I told you, Yuya. They were always meant to die. Die in front of your eyes as all those you become close to you do.” He laughed.

Yuya cried out once more, swing her body towards him. “NO! I'll kill you- I hate you Demon! I hate you!” She yelled, not caring how painful it was on her throat. Yuya opened her eyes. There was still some light rain falling down on her. It had already soaked her to the bone. Her teeth chattered and her body shivered uncontrollably. She looked around- Hitomi and Soen were no where in sight. Automatically Yuya began to whimper. She couldn't stop herself from crying.

“They're not coming Yuya.” Toorima whispered into her ear. He slowly walked around and faced her. There was no look of cruelty on his face- or even in his eyes. “I speak the truth and you know it.” He said as he took a step closer to her. Yuya continued shivering. Her hair was wet against her face. “Besides... why would you want them to come if it meant watching them die? All you have to do is ask for my help and I'll cut you down, heal your wounds, and take you away from here.” He smiled.

Yuya looked up at him. Her vision blurred and her eyes struggled to stay open. For a moment, she remained unreadable. Then she smiled at him. “Toorima... will you please die for me.” She asked roughly.

He glared at her and smacked her across the face. “You've always had a problem speaking your mind.” Suddenly he smiled. “That gives me an idea.” She glared at him. He came closer and wrapped one hand around her waist, pulling her close to him. He made her look into his eyes before he leaned over and kissed her. Yuya's eyes widened as she felt a freezing flame wash over her. Toorima's lips left hers as he whispered something in Yuya's ear.
Anxiety and impatience to reach Yuya soured Hitomi's mood as they approached the end path of the forest which opened to the city of La'Riant. Fortunately for them the day proceeded without further interruption from Toorima. But Hitomi couldn't help but feel the demon lurking about just waiting for the right time to strike. It made her irritable to have an enemy she couldn't see and barely sense.

"We're almost to La'Riant," Soen said beside her as they stepped out of the trees on top of a hill. The sun was beginning to set in the horizon, seemingly setting the sky on fire.

Her mouth formed a thin line as Hitomi gazed down at the City of the Night in the distance. Echoes of the past, like the apparitions of Noumitsu Yuurin, left a bad taste in her mouth. She and Ryo had worked some bad jobs in La'Raint with horrible results. It wasn't her favorite place in the world.

"We should rest before heading into down. You look like you should lay down."

"No." The words came out more terse than she meant them but Hitomi didn't back down. "We're almost there. We keep moving."

Soen grabbed her wrist before she could walk off. Instinctively Hitomi countered the move with the fist of her uninjured hand but he blocked the bunch before she connected with his face. Both hands trapped, she glared up at him. Soen glared right back with an expression of anger she'd never seen in him before. "Look at you." He shook her a little. "You barely have enough energy to hit me back and I'm not even trying hard! What good are you to Yuya if you can't fight?"

Hitomi stopped struggling - she knew he was right. "Alright. Fifteen minutes then we move on. NOT a minute longer." Soen slowly let go of her wrists and took a step back. He didn't gloat, that wasn't his style, but there was a particular glint of satisfaction in his eyes.

They took cover in a small grove of trees, the two of them leaning against stomps opposite each other. Hitomi's body throbbed with pain as she relaxed all her muscles and shut her eyes. Her hand drifted to the area above her wound and felt the material - the dress's fabric was sticky. She inwardly sighed. There was nothing she could do about it until later.

Hitomi sat perfectly still as she floated in and out of consciousness. She was just on the brink of sleep when she felt a hand hover close to her heart. In one motion she had the knife open and pressed to Soen's neck. His normally green eyes glowed with darkness. "What are you doing?" Hitomi demanded. She could barely believe what she was seeing.

"Toorima. I'm still connected to him... I know he infected your blood with his."

She pressed the blade closer when he didn't continue. "That doesn't explain what you were doing."

"The only way to rid your body of him is to take it into myself."

Realization hit her like a ton of bricks. Hitomi pushed herself off the ground and used the tree stump to support her in the standing position. The knife disappeared into her pocket as she stared down at her hands. God, things were such a mess.

Soen moved closer. "We have to remove Toorima's power or he might use it against you, controling your every movement."

"And you? Won't that make his power stronger in you?"

He looked away. "Its a risk I have to take."

"That's stupid! There's no reason why you should take on-"

"Excuse me," a man's deep voice asked from the road. Hitomi cringed. They turned to see a man dressed in all white speak. "Is everything alright..." He trailed off as he caught sight of violet hair and sharp eyes. "H-hitomi?"

"Ikasu Iusari. As I live and breathe." Venom dripped from her words.

Soen glanced between the stranger and Hitomi. "Do you two know each other?"

"We've met." Of all the people she hated in the world Ikasu had a high spot on her top ten. She regretted not letting him die all those years ago. Hitomi clamped down on the urge to kill him then and there. Could things possible any worse, she thought an instant before a crippling pain brought her to her knees. She clutched her head in agony.

"Hitomi!?!"

"Toorima," she rasped. A icy fire burned, projecting itself into her mind. "He's doing something to Yuya."
Soen looked over at Ikasu who held a strong look of sadness, but also one of extreme care and regret. Ikasu looked at Soen and immediately his mind went back to The Demon. There was something different about this man though. He would simply observe for now. "You, who are you to Hitomi?" he asked as he knelt by Hitomi and tried to help her up. When he touched her he began to pull Toorima out of her very subtly. Not subtle enough,
"STOP!" Hitomi shouted at him with a mean glare directly into his eyes, "It's not your concern. We need to find Yuya, somethins is very wrong..."
"Hitomi, let me help you!" Ikasu said approaching. Soen held his hand up as he saw Hitomi's knife hand twitch. Ikasu stopped, "...I'm a healer now..." he said. Hitomi shot a look of disbelief at Ikasu,
"You? As if I would believe that!" Hitomi snapped. Ikasu approached,
"Hm, as stubborn as ever," he said gently moving aside Soen's hand. Hitomi jerked away from Soen and put a scratch from her butterfly knife against Ikasu's right palm. It was so fine it didn't even bleed, "And just as skilled," he continued kneeling next to her,
"Slime! Stay away from me!" Hitomi shouted at him. His eyes met her's. He wasn't lying. There was gentleness in them. Hitomi faltered just long enough for Ikasu to cup her injured hand. Hitomi winced expecting pain, but it didn't come. It felt as if her hand was in warm water. Ikasu's eyes were closed and he breathed out slowly. He released her hand, "And you're just as pretty as I remember as well," he said with a smile. Hitomi jerked her hand away,
"What's with you?" she asked defensively. Soen stood back amazed,
"Of course," Ikasu said ignoring Hitomi's question, "You're also STILL a danger to yourself and others..."
"You're one to talk!!!" Hitomi shouted flexing her once broken hand. All of a sudden there was a bolt of pain through her mind and Toorima's laughter. Her hand spasmed and the previous wounds returned instantly, "Ugh, damn..." Hitomi cursed through a bit lip,
"What is this?" Ikasu asked; his voice was full of alarm,
"This is Toorima's work..." Soen said,
"Toorima?"
"Yes. If you've ever come in contact with the Demon then you have probably noticed I resemble him completely. Well, Toorima is the Demon who is truly sought after. I am cursed by him..." Soen explained. Ikasu understood now,
"So...something has happened to Hitomi?" Ikasu asked looking back at her. Hitomi shot a venomous glare back at him, "I see...and of Ryo?" Ikasu asked. Hitomi looked away from him,
"Come on Soen," Hitomi sighed standing, "Let's go help Yuya." Soen agreed, he wanted to help Yuya very badly. She didn't deserve whatever Toorima was doing. The determination to save her had bee constantly burning in his chest for a while now, but they all had to be very careful,
"Come if you like, but we must continue on. A healer would be much abliged."
A Non-Existent User
Time... how much time had passed. When was the last time she'd seen Hitomi and Soen? Yuya picked her head up to look up at the sky. Another cloudy day... it seemed like ages since she last saw the sun or felt its warm rays on her skin. Coldness... dark coldness was all she could remember. Her breathing had become shallow. She was tired and if darkness took her for the last time, she would gladly let it. “You can't die yet.” Toorima said cheerfully. His hand ran across her back as he circled around her. Yuya's head fell back onto her shoulders but she vaguely watched him through eyes that were just barely open.

She didn't even care anymore. The rain had washed away her fighting spirit and drained all hope from her. She looked up at him with eyes that admitted defeat. Toorima stopped in front of her. “Has our dear little Yuya finally been broken?” He asked with an innocent tone. She glared up at him. He smiled and lifted her head up with his finger. “It seems there's still a small spark within that soul of yours. I'll have to put it out before Soen gets here. Of course in the mean time...” He began to chuckle light heartily. “I really have been going quite easy on you, you know. What do you say we don't hold back. I wont hold back on the fun so long as you don't hold back on those beautiful screams of yours.” He sighed lightly as he walked away. That evil grin of his still on his face.

Suddenly, Yuya felt a strong heat knick at her toes. Yuya looked down and saw flames slowly rising. Her eyes opened wide with horror as she began to panic. She could smell the smoke as it began to fill her lungs. She cried out as fire grew hotter and hotter and began to consume her in a slow and steady rate. Slowly, it rose in a devouring pain up her calf's and knee's Then it began to consume her thighs and stomach. Yuya struggled to get away but still couldn't break her bonds. Slowly the flame crept up her chest and shoulders. The smoke burned her lungs, making it impossible to take a breath without coughing between her cries of pain. How she wanted Soen and Hitomi to come. Wanted the to rescue her from this pain but no matter what she could not call out their names. All she could do was cry out in anguish as the flames finally consumed her.

She felt herself falling as the flames burnt away the ropes that held her. Yuya helplessly waited for her end to come. She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths of fresh air. So far she had fallen, surely she would die from such a height but it was a cold wetness that engulfed her, stinging her body like millions of tiny needles. She opened her eyes and found herself submerged in a Sea of deep blue. She saw light above her. The surface of the water so close but when she went to move she couldn't. “Soen....” Yuya thought to herself as she found herself sinking deeper into the depths of the Sea. She couldn't breath. As the light from the surface became smaller and smaller, Yuya prayed for her end to come. Slowly... slowly... she went to sleep.

Yuya gasped for air as she opened her eyes, shaking uncontrollably she looked around. She was still hanging from the tree. Sweat trickled down her forehead as she realized what Toorima had done. Every time she closed her eyes he'd sent horrible nightmares running through her mind. Now, as he smiled smugly at her, she knew he'd done something similar... only this time she'd felt the pain as if it were real. Yuya could still feel the burning sensation from the fire followed by the cold needles brought on by the icy Sea. She silently prayed that her friends would find her soon. Then the darkness over took her and her nightmares continued to eat away at her.
Was it nighttime already, really? Ikasu had decided to travel with them if it meant helping an innocent girl. They had gathered supplies from La'Riant with his help and headed on their way. Hitomi seemed to be feeling a little better about being outside the city, but she hadn't said two more words to Ikasu since the last ones. They made it far that day for once. No bumps in the road on the way to Vilshire, a town of refuge for the group. Vilshire hailed adventurers and warriors alike. It would be smooth sailing from there. Soen was strangly quiet, "Soen Seijun..." Hitomi said. Soen looked at her surprised. He sat against one of the only trees nearby. They were in an nearly open field under a starry sky. Hitomi smiled, "I just thought I'd say it since you were so quiet..." Soen laughed,
"I'm sorry. Did you want to talk about something?" he asked. Hitomi shook her head,
"Just thought maybe it was you who had something on your mind," she asked. Ikasu looked over at the two,
"Oh, you're feeling better Hitomi?" he asked. She ignored him. Soen looked off into the sky,
"I'm just worried..." Soen said,
"About Yuya?"
"Of course. I'm terribly worried about her. She doesn't deserve whatever is going on with Toorima. I want to get there as soon as possible, but she won't be there until the right night according to the note. Of course..." Soen began, "I know Toorima."
"Yeah, don't worry. We'll save her," Hitomi said,
"Well, I'm also worried about you. You get some rest okay?" Soen said with a smile. It was fake. Hitomi sighed and lay down.
"Good idea. Night..." she said,
"Indeed," Soen replied. Ikasu shook his head and looked to Soen,
"Well, should I take watch?" he asked. Soen shook his head,
"No, I'll do it," he replied, "In the morning...make sure to heal Hitomi."

About an hour later Hitomi and Ikasu both slept still quite uneasily. Soen sighed and looked over at Hitomi. She'd notice if he tried to touch her. He'd have to do this now even though he knew she'd hate him for it once she found out. Soen's shadow stretched over to Hitomi. It's hand silently crept over her heart. A bolt flashed though his mind and he grunted for a second. Toorima's demonic entity was coming out of her. Soen's shadow writhed and twisted in the darkness. Only the moonlight kept it intact. Soen felt the energy siphon into his body. It felt cold and draining. It was done, and he collapsed. Slowly his shadow crept back over his body as Toorima's limbs that were attached to him bulged and pulsated with pain and dark aura. They shook violently and the muscles contracted and writhed underneath the skin. Soen's eyes opened but he wasn't awake. They were solid black. Soen's shadow engulfed his body. The limbs were going back. Soen's body began to slowly sink into the ground as an intangible shadow. It was also slowly drifiting north and picking up speed steadily.

Nightmares ravaged Soen's subconscious. He saw the killings though Toorima's wicked eyes. From before his time to Soen's home, Yuya's village, Yuya herself, Hitomi's brother Ryo, the people from the farm and their dog, countless others. Soen's stomach lurched. He gasped for air but his throat didn't move. He couldn't breath. A fearful chill rocked his body and mind. It was like when he was sealed away underground after he'd been cursed. Under the earth naked and confused. He was immortal and couldn't suffocate so he'd simply suffered for the whole time. Time was still for him, but he felt it all along. It was a convenient little paradox that Toorima had played on him. Soen almost paniced. His lungs cried out and his body would not respond. That's when a hand clasped around his wrist yanking him forcefully out of the ground. His eyes shot open. The full moon was behind a face that he recognized as his own,
"So you've finally arrived!" Toorima cheered making a hard jerk on the arm that tore it clean off. Soen cried out and hit the ground hard gripping the area. He gritted his teeth together as he turned on his side. When he opened his eyes he saw it. There, from a tree, hung Yuya,
"YUYA!!!" Soen shouted. She looked weakly over at him just before Toorima's foot crashed down into the side of Soen's neck with a laugh,
"Good. Hate me. Hate me with everything you have. The more you hate me Soen...the more you become me!"
A Non-Existent User
Yuya heard thunder in the distance. Lightning lit up the sky for an instant as the winds picked up. She tried to force her eyes to focus in on the figure on the ground but it staid a blur. She gritted her teeth and tried harder. “Yuya!” Just as Soen called her name she focused in on him for an instant. It was Soen. His arm was ripped off... he was bleeding badly.

Her voice croaked as she opened her mouth. She began shivering uncontrollably. Soen had come for her. She tugged at the rope but it just cut deeper into her raw wrists as more thunder and lightning made itself know in the dark cloudy night time sky. She flinched and began to cry as Toorima slammed his foot down on Soen's neck.

“Good. Hate me. Hate me with everything you have. The more you hate me Soen... the more you become me!” Toorima laughed. Soen lay there for a moment before he gasped for air and struggled to get up up as the rain started to pour down. He tried to force him up before he was completely healed.

Yuya began pulling at her ropes. She felt her arms become even more damaged. The tendons and muscles were already torn or pulled. She cried out and grunted with hatred at Toorima. He just turned around and looked at her. His words leaked into her mind. “I'll rip him to pieces right in front of you. It's too bad he came alone. I'll have to hunt Hitomi down now.” Yuya began to whimper with the usual pain he brought to her. Whenever he tried to send images or thoughts into her mind, he's send a crippling pain through the back of her head. She looked at Soen. He was healing himself and slowly making his way through the muddied ground.

Toorima walked towards her with that evil smile. “Tell me Soen... have you ever seen how beautiful a flower a woman can be?” He asked as he brought his hand to Yuya's neck. Yuya's gown was soaked they were all soaked with the heavy rains. He turned around as Soen stopped and looked up at him and Yuya. A grin crept over Toorima's mind as he quickly ripped the front of Yuya's night gown open.

“Damn you Toorima!” Soen yelled with anger. “Leave her alone! I'll kill you!” He began.

“Good... that's it Soen...” Toorima chuckled. “But I doubt Yuya will last very much longer up there. The question is... will you save her... or kill me?” He asked as he disappeared into the woods.

As he said that, Yuya cried out in pain as Toorima sent a seizure of pain through her entire body. Her eyes rolled back in her head as darkness crept over her and her body began to shut down. ...Soen... she thought. ...You... came... She vaguely felt her hands go limp and the strain on her arms vanished. She felt herself fall before she was embraced. She couldn't stop shaking... couldn't breath. She tried to open her eyes. She saw his face... his gentle eyes. She smiled up at him before she closed her eyes. Am I going to die? She wondered.
The moment Hitomi opened her eyes she knew something was wrong. Frantically she pulled at the dress opening at her neck and reached inside to feel the place over her heart. A faint imprint of a hand was marked into her flesh. She looked around the small resting area but could find no trace of Soen. "No," she whispered to herself. The Demon's presence was gone and Soen was gone along with it.

*

Ikasu burst awake to the loud crash of thunder. The sky was dark and boiling with storm clouds overhead. A light shower of rain dropped from above and poured down on his face, blurring his vision but it didn't obscure it enough to block the image of Hitomi scouring the dirt. For a minute he thought she’d gone crazy.

Ikasu quickly went her side at the sight of her searching. He grabbed her forearm to get her attention when she wouldn't answer his call but still she ignored his presence. Hitomi tried to pull away however his hold was too strong and her body was too weak . "Let me go," she warned him through clenched teeth.

"Not until you tell me what you're doing."

"Soen's disappeared. Damn it, I need to find him!" Her shocked him. Ikasu paused.

The Hitomi in his hands had changed. He was used to a controlled and unfeeling girl, not this emotion filled woman. He tightened his grip briefly before slowly loosened his hold. Using his free hand, Ikasu slipped it inside her coat to her side. But even at the gentle touch she struggled against him. He ignored it and pushed his healing power into her wound, her body heating from the inside out. He did his best to hide his smile as her eyes widened in surprised. Next he healed her hand although that took much more effort as mending missing bone was not easy. Finally, a little weak but satisfied he had kept his promise, Ikasu released her. Hitomi didn't thank him but he expected that - he was just happy she hadn't killed him yet.

"Maybe its for the best he‘s gone," Ikasu said as he watched her scan through the dirt on her hands and knees once more. "Continuing on this road could only get you more severely hurt or worse. You could end up dead." But he knew he had made a mistake the words left his mouth. The sudden stillness of her body warned him of her anger. Slowly, she rose from her kneeling position and straightened, turning to him with fire in her eyes.

"My friend is hanging by a tree being tortured to death." Hitomi walked toward him, each word punctuated by each hard step. "Soen has disappeared off the face of the Earth. And my only link to the Demon is gone. But you think I should just stop looking? Stop trying?"

Ikasu tried to make his next words gentle so it would soften the blow he was about to deliver. "Soen mentioned healing you last night even though I couldn’t before. I think... I think he knew he was leaving here and that this Toorima wouldn't be a problem for you anymore." He watched Hitomi's body flinch and wished he hadn't spoken but the words kept pouring out. "Take this opportunity and-"

"Not another word." Hitomi clutched a fistful of his shirt and jerked him close. Ikasu could tell her full strength was back after his healing and it was a strength to match his own. It was a good thing he didn't fight women or he could be in serious trouble. "Help me or leave, those are your choices."

"I'll help you." Ikasu didn't want to fully grasp what he had promised. He had made an oath years ago never to do battle again. With the things he had done and seen - there was no more room for blood on his hands. But here he was vowing to help another kill. Wasn't that just as bad?

"We head north," Hitomi said pointing toward the small forest of Vilshire. Ikasu was apprehensive as the sight of their destination but a familiar thrill ran through his blood. It had been a long time since he'd been hunting. "Let's move. We don't have time to waste."

*

The rain was pouring in heavy sheets by the time they ad ventured half way through the forest. Hitomi's violet hair was plastered against her face as she half walked, half ran along the gravel road. Now that her strength was back she felt more energized, more capable. And just as determined as ever to kill Toorima for all the pain he'd inflicted on her friends.

Except for the occasional roar of thunder, things were eerily quiet as they journeyed forward. Hitomi noticed without turning to look that Ikasu was back to his old ways, stealthily moving without drawing attention to himself. He said he was a simple healer now but his ninja training was still present in his body movements. Yeah, he was just a healer and she was a prima ballerina.

A twig snapped to her right.

Hitomi stopped cold, signaling for Ikasu to so the same. She scanned the surrounding areas, but within darkness and the rain it was next to impossible to know exactly what was out there. Gradually, Hitomi turned on the backs of her heels to take in a better terrestrial picture. There was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen but something didn’t feel right. Even though the forests were completely different in appearance, they both gave Hitomi the same uneasy feeling. Something evil lurked here.

She heard it before she saw what was headed for them - a deep cackle only Toorima possessed. Before she could warn Ikasu, a thick blast of heat burst through the trees, forcing them off their feet. Ikasu landed further back on the path hitting his head hard on the rocky path. Hitomi slammed into the ragged bark of a tree trunk, bending around it at the force of the blast, before gravity took over and she plummeted to the ground.

Disoriented, she tried to stand but only accomplished about three staggering steps before falling again. The pain was back, pulsing through her body like a jackhammer. A familiar man sauntered over, his swagger sure and unhurried as he walked over to where she lay in the mud. Hitomi attempted again to stand but made it as far up as to balance on her arms. The Demon tsked and crotched down in front of her.

“You seem to be falling down on the job a lot these day, Hitomi.” Toorima shook his head in disappoint, his concerned expression exactly like Soen’s. She spit in his face. He backhanded her an instant later.

“Insolence, little hunter, is not to be tolerated,” Toormia warned as he grabbed her by the throat. Frantically her fingers automatically went to his hands as she tried to pry throat from her throat. He laughed at her futile attempts. “I want to give you a taste of what Yuya experienced before I played with her.”

“You talk too much.” In a flash of white Ikasu released his thread wires. The sharp tips embedded themselves in Toorima’s shoulder, but before he could retract the wires, the Demon gripped the ends in his free hand, wrapped them twice around his palm and jerk, sending them flying in the opposite direction with Ikasu attached. Ikasu crashed harder the second time, hitting his head against a rock. His head lolled to his chest as he slipped unconscious.

“A ninja in such short notice? My, you are resourceful.”

Just as black spots began to dance before her eyes Toorima unceremoniously dropped her to the ground. Her coughs were violent for rain and air were not a good combination to breathe in. Fighting for oxygen, she pushed herself up to sit but the demon had other plans. With one swift kick Hitomi went flying back into a large mud puddle. He would do this twice more, breaking the ribs which had already healed, with a huge smile as if the sound of bones breaking gave him pleasure. “No fight. Did the pathetic fighter over there sap all the fire out of you when he healed your wounds?”

“Ik-kasu’s r-right.” Hitomi rasped as she wiped away a glob of mud from her mouth with the back of her hand. “You do t-talk too much.” The imitation of Soen’s face twisted with rage and fury. The Demon wasn’t far from the surface now.

“I should talk more then so we can catch up,” Toorima snarled. He pressed a foot against her throat, applying enough pressure to cause pain without crushing her esophagus. “Keeping residence in that brain of yours sure was insightful.”

Toorima got closer, placing one knee beside her body while his other foot stayed firmly at her neck. He peered into her eyes with hellish delight for he knew it’d been fun breaking the weakest link. “There was a barrel of good things up there,” he said tapping her temple.

Slowly, Toorima slid his hand behind her neck like a loving caress, and with a simple press of his fingers where her skull met her neck, Hitomi’s body was deathly still. Her eyes could still see and her nerves could feel pain but the movement of her limbs and head was suspended. Hitomi screamed at the top of her lungs only to hear it in her mind.

She was paralyzed.
A Non-Existent User
NAME - Tetsuo Egami a.k.a. Eris a.k.a. Maki

AGE - 24

LOOK - Shoulder length bright, apple red hair with golden brown eyes. Facial features are androgynous making it easy for her to pass as a girl or a boy. Wears a red tunic with no sleeves and matching pants. There are thick scars across her knuckles but she can’t always remember where’s she gotten them.

PERSONALITY - Tetsuo suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. She has three distinct personalities inside herself constantly communicating and fighting for control over her body.

-Tetsuo is a twenty four year old male who believes he was left with a human family at birth and is really the son of Toorima. He is viscous in his attempts to act like his “father”, dominate, and hates Soen with a passion for he takes up the demon‘s attention.
-Eris is a six year old little girl who loves to get into mischief. She doesn’t believe she’s good or bad, just a person who likes to have fun at others expenses. She switched sides often.
-Maki is a fifteen year old young lady and the true personality. She is the timid, quiet voice against the other two but does her best to do the right thing in the face of their warmongering.

INFO (Fighting Wise) - Eris is an expert escape artist but can not fight for the life of her. Maki has only basic knowledge of fighting skills, but Tetsuo is the ultimate fighter. Put anything in his hands and he can use it as a destructive weapon. He prefers a blue steel claws he always wears on his fingers. The claws’ sharp points can cut deep into flesh and become twice as deadly when he dips them into the poisonous powder he keeps in a small pouch at his waist.

HISTORY - All three were born into the body of a girl in a crowd, dilapidated village. The parents, wanting a boy instead, decided to give the girl a boy’s name and treat him like a son. This was fine for while but Tetsuo always felt something was wrong. He wasn’t like the other boys although he tried his best to be. At the tender age of six he meet a little girl with violet hair and they became the best of friends. When he told his friend his suspicions, the little girl embraced the idea and gave him the name of Maki which he only used when they played together. But his need for mischief got the best of him as he set an abandoned building on fire. Not wanting a beating, he blamed it on the girl and she was quickly thrown out of her home. The guilt of his actions would bury Maki in his subconscious for almost a decade but in that life changing moment Eris was created.
When Tetsuo hit puberty his parents became enraged for they could no longer pass him off as a boy. In their fury they beat him nearly to death and threw in the street, warning him never to return. Maki woke up two streets over in the rain gutter. The family home had mysteriously gone up in flames. Now all three are searching for the Demon but each for different reasons. Tetsuo wants to find and prove himself worthy to his father, Maki follows the Demon in order to find the only friend she’s ever had and make a mends, and Eris wants to wreck havoc on the biggest baddie in the land.

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Tetsuo hid among the shadows of the trees as he watched the action. His anticipation made him restless for he hadn‘t caught sight of his father in ages. But his father was there, in the flesh, not twenty feet away from him! Tetsuo wanted to run out in the open and meet him in person but he knew that would not be wise. The tips of his claws bit into the bark. He needed to be calm. He needed to practice patience.

It was pure luck he had been able to find to keep track of the hunter for the he had been losing her trail off and on for months. Surprising it had been the stranger companions she’d seemed to pick up that had helped him. Usually she covered her tracks well but the others were making her sloppy. The past week the hunter had been easy to follow and she lead him right to his father. Tetsuo couldn’t help but smile.

The Demon backhanded, sending her flying to back into the mud. Tetsuo felt his body gasp, the heavy pounding of the rain covering the sound. “Tetsuo, you must stop this. He’ll kill her!” Maki screamed in his head.

“That’s the point,” Tetsuo growled back as tried to push Maki back down in his subconscious. Thankfully the little brat was asleep because if the two of them started to nag Tetsuo didn’t think he could hold back his temper.

“She’s done nothing wrong. She’s just trying to protect-”

Tetsuo cursed. “Shhh! Father’s talking.” Bloody blades, would she never shut up?

His father’s pinned the woman down with his foot. His voice rang loud and clear over even over the thunder of rain. “Keeping residence in that brain of yours sure was insightful. There was a barrel of good things up there.”

Tetsuo watched as the demon touch press something against the woman’s neck. Suddenly, her struggles stopped and her whole body went still. It took a minute for him to realize what his father was doing but when it came it him his eyes widened with joy. The hunter was paralyzed and now torture could be inflicted without restraint. Brilliant!

“Your memories are very dark, wench. There are things in there even I hadn’t though of. Tell me, what is your favorite: the massacre at the temple or watching your brother burn alive?” Toorima walked circles around the unmoving woman before suddenly coming to stop. He tilted his head to one side, an evil smile painted on his face. “No wait, I know your favorite. It was when my ninja clan captured you. They’re quite talented in the ways of pain, aren’t they?”

The demon shivered in pleasure. “While we wait for your friends to arrive why don’t we relive that wonderful experience. I’ll will reopen wounds even the pathetic healer can’t heal. Your mutilated corpse will be a pleasant surprise for Yuya and Soen.”

With one swift jerk, his father ripped the woman’s dress open down the middle, exposing her body to the elements. He grabbed her jaw and forced her to look at him. “Now open your mouth. I want to her you scream.” Tetsuo suspected there was fear in her eyes and only wished he didn’t have to hide so he could see it himself. One day, he promised himself.

“Tetsuo please! You must not let his happen.” Tetsuo could feel Maki fighting to gain control but he kicked her back down, squashing her nagging for a good long while. What cursed life he lived to have to put up with such a softhearted twit interrupting his lessons. He was trying to learn from the master.

“If memory serves they beat you first.” Instantly dozens of bruises showed up on her body. The hunter tried not to cry out but the pain was too much for her. “Next, were the whips.” From a distance Tetsuo could see the scars that decorated her torso split open as if they were just made. But unlike to the bruises this process was slower, excruciatingly so. Her screams were barely human as they echoed in forest.

Whatever his father said next was lost to the wind. Tetsuo leaned closer to listen, but he found it didn’t matter for she whimpered like a wounded animal. He beamed with pride. His father had discovered the one thing to break the hunter. She was useless now.

“You shock me, Hitomi. Everyone this world is cruel, you should know this by now. Your best friend betrayed you; your parents banished you. After saving his life Ikasu lead you to the slaughter and it took three days for your brother to find you because he was spending time with one of his many women. Even the great Soen left you on your own so he could run off to save his precious Yuya. Face it, hunter. No one wants your damaged soul.”

Silence reigned as his father’s words sank in. Tetsuo was sure the woman had finally given up and died. But then he heard the most peculiar sound. He frowned. It was the distinct sound of female laughter. The woman’s body was shaking with mirth.

Wait. She shouldn’t be moving at all.

Tetsuo saw the flash of the woman’s blade before it sank into the side of the Demon’s neck. He stood there shell shocked, unable to move. This shouldn’t be happening. His father had won. Never taking her hand of the handle of the knife, the woman flipped herself over on the demon, pressing her knees into his ribcage to compress his chest. It wasn’t to suffocate, for he didn’t breathe like humans, but to limit him movements so he couldn’t get away.

“The pressure point doesn‘t last forever if the person has scar tissue around that vertebrae.” The hunter leaned closer, digging the knife deeper in as she did so. Blood dripped from her mouth, her eyes were swollen shut from bruises, and her voice was weak from strain. But still she spoke words which inflamed Tetsuo’s very being. “We both know this won’t kill you so do not think I will stop hunting. Until my last breath, in this world or the next, I will end your life for those you‘ve ended. I will break you like you’ve broken me. It is my solemn vow.”

And with her final words she slit his throat, almost severing it off completely. Blood foamed from his neck as he tried to make a grab for her. But his hand collapsed to the ground as the life force drained from him.

“NOOOOO!!!” Tetsuo yelled at the demon’s unmoving body.

She looked up surprised at his startled cry but Tetsuo didn’t notice. He ran from the tree’s cover over to his father side. The woman’s body swayed before falling to the mud. In his rage and anguish, he savagely kicked her away. She was too unworthy to even die in the same area as his father.

Tetsuo fell to his knees. Gently, he placed his father’s head in his lap, brushing the mud off his nose and cheeks. He was healing, but slowly. Tetsuo jerked the wench’s knife from the throat and clutched it in his hand. His hatred thundered like the storm around him. It was Soen and that stupid woman’s fault.

“They pay for this, Father.” Tetsuo promised as he lift the demon’s large body off the ground. “They’ll all pay.”
Toorima's dark form exited into the forest as Soen lay with his footprint on the side of his neck. The light haze in his mind cleared quickly. He sat up on his knees and focused. The spot where his arm had been removed began to writhe. A low groan came from his sore throat and a new arm shot from the wound covered in fresh blood. Soen fell forward on his hands for a moment breathing heavily. He looked up suddenly, "Yuya..." he thought getting up in an instant and running up to her. He leapt up and severed the rope with a sharp swipe of his hand. Yuya fell into his arms as he reached out and grabbed her. Soen pulled her close and held her for a moment. Her breathing was almost inaudible. A cold chill blew across the cliff. Yuya shivered, "I'm sorry," Soen said quietly holding tighter to try and warm her, "I shouldn't have let this happen..." His body shook with emotion for a moment. Suddenly, his nerves hardened again. Gloom would not solve the problem; he needed to get her to someone. She needed to see Ikasu. Soen looked back into the woods then down the cliff. They were right above Vilshire. Soen's eyes widened as he realized the connection. Toorima was heading back for Hitomi. He cursed looking from Yuya to the forest. What would he do? A glance downward revealed Soen's missing shadow. Toorima had taken it. Crafty bastard thinks of everything! Soen threw his cloak around Yuya. He had to keep her warm, "Yuya, please...forgive me," he said. She looked up at him again. Her eyes were halfway glazed over. There wasn't much left in her. Her lips moved quivering as if she was trying to form words, but nothing came out but a soft groan that was drowned out by the rain. Soen decided in an instant. She'd at least wait at the hospital in Vilshire. He'd have to wait till then to go help Hitomi and Ikasu. He only hoped they could last till then. Soen approached the edge of the cliff and Yuya began to cough violently. Damn, would she even make it to the hospital? Blood came from her mouth. Nope, she needed attention now. Her eyes were barely shadows behind glass compared to the vibrant youth they once held. Soen bit into his lip drawing blood. This was it, the only way he knew he could postpone her death. Her heartbeat slowed against his as he drew his face near hers. Soen closed his eyes tightly. "This blood of mine," he asked, "will link us as long as we live. My illness is yours, and my prosperity the same. My wound is shared with you, and my health is ours. Are you sure?" Soen asked the silent girl in his arms. She began to go cold. He quickly leaned in and kissed her. The blood from his lip going into her mouth. A warm glow surrounded her body. It was a shame, now she was cursed with his pain, and blessed with his rejoice. A tear fell from Soen's eye. He'd never wanted to do it to anyone, but was a cursed life better than none at all?
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The dark fog in Ikasu's vision finally subsided and he awoke. He'd been careless in his attack, he'd been rash, he was...rusty. A quiet bliss filled him. Combat. His tongue lapped up the blood on his lips that trailed from his forehead. It tasted like sweet memories. Ikasu awoke quickly seeing the strange girl nearby. His normally gentle eyes were now cruel and chaotic. Hitomi's labored breathing was what shook them back to normal. He was wobbly on his feet but he rushed over to her. She looked bad. Ikasu put his hands on her face. They instantly warmed. His powers flowed into her. He shuddered. He didn't have enough energy. Ikasu's eyes glared daggers at the wierd girl beginning to carry Toorima's body, "So help me God, you'd better hope she makes it!" he cried. Right now would have been the perfect time to try and finish Toorima, but Hitomi was in so much danger. Her eyes and face slowly healed. Ikasu was too resolute in his rescue to blush when he placed his hands on her chest. Her wounds there too began to heal. Ikasu shuddered again. His vision fogged but he shook it off. The girl in the distance slowly stood and looked over in Ikasu's direction, as she set down Toorima's limp body resting it against a tree,
"You. You slime! How dare you hurt my father!" she cried. Her voice...it was a he? The person approached swiftly, "I won't stand for this. You, Iusari will taste my claw!" he shouted with anger bursting in his voice. Ikasu heard running. He wasted no time picking up Hitomi and taking off. His old land legs had come back. He was like the wind in and out of the trees. Hitomi groaned in his arms as he raced toward Vilshire. Tetsuo was hot on his heels. Another shudder and a blurr of vision. This would be close. Suddenly Toorima's eyes opened but his body stayed cold still,
"Wait, you. Who are are you to me?" he asked Tetsuo, "I have not a child. What is it you seek?" Tetsuo turned full of joy to see and hear his father speak to him. Ikasu wasted no time. He was gone in less than an instant.
A Non-Existent User
Thump, thump... thump...... thump...... Yuya had felt her heart stop for an instant but something pulled her back before she could completely leave. She gasped for air and opened her eyes. Soen was looking down at her. He seemed tired but happy. “Yuya.” He sighed, a smile began to appear on his face. Yuya was so happy to see him that she went to hug him. She winced... her arms still hurt and it was difficult to move them but she managed to wrap her arms around his neck and give him a big squeeze. “I'm glad you're okay.” He said- a little surprised that she'd hugged him. He waited a moment before he pulled away. “Can you walk?” He asked? He felt a bit light headed and his arms ached. She didn't just need healing, she needed food and water too.

Yuya casually whipped away tears which had begun to build at the corners of her eyes. She smiled warmly and nodded before she had him put her down. She took a few steps- head rush. Soen gripped her before she fell down. “Hey now...” He said, shaking his own head. He was seeing double of everything. “Take it easy Yuya.” He said as he put one of her arms around his neck and had her lean on him. “We'll go together.”

She stared up at him for a moment before she gave him a hesitant nod. The two began walking and Yuya struggled with the pace. Her legs felt wobbly and her head felt dizzy. She still couldn't get much use out of her arms and her throat... her voice.

Soen looked down at her. “What did he do to you, Yuya? I want to know so I can personally repay the debt.” He asked in a bitter tone. She wouldn't die and she'd be healed within the next day but... he felt a portion of her pain. Her arms were healing from tears in the tendons and muscles. Her ribs had been broken- she had infections from her cuts, and she was suffering from overexposure to the elements- along with lack of food and water. Yet he felt as though there were more to it. As he lead her through the woods and away from the cliff, he sensed something else. It didn't have anything to do with her body though... so there was only one way of knowing. She needed to tell him what else was wrong.

Yuya looked up at him. He was already showing more hate towards Toorima. She gritted her teeth as she glared up at him. That was exactly what Toorima wanted. But what she wanted to know was why she could feel her body healing itself. Soen had done something... but what? He looked down at her. He wanted an answer that she couldn't- no, she wouldn't give him.

“Dammit Yuya, talk to me.” His voice echoed through the tree's even as the rain fell down. She kept her eyes looking ahead, though they were set with a look that told him she wouldn't tell him anything. He was beginning to feel better- which meant the Yuya he knew- the stubborn girl who wouldn't take any crap- was coming back. “Why won't you tell me?” He asked. Yuya didn't answer.

Suddenly, Soen and Yuya froze. They heard someone approaching, and quickly. Soen nearly had a heart attack when someone rushed out of the woods and nearly collided with him and Yuya. Both men went to attack but Soen stopped. “Ikasu?” He asked as the man seemed ready to defend himself.

Yuya saw the mans eyes wild with a strange thing. For an instant she thought she was looking at eyes that reflected Toorima's monstrous deeds. Yuya gasped and stepped behind Soen, grasping his arm for protection. “Soen?” A gruff voice called in return. Yuya peeked over Soen's shoulder and found a man with blond hair and mud stained white garments. He let out a sigh of relief and his eyes seemed to loose what had frightened Yuya, becoming more soft and caring. “Man am I glad to see you.” He tried to catch his breath. “Hitomi... I need to start healing her.” He said and gently laid the large bundle of clothes and such, which Yuya now recognized as Hitomi, down on the ground. He glanced over at Yuya. “Who's that? She the friend?” He asked as he placed his hands over Hitomi.

Soen nodded. “Yea. I found Yuya... Toorima... he did this, didn't he?” He asked. Ikasu nodded. Yuya shivered and knelt down to Hitomi, holding her hand reassuringly.

Hitomi slowly opened her eyes and looked at Yuya. A smile crossed her face before her eyes closed again. “We'll need to make camp.” Soen said. Yuya snuggled further into Soen's cloak before she begins to gather wood- its all wet but she needed something to do. She felt Soen and Ikasu stare at her with worry and dropped the wet sticks. She went under a tree and laid down, curling up in a ball as close to Soen and Hitomi as possible. While the men staid up, Yuya drifted off into sleep. But it was Toorima's words she heard as she dreamt of Toorima's kiss.

It had burned her throat so badly but it had felt as though a cloak of despair had been placed over her heart as well. When he'd brought his lips up to her ear, he'd whispered to her. “Since you seem to like spoiling his curse so much... I have one for you. This one shall not be as easy as speaking ones name- he was meant to spend an eternity in silence but I did not know you still lived. YOU, Yuya Curosa must spend your life in silence. There is only one thing that can break it.” He'd smirked cruely at her. “Soen must give you a kiss- but not just any. One of true love. It must be a kiss given to show that he has fallen in love with you. That shouldn't be so bad since you yourself have begun to harbor feelings for him. But know this... the day he falls in love with you is the day that he has lost to me and will either die or become that which he hates so much. So make your choice... love... or the curse of silence? His words echoed in her mind and kept repeating over and over again. Only when she awoke with the dawn did the voices cease. She silently got up and began wandering the woods. She couldn't be by her friends now. She'd return before they awoke and they'd never know she was gone.
Ikasu took the first watch that night giving the others a much needed rest since he was the least wounded of the four. He ran a tired hand through his short blond hair in agitation. And confusion. There was something about this group that wasn't quite right. The guy and the new girl -what was her name... Yuya something- gave off an air that didn't seem exactly human. He had prepared himself to heal another when he'd heard of the torture Toorima was inflicting upon her. But when Soen and Yuya had arrived they'd both been only lightly scratched and mildly dehydrated. It didn't make any sense unless... he laughed soundless. It would be just like Hitomi to aligned herself with demons.

The cut to his head throbbed but it wasn't too bad. By morning it should be nothing more than a mere bump. A small shiver went up his spine as he thought of the fight before. It had nice to be in a bit of action again. Maybe too nice. Although he'd been a little rusty there at the end, he thought ruefully. But he'd been the lucky one. Hitomi had looked like someone had placed her through the shredder. He'd never seen someone that damaged before, on or off the battlefield.

He clinched his fists in a long forgotten rage. The Demon had done more than damage her body, he'd damaged her mind. Even after his healing she hadn't opened her eyes or spoken a sound. It was as if part of Hitomi wasn't there anymore - like something had been stolen.

A rustle of leaves came from his side and with reflexes long dormant he whipped out his fighting wires looking for the disturbance. But the more he listened to the movement of the night the more he knew the sounds weren't coming from outside the camp he and Soen had constructed. Instead they were coming from inside.

"No... no stop... NO!"

The harsh words echoed from Hitomi's mouth as she thrashed about the sheet wrapped around her body. Without thought Ikasu left his watch post and raced to her side. Reaching her, he noticed the hard bruises were back on her face and arms. The extra white shirt he'd covered her in was saturated with blood from the deep wounds on her arms and legs splitting open. It appeared as if he hadn’t healed her at all.

"Hitomi." Ikasu shook her shoulders to rouse her. She didn’t wake a muscle. "HITOMI you must wake up."

Soen rushed over from his sleeping area and Yuya came quietly walked up from behind him. He didn't have time to ask where she'd been. Soen looked into him with blue eyes blazing giving Ikasu no illusions of his demonic state. "What's wrong with her? I thought you healed her!"

"I did. This shouldn't be happening." Hitomi whole body shuttered. Ikasu placed a hand on her badly wounded arm - the unopened skin was ice cold. "Something has re-wounded her."

Ikasu knelt down beside her body and placed his hands on either side of her face as delicately as possible so as not to cause her additional pain. He was still weak, his energy was little time to restore since the last healing. But he could help some of her small injuries so they could get her to the doctor. With great care he pushed his power into her body, letting it flow freely between them. But the moment the healing energy tired to connect with her life force it shot back out, shocking him into letting go, and with a flash of white light he fell to the ground shaken.

"What happened?" Soen asked, offering him an arm to lift him up.

"I don't know." Ikasu shook his head dazed. Anger and frustration dripped from his tone. "But whatever is keeping her locked in her mind won't let me heal her. There's nothing I can do to stop it. She won‘t let me in."

*

The smoldering ruins of the temple added a sickly, acrid smell to the smoky atmosphere. Tears rolled down Hitomi's face as two red masked men kept her arms and legs pinned to the ground. Her limbs had gone numb over a day. Maybe two. With the constant pain of deep cuts and bruises she had no real sense of time anymore.

The leader of her captors stepped forward from the others with a large torch in his hand. Although his face was covered she knew he was smiling maliciously. "You are fierce, I'll give you that. But I am not nearly finished with you yet. I've been given orders to break you - any way I want."

The leader handed the torch off and stood before her opened legs. The clothes of her body had been sliced open in bloody strips with the use of a whip. There was a slimy gleam in his eyes as he surveyed her figure. It made her skin crawl.

Slowly, he lowered his body onto hers, making everything inside her scream in fear. She fought him with the little energy she had left but it was useless against his strength. He stroked her face as he ran his hands over her and kissed her roughly. Bile pooled in her stomach as Hitomi turned her head from his brutal mouth and spit blood in his face. He swiped it away in a disgusted sneer. The punch landed right full in the jaw.

"Such pain. Such beauty. You will make a good training exercise for my men."

The nightmare of a memory looped itself through her brain replaying again and again every hellish moment of the day she lost her innocence. It would be the pivotal moment of Hitomi's life. Her heart would turn to stone, encasing itself in the chill of hatred. It was the only things keeping her alive. And when the last had taken his turn, she was left battered and broken in a pile of dirt and blood as the city walls fell down around her.

Suddenly, the world stopped burning. Ryo stepped of the ruined temple and stood shrouded in a suit of black. He looked exactly like she remembered.

"Come, lightning bug. There is something I must show you. There is something you should know."

When he held out his hand for her to join him Hitomi finally understood. He was Death. In the distance she could hear voice shouting her name but she did not heed their call. Instead she took her brother's hand, holding it tight. The darkness enfolded and embraced them.
A Non-Existent User
Tetsuo felt giddy as his father spoke to him. The scene was awkward as Toorima was propped against a tree and his throat was only half healed. But it didn't matter to him. This was the time he could finally introduce himself and prove himself worthy.

'I'm Tetsuo. I am your son."

The Demon laughed but the sound was came out as more of gurgle. "I have no spawn. You can't possibly be my son."

Anger grew in Tetsuo's chest but he pushed it down like everything else he didn't want to deal with. This was his father, he simple needed time to accept his existence.

"Who's this?" A little girl's voice asked in his head. She yawned as if she'd just woken from sleep. Tetsuo simply ignored her. He had bigger problems on his hands.

He pushed as strand of red hair out of his eyes as he crouched closer to Toorima. He didn't dare get too close - the Demon didn't trust him yet. "The wretched man and woman ran away. I would have gone after them but you were hurt."

"Its nothing. I'll get them all when I'm done. They couldn't have gone too far away. Plus, its more fun when they resist involved."

"Tell me who this strange man is."

Eris's petulance was beginning to shred his nerves. He grit his teeth in an attempt to drown of the voice. When he finally centered enough Tetsuo attempted again to make conversation. He was curious to the reasons for Toorima's chase. Watching his father had shown him his methods but not his reasons.

"Why- why do you chase them?" He gulped when the Demon glared at him. "Why not just let them go? Or- or kill them and be done with it?"

"Whose this? Whose this? WHOSE THIS?"

"Be quiet!" Tetsuo demanded as he turned his head slightly to the side. He didn't want the Demon see his lack of control. "Keep your mouth shut or I'll put you where I put Maki."

Toorima stared down at the strange effeminate boy with speculation. Although he knew this boy wasn't his son, there was something familiar about his face. It didn't matter really. The stranger was oddly devout and he could use a helpful minion. Toorima stood to his full height the wound completely healed. He rubbed his neck in contempt. The trouble tying up his loose ends was almost not worth it. But a happy thought made him grin inside. Dear Soen had cursed the fiery Yuya for him. Now he control them two.

It was a shame, he thought as he dusted off his clothes, that his blood hadn't effected the hunter the same way. The three of them under his influence would have made his plans happen a lot faster. But this boy Tetsuo would do for the time being.

"Do you fight?"

Tetsuo jumped up from the ground with a burst of energy. "Of-of-of course! I've been training for this moment for years."

"Excellent. You can help me with my plans."

Eris fidgeted inside. She wanted to play and this guy looked like a great target. Tetsuo felt a sense of dread as his control over the body started slipping. His stutter became more apparent. "Wha-what plans?"

His father sneered. "I need those three back. I want to watch them as I destroy everything around them. This world will be mine and I need their blood to do it."
"Her heart...no....no dammit!" Ikasu shouted leaping to his feet with a sudden burst of energy. Hitomi's heartbeat seemed to be starting to cease.
"Ikasu calm yourself," Soen said walking over to Hitomi. He was just about to drain Toorima's dark energy from her that kept her mind askew, but remembered Yuya. If he did that, she'd be affected as well. Soen placed his hand on her head, "Hitomi. You're in there I know it. Come now, you're stronger than this. There are people outside your mind that care about you." Ikasu's jaw was clenched as tightly as his fists. Soen looked back at him and motioned him forward. Ikasu stepped up and placed his hand over Soen's. Yuya did the same and they looked at each other, "This is how we'll connect with her. It will take more than just me. Ikasu, you seem to have a connection to her past. Your voice will be loudest to her..." Ikasu's eyes closed,
"Okay," he said. Soen's arm went around Yuya's waist to steady her and she closed her eyes as well, "Hitomi, I know you still hate me. That's understandible, but...don't let these memories beat you. I can't ask your forgiveness, and I can't ask for your kindness ever again, but just come back. I'm sorry..." Ikasu said with a slight waver in his voice. He took a deep breath. His own memories that he'd buried haunted him. His wished he'd never done the things he'd done, but they wouldn't change now. He couldn't do anything to help her. That's the part that hurt him now. Ikasu sighed heavily and grabbed her hand with his free one. He slowly channeled his power into her to make it easier on her, "Let me in Hitomi..." he asked glowing brightly,
"Ikasu, don't go that far..." Soen said glancing over at him. Ikasu was making some powerful connection, but he was exposing himself to a bit of dark power. Soen couldn't hold it all himself. Yuya placed two finger over Soen's lips to silence him. Ikasu would do what he felt he had to,
"Let me help you. Let me share your pain..." he asked her. His light flahsed black for a moment and everyone felt Toorima's power course through them for a moment. Soen's eyes tore open looking pitch black. Yuya gripped his hand tightly. Ikasu suddenly shuddered. Hitomi's memories, her pain, her feelings of loneliness. Everything flooded into his mind and body. Images of torture, feelings of anguish and pain. Tears streamed down his cheeks as wounds appeared on his body mimicing Hitomi's,
"Ikasu let go!" Soen shouted grabbing Ikasu's shoulder and trying to pull him away. Ikasu cut his hand with a thread quickly without even acknowledging his presence making Soen jerk away. He let out a loud earth shattering cry as blood poured from him. Ikasu's mind was reeling and his cries were almost demonic, but he wouldn't let go. He was then thrown back after all the memories sealed up inside him. He hit the wall hard and his friends rushed to his side. Ikasu fell forward on his hands and vomitted blood and the contents of his stomach. Soen tried to help him up but his body was shredded, "Ikasu! Ikasu!" Soen shouted as Yuya shook the young man. He rolled over on his back baarely avoiding the puddle and coughed hard. The voices of his new friends faded away. He'd have done just the same for anyone. Thus was his new creed. Any and all people, he would help them to the best of his ability. Goodness needs help to fight evil, and evil needs help to change. He inched upwards and moved over to Hitomi again. The sheet was barely covering her now. Ikasu placed his hand on her stomach. His hand began to glow white. Maybe now he could really help her. His mind still reeled with pain and a sharp feeling of disgust at the memories he'd seen. The images, the pain, and the fear. She'd had a hard life, maybe he could put a cushion under that. Heck, even if healing her killed him...maybe then he could feel better. Of course, he would never forgive himself.

"Ikasu! Hey! Wake up! What have you done?" Soen growled. Yuya looked at him silently and grabbed him around one arm as he tried to wake Ikasu. Now he was in worse shape than Hitomi was. Some of her deeper cuts had turned to smaller gashes, and her bruises were just about gone. Ikasu was alive, but he wasn't healthy. He wasn't even breathing now. Soen sent a jolt of electric energy through him making Ikasu's heart jump, but his breathing didn't return. Soen sat quietly but thought quick. Ikasu wasn't going to make it if he didn't do something. Suddenly Ikasu breathed in again. Yuya pointed over at Hitomi. She was squeezing his hand now. Neither had come close to consciousness, but at least they'd survive. Soen smiled and nodded. He and Yuya dressed Ikasu's wounds and redressed Hitomi's. They changed the blankets with Soen being carefull not to let the small cut on his hand bleed onto either of the two. After Hitomi and Ikasu were as comfortable as they could make them, Soen and Yuya walked out of the small tent-like structure. Soen sat down near the tent and looked on at the moon. Yuya sat by him but would not get close even though they had no blanket. Those two had lost a lot of blood. Not enough to kill them, but movement would be difficult. They would need food, but going into that forest was out of the question. Tomorrow morning would require them to get to Vilshire as quickly as possible. Soen's funds weren't pletiful, but they'd be enough to get them through. He felt Yuya's eyes on him, "So you've been cursed I see..." Soen said. Yuya's eyes told him he was right but she'd have denied it had she a voice, "It's a shame. I miss your voice. Don't worry. Once we've gotten back on our feet, I'll get the answer out of Toorima. Hm, come over here," he said. Yuya blushed and sank away shaking her head, "Come on. It's cold out here, and I don't want you getting sick. You're not at 100% yet. Neither am I of course," he said. Yuya didn't worry about her getting sick, but she didn't want Soen coughing and wheezing. She moved over near him and suddenly a cloak of darkness surround them like a huge cloak. Soen's arms wrapped around her in a warm embrace, "There. Better?" he asked. He felt her nod against his shoulder. Suddenly he felt wetness on him, "Yuya? Why are you crying?" he asked holding her out in front of him.
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"I need those three back. I want to watch them as i destroy everything around them. This world will be mine and I need their blood to do it." Toorima sneered. This boy Tetsuo...was no boy. Toorima smirked. One girl with more than one mind? Not to mention being able to look like either gender...interesting. "Of course...if you want me to accept you..." he began. His right hand suddenly stretched out grabbing Tetsuo by the throat and forcing him to the ground. He leaned over him and put his knee on his gut, "Show me those other two in that head of yours," he asked still grinning. Tetsuo struggled,
"Father...n-no...I...I shouldn't..." he stuttered. Toorima put a finger to his lips,
"Shhh, don't worry. I've got you..." he said as darkness surrounded Tetsuo, "There, just show them to me, and I'll call you back when I'm done..." Toorima whispered. He wondered, were there any suitible prey there in that mind?
A Non-Existent User
Yuya closed her eyes as the tears came. She couldn't stop them. “Yuya? Why are you crying?” Soen asked. Yuya opened her eyes and looked up at him. He was staring into her eyes with worry. Yuya pushed away from him and sat up, looking away. “Yuya!” Soen sat up. Yuya began to shake. He went to put his hand on her shoulder but she shrugged it off coldly and stood up.

She wanted to yell at him. To tell him to go away. Even though that was the last thing she wanted. Every time she got close to Soen... she could hear Toorima laughing. He would win at this rate. Yuya glared at Soen as she backed away.

“What is it? Yuya-”

Yuya shook her head. She glared at him and spit on the dirt near him. She couldn't stop shaking. She needed Soen to stay away from her. Toorima wanted them together- he wanted Soen to put his heart into something. If he did that... he'd be vulnerable. Yuya knew what it was like to have a loved one murdered right in front of her. Toorima had let her relive that bloody night over and over in her head while she'd hung from the tree. She guessed what Soen had done... she wasn't sure how... but she was connected to him- to BOTH of them. She had to hate Soen. It was the only way to save his life. She winced as he looked up at her confused and insulted.

“Yuya.” She said flatly. “What's going on? I need to know.” He said. He was tempted to use their connection to look inside her thoughts but he could feel her pushing away from him. Not just mentally. She was pushing against their connection. She was fighting it, not letting herself continue to heal. “YUYA!” Soen yelled with alarm. “Don't! If you do that you could sever it!” He warned.

Yuya kept crying. She could feel the pain coming back. she turned around on her heels and began to run as fast as she could. She hated it. This connection between him... it was making it harder to ignore her feelings for him. Yuya felt herself run into his arms. He was so fast he'd ran a head and waited for her. He wrapped his arms around her. She struggled against him, pounding on his chest and trying to get away.

“Yuya...” He didn't need to ask her... all he had to do was say her name for her to feel him wondering what was going on. Yuya began to hyperventilate as she struggled to get away. “Calm down.” He said, struggling to keep his own breathing steady. Yuya's anger ceased and she gripped his shirt and cried in in chest as he held her. She couldn't stop it... she didn't want to cry but... Toorima... she thought she would die back there. She thought things were hopeless and no one would come for her. She felt so alone still... Soen scooped her up in his arms and carried her back. Laying down and letting her hold onto his neck and cry. Her breathing began to return to normal and Soen realized she'd fallen asleep but her grip on his was still strong. If he moved she might wake up. He looked down at her, tears dried on her cheeks. “What happened Yuya?” He whispered. “How did he make you so fragile? How could he strip away everything... you were both so strong when we first met... how... how did he make you like this... and why?”
The darkness faded slowly back into light as Hitomi opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was Ryo, still shrouded in a suit of black silk, staring back at her with a mixture of happiness and sorrow in his eyes. The information took a minute to process before she finally understand. Her brother - solid and whole. With a small cry she reached out to touch him only to be held back by an invisible force. She jerked her feet to move but nothing budged.

"I'm sorry, Hitomi." Ryo folded his hands in front of him. "But for this you must be immobilized. There are rules."

Hitomi stared at her brother in confusion. "Rules? Where are we? What are we doing here?"

He gestured to their surroundings. For the first time Hitomi realized they were standing in the middle of a courtyard. Cherry blossoms were in full bloom as a little breeze swept its fragrant scent through the air. The day was bright and glorious, shining against the rich golden tiles of the building to just beyond her sight. Instead of rubble, the Temple of the Dawn stood in all of its previous splendor. It was almost unimaginable to believe such acts of desecration had taken place in the very spot she stood. Her fists clinched in anger. A beautiful picture does not destroy years of nightmares.

"Your anger is strong enough to crumble a mountain." Ryo shook his head sadly. "The storm of your emotions locked you inside your mind. It was you who brought us here."

"This isn't real." Hitomi felt herself shake. She didn't know whether to be angry or relieved at the revelation.

"Its real... just in a different reality." Ryo stepped closer until they were only a few feet apart. There was a stillness about him she didn't recognize. The brother she once knew had been bursting with energy, barely able to contain himself as he went about causing mischief. Now his handsome face held an expression of reserve. He had changed and she wanted his old self back. He smiled slightly as if reading her mind. "Things change, lightning bug."

The sound of her old nickname sent a stabbing pain to her heart. She absently reached up to rub it away with her bandaged hand except the bandage was missing. Hitomi frowned. The vast amounts of wounds were gone as well as the throbbing pain. She raised a brow in question. "A transfer of energy was made to heal most of your physical body. It is up to you to do the rest."

"The rest of WHAT?!?" She threw up her hands in anger for it was the only things she could move. "You keep talking in riddles. Rules... different realities... all of this cryptic speech but its ME that;s trapped us here. What do you want from me!?"

"You need to find yourself, Hitomi. And I can tell you this girl in front of me isn't it." His voice was hard as steel. "You're hiding."

Hitomi snarled. "I am NOT hiding. I'm taking revenge on what's been taken me, from others."

"Then why are we here? The Demon may have pestered you but this mental prison is of your own making. You hide behind your control and hate and indifference. The sister I knew was never this cold."

The invisible hold suddenly let go as she stepped up in his face. "What would you have me do - act is if nothing happened? The things those men did to me..." Hitomi turned her face away in shame as tears filled her eyes. She didn't him to see her weakness but with the tip of his finger Ryo brought her face back around to his. "It costs too much to feel for I bring nothing but pain to those around me. I am a better off alone."

"You are wrong." He tenderly brushed the strand of hair off her forehead like he did when she was a little girl. "And you underestimate the power of your friendship. Yes, I know of Yuya and Soen, they're looking after you - even that young ninja from long ago. You choose to trap yourself here while they fight for you. I never knew you to be so chicken."

"Baiting me won't work."

A familiar smirk curled his mouth. He sighed dramatically. "It was worth a try. Still too stubborn for your own good."

Hitomi returned the smile but only for a second. "What would you have me do?"

"Use that head of yours. You've been asking the wrong question throughout this entire ordeal."

"And what, oh wise old brother, would that be?"

His eyes narrowed at her sarcasm. "You shouldn't be asking why you can't kill the Demon. The real question should be why can't he kill you? He tortured you and your friends beyond almost human measure. His blood alone should have knocked you dead. You should be asking yourself why his possession didn't take hold in your system and why the three of you are still alive when you shouldn't be."

Hitomi looked at him keenly, the light dawning in her mismatched eyes. "Tell me what you know."

"No can do." He pointed up to the sky. "The rules."

The world suddenly seemed to tilt sideways. She tried to brace against the dizziness and looked to Ryo for help but he simply stood back passively as her vision began to fade. And when he finally spoke his voice sounded distant. "You are not broken Hitomi Yoshida. But when the day comes, and the wall around your heart truly breaks, you will find the person you were destined to be. Go to the source and you'll find your answers."

"Wait!" Hitomi reached out and wrapped her brother in a fierce hug, afraid to let go. "I don't want to leave yet. I've miss you."

"I've missed you too, lightning bug." Ryo hugged back until it felt like she was holding nothing but air. Everything dissolved into darkness.

*

Ikasu felt everything and nothing all at once. His whole body pulsed with a pain he'd never thought possible. But beyond that was his feeling was dirtiness... violation. He wanted to curl into a ball and shut the world out. He knew he deserved this punishment and nothing could stop the pain, not even the hand that softly stroked his face.

Ikasu felt hot breath on his skin as the hand gently cupped his bruised jaw. "If you go and die on me," a familiar fiery female said in his ear. "I'll find a way to resurrect you and kill you again myself."

Good. Hitomi was back. It was his thought before he finally surrendered to a dreamless sleep.
Soen sat there stroking Yuya’s hair. He wanted to check on Hitomi and Ikasu, but he also wanted to let Yuya get her rest. The moonlight rested on them softly. Soen felt his strength finally beginning to return as Yuya recovered with her rest. Soen closed his eyes feeling her aura, her soul. He wanted to make sure she had no bad dreams that night. Nothing of Toorima would get to her, “Dream some sweet dreams for me tonight…” Soen said,
“You two…” a familiar voice said from behind. Soen didn’t turn around,
“Hitomi? Go back and rest,” Soen commanded,
“It must be nice,” Hitomi continued, “Having someone like that,”
“I’m sure you could tell me. Do you know what Ikasu did for you?” Soen asked. They were whispering. Hitomi nodded and sat wearily,
“Yes, I do. I…I don’t know what to do next. How do I repay him?” she asked. Soen chuckled to himself,
“He doesn’t want to be repaid. Ikasu… he cares.”
“But why? Does he really want to be forgiven that much? Enough to be willing to die just to help?” Hitomi asked. Soen closed his eyes,
“I believe he needs you now…” he said quietly. Hitomi sat still for a second then stood. She moved back toward the tent that Ikasu was in. When she hobbled in Ikasu was sitting up. His right eye was bruised and swollen shut. There was something on him that Hitomi hadn’t suffered though. There was a long scar that seemed to wind around his midsection. Hitomi walked quickly over to him and laid him down,
“Stop being so stubborn. You’re more hurt than me now Ikasu, get rest,” Hitomi said throwing the blanket back over him,
“Hitomi…” Ikasu rasped, “Is there…how could you ever forgive me?” he asked. Hitomi stared at him,
“I said rest,” she commanded. Hitomi noticed something else. A tear streamed from his eye, “Don’t do that. You’re a man…”
“Hitomi…” he rasped again, “There’s no way is there?” he asked. Hitomi paused and looked away from him,
“What’s that scar on your chest?” she asked. Ikasu grew silent for a moment,
“I…I tried to go back for you. That day when I betrayed you and led you to the clan I tried to go back and save you. They tried to include me, they told me I could get my ‘turn’ if I cooperated. Had I been smart and waited for it I could have rescued you, but the thought of it…” Ikasu rambled, “I just…I just couldn’t…I’m sorry. I began to plead, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Hitomi, you and your brother were all who ever showed me any compassion. Remember? I turned up with that stab wound near my heart? You gave blood for me. You and he both. Only, the whole time it was just because The Demon had designated you as a target. He just wanted you to suffer so…he led me out as bait for you. It was my mission. If only I’d had some sense…” he continued,
“Ikasu, what are you saying?” Hitomi asked. Her wounds were getting to her again. She couldn’t let herself get too excited or she might pass out,
“I told them that I…I told them that I…cared about you. I told them they couldn’t do this…I didn’t know exactly all that had happened to you till now but…I tried. I really tried to help. After that, I decided not to kill again. I slashed my wrists so my wielding would never be back to its peak, and that was after they’d beaten me. They removed one of y kidneys as well. I got away before they could take out anything else. I wish I hadn’tve run. I wish I could have suffered with you. It was my fault…” Ikasu moaned. Hitomi looked on at him for a moment,
“Ikasu…that’s…that’s enough,” she said. Ikasu closed his uninjured eye,
“I…just want…your happiness again. I saw it once. I only wish I could aid in its return…”
Toorima lifted away from Tetsuo, “Those others. Hm, if you serve me well I’ll get rid of them for you. How’s that? I’ll even give them their own bodies so they can become your victims once you become like me,” The Demon said with a dark gleam in his eyes. A wicked smile curled his thin lips as Tetsuo filled with giddiness,
“S-surely you’re joking father!? You can’t really mean that?! That’s that’s wonderful!!!” he shouted. Toorima held his hand out fearing a hug as Tetsuo stood,
“Good, all you have to do…is claim Ikasu’s life. Bring me back his head. I do hope it has an amusing look on it’s face when you do,” Toorima laughed.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya woke up not feeling any pain at all. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Soen smiled at her. “Feel better, huh?” He asked. Yuya nodded and flexed her hand- the one that had been broken for such a long time. There wasn't any scaring or difficulty in moving it. It was back to normal. So was the rest of her which meant she could fight again. Yet the thought slightly sickened her. She was in no mood to fight any time soon. It was a strange feeling waking up warm and comfortable. She'd almost gotten used to the hopelessly cold and empty feeling Toorima had given her once he'd kidnapped her. Yuya brought Soen's cloak around her closer to cover her ripped and bloodied night gown. She'd have to find new clothes soon.

Soen stretched and got up. Yuya's eyes followed him as he walked around to check on Ikasu and Hitomi. “We need to get you two to Vilshire so you can heal up the rest of the way... and I'm sure we could all use the rest.” He said looking back at Yuya. She still had the look of a frightened kitten in her eyes.

Hitomi looked up at him. “Alright... but what are we going to do with him?” She asked as she pointed at Ikasu, not bothering to look at him. “The traveling would be hard on him in this state.”

“There's not much other option. I'll carry him on my back and be careful not to make it the journey too difficult.”

“I know Soen.” Hitomi said as she stiffly rose from her sitting position. Yuya got up as well and began to clean up camp. She didn't want it so easy for Toorima to find them again. Soen carefully sat Ikasu up and carried him on his back. As they traveled, things were silent. They had never been big on talking while on their journey but this was different. Hitomi had her face set in a hard glare and didn't once look over at Ikasu or Soen. Soen was doing his best to walk as smoothly as possible and Yuya walked at his right side. She kept glancing all over the place to make sure they weren't being followed but it felt like they were. She kept feeling like some great predator was stalking them, waiting to strike.

Soen looked down at her. “Oh... I forgot to give these back to you. They're your brass knuckles. You probably feel pretty vulnerable without them, huh?” Yuya looked in his hand at them, then up at Soen. She nodded her thanks and slipped her hand from under the cloak and grabbed them, putting them on when her hand was once again concealed. He didn't know the half of it but she wasn't about to tell him- even if she could. The group arrived at Vilshire some time before dinner and quickly checked Ikasu into the nearest hospital. Which was very small and short staffed. The doctor told them it might be tough but that he looked to be a fighter. He'd be fine as long as he staid in their care until he healed up more. Hitomi had a similar diagnosis to which she mumbled that she could have told them that.

“I'll be fine as long as I don't over exert myself.” She assured them. “I' do not want to spend a week in a hospital bed.” That was pretty much her last word even though everyone tried to talk her out of it. As the sun set and Ikasu settled into his hospital bed, Soen decided to stay with him to make sure he was alright. “Why don't you two- since Hitomi refuses to stay here- go get a hotel or something. A good nights rest would do you good. Just make sure to keep the door locked at all times.”

“Yea, yea, yea... I know.” Hitomi waved as she pulled Yuya away from Soen and out of the hospital. “Ah... we can actually soak in their bath house tonight.” She sighed and rubbed her shoulder. “Aside from looking like a mess I'm pretty stiff too.” She was trying to get something out of Yuya. She hadn't said a word since she'd been back with them. Yuya was still looking pretty meak and Hitomi wanted the old Yuya back.
Hitomi and Yuya walked silently through along the road, making their way slowly to the hotel they could find. Every once in a while Hitomi found herself glancing over at the younger girl in hidden expectation. Since the whole ordeal with the Demon had gone down Yuya had yet to say a word, at least that she could hear. She assumed that Soen was in the know for he didn't seem to be as worried as she felt. But for her part she kept the conversation going at times as if there was nothing out of the ordinary. They were just a muted girl and battered woman stumbling down Vilshire.

Hitomi had to admit she wasn't in the best of dispositions for Yuya just to open up and talk with. Since waking from her vision of Ryo she had wanted nothing more than to hide away and figure out what the hell he'd meant. The source... what source? And the revelations from Ikasu had struck her more than she cared for. It was so much easier to believe him a traitor and coward than to feel there was a possibility he might have tried to save her all those years ago.

After his confession of torture and wishing for her happiness, Ikasu had passed out from his pain. Having absorbed her injuries she knew his pain mirrored hers but the underlying current of guilt far exceed anything she'd ever experienced. As the night slowly faded into morning Hitomi had found she couldn't leave his side - continually holding the hand she had yet to let go since he had gripped it in his - until the first rays of morning where she found she'd fallen asleep on the uninjured part of his chest. Confused and disgusted, with him and herself, she had left the tent before the others could find where she spent most of her evening. And when the doctor's sternly suggested she stay at the hospital, in the same freaking room with Ikasu, she had hurriedly declined. The pain was that bad to endure another night of awkwardness.

Now as Yuya and herself looked at the worn, tilting red painted sign of Mano's Hotel she couldn't help but wonder if she was better off back at the hospital. The entrance door swung open revealing an old but neat service room with a craggy young man behind the desk. Yuya took as step forward to walk in when Hitomi stopped her with a quick hand on the shoulder. Motioning her head to the side, she signaled for them to take a seat on the curb before getting rooms. Stiffly and painfully, Hitomi lowered herself next to Yuya. A mockery of a smile lighted the curve her friend's face. If only she'd made some snide comment about how she was beginning to show or age or something Hitomi would have felt better.

The two of them sat in silence for while, enjoying the afternoon breeze. When she felt Yuya just begin to relax Hitomi causally said, "There's been something that's bothered me since this whole mess happened."

Silence. A muscle in Yuya's jaw twitched but she said nothing.

"You came back without a scratch on you. Which is funny seeing as I saw what Toorima was doing to you... I felt it before Soen drained me. I think there's something, Yuya Curosa, that you've forgotten to share with the rest of the class."

Still silence. Somewhere there was a cricket causing a racket.

Hitomi, without drawing her gaze from the food cart across the street, reached into her knapsack and pulled out a pad of paper and the top half of a broken pencil. She quietly handed them over to Yuya. "The Demon cursed you. You're a demon like Soen now."

Yuya suddenly went still, every muscle in her body going tense. For a minute Hitomi didn't think she would answer but reluctantly she nodded her headed, clutching the pad fiercely in her hands. Hitomi nodded once in return.

"Since your name doesn't cure it, how do we go about ending you mime impression?"
Yuya's eyes widened. Hitomi did her best not to glare. "I may have been beaten, that doesn't mean I'm stupid. I used your full name a minute ago but you're still not talking and I can only imagine the fact that you and Soen escaped didn't necessarily put Toorima in the best of moods."

Yuya simply stared for a minute before writing something down on the pad. She handed it over to Hitomi to see. "Sarcastic much?" She chuckled only to draw in a deep breath from the spike of pain in her side. The smile of silver-haired girl was a little more real this time.

When things calmed again Hitomi stood from the curb with difficultly, denying Yuya's help to stand. The smell of cherry blossoms grated on her nerves as it wafted through the air. It was too soon to think of the place she had just returned from. The enormity of the current situation had to be dealt with first. She needed peace if only for a moment.

"Come on, little girl. Let's get a room and then you can tell, oops I mean write, me how we can get this curse off your back. I swear... you definitely need a keeper."
A Non-Existent User
Tetsuo watched from the shadows as the horrid hunter woman and her silent silver haired friend walked into the entrance of the hotel. Most notably, the demon Tetsuo's father was so interested in and the reluctant ninja he was suppose to kill were absent. He estimated that the males stayed behind while the females went in search for more comfortable surroundings. It would be best if he got to his target through the women. That way he could capture the others for his father while killing the one he needed. A battle plan began to work its way through his head.

His best cover while he watched the females was behind a food cart where the owner was partially blind. The savory scent of hot food made his stomach growl audibly. Tetsuo couldn't remember the last time he had eaten a meal, let alone a decent one.

"Food!" Eris shouted inside his head. The weaklings had been strangely quiet since his meeting with Toorima. After the offer of silencing them for good Tetsuo hadn't heard one peep from them. But Eris' annoying little girl's voice came rolling back like an avalanche of sharp boulders. "I want to eat. NOW!"

"Quiet. We have work to do."

"But I want food now. My tummy is empty."

"Well your tummy," his lips curled in disgust at the word, " will have to wait until we're finished with our mission." And then I'll be finished with you.

A few minutes later the two female targets walked out of Mano's Hotel with keys in their hands towards the back where the rooms were stationed. As silently as possible, Tetsuo stood from his crouched position and walked across the street about ten paces behind the women. It was only when his clutched his hand into fists that he noticed something was different. There was a paper cone of rice and chicken in his left hand.

A shout of alarm came from the food cart's direction. "Thief! Thief! He stole my food."

"Eris!" Tetsuo warned as he faced a building crowd of anger townspeople.

"I told you - I was hungry."

Tetsuo automatically positioned himself into the fighting position, ready to take the entire mob if need be. Inside he truly craved the impending violence and action. It had been so long since he had been able to release himself. But as the crowd moved closer and closer towards him, Tetsuo felt his control of his body slip from his hands. Before he even had time to scold the weaklings for testing his patience, the body was turn in the opposite direction and running as fast as the legs would carry them down the hotel alley.

He saw the two women before Eris could register their presence and slow down as to not to collide in with them. But it was too late. Forcefully, Tetsuo found himself on top of a violet hunter, looking into her strange unmatched eyes. A flash of recognition went through the hunter's eyes before two hand grabbed the back of his shirt and hauled him off.

"Yuya wait." The hunter warned as she held up a hand to stop her friend. "I think I know who this is."

Tetsuo stiffened. The last thing he needed was for his cover to be blown. But those fears were put to rest when the hunter said, "Maki?
“Tetsuo…go after the one called Ikasu. I do understand your reasoning, but trying to capture these two is beyond your ability. That one, Yuya. She is…different now. Her power is unstable, but it is there. She could kill you as you are if she were to begin fighting. Get yourself out of this situation, and then get to Ikasu. Don’t worry about Soen right now either…” Toorima said. His voice were like shadows of Tetsuo’s mind. Yuya looked curiously over to Hitomi who had a serious look on her face. There was a mixture of sadness and anger in her eyes. Like that of when she saw Ikasu.

Soen sat on the bed nearby Ikasu, “Hang in there. You’ll heal up nicely Ikasu. Again, thank you for coming with us. You didn’t have to endure this,” Soen said. One of Ikasu’s eyes opened,
“Soen? Where is Hitomi? Where is Yuya?” he asked. Soen sighed,
“They’re both getting rooms for now. Someone had to stay with you. Ikasu, there’s also something I want to discuss with you…” he began. Ikasu winced and then smiled feebly as he lay his head back down on his pillow,
“It’s…the thing I did isn’t it?” he asked. Soen nodded,
“Yes, you siphoning her pain like that…that’s not in my power. What was it?”
“That…that was an inverted technique I learned as an assassin. It was called Zenhansha or Total Reflection. It was meant to be used to slay the one who killed an assassin. In your dying breath, using this would drag an enemies soul with you by reflecting all the pain and injury you’d ever suffered onto them, thereby destroying their body. I reversed this reflection so that I would receive the pain instead. Of course, the flaws of my ability have saved my life. Had I taken every injury she’d ever suffered I’d be long dead. Instead, it only mimicked the current ones,” Ikasu explained. Soen nodded,
“I see. And so what is it now?” Soen asked. Ikasu almost laughed,
“Ugh, well I see you’ve noticed my energy wavering. Well, it appears I’ve messed up the technique worse than I thought. The problem is, that it’s still in effect,” Ikasu said. He smiled, “And I can’t do a thing about it.”
“So, you’re saying that if Hitomi is injured…”
“She’ll receive no wound. It will be transferred to me,”
“Then we need to figure out how to-“
“Please. Leave it,” Ikasu said. Soen looked at him astonished,
“What? Ikasu, that’s too dangerous. I can probably-“
“No. Soen please, don’t bother it. I feel, I feel much better that way. Now I may actually be able to forgive myself eventually for all the pain and suffering I caused her. If not for my own shortcomings…” Ikasu said trailing off,
“Ikasu…I don’t know about that. What happens if you’re injured?”
“Then I’m injured. It’s like asking what happens if you attack the person the reflection is of. Of course, since a reflection can’t be hurt, Hitomi will be fine,”
“So Hitomi is acting as your reflection. Something like a shadow. As long as you’re alive…she’s basically invulnerable…”
“Precisely. But unless I start healing, her wounds won’t start healing. Good-night Soen,” he said. Soen looked out the window,
“I’m not sure…” he said,
“Promise me you’ll let it be…”
“...For now Ikasu. I can only promise…for now.” Soen replied.

……………………………………………………………………..
“So what now?” a short man asked. He was sitting on a bench in Sirili Park in Vilshire. He had dark green hair that was in a buzz cut and many tattoos on his face and body. There were three small metal studs on his right eyebrow. His face was covered in scruffy hair and he had a bent cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Next to him sat someone draped in a dark cloak with the hood on so it was impossible to tell their features,
“Have you forgotten? Toorima resides somewhere nearby. Toorima and his cursed one Soen. Not to mention I’m almost certain I smelled the blood of our young Ikasu nearby,” said the hooded man. His voice was dark and smooth. He sounded remarkably like Toorima,
“Well, that does make things interesting! Oh yeah, and what was up with those two girls we saw earlier? Did one of them look like HER to you?”
“Byouku, you speak of Hitomi?”
“Yeah I speak of Hitomi. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw her earlier,”
“I’ve no interest in Hitomi any longer. She has paid her punishment in blood. Besides, she was innocent from the start,” the hooded man said. Byouku nearly choked on his cigarette,
“What the—you serious? Then why’d we…oh I see! Hahaha, you really are a Demon! Having the clan torture her like that!” Byouku laughed,
“Did you sense Toorima’s energy on the other one?”
“Hmm?” Suddenly another man walked up wearing the same garb as Byouku. It was the garb of the Kikkyoumusha. A torn top of a cloak that comes down to the bottom of the chest then a cloth tied gi top for a shirt with mesh armor underneath. He wore gauntlets of midnight and wrapped-bottom hakama pants. The man took off his hood and kneeled to the Demon sitting on the bench briefly before standing,
“It’s an honor to meet with you finally. Bagura the Wise. One of the six, and the most powerful in my opinion,”
“You’re mistaken. I am one of the three,” Bagura said with a wicked grin. You could see his fangs,
“Yeah Tojiro, there are only three more Demons now. Bagura the Wise, Toorima the Wicked, and Shathazar the…um…he’s the something…” Byouku began,
“No, she’s a something. Shathazar is dead. Shathiel is the one who still resides in that body. Now all that’s left is to take care of Toorima and Shathiel.”
“So, what exactly IS going on with you Demons anyway?” Byouku asked flicking his cigarette into the fountain. Bagura was silent for a bit,
“That’s a story for another time. For now, let’s see if we can’t eliminate one of The Wicked’s pawns. Her name escapes me since she’s so insignificant, but I believe it’s whom he sent after our young errant assassin. Let’s go on and eliminate her shall we?” Bagura asked though it wasn’t really a question. He and Byouku stood. The other man took off his hood and removed his red mask. He had dark eyes that seemed to be filled with a strange sorrow but otherwise a calm and confident charm. His violet hair fell just past his ears in a strangely well kept yet ruff style. Byouku looked at him for a moment and then began to cough violently into his hands. After his fit he slung blood from his hands onto the ground and spit a large amount into the grass. He laughed after that and looked up at Bagura through menacingly glowing red eyes,
“Hahaha! It’s really kicking my ass isn’t it? That means…it’s working!” he said wiping his mouth, “Anyway, you’re the local legend of our little clan aren’t you? You’re Ryo not Tojiro. You're the guy who was ‘killed by Toorima’? The one who-“ Byouku continued. The slight smile on Ryo’s face faltered as his eyes twinkled for a second. Bagura’s hand flashed over Byouku’s mouth for long enough to shush him. When it fell Byouku cleared his throat,
“Sorry, so I hear of your skill. Some people think you’ve got the curse of… who was it?”
“Xaraphel. Xaraphel the Black,” he answered, “I’m supposedly one of his ‘sons’. Even with the fair complexion,”
“And what of your sister?” Byouku asked. Bagura turned to him and Ryo’s eyes flashed for an instant. Byouku suddenly fell into another coughing fit. Ryo cleared his throat and turned a one-eighty,
“What sister are you talking about?” he asked. Bagura smiled,
“Byouku. What you don’t understand, is that Ryo here, was never born of flesh to flesh by loving mortals. In truth, he was like a knight rather than a pawn. Shaping one of the players in the game we Demons have set up. We are dealing with but a few characters at the moment, but it is just about in full swing. It is quite fun isn’t it? There have already been three casualties and this is only round two,” Bagura laughed as Byouku stood up,
“Ain’t that interesting?” he said wiping his mouth, “So, we were going to do what now?”

…………………………………………………….
Toorima finally stood in the forest above Vishire. He stretched and popped his neck from side to side then smiled wickedly, “Ahh, so the game has finally come to another versus match! This rule of us Demons not making contact only makes it that much more fun!” he said sensing Bagura’s energy. Toorima looked down over Vilshire and began to laugh villainously.
A Non-Existent User
Yuya looked wide eyed at Hitomi. How did she know this person? Yuya looked at the stranger and their bright red hair that stopped at their shoulders. Yuya couldn’t tell whether this person was a girl or a boy though judging by the name- Maki being a girls name…

Maki glared at Hitomi. “Maki?” The voice was more masculine and it hissed the name bitterly. “The name is Tetsuo. Remember it.” He said before he glared at Yuya, ran at her, and then used her shoulders to jump up on the roof. Yuya hadn’t even been able to react. All she felt was a heavy weight that pushed her down onto the ground. When she picked herself back up she glared at the figure looking down at her. She wheezed something that- if she could talk- would have been a long list of swear words and a threat to never see her again.

“Maki!” Hitomi called out. The three ignored the angry shouts of people yelling at Hitomi’s friend.

For a split second, Tetsuo’s facial features softened and he stared at her with surprise, recognition, and joy. “Hitomi?” A gentle voice called out. Hitomi smiled broadly and nodded. Yuya glared at Hitomi. How in the hell could she be friends with such a jerk? Yuya wasn’t about to let this Tetsuo or Maki- or whatever the hell his or her name was get away with using her as a ladder. She jumped up and grabbed the edge of the low roof and began pulling herself up. She paused and noted that Tetsuo glared down at her and gave her a wikend smile that reminded her of Toorima. It sent a shiver up her spine that made her loose her grip just as he jumped off on the other side and disappeared. Yuya fell on her back and grunted at the sharp pain that surprisingly melted away quickly. She pushed forward and jumped up on her feet. She noticed the crowd had already disappeared in hopes of catching up to Tetsuo.

Hitomi was still staring at the spot her friend had been. Her eyes showed that she was lost in memory. Yuya walked over to her and gently knocked her upside the head. “Hey!” Hitomi snapped. “What was that for?”

She smiled sarcastically and wrote something down and showed it to her. *Looks like I’m not the only one who’s got some explaining to do.* It said.

Hitomi raised an eyebrow and looked at her. “Alright. Come on then.” She said before she chucked the note pad at Yuya expecting her to have to pick it up but Yuya caught it in her hand. The two shared a surprised look before walking into the hotel. “Hello.”

“Hi, what can I do for you?” The young man asked in a voice that said he was ready to go home

“We’d like a room with two beds.” She said getting out her money, ready to pay for it. He gave them room 13 which Yuya had wrote a comment about how lucky they were to get it. As soon as they paid for the room and made there way to it. It was your basic room. Two beds, two night stands, and two chairs at a small table. Yuya sighed and plopped down on the bed. “Yea… its been a while since I had a bed too.” Hitomi smiled. “Okay, so we’ve got our rooms. Spill- how do we get rid of this curse?” She asked.

Yuya looked at her and flinched- her face reddened a bit and she rolled over on her side; her back facing Hitomi. Hitomi glared at her. “Come on now.” Yuya didn’t bother looking where she threw the notepad. Hitomi had to move quick to catch it.

*You tell me first. Who’s Maki, or Tetsuo? How the hell do you know someone like that? Besides, why should I tell you how to break the curse? It’s not your problem. I can handle this myself.* The note said.

Hitomi half sighed half grumbled as she tossed the notebook back at Yuya. “Look… I know Maki from my childhood… she and I were… friends. I haven’t seen her in a long time so I really can’t explain things. She had a rough life back then… we were there for each other as long as we could be. Now stop being such a brat and tell me what’s going on! Why aren’t you wanting to tell me how to fix this?”

Yuya shot up and glared at her. *Because Toorima wants me to break the curse, okay! It’s part of his plan- whatever the hell he’s planning, he wants me to talk again- no, he wants me to take the needed steps that wound break this dumb thing. I’m no ones pawn so as far as I’m concerned, this is permanent. So get used to it!*

“Just tell me what it is!” Hitomi snapped. She paused and had to keep from laughing. One good thing was coming from their argument. Yuya was getting back to her usual self and Hitomi was feeling a bit better herself as well. “You’re being such a child.” Oh yea, that got her even more mad.

*Damn it all Hitomi! Leave it alone! And take that back unless you want to be tasting my brass knuckles and eating things through a straw from now on!* Her face was beat red.

Hitomi smiled. “Toorima would never use a little girl like you in his plan. He’s no where near THAT desperate.” She teased.

*Shut up!*

“Just stating the facts. So what is it? You gotta get up on stage again and dance or something? Eat a worm? Maybe something else?”

*Soen’s got to fall in love with me and kiss me, okay?!* Hitomi took a sharp inhale. Yuya got up and walked towards the window. She was blushing and her eyes were actually starting to tear up. Hitomi remained silent. Yuya gathered she was starting to figure things out. *Don’t tell Soen, Hitomi. He doesn’t need to know. Just keep this between you and me and give up trying to break the curse… I have.* Yuya stared at Hitomi waiting for her reply.
Hitomi lost all breath and feeling at the realization of what Yuya had told her fully dawned on her. It shouldn't have been surprising that the situation had turned to this - the Demon had had a full, all expenses paid vacation inside their minds. He would know what made them tick, what made them stick together especially in such a short time, and he would know exactly what could split them.

It was like a damn soup opera with magical powers.

Hitomi did her best to try and think of things logically but logic was hard coming. She felt like she had been stabbed. Again. She couldn't stop comparing herself to the stoic, mute girl standing at the window. There was a quality about Yuya that Hitomi would never possess - innocence. Even through losing her family, the torture Toorima had inflicted on her and everything else that had happened in the last few days Yuya still was innocent. She was hopeful and still believed that everyone could walk away from the fight and live a life after everything was over. And as Hitomi watched the girl place her forehead against the glass window in misery, she knew that a moment of reckoning was in her hands.

It was love. Both Yuya and Soen had it for each other even if it wasn't fully realized. Hitomi had seen it in Soen's sorrowful gaze as he had watched over Yuya the night before and the way he had gone after her. It was in Yuya now as she tormented herself for not being able to say or act on the one thing that was on her heart. Hitomi felt herself break a little inside.

There is no hope for me and Soen, Hitomi thought to herself. But there is hope for him and Yuya. They can be happy together. And if it is in my power, I will make sure they can have chance at achieving it. On my life I promise it.

The notebook sat heavy in Hitomi's hand as she made her silent, bittersweet oath. *Don’t tell Soen, Hitomi. He doesn’t need to know. Just keep this between you and me and give up trying to break the curse… I have.* She looked at her friend with determination burning in her unnatural eyes.

"I'll promise you I won't tell Soen of your secret, but I won't give up trying to break your curse." Hitomi placed the notebook out of Yuya's reach as she made a grab for it. The frown on her face was evident of her displeasure. "I'm sorry, little girl, but that's the way it goes. The Demon left a loophole... I know it in my gut. We'll find it and break the curse."

Hitomi threw the notebook at Yuya who caught it without thought. When she didn't write something right away, Hitomi knew she was wondering what the hell was going on. She just gave her a smug smile, which silently said she had something up her sleeve, as she walked over and laid on the bed closest to the door. She did her best to look relaxed.

"Get some sleep, little girl," Hitomi said with false cheer. "We'll go visit the boys early in the morning."

It took a while for Yuya to settle down and fall asleep, but after Hitomi checked to make sure she was completely asleep, she quietly snuck out the door into the darkness of the night. There was information Hitomi had to have before morning and the places where she was going Yuya could not follow.
"And a foolish one she is for falling for Toorima's pet puppy Soen. Who'd have thought Hitomi'd be so damn dumb?" Byouku asked glaring at the hotel that Hitomi and Yuya were inside,
"Don't fret over something like that. Hitomi is no longer of any concern. For now, we rid this world of Tetsuo. Ikasu can't die just yet, I'm confident that with the slightest coercing we can add him to our roster once more. In the same swoop we must eliminate a player on Toorima's half. He is such a fool, causing his own minions to seek his head instead of created dependant ones..." Bagura critisized as the the group walked. Ryo's hood went back over his head as they passed. Byouku smirked and bit his tongue so as not to say something that would get him punched,
"Perhaps we should make our way to Ikasu himself?" Ryo inquired,
"And bring about the wrath of the pup? I'd rather not," Bagura said. Both Ryo and Byouku gave Bagura a surprised look, "I need both of you to stay alive," he said with a wicked grin.

"Yuya, she's beautiful is she not?" Ikasu suddenly asked. Soen blushed and sat up suddenly,
"Hm? What?!" Soen stammered. Ikasu smiled,
"Yuya, she's...she's sweet on you I think," he said making Soen blush harder. Ikasu's eyes averted, "Maybe Hitomi too.." Soen regained his composure and straightened grinning and giving Ikasu a pat on the shoulder,
"No worries friend, Hitomi and I are close only in friendship. You're bond is much stronger than that now. You'll soon enough see it," he said. This time it was Ikasu who blushed,
"Though you're right, Yuya is beautiful. She's...very important to me. It's so strange, I've seen her as a child, I thought she was the sweetest thing, though never once did my mind wander to anything close to thoughts of relationships beyond friendliness. Of course now, no matter how I look at her, I can only see her as a woman. Truth be told, as a woman she's...well I..." Ikasu smiled at Soen who glanced up at the injured man who lay there nearly bubbling over with laughter, "Hmph, nevermind!" Soen snapped turning and facing the window. Ikasu just chuckled and left the silence for a bit,
"You're worried about her aren't you?"
"Of course, as usual. Though we should focus on getting rested up. At least just for tonight,"
"I think you should go stay with them. No, I insist. I don't think I could rest if one of us wasn't there with them just in case. No one cares about me so I'll be fine. You're all the one's in danger..."
"Ikasu, anyone who comes in contact with Toorima is in danger!"
"Soen, I'm much more worried about them. Please, just do this so I can actually rest..." Ikasu reasoned. After much deliberation Soen finally decided to leave Ikasu in the care of the clinic. He headed in the dark toward the hotel that the girls' stayed in. Soon after, Ikasu stood slightly unstable on his feet for a moment. His body was stil healing, but it was much better than before. He headed stealthily out. The back of his mind was coming forward and seeping the dark depths of his past into his once bright future. He had to go back. In order to conquer his past, he had to face it head on. There was only one place he could do that, and he'd be heading there immediately.
A Non-Existent User
(It's rather long but I think you'll approve)

She had a cute little laugh and he had her eating out of his hand with that last joke. He smiled and looked down as she crossed her legs: revealing a bit more of her thigh. How such an innocent little thing could make such a conservative dress look so good, he couldn't begin to fathom. He'd noticed her glancing at him occasionally through the rim of her glass every time she took a sip of the strong drink. He'd smiled and winked at her a few times. She was more than just your average beauty and he was no idiot to pass up the chance of devouring her after he finished his pint of ale.

Fifteen minutes after he'd first spotted her, he'd ordered her a second drink, moved her to a more intimate part of the bar, and gotten her comfortable enough to take off her cloak and let him get a better look at his prey. She had bright blond hair that went well past her perfectly curved rear. Her skin was well tanned and her eyes sparkled blue and were full of life(for now, he noted). The good lord saw fit to endow her with plenty to fill out her top half too. He licked his lips and took another swig of his ale as his eyes skimmed her over again. She finished laughing and leaned in even closer to him, putting her hand on his shoulder and looking at him like the god he was- or at least SHOULD be. “Tell me Mr. Mercenary...” She began, biting her lower lip. She did that whenever she wasn't sure if she should cross that forbidden line she was dying to cross. “Have you ever killed anyone?” She asked. Her eyes sparkling again.

He smirked. She was looking to be impressed. Good- he could easily do that. How this little flower had wandered into a bar was beyond him... but then... he really didn't care. He had her now. He leaned in closer to her. “Tons.” He smiled when she gasped and drew back- her eyes twinkling and a small smile on her face.

“No way. Really?” She asked.

“Oh yea. I just got done with a mission earlier tonight before I came in. Killed a man in his sleep.”

She giggled at that little fact. “I thought I smelled blood on you.”

He nodded. “So where you from Sugar?” He asked as he leaned back in his chair.

Something he couldn't read crossed her eyes. Normally it would have unsettled him seeing as how he could always read someone, but she was so damn beautiful. He didn't really care. She tucked a piece of her long hair behind her ear. “The South- deep South.” She smiled- as though there were a double meaning to her words.

“Oh yea? What made you come all the way out to Hollans?” He asked.

She sighed and leaned back as well, shifting just enough for her dress to come up just a bit higher on her thighs. “My old man was pretty strict. He kicked some of us kids out. So my oldest brother took us in and raised us- but he was just as bad so as soon as I could- I got the hell out of there.” He noticed that as soon as she said hell, she gazed up at him and smirked, giving him another unreadable look. He could tell she was getting bored with the mindless talk. That was fine. He was too. It was high time he got what he wanted from her... dessert.

“Say,” He leaned back in so only she could hear. “What do you say we get out of here. I bet a little thing like you wants to experience some danger and excitement for a change. I can gi-”

Suddenly someone was at their side- more specifically the girls side. “I'm sorry to get in the way Shathiel but-”

“Beat it punk.” He hissed as he leaned back in his chair. The little brat wasn't even old enough to have any facial hair. What was he, sixteen? Brown messy hair, weathered jacket and gloves. Grey eyes. What was he? Her brother? No- there was no realation between the two.

“What is it my Isara Kaiten? Can't you see I'm a bit busy at the moment?” She asked in a sweet but slightly irritated tone.

The kid glared at her- then had the balls to glare at him. “There's finally some new on them.” He said as he began a glaring contest with Shathiel's next pitiful victim.

Her eyes shot open wide and she let out another drop dead gorgeous laugh before she stood up. “Really? How wonderful. I hadn't expected to get an answer so soon.” She said as she turned to walk away.

The mercenary stared open mouthed at her. “But... we were going to-”

She turned around and looked at him with a sweet smile. “Oh, I'm really sorry but something else came up. Besides, you really are better off this way. I would have broken your heart in two.” She said smiling at the thought that he had no idea that she wasn't kidding. She would have ripped out his heart and pulled it in two before disposing of him.

“Well can I see you again? Maybe we can meet up somewhere.”

She sighed and smiled- closing her eyes and shaking her head as she grabbed her cloak. “No can do. You are heading to where I used to live but I have no intention of going back there so this is goodbye.” And with that she and Kaiten left.
...

“So... what did you find out My Isara Kaiten?” Shathiel asked cheerfully. As though she were eagerly awaiting news of an old friend.

Kaiten gave her a wary glance. “Shathiel... do you always have to say my name in reverse? Couldn't you, for once, call me Kaiten Isara?” He asked, ignoring her obvious interest in her unanswered question.

“Now why would I do that?” She asked teasingly as she walked behind a larger tree in the woods. “You'll always be 'my little weapon'. Why would I go switching it around to weapon little? Now about the others.” She said as she shed her cloak and began undressing behind the tree.

Kaiten was sixteen and knew all too well what Shathiel was. She might have been a knock out but he knew his place, turning around- one hand gripping the other in front of him as he waited. “It seems they're all East- in a place called Vilshire.”

“Really now? How interesting. I wouldn't have expected that. Anything else?”

“Yes. It seems Toorima's got quite the gathering. Though they all seem to want him dead.”

Shathiel laughed at that. “I'm not surprised. He's always been one to play like that.” She said as she tossed the dress she'd worn to the ground, replacing it with mens traveling pants and boots. She put on a long sleeved black shirt and dark brown vest. None of it fit her feminine curves. “Ah... perfect fit.” She cheerfully proclaimed as she stepped out from behind the tree. Kaiten turned and looked at her. As she walked towards him, her form changed. Her long blond hair darkened to charcoal while her eyes turned yellow. Even more, her breast shrank- revealing hard pectorals. Her arms and shoulders became wider with muscle as did the rest of her body. Finally, she- correction: he cracked his neck as the last of his changes were made and his Adams-apple appeared. Now the clothes fit perfectly- the shirt and vest clinging to his muscular frame. He bound his long hair behind his head (a tie securing his hair every three inches) and smiled at Kaiten.

“What now Shathiel? Or do you prefer I call you Shathazar in that husk?” He teased.

“I am still Shathiel- though I suppose that is a bit odd seeing as how thats clearly a girls name.” He said as he looked over the body. “And we can't have you going around calling me Shathazar- thats just asking for trouble... hmmm. Call me Kisei in public.” He laughed.

“Death?” Kisei nodded. “Then your orders Kisei?

“Head East.”

“How far East?” Kaiten asked.

Shathiel grinned, showing the husk of Shathazar's fangs. “I'll tell you when we get there.”
...

Tetsuo kept to the shadows of the foliage around the hospital. He brought his favorite claws up near his face as he squatted in the bushes and waited. His father told him what he needed to do and he WOULD do it. He'd do anything to gain his fathers respect but to forever be rid of those two. To be free... Tetsuo felt a shiver run up his back as he watched Soen leave the hospital. He smiled. All he had to do was kill Ikusa. He could do that. Silently he made his way across the hospital grounds and found it a simple task to sneak into the building,- making his way past security and staff without being detected.

After a slightly dangerous task of finding which room Ikusa Iusari resided in without being caught by the constantly wandering nurses, Tetsuo made his way to the room and silently ducked inside. Closing the door silently behind him, Tetsuo's heart raced as he looked over at the sleeping figure curled up under the warm covers. Tetsuo pierced his lips together tightly as he inched closer- claws raised. The butterflies in his stomach were getting worse the closer he got to his goal. Soon you're miserable life will be over Ikusa... Tetsuo thought to himself as he drove his claws toward the sleeping figure.

CLANG! Metal hit metal and a man with green hair and tattoo's turned over in the bed just in time to deflect Tetsuo's attack. He laughed. “Sorry kid- but he's already gone.” He said as Tetsuo's eyes widened. He jumped back- instantly feeling someone behind him.

“I hope your ready for death, pawn.” Another voice said from behind.
Although Vilshire was a gleaming gem of urban junk during daylight hours, the seedy underbelly of its society surfaced during the shadow of night. Everything evil and profitable came out to play when the good working folk were sleeping comfortably in their beds. If you had enough brain cells to rub together you watched your back or you lost your life.

Hitomi had been the tender age of thirteen when she had seen the true workings of the darkness that happened to dwell there. The bounty trip had earned her twenty seven stitches in her right side and a reputation for being unwelcome even by the shadiest of creatures. Walking along those same crowded, dirty streets again didn't have her exactly thrilled.

As she walked quietly along the dimly lit streets, adjusting the hood of her shredded duster to hide the violence of her tell-tale violet hair, Hitomi couldn't help but mourn the loss her butterfly knife. She felt naked without it. And as the deep ache and pain of her wounds sharpened with the chill breeze, she knew she needed more protection than just herself.

Suck it up, girl. You've gotta get this done. The fates of Soen and Yuya depend on it.

A man with spiked red hair stood slouched against a scarred wooden door, watching as a scantly clad couple hustled into the nearby alley to do God only knows. He was built like a tank and had the eyes of a hawk, a combination of attributes Hitomi liked to admire from afar. But the human shield was blocking her destination and she had no choice but to test his defenses.

"Tough night," she commented, taking a stand only a couple of feet in front of him.

The man grunted before leaning forward a little to spit out a wad of tobacco. The smell was rancid but Hitomi held back her distaste. "I need to see Mistress Majikku."

"No dice unless you pay the price," he said drawing the sound out like a snake. From the scan of his eyes up and down her body Hitomi didn't have to take a wild guess to figure what the price was. Man, does he have to be hard up to want a piece as jacked up as me.

Hitomi looked to the side then down at her feet as if she were scared and uncertain. Her hand made nervous tight fists as her sides. The snake man smirked at the sight, the smile slow and slimy. He took a step away from his post. "No worries, baby doll. I won't be too rough with ya."

The words had no sooner left his lips before Hitomi swept her leg across the ground, taking his footing out from under him. Too stunned to move further than boosting himself up off the ground, he sat back on his elbows in time for Hitomi to kicked him twice in the side of the head. The snake fell back to the sidewalk knocked out cold.

"Can't say the same for me," Hitomi said as she stepped over his body through the front door. The twinge in her side sparked a small ember of anger inside, completely escaping her notice that it disappeared as quickly as it came. She "accidentally" kicked him in the ribs on her way inside.

The inside of Mistress Majikku's shop was a scene straight from the past. Clear bottles filled with different herbs and ingredients lined dark wooden shelves. Tables covered in dark velvets accented the aroma of jasmine. It was a far more neat and tidy place than anything else in Vilshire. Hitomi couldn't help but feel taken aback at how nothing had changed since her last unfortunate visit.

Hitomi looked up at the sound of tinkling bells. From behind a thin silk covered shoji screen stepped the owner of the apothecary shop, a breathtaking, youthful vision in a gray silk kimono. Mistress looked not a year over twenty except for snow white hair and wide eyes clouded with cataracts. She gave Hitomi an enigmatic smile.

"Welcome back, one with the tainted soul." Mistress Majikku tilted her head slightly to the side as if reading something behind Hitomi. The curve of her mouth grew wider. "But I fear you too late to help your friends. The ones that hunt you have found their targets."

*

Ikasu made his way down the street, more stumbling than walking. The pain radiating through his was more evident with each step he took. But the pain was beyond his goal for thoughts of Hitomi and the others were at the forefront of his thinking. He could help them. Hell, he could save them and finally make amends for his failure all those years ago.

A sharp pain spiked up his ribs, making Ikasu trip over his feet. Slowly, he righted himself, clutching his side once again. "Hitomi," he murmured to himself. "What have you gotten yourself into?"

Not far behind walked a man in a black robe and red mask, stalking his target as Ikasu stepped back into his past.
Ikasu's hand went for the door then suddenly stopped. Someone was near. He reached into his garb threading his figners through the wires, but a hand suddenly rested on his,
"I'm not so sure that's a wise decision Ikasu..." came a dark voice. He whirled around facing the red masked man. Ikasu's eyes widened in fear and disbelief,
"A Kikkyoumusha?" His frown furrowed as his eyes filled with fury, "Good timing, I was just so busy loathing you..." he said. The red mask cast shadows upon itself that danced wickedly in the light provided by the torch hanging on the wall,
"You're going to talk to that woman aren't you?" Ryo asked,
"You mean your sister?" Ryo chuckled darkly,
"No, the Mistress. The harlot of my 'father'. Majikku 'Ms. Magic',"
"Why would I talk to her? I've come here to speak with Hitomi. That is all,"
"Really now? Don't you have some kinks to work out of your past with her? With me as well? You've got no questions?"
"Leave me be Ryo. You'll only break her heart if she sees you. The poor woman has lived enough suffering!" Ikasu shouted pushing Ryo back and turning for the door,
"Leave you be? How can I do that? How can YOU leave you be Ikasu? After all you've done you think you can just walk around helping people and it goes away? Ikasu, as far as I see it there's no way to attone for murder. Nursing someone back to health may make up for a beating here and there, but to make up for killing...you'd have to create life. Can you do that? Can any human being do that?" Ryo asked resting his hand on Ikasu's shoulder. The man shivered at the thought. Could everything he'd done, and could ever do be pointless? "I'll tell you what Ikasu. You come with me and listen to someone talk for a little bit. Just here him out, and I'll make sure Hitomi is free of all this. Never to be harmed again, never to suffer again, never to have to lose in life over this war between good and evil. You'll have truly saved her. If she knew, she'd love you for it I'm sure..." Ryo added with a hint of temptation. Ikasu's hand went to the doorknob. He suddenly felt weak again. Like the world was sitting on him. What would he do? His eyes slammed closed as his knuckles whitened on the knob.
.......................................................................
Soen finally reached the inn. He could sense Yuya inside sleeping. How cute she must look in there. He hoped she was alright. He'd try to sneak in and be sure not to wake her or Hitomi who may have finally decided to truly rest as well. The knob turned as he crept inside slowly. No movement. He turned ever so slightly to close the door hardly making any noise, but there was a sudden shuffle. Soen whirled seeing Yuya sitting straight up rubbing her eyes looking at him,
"Soen?" she asked innocently. Soen smiled. She'd spoken telepathically meaning that their connection was strong right now,
"Why didn't you lock the door?" he asked out loud,
"But I did...is everything okay?" Yuya yawned.
A Non-Existent User
Without giving it much thought Yuya glanced over in Hitomi's direction, wondering if maybe she'd offer a reason as to why the door wasn't locked. Yet aside from the sheets being slightly messed up, the bed clearly hadn't been slept in at all. “Hitomi...” Yuya thought in realization.

Soen's gaze quickly shifted to where Hitomi should have been. “Where is she?” He asked.

Yuya looked up at him for a split second before looking down at her hands. She gripped the sheets tightly. She's already left, that's what. She's gone off trying to play the hero as usual. Dammit all Hitomi why can't you just listen to me for a change? Why do you have to be so damned stubborn? ... You never did give up easily... I wish I could say I had that quality. She said to herself, making sure to guard the thoughts from Soen. She could feel their connection. She wouldn't need a voice or a pad of paper and pencil for him to know what she was thinking... not unless she concentrated. “I don't know.” She lied, gripping the sheets tighter. Soen looked back at her as if he were picking up on something. She prayed he couldn't tell of her dishonesty. “She probably just needed some time to think.” She added, not daring to look into his eyes. More silence passed than she wanted. Thinking he might somehow know what was happening she forced herself to look up at him.

He looked handsome standing there with the light of the moon peaking through the curtain alongside Yuya's bed, giving him a soft glow. The moonlight seemed to hit his face just right to show just how strong and amazing a person Soen really was. He'd been through so much and yet he'd managed to pull through it all and still be the Soen she'd first met. “You're right.” He finally agreed. The sadness in his eyes was gone. “Whatever she's been through was clearly traumatic. The wounds Toorima's ripped back open in her soul need mending. I just hope she knows she knows there's a way to get through this.” He added, looking into her eyes with the usual kindness he expressed. Yuya's eyes widened as his words hit home. They were meant for her too.Her gaze slowly returned to her hands as she lowered her head. Her silver hair masked the tears forming at the corners of her eyes. “...Yuya?” Soen whispered, sensing something was wrong.

She quickly recovered and looked up at him with a huge smile on her face, her face cocked to the side and her eyes partially closed. “Yea... I'm really worried about her. But she's strong so I know she'll find a way to pull through it.”

“Of course she will.” He said flatly. It had caught Yuya off guard, causing the false smile to disappear as she stared up at him quizzically. He smiled. “She's got us doesn't she?”

Yuya blushed and nodded. “Yea, of course. Though, lets not tell her I said that. We wouldn't want her going all soft knowing I care about her so much.”She teased, laughing a little. She hadn't realized how much a laugh could lighten ones heart until that moment.

Soen chuckled a bit. “Sure I guess.” Yuya froze- the weight of the world crashing back down on her shoulders the moment she realized how much she loved his laugh... and that chuckle. Within that instant her face returned to gloom. Soen noticed it and wanted nothing more than to fix it but, she just wouldn't talk to him. As he stood there staring at her and seeing her struggle with something, he wished he could help but he had no idea how. Moments of silence passed as he tried to find a way to get her to open up to him. He decided to ease into it. “Yuya, how are you feeling?” He asked, walking over to her and sitting down at the foot of the bed.

Yuya blushed slightly, though not enough for him to notice. She drew the quilted blanket up around her shoulders, wrapping it around her chest, and scooted up to the headboard. She couldn't take him being any closer than that. She just couldn't. Not when...“I'm fine.”

“Really?” He asked, staring at her with concern. How strong she always tried to be...

“Yea. I mean, don't get me wrong- I'm as stiff as a board but it's nothing a little rest and relaxation won't cure.” She thought, trying to remember how she'd normally smile. She couldn't. So she decided to wing it and gave him the biggest smile she could muster. “Ever since I actually ran into you, life's seemed to have been stuck in fast forward. It's hard keeping up with things when every thing's going so fast.” She replied, closing her eyes and laughing nervously as she scratched the back of her head. When she did it, she realized she hadn't done it in years- not since a handsome stranger came to her town one day. A handsome stranger a little girl with silver hair tied up with a ribbon couldn't get enough of... A heavy sigh broke Yuya out of her train of thought. When she looked over at Soen his gaze tugged painfully at her heart. It was one of sadness and pity. “What?” She asked as she forced herself to keep up her false cheerfulness.

Soen sighed yet again. “It's hard to see you like this is all- without your voice I mean. It's like seeing a rose without color.”

The facade Yuya had tried so hard to keep up, faded away as if it hadn't been there at all. She looked out the window through the small slit in the curtain. “Well, you'd best get used to it Soen.” She snapped. His words were too sweet. Dangerously so and if it meant she had to push him away to protect him... God forgive me, Soen

“And why is that?” His own voice was sharper than he'd intended but it only managed to fuel Yuya's fire and determination.

When she turned to face him, she glared at him. “Just drop it. I don't want to talk about this.” Her thoughts were sharp and hurt him a little.

“Why won't you tell me what's going on Yuya? Why won't you trust me?”

Yuya stood up quickly, taking a few steps away from him and the bed before she spun back around glaring at him more all the more. “I didn't say anything about this involving trust!”

“Then what?” He yelled back, standing up and facing her.

“I told you already, dammit! I don't want to talk about it! Why can't you just leave it alone, Soen?”

“Because I care about you Yuya. I don't want to see you suffering like this.”

Yuya's eyes widened. His words tempted her to let go of all the misplaced anger she was using to lash out at him. It made her falter in a come back. You care about me? You actually care? No, dammit... You can't care about me. You big dummy! Don't care about me. Don't like me, and never love me! Yuya brought the quilt tighter around her frame, and she hated herself for what she was about to say. She looked away from him and shut her eyes in hopes that it would keep her heart from stopping its beat. She would be able to see the pain in his eyes if she looked. Then she might not be able to go through with it. Taking a deep breath of resolve, she replied with as much bitterness and hatred as she could. “The moment you and I crossed paths was the moment I was doomed to suffer.” She felt it. The sharp inhale he made from the force of her sting. She looked up at him. “Don't you get it, Soen? Until this is all over and Toorima's gone... we're all cursed to suffer so long as we have a connection to you.” She made a mistake. It was the moment she dared to look him in the eyes. What she saw made her curse her own existence. She wished she could be struck down right where she stood. His eyes gleamed with sadness. Her words had struck straight down into his very core and, knowing she'd been the one to cause him this much pain, made it hard for her to breath.

“...Yuya...” His voice was more soft, more fragile.

I can't stop here. She told herself and instead of letting things go and telling him she was sorry a thousand times over and over again, she continued. “Just get used to it Soen. There is no way to break this silence. My curse is permanent.” And it was. She was cursed to hurt someone who least deserved it. To push away the one person she wanted to draw closer. Cursed to save a life only to loose any joy she may have had that would have made her life worth living. She had to live with this curse for the rest of her life. Redemption for such a cruel act did not exist.

“Of course there's a way to break the curse, Yuya!” He said both passionately and coldly. “It's not in Toorima's power to make an unbreakable curse. Not to mention he'd find the thought very boring.” Yuya said nothing. She just clenched her teeth, her jaw muscles twitching at what her whole heart wanted to her to tell him. Her silence stung just as badly and Soen glared at her. “You're just giving up too easily.”

She looked up at him. “Well not everyone is as strong as you and Hitomi, Soen.” If she'd have spoken, her voice would have shaken. She was on the verge of tears.

“Are you referring to yourself? You- not as strong as us? You found the strength to hunt down and attempt to destroy the demon that ruined your past. You found the strength to carry a nearly dead woman to a doctor when you, yourself were injured. You even found the strength to survive torture by a demon known as the wicked- even among other demons and, need I remind you that all the while, you were praying for me to come to your aid? And of course, you even found the strength to push away the one you called so close. Honestly... I don't know how you've done it. I would have gone insane by now.” He turned, walking over to the corner of the room, and slid down the white walls, bringing his knee's up and resting his forearms on them as he sat on the floor; staring at nothing in particular so long as it wasn't Yuya. He was right... she should have gone crazy. Maybe she would. Perhaps she already had... but if that were the case, why did it hurt so bad to be so cruel to someone? Especially him. Looking down at him, she could almost see the trials he'd gone through- the struggles and hatred he'd had to bear all on his own. If she could only reach out to him and comfort him... if only she could wrap her arms around him and beg his forgiveness a thousand times over again. To hold onto him as tightly as she could until he held onto her just as tight. Then everything wrong would just melt away and leave them alone... but that could never happen and Yuya knew it. Soen sighed and looked back up at her.“But you have done it Yuya.”

A small tinge of regret washed over her at the realization that the moment they could have shared was gone. It had slipped away with the rest of the should be's and could have been's. The worst part was that she knew she could never get it back. “Strength? ...That wasn't strength Soen... that was survival- if you could even call it that. And if it was strength, so what? What do you expect me to do? Just because I survived those instances I should be indestructible? Well I'm not! I didn't ask for any of this Soen! None of it! I was a little kid when you showed up in our village! I just wanted a normal life with my mom and dad! With my grandparents and my friends! I would have forgotten about you if you hadn't of brought Toorima's destruction to our very door step! I would have gone on with life and you would have been nothing more than a childish crush!” Not true... it's not true. I'm so sorry Soen. I'm so sorry... I have to do this. I'll protect you from Toorima. Yuya crossed her arms and gripped them, trying to force her shaking hands to steady.

Soen sharply stood up and began walking towards her as he spoke.“Brought Toorima's destruction to your door step? By choice? Do you want to know what I wished for? A place to live in peace with nothing of that sort. Had I known that Toorima would arrive, I would have staid isolated. But I couldn't have possibly have known that. I was only human. Just like you and everyone else. So if you honestly believe that I brought destruction, then maybe I am a fool... maybe this connection was waisted on you.”

His words were like a stab wound to the heart. “Maybe so...” She agreed. Her voice was just barely above a whisper as he drew closer to her.

“I did it to save your life because I trusted that one day you'd be happy again and grateful for the gift.” He paused- standing face to face with her, looking her directly in the eyes. “And seeing now that you hate me for it...” He looked away for a moment before he turned completely away from her so she couldn't see his face. “I'm not sure what kind of monster you take me for or, whatever... supernatural being, but whatever kind of body this is... my soul is still human and like any other human when you fully devote your soul to helping someone and they reject it, or despise it or recoil at the very thought then its awfully painful.” Soen glance back at her. “And my soul has suffered a lot of pain.”

Her knee's almost gave out from under her and the tears were screaming to fall down her face. They blurred her vision as she struggled to keep herself upright. She swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. A whimper would have escaped her throat, but she quickly turned it into a snicker. “Feeling sorry for ourselves now are we?”

He spun around. “Well dammit its hard not to recognize that when you notice yourself feeling weaker, and sick, and that you can't sleep ever. Not to mention, when you suppress too many feelings, memory's, and thoughts they begging to overflow. And when they're bad feelings, memories and thoughts, they burn like acid all over your mind. and for once I thought....” He paused and ran his hand through hair once before letting out a long sigh. “Never mind.” Soen shook his head and looks down at her. “Forgive me.” He turned and walked back over to corner he'd sat in moments ago and sat back down in it.

Yuya stood there, frozen. She'd never felt so low before in her entire life. I can't be in here right now... she told herself. Quickly, Yuya turned around and walked out into the hallway, slamming the door behind her. She walked aimlessly for a moment- tears streamed down her face as she made her way down the hall. As soon as she saw the back door she pushed it open, walking outside into the fresh night air. Her grip around the quilt loosened and as she walked, she let it fall down her shoulders and chest. Let the cold chill her skin. Let the fires of hell burn her alive and the coldest oceans drown her- she deserved it all. Yuya walked off the small trail, letting the sharp gravel protecting the plants from weeds dig into her feet as she leaned against the back wall; her forehead resting against its cold surface as she slammed her fist against it. She let out a cry of agony, one that came straight from the soul, before sliding down onto her knee's and bursting out into tears. She hit the wall over and over again as she cried. She knew there was no chance he would ever be able to forgive her... and she would never forgive herself either. Her breathing came in sharp inhales and whimpers as she dwelt upon what she had done. Again she slammed her fists into the building- not stopping until her knuckles were red and bleeding. I had to do it... I'm sorry Soen... but this was the only way to save you. Hopelessness: Yuya was lost in a sea of it.

She let out a sudden gasp, wrapping her arms around her chest as she hunched over. Yuya could feel something... something she'd felt before when she and Soen had helped Ikasu reach out to Hitomi when she hadn't been able to wake up. There was a pulse somewhere deep inside of her and she panicked at the realization of who it was. Yuya began to hyperventilate as her fingers began to dig into the side of the building. She could feel Toorima; she could hear him laughing. Her violet eyes were wide open in fear and pain as they flashed black for an instant. “Yuya... why so down in the dumps?” She heard an all too familiar voice mock.

Yuya gasped again, feeling the curse wrap more snuggly around her soul as if he were wrapping his fingers around her heart and squeezing as hard as he possibly could. She could hear him laughing at her. “Awe... my poor Yuya... you've gone and decided to take the difficult route have you? And here I thought you'd use this opportunity to tell Soen just how you feel. Now what ever will you do? He hates you now...”

“Ahh!” Yuya cried out as a sharp painful sensation shot through her heart.

“It's like you've gone and plunged a knife into his heart.” Her eyes flashed black again.

“Shut up!” She hissed. “You can't have him! You hear me Toorima? You're plans failed! I may not deserve his kindness but at least he'll- Ahh!” Another sharp pain to the heart. Toorima's evil laughter echoed in her mind. “I'll... I'll protect him...” She whimpered, unable to breath with the amount of pain she felt.

“Protect him?” He mocked, bursting out in more laughter. “Well its really pointless now isn't it? Can you really stand by, protecting a man and then watch him find another woman. To caress another face that isn't your own? To marry her and claim her as his partner? What about you, Yuya? Don't you want to hold him and caress him? Feel his body pressed against yours as he whispers sweet nothings into your ear? No? Then you truly are alone now Yuya... you're alone and buried within a hole you've gone and dug for yourself. Go ahead and be the heroine of the story... but wake up every morning and know that you lost your happy ending. You lost Soen and you'll never get him back. Live with this Yuya... and tell me when you can't take it anymore.” Her eyes flashed black again before his voice and laughter faded.

“What utter nonsense.” Yuya gasped, turning her head. A strange cloaked figure stood in the shadows to her left. He peered out at her; a sly grin on his face.
Ikasu found himself stepping into the dark surroundings of his past.

As if he were taken back in time there before him stood a long lacquered black table and hard wooden benches on either side. Wax candles burned in sconces, casting twisted shadows in shapes of menacing figures on the stark walls. Dark and eerie, a banner of the Kikkyoumusha hung boldly in the center. With his arm cradled close to his side to keep the pain at bay, Ikasu stared at the symbol of his downfall, feeling the dark emotions that once clutched him return.

Why had he come back? Could he find redemption in this cursed place?

As a boy he had known only the hardness of living in the streets. He never laid eyes on his mother or father. Never knew if they had wanted him or had simply abandoned him in some alleyway. The loneliness of surviving out in the world on his own had only served to make him rough on the outside. Inside he wished to be a part of something. The ninja clan had offered him a sense of family. Foolishly, without thought to the future consequences, he took their offer, becoming one of their weapons.

Through training he had learned to hone his hunting skills. Through experience he had learned to kill. And he was good at it, one of the best, which made him arrogant beyond belief. He left his sense of morality behind for the sake of his ninja brethren. It wasn’t that the people he had assassinated were saints. Usually they were corrupt officials or savage businessmen or just plain evil. But it didn’t change the fact that he had their blood on his hands. Or that at one time he enjoyed the thrill of it more than anything else he had experienced before.

Then, one fateful day, he fell upon a girl with mismatched eyes and violent violet hair. She was nothing like he had experienced before with women. No feminine touches. No silly whims or a sense of girly innocence. With her knees digging into his chest and a sharp blade against his throat, she had come within inches of ending it all, the intent shining in her eyes that gazed back into his very soul.

But she spared him; saved him from the angry mob of gangsters whose boss he had just killed.

He had hated Hitomi. To think he needed some young girl to save him from a group of sloppy fighters. If the news got back to the clan he knew he would never live it down. So he taunted her as they all journeyed together, cruelly teasing her to hide his thanks. She would smile coldly at every jab, making Ryo laugh at his failed attempts of breaking through her hardened shell. Slowly, however, they became friends on the long road back to home. Waiting for every small smile she sent his way, he came to the realization that he had come to care for her. The man in him wanted to be the one to open her heart. The ninja in him, however, knew the price on her head would forever give him glory.

Ikasu almost hadn’t taken her to the temple. Ryo had stayed behind to a few days of rest and relaxation in a small tavern town after they had done a job worth weeks of preparation. Never one to be idle, she had wanted to see the cherry blossoms, the first sign of the girl inside the hunter. He knew they would strike soon. He could see the possibility of the trap the moment she had mention her plans. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to tell her who he really was, so he lied to her, trying to convince her that no wonder laid within the temple walls. He would have succeeded too, if the smoke hadn’t drawn her concern.

The pain in his side spiked, making Ikasu seek support against the wall, his head dizzy with memory. Ryo stood quietly at his side, no doubt peering at him through the hood of his dark cloak. Somehow Ikasu knew they were thinking back to the same moment – the moment they had both failed her. If only things had been different…

The expression of betrayal in Hitomi’s eyes as they captured her inside the temple gates was forever burned into his memory. The bodies of monks and worshipers were already piled upon one other as the others of clan had completely taken of the grounds, continuing to set fire to the rooms and statues that had once made the Temple of the Dawn shine. The few that were still alive were bound and being carted off. It was only later did he find out they were for Toorima and his sadistic little games.

True to her nature, she fought them like a tiger, landing a few solid kicks and punches before they were able to forcibly subdue her hands. He could only stand beside his commander with his red mask firmly in place, as they began beat her, feeling each hit as if it were his own pain, hearing every vile word of their intentions as they humiliated her with curses meant for the worst of streetwalkers. The image of their hands violating her body made him shake to the core of his being. When her head fell to her chest as she fell unconscious, thin lines of blood marking her back, Ikasu could no longer hold back, the bonds he held with the Kikkyoumusha finally breaking.

He attacked his fellow assassins with every ounce of his fury, wires flying from his fingers with speed barely traceable to the naked eye. A few ninjas, ones he had once called his brothers, fell to the ground in death. It did not matter. He had to save her. He had to help the others. But their numbers and skill outmatched him a hundred to one. They overpowered him by sheer force.

The Kikkyoumusha forced him listen to her scream.

The pain of the dull knife ripping through flesh and muscle to get his kidney out of his body had been nothing compared to the horror he heard. In the years since, he would wake up from nightmares with her screams in his mind, tormenting him with guilt. The worst, however, had been the silence.

They had hurt her to the point where she could no longer fight back. They had broken her will. And he was as much to blame as if he had taken the whip to her himself.

That’s why he stood here now. To once more see a smile on her face that wasn’t tinged with pain. To give her a small piece of what he had taken. He would do whatever he had to. Hitomi would never feel that pain again.

“Had you been anyone else I wouldn’t believe those words.” Ryo turned to face him. His red mask was back on his face, but the steel of his eyes burned through the darkness. “If you truly care for her you’ll listen to this deal. You’ll seek to make right what you have done wrong.”

“And what will you do to protect her?” Ikasu couldn’t keep his contempt in check, an awkward pause stretching between them. This Ryo was not the boy he once knew. This Ryo was something else, something dark. He didn’t trust him.

“Whatever it takes.” Ryo said softly. The words were barely air. “Whatever it takes.’

The movement of the shadows on the wall caught their attention. A figure of a man stepped out far enough for them to see his frame. Ryo bowed to him. Ikasu held his ground.

“Ah, Ikasu Iusari the ninja assassin has returned.”

The dark voice set Ikasu’s teeth on edge. “I am a healer now.”

The shadow man laughed. “No, boy. You are a killer. And that’s exactly what I want you to be.”

*


But I fear you too late to save your friends.

The words echoed in Hitomi’s mind, making her hands clench into fists. The fear and anger boiled up in her chest, making it almost too hard to breathe. With every bit of strength of mind, she called on the patience her brother took years teaching her, and stared the sorceress boldly in the eye.

Her words were spoken with calculate precision. “Where are they?”

Mistress Majikku walked gracefully around her apothecary table as if she were floating on clouds. She picked up a large wooden bowl and delicately poured purified water into its base. From Hitomi’s view different types of herbals and colored flower floated and twirl around the bowl. Had she not known the darkness the Mistress possessed and controlled, she would have called the spell being made before her beautiful.

“They are in many places. With many people. All facing their ends alone.”

The words cut through Hitom’s patience like a knife. She slammed her newly-healed fist down on the table, making the jars and glass bottles jump. “I want no riddles from you. I want to the truth. Where are my friends?”

The Mistress chuckled as she righted her magic crafting items. The smile on her face was predatory. “That’s not why you’re here, cursed soul. You’re here to break a curse of silence.” Hitomi felt herself stiffen. “If you want to help them all, there is price to be paid.”

The chuckle that poured from Hitomi’s lips was anything but mirthful. “There always is. What is it you want?”

“Your soul is no good to me,” the Mistress said as she walked to the closed cabinet by the far wall. The silk of her kimono glittered with every small step she took. “I have seen what once resided there.” She pulled a key from underneath the second fold of the kimono and unlocked the cabinet doors. The reflection of an antique mirror over a small altar was all she could see from her position. “The foul demon Toorima has tainted you forever. It will be no good to me now.”

The casual talk of using her soul made the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Hitomi had come knowing the consequences of what might be asked. But there were no closer to demon and had little to stop him. For the first time in years, she felt fear. These were the only people on Earth that she had come to care for. Her promise to them would not be broken. She just needed to keep her objective in focus.

“Your heart, however, is in perfect shape.”

Before Hitomi could open her mouth to object, the Mistress appeared before her, a sharp, jeweled blade in her hand. The blind woman tapped the blade above her heart, a serene look of greed in her gaze. “Broken by betrayal; healed by vengeance. Encased in a fortified mountain that has left it cold, only to feel the first heat of love again. Ah, yes. You’re heart will do me just fine.”

Hitomi pulled back the torn lapels of her jacket. “Would now be a good time to take it or should we schedule some time next week?” She hoped her sardonic tone covered the feel of unease covering her skin.

The Mistress smiled. “I’ll give you all the means to save your friends. I’ll even tell you how to get around that pesky little curse. All I want is your heart – an organ you profess is useless in your line of work.”

Hitomi looked into the sorceress’s ageless face and saw the faces of everyone she ever cared for. Ryo. Yuya. Soen. Ikasu. She needed to help them from this mess. She needed them to be safe, and this was the only way she knew how to get them that.

She straightened her shoulders in determination. “How long would I have?”

“Five days,” the Mistress said, the corners of her mouth turned up in a Cheshire cat grin. “Once you commit, the spell will wrap around your heart to make sure nothing happens while it is under my protection. You will then have five days to help your friends. Five days of immortality. After those five days over, your heart belongs to me. You will return here for its retrieval.”

Hitomi went pale. “And die.”

The Mistress shook her head in disappointment. “My cursed one, there are other ways to live besides having a heart beating in your chest. You say the word and I’ll give you everlasting life.”

She shuddered at the thought.

“No, Mistress Majikku. You will have my heart and I’ll help my friends. And that will be the end of our business relationship.”

“So be it.”

The Mistress took the bowl off the table and placed it before Hitomi. A small wind began to pick up, brushing coolly against her skin, as the sorceress spoke softly into the herbal water of the bowl. The words were but a whisper, floating around them like raven feathers – beautiful yet dark as all night. Each ancient word seem to grow heavier as they poured from the Mistress’s lips, forming shadows inside the bowl. The waters swirled as though a mini form of a storm was residing in the bowl. Then, suddenly, it stopped, leaving only the wilted leaves and petals of herbs in its wake.

The Mistress placed the bowl between and took the jeweled blade from the grey silk sleeve.

“Give me your palm and place it above the bowl.” Hitomi hesitated, unsure about taking the leather glove off her hand. Cursing her vanity, she stripped it off with force, shoving the glove into the only good pocket left on the jacket. The Mistress stroked the burned tissue with the tip of her long white fingernail, fascinated by the texture, before grabbing a hold of her wrist. Hitomi fought down the urge to jerk it back. “The spell only works when it is given with voluntarily consent. As you draw the blood of your oath repeat every word I say.”

Hitomi took the jeweled blade from the sorceress in her right hand and held the other hand palm up over the water. Gritting her teeth in determination, she wrapped her bare hand around the sharp blade, repeating the dark words as they embedded themselves into her body, and slowly sliced into the flesh of her palm. Blood, bright and red, flowed into the bowl, covering the flowers in a scene of spotted crimson. The Mistress wrapped her delicate pale hand around Hitomi’s and squeezed harder, calling up her anger.

“Do you bind yourself to the words you have spoken in accordance to our deal?”

“Yes,” Hitomi snarled.

The Mistress grabbed the hilt of the knife and ripped it from the grasp of Hitomi’s hand. A cry of fury was followed quickly by a cry of pain, forcing Hitomi to her knees. She grasped at her chest, blood staining shirt, as the air in her lungs went dry. The pain squeezing her heart was almost too much to bear. She could only look up at the Mistress in loathing.

“What have you done to me?” She rasped.

The sorceress looked down at Hitomi in bemusement as she stirred the spell’s herbs together with the tip of her fingernail.

“Calm down, cursed one. The words of our agreement are now writing themselves on your heart. This is to prevent you from trying to circumvent our bargain.”

“I gave my oath.”

The Mistress laughed. “Those hold little for me. Actions speak much louder. If you return in five days time, I may begin to believe you.” Feeling the spell was ready, she poured the gritty blood contents into a small glass vial, licking the excess blood from the rim.

Hitomi gathered herself up off the ground. As quickly as the pain had come, it swiftly went away, leaving Hitomi pain-free for the first time in days. Taking the vial off the table, she noticed the cut on her hand had also healed. She whistled softly. This was a damn powerful spell. She really was cursed now.

“Now,” Hitomi demanded. “Where is my end of our bargain? I don’t have time to waste.”

The Mistress presented her with the jeweled blade, now clean of blood. Hitomi took the blade and sheathed it with a piece of green velvet cloth before putting it in her belt and covering it over with her shirt. It was sharp and functional, which is what mattered most to the hunter, but she still mourned her butterfly knife.

“That blade is empowered with an unbreakable blade and extending handle. This should help you when it comes to dealing with creatures of the otherworld.”

The Mistress then pulled out two thin glass vials from her kimono sleeve and presented them to Hitomi. The first vial, with an intricate golden dragon as a topper, held a glowing blue liquid that moved inside the glass in waves like small oceans. The second vial was a shade of pink that change vibrancy in the light, and when she looked closer small explosions were erupting inside.

Hitomi arched a brow in question.

“Blue is for truth. Give this to the one who needs their true feelings spoken but may not have the words. Pink is for affection. One drop on the skin or on the tongue will make person feel amorous to those close by.” Hitomi tucked them in her pocket, securing them within her gloves. “Be careful how you use them, cursed soul. Use the wrong vial and your results may not be what you are looking.”

“Is that it?”

“Yes. That is all you need to get around the curse.”

“And my friends?”

The Mistress folded her hands out in front of her. “Yes. I have given you everything. Now all you need to do is use your head.”

“Mistress Majikku…”

“Your attempt to control your angry is amusing to watch, but try to think my dear cursed one. Can you feel your heart beating faster the angrier you get? Can you hear the rush of blood flowing through your body? Doesn’t it make you feel invincible? Like you could destroy me with just a snap of your fingers?”

Hitomi looked down at her palm once more. There was no scar. It was the magic. Her hand curled into a fist. She didn’t need invincible. She just needed enough to get her friends safe.

“Where are they?”

“Happy with the outcome I see.” The Mistress focused gaze up, almost forcing her eyeballs back into her skull. Her eyelids flickered in agitation. “Your friend Yuya has been captured by a cloaked man outside your hotel room. Soen is currently alone, but will be facing his demons, so to speak, any moment now. And your Ikasu has been taken by a red masked gentleman in a black hood, one you well.” Her gazed came down and settled on Hitomi’s. “Now you must make a choice. Who do you want to save the most?”

Hitomi rubbed an un-gloved hand over the pain in her heart. Steeling herself, she walked to the door. Hand on the knob, she stopped and turned to the Mistress over her shoulder. “If this fails before I can protect them. I’ll come after you and everything you love.”

The Mistress giggled behind her hand. “Cursed one, of that I have no doubt. Remember…you have five days before that heart is mine.” She curled her hand into a fist, watching Hitomi grimace in pain as the bands around her heart tightened. “Don’t keep me waiting.”

The moment the door shut, Hitomi was sailing across the streets of Vilshire, running as fast as her leg would carry her to get to Yuya. The choice weighed heavily on her mind, the others were alone as well, but Yuya seemed to be the one in the most trouble. She had to do what she could.

So intent on her course, she didn’t realize her feet barely touched the ground as she ran.

From inside the apothecary shop Mistress Majikku watched the cursed huntress go attempt to rescue her friends. A heavy draft blew through the room, lifting the long white strands of her hair off her shoulders. She smiled at the intrusion, turning to the antique mirror inside her cabinet, and bowed her head as mists began to form within the glass.

“She believes the healing is from the spell, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, Master Xaraphel. She doesn’t know of the assassin’s reflection.”

The voice from the mists chuckled in approvable. “It seems my plan will come to completion faster than I estimated.”

“Do you think Ryo might seek retribution for this?”

“My impetuous son and his weakness.” The atmosphere of the room turned darker as the mirror seethed. “He thinks he can rule this game, throwing me out, and playing odds to any demon he wants. No, I will teach my son a lesson, and let that little violet girl be the one to show him.”

The Mistress touched the mirror’s surface with loving fingers. “Soon, Master, I will have you whole and out of that confined place.”

“The heart of a hunter will do well.”

“Don’t forget the assassin,” Mistress Majikuu preened. She dipped her finger into the remnants of the spell bowl and licked the blood from the tip of her nail with satisfaction. “Two heart for the price of one.”

*


The feel of a blade slicing through the palm of his hand had Ikasu jerk back in surprise and pain. Stunned, he watched absently as his blood dripped down from his hand onto the floor, forming a small pool.

Ryo grabbed him by the shoulder. “What happened!? What magic is this?”

“Hitomi,” Ikasu whispered before he fell to his knees, clutching his chest in sudden agony. It felt as if a steel belt had wrapped itself like a viper around his heart, constricting it more with very beat it took.

“What have you done with her?” Ryo questioned his voice colder than ice.

It was then the man from the shadows moved, stepping out into the light for Ikasu to see his face for the first time.

“Smart girl. She has gone and made a deal,” Bagura remarked. There was a faint trace of anger in his voice but the smoothness of his manner made it seem insignificant. As if he not a care in the world, he took a seat at the head of the room in the seat held for the master of the clan. “Things have just started to get interesting.”

© Copyright 2008 Zephyr Shenkiken, xx-xx, LdyPhoenix, Scheherazade, (known as GROUP).
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