The man contemplated for a moment. Just beyond the rooftops, the autumn sun was beginning to make its way down. The seasons here were slightly warmer than En. Even though they were clearly in the middle of autumn, the leaves on the trees were only beginning to turn red and gold. In En, the leaves would have already begun to fall.
I could get used to this kind of weather.
The man was too cheerful in spite of his situation. He strolled down the dwindling streets, whistling gaily as he led his suugu down. The suugu stopped, sniffing then air for a bit before jerking around another corner. It was clear to any watching pedestrians that it was in fact the suugu leading the owner and not the other way around.
"Which way Tama?" he asked as the suugu stopped again. He looked up at the inn. The pillars were painted bright red along with the red roof tiles.
Bright Prosperity? What kind of name is that for an inn?
"Good evening sir!" the old man bowed as he entered. "A room? We have nice stables for your suugu."
The man chuckled. "I'm looking for a person. About this high with long hair. Maybe tied with a ponytail."
"Ah-" The old man looked crestfallen upon hearing his description. "That lad disappeared last night. This morning his belongings were taken away by the officials. If you are looking for him, you'll probably have better luck at the land ministry." The old man turned around rudely. It was clear that the old man did not want his kind around, regardless on whether he had a suugu or not. He stepped out, thinking on hard on his next actions when he heard the young voice call him.
The man froze before turning to the familiar voice. Rokuta stared at him angrily. His kirin was beginning to wise up to his antics. He smiled brightly at the short kirin as though there was nothing wrong with him being here. "How nice to see you! What are you doing here?"
The kirin scoffed at his reply, "I knew you'd do this. I told my shirei to follow you and report to me the minute you entered Bu Province."
"There really is nothing wrong with me coming to visit my mistress. She's a really beautiful lady; long silky hair with a captivating voice and bright doleful eyes."
"Let me guess. She has red hair with green eyes?" The kirin smirked.
Bringing a kirin here would be close to disastrous. "Well that would be lovely, but she does not." He smiled sweetly, walking towards the brothels with the kirin in tow.
"Shouryu." Rokuta grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. "What are you planning?"
Shouryu chuckled. Placing his large hand on the short kirin, he said gravely, "To visit my mistress."
Rokuta grabbed Shouryu by the neck, forcing him to level with Rokuta's face. "Listen here. If you do something stupid, the most that will happen is that you'll die and I'll die. But what will happen to the commoners? They'll live on their natural life spans either in constant starvation or maybe die from youma attacks or natural disaster. Neither of that is pleasant." He breathed heavily, trying to catch his breath.
"So don't do anything stupid," Rokuta finally finished, releasing his grip.
Shouryu straightened up, pulling his hoh straight. "Don't worry, I won't," he replied. He spun around and continued walking on before stopping in mid-stride. "Take your shirei with you as well. I don't like being followed."
"That's an order."
There was a certain coldness in his last line that Rokuta could not identify and as much as he wanted, he could not defy an order given by his master.
Rankei spun around, the blade narrowly missed him. Flipping back, he pulled his sword forward to block the oncoming blow. Sparks flew as the blades collided. His blade flew from his hand and fell with a clatter to the corner of the room. Without losing a beat, Rankei surged forward using his speed as the advantage to close in for a barehanded blow. Kantai drew back but not fast enough. As he stumbled backwards, he attempted sweep-kicked Rankei who dodged forward, slipping through Kantai's defences. He pulled Kantai's sword arm, smashing heavily into it. Kantai winced, his grip loosing on his sword and it too fell. Before Kantai could react, Rankei had thrown a left-handed blow then spun, delivering a hook kick that connected firmly. Kantai flew several metres before coming to a stop.
"I give," Kantai grunted as he got up.
Rankei laughed as he moved to retrieve his sword. Rankei's skill had improved by leaps and bounds. Soon, he would be forced to take Rankei seriously while dueling. With Gyousou coaching Rankei, Kantai was hardly surprised that his skills were becoming rather vicious. He too had sparred Gyousou on several instances before. Gyousou's techniques were more focused on lethality rather than grace. Kantai was hardly surprised to find that out for before Gyousou's predecessor, Tai had been embroiled in a long civil war.
"What do you plan on doing now?" Kantai asked.
Rankei looked askance at Kantai, "Are you asking me if I'm going to look for Her Majesty?" He sheathed his sword, waiting for Kantai to reply. "Because I'm not," he continued when Kantai did not.
"Going to see my mistress. Promised her that I would drop by," he smiled though there was an inscrutable expression when he said that.
"Wait!" Kantai yelled. Grabbing Rankei, he pushed Rankei around to face him. "Her Majesty might be in danger and you don't even care? She raised you!"
Rankei brushed Kantai's hand away. "It doesn't change a thing. I am not her son or her subject. I am merely someone she knows." He marched out of the room angrily, not even giving a last glance.
The kirin stood at the edge of the garden, watching the leaves sway in the wind. So motionless he was that he could have been mistaken for a statue. His alabaster skin and pale blonde hair almost melted into the marble pillars that he stood beside. He was contemplating about a lot of things. For starters, the situation with the ministers seemed to have cleared up. They were a lot more compliant to his master's demands as they were before. They also had stopped scoffing at her ignorance at certain things, though it was mostly because she was no longer as ignorant as she was before. There was a sense of pride as he thought of that. She had grown into a very different person that she had been previously. When he had first laid eyes on her, he knew that Yoko was very similar to her predecessor. They seemed to have the same faults and the same wants, but Yoko unlike her predecessor had learnt the ability to battle with herself.
Of course, this was not the primary issue on his mind. He stared deeply into the pond as though trying to see through the ground and through the unkai that lay around the palace. Keiki could not shake the feeling of dread. He worried terribly for his master.
He did at least worry for a good cause and he was not the only one that was worried. It was clear that there was a disquieting feeling among the ministers that Yoko had picked out herself. There had been no word since a week ago. Though she had been out of the palace for awhile, she had often sent regular updates whether it was through the kijyuu that Koukan had presented her or through his shirei.
Keiki was torn between staying in the palace and going to Bu Province to find his master. Yoko had clearly told Hyouki that Keiki was not to come for doing so would endanger her. That would be a command. Going so would be to disobey her. Keiki clenched his jaws, his delicate hands balling into tight fists. He must go, he knew he must.