[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 11

Chapter Eleven – Boulevard of Broken Dreams

A week passed since the incident. Mugen and I spent most of the time in a blur of sleep and eating. We were both still sore, but we were tired of staying in the inn, despite the vast amount of time we spent in bed with each other. But Mugen, wanderer that he was, was going stir-crazy staring at the same four walls each day.

It didn’t help that Fuu was acting strange as well, humming each day as she came in and left, surprisingly more bright and cheerful as usual. She took Mugen’s teasings good-naturedly and even managed to tease back. She simply took care of us without complaint and didn’t once make mention of the fact that we were nearly out of money and only she was bringing any in. I suspected something was up… and a couple days later Mugen did as well.

We would have to get to the bottom of this mystery soon otherwise we might once again find ourselves chasing down a kidnapped Fuu, no matter the state of our health.

I rolled over, mindful of my semi-healed injuries and found Mugen lying on his back, mouth slightly agape as he slept on, a small amount of drool had gathered in the corner of his lips. I chuckled to myself, his innate vulnerability in that very moment so unusual that I couldn’t help myself. He was sleeping hard, my Mugen.

I still couldn’t believe that after only seven days, Mugen was mostly healed. He had a unique tolerance for pain, keeping him on his feet and fighting when other men would have fallen. He also had this amazing ability to heal quite rapidly. If man could heal by force of will alone, then Mugen was the prime example.

I darted an eye towards the window, trying to gauge the time. It was early yet, not but an hour or so after sunrise. The air would still be crisp and fresh were I to go outside. I had become lazy in the past week… I had no intention of wanting to rise.

Yet, I knew that I had to. I hadn’t stretched or practiced in many days. Despite the fact that my sword was broken, I mourned the once-again loss, I still could not afford to get behind in my skills. They were the reason I still managed to cling to life. I sighed, Mugen was looking incredibly inviting as he twitched in his sleep, while stepping out and getting dressed was looking more and more like torture.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he dreamed. He didn’t really seem the sort to place much truth in dreams. Neither was I. I had once told Enshirou about a dream and he had coldly informed me that I “should learn to sleep lighter before I wake up with an enemy sword in my gut.” Ironic that years later, he should attempt to be that enemy. However, that was a memory I cared not to relive or remember.

With that thought firmly pushed from my mind, I made my decision. I quietly moved over to Mugen’s side and cuddled next to his warmth, placing a hand on his bare and half-bandaged chest, idly tracing his scars with my finger.

He was rough and tumble, grown up in a life that I could never comprehend. He cursed more often than not, devoured his food in a matter similar to that of feral pigs, spoke rudely in every instance and had no respect or regard for rules or authority… and yet, I wouldn’t have him any other way. He was MY uncouth criminal pirate and on many levels, I needed and wanted him.

I laid my head on his chest, careful not to wake him as I listened to him breathe and his heart beat, strong and independent. He shifted and snorted unattractively but did not wake, unconsciously wrapping an arm around me. He was so warm, always his internal temperature like a fire to my ice.

Images of the types of fire ignited a reaction in my body. I had to admit, he could arouse me like no other. Just thinking about him taking me or I pounding into him was enough to make me squirm restlessly. My wandering fingers started to travel lower, dipping beneath the edge of the covering and underneath his pants, heading for the prize. A mischievous thought entered my mind.

My fingers trailed through coarse hair before I found his shaft, nearly gasping when I realized that he was more than semi-hard already. I smirked and wrapped my fingers around his cock, squeezing once before stroking slowly and teasingly. I heard a rumble in his chest, a lot similar to that of a purr, and I knew he had awakened, if in face he had ever been asleep… sneaky Mugen.

The hand on my back started to move, caressing my skin as it slowly made its way down my back towards my hidden entrance. I could already feel my own cock beginning to harden and lengthen in anticipation as I increased the pace of my stroking and tightening my grip. I rubbed my length against his hip. A small moan escaped his mouth in response.

I smirked to myself and turned my head, sliding my tongue across the planes of his muscled chest, occasionally nipping and biting as I slowly pushed my body down, wanting to taste him. He moved restlessly beneath me, eagerly kicking off the blanket and trying to reach down and push off his pants.

I chuckled lightly. “Pretending to be asleep again?” I questioned softly, spoken mostly against his skin as I nibbled over a hip bone.

A hand settled on my head, tangling fingers in the loose strands. His voice was hoarse and raw with sleep, ultimately sexy. “It worked, didn’t it?” he teased.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and responded by nipping at him again before moving more towards my goal. His erection was bobbing up proudly between his legs, already seeping precum. He must have been up for longer than I had realized.

I decided to tease him just for a moment. I leaned over and breathed hot air over his cock. He moaned in response, arched his hips towards my mouth and tangled his fingers further into my hair. I smirked to myself before lapping up the precum dribbling from the head with just the tip of my tongue, savoring the musky flavor.

Then I moved away, leaving his straining arousal neglected as I kissed and licked at his inner thigh. He groaned in frustration, bucking his hips again but I ignored him. I latched onto a portion of his soft skin and sucked… HARD… I wanted to leave a mark I suppose.

He hissed in response but didn’t ask me to stop. His hips moved of their own accord and I knew he had enjoyed it, that masochist. I moved back towards his arousal, licking my lips before I traced the underside with my tongue. I let him have one or two licks before I moved down and mouthed his balls, taking the sacs one by one into my mouth and soaking them with my saliva.

“Damn,” he moaned, panting. “Quit teasing…”

I ignored him, rolling them around in my mouth before I released them and moved on towards my true goal. The hand in my hair urged me onwards, and he whimpered softly, the sound shooting straight to my groin.

I bit back a moan before I took him in my mouth, encasing that hardness with wet heat. He bucked up into my mouth and opened his legs instinctively, causing me to smile around a mouthful of him.

I put all my skills to the task as I reached up with a free hand and traced my fingers across his chest. I pinched a nipple along the way before I placed the tip of my finger against his lips. No need to get lube for just this.

He flicked out his tongue against my fingertip before drawing it in fully. I groaned when my sensitive finger was sucked and nibbled on by his skilled tongue. I was looking forward to me getting my just rewards.

Moments later and very reluctantly, I removed my sufficiently spit-soaked finger from his mouth and brought my hand down, seeking that small puckered entrance. I traced a finger teasingly before I pressed the lone finger in at the same moment that I gave a good hard suck on his cock.

He moaned, nearly pulling out my hair as hips thrust up and down at the same time, his body unsure of which pleasure to take in first.

Again, I smirked as I pushed my finger completely in and curled it, searching for his pleasure center. I could hear him breathing heavily above me, and I could taste him on my tongue. My senses were completely filled by the presence of Mugen, and I couldn’t have been happier.

A sharp hiss of pleasure and I knew I found what I had sought. I pressed again, applying more pressure, and I embraced his arousal with my tongue.

“Jin,” he moaned my name from between clenched teeth, the sound making me moan in return, the sound reverberating on his shaft and causing his hips to buck.

I started to bob my head, increasing my pace as I pulled in my cheeks to increase the suction. I could already feel him getting harder in my mouth and knew that he was getting close. More precum slicked my mouth and throat as I curled my finger, brushing it again and again over that spot that made him moan so deliciously.

With a loud and guttural groan, he jerked and bucked upwards spilling his seed into my mouth. I milked him hungrily swallowing every last drop so that he would feel the pleasure as long as possible.

After a moment his body relaxed, and I removed my finger, releasing his now softening member from my mouth. I crawled up his body until I got to his head, claiming his lips with my own. I felt his arms come around me as his tongue slipped into my mouth for a taste.

“Mmm,” he commented. “I`m ready to go back to bed now.” He closed his eyes and made as if to go to sleep.

I wiggled in his grasp, my very hard erection digging into him. “I think I deserve a little compensation,” I murmured, nibbling on his chin.

He yawned. “Nope. I’m too tired.”

“Hmph,” I responded, sliding out of his hold. “I suppose I will have to handle this myself then.” I moved to lie beside him on my back. He pretended to ignore me, but I believe I detected his eyelids slitted.

I reached down and took a hold of my own arousal, biting my lip at the much needed stimulation. I ran the pad of my thumb over the head before I began to stroke myself slowly.

With my free hand, I pinched my nipple, closing my eyes to savor the pleasure that raced through my body as I moaned aloud. I could feel warmth spreading across my face and knew that I must have been flushed.

“Unh,” I moaned once more. “Mugen…”

“Damn, that’s so fucking hot,” I heard him say moments before a weight pounced on me. My eyes snapped open, and I saw Mugen leering down at me right as he absorbed my mouth in a kiss.

“I thought you were tired…”

He cocked an eyebrow at me before rolling himself against my cock. “You think I’m going to ignore that hot display you were putting out for me?”

I pushed up against him, anxious for more contact. “I had hoped you would not…”

He laughed and leaned down for another kiss when a knock on the door disturbed us. He collapsed on top of me tiredly and heaved a sigh.

“Come in,” he called, not caring about his nudity. Meanwhile, I was frantically trying to find something to cover my body with.

The door creaked open and Fuu popped her head in, bright and cheerful as always. She shook her head when she saw Mugen leering up at her and stepped into the room.

Scowling, she closed the door behind her and put her hands on her hips. She had grown up some, not screaming at the sight of his naked body.

“My god, Mugen, put on some clothes,” she demanded, turning her back and huffing angrily.

“Nope,” he declared stubbornly, ignoring her as he reached down and stroked my stomach. I batted his hand away and grabbed onto a blanket, yanking it down over the both of us; an exhibitionist I am not.

She shook her head at his antics and braced herself as she turned around. “You’re such a slut, you know that?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow. Yes indeed, time had changed our dear Fuu.

“Shut up!” he responded angrily.

I gave him a nudge with my elbow before glancing up at Fuu. “What did you need?” I asked her in a much softer tone. If I didn’t stop the two of them then, they might have started bickering like siblings.

She smirked as she stood with her hands on her hips. “It’s time you two met Toshiro.”

“You mean, that guy you’ve been all googly eyed over?” questioned Mugen with a snort. I was surprised that he had noticed at all. Sometimes he could be so completely oblivious.

She blushed, the red flush spreading quickly across her cheeks as her eyes cast towards the floor. “I’ve not been googly eyed…” she mumbled beneath her breath.

It was cute how she blushed like that. She may have changed in some ways, but Fuu was still a young girl. And because of that, I didn’t trust that Toshiro person in any way. If anything, he could be exactly like Kenji, using her to get to either Mugen or I, though I doubt Shuu would be that underhanded…

Mugen snorted rather unattractively. “Why would we want to meet that loser… ow!” I reached up and slapped him upside the head, just for being a bastard. He snuck a hand down and pinched me and just like that we began to wrestle across the floor, blanket slipping dangerously around our bodies.

“Children…” remarked Fuu, shaking her head in dismay. “You’re going to open your wounds again if you don’t stop that!” she admonished, stomping her foot.

“Go away,” mumbled Mugen, breathing a little heavy as he looked up from a position straddling me. “I have to do my boyfriendly duties.”

I could feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment as his blatant display and wiggled beneath him. “Shut up!” I snapped, punching his thigh lightly.

“We will meet him tomorrow,” I told Fuu whilst glaring at Mugen. “For lunch,” I quickly added.

“Whatever,” she answered, rolling her eyes. She bounded out the door, flouncing with every step. “Bye. See you after work.”

With that she was gone, leaving the both of us alone. It was all of two seconds before Mugen pounced on me, a hungry gleam in his eyes.

* * *

The next day found Mugen and I awake early, dressed, and leaving the inn for the first time in more than a week. I was glad for the fresh air, and Mugen was glad that he was no longer all cooped up.

Fuu talked on needlessly to us as we walked. I tuned her out as usual while Mugen teased her incessantly. I was concerned about this Toshiro, wondering how I was going to tell if he was a fake or not.

Fuu, however, seemed really happy. I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen her smile like that. My hand automatically tightened on the remainder of my swords. I would kill whoever hurt one of my friends, that was what I had vowed to myself. This time I was far more alert. I would not be caught off guard again.

A weight bumped into my shoulder and I looked over to see Mugen peering at me. “What you thinking?” he asked, frowning.

I shrugged. “Nothing of importance.”

“Tch.” He sighed at my non-answer and folded his arms behind his head. “You had such a serious look to your face,” he commented off-handedly.

I frowned and nodded slightly. “I am not taking any chances this time,” I responded beneath my breath. “Kenji was the first and last mistake.”

He didn’t say anything in return but I knew he was agreeing with me. We walked the rest of the way in silence, bodies already tensing in anticipation of another battle. I suppose we should be used to that, as much as the both of us have had to fight for our lives the past few months or so. Even I was shaken by Kenji’s betrayal. If I hadn’t awakened… hmm… it was better not to dwell on that.

Moments later we were walking in the doors of the teahouse that Fuu worked in and taking our seats across from the man that she had fallen in love with. It was my belief that she wouldn’t want to come anywhere near this place considering it was her place of employment, but according to her, it was the cleanest out of what was offered. I was more inclined to believe her.

Mugen sat beside me, and for a moment, we merely started at Toshiro, taking in every bit of him and trying to discern whether or not he was a threat. I couldn’t decide which region he was from, not that I was well-learned in that aspect, but he was easily taller than me but not by much. The way he held himself it was obvious he was of some nobility, but he wore his clothing strangely, an odd mismatch much like the way Mugen preferred to dress. He had a sword, in a sheath across his back, and I could tell from a distance that his hands were calloused as if he spent many an hour practicing with the weapon.

He regarded Mugen and I with a calm, if not somewhat bemused air as Fuu looked between us anxiously. He didn’t appear to be a threat, but one could never be too careful. I snuck a glance at Mugen to see what he was thinking but his face was unreadable. He seemed curious but not on edge. He had a good instinct about people. Remember, he was the one to go pale when we first met Kenji. Perhaps it was a shiver of dread that had struck his spine then. Regardless, he didn’t seem to have that same reaction when faced with Toshiro.

I peered again at the mysterious man. He was well-traveled and had the look of someone used to watching his own back. He held himself with an air of assuredness, even when he glanced over at Fuu and offered her a small smile of encouragement. Something flashed between the two that I just barely caught… a thinly disguised emotion blanketed with heat. That was something that Kenji had never emitted… a desire for Fuu. Hmm… intriguing.

“What can I get for you today?” A cheerful waitress appeared at our table and smiled, oblivious to the obvious tension that was settled over our interesting, if not eclectic group. “Oh, hello, Fuu.”

“Ohayou, Arisa,” responded our friend with a slight bob of her head. “Can you bring us four cups of tea, please?”

Arisa, the dark-haired buxom female, who was to be our unlucky waitress, nodded and bounced off. Now there went a woman that actually enjoyed her job. Unlike Fuu, who complained everyday.

With her gone, the tension level returned to its state, and we all four looked at each other, wondering who would be the first to speak. I should have known it would have been Fuu.

“Men!” she snorted, shaking her head. “Is it that darn difficult to talk?” she questioned, glaring at the three of us.

“Gomen, Fuu,” said Toshiro, nodding his head slightly at her. “I was expecting you to say something first.” That would be another point that I noticed. His voice was deep and rich, definitely not that of the underfed and poor.

She huffed and smiled at him sweetly. “I didn’t mean you…” Fuu turned her death glare that had absolutely no effect on Mugen and I. “Well? Does he pass the test?”

Mugen snorted. “How the hell do we know? Kenji seemed alright at first, too, idiot.” He slouched in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest and glared. Well, that was to be expected. No one ever accused Mugen of having decent matters.

I sighed and resisted the urge to rub my forehead with my fingertips. “What do you do, Toshiro?”

“I’m a wandering blacksmith,” he said with the barest hint of a smile, taking in my speculative look with an easy-going attitude. “I’m traveling Japan to learn all the best methods to forge the perfect sword.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. “A wandering blacksmith? How is that possible?” Meanwhile, in the inner workings of my mind, I was pondering the idea that he might be able to fix my sword.

He laughed at that, something full-bodied. There was nothing fake in him, it seemed. “I carry most of my wares with me, and I’ve discovered a way to make fires burn hotter so that I can work out in the open. I’m hoping to build up a customer base before I set up shop somewhere.” He shook his head. “To be honest, I should have left town long before now, but I can’t seem to find it in me to leave.” At those words he snuck a glance at Fuu, and she blushed.


Mugen sighed and stretched. “Sounds like a load of bullshit to me,” he responded, yawning as if bored. “What’s your true intentions?”

“Mugen!” admonished Fuu, frowning at him. He ignored her, choosing instead to glare at Toshiro.

Just then, Arisa returned, bouncing happily as she carried a tray laden with wooden cups filled with our tea. She smiled as she set the cups down in front of us, trying her best, I noticed, to get Mugen to notice her. I could barely contain my smile when he hardly spared her a glance.

“Anik says these are on the house today,” she explained to Fuu. “But any others aren’t. Will that be all?”

I nodded the answer this time. “Yes, thank you.”

She flashed me a winning smile that did absolutely nothing for my libido and flounced away. How does one manage to be that energetic? It was a complete mystery.

The entrance to the teahouse was suddenly shadowed as four rough looking men came in. They didn’t look around, simply made their way to a seat and started rudely and loudly joking around with each other. I made it a point to keep an eye on them as they seemed the type to start trouble. None of my other companions seemed to notice their entrance as they were sitting with their backs to the door. However, Mugen and Toshiro’s conversation brought my attention back towards them.

“My intentions?” questioned Toshiro with a raised eyebrow. “I had thought they were obvious.”

Mugen shrugged. “Maybe. I just want to hear you say it. He looked down at his hands and picked at his fingers nonchalantly as if he didn’t particularly care what the blacksmith had to say. “I’m not above killing those that threaten my friends.” His tone was an absolute warning.

Toshiro smiled. “Ah, Fuu, you have some wonderfully loyal friends,” he commented, glancing over at her. Her face practically lit up with a smile.

“I know. Aren’t they the best?” She sighed and grabbed her tea, sipping it gently. “I hoped that we could all get along…”

The sound of raucous laughter filled the air and immediately our attention was drawn to the four thugs that I had noticed earlier. Four pairs of eyes turned in their direction as we noticed them knocking back sake, even this early in the day. Fuu sucked in a breath, and Toshiro frowned; I didn’t fail to notice these responses.

“Let’s get out of here,” suggested Fuu, putting down her cup. Toshiro nodded in agreement, reaching down beside him to pick up a couple swords he had been carrying.

I frowned, brow furrowing in confusion. “Why?” I asked, even as I rose to my feet as well. Mugen followed suit.

Toshiro jerked a thumb towards the four men as he answered in a low voice. “They tried to attack Fuu the other day, and I taught them a lesson. There is more this time, however, and knowing their type, they’ll want to cause trouble.”

“You didn’t say anything about getting almost attacked,” muttered Mugen, shooting her a glance.

She shrugged. “Nothing happened. Toshiro showed up before they could do anything.”

With that said the four of us moved towards the door, hoping that the four men wouldn’t notice. Not that we were afraid, but it was better not to start trouble where Fuu worked. We still needed her job as we had a bit of a bill left to pay.

We had just made it to the door when our plan failed. The hooligans had noticed us and as thugs are known to do, immediately recognized the man that had beaten up one of their friends a few days prior. The four that seemed to share the same degenerate characteristics and dress stood up from their table and hurried to the door, one moving to block the way as the others crowded around him.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the tease,” commented one of the men, leering at Fuu as he reached out to stroke her arm. She smacked his hand and took a step back glaring at him.

I don’t know why the men thought they should be so brave. Perhaps because they believed they had us outnumbered. Four to three if they excluded Fuu. Hmph.

“Step out of the way,” demanded Toshiro. “I’ve no desire to kick your ass again. It was boring last time and will be much the same once more.”

The man standing in front of the door, really it was hard to tell them apart, shook his head and ground his feet down, to show that he was not going to move. “No. You’re going to pay for what you did to Lester.”

Mugen growled from his position beside me. “Move it, fuckers, before I tear you apart.”

Another one laughed, but it came from directly behind us. I didn’t even realize there were more than the four. Maybe they had been meeting the rest of their sorry gang, but that was only a guess. A hand shoved into my back and I hurriedly whirled around, grabbing the offending appendage and twisting it violently causing the man to bend nearly sideways and scream in pain.

”Do not touch me,” I hissed at him, squeezing as tightly as I could and grinding the bones against one another.

I heard the sound of blades being drawn and knew that we weren’t about to get out of the teahouse without a fight.

“Ano… please don’t fight in here,” Arisa pleaded timidly as she approached us. One of the men growled at her, and she flinched, retreating into the relative safety of the inner parts of the teahouse.

Toshiro sighed loudly. “There’s no reasoning with scum. Fuck this!” With that said, he drew his sword and kicked out high and hard all in the same motion, catching the hooligan in front of the door with his foot and knocking him out of the opening.

There was a moment of stunned silence before an all out brawl ensued. I grabbed Fuu and shoved her towards the gaping crowd and out of the way of danger as I pulled out my remaining sword to quickly block a clumsy attack from one of the dumb gang members.

It was a fight that didn’t take long. It seemed Toshiro could not only make weapons but use them as well. He had had some type of formal training somewhere, but from the limited time and views I received, I couldn’t identify it. I didn’t really have the time to inspect his skills as I was trying to take down the two thugs that had in their mind that it would be easy to defeat me.

I blocked one clumsy swing with my sword and turned expertly to grab the wrist of the second guy. I really missed my second sword at the time so that it wouldn’t have resorted to hand to hand. I gave a great yank and tossed him in the direction of his companion before a third leapt at me. I slashed at him, effectively cutting into his stomach. He went down easily, and the other two from before rushed at me again.

Mugen ran by in a red-coat blur and rushed the one on the left, while I upper-slashed the other who fell backwards into a table and crushed it into splinters. I looked around, prepared to have to fight again but found that all seven… seven? of our attackers were lying on their ground either bleeding or unconscious. What happened to there only being four?

“What the hell?” Fuu’s employer Anik came rushing out of the kitchen, face reddened with anger. He looked at the sprawled bodies and the few destroyed tables scattered around the entrance to his teahouse.

Toshiro chuckled and knelt down, digging into the pockets of one of the thieves, pulling out a money purse. He weighed it in his hands thoughtfully before tossing it to Anik.

“That should cover the damage,” he said, shrugging. “After all, these lousy punks started it.”

Anik opened the bag and raised an eyebrow, regarding the four of us with a bemused air. “Hai, this will more than cover it.”

Mugen wasted no time in following Toshiro’s example, going through the pockets of the others until he came up with five small money pouches. The sixth it seemed hadn’t had any. Perhaps there would be enough that we could pay off the inn and be on our way finally. I was getting a little fed up with this town. It seemed nothing good had happened since we arrived, discounting Fuu’s chance encounter with Toshiro.

“Let’s get out of here,” mumbled Fuu, moving past Mugen and I and heading for the door. Toshiro nodded in agreement and followed after her. She glanced at Mugen before ducking out the door. “Is it enough?”

He nodded and tossed one of the bags in the air, grinning at the weight when it smacked back into his palm.

Fuu couldn’t help but smile. She paused in the doorway, bowed slightly to Anik and in her sweetest voice, kindly informed him she was quitting before ducking out the door. Chuckling, Mugen and I followed after her.

We stepped out into the bright sunshine and blinked, allowing our eyes to get used to the sudden intrusion of light. We stood outside the teahouse, shifting where we stood as if we weren’t sure what to do next.

“Well, I’m hungry,” announced Mugen suddenly, folding his arms behind his head as he started moving towards the area of town where all the food stands were. Trust him to be one to quickly diffuse a situation that wasn’t going anywhere fast. The three of us fell in step behind him.

“Hey, Mugen,” said Fuu. “How much was it?”

He shrugged off-handedly, reaching into his pockets to toss a bag at each of us, one even at Toshiro. I noticed the sneaky bugger kept two for himself, no surprise there.

“We can leave tomorrow,” he responded. Already I could smell the fried dumplings and rice balls, and suddenly, I found myself hungry.

I frowned as I opened the sack and peered inside. There was quite a bit of money inside, which surprised me. “Why would such ruffians have this amount on them?”

“Who cares?” announced Fuu, clutching her bag greedily. I could just see her licking her lips in anticipation of all the food she could buy.

Toshiro chuckled as he walked beside her. “Your appetite never ceases to amaze me.”

“What are you going to do then?” I questioned of Toshiro. “We are leaving tomorrow.”

He looked up at me, dark eyes still somewhat dancing with his amusement. “Why go with you, of course. It seems to me that you three can’t seem to stay away from trouble. It might be fun.”

I didn’t miss him subtlety grabbing Fuu’s hand. I don’t think Mugen did either. My scruffy criminal merely shrugged his shoulders and continued on, the smell of food drawing him in just as it did Fuu.

“I don’t care,” he drawled before shooting Toshiro a glare. “But I won’t hesitate in kicking your ass should I suddenly decide I don’t like you.”

“Mugen!” huffed Fuu angrily, stomping her foot.

“You’re welcome to try,” responded Toshiro dryly as he walked, never missing a beat. “But I don’t think you will have an easy time of it.” Funny how little of a threat that sounded. Mugen, however, seemed unconcerned. It seemed his instincts weren’t telling him to kill Toshiro know, so I relaxed. Perhaps he was a good guy… only time would tell. I would still be on my guard.

I shook my head. Things were definitely going to get interesting.

* * *

I was sitting on the bed, cross-legged, preparing to meditate, when Mugen came in from his bath. My mind had been in turmoil lately with all the events, and all I wanted was to relax and hopefully calm my spirit. I believed Mugen would recognize my position and just leave me alone. That would have occurred… had he not found the brown satchel that had been thrown at me in the fight of several days earlier.

It had been buried beneath a pile of clothes and items that he was picking through while I tried to concentrate on meditating. However, just his very nearness was distracting me and I was just about to ask him politely but firmly to leave and go out or something. My body kept reacting, especially when my mind reminded me that he was /clean/.

“What’s this?” he questioned frowning as he held up the small brown satchel. The strings binding the top had been drawn tightly. I cracked open one eye and glanced at what he was holding. I dimly recognized the item but didn’t know what significance it held.

“I do not know,” responded, unfurling my legs and walking to his side. “Where did it come from?” I took the bag from his hand and held it out, examining it. The satchel was rather nondescript, albeit a little blood-stained.

He eyed me disbelievingly. “Heh, well, you were pretty out of it. But that guy from the forest tossed it at you. I don’t know why I grabbed it but I did.” He ran a hand through his hair, messing it up into its usually haphazard style. “I suppose we forgot about it after that deal with Kenji.”

“Hm,” I commented as I picked at the knot in the strings and tried to get it open. Distractedly, I walked back over to the bed and sat down on the rather soft mattress on the floor and concentrated on getting the leather bag open.

“Any idea what it is?” he questioned, coming to sit beside me.

I shrugged noncommittally. I was more interested in what was in the bag. What would Fujisaki have to give me? I dimly recalled that brief instant somewhere in my memory, when the older man had smirked and tossed the item at me before passing out. I only assumed that he had died.

With a tiny pop and sigh of frustration, the strings finally gave and I was able to open the bag. I peered inside but couldn’t see anything and resorted to sticking in a few fingers. I felt something soft and fabric-like. Frowning in confusion, I pulled it out, bringing the item into the light.

The moment my eyes fell onto the cloth, I stiffened, my face going pale. I stared and stared at it, as if expecting, maybe hoping it would disappear.

Mugen frowned and snatched the dark blue cloth from my hands. He turned it over and over in his hands, examining it thoroughly. “What is it?” he asked, turning to look at me, brow furrowing in confusion when he noticed how exceedingly pale I was.

“It’s a mon…” I answered softly. “And not just any, but that of my brother’s…” I trailed off. I would recognize that one anywhere. It was similar to that on my own clothes but marked with a special symbol so that people could know which Urahara the brother was.

He frowned. “The one that tried to kill you?” he asked, fingering the blood-stained cloth.

I shook my head, leaning back against the wall as I sighed. It was a truth that I had hoped to avoid for a little while longer, a secret that it seemed I could no longer hide. “No… the one that I killed…”



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