Chapter Thirteen – The Reason
I tightened my hold around Mugen before I could whisper anything. “I’m sorry, Mugen,” I said softly. “I’m grateful that you would tell me something such as this.”
The Ryukyuian had to stifle the small laughter that bubbled up in his throat. “It doesn’t bother you that I had such a secret?”
I raised a brow as I pulled back to look my lover in the eye. “Does the fact that I killed my own brother make you never want to touch me again?”
Mugen shrugged, eyes darkening. “If you hadn’t, I would have. That bastard deserved to die.” His voice nearly hissed the last, anger erupting over his face.
I resisted the urge to laugh, knowing the time was not proper. But to see such righteous anger on his face over a wrong done to me… well, it made me happy. I instead chose to kiss him, pressing my lips to his own and devouring him as well I could. It was a far better reaction.
I nipped at his lips, traced my tongue around the contours of his mouth as I slowly pushed us to the floor, not that I was harboring lascivious thoughts. For once, I just wanted to hold him, the secret that he had told me warming a part of my heart that had once been frozen, the compassion that had been driven out of me in the dojo.
“Tell me,” I said softly, breaking the kiss as I pulled him into my embrace as well I could, so that we lay nearly aligned perfectly on our nest of blanket and clothing. “Tell me of them.”
He sighed, a motion that was not a common occurrence for him before he took one of my hands in his own, a rough thumb idly rubbing over the back of my own. It was a sign of vulnerability, and I was touched that he would allow me to see it.
“It’s the reason for the prison tattoos,” he explained by way of beginning his tale. Somehow, it didn’t surprise me that he would start in the middle and work his way around. “When I found out who had killed them, I went berserk, slaughtering whoever got in my way until I reached the guys and killed them, too.”
I had to fight down the shiver that wanted to race through my body as I pictured a grief-stricken and furious Mugen hunting down the cause of his pain. I imagined a wolf with blood in his eyes, a fearsome creature that I would not want to encounter on any day. I could understand what those men would have seen on the day of their deaths, and I hoped I never got to witness that look.
“It was nothing less than they deserved,” I commented, keeping my voice even.
“Yeah, well, the guys in charge didn’t think so. They shoved me in prison for two years until another riot destroyed the place, and I managed to escape.”
We were going to be chased after for the rest of our lives because I had fallen in love with an escaped convict. Somehow… that did not bother quite so much as it would have before. I only knew him as Mugen, the man that I loved, not Mugen the convict because he had killed the men who slaughtered his family.
“Fuu reminds me a lot of Kohana,” he continued softly. “That’s probably why I was so mean to her at first. It was painful. I didn’t want to be with her either, though I knew she had a crush or something on me. I wasn’t blind. I just didn’t want her to end up being a replacement.”
His hand tightened on mine but before I could speak he had something else to add. “Besides, I fell in love you so that doesn’t matter anymore.” I could almost see the irrepressible Mugen-grin on his face, though his back was to me.
“I am so glad you clarified that,” I said, somewhat teasing. He chuckled lightly before falling silent.
“And your child?” I prompted, insanely curious. I wanted to know of this other life that I knew nothing about. I did not feel at all jealous that he had loved someone other than me in his life. I only wanted to know, I wanted to hear of who he was before the Sunflower Journey.
“I had a daughter,” he explained. “We named her Sora.”
I ran the name through my mind, for some reason it sounding familiar. “Singing bird soars,” I mused aloud. “It is a pretty name.”
“It was her mother’s. She was always smiling, so her name fit. Didn’t cry much…” He sighed softly, again an uncharacteristic action. “I loved her a lot.”
It was then that the thought hit me. Mugen clearly enjoyed being a father for that short amount of time. Did he want to do so again? Would I lose him for the simple fact that I was not a woman, that I could not bear children? I had to know though I feared the answer.
I hesitantly began, trying to choose the right words so he would not me in the wrong manner. “Would you ever… like to have children again?”
He shook his head, brown mane flopping against my nose and tickling my nostrils. I was overwhelmed by the very scent of him and took a small measure of comfort in that, despite the apprehension that was building in me.
“No,” he replied finally. “I don’t think I was even ready for it then. It would feel too much like I was trying to substitute new memories for the old.”
I relaxed with his admission, knowing that I had never considered having children of my own, nor did I even want to think about it. I never had much of a family to go by, my own father I despised. So I didn’t think I even knew how to raise a child in a proper fashion. Besides, we would both be fighting for our lives until our pursuers either gave up or lost interest. That was not a suitable environment for a child.
“What about you? Have you ever thought about it?” he asked, breaking into my mental considerations.
That was an easy question.
“I can honestly say that I have not,” I responded. “Children frighten me.”
He laughed, a deep honest Mugen laugh that made me feel better about the entire situation. His ability to take anything and make it less tense was something I admired and loved him for.
“We make quite the pair, don’t we?” he asked, finally settling down from his brief bout of laughter.
“That we do,” I confirmed quietly. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.”
He was quiet for a moment, absorbing my words as he tightened his grip on my hand before bringing it to his mouth, kissing the skin softly. His stubble grazed along my skin and sent goosebumps along my body, but I did not pull away.
“I do not think,” he began slowly, “that there is anything you could do, short of trying to kill me, that would make me leave you.”
I wanted to choke with surprise, so blatantly honest that confession had been. It seemed he was always the first to take such steps. The first to say I love you. The first to say that I was his and now the first to say that he would not leave me. It was time I returned the gesture.
I bent down my head and laid a kiss on his shoulder, just at the nape of his neck. He shivered at the touch, though I knew it was not one of cold. My arms tightened around his body, one hand gripping his strongly as I formed the perfect words.
“I searched for you from the moment we parted ways, and I realized I could not function without you,” I spoke softly, what were possibly the most sweet and sappiest things I had ever said in my life. But by the gods, he deserved to hear every word of it. For what we both had been through, for what we both revealed, they needed to be said.
“I never gave up and would not have, possibly until my dying day because I knew there was something in you I needed, something you gave me that told me I had to live. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I think I do now. It is intangible and confusing… a mystery, but it is there and that is enough for me. There is nothing you could have said which would have driven me away.” I exhaled slowly at the declaration. “I know you, Mugen, and that is all that is necessary. I love you, and my life is nothing without you in it.”
I was feeling choked up at my own words, and even as they left my mouth, I felt what I said stronger than I had ever felt it before. It was as if the words came alive to form true emotion that fluttered through my body and raced upon my veins. That by the very act of speaking my heart, I had set it free.
He was quiet not saying anything for a moment before he began to tremble just slightly in my arms. If I had not have been feeling the very same way, I might have been worried.
“That was quite possibly the sweetest… and longest thing I have ever heard you say,” he murmured, swallowing thickly.
I gulped down my own lump and kissed him on the neck again, biting gently as his skin causing him to purr in my arms. “I meant every word.”
He arched into the touch of my lips, his hips moving in an erotic way against my groin and causing me to groan thickly. “And if you keep doing that, I will be forced to show you just how much.”
Mugen laughed. “Do you see me arguing?” he asked.
No, in fact I did not. Which only made things that much more interesting.
I rubbed a bare leg over his as I began to nibble on the back of his neck and shoulders, enjoying how he sucked in a breath and arched against my body. His every reaction was intensely arousing and only served to further my desire to fuck him… or make love… whichever came first. I was intending both.
“Mmm.” He purred at my touch. “You know I love you, right?”
I smiled against his skin. “Hai. Now if you don’t shut up, I’m going to stop what I’m doing.”
I was through saying sweet words.
He chuckled lightly but didn’t say anything further.
* * *
We spent the night in separate rooms, though I spent most of it tossing and turning as I thought about him. Every little thing kept popping into my mind, his hair, his eyes, his self-assured yet calm nature. It was almost amazing to me how he was both Jin and Mugen in that regards, both defining aspects of their personality all rolled into one sexy package.
I wanted him and that very thought made me blush.
Not to mention all the noise Jin and Mugen were making in the next room, though I didn’t call them out on it. I didn’t want to think about how sexy it sounded so I tried to not listen… not that it was easy.
So in an attempt to block them out, I found myself lying there thinking more and more about Toshiro. How he was such a gentleman and how kind he was. I had some of the same worries about him that my bodyguards did.
What if he was like Kenji?
Then again, Toshiro acted in an entirely different manner than the now deceased Iyatokan. For one thing, Kenji never once made a move on me, ever. It was like I was a sexless creature in his eyes. Plus, he was broody, and he treated me like a little kid all the times when he wasn’t calling me “Miss Fuu”. I hated that name. Made me feel like a mother or something, and boy was I far from it.
Still, I had the feeling that Toshiro was a good guy. I might be somewhat naïve and unlearned about the real world, even after my journey to find my father there are some things that I still don’t know. There was just a gut instinct that I have about the proclaimed blacksmith.
Either that or I was just so smitten I couldn’t see anything beyond those beautiful dark eyes.
Mugen and Jin did not seem overly concerned either. As if they knew he either wasn’t a threat or they could handle him if he was. I’m inclined to agree. The three of us together are enough to handle any challenge that comes our way. Even thinking of fighting Kenji, both of them injured and me hardly able to do anything but throw things at him, we managed to survive.
That was how it was even then.
Beaten, broken, bloody, injured beyond reason, but we survived; we lived to see another day. We ran; we hid; we fought, but we kept going. I missed those days, but now I can look forward to new ones.
It would probably be safer for me in the long run if I never had anything to do with Jin and Mugen again. Both of them have prices on their heads, but they were my friends no matter what they had done. They were my family, all that I had now that my father and mother were dead. I made a mistake when I allowed us to separate and go our own ways without words.
I won’t again.
It was that thought that spurred me into action this morning, gathering up my things and getting ready for our journey, though our destination was a mystery. They had rubbed off on me; I could no longer find joy in settling down and staying in one place. And I think that as much as they were looking for each other, I was searching for them, too.
And now I have found Toshiro, who if he turns out to be who he claims to be, I might have a future with. He certainly seems to enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with him. I can see the four of us traveling the world, helping him increase his knowledge in the arts even as we struggle to earn food and money.
Just like the old days.
Eventually, I was certain we would tire of it. Sooner or later, we would settle down and create a home, or something similar to it. But for now, traveling together would be just fine.
I packed up everything I owned, albeit it wasn’t much as I had been wandering for a long time and left the inn, heading for the small tea shop that we had all promised to meet at the night before.
I wondered as I walked through the crisp morning air: what would happen in the future? How things were going to play out?
I wasn’t quite so much the worrier anymore, a little older, a little wiser, and definitely a lot braver. But it never hurt to consider the possibilities.
I stepped into the warm and dimly lit tea shop, not surprised to find I was one of their first customers. It was pretty early. I was glad to finally have money though. Weren’t we always out of it before? Still, it made getting it all the more interesting. We encountered such strange people.
I looked around the tea shop, surprised to find that Toshiro had in fact, beat me here. I figured he would be like the other two… well, actually just Mugen, sleeping in as last as possible. Then again, he had been traveling on his own for quite some time. I supposed it wouldn’t be wise to be that lazy and still keep everything you owned.
“Ohayou,” I said as I slid into a seat beside him.
A waitress hurried over, setting down a cup and filling it with tea before I could even ask. I had barely got settled into my seat before the steaming mug was before me. She smiled at Toshiro, bowed slightly, then scampered away all in the space of a few seconds.
“Heh,” I commented. “I did not know this place had such great service.”
He chuckled slightly, sipping at his own cup. I supposed on any other man that might have looked a bit well odd, for a man such as him to be holding so dainty a cup, but on Toshiro it looked proper. I began to suspect that he was from a line of nobility, much like Jin, and that he was just trying to hide it.
Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure that his name really is Jin. I shall have to ask him about when I don’t think I’m only going to get a harsh glare in return.
“It is only in the early morning times,” he responded. “They have not yet gotten tired by the rigors of the day.”
I giggled as I took a sip of my own tea, again surprised by how tasty it was. If we ever visited this town again, I would have to return to this tea shop. Speaking of which.
“Where are we heading?”
His gaze regarded me thoughtfully as a smile curled up at the corner of his lips. It made me shiver what I saw there, and I had to fight down a blush.
“Wherever the wind takes us, I suppose.”
I knew that he did not mean that breath of air on a warm august day.
I blushed; I couldn’t help it, and I hid behind my tea cup. It was easier that way. Toshiro wasn’t being pushy or anything, letting me take my time and make my own decisions, but sometimes in the face of him I just felt so warm and achy inside that I wanted to push him to the ground and have my way with him.
“I think we should go west,” I mumbled into my drink, lowering my eyes. “Maybe we should take a boat to other countries.”
He laughed, and I had to raise my head to shoot him an indignant look. “I’m not laughing at you,” he said, seeing my harsh glare. “I just think its endearing how you are hiding behind your cup there. As if I could not see that cute blush…”
“Hey,” I retorted angrily. “I am not blushing.” Never mind the fact that my face felt bright red and aflame with embarrassment.
He chuckled again and waved down a waitress, calmly ordering some food before ushering off. “I think going west is a good idea. I’ve yet to learn the blacksmith art from other countries.”
I raised a brow at this. “Really? I would have thought you had been everywhere by now.”
“As far as the wind’s taken me…”
I blushed again. His words were as flowery as a scribe’s, though far more understandable. We fell into a companionable silence for the moment until what few people there were in the tea shop started mumbling a bit louder than usual.
I furrowed my brow in confusion as I looked up to find out the source of their murmurings… and my jaw nearly dropped in surprise. My eyes darted to Toshiro, and he had the same look to his face, even as his eyes twinkled in understanding.
Jin and Mugen had just entered and were searching the tea house for us. Not that the stranger’s could have known how utterly unusual that was for them, not as well as I did. But the both of them looked alert and ready for the day. Nothing unusual about their appearance, except perhaps Mugen was a bit cleaner than usual. Jin must have dragged him off to a bath first thing this morning because his hair was still wet.
It wasn’t even anything tangible, though the happiness coming from the two of them seemed to be radiating in every direction. Mugen was smiling, even broader than usual, and a grin was even tugging at the corners of Jin’s habitually stoic expression.
Their eyes finally fell on us, and they sauntered in our direction, continuously exchanging glances and almost playful nudges. I knew that they cared for each other, but this was an entirely different way than I had seen them act before. Love was practically coming off of them in waves.
I leaned over to Toshiro, wondering if he saw the same thing. “They have stars in their eyes. What the hell happened last night?”
He laughed and shot me an amused look. “You must sleep like a rock because if you heard what I heard, you would understand.” He turned his attentions from me and onto the love birds that were plopping down into the two empty seats at our table, looking in confusion at our wary glances.
“Gentlemen, I am assuming you slept well?” he asked with a raised brow.
I gasped and covered my mouth, trying not to laugh out loud at that. I sincerely hope they did because I know no one else around them managed to get a wink, me included.
“As well as can be expected,” answered Jin with a small inclination of his head. “Good morning to you, Fuu.”
“Ohayou, Jin, Mugen,” I responded in return. “You guys are up early.”
Mugen rolled his eyes and elbowed Jin. “He dragged me out of bed and said I had to bathe…”
I knew it. “Is that such a terrible thing?” I questioned, shaking my head.
“I made it worth his while,” said Jin, shooting the Ryukyuian a meaningful look. I believe my mouth dropped open in surprise. This… coming from quiet Jin?
“Okay,” I demanded, pointing a finger at both of them. “What the hell happened last night?”
I heard a startled gasp and knew that Toshiro was trying to rein in his own laughter. I ignored him. Something was up, I knew it.
Mugen laughed, loud and full, nearly drawing everyone in the tea house’s attention. “Don’t worry, Fuu. Everything is fine. Where we going?”
“West,” answered Toshiro smoothly as I narrowed my eyes. I was about to ask again because I was not satisfied with that answer. “Fuu suggested getting a boat and going somewhere else.”
“Away from Japan?” questioned Jin with a raise of his eyebrows. “Can anyone here even speak any other language?”
Mugen shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We can find a way to get by.”
“I think it is an intriguing idea,” commented Toshiro. “If anything, it might throw off the trail of your pursuers.”
“Heh.” Mugen ran a hand through his hair and ruffled it up so that it would return to its normal messy state. I thought he looked rather cute with it all down and flat, but I suppose it wasn’t my place to say so. “It might work.”
And then, to my astonishment, Jin shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “Whatever you chose is fine with me.”
Aye-aye… my head was going to hurt from all this non-understanding.
“Good. Might as well go then. It is early; we won’t run into quite so many people,” suggested Toshiro, taking out the small bag of coins we had received yesterday and throwing some money down onto the table.
The four of us stood up, in complete agreement with his suggestion and started to head towards the door. Mugen and Jin were doing that playful nudge game again and exchanging glances. It was sweet, but also made me insanely curious.
What could have happened to make them act all different to each other? As if they had finally decided to give in to something and just live…
The thought made me stop in my tracks.
“Hey,” I repeated as the guys started to move away from me. “You never answered my questions.”
“Hurry up, Fuu, or you’ll get left behind,” Toshiro called back.
I frowned, stomped my feet, then hurried to catch up to them.
Then it occurred to me. It did not really matter, did it?