|| prologue || chapter 1 || chapter 2 || chapter 3 || chapter 4 || chapter 5 || chapter 6 || chapter 7 || chapter 8 || chapter 9 ||
It's been a year since I updated this *nervous giggle* Since chapter 9 and 10 are actually just one chapter cut in two, it might be a good idea to read that one first, before you jump into this one ^_^
"Hand it over, little girl. You know what I'm talking about. There's no use pretending. You've done well, my dear, I'm sure you've made your village proud. But it ends here"
His voice was velvety soft, but there was no use denying the danger buried underneath. Rei supressed a shudder.
"I... I don't know what you mean," she said softly, her voice rather higher than it usually was. Carefully, she took a few steps. There was something about this man made her quite keen to put some distance between them.
But he was fast, she never even saw him move. Before she knew it, his strong hand was on her shoulder and forced her to turn around.
"Didn't I say there was no use pretending?" he asked, anger seeping into his voice. "Hand over the scroll. I know you have it."
Rei took a step backwards, gathering her courage.
"I'm really sorry," she said, "but I don't know what you're talking about."
He frowned, grabbed her arm and pulled her closer. Rei struggled, but his grip was like steel. She felt his breath on her face as he hissed at her
"I'm done playing with you. Now hand it over if you know what's good for you."
"I'd let her go, if you know what's good for you."
Suddenly she was being spun around and something cold and sharp was piercing the back of her kimono. She gasped. His voice came hard and deadly.
"Drop the sword, little man."
"I don't think so," Hayate said, shaking his head.
Rei was forced her down to her knees. She felt the cold blade sliding slowly across her throat. Rei gasped and struggled, but his hand was in her hair, yanking her head back forcefully. Rei whimpered. Hayate shouted something, but she couldn't make out what it was. The man ignored him.
"I'd stay still if I were you," he said softly to Rei, "I wouldn't want to cut you. Not yet."
He turned his attention to Hayate.
"I said, drop the sword." he hissed.
Hayate slowly lowered his sword, glaring at the other man.
"Let her go, she has nothing to do with this."
The other man let out a short bark-like laugh.
"Oh no, little man, that's where you're wrong. This little girl has everything to do with this. I'm sure you know that. I'm also fairly certain that your actions are at least partly responsible for landing her in this particular mess. Why else would you have come after her?
Now drop the sword. I am not going to ask you again."
Rei looked up at Hayate, pleading.
"Don't do it, Hayate," she said, trying not to cry. "He'll just kill you and then he'll kill me!"
"Or, you know, I could do it the other way around. Kill you and make him watch. I haven't quite made up my mind yet." he said, sounding amused. "But the quicker your boyfriend makes up your mind the easier this will be for all of us."
Hayate glared at the other man, then took a deep breath.
"If I surrender, will you let her go?"
"I can't promise you that. I will promise I'll go easy one her and leave her relatively unharmed. If, and only if, she cooperates."
"Swear it, on the honor of your family. Swear she will go unharmed."
The other man sighed.
"You are quite theatrical, you know that?"
"Fine, the girl will go unharmed. Happy? Now drop the sword."
Hayete continued to glare, but only for a moment. A chill ran through Rei's body as he slowly lowered his sword.
Rei closed her eyes and swallowed, tears now streaming down her face. A dull clunk in the grass next to her forced them back open. She stared in shock at the sword lying next to her on the forest ground.
"No..." she whispered.
"Good boy," said the man, "I know you would see sense. Now, on your knees."
"No!" Rei shouted, "Wait! I can..."
"No Rei," Hayate cut across her, "it's not worth it. I'm not worth it. Don't do it."
Rei closed her eyes again, trying to close herself off from the world. Willing herself to find a way out of this. But she couldn't see a solution. It was all she could do from giving herself over to the complete despair she felt welling up.
A rustling beside her told her Hayate had dropped to his knees. She opened her eyes.
"Why?" she choked out. "Why, Hayate? You shouldn't have dropped the sword!"
Hayate smiled at her.
"You really don't know, do you?" he said softly. "Tell you what, I'll tell you when we get out of this."
Rei dropped her eyes.
"If..." she whispered, "you mean if we get out of this."
Hayate grinned at her and shook his head."
"I'm pretty sure I meant when."
"Oh, enough of this already" the other man sneered. "It's nice to see your side of the family still has that lovesick vibe, though. It ruined your grandfather just like it will ruin you."
He dragged Rei up by her arm.
Family? she thought vaguely, What did he mean?
"Now move aside, girl. This guy and me have to talk some business."
He pushed her aside, hard. Rei stumbled over the uneven forest floor. She lost her balance and hit her head on something hard. Then everything went dark.
"Rei!" Hayate shouted. He rounded on the other guy. "You swore you wouldn't harm her."
The other guy shrugged.
"I didn't mean for her to hit her head. But it does make things easier. At least she won't interrupt our conversation, with her sobbing and pleading and screaming. I honestly don't know what you see in her.
To leave the destiny of your village in the hands of a little girl. At least your grandfather chose a grown woman."
While the other man stood there laughing, Hayate's fingers found his discarded sword. In one fluent motion he rose to his feet.
Hayate caught him completely off-guard. He stumbled back as Hayate slashed at him. Like Rei, he immediately lost his balance and tumbled backwards.
"Get up," snarled Hayate, "get up and fight, you miserable excuse for a warrior."
"Why? You could end it here and now."
"Because I promised I would show you who of us was the little man. There is no honor in winning like this. You will stand and you will fight me."
The other man stood up, shaking it head.
"I hate self-righteous people. Your grandfather was one of those too. Shouting about the greater good, endless lectures about honor."
"So you knew my grandfather?"
"I know the stories. How he betrayed his family, how he stole the scroll from its rightful owner. How he ran off to your pitiful village"
"There is nothing pitiful about my village, or my grandfather," Hayate growled.
"Have it your way," the other man shrugged. "I'm just noting the parallels. He gave up everything for a girl and you nearly did too. It was sheer luck you were able to get your sword back. And it was sheer luck you were able to knock me down."
"Then fight me. And I'll show you luck had nothing to do with it."
They fought viciously. The sound of sword upon sword echoed through the dark forest as both man were fighting to kill. The other man was not bad with a sword, but it soon became apparent he only knew a few counter moves. It was only a matter of time.
Hayate's sword slashed through the air. There was a scream and the air filled with the smell of blood.
"You owe me your name." Hayate said, pointing his sword at the fallen man.
"I owe you no such thing. You remember our agreement? I'll tell you when you die, no sooner, no later."
"I guess I can live without it," Hayate shrugged. "Any last requests?"
Rei stirred, slowly sitting up.
"Hayate," she called out softly. The she froze, viewing the scene in front of her. Hayate, standing victorious over the strange man that had scared her so. It was almost too good to be true.
"Rei!" he called back, "are you okay?"
"I think so," she called back, smiling.
It almost happened to quickly to register. There was a rustle and a swirl of clothing as the other man lurched for Hayate.
"Hayate! Watch out!"
But it was too late. The other man leaped at Hayate, knocking him flat on his back. Hayate gasped as the wind was knocked out of him.
"You should never drop your guard, little man," he hissed into Hayate's ear.
Hayate felt the cold steel on his neck, as Rei's scream still echoed through the forest. Unable to speak, he glared at his attacker.
"And now, you will know my name," said the other man softly, relish in his voice. He leaned in closer.
Rei turned away, unable to face the scene in front of her. She became aware of her surroundings. In front of her was an old shrine. A voice came to memory, hardly louder than a whisper.
All you can do is pray
And so she did. For Hayate, she prayed that help would come, however unlikely it was.
At first it seemed like nothing happened, but then an eerie green glow came from the shrine. Rei scooted back, watching the glow grow brighter and brighter.
Suddenly a bright light flashed across the sky and something huge seemed to erupt from the shrine. The light was so bright Rei had to shield her eyes.
When she opened them, a woman was standing in front of her, engulfed in bright yellow flames.
Hello Dragon girl. You have come far. You won't be alone anymore.
Are you not the guardian of the Dragon Scroll?
"I think so..."
I have come to your aid. You have been very brave, you've earned my help. What will you have me do?
"Hayate," she breathed, "save Hayate, please?"
The woman smiled at her.
Certainly, if you wish it.
Then stand back.
Rei stared in amazement, as the woman's flames burned even brighter. Slowly, she started to float. There was a low rumbling sound and then a scream of fear.
Rei watched as the other man was blasted off Hayate in a surge of fire. He hit the ground hard and moved no more.
"Thank you," Rei said softly, "thank you for helping me."
The woman smiled.
No, Dragon Girl, thank you. For keeping me safe.
In a flash, she was gone again. Rei rushed over to Hayate.
She softly dropped to her knees beside him. Her first, petrifying though was that she had been too late. Hayate was laying quite motionless in the soft grass. Then she noticed his chest moving and her breathing eased up.
"Hayate?" she said softly, nudging his arm.
He replied with a murmured groan.
Carefully, she placed his head on her lap. He groaned a little and his eyes fluttered open for a moment and then closed again.
"How are you?" she asked.
"I think that bastard broke my ribs." he groaned.
"Does it hurt much?"
"Only when I breathe," he said laughing. There was a sharp intake of breath after that. Hayate cursed under his breath.
He opened his eyes.
"Hey, don't look so worried. I'll be just fine."
"Can you walk?" she asked.
"If we go really slow, I should be able to manage it."
"I'll help you up."
Slowly, and with lost of cursing on Hayate's side she helped him to his feet.
"My sword?" he asked.
"I'll get it for you, don't move."
Suddenly, there was a rustling in the trees. A great white flash lit up the forest. Rei grabbed Hayate's sword and dashed in front of him.
"Get back!" she shouted. One of the ninja got up slowly. "Don't move! I mean it!" She shouted again, holding the sword in her trembling hands. It was a lot heavier than she thought it would be. The guys always wielded it with such ease, like it weight almost nothing. Still she held it up, determined not to show weakness.
"Rei, be careful, please" Hayate whispered behind her. But just one thought ran through her mind:
I need to protect Hayate
The ninja held out a hand in defense.
"Please, young miss, we did not come here to fight. We mean you no harm."
"Yeah right," Hayate muttered behind her.
"What do you want?" Rei snapped.
"To apologize and offer our help."
"Apologize?" Rei asked, confused.
"Yes, had we known we were dealing with the Dragon Girl, we would have never attacked your village."
Rei stared in disbelieve, while Hayate made something that sounded both like a dismissive grunt and a groan.
"Allow me to explain. We are sworn to protect the Dragon Scroll. Kosaburo told us your village took the scroll for personal gain. We could not allow it."
"But we didn't..."
The ninja held up a hand to silence her.
"We know that now. Words cannot express how deeply sorry we are. So we came to offer you our services, for as long as you require them."
Rei looked at them uncertainly.
"Uhm, thank you, I guess. I'm sure the village will be most grateful for your services."
The ninja bowed.
"Is there anything we could do for you right now Miss?
"You could help me take this guy here to the village"
"What?" Hayate spluttered, "No way! I'll walk."
"What's wrong with him Miss?" the ninja asked, ignoring Hayate.
"He said he might have cracked his ribs."
The ninja walked up to Hayate, who was glaring at him.
"Then you shouldn't move Samurai. You might end up hurting with a punctured lung and I doubt even the Great Dragon could save you then."
"Whatever," Hayete muttered. "What have you got in mind? Piggyback riding?"
"Certainly not," replied the ninja. "My comrades are fetching a barrow. It will be much easier."
A few moments later, the ninja had hoisted Hayate onto the barrow and they were slowly walking back to Takemizu. Hayate still didn't seem to like his travel arrangements and Rei tried hard to suppress laughing every time she looked at his disgruntled face.
"It won't be much longer now Miss. We'll be arriving at the village at dawn."
"That's great, thank you,"said Rei. She looked over to Hayate.
How are you doing?"
"Oh, just marvelous," he sneered.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to take this out on you." He looked at the ninja surrounding him.
"I just don't like these ninja much," he added in a mock whisper, winking at Rei.
Rei burst out laughing as the continued down the winding forest path.
They reached Takemizu Village as the first rays of sunlight crept over the surrounding hills. Hayate had drifted off a while back, insisting he did not like to be carried.
Rei never felt more tired in her life, but kept putting one foot in front of the other. All she wanted to do was to go to bed and sleep for days.
"Miss, where do you want us to leave him?"
"The doctor's house is the second one on the left. Could you take him there?"
Rei watched as they carried Hayate up the stairs and into the house. Then she turned around and let the first rays of sunlight hit her face. She stood there for a moment, then started down the road to her house. It would be nice to sleep.
+ so.... this took me over 1 year (!) to finish D: and I still have the epilogue, which will tie together all loose ends, I hope.
+ Good news: most of it is already written
+ Bad news, Lord knows how long it'll take me to finish XD Hopefully still somewhere this year.
+ But if your still reading this, thanks so much for sticking with me
+ And special thanks to YanderePlum, Jean and JustSimArround, who conviced me I should post what I had anyway, I hope you enjoyed it guys <3