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Chapter numbers are actually helpful. I need to reorder. >.<

Gyumaoh 21



"Yo," Johar replied, not looking from his paperwork.

"Sir... you have visitors."

That got his attention. He blinked up at the messenger. "Visitors?"

"Sir. They're human. We think."

"You think."

The messenger spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "They're a bit odd, Sir. Definitely not youkai."

Pushing his chair back, Johar stood reluctantly. "All right. What are their numbers, and what do they want?"

"Three, Sir. And they refuse to speak to anyone other than the General."

There just had to be something awkward before Dokugakuji returned. Motioning to the messenger to lead the way, Johar tried not to sigh.

The three were two men and a child, and though they looked human, there was something not quite right about them. It made Johar edgy and slightly defensive as he approached them. One of the men was dressed in white, with what looked like bandages wrapped around his arms to the elbow. His robe was torn at the shoulder, and sleeveless. His eyes were closed, perhaps blind, and that alone was enough to send a strange shiver of distaste up Johar's spine.

But above those closed eyes, was something far more disturbing. A chakra. Were these holy men then? A quick glance confirmed that the other man bore one as well, as did the child. Of course the other man also carried what looked like a machine gun, and was missing one eye, to judge by the eyepatch he wore.

An unsavory trio. What the hell did they want with him?

"Greetings," Johar began as he stopped before the three of them. "What can I do for you?"

"We wish to speak to the General," the one with the closed eyes began. His tone was condescending.

"You are," Johar replied, trying not to let his unease turn into a short-tempered response. "General Johar, at your service."

The one-eyed man laughed suddenly, a deep, rough sound that grated on Johar's ears. "General Kenren," he said. "Sure. But you're not the general we're looking for."

Johar glared at him, trying to ignore the slight buzzing in his ears. "I told you, it's Johar. I don't know any Kenren. Who are you and what do you want?"

"Now, now, Taisho, don't be hasty," the blind man said. "You are not the one we wished to speak to."

"You were looking for General Dokugakuji, then?"

The one-eyed man was still chuckling around his cigarette. "Where's the Marshal, Kenren? Did they finally manage to separate you two?"

Johar narrowed his eyes and very nearly bared his teeth. "Johar. I don't know any Marshals, and you still haven't said what you want."

"Where is he?" the child asked impatiently, turning dark blue eyes on him suddenly.

The buzzing in his ears turned to a ringing as the ground seemed to shift beneath his feet. "Who?" he asked, his voice far too shaky.

The child stared up at him without answering, folding his arms across his chest. There was something in his gaze, a blank intensity, that seemed far too familiar. Johar's skin crawled and he tried not to shiver.

"Tch. Oi, Kenren, he wants to know if you've seen the monkey." That was the one-eyed man again.

Johar gestured impatiently at the jungle. "There're plenty of them out there, take your pick. Last time, folks. Who are you and --"

"He doesn't remember, Zenon," the blind man interjected mildly. "I doubt they've found each other."

"You were there," the kid said to Johar. "When he... when I... you were there. Don't you remember?" There was plaintive frustration in his tone.

The intensity of his gaze was unnerving. Johar could imagine it levelled along the blade of a sword pointed at him all too easily. And yet.... Something itched along the edges of his memory -- a ghost of gun and sword and a battle to protect... something....

Closing his eyes for a moment, he shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about." Opening them again, he fixed an angry glare on the one-eyed man. "And if it's General Doku you're looking for, he's not here."

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen. You're just a temp," Zenon chuckled. "Told you this would be a waste of time, Shien."

The blind man shrugged slightly. "Ah, but not entirely, hmm?"

Flicking ash from his cigarette, Zenon smirked. "Nah, not entirely. It was entertaining, at least, eh Kenren?"

"Shut UP, Zenon!" the kid exclaimed impatiently. "He doesn't remember."

Johar didn't even try to argue this time, just curled his fingers closed and forced himself not to summon his weapon. "Who the hell are you?" he growled.

"We're kami," Shien replied evenly, and if Johar's blood hadn't already been running hot with anger, it would have turned to ice at that.

"Kami," he echoed dully. "We have no argument with Tenkai."

"No, you don't," Shien murmured. "But it might have an argument with you. Still, you are not the one to discuss it with. We'll be waiting when the Prince and the General return."

"Fine," Johar muttered through clenched teeth. "Suit yourselves." Turning on his heel, he stalked back into the city.

And he wondered, as he felt the kid's steely-blue gaze on his back, why he felt like he'd been punched in the ribs.

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August 2011


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