Believing that they were heading onto a new adventure the group traveled through the mountains of Sobatole. Long winding roads took them deeper and higher until the air felt so thick it made it difficult for some of them to breathe. Mr. Nakamaru whispered that sleep was best for them on this journey. With heavy eyes many of them drifted off into the bliss that being unaware allowed them.

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Tationy’s body felt heavy. Her eyes were sore. She was lying on a bed that was foreign to her and her stomach felt like she had ridden the biggest roller coaster at Wacky Mountain at least three hundred times. She somehow managed to sit herself upright, though it had been with some difficulty. “That feeling will pass.” Mr. Nakamaru said.

She had not realized she was not alone and jumped a little in surprise. “What..what happened?” She asked cautiously. She had not even realized that the surroundings were far different from Mr. Nakamaru’s house.

Mr. Nakamaru did not respond right away. Tationy could tell that he was choosing his words which made her wonder why he felt the need too. “We passed through time.” He remarked.

Tationy blinked in disbelief and then started to laugh. “Good one. I almost believed you.” She was chuckling and Atsuki could tell she was amused.

He spoke in a commanding and yet oddly gentle tone. “It has been a long time since I have heard you laugh, my prince.”

“It really has not been that long…wait, what did you just call me?”

Atsuki sighed, he knew coming here before they were ready was a bad idea, but it was much to dangerous to remain with the Ishi Clan pursuing. His attention drew away from her as Abe charged into the room.

Captureh

“Seriously? This cheap suit is the only thing you have for me to wear? I feel ridiculous.”

“Abe we are not going to have this discussion again.”

Tationy stared at Abe realizing much to late that Mr. Nakamaru was not wearing the modern suits and polo shirts he normally wore. Abe who always dressed in the height of expensive teen fashion, didn’t look like himself. Tationy reached her hand across her chest and pinched her arm while Abe continued to argue with Mr. Nakamaru about his wardrobe.

Abe looked up at the ceiling for a moment before responding with a sigh, “Fine. I will let it go for now.” Atsuki watched as Abe departed the room. He had bowed his head, his eyes closed as he contemplated everything that was happening and about to happen.

“Mr. Nakamaru.” Tationy spoke breaking the thoughts that plagued him.

“My name is Atsuki.” He remarked as he stood and moved toward the door. “Please join us when you feel up to it.” Before she could stop him from leaving, he had departed the room leaving her in a rather alone and confused state.

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“Is she alright?” Taku asked as Atsuki joined them at the table.

“She is a little disoriented.”

“Why do you have that look on your face?”

“Taku it is probably best to let it go for now.”

“I was just asking.” He remarked. The unhappy expression on Atsuki’s face had not changed. It was obvious to the three of them that Mr. Nakamaru was not happy about bringing them to this place and certainly not looking forward to explaining everything to them.

The group grew quiet as they waited for Abe, Sadoo, Sohma, and Tationy to join them. Eventually one by one, the young men of the group arrived to join Otoha, Taku, Chochi, and Atsuki at the table.

Sohma questioned Atsuki, “How long are we going to wait for her?”

“As long as it takes.” Atsuki remarked.

Sadoo felt his stomach growl as he looked at the food on the table. He felt like he had not eaten in years, despite not knowing what exactly was before him he was hungry. They sat there for an unknown amount of time until Tationy emerged from the room where she had been resting.

She uneasily took a seat at the table. Atsuki told everyone that they could eat now which only made her feel bad. Had she known that they were waiting on her she would have arrived sooner. “Are you going to tell us what is going on?” Abe spoke up, breaking the dead silence that had overtaken the group. When Atsuki did not respond right away Abe lost his temper, “You kidnap us to some unknown place and you just sit there. Tell us what the hell is going on or I am leaving.”

“Abe.” Tationy whispered. She did not mean for his name to leave her lips, but it did so anyway.

Abe turned his head to look at her. She seemed so calm considering the fact that they were in some unknown place, their clothing was altered, and half the group was being secretive. His eyes focused in on her face as he resigned himself to the fact that losing his temper would not accomplish anything.

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Mr. Nakamaru’s unhappy expression made him look older. “That man following you Abe was from the Ishi Clan.” He began. “Thousands of years ago they realized that we had used a technique to allow us to exist outside time by being reborn in other bodies.”

“Reborn is not the correct word.” He halted himself. “These bodies are hardly our own.”

“What do you mean?” Sadoo asked.

“These vessels are, but a means to an end. When we die our essence, or you may call it our souls seek out a new vessel to inhabit. Normally it is a new born infant or a baby who has yet to progress to a toddler.

“This is bull.” Abe remarked skeptical.

Atsuki ignored Abe and continued, “The soul is not physical. It has no corporal form. You cannot reach out and touch it, because of this the afterlife is a place of great spiritual energy, but no physical domain. Our physical laws of nature do not apply there.” He spoke.

“Normal realms are bound by time and space. These laws cannot be broken by man, but a ‘soul’ does not exist within that realm thus it is not bound to such laws. A soul is like a ghost from some Hollywood movie. Disembodied and seemingly capable of traveling anywhere it wishes too. However, Hollywood dabbles in make-believe. A real soul is bound to the place it separates from.”

“Theories of reincarnation and god are for those that need something to believe in. Something to give them hope. I do not believe in such nonsense.” Sohma remarked.

“You were filled with disbelief then as well.” Atsuki spoke. “The ‘soul’ is not bound by time. We do not live forever. Forever is just a very long time. The soul it knows no time thus it is timeless. By the time we died we were just shells of who we were. Our souls had already been disembodied and what we did, we did for our prince.”

Overwhelming emotions overtook Tationy as she listened to the story that Atsuki was telling. “That is stupid.” Tationy spoke. “Why would you do such a thing?”

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The four who were aware grew silent at the words of their prince. Chochi turned to look at her finally breaking the silence, “Because we loved you. Each of us were completely loyal to you. You were our prince and there was nothing in this realm or in the next that we would not do for you. That remains true for four of us sitting at this table.”

Tationy did not know what to say to Chochi’s words. Besides the fact that it was the first time he had ever spoken to her directly his words had caught her off guard.

Abe brought his hands together as he spoke mockingly, “Isn’t that romantic.”

Chochi bit his tongue as Atsuki cleared his throat. “Reincarnation is a temporal process. We leave one life and move onto the next. After that life is over, we return to the realm to start the process all over again. Thousands of years ago, we stayed in this building. We had seven days before we had to be on the run again. During that seven days, I separated part of our souls. The part that remained here would allow us to return to this place and time. The part that remained with us, was a fragment that would travel to the other realm until a vessel was ready for it.”

“Normally reincarnation is a process that only moves forward in time, but I left us here. I bound our souls with seals that not even the other realm could bypass. Those seals were simple, they would allow us to be reborn as many times as it took for all of us to come back together and remember. Once we had, we would return to the place where our souls were bound and we would return to our time.”

Atsuki grew silent. Outwardly his unhappy expression had not changed much. He still felt that they were moving to quickly. He did not tell them that they would no longer be reincarnated. That once they moved to their bound time, if they died, they would cease to exist in any realm.

“Allow me to properly introduce myself. My name is Atsuki. I was born into the Nakamaru Clan. We are a clan of Onimusha and have served the Divine Emperor since the beginning of time. I am the leader of the guardians.” Atsuki turned his attention toward Taku.

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Taku smiled, “Well you know me as Taku.” He remarked, “I am from the Kensuku Clan. A large and mighty clan that once opposed the Divine Emperor. My clan was devoured by the might of his armies and those of us that managed to survive were turned into slaves. I earned my freedom by being strong and capable with my fist which were considered so strong that they could shatter a sword blade.”

When Taku fell silent, Chochi began to speak. “I was born Chochi of the Waichia. A powerful noble house within the New Aslann Empire. My clan divided during the war into two factions, those that were rule mongers and those of us that did what we felt was right regardless of those rules, because of that my faction became known as barbarians a title that I greatly embrace.”

Silently Otoha sat. He knew that one of the drawbacks to returning to their time would be the loss of his voice. This would be his only opportunity to speak. “I am Otoha of the Sweela Clan. I was trained since I was a small child to be an assassin for the Divine Emperor. I served as his personal bodyguard for many years using my dual swords. I only ever thought of doing my job, never protecting anyone until you, my prince.”

Sadoo was surprised by Otoha’s words. A small part of him wondered why he was going along with this group delusion, but there was another part of him that knew Otoha would never lie. Otoha continued to speak, “You Sadoo, were born Sadoo of the Takahashi. You joined the army of the Divine Emperor when you were just a young man. You worked very hard and garnered much praise from the men that served with you. You became a great war hero, a great general.”

Sohma made an inaudible sound. “Sohma.” Atsuki began, “You were from the Hamara Clan. A clan known for its scholars and philosophers. You were always brilliant, your mind capable of strategically planning advancements of troops and countermeasures for assaults. We were very lucky to have you join the guardians. It is because of you that we survived as long as we did.”

Sohma hung his head low. There was a heaviness in the air. He did not believe the nonsense that was being uttered out of the mouth of Mr. Nakamaru, the man that he respected for so long.

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“Abe of the demon clan Sosa. There are eight known demon clans or onimusha; Nakamaru, Sosa, Zenaku, Sato, Ishi, Maiba, Kari, and Tylo. The First Divine Emperor united the eight demon clans together under one banner. We allied ourselves with the noble house of Waichia and traveled the land conquering it. When we finally settled in the New Aslann Empire the clans became divided.”

“We no longer shared information, unions, and eventually the Sosa Clan died out. You were the last Sosa born. You were raised by the Tylo Clan. In fact, by the brother of the Divine Emperor after your father died during the raid on Progmato. He raised you as his son and trained you in the way of the sword. You became the greatest swordsmen the New Aslann Empire had ever seen.”

Abe said nothing as he sat silently listening to Atsuki. His attention was drawn to Tationy when he heard a soft intake of breath upon the words, greatest swordsmen. His eyes and hers locked with each other. His mind drifted back to the story that Sadoo had told, the one about the Swordsmen and the Prince being lovers. He realized much to late that the prince in that story was her. “My prince.” Atsuki spoke.

“We your guardians, stood outside the chamber of your mother as she gave birth. We already knew that we were to be the guardians of the prince, little did we know what that would en-tale. The queen gave birth to a son. It was a necessary birth. The Divine Emperor was feeling much pressure about having a successor so it became important that he and the queen bare a child. Their son was pale, sickly. The adviser Jin and the Emperor quickly forgot about your mother as they discussed what they would do. An ill child could not be the prince of the New Aslann Empire.”

“Your mothers scream broke the discussion up as she went into labor again. She gave birth to a daughter. They hatched a plan. We were summoned into the room and everyone there was sworn to secrecy. You were to be raised as a boy in place of your brother, Tatsuya. You were to be the prince and he was to be hidden away until his death.”

“We were to protect not just you, but the secret that you were in fact the princess. We killed many people that discovered the truth. Your father, the Divine Emperor kept his distance from you unless was absolutely necessary to be in the same place. We raised you. We were with you from the time you were a baby until the day we gave our last breath for you.”

Tationy felt unwanted emotion bubbling up inside her. She stood up, “You are all foolish.” She said as she rushed out of the room leaving the boys alone.

“How could they do that to her?” Sadoo asked.

“It was what they thought was best for the Empire.” Atsuki remarked.

“They did not plan it out very well,” Sohma stated. “What were they going to do when she did not produce an heir?”

“You do not really want to know the answer to that.” Chochi remarked.

“A member of the Waichia Clan who knew the truth was chosen to get her pregnant when the time was right. They planned to hide her away, after they faked a marital union between her and some noble woman hand-picked by the Emperor. She would remain hidden until she gave birth, the woman would be killed, and she would return as the prince with an heir. It was a long-standing agreement with the Waichia.”

Abe bite his lip as he stood up, the chair scrapping against the floor. “I would never follow a man that would do that to his own child.” Abe spoke as he too departed the room.

“He is the same as always.” Taku remarked with a sigh.

Otoha and Chochi silently agreed with Taku as Sohma spoke, “Tell me everything.” The group departed each other’s company and the next seven days were spent in relative silence. Tationy avoided all of them, but Abe felt that she was avoiding him more than the others. She had gone so far as to not even join them for meals. They were worried because she had hardly eaten since their arrival there and she was in seclusion in her quarters.

The world about them changed on the seventh day as they were thrust back through time. They would take a ship across the water to the New Aslann Empire. The silence lingered about them. None of them were certain what to say to each other as everything they knew changed so drastically. They would arrive in the New Aslann Empire many months after their original selves had been killed.

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Had things been different the sprawling imperial city may have been a site to behold unfortunately the lingering uneasiness amongst the group kept them from enjoying it.

Their final destination was a home belonging to a Nakamaru Clan elder who had been loyal to Atsuki. Sohma took comfort in the many scrolls and books within the library of the grand estate. Otoha began training Sadoo. Atsuki had gone to repair the damage done to the garden. Chochi and Taku used the time to train and enjoying being home again.

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“Trying to escape?” Abe asked as he came up behind her.

He had noticed Tationy trying to sneak out of the house. She had been avoiding all of them. She had not turned right away to look at him, but eventually she did, closing the distance between them.

“So what if I am?”

He stared at her. He had never seen her so unhappy before. “We were told to stay on the grounds.”

“I don’t care. I am finding my way out of here…”

“And then what?” He asked.

“I don’t know, but anyplace is better then being here.”

“You are being childish.” He scowled.

She wanted to slug him. She could not believe how arrogant he was being. “Just stay away from me.” She said as she released the tension built up in her fist as she turned away from him.

“Tationy you are being a spoiled brat.” He screamed out at the top of his lungs as she took off.

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Chochi heard the scream of Abe as he left where he had been meditating hurrying toward where he heard Abe yelling at Tationy. “What is going on?” Chochi asked.

“Nothing.” Abe said with a shrug, “She took off.”

“What do you mean she took off?”

“Yeah she left.”

“Why the hell did you let her leave?” Chochi asked.

“What does it matter, she is being a brat any…oof.” Abe expelled all the air in his lungs as Chochi’s fist connected with his stomach.

“You do not deserve to be one of her guardians.” Chochi voiced as he took off after Tationy.

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Tationy was not certain how far she had traveled when she happened upon a garden surrounded by water with an ancient building in the center. It had a very tranquil quality about it. She felt at peace standing there in the garden unaware that she was not alone there. She had lost track of the time.

“Did you find any peace?” A voice asked from behind her and she turned coming face-to-face with a man dressed in elaborate robes with long flowing black hair. He spoke in a language that she should not have known and yet she understood him perfectly.

“Uh…” She stared at him, uncertain what to say. “Ye…yes.” She stuttered.

“You seemed lost when you arrived.” He spoke.

“You were here?”

“In the tower.” He stated gesturing toward the large shrine in the center of the garden. “I noticed you the moment you arrived, it is uncommon for women to come here.” Tationy wondered if she had made some cultural faux pas. He must have noticed the concern knit over her features because he spoke, “This is a shrine to the First Divine Emperor, Soti Tylo. He would come here often as a young man to meditate. It is a place where warriors seek guidance through meditation. You do not appear to be a warrior.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why did you come here?”

“I…” She was not certain how to answer that, “I miss my home.” She responded. “I feel like I am not myself.”

“You do seem troubled. I am Tatsuya of the Kari Clan. May I inquire your name?”

It had not registered with her that he said he was from the Kari Clan, one of the eight demon clans. “Tationy.”

“An uncommon name.”

“It is?” She questioned.

“Yes, it is from the great teachings of the Shima. It is generally translated to mean The Fallen.”

“The story of my life.” She said under her breath.

“Pardon?”

“Nothing. Just starting to think the world is conspiring against me.”

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He laughed. Tationy stared at him as he chuckled. He brought his hand up to cover his mouth as though it was improper for him to be laughing to begin with. “The world conspiring against one person would be a remarkable thing.” He collected himself, “I do not think you have to worry, young Tationy. Whatever is happening that makes you feel as though the world is against you is most likely the universe at large telling you, what you must do to make things right.”

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Tatsuya was paying attention to Tationy, but noticed instantly when a man began to cross the bridge. He had a sword strapped to his back, but it was not that, which gave him away as a warrior. He had this killer intent that radiated off of him. He doubted the young girl before him would realize it, but any true warrior of the sword knew well the killing intent of another warrior. He could tell he was highly skilled and he was certain that the man was not here to find peace.

“Tationy.” Chochi said as he came toward them and moved to position himself in a way that would keep the man from harming Tationy if that was his intent.

“Chochi.” She whispered.

“We need to go.”

“But…I am talking to Tatsuya.”

“You are of the Waichia Clan.” Tatsuya spoke.

Tationy turned her attention toward him as Chochi remarked, “I am.” Tationy wondered how he knew that. “You are of the Kari.”

Tatsuya simply bowed his head slightly to acknowledge that to be the truth. Tatsuya starred at the two of them. Chochi had not removed his eyes from Tationy and he could tell that he was somehow interrupting as he spoke, “I should be departing, it was a pleasure Lady Tationy and Lord Waichia.” He said with a bow of his head.

“It was nice meeting you.” Tationy voiced as she brought her hand up in a slight wave. Tatsuya’s found that his own hand began to raise, but he halted himself. He was uncertain what that informal gesture was. He knew that she had to be a noble woman because a man of the noble Waichia Clan would not socialize with anyone that was not of breeding. He was curious to know more about the young woman as he made his departure.

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Chochi gave her a stern look. “Is this where you lecture me?”

“Should I?”

“One of you is going too.”

Chochi starred at her for a while before responding, “I am disappointed in you.”

Tationy felt that overwhelming emotion bubbling up inside her again. She did not understand why such words caused such emotions to overtake her. “You should not have come.”

“Tationy. You are everything to us, you cannot just walk away.”

“I am not your prince. I am just some average girl who cannot even find herself a boyfriend.”

“There is nothing average about you and if it means anything, you have had many boyfriends in your many lifetimes.”

“Right.” She said disbelievingly, “You cannot count Abe.” She said as she turned to walk away from him, but he grabbed her arm swinging her around to face him.

He had her wrist securely gripped, “I was not referring to Abe.” He said staring into her eyes. She shifted uncomfortably under the weight of his stare. After several long moments of silence it felt like time was standing still as he leaned in and whispered in her ear. “I’m sorry.”

He released his grip, letting her wrist go. “You do not have to be sorry. You did not hurt me.” She said.

“I was not apologizing about your wrist.” He responded as he turned and began to walk.

Tationy followed behind him wondering what he had been apologizing for. She had wanted to ask him, but he seemed as though he wished for the discussion to end and it was evident to her that he was not going to allow her not to return. She told herself she was only following him because she had nowhere else to go.

She had so many things she wanted to ask him as they silently traveled through the city. She walked behind him with her head lowered as she considered how he might have known that Tatsuya was of the Kari Clan or what he was apologizing for. How he managed to find her in such a large city. She wondered if she was so predictable that he knew where she was going long before she had.

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Abe had paced for hours even though Atsuki seemed confident that Chochi would find her. It brought Abe little comfort. He was upset with himself. She had been acting like a child, but Chochi had been right he should not have let her leave. He was frustrated with her behavior, but it was certainly not just that. Knowing that he was the Greatest Swordsmen of the Guardians seemed to have placed a wedge between the two of them.

He was not certain why he cared. He told himself he didn’t and yet there he was outside pacing like a father waiting for his teenage daughter to come home from her first date. He stopped moving the moment he heard the gate door. Chochi walked by without a word. Tationy had been walking a distance behind Chochi, but she had stopped moving when she spotted Abe waiting.

“You going to keep avoiding me?” He asked. It was not what he originally had intended to ask, but it was what left his mouth as he spoke. “You going to say something?”

“I do not know what to say.”

“How about the truth.” Abe snapped and then sighed. He did not understand why he was getting so emotional over some girl that he cared little about. He imagined that this was what it felt like being blown off by a girl he was interested in, if it ever happened and he did not understand why he felt that way.

“I wish it wasn’t you.”

“Wasn’t me what?”

“I wish someone else was the swordsmen.”

He was surprised by her words. Most girls would give anything to go out with him and here she was telling him that she wished it was anyone, but him to be the person that loved her. His mouth opened and closed and then opened again, but no words wanted to leave as he stared stunned silent at her.

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He swallowed the lump that formed in his throat as he managed to ask, “Why?”

“I don’t want to be the prince. I just want to be me, Tationy. I don’t want you to get your memory back and love me as your prince. I….would rather you learn to like me as Tationy. I hate this feeling. This feeling…that the only reason any of you care what happens to me is because they think I am this prince. I have a name, its Tationy. I am not rich, I am not a prince, I am just….me. I just want to be seen as me and nothing else.” She said as she moved by him.

He turned, reaching out his hand. He cursed himself as he pulled it back. He hated seeing her upset. These unwanted feelings were getting worse and he imagined that was what was going on with her as well. It was hard enough knowing that you were someone from a time thousands of years before you believed you were from, but to know that you had been in love with someone made it even worse.

Abe was stressed. He decided that he was not going to eat dinner and just turn in early to bed. He simply did not want to see Tationy anymore that evening, but his mind decided that it was not ready to let her go and his dreams where filled with her.

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He was hugging her tightly. “Are you happy?” He asked.

“I am.”

“Surprised?”

“Very.” He closed his eyes as he took in her scent as he held her tightly outside the French château on the beach they would be staying at on their honeymoon. “I am so surprised you were able to do this.” She said as she pulled back from him slightly, her smile telling him she was more than pleased.

“It took some work. I had to promise Atsuki that we would stop at the winery and bring him back a bottle or two of wine.” That was not entirely the truth and the sleeping Abe deep down knew that there was something hidden in those words.

“I want to see everything.” She said as she dragged Abe all around Paris. They had gotten married in a small gathering of just their friends and family. He acted put out that she was dragging him around France, but he was enjoying himself deep down. It was very rare he had her all to himself. All during their courtship, it had been the two of them along with Atsuki and Sohma. He hardly ever had time alone with her. Despite her not remembering who she originally was, the three of them kept her safe.

They had arrived at the winery and the attendant explained how they could make their own bottle of wine.

Abe did not entirely want to participate, but he knew Tationy well enough to know that she would never allow him to get out of it. Her excitement was infectious and it often made it difficult to keep a level head as she practically jumped up and down, more than ready to start stomping some grapes.

When they finally got to making their own bottle of wine, he had to contain his amusement as he watched her stomp around in a giant tub of grapes. “Don’t get too comfortable, you are next.” She told him.

While he stomped around in the giant tub of grapes she had cleaned up and returned. He told himself he would never drink this bottle of wine or any bottle of wine after this experience. She giggled at him. “Keep it up and I am going to pull you in here with me.” He remarked.

Abe got the machine started as Tationy calculated how long they had before the wine would be finished.

Abe moved toward Tationy, wrapping his arms around her. He liked holding her like this. “You have that look on your face again.”

“What look?” He questioned.

“The one like you have not seen me in years. What brings that look on?”

Abe tightened the embrace as he laid a soft kiss on the side of her neck whispering softly, “I love you.”

“I love you.” She whispered back. He wanted very much to take her back to the château and let the outside world fade away completely. He kept his control as he held on to her until he was forced to let her go. They would depart the winery just before closing. She would of course drag him to the beach and any other place she could before they headed back to the château where they were staying.

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Abe was in nothing more than his boxers and a t-shirt as he stood near the window looking out. He had a bad feeling on the way back to the château. Someone was watching them, following even. He knew that person was still outside. This was why Atsuki had not wanted them to go or at the very least for him and Sohma to come along which Abe felt was not a good idea, after all it was his honeymoon. He was confident that he could protect her on his own.

“Abe.” Her voice broke his thoughts as he turned about and caught sight of her.

He had made her promise that she would not buy some frilly overly lavish piece of lingerie for their honeymoon. She asked him many times why and he had told her each and every time that he would not even notice it. That he would be so focused on her that it would not matter what she was wearing.

“You don’t like it?” She asked.

He was a trained warrior. He could stop his own heart from beating, slow his breathing to a level where it might seem non-existent. He could move silently and go unnoticed to anyone around him, but gazing upon her at that moment he was unable to slow his heart. “I like it very much.”

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He felt like a teenager as he stepped in closer to her. His heart felt like it was pounding so fast. Each time he was with her in each lifetime it felt like this. He leaned in quickly and claimed her lips.

His arms wrapped around her as he forgot about the hostile intent that had been lingering around the château. He knew in the back of his mind that someone was still there, but at that moment his attention was solely on her.

“You’re beautiful.”

She blushed. She always did no matter how many times he told her. “Thank you.” She whispered.

He kissed her again. This time he did not hold back wanting her to know exactly how much he wanted her.

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He maneuvered the two of them to the bed. His lips sought out hers as he allowed himself to become lost in their lovemaking. His contentment did not last as he laid there watching her sleep. That person was still there in the shadows. The hostility was increasing and Abe knew that danger was looming. His body reacted violently as he sat up in a start and his hand reached near the side of the bed.

When his breathing calmed he realized that he was gripping a sword in his hand. Atsuki had given it to him earlier in the day. Abe had leaned it against the wall before he went to sleep after removing it from where it had been lying on his bed. He sighed inwardly, cursing himself under his breath. He tossed the sword aside he was not about to buy into this nonsense. A small part of him wanted to check on her though, but he forced himself not too.

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His body still felt tense from the dream he had. Abe found himself out in the yard early in the a.m. or at least he was certain it was early. He found Otoha who was training Sadoo in some form of fighting. He was not certain why he was there himself, but he stood there for some time before he spoke out.

“Otoha.” He began and the man that he had once been friends with turned to look at him. His face was uncovered though he had been covering it over the past few days. For a moment he wondered if there was a reason that he was choosing not too. “Will you train me?” He asked.

The look on Otoha’s face told him he was just as surprised as Abe was. Abe was not even certain why he was asking, but he found himself doing just that. Otoha simply gave a nod of his head.

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“Fascinating.” Sohma said and Chochi rolled his eyes. Sohma was not much different from how he had been many years ago. His nose was always in some book, scroll, ancient parchment. He liked to devour information.

“I seen Abe training.” Taku spoke.

“Abe?” Chochi questioned wanting to make certain he had heard him correctly.

“He is training with Otoha and Sadoo. He is already caught up to Sadoo.”

“Abe always did learn quickly.” Chochi voiced. He wondered what this meant as he stared across at Taku who was his oldest and dearest friend.

“Is Tationy alright?”

“She is hiding in her room again.”

“Was there any problems yesterday?”

“We ran into a member of the Kari Clan.”

“Do you think that will be an issue?” Sohma asked as he closed the book and looked up. Chochi was curious why he cared all of a sudden seeing he had continually insisted he did not believe any of this stuff.

“The Kari have been well-known for standing against the Divine Emperor though it is uncertain where they are politically aligned these days.” Chochi remarked.

“I will see what I can find out.” Taku spoke.

“Can I go with you?” Sohma questioned.

Taku looked to Chochi to see if it was alright and only got a nod in response, “Sure.” Taku spoke as the two of them departed.

Chochi had checked on Atsuki briefly, who was up early and in the garden again. He was not surprised, it was what Atsuki did when he was frustrated.

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Outside Sadoo and Abe trained under Otoha. Chochi watched from the window. Abe was always the best of them and yet the worst of them at the same time. He was arrogant, always thinking he could do things on his own. More deaths then, Chochi could keep track of were the direct result of Abe taking things into his own hands and trying to protect their prince on his own.

He moved outside to where Abe was training with the others, “Abe get changed we are going out.” Chochi informed him as he turned and walked away not giving Abe a chance to respond.

Chochi was waiting by the gate for Abe and tossed him his sword when he arrived. “You should always have it with you.” He voiced, but again turned and began to walk away without giving Abe a chance to speak. Abe fallowed, wondering if Chochi was still upset with him over the other day and letting Tationy take off. He certainly did not care if he was, but to Abe it seemed a silly thing to allow to fester. They walked for some time before finally stopping.

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“How do you feel about our prince?” Chochi asked.

“You know how I feel.”

“Do I?” Chochi questioned though never looked at Abe. They were standing facing each other, but with the positions they took they were not in each other’s direct line of sight without turning their heads.

“She is a brat. She does not pay attention, has no regard at all for what is going on around her. She makes decisions rashly…”

“But how do you feel about her?”

Abe made a face, he knew what Chochi was asking him. “Why do you want to know?” Silence was the only response he got back. “So it is true then?”

Chochi changed the topic, “What made you decide to train?”

“Nothing.” Abe responded.

“Did you dream of your death?”

“My…no it was nothing like that.” He spoke. He did not know if he could or even wanted to explain it.

Chochi turned his attention fully toward Abe. He stared at him for some time and decided that he indeed, did not dream about his death. “She told me about it.” Chochi remarked. “Atsuki is really the only one that knows the majority of the details surrounding our deaths. Dieing is a very personal thing and most of us have chosen not to share those details with each other.”

Abe did not really care, but he listened anyways. “Tationy was the first of us to remember and she found me and Taku in Japan. She took a ship across the sea from Aslann where she was reborn. She had searched there, but had not found any of us so she surmised that we were perhaps reborn elsewhere. She abandoned Aslann when she was 16 years old. She would find Taku in a monastery in Japan, seven years later. By chance they would find me later that year during one of the festivals where the Emperor was going to make a rare appearance, I was one of his royal guards.”

“Taku had already been having dreams by that point so he was aware of whom she was. I had no memory. It was one of the few times in any of my reincarnations that I did not remember. The two of them tried to convince me, but I was not about to listen to such talk. She said something to me. Short version of it was that she never knew me to back-down from a fight.”

“When they left I did not plan on ever seeing the two of them again, but her face and words kept coming back to me, over and over again. I abandoned my post and followed them. We traveled all over Japan looking for the others. We heard rumors of a fair haired, fair skinned man learning fighting styles all around Japan. We took a chance it was you. By the time we got reliable information you had already crossed the sea to China.”

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“In Japan it was easier to blend for Taku and I because we were born there. Tationy does not really blend no matter where she goes, mostly because of her eyes and hair. When you have eyes that are different colors and hair as bright as the sun like she does, people tend to notice it. We had limited Chinese language skills and no idea where to begin looking for you.”

“By chance through the course of our travels we crossed paths with a man that was from Aslann. Tationy was able to communicate with him in her native tongue and from him we got some reliable information on where to find you. My memory came back in pieces, my feelings for her were the first to come back.”

Chochi noticed how Abe’s body tensed at the mention of his feelings. “Does that bother you?” He questioned and Abe could tell there was some smugness behind the question.

“No.” Abe lied.

Chochi continued his story, “We searched everywhere for you. When nightfall came we retreated to an inn that we were staying in. I decided that night I was going to tell her how I felt about her.” Chochi noticed again how Abe’s body betrayed him by tensing. He was getting angry.

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“I found her in her room looking out the window over the land. I asked her if she was worried. She told me no.”

“She seemed so sad and I wanted desperately for that moment to be perfect.”

“I did not call her my Prince, I called her Tationy. I told her that she needed to smile more that everything would work out and we would find you.”

“I wanted her to forget about you so I sang her a song. One that I remembered from my original life. A song sung by my noble house. She smiled, clapped her hands, and I knew she loved it.”

“I could not take my eyes off of her.”

“I reached out my hand when she lowered her head. Using my fingers, I lightly lifted her chin. I lov….It was all I managed to say before she stopped me. She begged me not to say it. I asked her why and she said that she did not deserve my love.”

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Abe stared at Chochi, but contained his surprise. For a brief moment he wondered why and Chochi soon answered that question. “We had separated, you promised me you would keep her alive. Our pursuers separated into several groups and the one following you and our prince had a member of the Ishi Clan amongst them. He was a sadist much like yourself.”

“Our prince was still injured and could not fend off the multiply attackers like you could. He brought his sword to the throat of our prince and you…well you did the one thing you said you would never do. You relinquished your sword.”

“She begged you not to. She begged you to fight them and yet you didn’t. The two of you were taken to a dungeon. You were placed in cells across from each other. You could see her struggling against her bonds. The sick and twisted freak you always were probably enjoyed it. She kept calling out your name and you said nothing. She was begging you to tell her that you were alright and you continued to be silent.”

“They dragged you both from the cells, stripped your clothes from you and shackled you both to the walls. She kept saying your name and when you finally chose to respond you told her not to say anything. You gave her no words of comfort, you simply told her to keep her mouth shut.”

“The member of the Ishi Clan enjoyed torturing people. After all he learned from the best. He was one of your students. He told you all of the things he planned on doing as he had his men do them. They tortured you, right in front of her. She could not bare it. It was too much for her to watch. They planned on breaking our prince by torturing and killing you.”

“She begged them not too. Told them she would do anything they wanted if they allowed you to live. They removed her from her chains and forced her to her knees before the Ishi Clansman. He told her to tell him where he could find us and he would spare your life. She told him. She told him where Atsuki and I were. You kept yelling at her telling her to not say anything, but all she wanted to do was protect your miserable life. They killed you right in front of her, but not before they made you watch, what they did to her.”

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“She said that the Ishi Clansman sat there watching the entire time. That he kept doing this little gasp of breath every time he enjoyed something that was done to her or you.”

“She apologized to me for being so foolish. She told me that somewhere deep down she knew that they were not going to free you, but she was willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to make certain you lived, because of that Atsuki and I were killed. I could not bring myself to be mad at her, but you, you could have said something to her. Brought her some comfort in your last hours, but no, you are now and will always be that sick freak that gets off on the misery of others. I am sure you enjoyed every minute of them torturing her. I am sure you wished it was you doing the torturing”

Abe had no way to defend himself against something he could not remember, but he opened his mouth to try, but was halted by Chochi’s words, “That morning she was gone. Left a note saying she was looking for you.”

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“I told Taku I did not like the idea of our prince being out there on her own looking for you. He assured me he would do his best to find her. Before he took off he must have sensed something was wrong because he asked me how it went with Tationy.”

“I did not know what to say to him.”

“Taku has always been a spiritual person. In almost every reincarnation he has been a monk, priest, shaman, until more recently. He told me that the prince had been struggling with telling me the truth and that she chose to tell me because she felt great guilt over the decision she made.”

“I did not really want to discuss it, but Taku told me that the only way to have her fall in love with me was to help her find you. She had to get over her feelings for you before she could share anything with me.”

“He took off in search of her and I stood there trying to decide if finding you was really worth it.”

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An image flashed in Abe’s mind. “It was a monastery” Abe remarked. Chochi peered at him, “I was found by a traveling monk on the shore in Japan. He raised me and when he returned to China I came with him. Why am I remembering this?” Abe asked a bit shaken by the overwhelming emotions that overtook him.

“Because I unlocked it.” Chochi said.

“Why?”

“You put blocks in place to keep yourself from remembering.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you did something very bad.” Chochi remarked, but did not tell Abe what it was. Abe clutched at his chest as it became hard to breathe, “I want you to remember because she does not want you too.”

Abe struggled to stand, but he could not lift himself off the ground as more images flooded his mind.

Chochi knelt down and lifted Abe’s chin so he could look into the eyes of the man he hated more than any other. “What do you remember?”

“Watching others train.” Abe managed to say.

“And then?”

“I was training. I trained for hours.”

“Do you recall my arrival?”

“Yes. It was in the later afternoon. You were standing there watching me for some time. I did not acknowledge you though not until I was finished.” He said after having pushed Chochi’s hand away from him and pulling himself into a standing position. Chochi followed suit. “You tried to convince me I was some ancient guardian for a prince.”

“And you like always did not listen and insisted that I was crazy.”

“You kept insisting.” Abe spoke.

“You only truly became interested in what I was saying when you found out our prince was female.”

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“But I was still unwilling to listen. So you challenged me to a fight with the stipulation that if you won, I would go with you. You were confident that you could best me.”

“It was a long battle. We fought all day and night until early in the morning and in the end I was right, I could best you.” Chochi remarked.

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“Do you recall Taku’s arrival?”

“Yeah it was at dawn.”

“You introduced us and then began talking to Taku about where our prince was.”

“His response?” Chochi asked.

“He said he did not know that it seemed that she had disappeared.”

“Taku and I knew what that meant, but did you?” Chochi asked. He recalled vividly the expression on his face at knowing that Taku, a skilled tracker, was unable to locate their prince.

“I think somewhere I knew what that meant.” He said as that bad feeling overtook him again. It was the same one he had with that dream.

“You had an expression on your face similar to the one you have now, way back then.”

“I recall.” Abe spoke.

“Taku had that cat that ate the canary look.”

Chochi suppressed a chuckle. “He tells me often you have not changed much at all, but out of all of us, he is no different than he was back then.”

“Somehow that seems right.” Abe remarked as his breathing settled. “She was killed wasn’t she?” Abe finally asked. Deep down he knew it already, but he needed to hear Chochi say it.

“Yes.”

“Why is it we cannot protect her, if we are her guardians?”

“I do not know.” Chochi remarked.

“This feeling, these feelings are they going to get worse?” Abe asked.

“Yes.” Chochi eyed him for a moment, “You are not the only one feeling like this. Sohma is drowning himself in books to keep from feeling anything. Sadoo and Otoha focus on training. Atsuki will hide in his garden until his emotions have settled. Taku, I am not sure if he goes through this like we do. He always has the same happy expression on his face no matter what time we are in.”

“You?”

“I want to kill you.” Chochi spoke. “I hate looking at you. I hate you close to our prince. I hate knowing that she will most likely fall in love with you again. It takes all of my strength to keep from slicing your head off.” Chochi stared at him before turning his back toward Abe. “If you wish to strike me down for loving her you should do it now, with my back turned. It is the only chance I will give you.”

“I am not going to do that?”

“Why? The real Abe would have.” Chochi voiced as he walked off. His voice could still be heard by Abe as he spoke once more before disappearing from Abe’s sight, “I will train you to use that sword.” Abe stood there silently as he contemplated everything before him and what was left hidden in the past.

To Be Continued