IX


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Arc IX Chapter 7


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Yuji crossed his arms and studied the girl. His instincts distrusted their mysterious saviour.

The girl might have saved him and Mayumi, but her true intentions remained shrouded in mystery. Following her might not be in their best interests.

The girl promised to lend them a hand, and they gladly accepted. Not that they had much choice, as they were in no position to decline. The princess made an offer they could hardly decline.

Any form of help was sorely needed. Without support, without allies, forsaken by their relatives, he and his sister were own their own in this cruel world.

Yuji gripped his waist. The pain hadn't subsided yet.

The mysterious girl was a complete stranger. Her strength was beyond frightening.

In a matter of mere seconds, the girl reduced Tetsuya and his men to mere toddlers, grown men to glorified amateurs. Her strength commanded respect and fear.

The girl reminded him of a princess from a fairy tale. Her attitude, her arrogance, her mannerism. The girl carried herself with pride, conscious of her grace and beauty. A fairy clad in silk.

In her eyes, however, they were nothing but lowly commoners. The girl extended her gracious hand, but the same hand that raised them to heaven at one moment, could reduce them to insignificance at another in a capricious fit. They were at her mercy, completely dependent on her benevolence.

Yuji maintained his guard unlike Mayumi. The past taught him to trust nobody and no one. Not even your father. In this cold world, you could only rely on yourself.

Mayumi didn't share his sentiment, and fell for her charm. His sister fraternised with the enemy.

Yuji disapproved. The girl baited Mayumi with her cat, and Mayumi fell prey to her elaborate scheme.

Mayumi supplied the kitten with head strokes, taking care of her. The kitten purred in satisfaction.

Yuji clicked his tongue. Naive girl.

Mayumi punished his thoughts and smacked his head.

Yuji groaned. "What was this for? Have you forgotten I am injured?"

Mayumi stamped her foot. "Nii-san! Stop being be such a meanie! I know the look in your eyes. The nee-san has saved us. We should be grateful to her."

Yuji gritted his teeth. The girl might have deceived his gullible sister, but not him. "Grateful? For what ..."

Mayumi pouted. "Nii-san!"

The princess enjoyed the scene and giggled, her lips hidden behind her hand. Their little dispute amused her.

Yuji grumbled. "What's so funny?"

The princess relished in their misery. "Nothing. Your performance was excellent. Highly entertaining.

You are such a lovely pair. Your fraternal love is endearing, not to say heart-warming."

The princess clapped her hands. "Mayumi, Yuji, tell me more about your predicament. I am interested in the exact nature of your debts."

Yuji didn't believe her for a second, but he admitted her acting skills were superb. He almost thought she truly cared.

Mayumi tugged at his clothes. Her disapproving glare admonished him. Behave. Be nice to the friendly nee-san. "Nii-san, please tell her. Nee-san deserves to know."

Yuji grumbled. Mayumi's pleads melted his remaining resistance. His sister was his weakness.

Yuji averted his eyes, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. "Two months ago, our father ... died. He slipped and fell from a bridge after gambling away the entire fortune.

Father loved the game and the bottle gave him the rest. He amassed significant debts after borrowing from Tsuyoshi. Father needed more and more money. The loans were never paid back."

Asami didn't question their father's death further. She understood. Gambling. Alcohol. Debt. A sudden death. Falling from a bridge.

"And what about your mother?"

"Mother died when were young. We barely remember her, but I doubt you care. You will abandon us when this is over anyway."

His words enraged Mayumi. Hell hath no fury like a little sister angered. "Nii-san, don't say such. Nee-san is a nice person. Don't insult her!"

Asami appreciated her support. At least, Mayumi believed in her, unlike the rest of the world. Her faith in her warmed Asami's heart. So much unfounded distrust befell an innocent girl like her.

"I fear he might be correct, though. I can't assist you forever."

Yuji clicked his tongue. He knew it all along. The girl couldn't be trusted.

Mayumi deflated.

The girl tilted her head and offered a smile. "But that doesn't mean I can't protect you. Rest assured, my heart is not made of stone."

The girl rummaged in her sleeves and produced a silver ring. "Take the ring. It will serve you well should the need arise. The ring will prove your allegiance."

Yuji hesiated to accept her gift. It was a signet ring, featuring a clan crest he had never seen before, a purple kikyo on black ground. The crest radiated power, authority.

Yuji stared at the crest. All pieces fell into place. The girl was genuine nobility. No wonder, she feared no consequences. Her status alone elevated her above the common masses of petty thugs and thieves.

The girl was untouchable even for the syndicates. Despite their power, they would never dare to enrage one of Amegakure's powerful clans.

The princess smiled. "Consider yourself henceforth under my personal protection.

This is my crest. Wield its power wisely, as you will act in my name and my stead. Do not disappoint me, I would appreciate if my reputation and name were not compromised."


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