Deepest apologies for my disappearance. Fell rather ill, depression kicked in and then studies decided they wanted to take me away from writing...

But I'm back, I promise :)


Hearts

Kusano's gentle breaths tickled Minato's legs as she slept on his lap; completely exhausted from the day's progression. Not only had she been fighting to an extent she had never fought before, she also had not eaten in almost a day and her energy was more than burnt up.

Minato stroked Kusano's hair as he smiled, thanking the Gods that his Sekirei was safe. All of them were, safe and sound. Minato's phone had been ringing a lot that night, as many people, including his mother and Seo, were calling to see how Kusano was. They all got the same response. "She hasn't got much scratches on her. She is fine and resting as we speak". At first it was nice. But it got a little tiring. Minato had forgotten that many Ashikabi were Sekirei-less and rooting for him and his Harem of Sekirei. He was their idol; their symbol of hope.

Minato looked down at his young, blonde Sekirei and sighed. He didn't know why he felt like this, this unexplainable feelings. But he knew. He knew that these feelings came with a price.

"You should have seen her in action. She was phenomenal" Kazehana said. Minato had his back to the door. Kazehana walked toward him sat beside him "She's growing up, Minato. And as a man, I'm sure there's a part of you that can tell, too" Kazehana said. There was an air of cheek in her voice, but she was being rather wise behind her comment. "Just because she's young and a little emotional… Don't doubt her. There's a lot she can do that we have yet to see. And she has wisdom beyond your understanding." Kazehana placed her hand upon his shoulder before squeezing it a little and getting back up; subsequently walking out of the room.

All that was left in the room was Minato, a sleeping Kusano and Minato's thoughts. He didn't want to be left with them; they scared the living daylights out of him.



"But it's only one fight per Sekirei." Mikogami turned his face away from Mutsu.

"I'm sure we're all capable of dealing enough damage to our opponents. Don't worry about us" Mutsu took his scarf off as he sat down on the chair in Mikogami's room.

"But… But what if you guys lose?" The young Ashikabi's eyes started watering "What if…"

"We won't." Mutsu sat next to Mikogami, kissing him on his forehead. "Now, go sit with Akitsu, she seems upset." Mikogami turned and saw Akitsu's legs through his window, hanging off the roof of his house.

Mikogami got closer and noticed that there was a second pair of legs, in the deep-set, Smokey grey, that the Disciplinary squad were famous for wearing.



Kazehana and Yume sat in the garden side by side, in silence. Both subtly smiling as they enjoyed the crisp air kissing their cheeks. Kazehana looked fairly different, her beauty, still as powerful and radiant as before. Her raven-shaded hair was down. Her purple dress swapped for a loose, indigo satin night gown. Make-up-less, she looked healthy, with her even skin reflecting the moonlight due to her dewy complexion. She looked like a milky goddess. Kazehana sighed and gently flicked her wrist, creating a scene of dancing cherry blossom petals. Yume watched and smiled a little, remembering what it was like to see her 'sister' create such a gentle show for the two of them.

"I'm just so sorry." Yume whispered

"Looks like quite a few from my past have come back to cause some damage." Kazehana, said, her petal show still parading.

"Kazehana, I never meant for this to happen. If I'd have known that they were going to come…"

Kazehana chuckled and shook her head "You don't get it, do you? Yume, Kusano could have died out there. And everyone was asleep. Why? Because you wanted to have your way with Homura; out of jealousy."

"But I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt! I just… just wanted to have a reason… to… to…"

Kazehana rolled her eyes and grunted a little. Her happy-go-lucky personality gone to the wind, as her baby sister was put in danger for Yume's actions. "You're much too selfish." She said. "Don't you realise how you have caused tension in the house in just a day?"

"But-"

"I knew you were going to cause trouble. But not on a household scale. And not when it would endanger one of their lives."

"Stop guilt tripping me!" Yume started, before continuing, she had a light bulb moment, and catching her breath a little, she quietly spoke. "Kazehana, how come you… How is it that you were able to get to the Arena before I even returned to the Inn?"

"I never ate the food you made."

"So why didn't you offer to fight?"

"I pretended to fall asleep when everyone else did… And fell asleep due to the hangover I was suffering." Kazehana stopped playing with the wind, to catch one flower in her hand and smell it. "I could hear when Kusano was trying to wake people up. But she didn't come to me. If she had, it would have blown my cover. So when you both left the room and didn't return for a while, I panicked, felt my Sekirei Core trembling and realised that Kusano needed me. Ran into Uzume on the way and we both sped to the Arena."

Yume thought about the explanation for a little while and pondered on everything that was said. She didn't know what to say. All she did know was that she had caused a lot of trouble and other people will eventually find out.

"Yume. You've got to leave soon. We can't have another episode of that happening again. Or else you would be dealing with me."



Uzume went for a walk, noticing that all Sekirei of the household were lost in their own thoughts. She felt lost, not having many of her memories. Yet, she could help but feel so much care towards Homura, Minato, Kusano, Matsu and Musubi. Kazehana and Miya, especially. But she assumed it was because those two were more like constant mother figures in the Inn. Uzume was confused, she wondered why she felt all these things yet knew nothing of how they came to be. She came across a park and sat at the bench. The weather was chilly and she was dressed in nothing but her usual t-shirt and short-like-jeans. Uzume sighed, feeling herself call with an emptiness. She rubbed her shoulders and took a deep sigh as she thought.

"Did I have an Ashikabi before?" Uzume asked herself. She sat back in the bench and closed her eyes, feeling the cool air rub against her legs. Her thoughts swimming in her head, she trying to get a hold of them all. In the distance a yelping dog barked, Uzume ignored it. The dog got closer and nipped at Uzume's leg. Her anger pulled her out of her deep thoughts and she left up and started yelling at the dog, who was sitting down almost looking like it was smiling, its tail wagging with joy. Uzume sighed, realising that the dog went on un-phased by her fury. "What do you want?" The dog jumped and wagged its tail, circling on the spot and sitting back down again. The dog's head tilted and gaze into the eyes of Uzume. Blue fur reflecting the moonlight. Uzume scanned the dog and could not help but smile, it was a cute Labrador. The dog slowly walked toward her and whined, seeing a look of sorrow in Uzume's eyes. Uzume stroked the dog and felt the silver collar on its neck. Running her hand down the girth of the dog's neck, Uzume followed the collar of the dog and felt the medallion at the bottom of the collar.

"LIQUORICE?" A shadowed figure ran toward Uzume, a male, judging by the voice, sounded very worried for the Blue Labrador sitting in front of Uzume. "Liquorice! You've got to stop running off on your own accord!" the male stood tall and, in front of Uzume, blocking out the light from his face. "I'm sorry about my dog. I've got to be sure that she doesn't make a habit of running off and finding beautiful women…" The male sat down and Uzume, quiet, for once, took the moment the light hit his face to analyse it.

The male was tall, medium build with low-cut ginger hair, his face, the living space for freckles. His green eyes met with Uzume's and his lips parted for a smile to reveal straight, slightly discoloured teeth with a single, bent canine on the right side of his mouth.

"It's ok, I've met my fair share of dogs. This one is definitely the friendliest" Uzume smiled, feeling nervous. She noticed this and was worried. Why was her normal, confident persona being clouded by a new-found shy one?

"I'm Max. And your name…?"

"Numb-… Uzume."

"Uzume? Oo-Zoo-May…" Max enunciated her name, making very exaggerated mouth movements.

"…" Uzume eyes widened as she noticed she was nervous because she hasn't had to interact with people that did not know she was a Sekirei. So keeping the secret meant keeping everything under wraps… "Nice to meet you" She felt the sweat running down her forehead. Learning to live again was much more difficult than she had imagined. Only having memories that people had reminded her of, in the Inn, to go and live by. None of what they told her taught her how to live amongst humans. She felt she had missed much in her soul. Her core trembled.

"This is Liquorice…" Max looked at Uzume who was looking down at the dog, stroking her. She felt his green eyes piercing at her cheeks, felt them flushing red and realised he wanted to hear something come out of her mouth.

"She's a dog."

"And you're a Sekirei."

Uzume leapt up and covered her mouth, feeling she had made a huge blunder. "How did you…"

"You started your sentence with… Don't worry, I'm not going to tell anyone. Please, sit down. It's not often I get to meet the elusive species you come from."

"You-I-… Ahh. Well now the cat's out of the bag" Uzume let out a huge sigh and slumped down on the bench.

"It's nice to see the rumours are true."

"What rumours?"

"That you guys are substantially more beautiful than a regular human."

"Thanks. Although, I couldn't say the same about you" Uzume looked at Max and smiled. He smiled back and without a word, the two knew that there was an instant bond of trust.

Within the entire night, Uzume and Max spoke fondly of their experiences, friends and lifestyle. And the conversation quickly turned to Uzume's unspoken worries of being in this Game.