Kei can’t help but stare at the man sitting in front of him. Two people were deemed M.I.A. during the war. This man, Kazuhiro, and another person, Saki.
Kei: So how about we talk about where you and Saki vanished to?
Kazuhiro: Couldn’t tell you.
Kei: Oh? And why not?
Kazuhiro: Because the two of us aren’t sure how we survived that fatal blast either.
Kei: Fatal blast?
Kazuhiro: You know the one I’m talking about. The one that ravaged our entire group.
Kei: I’m well aware of what happened, so why did the two of you survive.
Kazuhiro: Again, we don’t know. When we came to, we were so far away from the front lines.
Kei: ...I find that hard to believe.
Kazuhiro: Believe what you want, it will still be the truth.
Kei: Then why come out of hiding now?
Kei: The hell with your mission.
Kazuhiro: Oh? So quick to dispose of it?
Kei: You and Saki vanished for such a long time, and you want me to believe your mission is what caused you to come out of hiding?
Kazuhiro quietly nods.
Kei: And what kind of mission is it?
Kazuhiro: The Murakumo.
Kei’s eyes grow wide at the mention.
Kazuhiro: In your possession, you have the means of creating one of the most deadly weapons imaginable.
Kei grows quiet.
Kazuhiro: Believe me when I say the power that could be created could be enough to cure all the injustices of the world at your fingertips.
Kei: (mumbling) You really are a member of the branch now…
Kazuhiro: You should give the child over so we can do what’s right for everyone.
Kei: (Suddenly loud) The Hell with that!
Kei looks straight at Kazuhiro.
Kazuhiro: What the hell do you mean by that?
Kei: You think turning her into a weapon is suddenly just going to ‘solve’ everything? No, it won’t! I refuse to do that to her. She is not some weapon to be used by the likes of some military who wants to use her like some toy.
Kazuhiro: And all the injustices beastkin have suffered, you saw for yourself the kind of torture that war is, and you still deny that she could be of use.
Kei: You’ve changed, Kazuhiro. The man I knew would never use a mere child as a pawn in his plan. And to hear you even mention Alexandria as a bargaining chip, you better have a damn good reason for it.
Kazuhiro: Then consider this advance notice. We’re enemies now, Kei. I will pry the girl from your hands, and the Branch will use her to claim what was lost. Count on it.
Kei: Then count on this, I will be there to stop it. Every turn, every plot, every last attempt, I will stop you.
Kazuhiro sneers and abruptly gets up from his chair. He leaves money on the table and leaves the place quietly. Kei only stares at him.
Kei: (Thinking) Has war really changed you this much? That’d you be so desperate to bring up such a topic.
Kei stands up, leaves money on the table for his own drink, and leaves the place quietly. After about an hour of walking, he finds himself back at home, only to find the place quiet. Kei could only imagine at what people might be doing. There were a lot of people around after all. As he opens the door to the backyard, he sees Rie, Yui, Shigure, Aria, Rin, Isao, and Alexandria all in the backyard. Yui notices him first.
Yui: About time you got back!
Kei: What’s going on?
Yui: Well, a lot of things.
The others turn to him.
Isao: We just finished a training session.
Kei: Oh? And how’d that go?
Rie: (Complaining) Horrible…
Shigure: Rie definitely has a long way to go.
Rie: So I’ve never fought before, its not like a fashion icon is used to putting up with this sort of treatment.
Isao: You’ll get no special treatment.
Rie: Oh, Isao, why do you have to be so cruel…
Kei: Alexandria, can I talk to you for a second?
Alexandria nods and walks inside with Kei.
Shigure: What could he want to talk to her about? Alexandria and Kei sit opposite each other as Kei thinks about the words to explain to her.
Alexandria: This isn’t about me going after Terra, is it?
Kei lifts his hand, Alexandria flinches and closes her eyes. Kei simply places his hand on her head. Alexandria opens her eyes and looks at him.
Kei: No, you did what you thought was right in that matter.
Alexandria: I did?
Kei: I would’ve done the same thing in your shoes. But I want you to be more forthcoming when you say you’re going to look for her. I want to help her too.
Alexandria: (nodding enthusiastically) Yeah, of course!
Kei: Getting back to what I want to talk to you about.
Alexandria: (nods) Yes, what is it?
Kei: I’m going to suspend your training for a bit.
Alexandria: (Surprised) Huh? Why?
Kei: Something has...come up. Something that makes me fear for your safety.
Alexandria: ...is this...about the person you went to meet?
Kei nods quietly. Alexandria seems disappointed.
Kei: I’m not stopping your training, just merely putting it off. You deserve the chance to live like a normal girl at the very least. So take a week, go think about things you’ve always wanted to do.
Alexandria: Well, even if its not a part of my training, I’ll still think of it like it is.
Kei: Is that so?
Alexandria: Its important to rest your mind and body and live a semi-normal life when you can. I’ll take that message to heart.
Kei can’t help but smile.
Kei: You got it.
With that, Alexandria leaves the room and heads back outside. Kei, meanwhile, decides to go take a nap. The group had split up to smaller factions, starting with Rin and Aria who had moved into the forest.
Rin: Time to see if you’re keeping up with your training Aria.
Aria: You’ll find I can be a strong opponent, sensei.
Rin and Aria take off weaving between the trees. Aria and Rin keep their heads turned while doing so, while this was a training exercise, neither of them wanted to lose. As they continued to weave, Rin and Aria would throw kunai at each other. This forced them to pay attention to the weapons being hurled at each other. Aria used a nearby tree as cover as Rin began to hurl more kunai then Aria felt she could dodge. This let Rin get ahead, giving her the advantage.
Aria: (Thinking) Dang it! Have to catch up!
Aria quickly took off from behind the tree she was definitely more than a couple of steps behind her. Aria had to create a plan quickly if she wanted to catch up. She used a low branch and began to leap from branch to branch to hopefully gain some ground. As she leapt she noticed Rin travelling beneath her. She readied a couple of kunai, and threw them. Only one made contact with a tree, the other two with the ground. Rin turns her head up and notices that Aria had decided to take the high road, as the two continued running.
Rin: Don’t think just because you’re up high it’ll make a difference.
Aria: I can keep pace with you just as well!
Rin: (Singing) You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll get to the finish line before you!
The two continue running as Aria employs more of her Kunai to get the job done. She uses the kunai to force Rin to make weaves between trees, forcing her in between trees and take other alternate paths that forced her to lose a bit of speed. This kept Aria and Rin together though one was below and the other was above.
Aria: Hey Rin! Looks like you’ve lost a step if I’m keeping up with you!
Rin: You think so?
Much to Aria’s dismay, she soon steps on a branch that was not strong enough to handle her weight. Aria hits the ground and manages to land safely, but she had lost too much speed and Rin had gotten way ahead of her now. By the time they had reached the clearing, Rin was first with Aria a few seconds later.
Rin: Good race.
Aria: Yeah, good race.
Rin: It was good thinking using the branches of trees to try and catch up.
Aria: Wish I had used a branch that was stable.
Rin: You took a chance. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don’t. Don’t let that beat you up.
Aria: I won’t.
Rin: Shall we head back.
Aria: Can’t hurt to race again, can it?
Rin: If you want to lose again, sure.
Aria: Oh don’t be so sure.
The two speed off back towards Kei’s home, again, trying to be first. Meanwhile, Rie, Yui, and Isao were in the backyard. Rie simply sits on the back porch. Yui and Isao were dressed normally. Rie was dressed in a grey pair of sweatpants, a black T-shirt, and tennis shoes. Despite Rie’s instance, she was forced against her will to wear, as Rie called it, ‘normal’ clothes.
Isao: Take your stance!
Rie immediately does so. Holding a stick between her hands, she tries to be confident. Isao walks around her and starts tapping her weak spots. Rie again tries to solidify her stance.
Isao: There are so many weak spots in your stance. An opponent could easily take advantage of you.
Rie: Okay, so I don’t have much knowledge in wielding a stick.
Isao: What I mean is that your stance dictates your offense and defense.
Rie: My offense and defense?
Isao: Offense means your attacks and defense means when you guard.
Rie: Oh, ok. I get what you mean.
Yui: Rie, just imagine that you're teaching someone how to stand properly!
Rie is surprised at the idea. She suddenly takes a more ‘proper’ stance. She stands like a tea cup was sitting on her head. Isao is impressed.
Isao: Hm, no weak spots.
Isao: The stance seems to have given her a definitive good stance.
Rie: Huh, odd that.
Yui: See how much fashion and using a sword intertwine?
Rie: Don’t get ahead of yourself Yui, that was one thing.
Yui: Even so, it did help you.
Rie: I don’t deny that.
Isao: Perhaps we do need to incorporate more of fashion into her training.
Rie: Wouldn’t be opposed to that. Now can I get out of these rags and into something nicer?
Isao: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.