Rao stepped out of the hot springs and reached for her robe. She needed to relieve some of the stress yesterday had brought for her. That boy, Nanashi, had lost his memories and had gotten a flashback when Rao touched her. Was that a good thing? Sure he was cute. He had some muscles, nice hair, and piercing eyes. But he was in a hurry to leave Rao after having a flashback and maybe he didn't like Rao. But he had saved Rao's life when that assassin attacked and Rao had swooped in and took the guy down. Did she embarrass him? And then after Nanashi left she was called to the palace to try and heal one of Kalani's servants whose eyes were gouged out. The servant, Jushiro, was killed and there was nothing Rao could do about it. Kalani seemed very on edge yesterday. In fact, she was shaking while she watched Rao try and heal Jushiro.
"My, you certainly grew up over the past two years, Rao Hinata," a voice from behind Rao said in a nonchalant attitude. She spun around with her robe on and looked into the face of her former guard, Sasoku.
"Sasoku," Rao choked. Her body started vibrating in fear. She had her dagger but there was no way she could fight Sasoku. His twin, Zen, had the same flash ability he had. That technique allowed them to move at the speed of light and process everything going around them while using the technique just as fast. "What are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to see how my favorite Healer is doing. Is there anything wrong with that?" He had cockiness in his voice.
Rao took a step back. "You work for the man who killed my father, don't you?"
"For him? No, I work with him. We both work for the same boss, who has asked me to deliver this letter." He reached into his sleeve and produced a scroll. Sasoku handed the scroll to her and cocked an eyebrow. "Enjoy your bath." And then just like that, he vanished.
"That cursed flash technique!" Rao untied the bow and almost opened the scroll but shook her head. No, not right now; she had to go tell Zen what happened. She slid the scroll into the pocket of her robe and slipped on her sandals. Time to make a trip to the guardhouse.
Nerezza faced herself in the mirror and grimaced. She looked beautiful in her black kimono, traditional hairstyle, and two folded fans in her hands. Was she doomed to spend her whole life aiding Yamamoto in his schemes and doing Kalani's dirty work? And then there was Rao, the daughter of her old friend Sakura. Nerezza fought back tears when she thought of Sakura's death. She owed it to Sakura to keep Rao safe from the blood thirsty villains she was surrounded by.
"Nerezza, we need you to help organize for your performance," a young girl said. She wasn't much older than ten and she was already working as a mercenary. Yamamoto had to be the most cunning man in all of Japanese history.
"Alright, I will be there in a minute." Nerezza looked at herself one more time in the mirror. Pale skin, gray eyes, and jet black hair. She couldn't help but think about Rao again. Nerezza could only pray that Kalani would let her talk to Rao soon so she could warn her about the snakes that were wrapping around her. Nerezza opened the screen door and walked out into the hallway.
"You WHAT," Zen yelled in shock. Rao stood outside facing Zen and just told him who she met at the guardhouse.
"Yeah, he said he just wanted to see how I was doing and then left." She decided it was best to keep the scroll a secret. No telling what was inside of it and if it concerned Rao then Zen would probably try to interfere.
Zen whistled for more guards to come. "Alright, I'm going to hunt Sasoku down and kill him this time! Rao, stay right where you are! Ok men, I need you to gather your respective squads. Squads 1 through 4 are on guard duty, squads 5 through 10 are searching for Sasoku. We don't know what he could be up to so move fast and no matter your job, failure is not an option!" The captains nodded and rushed back into the guardhouse.
Zen vanished from sight; leaving an astounded Rao alone. Who knew Zen could be so commanding? Rao never thought Zen could issue out orders so fast. "Milady High Priestess Rao the Healer, I am here to bring you to a safe house and watch over you," a familiar and annoying voice said.
Rao turned around. "Really, Hanatorou? You are going to protect me?"
"Yes. I may not be a Samurai but I do have one quality that made Zen pick me to protect you."
"And what would that be, kid?"
"I have the talent." Rao's eyes opened wide. She had a list in her head of all the people with the talent. Sasoku, Zen, that Nerezza lady, and herself; but now this small servant boy is added to the list?
"What can you do?" Rao was curious. Hopefully his talent was something cool. Like the ability to fly or lift objects with his mind.
"I can see the present."
Rao's eyes squinted and she made an annoyed face. "That is so lame! What does that even mean anyway?"
Hanatorou smiled. "It means I can see everything around me. It makes it nearly impossible for people to sneak up on me. Plus, I can read people's emotions and exactly how they are feeling. For instance, you feel distracted and eager to find something. No, you're eager to open something."
Rao's jaw dropped. This kid was good. "Alright then, what is going on in town at this exact moment?"
"Well, there is a newlywed couple that has just been reunited after many months of separation. They are walking down the market and looking for some meat to buy; the husband is a very good cook. There is a pregnant woman who is all on her own and looking for work. The father caught an illness and died. And"
"Alright! I get it, you know everything. I'll admit, I never would have thought of you as someone who could actually do things other than kiss Queen Kalani's butt but you seem very useful. Let's go to this safe house." Rao smiled and Hanatorou blushed but also, just know processing everything Rao had said, had a pouty face on.
"Fine, but first we'll need to stop by your place."
"And why is that?"
"I doubt you want to take a hike through the woods to a shelter in nothing more than a bathrobe." Rao hung her head and followed Hanatorou. He was too smart for his own good. They walked back to Rao's temple home and she ran inside and changed into a pink kimono with a bright blue belt. She switched sandals to ones that gave her more height and would be easier to use when walking through a forest. Sliding the sheathed dagger inside her cloak, Rao rejoined Hanatorou and they both left the temple.
Zen flashed around the city, through the alleyways, and through the upper part of the city where nobles lived. It lay in the shadow of the castle; Zen flashed through there too. Where was Sasoku? Zen flashed over to the palace again and stood on the balcony; trying to get a good overlay perspective of the city. Suddenly, there was loud boom and the door leading to the balcony was launched forward. Unsheathing his sword, Zen sliced it in half with one fluid motion.
"Well, if it isn't the other half of the Flash Twins. Zen, right?" A girl sauntered in with her purple hair pulled back into a pony tail. She was cloaked in orange and brown and no weapon on her belt.
"Who the hell are you?"
"You've probably don't remember me, so let me refresh your memory. I am Kusemono: Goddess of the Thieves." Zen suddenly remembered his training days when he was ten years old. He and Sasoku were recruited early because of their flash abilities. They were training to be Samurai and in their class was a purple haired girl that always stole from the trainers and local stores. Because of that she was kicked out. Zen looked at the blood dripping from Kusemono's hands and gasped.