Chapter Two
 

The older man swore mentally as the tall, brown-haired man began to move towards the target. Behind, the guards that had compelled them to move and change their hiding place passed, chatting animatedly, their voices disappearing even as he listened. Beside him, Sendohís breathing was still and low, controlled with years of practice. The taller man turned to him, and nodded, before rising noiselessly and melding with the darkness even as he raced against the other man running for the prince. He knew what Sendoh was doing, and he knew what his job would be. He paused, closing his eyes, and then flashing them open in instinct as he began to move in on the territory of the hunted.
 

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Go, Kogure. Iíll take care of the rest.
 

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Maki turned the corner as adrenaline coursed through his blood, and stopped just short of a long, slim metal spike that was leveled at his throat. A drop of blood where it had broken flesh gleamed crimson on his neck, and trickled down his body as he stared back at the enemy.

Clothed entirely in black, even to the thin veil that covered his face, the intruderís lips curved into a mirthless smile. Above the veil, his eyes flashed cold blue. He was tall and lean, and the hand that grasped the deadly weapon was steady. His breathing was checked, and his posture almost casual. Maki knew an opponent when he saw one.

"You wonít get to the prince," he spat out, his hand unsheathing his sword swiftly as he took up a fighting position. The intruder inclined his head and raised an eyebrow, as his other hand snaked to his side and loosened the chain around it. Too late, Maki recognized the symbol of the intertwined dragons, their horns and tail flashing deadly spikes as the intruder began a slow, deliberate twisting of the chain whip in perfect sync with the flashing sword, the complete mastery of an unorthodox style.

Haka. Heís a Haka Assassin.
 

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Found you.
 

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Rukawa felt a cold uneasiness creep up over his veins even as he slipped on the night robe. Perhaps it was the cool wind that whispered through the translucent curtains, and he walked over to the balcony to shut the windows.
 

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He lashed out.

The assassin slipped out of his range easily, with a grace that belied the death he wielded in his gloved hands. Circling around him, Maki sensed more than saw as the chain flew his way and he ducked barely in time, the cold metal whistling past his cheek and cutting shallowly. The blood streaked down his face as he charged forward, not giving the enemy time to recollect the chain. Grabbing it with his hand, his mind screaming at the pain as the spikes sunk deep into his flesh, he jerked on it roughly, pulling the man closer and raising his sword.

Not breaking the dance, the assassin released the edge of the chain that was bound to his belt, stepping back deftly just as the steel flashed down in front of his face. His robes had fallen open with the ripping of his belt, and Maki glimpsed a pale chest, tattooed with the symbol of the Dragon, just as his gaze traveled upwards and a thin piece of cloth flitted away onto the ground.

The veil had been sliced open. And Maki found himself looking straight into the face of one half of the elusive fighters known only for the terror and bloodshed they wrought.

He was fair, with delicate features, a straight nose and full, almost girlish lips, a high brow, and defined cheekbones. The eyes that stared back at him challengingly were no longer cold, but intense determination and narrow calculation radiated from their dark blue depths. And then he was gone.