A/N: Hello everyone! I'm soooo sorry that I left this story! I kind of abandoned it, but now I can't remember why! Therefore, I have decided to continue, 'cause I had loads of cool ideas for it, and Erik recently left some positive reviews! (Thanks, mate!) Thank you to everyone who's reviewed, though! You've all been really helpful, and hopefully some of you will be inclined to read future chapters of it, too: ) I've put a quick recap of the past few chapters for anyone who can't remember where we left off, but doesn't want to have to go back over it all. Skip it if you want.

Eric

Recap:

Chapter One- Michiyo Shun's wife, Akane, gave birth to their daughter. He was once a samurai, but gave up his life to marry Akame instead of the Emperor's daughter, and became a ninja. Their village was attacked by samurai lead my Ishimaru (Shun's brother) and they were both killed. Ninjas from a neighbouring village came to drive off the samurai attackers, and Makoto took the newborn child into his care. She was called Ayumi, or 'walk your own way'.

Chapter Two- Taiki Hara breaks into the royal palace and tries to persuade the Emperor Ishikawa to be kinder to his people, the ninjas. We learnt that he once was a samurai, much like Shun, but was 'betrayed' by them. (No more info on that as of yet! ;) Haha!) He fled when guards attacked him. The Emperor embellished the truth to make the ninjas sound dishonourable, as usual, and set guards to track down Hara.

Chapter Three- Hara reached the village where Ayumi was taken to and brought up by Makoto. She is now twenty-two, and has been trained by her adoptive father figure to be a skilled female ninja, or Kunoichi. She sees him stumbling up the hillside and he collapses. He is taken into the village infirmary, where she and Dr Matsuo realise that he is the ninja who attacked the Palace. So that samurai do not find him in their village and realise that they are associated with ninja, they decide to escort him to a safer location. Ayumi goes to tell Makoto the plan, but finds him at a nearby river, where a strange phenomenon sends him unconscious.

Now, on with the story!

Chapter Four- Into the Forest

Darkness. Hara couldn't see a thing as the voices floated gently past him, and then confusion overcame him as he woke to see a blurry, bright image that seared his eyes. At first he thought he was in his own house, but readjusted that opinion as he sat up on the soft bed and looked around him. Although the autumn leaves have softened the light through the window, it still stung after being unconscious for so long. Placing his palms over his eyes, he tried to recall what had happened before he blacked-out. He could remember breaking into the Palace, and fleeing from the guards. He'd travelled at night since then, until he was exhausted, He could remember falling on the hillside and watching the starry night's sky fading from vision above him. He jumped out of bed abruptly. Have the Emperor's men caught me? Did they take me? Trying to think rationally, he ran a hand through his dark hair. If they had found him, he was pretty sure that he would be in such comfortable surroundings, that's if they'd let him live. No, someone else must have taken him in.

Outside his room, the voices that had woken him from his deep-sleep rose in volume, and his curiosity got the better of him. He shook his legs, which felt weak after days of not being used, and crept to the door. He pressed his ear to the oak panelling and listened.

oOo

"Let me see him!" Ayumi cried. Makoto had been taken back to the village infirmary, and Doctor Matsuo was attending to him in a private room.

"We can't let you in there right now! We don't know what caused his condition; it could be contagious."

"I don't care! I need to see him!"

The unfortunate guard sighed; he looked truly sorry that he couldn't admit her. "I understand how much he means to you, Ayumi, but even if you could go in, there wouldn't be anything that you could do to help. Doctor Matsuo will find what's wrong with him, and I'm sure he'll be better soon. We'll keep you fully informed on how his status progresses, and once we're sure that he won't pass on some vile disease to you, I'm sure you'll be allowed in. "

"…Thank you…"

oOo

Hara frowned, wondering what had happened. He could hear another voice, softer and more distant, but masculine, but he couldn't discern what it was saying.

oOo

"Was he like this when you left him to get help?" the guard asked, jabbing a thumb in the direction of Makoto's door.

"No…" Ayumi mumbled. "He was just unconscious then, but when we returned, he was talking. It surprised me, because I thought he was awake, but when I called to him he didn't reply, and I realised that he was still unconscious… It's like he's in some kind of a trance…"

"Yeah… It's kind of creepy…" he shuddered "It's like he's speaking a whole new language…"

oOo

Hara smirked as realisation dawned. He's in the middle of The Rite… but don't they know of the Kami? Don't they realise what's going on? He considered going outside to tell them what had happened to the man, but the babbling died away, and he listened once more.

oOo

"He's stopped… Is he ok?" Ayumi asked, concern evident in her tone.

Doctor Matsuo stepped outside and closed the door behind him softly. "He seems to be alright… He's lapped back into unconsciousness, but has stopped talking, which was my main concern… Most unusual symptoms… I'm at a loss as to how to diagnose him; I've never seen anything like this!" The Doctor frowned, as confused as the rest of them.

"I'll go down to the river. Maybe I'll find the cause of his illness…" said Ayumi.

"You should take someone with you, incase it's dangerous. I'd be happy to go." The guard offered.

"It's alright. I saw something before, when I found him. I think it's the cause of all of this. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but it didn't seem dangerous. It was kind of… peaceful… Anyway, I'm confident that there's no immediate danger from going to look."

"So long as you're sure…"

oOo

Hara gasped. If she encounters a Kami unprepared… He hastily pulled on his tabi boots and secured his kimono before climbing out of the window. Outside of the building shrubs surrounded him, and he crept through them, keeping low. The main door to the small building came into view, and he waited for the girl to leave. A few seconds later, and the short figure of Ayumi exited, and he silently followed her into the woods, which surrounded the river. He couldn't reveal himself until they were well away from the village. He couldn't afford to let people know where he was; after all, he'd have to leave as soon as possible. He couldn't risk being turned out to the Emperor's men, so he took care to remain unseen and crept along, keeping a good distance between himself and Ayumi. As they delved further and further into the woods, fewer people were to be seen on the worn paths. They eventually turned into an even more overgrown passage, which led deeper into the quiet forest. It's no surprise that a Kami chose to dwell here… it's beautiful. He stopped suddenly as Ayumi turned around and stared directly at the bushes in which he was hiding. Curses!

"Who are you?" she asked, drawing her sword. "What business do you have with me?"

I suppose it's probably safe to come out now, anyway. We're a good way from the main path.

Hara stepped out from the bushes, and brushed himself off.

"I am Taiki Hara. I know what happened to that man."


Sorry that I ended it there; I was aware that it was getting longer and longer and dragging on a bit. Not the most interesting chapter, I know, but it was necessary to get to the next point in the story. Sorry! Review with any comments or constructive criticism that you may have!