The hour passed swiftly and brought them back to their feet promptly, at Ayumi's insistence. They resumed their march barely feeling revived. In the short passage of time, the night sky turned shades of pink, red and yellow as the sun's light painted the bottoms of the clouds. It did not take long in their travel for dawn to arrive finally.

Unfortunately, the light brought another arrival on the horizon. The group came to a stop discovering figures in the shadows of the morning light. They stood in their path, as though expecting them. Out of the darkness, one figured revealed himself to the teenagers. Vangelis held a dark expression with a violence-craving look in his eyes. "You gave us a lot of trouble! But now it's time to have ourselves a little a fun!"

Not even sensing the mood in the air or perhaps not caring about it, Yuki took a step forward to meet gazes with Vangelis. A bit of a smirk came across Yuki's face. "You know you're missing a little something that really sells it." Yuki waved his hand not to completely dismiss him. "Don't get me wrong, you've got a good stock line, but you forgot something important to really tie up the package nicely."

Smirking in kind, suddenly taking a real liking to Yuki, Vangelis stepped forward. They both remained meters apart, but their expressions made it seem like only centimeters distanced them. "You have me curious now. What sort of critique do you have?"

"You left out my name," noted Yuki. His index finger lifted up to point out the fact as he recalled the dialogue. "It just doesn't have the same impact without the name. It leaves out that personal note to really drive through the weight of your words. And I know you know my name by now, since I gave it to the last person I fought. So there really is not an excuse at this point not to be using it."

A small bit of laughter came up from Vangelis. He started to really enjoy the kid. Yuki drew him in further with their chatter. "You would be right if I wanted to make a personal statement. However, I'm not just here for you. I'm here for all of you. Leaving out your name delivered it to all of you and didn't diminish the impact."

"I see." Yuki scratched his chin a little considering it. "That might be the true, but you can't ignore the fact there was something lacking in it. You had that look down and everything."

"I'm pleased you think so. However, don't you think it's a little cliché, like some stock villain to be directly challenging you with coming out saying your name. We haven't even been introduced yet."

Yuki's eyes widened a little reacting to Vangelis. "You mean you aren't stock villains? Sure you guys have names, but you've been out of the picture for a while and likely won't be seen again once we're done here." The smirk on Yuki's lips grew wider as he ended his reply.

Vangelis gave a rougher, more abrupt laugh through his lips. "You're a funny kid." The expression on Vangelis' face turned darker appearing to be provoked by Yuki.

Wanting to calm things down, Saki grabbed onto Yuki's forearm. "Do you really think you should be taunting the guys trying to kill us?"

A little absentminded in his face, Yuki looked back at Saki over his shoulder. "This is just some lively banter before the fun starts." Yuki moved his eyes back at Vangelis, meeting him once more through the corner of his eye. "Right?"

"I like your attitude, kid!" Vangelis started to laugh loudly breaking rank a little. It took most of them by surprise. However, Yuki joined in with him equaling the heartiness of the laugh. Everyone lost them for nearly a minute to their odd laughter before it finally came to an end. "But you're right, kid. A little foreplay before the fight makes it that much more pleasurable." The violence-loving grin returned to Vangelis' face almost as if he felt what he preached.

The sight made Saki take half a step back, unnerved by his presence. "…I think I'm too young to be listening to his conversation…" She looked over at Yuki to gauge the next action. More than Vangelis' creepy face, Yuki's expression unsettled her even more. It almost made her afraid of what she saw in his face. 'It's that look again…like the old days…where he craves the fight more than anything else…' Saki felt him getting out of her reach once more. She tightened her hand around his arm for security. 'I was afraid the seal would break if he came here…he's…' It could not happen again. "…Yuki…return to me…"

Chapter 176 – Vicious Excitement

Whispers from Saki turned Yuki's sight back. "Huh? You say something, Saki?" The confusion in Yuki's eyes did not last for long. His eyelids lowered and the features in his face hardened suddenly. "She's gone!" Yuki pulled himself around to get both Haruo and Saki in his vision. He could not find her anywhere. "She did it again."

Everything moved too fast for Saki to follow Yuki. The sharpness in his voice snapped her out of her distance thoughts. "Huh? What's wrong?"

Yuki turned around to address their opponents. "Pardon me for a moment. We've lost someone. Don't be too alarmed." A ripple from his feet broke through the earth and sped away from him. Flowers popped up everywhere in sight as Yuki's field activated.

Vangelis barely reacted to Yuki's displayed, but the rest of his team became unnerved quickly. They did not even have to have their fields on to see the different. Around Vangelis' his field maintained its presence, but that did not bother them. The range was what shook them to their core.

"I can't even see an end to it!"

"This is even more than the reports say!"

"Who is this kid?"

"This might be on par with the King!"

"How is that possible? The Rite of Succession hasn't even begun yet!"

"Enough complaining," barked Vangelis, keeping his steely eyed look locked on Yuki. "You already know reports aren't everything. Besides, I told you before he's mine. All you have to do is stay out of the way of his field." A thin trail of sweat dripped down his temple. 'He's even more than I could have hoped for…'

Yuki ignored the low chatter and focused his eyes on the horizon. 'There's the guy's field, but she's around here somewhere. She didn't get out yet. I know my field is larger than what she can cover.' He kept looking for something very specific. Saki tried to get something out of him, but he raised his hand to stop her. Yuki did not even connect to her to give her a reply.

Confused and wanting answers, Saki stood next to Yuki. Her eyes lazily went around the horizon trying to understand where Yuki looked. Nothing surfaced. 'What's he doing? She's turned herself invisible, we won't find her until she wants us to.' She was already gone.

Breaking the silence, Yuki's arm snapped up to an empty point in the distance. "She's over there! Saki!"

"Huh? I can't see her." Saki leaned forward with a step trying to figure out what he saw. All she was flowers continuing without end.

"Just go! You're the only one fastest enough to catch her in time!" The tone in Yuki's voice made it clear held no doubt. He was certain of what he found.

Saki saw Yuki's eyes long enough to know she did not need to question him anymore. She disappeared quickly from everyone's sight. A torrent of flowers kicked up in the wake of Saki's speed. 'I can see an end to the flowers!' As she approached what she thought was the end of Yuki's field, she saw another side of the flowers in the distance. 'Wait…this isn't the end…Ayumi!' Saki immediately understood what Yuki did.

Her feet broke through the last of the flowers and returned to the grass of Atlantis. She did not stop charging with more purpose than before. Saki scanned the area measuring out the center of the circle. Once she felt certain, she appeared from nothing and grabbed out at the air. Her arms found something solid. "Don't try to struggle with me, Ayumi! I'm stronger and faster than you. So unless you want to feels some G's, come quietly."

Invisible stillness permeated the field in the slow seconds passing. Eventually, a faint light appeared in front of Saki slowly materializing Ayumi's appearance. A deep glare carved into her face from the fact of being caught.

"Did you really think we'd let you disappear on us again? There's even less of us this time and not even Yuki's blind enough to let you do that. You brought us here, you get to fight alongside us."

Silently glaring at Saki, Ayumi expression barely changed. "I have my reasons."

"Then you can explain it to us." Saki disappeared back into the air along with Ayumi. Once more, the flowers ripped asunder the feet of Saki. The two surfaced back at the group a little behind them.

Ayumi came stumbling out with a red face partially soaked in sweat. She would have fallen over had Saki not held her. A bitter glare darted over to Saki. "I thought you weren't going to do that."

"Considering it payment," answered Saki, with a small smirk on her lips. She let Ayumi go pushing her a little forward towards Yuki. "Found her, thanks Yuki!"

Releasing his field, Yuki painted a smile on his face. He walked the short steps to come up to her. "I'm glad that you didn't leave this time."

"But I did…" Ayumi remarked, through a flat expression.

Yuki leaned in the rest of the way to come down to only centimeters. His features changed sharply with dark shadows sprayed over his face. "What's the reason you have for abandoning your friends this time?"

The darkness the came from Yuki surprised Ayumi a little. She did not expect such a serious tone. However, she also did not expect to be noticed until far enough away. Her miscalculation in the situation made her unlucky. 'I knew I would have to face this eventually, but this is sooner than I wished. It's still just him, so I shouldn't have to explain much…'

"You said you had a reason," pushed Saki, tired of her silence. Her hand shoved Ayumi a little off balance.

Glancing back at Saki, Ayumi narrowed her eyes annoyed with the cornered situation. 'I don't really have a choice. They've already seen me…this only makes the rest of the time more difficult…'

Vangelis shifted his gaze a little trying to see what they were up to behind Yuki. The whole situation felt a little off to him. He did not like the impression he got. 'So that's a display of the mysterious girl's power…if I wasn't thinking I'd say it was speed, but that would be impossible, especially since I saw no field distortion…' Chatter from his team pulled back one of his eyes to listen at what he had to shut down.

"Who's that?"

"Isn't that?"

"Isn't that First Lieutenant Eudokia?"

"She's the Captain of the Guard now."

"She's here?!"

Staring out his narrow eyes, Vangelis searched around Yuki to the fourth member of their group. He pulled out pieces of what he could make out. Confirming their speculation made his eyes widened ever so slightly. 'Why is she here? She wasn't anywhere in the reports and acting in concert with them? This situation just suddenly took a different direction.' Dark thoughts slowly boiled up in his mind. The thoughts made his lips grow into a wicked smile. A thick shadow fell over his eyes.

Saki's hearing was enough to catch the whisper from the other side. It perked up her ears and turned herself back down to Ayumi. "They know you?"

"Huh? You heard something, Saki?"

"Yeah, they seem to know her, at least by her other name." Saki stepped around Ayumi to meet Yuki and stare directly at her. She wanted some answers as well with the new information she gained. "This something to do with your reason?"

A short sigh came from Ayumi. They partially exposed her. She had nothing left to hide behind. "Yes, they know me. Everyone that's attacked you since we've arrived in Atlantis does."

"Why's that?"

"Because I used to be stationed at the South Gate before I became Captain of the Guard." Ayumi crossed her arms to solidify her stance a little. Despite forced into the position, she never looked like she had been caught or guilty. She kept a hard expression, only appearing as though it was tiring to explain. "I tried to keep my presence reduced since I knew I would be very easily spotted by them. I didn't want to show my hand to them too early."

Yuki tilted his head back towards Vangelis and then back to Ayumi. His index finger rubbed his cheek in thought. He hardly held an expression other than pensive, considering the magnitude of the information. His eyes fixed on Ayumi suddenly. "You didn't want to let those trying to take the throne to know that you had brought me here. You knew the military would end up letting them know quickly if you were spotted."

"Yes, and now you've ruined that."

Saki tapped Ayumi on her shoulder to get her attention from Yuki. "Or you could have just told us rather than hiding it. It only complicated matters and we would have understood if you explained it to us."

"I prefer to do things my way." Her crossed arms tightened up a little with her stubbornness.

Annoyed, Saki started to lean in, but was interrupted by Haruo of all people. He stood next to all of them unnoticed with a hand pointing back at the group the stopped their progress. The sight of them made Saki quickly turn serious and narrowed her features. They were all closer to them and spread out with their intentions made clear. "Looks like we don't have anymore time to debate this. You're fighting with us this time. They already know you're here. You've got no choice now."


Vangelis rubbed his hands together with the excitement pouring from his face. He looked far too eager for a fight. The rest seemed uneasy, but hungry as well. "It's about time we got this started. We've wasted enough time already." Vangelis walked the rest of the distance to tower over Yuki. His head tilted down to stare at him with the ravenous, toothy grin. "Yuki Hayashi…"

To be continued…