Madoka no Himitsu MADOKA NO HIMITSU

created & written by K-chan

Chapter Two: Twice the Trouble

The next few days seemed to fly by as everyone prepared for the next departure from the island. The final group had been decided among Mikagero, Tokumori, and Kanba. This mission was an excellent opportunity for the youths to see the outside world and improve their training. It would be an experience they would never forget--nor anyone for that matter because this trip would seal the fate of those involved with the Celestial Dragon Text.

Madoka ran around her room, gathering up most of her clothes and a few belongs, and cramped it into her satchel. This left Rika to stand in the middle of the room and watch her best friend prepare herself not for a short mission but a life-threatening disaster. "Do you think that's enough?" she teased, walking over to the girl who was settling down on her bed.

"You never know," she smiled. "Kozue-san doesn't even know how long it will take to reach Raifuen Mountains, not mentioning Mount-whatever where they're holding that wedding."

"I guess," Rika shrugged. "But mother said they already have some clothes ready for us. We have to fit in with the people of the mainland." Madoka wanted to ask about the clothing, but the doors to her bedroom opened and Mikagero entered. The girls quickly stood up and greeted her with a bow.

Rika realized that the woman was there to see Madoka, so she excused herself and left to finish her own packing. Madoka stood silently to the side while Mikagero inspected the satchel on the bed. "Add a few warmer outfits," she said, "You will be traveling through mountains."

Madoka could only nod since she hadn't thought about the actual temperature. "Come," Mikagerou ordered, breaking the girl from her thoughts, "You should see Madame Kinoto before you leave tomorrow." She led the way out, and Madoka could only obey.

From Madoka's room, they left the safe haven of the manor and headed towards the entrance of the village. Along the way, several women greeted the pair as they proceeded beyond the village's boundaries. The island was rather safe except for a few places that were homes to the native animals. The path that Mikagero and Madoka took was not a challenging trip, but it did show many beautiful sceneries of the island.

They followed the familiar trail that always took them to a magnificent waterfall that towered over them. Madoka stared at its watery height, still amazed my the sight after so many years and trips to the place. Mikagero softened her gaze at the girl's expression and smiled faintly. "Are you ready?" she asked, standing at the edge of the bank, and extended her hand to the girl.

Madoka nodded, accepting the help. She felt the woman hold it securely within her own as the two propelled themselves from the ground and flew into the air towards the curtain of glistening water. To strangers watching this scene, they would find the pair insane for flying meters high just to go head on to their deaths, but hidden behind the waterfall was a platform leading to a tunnel, and this was where they landed after plunging through the streaming water.

It was the quickest way of getting to the tunnel because the pathway that people normal took looped around to the far side of the cliff, passing through a large part of the forest before the ascent began. The only disadvantage of the flight was dripping wet afterwards, but that was quite a small price to pay.

After wringing out the access water from her clothes and hair, Madoka entered the opening of the tunnel and took a lantern from its hanging place on the wall and lit it. She waited for Mikagero to join her side before they took off through the tunnel. Nothing was interesting about it, and it was completely safe to travel through despite a few scurrying creatures here and there.

The tunnel at times would dip bit by bit and was certainly not a straight one with its various twists, which Madoka found irritating. With the light source in hand, she walked in silence with Mikagero, and neither felt awkward about it because there was a sort of understanding, and it also allowed them time to contemplate.

It was about an hour's walk, but it was worth it when they reach the end, standing at the edge of the protruding cliff. They were gazing down at the beautiful, blue waters below, surrounding by the walls of rocky surface. After looking down, Madoka's gaze went up into the clear skies. This place was a true paradise, hidden within a hollow volcano (or a mountain without an open top).

Mikagero began to walk along the new path that lead to small, flattened area, where a cotttage stood surrounded by a low fence. Madoka turned around and realized she had to go and quickly blew the fire of the lantern out and placed it on the ground for later use. Her steps picked up right behind the woman as they made their way to the gates.

They didn't get a chance to step through the opened entrance that a voice of noticeable old age greeted them, "I've been expecting you."

They stepped into the bright room lit by the sunlight through the clear windows and found an old woman sitting by one of the windows looking out to the distant side of the volcano. "Kinoto-sama," they addressed with Madoka bowing deeply.

The woman turned to them with her aged, neutral face in full view, radiating a strong, mysterious aura about her. To others, she would seem like a cynical person--perhaps that was why she lived isolated from the others on the island--but even with her blindness, she had always been a wise, knowledgeable woman in Madoka's eyes. Her other senses had increase ten-fold, allowing her to live on her own, and at times, it scared Madoka too because Kinoto also had a sixth sense--the mysterious part of her--that made her different and feared.

"Madoka-chan," she called with some visible amusement in her facial features, "you should know by now I care not for such formality. My eyes are useless."

Mikagero sat down at the central table, and Madoka followed suit, saying with a smile, "I'm only respecting my elders. And besides, you can sense it without your eyes, Kinoto-sama." It was very true--she could feel their presences when they arrived at the gates of her home.

There was no need for either of the guests to say another word because Kinoto could feel from just Mikagero's aura that something had come up. But before then, she could feel it in the air too. "The wind," she began, "is unstable."

"What do you see in Madoka's future?" Mikagero asked calmly while the girl blinked, looking from one person and then to the other. Silence filled the room once more, but it was strangely followed by Kinoto's low chuckle, surprising the guests. Mikagero just raised an eyebrow at the unusual response. Madoka gaped at the old woman as if she'd turned into some demon right before her eyes.

"Heart of pure, eyes of the ocean," she answered quietly as if questioning its meaning in her mind, "love of an adventurous soul, destiny unbroken. When the Dragon descends from the Heavens, all life on earth must end. A will of the gods, a change only in the chosen. " [K-chan: Stay with me here--even though I have no idea what I'm talking about, it RHYMES!] Mikagero frowned at this, unclear of the meaning, but dared not ask Kinoto about it, feeling there was nothing that she could reveal because these words were deemed to be from the gods and only time would tell its meaning.

"Loneliness is a sad feeling," Kinoto continued, getting Mikagero's full attention again, "A lonely heart only exists if one holds onto it, and nothing else. Remember those words." Madoka looked confused, not sure if she was addressing herself or Mikagero or both, but of everyone on the island, she was the least lonely, always surrounded by people.

Having sense a serious need to vent things out from Mikagero, Kinoto said, "Madoka-chan, please leave us for a moment. I have a few things to discuss with Mikagero-sama."

"Okay," the girl said, standing up, and bowed, "Please take care of yourself, Kinoto-sama." The woman nodded, and Madoka exited the home, leaving the women to themselves. She even left the fenced yard and stood near the rocky ledge, stretching her arms into the air. She always felt refreshed when she visited Madame Kinoto like some burden had just disappeared, but she couldn't help but wonder cryptic message.

"Hmm, destiny unbroken," she whispered, lazily staring at the sky. What kind of destiny was out there for her? All her life, she had only known of the island--aptly named Kouhou Island for its hazardous coral reefs--and nothing of the outside world except it was huge and dangerous, filled with lies and dark hearts. The older generation sure had a pessemistic view of things.

She sat down on the ground and pulled her legs up against her, hugging them. Everything seemed to feel right like this journey she was about to embark on as if Fate had written it out for her. She lived so long on the island, but somehow she felt as if she didn't belong there, that her life was meant to be out in that vast world. And her identity, she never questioned it before, but now that she would be able to leave the island, she wanted to find out who her mother was, where she was from... just so many questions, but she knew the answers would be out there. They were out there, she would just have to search for them.

The final morning came when good-byes were said to the six travelers. Kozue was in charge of the mission with her brother, Kazumi, and another friend, Makoto as her aides. Madoka along with Rika and Hisae were the chosen ones approved by Mikagero, and now the one-month journey would put all their hard training to the test, but it be enough for these inexperienced, young women to face the rest of the world?

Set in the small ship that would take them to the mainland, the young girls stood at the bow, waving to the inhabitants of the island. Madoka stood to the side, letting Hisae take the spotlight with her vigorous flapping arms. Her eyes scanned through the crowd and finally rested on Mikagero, who was standing on a high platform with Tokumori and Kanba by her sides. Their violet eyes seemed to lock on each other, and Madoka could hear a mental gasp at seeing for the first time Mikagero appearing distress.

For some reason, the woman's expression was going to make her cry, but she had to be strong because she made a promise to the woman to never cry for anyone, especially a man. But something clicked in her head that she had to get out before it would be a long time until they would see each other again.

Madoka rushed to the front, not meaning to push an annoyed Hisae aside, and shouted as loud as possible, cupping her hands around her mouth, "MIKAGERO-SAMA!!! I'LL BE OKAY!! PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!"

She straightened up again, waving her hand in the air, and it was wonderful to let her feelings out. She smiled when she saw Mikagero responding with a wave of her own. She continued to watch until everyone on the island became a tiny speck and inwardly sighed. Rika placed a reassuring hand on her friend's shoulder and smiled. There was a silent understanding between the best friends, and Madoka nodded and followed Rika into the shelter of the ship, so they could rest until their arrival on mainland.

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The early evening was unusually hot and humid around the mid-autumn season, and it didn't help any better when the streets of Korusha were crowded with its citizens and tourists for the Festival of Light, which was a popular, annual event in the Raifuen Province. The various stands and shoppes were decorated in white and red banners, and each place had a white lantern with the red character of 'light' hung over its welcoming entrance. Debris of firecrackers littered the walkway, where children ran back and forth in sheers of excitement, while adults browsed through the festive items and food.

A girl in her late teens rushed up to a booth selling colorful lanterns, letting her hair bounce after her. "Waaaaai, they're so pretty!" she chirped. She looked over her shoulder and frowned, trying to look for something or someone. She spotted a group of four young men making their way through the crowd, and she noticed that the two youngest ones were trying to hide themselves from her. "Aki-chan!!" she called, waving for them, "Muu-chan!! Hurry up!!"

"Uugh, she spotted us," Akito whispered, keeping his spot at behind a stand selling candies and sweets. He held his dark-blue cape over the lower half of his face as he turned around to his best friend, only to find someone hiding behind a child's bird mask. "Muraji?!" he questioned, "Sorry, have you seen this guy... 'bout my height... blonde hair... carryin' a huge... sword..."

Akito then realized that the person he was speaking to WAS his blonde friend. He pulled the mask down and found Muraji smirking at him. "Idiot, you could've at least hand me one too!" He quickly bought another mask from the man at the neighboring booth and wore it over his face as he ducked near the ground from eye level with Muraji. The pair would be quite a sight, squatting by the booth, but everyone was too busy to notice.

"You think she saw me too?" Muraji asked.

"Uh, she did yell 'Muu-chan' over the crowd."

"Ah, damn. Why couldn't she just went ahead with sensei instead?"

"Yeah, but she always tags along with us guys," Akito reminded him. He pulled the mask back, peering into the streets, "Oh hey, I think we lost Seiichi-san and Mitsuru too."

"No problem. Seiichi did say we were staying at Norial Inn." He slowly stood up, blending in with the crowd, "Let's just get there without Tsubaki seeing us." Akito nodded, trailing right behind his friend. The duo made it to the opposite side of the walkway, keeping their backs faced to Tsubaki who was still looking for them from where she was.

They inched their way conspicuously through the bustling crowd, thinking that they could pull it off, until another familiar voice practically boomed in their ears, "THERE YOU ARE, AKITO!! MURAJI!!" The two were hardly concerned with the man in front of them when their eyes caught an upset Tsubaki stomping her way to them. "Hey, I ran into these gorgeous girls, and they... heh heh, invited me over to their workplace," he snickered, nudging Akito in the back. "They told me to bring friends, so you guys wanna come along?"

"Get real, Mitsuru!" Tsubaki yelled, whacking his head with her bought lantern. "Quit dragging them into your perverted ways!" Then she turned to Akito and Muraji and glared at the masked companions. "And you two! Are you tryin' to avoid me?!" she growled, yanking Akito's mask from his face.

"Ouwe!" he yelped, salvaging his hair from the sudden pain. "What gave you THAT idea," he said sarcastically, rolling his brown eyes. After that remark, she bopped his head too.

Muraji chuckled silently and then counted the heads with them. "Say, if the four of us are here, then where's Seiichi? Did he head over to the inn already?"

"Aaah! Seiichi-san's probably angry at us," Tsubaki panicked. "We better hurry to the inn!" Before Mitsuru could get away for his own business, the girl had already grabbed him by his shirt collar while her other hand clutched Akito's cape and Muraji's short queue. If the crowd would've given the group their attention, then they would've seen a girl running down the street, dragging three, helpless, young men.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A young man about his late twenties sat in the corner of the first-floor dining hall, sipping a cup of tea. He was well dressed in expensive, silk robes, and his dark, long hair was neatly pulled back from his handsome face. He looked up when he sense a group of people entering the inn. He had hoped that it was his little brother and his friends, but it turned out to be six travelers instead.

There was nothing extraordinary about them except for the fact that the younger men were rather frail and petite in appearance, but maybe it was just his imagination. They wore similiar outfits of off-white and dark blue, and some wore hats that tucked in some of their hair from their faces.

He watched them inconspicuously as two older ones left the inn while the rest registered for the night. They headed towards a table isolated from all the other customers present, but one of the travelers--appearing the youngest--seemed to trail behind, taking in all his surroundings first time. He stopped in his tracks, staring at a painting on the wall with awe, and it was then that Tsubaki decided to make the scene, crashing blindedly into the staring, young man.

Mitsuru managed to get off the ground first since he had used Akito and Muraji to push himself up. Akito took it the hardest, having had everyone fall back onto him for cushioning, so he had to have Muraji drag his body from the floor.

"HEY!! WATCH IT!" Tsubaki cried as she had no help standing up. She glared at the stranger, who was alredy dusting himself after the collision.

"You were the one running!" he shouted back at her.

"Well," the girl flushed, "you didn't have to stand there like an idiot!!"

"IDIOT?!" he cried. "Have you looked at yourself?!!"

Tsubaki fumed and would've started a fight if Akito didn't pull on her arm, and the young man was held back by one of his friends. The strangers exchanged some words quietly, and the younger one nodded gloomily. Before he left Tsubaki alone, he turned around and stuck his tongue out at her, causing the girl to fume.

Tsubaki would've said something, but Akito tugged on her arm, saying, "Hey, Seiichi-san's over there." She followed his gaze and found Seiichi in the corner, having seen everything. She trailed behind the three men and sat down at the table in silence, knowing that the older man would scold her for her behaviors.

Meanwhile at the other table, Madoka couldn't help but glare at the rude girl. If it hadn't been for Rika, she would've showed her a thing or two about manners. When their ship arrived on land, Kozue had told them that she and the girls were to disguise themselves as men in order to avoid any attention to them. And so here they were, just the four of them posing as guys while the real ones--Kazumi and Makoto--went ahead towards their next destination to acquire some information. The rest would meet up with them the next day.

Meanwhile at the other table, Madoka couldn't help but glare at the rude girl. If it hadn't been for Rika, she would've showed her a thing or two about manners. When their ship arrived on land, Kozue had told them that she and the girls were to disguise themselves as men in order to avoid any attention to them. And so here they were, just the four of them posing as guys while the real ones--Kazumi and Makoto--went ahead towards their next destination to acquire some information. The rest would meet up with them the next day.

"And the first town we come to, Madoka has to start trouble," Hisae remarked dryly. The said girl just glared at her, puffing up her cheeks in a pout, but her violet eyes caught the dishes of food that arrived at the table (which had been ordered while she was arguing Tsubaki). Hisae rolled her eyes at the childish glee the girl displayed and ate her food while Madoka and Rika were in a whispering conversation.

TO BE CONTINUED... Next chapter, "Strange Attraction."
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Heh, well I hoped you enjoyed this chapter though it may seemed a bit rushed in the second half... gomen. I decided to end it there, so no cliffhanger... Lesse, I don't when the next chapter will be out, but I do know what's gonna happen... more interaction between the two groups of travelers as they move on to their destination... some surprises... some friendships... some romantic interests blooming... and of course, some action! Dedicated to my imouto-chan, Keiko, 'cause she's in need of reading material! [giggling] Hope you like it, Kei-chan!

K-chan =^-^=