Trials of the Junsuikaoni: The Lament of the Dead (Book 3)

Noah has finally embraced his role as leader of the Elite Junsui Hunter Force and together with his team, they've been cleaning up the streets of Hokkaido City and eliminating rogue Bakemon. They've become quite acclaimed and popular, but due to the dangers they faced just six months ago, which resulted in the destruction of much of the Wakaba Prefecture, they've become very exclusive and private, not letting outsiders enter their circle. As they help get the city back on it's feet, their newly accepted ally, Ouran, is hard at work helping Lady Simone build a nation for the newly liberated Reapers all while trying to balance normal life and newfound existence as the Reaper God. The Reapers are finally free of heaven's command, but now the protection they had is gone. This causes unrest in the underworld and once again Noah and his team find themselves facing danger as they help Ouran defeat a new enemy and answer the Lament of the Dead. This is the third chapter of Noah's journey.

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5. Breaking Free

            “This place is amazing!” Nik is excited as he takes in all the sights of the town. They arrived in this town soon after Ouran has finished their story and they moved forward.

            “Only you’d get this excited over something like this Nik. Just grow up already.”

            “Oh come on Mai, loosen up a little. Maybe I need to grow up, but you need to live a little! Let your hair down and have some fun. We’re probably never gonna get to come to the underworld again, so we should take the opportunity to see what it’s got to offer now.”

            “Well we just might get to see it for quite a long time if we don’t get a move on and find Hades’ heart. We’ll be trapped here forever. Think you’ll be as excited then?” Mai is serious.

            “God! Ok then, let’s go be boring and find the stupid heart. Since you’re so serious about it, then please, by all means, lead us to where the heart is. I mean you know everything so….”

            They stare daggers at each other and it causes the others to become tense and so Noah finally decides to diffuse the situation. “Ok guys, enough. We’ve got to keep our heads together and work as a team to find his heart quickly and effectively. Perhaps there is an Inn around we can get information from. Besides, we’re gonna need a place to eat and sleep in case we can’t find his heart by then, which if I’m being honest, I don’t think we will. Ok? Can you do that?”

            They say nothing and turn their heads away from each other, just like a quarreling pair of siblings would after being scolded by their mother. Noah just shakes his head, but says nothing more. Gunther and Lili just watch in silence, feeling it best not to say anything. However, Gunther does say, “Hey, do we even need to eat and sleep here? I’ve been wondering that.”

            “Yea, I’ve been wondering that myself actually. How does living work here Ouran?”

            “Pretty much like anywhere else. Even though you’re not technically “alive” when you’re in this world, you are still living as you would in the mortal world. You will still feel hunger and tired and will experience all your other usual physiological functions, the only difference is you’re not going to die. Even if you deprive yourself of these needs, you’ll continue to live on here, but it will be extremely painful and devastating enough to make you go mad. It’s torture. Only when you reach heaven or hell will these needs cease and will you be truly “dead”. This town is meant to serve as a home for all the unrested souls who can’t or don’t want to move on.”

            “So basically, this is like the start town of an RPG game right? It’s kind of like being sent to a parallel world and having to build up skills and wealth to survive?” Noah is almost excited.

            “Wow, I think this is the closest we’ll get to seeing what Noah’s like when he’s excited. Of course, it would be game talk that brings it out of him. He loves his RPGs.” Nik laughs.

            Ouran finds Noah’s comparison amusing, but also effective. “Yea, you could say that.”

            “Alright then, let’s go find the Inn. It’s always the go to spot for beginners. Ouran, you’ve been here before, so you should know where it is right?” Noah’s eyes seem to gleam.

            Ouran laughs. “I kind of like this somewhat excited version of you Noah. Yea, I know the way. Follow me. Try to stay close, this town is tricky to navigate if you’re not familiar with it.”

            Noah sets pace with Ouran and Arias, feeling as though they are embarking on an adventure and quite happy, though his face gives nothing away. Jove is just behind them, beside Gunther and Lili. They hold hands tightly, each giving the other comfort in this unfamiliar land. Mai trails in the back with Nik, who watches as she tries to pretend she’s not sulking at the sight of them being so lovey-dovey. He knows she’s in her “don’t bother me” state, but he couldn’t call himself her friend if he didn’t say something to piss her off and distract her. “Jelly?”

            She looks at Nik with aggravation and says, “what the hell don’t you understand about wanting to be left alone? I don’t need you to try and cheer me up or anything. I’m a big girl.”

            “Yes, you are a big girl, but a girl all the same. I know that underneath all that rage and feistiness, there’s a cute girl who just wants to walk hand in hand with the girl of her dreams. You’d wear your prettiest dress, which they would complement you on, making you blush. You two would probably go have a picnic in the park and lie among the flowers as you cloud gazed. Maybe you’d look over at them and catch them staring at you and you’d gaze into each other’s eyes forever. Maybe they’d lean in for a kiss, since you’d be far too embarrassed to make a move and maybe you’d make out a bit, hell maybe you’d go all the way if they were bold enough and finally you’d nap together and wake up under the stars. You’d be lost in a world all your own. It’d be just you and them. You wouldn’t have to be the “Prince” everyone expects you to be. Why pretend to be a prince, when you’ve always wanted and been meant to be a princess?” Mai stops abruptly and looks down at the ground. Her face becomes dark and her hands tremble.

            “…you. Why can’t you just….” She clenches her fists at her side. “…leave me alone!” She yells out as she falls to her knees on the ground, clutching her head. She continues to tremble and hearing her soft sobs, Nik realizes she’s crying. He gets on his knees too and hugs her.

            This scene gets the attention of some people around them and of the others who’ve now turned to see what’s happening. “Nik, what’s happened? What’s wrong with Mai?” Noah asks.

            He looks up at him and says, “It’s fine Noah, I’ve got this. You guys go on without us; we’ll catch up in a bit. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to figure it out with Mai’s brains.”

            “Ouran said we should stick together though Nik. If you guys got lost-.” Gunther stops short upon feeling someone touch his arm, it’s Noah. He shakes his head, telling him no.

            He turns back to Nik. “Ok then, I’ll trust you two to make it to the Inn safely then, but don’t delay too long. If you’re not there in an hour, we’re coming back for you, got it?”

            “Yea, make sure you get us some good grub, I’m starting to get pretty damn hungry.”

            Noah chuckles and then turns forward. “Come on, let’s keep moving.” He sees Lili look back at them with sadness and she starts to walk towards them, but Noah calls her back. “Lili.”

            She looks at him and can see his look is insisting she follow along, but she also feels she needs to comfort Mai because she’s pretty sure what’s happening is her fault. “Mai….”

            Gunther takes her hand, but shares her sad expression. “I understand how you feel, I kind of left Nik out in the cold too. You shouldn’t blame yourself, I share some of the blame too.”

            “No ones to blame.” They both turn in response to Noah’s voice. “No one has control over who they fall in love with. You two found the love you needed with each other and have become better for it. You shouldn’t blame yourselves for that or feel regret over it. It’s unfortunate that they got hurt in the process, but that’s their problem to overcome. You two did nothing wrong, so cut it out with the shame already. I think this was a long time coming for her, no matter if you two got together or not. It’s just something she needs to work through. Nik’s there to help her do that, so let’s just trust him and leave it to him. We’ve got things to do.” They look back in sadness once more, but then do as they are told and follow Noah and the others. Jove looks at Ouran and Arias, the three feeling the awkwardness of the situation. However, they say nothing as it’s not their business and continue on with everyone else to the Inn.

            “It’s not fair.” Mai speaks through her tears. “I was there from the very beginning. I was the first one to meet her, the first one she opened up to, the one who always kept her safe. I knew how broken she was and I felt that only a prince could save her from her pain and sadness. I thought that was what she liked about me. The false image I constructed because it was easier to do then deal with the ridicule of my classmates. I was this gallant prince to them, when I only thought I was being myself. I was being nice and just wanted to help others, but I wasn’t trying to be a hero! But then I met Lili and felt she needed a hero. So I figured, if I was going to pretend anyway, I might as well use it to my advantage to get closer to her. It worked, it worked really well and we became really close, but I thought our bond was different than what she saw it as. I thought that I just needed to keep being her prince until she finally realized what true love was. Maybe I was foolish, for believing in fairytales, but I thought we could be one. The prince meets the princess, they slowly fall in love and when the time was right they’d come together. I thought I had time. I never thought that I was every competing with anyone else. I knew Noah wasn’t serious and I always thought Gunther was too much of a playboy to take an interest in her. I can’t even be mad at him though, because he’s actually a great guy, a total sweetheart who’s never been anything but nice to me. Even when I was a bitch to everyone, he never let it get to him. Seeing them together now makes me realize that she really was waiting for her prince charming to swoop down and save her. It’s just that the prince wasn’t me, but someone much better.”

            She continues to cry, the tears starting to fall even harder. Nik had been listening compassionately and now takes her head into his arms in a hug, allowing it to rest on his chest. This makes her cry even harder and her sobs become louder. As she cries, he says, “of course you weren’t her prince. I just said it didn’t I? How could you possibly be a prince when you were born a princess? You’re a princess who’s looking for a princess of her own. Lili is a princess who was looking for her prince. So naturally, she could have never been the princess you were looking for any more than you could be her prince. However, that doesn’t mean your efforts were wasted. You helped Lili open up to us in a way I don’t think she ever could have alone. If it hadn’t been for you, I don’t think she’d ever been comfortable enough to talk to Gunther, let alone date him. You were the one who healed her wounds. You were the one that made her feel safe and confident in her own skin. You were just as important to her wellbeing as Gunther is now. Yes, she may be IN love with Gunther, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. I’m certain you’ve always been and will always be her most precious person, her precious friend.”

            Having finally said the key words to get through to her, Mai clutches on to Nik’s shirt and begins to cry more intensely, her sobs turning into audible cries. With each tear, years of pain, suffering and sadness seem to flow out of her and it feels as though her shoulders are getting lighter. The weight is literally being lifted off her shoulders, having finally been given permission to let go of the façade and be herself. She no longer has to be strong or brave or a prince she never wanted to be. She knows Lili is ok now, is happy now and no longer needs her. Although it hurts and is sad, it’s also the most liberating thing she’s ever felt. She became cold to the world because she felt they would never like her as she was, but instead as a machine. Someone who lived and breathed to meet the expectations of others, no better than a robot slave. However, at last, Nik’s given her the release she needed to finally start thinking of herself. She’s not going to do what other’s want her to do, she’s not going to be who they want her to be. She’s going to be herself, from now and forever and she’s not going to hide the important parts of herself. She’s not going to deny herself anymore, which means she also has to stop running away. All this time, she’s just been running from the truth. “Nik…I’m gay. Like super gay.”

            Nik laughs. “Well duh! Tell me something I didn’t know. Feels good to say it right?”

            “Yea, it feels really good actually. I’m probably as much of a lesbian as you could get.”

            “You’re like the queen of lesbians. Don’t think I didn’t notice the way you looked at other girls. I don’t even think you realized how much you undressed them with your eyes.”

            “You know; I think I always knew Lili wasn’t. I think I was hoping I could change her.”

            “Well yea, I figured as much. No one tries that hard to be like a guy unless they knew that’s what their person of interest wanted. You desperately tried to be her prince, but couldn’t.”

            “I’m an idiot aren’t I? To hang on to what I knew realistically was never gonna happen?”

            “No, you are human. We can all be idiots from time to time, I would know, but you are no idiot Mai. You’re a badass, hot, genius girl who can be just as cute and you are fierce. You can be a warrior on the battlefield and a princess off it. You don’t need to be a man to be both.”

            “Who knew you could be such a sweet talker. If only I were a man or you were a woman, I just might have fallen for you, but it does nothing for me now. Really though Nik, thank you.”

            “I’ll send my bill in the mail.” They start cracking up, both finally feeling free and happy.

***

            “Well, here we are.” Ouran gestures towards the surroundings of the Inn. It looks like an Inn of a classic RPG, with a pub environment, the counter in the center serving as the reception.

            Noah’s eyes almost sparkle in excitement. “This is so cool. When I was a kid, I always wished that I could live in a fantasy world like my games. I know that no one’s walking around in armor and stuff, but still, the environment is close enough. It’s a dream come true.”

            “Well I can get your excitement Noah, but this is not the most ideal world to live out that fantasy. If you want to experience a real RPG fantasy world, there are a few places in the Bakemon world I could recommend. Maybe I’ll take you to a place when things get back to normal. But to do that, we need to find that heart. So, we should try and find out information.”

            “Your right. Sorry, I got a bit away from myself.” He’s serious again. “Let’s speak to the Inn keeper, I’m sure they could give us some information.” He walks up to the counter.

            A burly man who had been looking down at some documents finally looks up once he realizes Noah is there and although Noah assumed he was a normal human, he realized he wasn’t once he made contact with his single eye. The cyclops frowns and says, “can I help you?”

            “Yea…uh, we’re looking for some information. We’re looking for Hades’ heart.” The entire Inn becomes silent and all eyes are on Noah, who suddenly feels as though he messed up.

            Ouran shakes his head with a sigh and Arias says, “You idiot! Don’t just ask about it!”

            The cyclops stands up and with an aggressive stance says, “I don’t know who you people are, but I think you better be going. No good’s gonna come from anyone asking about that.”

            “No, I didn’t mean to-.” Ouran steps in front of Noah and does some damage control.

            “Forgive my friend here, he’s new around here and is just a bit too excited. We were hoping to get some rooms. You see, we’re going to be here for at least a day or two and so we wanted to get a place we could rest after our long days of work. So, what do you say?”

            The cyclops man still looks at them in suspicion, but realizing that Ouran has clearly been around before and is familiar with the world, he backs down and looks in his book. “We’ve only got four rooms available, so some of you will have to pair up. Daily breakfast is included.”

            “That’ll be perfect. We actually have a couple of others coming, so it’ll be 2 per room.”

            “Fine. You’ll have to pay the first night upfront and security deposit. 200 each a night.”

            Noah whispers to Ouran. “We don’t have any money on us. I didn’t think we’d need it.”

            Ouran smiles. “It’s fine, I’ve come well prepared. Besides, your human money is useless here.” Ouran reaches for a pouch at their side and drops it on the counter. “That’s a hefty price.”

            “Yea well, blame it on inflation. 200 hundred for each room plus an additional 200 for the security, brings your total to 1000 coppers. Any additional nights will be 800 per night and you’ll get your security deposit back when you check out. Housekeeping is included as well.”

            “Very well. Here’s 1000 coppers plus an extra 100 for your trouble.” Ouran pays him.

            He seems to become a bit less aggressive and says, “thank you. Here’s your keys. Your rooms are on the top floor, the only four up there. Please enjoy your stay and have a good day.”

            “Thank you Sir. You have a good day as well.” Ouran takes the keys and then turns back to Noah and the others. “Well, we’ve got ourselves some rooms. Now we just need to pair up.”

            Noah looks regretful and says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make things difficult for you.”

            “It’s fine Noah, I don’t blame you for anything. You didn’t know how things work here.”

            “I’ll reimburse you too for the rooms. I’m not sure if I could exchange our money or-.”

            “Noah, calm down. It’s really ok. I’ve got a lot of money saved up from those odd jobs I mentioned earlier, so this really isn’t going to break me. Besides, I owe you guys big time for even being here to help me, that’s payment enough for me. Just let me take care of things.”

            “Ok, I’ll leave it to you then. As for pairing up, I think we should wait for Nik and Mai.”

            “Well then the wait is over, as we have arrived!” Nik and Mai walk up to them.

            “Oh you guys made it here pretty quickly, I’m actually impressed. Everything ok now?”

            Noah looks at Mai as he says this and she actually smiles slightly. “Yea, I’m ok now.”

            Noah’s eyebrows raise and he looks at Nik. “Wow, I don’t know how you did it, but good job at making Mai actually crack a smile. Perhaps you’ve got the makings of a therapist.”

            “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not devoting my life to helping people deal with their crappy lives. I’m going to be on top of the world, the greatest leader there ever was. Just you wait.”

            As Noah and Nik laugh, Lili runs over to Mai. “Mai! I’m happy you’re ok now!”

            Lili hugs Mai tightly like always and rests her head on her chest. Normally Mai would wrap her arms around Lili and return her embrace, but her hands stay at her sides. “Lili don’t.”

            “Mai?” Lili is confused at Mai’s unusual behavior. Mai gently places her hands on her shoulders and pushes her way. However, her face isn’t angry, but surprisingly gentle.

            She walks over to Noah and says, “So, how are we going to do this pairing up thing?”

            “Mai…?” Lili can tell that Mai has changed so much in just that short span of time she was gone and it makes her feel unsettled. She’s never pushed her away like that before, even if she were angry. But she’s not angry and almost seemed a bit happy, but it wasn’t because of her.

            “What’s wrong Lili?” Gunther comes over to her with a concerned expression.

            “I’m fine it’s just…well, doesn’t Mai seem different to you? She seems distant.”

            “Really? If anything, I’d say she’s closer than before. She’s actively conversing with them rather than standing off to the side waiting to be given an order. She seems at peace.”

            Now that he mentions it, Lili sees what Gunther means. Mai is socializing with everyone and has more enthusiasm than she normally did. The only one she’s distant from is Lili. “Why?”

            Before Gunther could say anything in response, Noah says, “Ok guys, we’ve figured out a way to pair up. It’s a stupid way, but we felt it be the easiest and fairest way. However, we all agree that Gunther and Lili should be exempt from this and automatically get a room together.”

            “You don’t have to Noah. We can play fair and square like everyone else.” Gunther says.

            “No it’s fine Gunther, we’d rather it be that way. I appreciate your willingness though.”

            “I got them master!” Arias walks up to Ouran and hands them something.

            “Thank you Arias.” Ouran turns around and in their hand are straws. “Ok, so here we are. We’ve got six straws here that I’ve mixed around in my hand. Their spouts are lined by a color, two of each. Everyone will pick one and the two who share the same color will pair up. Simple.”

            “This really is a stupid game.” Mai says this, but despite this is smiling and picks first.

            “Alright, Mai picked blue. Who’s next?” Ouran sounds like an announcer of a show.

            “I’ll go! Ladies first right?” Arias jumps in front of Nik. “I got blue too! It’s destiny!”

            “Aw come on, as if you didn’t already single it out. You always planned to pick the same as Mai.” Arias sticks her tongue out at Nik, ignoring his accusation. “I got red, real funny guys.”

            “I guess I’ll pick next.” Jove reaches in and pulls a straw. “I also got red.” He eyes Nik.

            Nik grins. “Alright, maybe this game isn’t so rigged after all. Let’s get along roomie.”

            “Yea…ok.” Jove agrees nervously, unsure of how this situation is going to turn out.

            “Well, I guess I don’t even need to pick do I?” Noah picks anyway. “Yellow, same as you Ouran. I guess we’re roomies for a few days. It’ll be like that camping trip we never had.”

            “Yea, it’s sure to be a fun night. Anyway, what do you say we go check out our rooms and take a breather before we start searching around? I think it’d be best if we spend the day getting to know this town and the people more. There’s bound to be someone who’ll know some information, but we can’t just go and ask them. We’ve got to make ourselves seem like them. So I know we’re all eager to hurry and find what we need, but this is necessary for our success. Don’t think of it like a vacation, but rather an undercover job that just happens to be fun.”

            “You don’t have to tell me twice! I’m starving. Please tell me we can get some food.”

            “Of course Nik, everything’s on me. In fact, I’m sure we’re all pretty hungry, so how about we meet back here in ten so we can get some food? They’ve got some good stuff here.”

            “Sweet! Come on Jove, let’s go check out our room!” Nik grabs Jove’s hand before he can even respond and drags him along up the stairs.

            Ouran chuckles. “Nik is such a hyperactive guy when he gets excited. I think he’s going to give Jove a run for his money. I can’t say I’m not happy about that though, Jove needs it.”

            “Yea, Nik is a fireball, literally and will definitely get Jove out of his shell, but if I’m being honest, I’m a bit worried for him. Nik is a sweet guy at heart, but he’s been struggling a bit with his emotions ever since Theo. He’s been celibate since then and Jove will be the first guy he’s been in such close contact with in months. I’m concerned that may prove a bit difficult for Nik to deal with and that Jove might get caught up in his unstable condition. Especially since…, well you may not have noticed, but I know my team pretty well. Nik’s kind of been eying him ever since they met. I’m not saying he’ll hurt him or anything, but if Jove isn’t in to that….”

            “I appreciate your concern Noah, but don’t worry. Jove isn’t as weak as he looks and he’s not completely oblivious either. I know him pretty well too and even though he’s never actually dated a guy, or anyone really, I can definitely say he’s not totally opposed to the idea. I mean, he fell in love with me after all. He’s not going to do anything he doesn’t want to do, so I think we should just leave them be and let them deal with whatever may happen between them alone.”

            “You’re right. I guess we can’t baby them forever huh? God, I sound like Tahno, gross.” They laugh together and then decide to go check out their room. Arias tagged along with them, not needing to see her room since she’s seen what they’re like from before. Gunther and Lili also make their way to their room, but just before they go in, Mai calls out to Lili from her doorway.

            “Lili, could I talk to you for a minute please?” She asks genuinely with a smile.

            “Mai…Yes, sure you can!” She turns to Gunther, “I’m gonna go talk to Mai a bit.”

            “Of course, I’ll just meet you guys downstairs then. We’re gonna need a table anyway.”

            She smiles at him in thanks and then runs over to Mai, who gestures for her to come in. Lili sits on the bed and then turns to Mai. “So, are you really feeling ok? You seem strange.”

            Lili expects that Mai is going to sit beside her, but instead she sits in the desk chair. “I feel really good actually. I feel better than I have in a really long time Lili, which is why I needed to speak with you. I’m sure you’ve been aware of the feelings I’ve had for you and how painful it was for me when I started to realize you didn’t feel the same way. I’ve loved you since we met.”

            Lili looks a bit sad. “I know. I finally understood your feelings after all that time and I really wanted to return them…but I just couldn’t. I hated that I couldn’t, but that’s how it was. Then Gunther confessed to me and even though I’d finally realized I had fallen in love with him too, I couldn’t accept his confession right away. Part of it was really because I wasn’t quite ready, but that wasn’t the only reason. I never told anyone, but I also waited so long to accept his confession because I wanted to figure out my feelings for you. I had to constantly ask myself, could I love you that way? Is it really my trauma that’s preventing me from accepting your feelings or is it really that I just don’t love you in that way? I searched and searched within myself for the answer and I kept coming up with the same answer. I loved you, I needed you in my life and I always wanted you to be by my side, but I just couldn’t be your girlfriend. I hated myself for being so selfish. For wanting you to keep giving me your everything, when I couldn’t give you what you wanted in return. I felt even worse after I accepted Gunther’s confession because it felt like I was betraying you somehow. Even now, I still feel like a bad person.”

            Mai looks at Lili with sympathy and finally gets up to hug her. “Thank you Lili, thank you for being so honest. I always knew that you didn’t feel that way about me, yet I kept trying to force it. I wouldn’t let you be free to be with who you wanted with no regrets. If anyone was selfish it was me and I’m really sorry for that. I’m sorry for making            you feel guilty over it.”

            “Well that settles it then. We’ll just continue to be friends and continue on like always.”

            “However, I can’t continue to stand by your side. I can’t be your Prince anymore.”

            Lili’s eyes go wide and she looks at Mai with confusion as Mai lets go of her. “Mai… what do you mean? We can still be friends. You’re my best friend Mai. That’ll never change.”

            “You’re my best friend too Lili and no, it won’t change, but even still, I can’t stay with you, not right now. I need you to give me space and time to move on. As long as you are next to me, I’m going to continue to be blinded by your beauty and I’ll never be able to let you go.”

            “Then don’t let me go. We’ve been doing just fine all this time, so what’s different?”

            “I’M different. I’ve changed into someone who isn’t going to hide themselves anymore. I’m not going to wear this mask any longer. It was only you Lili, it was you who’s been doing fine all this time. I however, have been suffering every day for the past six years. Watching you go from Noah, to no one, to Gunther, all while completely ignoring how I was feeling. I don’t blame you though and I’m not angry anymore, but I’ve already given you six years of my life, I can’t give you anymore. I’m going to start living for myself, the way I want to live. To do that, I need to let you go, but I can’t let you go unless I’m away from you. So that’s why I need to distance myself from you. I will continue to be your valuable team member and help you if you need it, but I’m not going to be your savior anymore. Please understand my feelings. That’s all.”

            Lili looks at Mai with an expression of shock and devastation, unable to believe that she’s serious. “Mai, you can’t really mean that. Are you serious? Is that really what you want?”

            “It’s really what I want. No, it’s what I need. Besides, you have Gunther now.”

            “Yea of course but that doesn’t mean I don’t still need you. I need you Mai!”

            “That’s where the problem lies Lili. You need me, but you don’t want me. I can’t do it. You can’t have it all Lili. Have a little mercy on me. Anyway, we shouldn’t keep them waiting.”

            She starts to walk out the door, but then suddenly feels Lili wrap her arms around her waist. “No! You can’t do this Mai. I won’t let you! You’re mine and only mine! I won’t let you!”

            “That’s not your decision to make, now let go.” She struggles to push her off. “Let go!” She finally breaks out of her grip, but Lili catches her leg, dragging her back down. “Lili…!” They struggle back and forth, Lili grabbing on again each time Mai breaks free until she finally has enough. “Dammit Lili I said let go already!” Mai pushes Lili with much more force, causing her to fall backwards. Mai momentarily regrets it, but then realizes she can’t back down. “I’m sorry.” She opens the door and finally gets out, ignoring Lili’s cries and pleas behind her.

            “Mai, what’s going on?” Gunther stands in the hall with the others who’re concerned.

            She looks at Gunther and says, “You should go, your girlfriend needs you now.”

            Gunther enters the room, closing the door behind him and the others just look on in silence. Finally, Noah says, “well, uh…Gunther said he found a table in the back. We were just heading there now.” He waits nervously for her to reply, unsure of what else to say.

            “Well, we should head down there then, we wouldn’t want to lose it. Lead the way.”

            “Uh, right.” Noah, Ouran and Arias lead the group, heading down the stairs first.

            Nik trails back with Mai and casually says, “you did the right thing you know.”

            She doesn’t look at him, but she simply responds with, “I know I did.” They say nothing more and follow the others down the stairs. If Mai had been who she was even just a few hours ago, she’d be running back to her to apologize. But she’s not that Mai anymore. She’s not that Prince. She’s a warrior princess and she’s not going to let anyone tie her down, not ever again. She’s finally breaking free and one day she’s going to find that destined princess of her own.

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