Chapter 2 [TFHB]

Chapter 02: Flight or Fight

Mikazuki sneaked in unnoticeably behind a group of well-clad young men, trying his best to blend in with them. Night had fallen while they were being chased all over the city by his guards and it looked like they might have finally given them the slip.

Unlike the other parts of town, this particular section was only just beginning to come alive. Red paper lanterns hung along the streets, gently swaying in the breeze and casting an ethereal glow about them. The stillness of the night was penetrated by the sounds of the lute and the zither, their hauntingly beautiful melodies lingering in the air. Up ahead, lovely courtesans dressed in alluring silks gazed invitingly into the crowd, beckoning them toward their establishment.

Here was Ren city’s famous red-light district, the Flower Palace.

Though the night was young, the streets were full of people both male and female, all clothed in finery. The jewels that adorned them sparkled and shone as if flaunting their owners’ wealth and the air was filled with the scent of floral fragrances. Here, they did not stand out as much even though they were dressed in attire befitting the palace.

“Your Highness, what are we doing here?!” A hushed whisper.

Mikazuki glanced at Yasusada, a teasing smile slowly making its way across his face. “Why, of course we’re here to have a taste of Ren city’s renowned Celestial Flowers.”

“C-C-Celestial Flowers? You mean the courtesans from the Celestial Garden?!”


Yasusada’s eyes widened. He could feel a blush creeping up his neck even as he reeled back from the shock. Sure, Mikazuki was mischievous and could be flighty at times, but he was never this wild, this wilful. “Your Highness! This is madness! You have to remain chaste for your marriage to Lord Sanjou!”

“Chaste?” Mikazuki scoffed. “It is nothing but a political alliance. Infidelity is to be expected.”


“No more buts! And stop with the ‘Highness’. It’s Mikazuki for you.” His expression softened. “I know you mean well Yasusada, but this is my last chance to do whatever my heart desires. Come summer next year…” Mikazuki trailed off with a faraway look in his eyes.

For a moment, Yasusada thought he caught a glimpse of wistfulness in that elegant profile. Then it was gone.

“I will do my duty. You know I will.”

Remembering that hint of sadness on Mikazuki’s face, Yasusada sighed and gave in. “Alright,” he said at last. “I won’t say anymore, Your Hi- I mean, Mikazuki.”

Hearing this, Mikazuki’s face broke into a delighted smile. “Great! Now that that’s settled… let’s go!”

Running through the Flower Palace was a long, glistening lake covered in an abundance of exquisite water lilies. Famed for the beauty of the flowers, the lake was the jewel of the city. Hence the name “Ren”. Located near the end of the lake was the renowned brothel Celestial Garden which they headed to now.

As they approached the brothel, Mikazuki slowed his pace and lifted his head for a better view. Built like a mansion, the Celestial Garden was made up of a multi-inclined roof and three storeys of burnished wood. Beautiful courtesans, both male and female, could be seen throughout the mansion, pouring wine or playing various instruments. Some were already heading towards the private rooms located in the back with their guests for a long night of passion.

“Enchanting, isn’t it?”

“Y-Yeah.” A wide-eyed glazed look.

Mikazuki laughed. “Stop with that innocent look or you’ll be mistaken for a country bumpkin.” Saying that, he swept past the still stunned Yasusada and headed towards the entrance of the Celestial Garden.

They were ushered to a table on the second floor balcony. It was an open airy corner that overlooked the entire Flower Palace – definitely one of the best tables in the Celestial Garden. The doorman had given Mikazuki a once over, took in the heavy silk fabric of his clothes and the jewels that adorned his hair and immediately called a few courtesans over to escort them for the evening.

Light gauzy curtains sectioned off their table from the rest of the mansion, giving them a semblance of privacy. Soft cushions and peach blossoms adorned the balcony, and there was a jar of expensive-looking wine placed on the center of the table which they promptly helped themselves to as they settled into the comfortable seats.

Taking out a bamboo flute from the folds of his sleeve, Mikazuki begun to play a soulful tune, one full of yearning and youthful passions. The courtesans fluttered about the both of them, pouring wine and serving snacks while sighing over the “Young Master’s” skillful playing.

Mikazuki sipped leisurely at his wine and rested his body against the balcony. The view was stunning from up here and he could enjoy the night breeze. If he closed his eyes, he could almost pretend he was flying…

A calm settled over him.

He would take this chance to explore the world beyond the palace and have this freedom, even if only for a fleeting moment. When the time came for his marriage, he would return to fulfil his duties. But for now…

Heart resolute, he opened his eyes. As his vision came back into focus, he noticed a pair of dark eyes staring up at him from the streets below. A pair of eyes belonging to a man with very familiar looking red garments.

His gut clenched. It was the guards. Again. “Shit,” he muttered. “I thought they were gone.”

He glanced back to the table. Yasusada had apparently heard him and had already stood up. With a slight tilt of his head, Mikazuki made to head back into the mansion. Across him, Yasusada nodded and followed suit.

They brushed past the curtains and stepped indoors. It had already been awhile since they were spotted. Sounds could be heard coming from the floor below, of boots clattering and heavy footsteps on the stairs.

A dark head popped into view as the guard ascended to the second floor, with two others right on his heels. Unlike before, this time there was no hesitation. The guards immediately headed towards them, a grim look on their faces.

Glancing back, Mikazuki noticed that the courtesans had trailed behind them and were now wearing confused expressions.

“Young Masters, where -” one of them began when he was abruptly cut off.

“Pardon me.” Mikazuki apologised before grabbing the delicate looking male and sending him right into the arms of their pursuers. The young man gave a startled yelp as he lost his balance and began to fall.


“It couldn’t be helped!”

They spun on their heels and started to run in the opposite direction. Turning his head around, Mikazuki caught a glimpse of a guard catching the young man before he could tumble to the ground. The remaining two guards deftly stepped aside and began to give chase.

They flew past the corridors and rounded a bend before entering a large sitting area. It was filled with customers tonight and courtesans could be seen entertaining their guests while they dined on their food.

From the entrance of the dining room, Mikazuki caught a glimpse of a well-hidden discreet stairwell at the far end of the building. It was likely used for patrons who intended to spend the night in the mansion. If they could just make it there…

Their pursuers were hot on their trails and had almost caught up to them. They needed a distraction.

Mikazuki looked around wildly for a moment before whisking a jar of sake out of the arms of a nearby waiter and hurling it towards the guards. Then it was a plate, a bowl and a few wine cups which he sent sailing through the air before they were running once again for the door at the other end.

Ignoring the screams and the sounds of porcelain being shattered, Mikazuki and Yasusada continued to make their way through the crowd, pausing every now and then to hurl yet another finely crafted piece of pottery behind them.

The sounds of the guards cursing could be heard over the din. It was utter chaos.

Glancing back, Mikazuki watched as Yasusada sent an entire tea set careening into the path of their pursuers who promptly ducked. Of course they did.

Beside him, Mikazuki could hear his faithful companion muttering to himself. Straining his ears, he thought he caught the phrase “an utter waste”.

He chuckled. “And still you threw that entire tea set?”

That earned him a glare. “And whose fault do you think that is?!”

Mikazuki grinned mischievously. “Alright alright, the blame is on me.”

Yasusada huffed and pushed open the doors to reveal a connecting bridge. Just beyond that was the guests’ sleeping quarters and the stairwell. And freedom.

They ran across the bridge.

Halfway through, they heard the sounds of running footsteps from behind them. The guards had caught up to them and aside from a few scrapes, were looking otherwise unharmed.

“At this rate, we’ll be caught.” Yasusada observed.

Mikazuki paused. “You’re right” he said before turning towards the red paper lanterns that were lighting the bridge from both sides. With a hard yank, he broke the string holding them in place and sent the lanterns flying towards the guards.

As the lanterns landed haphazardly on the ground before them, the candles began to burn through the paper to create a small blaze. The line of fire quickly blocked the guards’ access to them.

“That’ll take them a while to put out. Let’s hurry.”

One of the guards had already shrugged off his coat and began snuffing out the flames. They raced the rest of the way over the bridge and entered the sleeping quarters.

“Which way out?” Yasusada gasped out.


Yasusada turned and grabbed the door nearest to them and threw it wide open before letting out a shocked gasp and blushing furiously.

Before them, a handsome, finely-chiselled man and a courtesan were spread out across a large bed and in the throes of passion, their bodies entwined together intimately.

The man turned at the commotion, his long luxurious white hair making a slight swishing sound. A pair of vermillion eyes looked over in their direction, glowing ever-so-slightly in the dark.

Those eyes caught and held Mikazuki’s eyes for a few seconds. He could feel his pulse speeding up and the sound of his heartbeat thundered in his ears as he stared at the handsome features of the man, unable to tear his eyes away. It was as if he was drowning in those twin red orbs…

“Sorry! Wrong door!” Yasusada muttered beside him and slammed the door shut.

Mikazuki shook himself out of his trance-like state. He could feel his cheeks burning in embarrassment, much like Yasusada’s.

Without a word to each other, they made for the hidden stairwell through the next door.


“Here.” Mikazuki said when they were a few streets away, leading the way into a darkened alley well hidden from sight. The plants growing around the entrance should be enough to provide cover for the both of them. “I spotted this alley when we walked past here this afternoon.”

They had barely managed to flatten their bodies against the wall when sounds of running footsteps came floating by. Mikazuki tensed up slightly, holding his breath. From the corner of his eye, he could see Yasusada’s rigid body, tension etched in every inch of his being.

The sounds of running footsteps were getting closer and closer.

“Just go straight ahead and walk past us,” Mikazuki prayed silently. Peering out cautiously from their hiding place, he could just barely make out the silhouette of two figures heading past the entrance of the alley before finally disappearing from sight.

After a moment or two of fraught silence, Mikazuki and Yasusada let out identical breaths of relief and slid to the ground with their backs still against the wall. Glancing at Yasusada, Mikazuki suddenly felt the absurdity of their situation descending upon him.

All that running about had turned Yasusada’s hair into a rat’s nest – there were loose strands flying all around and a few leaves had even made their way into it. A quick look at his clothes showed that it was rumpled all over and revealed a few dirty smudges on the billowy sleeves of his robe.

He probably looked just as bad.

“That was surprisingly fun,” Mikazuki said laughing breathlessly as he gently plucked the leaves off Yasusada’s hair. His eyes were twinkling and the colour was high in his cheekbones.

For a moment, Yasusada silently stared at the leaves in Mikazuki’s outstretched hand before joining him in laughter.

“We should probably go,” Mikazuki said, though he made no move to stand up.

“Yes we should,” Yasusada agreed. He got to his feet and dusted his clothing before offering a hand to Mikazuki.

“Let’s try to find an inn for now. It’s too quiet here and there are often unsavoury characters in this part of town at this time of the night.”

“Alright,” Mikazuki said and hoisted himself up with Yasusada’s help.

The sound of a twig snapping suddenly broke the silence of the night and a shadow covered the entrance to the alley, blocking the light from the moon. In mere moments, the entire alley was engulfed in darkness.

Glancing up, Mikazuki could just make out the faint silhouette of four, no five, men standing in front of them.

The group of men moved forward, coming closer to them allowing some moonlight to filter through the entrance. Mikazuki noticed that they were all well-muscled and were carrying weapons on their backs. His guard was now up and he watched them warily as they approached.

There was a movement to his side as Yasusada placed himself between Mikazuki and the men. Mikazuki had a moment to feel touched over that protective gesture before turning his attention back to the men.

One look at them and he could tell that they harboured ill intentions. These were men who had lived for years on the streets and bore scars on their bodies as evidence. Men who probably killed and stole for a living.

Their leader, the one standing in the middle, stepped forward, looking very much like a cat stalking its prey.

He had a very large build and Mikazuki counted at least four daggers strapped to his forearms and a sword across his back. A long jagged scar ran down his face beginning from the temple down his left eye and ending right above his upper lip, giving him a menacing look.

“Hello my darlings,” he said, leering at them with a sinister grin.

“What do you want?” Mikazuki said, lifting his chin slightly and using his haughtiest voice as he stepped out to stand beside Yasusada.

“What do I want eh?” The leader smirked. “Looks like we have quite the feisty one here boys.” It was a mocking tone and the men behind him sniggered.

He leaned forward slightly and made a show of raking Mikazuki up and down with his remaining eye. A hand came up to grip him roughly by the chin and forced his head up. “Indeed you are a real beauty,” he murmured. “You should be worth ten thousand silvers at least.”

This close, Mikazuki could feel a hot puff of breath on his face as he spoke, and along with it, a strong unpleasant odour of garlic and rotten meat. He fought back the urge to gag and jerked his head away, out of his grasp.

By his side, he could feel Yasusada fairly trembling with rage. “How dare you lay your filthy hands on the prince!” he hissed.

“Oh, the prince is it? I’m so scared…” The leader pretended to shiver in fear before his expression settled back into his usual sneer. He obviously did not believe a word that was said. “If the prince looked anything like that… mmm I’ll have him moaning in bed under me within seconds.”

He rubbed his crotch lasciviously while the men laughed and let out catcalls. They were so preoccupied that they failed to notice when Yasusada unsheathed his knife. He lunged forward and managed to land a slice across the leader’s forearm before he could react.

With a yelp, the leader leaped back out of range of the knife and made sure to put a good distance before him and Yasusada. He paused to examine the cut which was still dripping with fresh blood. A dark look passed over his features. “You will pay for that,” he promised.

He subtly glanced back towards his men and warned in a low voice, “Make sure you brutes don’t scratch their faces! It’ll bring down the price.”

That was all the warning they got before the five men launched themselves on the both of them in a flurry of sharp knife edges and glinting metal.

A dagger came slashing at Mikazuki from his right and he nimbly ducked it while bringing his foot up to connect to the arm of his attacker and send the dagger flying. The man cried out in pain as he stumbled back, clutching his bruised wrist and gazing at Mikazuki warily.

Mikazuki had barely managed to regain his breath when he felt a prickle at the nape of his neck that warned him of an impending attack from behind. His battle instincts kicked in and Mikazuki sidestepped it gracefully, a wicked looking blade slashing at the empty spot where he was standing just moments before.

“That was close,” he panted, grinning up at his attacker in mischief as he dodged yet another blow. “I was almost cleaved into half.” A taunt. The man growled in frustration.

Mikazuki could almost feel the waves of anger surging off him.

From the corner of his eye, he could see the first thug approaching him again with his dagger. Mikazuki took a few steps back, making sure to keep a few feet between himself and both his attackers as they started circling him once more. Eyes trailed the length of his body, as if assessing his physique and gauging his strength.

He smirked. The men probably thought that he was some helpless, rich, young master who would not pose as a threat to them. They could not have been more wrong. He was not some damsel in distress who needed rescuing.

They came at him again, both at once this time, forcing Mikazuki to retreat backwards in order to avoid the sharp blades that were aimed straight at him, each one closer than the last. There was a thud as his back hit the wall, the force of it strong enough to knock the wind from him. He barely had a second to react before his attackers’ blades were descending on him once more.

A blade caught in the folds of his sleeves and slipped downwards, slicing the cloth into strips, barely missing Mikazuki’s skin. He took that moment to drop to the ground, rolling as he did and managing to avoid the daggers that were sent swishing through the air in his direction.


Hearing the concerned cry, Mikazuki got quickly got to his feet and threw a quick glance at Yasusada’s way. “I’m alright,” he called. He had just been a little careless. In fact if he was honest with himself, he was actually enjoying this little bout. Shouts and grunts could be heard as Yasusada managed to land a blow on one of the thugs before moving lithely out of harm’s way.

Or so he thought.

Until Mikazuki saw the leader from before creeping up silently from behind Yasusada, a heavy, wicked-looking axe in his right arm.

His gut clenched. Yasusada was still busy fending off his attackers – two of them – and had not noticed the threat that was looming behind him. There was no time to shout a warning, it would have been too late by then. The leader was only a few paces away, ready and waiting to strike. Even Yasusada would not be able to react fast enough to protect himself.

He had only a second to make a decision. And he did.

Closing his eyes, Mikazuki felt his body going still and focused on the air in front of him. Power emanated from his body, rippling off him in waves, his sleeves fluttering as if they had been caught in a great gust of wind. As he reached deep within himself, the air before him started to shimmer, convalescing to form the faint, glowing outline of a sword.

He heard a gasp and opened his eyes.

Before him a 30 inch long sword was floating in the air, its edges still glowing ever-so-slightly. It was a very fine blade, and he could feel power thrumming from within, almost as if the sword was alive. Mikazuki grasped its handle, which was made of pure wrought silver and inlaid sapphire gemstones. There were ancient carvings and inscriptions etched into its long, thin blade which emanated a faint, silvery glow.

It was very light, and fitted perfectly into Mikazuki’s hand. Grabbing it, Mikazuki ran forward gathering speed as he moved till he was a blur. In the span of a breath, he had reached Yasusada’s side and had placed himself at his back. The world seemed to slow down around him, the movements of others seeming as if they would go on forever.

He watched as the leader’s axe started to descend.

Too slow.

With a casual flick of his wrist, Mikazuki brought his sword up and made a quick, upward slashing motion. Within seconds the axe, now a pile of broken metal and splintering wood, laid in pieces on the floor.

There was a moment of stunned silence as the men all ceased fighting to gape in shock at Mikazuki, disbelief written plainly all over their faces.

“Thank you,” Yasusada said quietly.

“You would have done the same for me,” Mikazuki replied, turning his steely gaze back onto the leader who had collapsed to the ground. He had the terrified look of one who had been severely shaken, his legs apparently unable to hold his weight up anymore.

“S-S-Swords!” he gasped out.

“Yes indeed.” A glacial tone. “You should never have tried messing with us.”


Author’s Notes:
Hope you’re enjoying this fanfiction of mine. Besides minor editing of the language, I also had to change the pacing of the chapters a little due to the switch in perspective of different characters, also known as “head-hopping“, which can be kinda confusing. (See, I’m learning from past mistakes!)

Also, in case you’re curious, these are the Japanese equivalent to the musical instruments mentioned in this chapter! ^^
Shamisen/ Biwa – Lute
Shakuhachi – Bamboo Flute
Koto – Gu Zheng/ Zither

Lastly, Ren City means the City of Water Lilies. In Japanese, the word Suiren (睡蓮) means water lilies, but I decided to shorten it to “Ren” here.


Chapter 1Chapter 3


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