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Until The Sun Sets

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In 1885 the Wild West was slowly turning into a land of Laws and Civilization. These days are nothing but a former dream for outlaws. Being hunted down or force to reform. The last years before the coming change.

Gangs of outlaws still try to ride during these times, robbing banks, trains, and businesses. Yet there is one group that always seems to escape the law, almost like phantoms. They even were given an appropriate name, the Phantom Thieves. Some called them a modern day Robin Hood, protecting and providing for those less fortunate. These are their tales…

Town of Elko; 4pm

The town was going about their daily business in Elko, an insignificant town that's only noticeable to those passing by. People on their horse beginning to unpack for the day when a loud crashing sound was heard over by the bar.

A young man was thrown out the window onto the street followed by a larger patron through the swinging doors. "You wanna go pipsqueak!" The larger man said squaring up his fist. The younger man slowly lifted himself up to his feet to briefly dust off the dirt from his clothes and midnight hair.

"My name isn't pipsqueak, its Morgana!" the younger name announced. The two began to brawl in the street with a small crowd beginning to form around them.

Morgana and the larger man exchanging hits on one another.

On the farther section in town, another young man with black hair was seen at the grocery store. Hat tip low to cover his eyes but not low enough to draw unwanted attention to himself. He was finishing up buying the items when he heard the commotion outside.

"Not again…." he sighs. "Can I leave these items with you one moment, I'll be right back."

The store clerk a bit baffle at the emergency sees the hat wearing young man race to where the remains of the bar fight continued.

Morgana and the larger opponent were beginning to look worse for wear. The crowd getting a bit bigger since the fight started. The young man with the hat pushes his way to the front only to find it was indeed his younger brother Morgana Amamiya.

"Hey Ren, glad you can join….the show…ouch" Morgana yelled out to his older brother Ren Amamiya while taking a punch to the face. Ren shaking his head moves in between them stopping the fight.

"That's enough between you two. I prefer you end this now before the Sheriff makes his way over here," he criticizes.

"He started it!"

"And you finished it, pick up your stuff and lets go." Ren begins to walk away when the larger opponent grabs at him.

"Hey that kid over there still owes me money. The two of you ain't leaving my sight till I get it."

"Is that so?" Ren still has his back to the other man as he tries to yank him back. Turning around quickly, the other man felt a cold metal barrel to his stomach. "I believe you will be facing more issues than money if you want to continue. Do we have an understanding?"

"You sunava-" The revolver cocked back pushing harder into his stomach. The larger man bit his tongue and backed away slowly with his hands raised. "Whatever, we have an understanding," He glared.

Ren spins his revolver back into his holster, securing it. "Good then. Morgana lets go, we have an errand to finish." He begins to walk back to the store gathering the left behind items and places them in his satchel. Morgana and Ren hop onto their horses and ride out of town coming and going just as quick.

A few miles out of town and a safe distance so far of not being followed, they slow down the horses to a trot. "You know that was dangerous Mona for bringing attention to us. I thought I told you to scout out the bar, not make a mess of it!" He grilled the younger man.

"I was! I was simply enjoying a poker game, gathering info on our target with simple chatter. That other guy thought I was cheating. Him and his buddies were ganging up on me when he threw me through the window," Morgana argued back. He was still sporting a small cut on his cheek that stopped bleeding. However, the bruises on his face would be there a few days.

Ren sighs as he looks at his younger brother. They've been living in the Wild West for as long as they can remember. Simple folks his parents used to say, before they died of sickness. For the longest time, Morgana was all he had and vice versa. Stealing when they can, running from the law when they could as children. Wasn't till he was in his late teens and Mona nothing but a child that they were taken in by their mentor a few years ago.

Coming up to a smaller town the boys were greeted by the local town folks. Most shops closing for the day as the last rays of sunlight licked the land. Hitching their horses right in front of the local saloon, Ren and Morgana made their way inside.

"You're late," An old man behind the counter said. He was wiping the beer glass with a cloth as various patrons sat around the place enjoying a pint or two. The bar owner; Sojiro Sakura, their good friend and mentor. "I thought I told you I needed the supplies before sunset not after," He complains.

"Sorry Boss, we got a little sidetrack a few towns over. Morgana face should explain the story," Ren tattled to the old man. Morgana goes to stomp on Ren foot, mad at being ratted out. "OW!"

"I'm fine Chief, nothing I can't handle, you should see the other guy," he stated. He makes his way towards the back to start washing off his face of any left over cuts.

Boss puts the glass he was cleaning away and starts on another one. "So any luck with info?"

"It was a dead end. But we're still looking. He's gonna be a very hard man to find." Ren takes the recently cleaned glass and poured himself some whiskey. "Its like whenever anyone looks for him, he leaves no trace behind. But somehow able to leave a trail of destruction and ruin behind. Not caring who lives he ruins," taking a quick swig of the drink.

"As much as I hate to say it, being at the wrong place wrong time didn't help. That man is as bad as they come. Keep your head up son. You'll find him." Boss leaves Ren to his own thoughts as he tends to the other guest and pours drinks. He thinks back to 5 years ago when this hunt began. Back to when it was just him and his brother.

Unknown Town, 5 years ago

Ren Amamiya, a young 20 year old man was finishing running errands as the local farm hand. It wasn't pretty work but it paid and kept him and his brother fed. He was told to head into town and gather some supplies for the rest of the workers. Meats from the butcher, some can goods, and other essentials.

It was a bad storm on his way to the town causing him to show up later than he wanted, but if he hurried he might make it back before sundown. Luck however, was not on his side. The store owner had to complete a larger order before him and got turned out for almost an hour. By the time he was able to get around to Ren, the night sky had taken and most stores were closing.

" I hope they don't mind me staying in town for the night and getting back to the Ranch extra early. Morgana can handle himself for the night. Poor kid," he thought out loud.

Ren places the items into the cart and secures it covering it with a blanket. He makes his way towards the small Inn trying to rent a room for the night when he hears a noise. Walking behind one of the buildings where he first heard the noise, he sees what appears to be some couple. Maybe having an argument perhaps? He was going to leave it be when he sees the woman fall to the ground and hit her head.

" What did I say about trying to cross me bitch! If I go down, I'll make sure your reputation drops just as fast!" The man yells at her. She tries to get back up and is startled when he pulls out a gun. "Now then I'm going to ask again, you either keep quiet about this or I'll make you!"

Frantically waiving the gun around like a drunker and still yelling at the woman, Ren makes a rash decision. He goes and catches the man by surprise. Ren tries to wrestle the gun away from him as the lady is still frozen scared on the ground holding her head. For a split second he was distracted just checking on the woman to see if she alright when the gun discharges.

A gasp he hears.

The man falls on his back with the gun still in hand smoking, Ren doesn't feel any pain on his body. Did he miss? He turn to look at the women he was trying to defend only to find her grasping a wound on her side bleeding.

" Shit!" He rushes up to her and tries to put pressure on her wound. "Ma'am hang in there, you'll be okay. I'll get a doctor!" The wound didn't look too bad but the bleeding and infection would become the worse of their problems. Focus on trying to assist the women, Ren forgot the drunken man who started the whole thing.

He had a hard time identifying him due to lack of any lanterns nearby. He was clutching his arm as if it got cut on his way down from his stumble. "You should've mind your own business you fucking brat. I'LL SUE! Guards! Guards!"

Ren could hear footsteps from the Sheriff office making their way over. Scared and frighten he stood between the wounded lady and the drunken individual. The Deputies rounded the corner and came upon the scene.

" What seems to be the pro-. Oh its you Sir, are you alright?" one of the deputies asked.

" Yes, arrest this peasant. He tried to rob and murder me and my lady tonight. Isn't that right dear." The women who was in pain was staring between the young man and her associate. He was glaring at her still clutching his injured arm.

" Y-Y-Yess that's right." She whispered. She looked down looking ashamed of herself. She was carried off by the other Deputies and taken towards the town doctor. Ren unable to process what was happening didn't feel the cuffs being locked behind his back.

" I wasn't trying to rob him, that's not what happen I-"

" Shut up!" The officer hits him in the face, dragging him away to the Sheriff office and a lonely cell. Ren continues to struggle as he is taken away.

" Please officer you….YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!"

The officer continues to ignore him throwing him in the cell and locking the door. "Enjoy your time left inmate, you got a date with the gallows."

He felt broken, and confused. How could all this happen in the such a small time-frame. He was just trying to help her and she turned her back on him. What would happen to his little brother, he was only 12. He wouldn't last on this Earth by himself. Without him, the ranch would kick him out on the land by himself. Stealing would only get him so far before he too was killed.

Curling up on the jail bed, Ren forces himself into a slumber.


A few Days later

Having nothing but time until he is taken to be hang for robbery and attempted murder, neither of which charges were actually true. They didn't even want to hear his side of the story or any misunderstanding. They had taken the drunken man words for truth. They knew him too, must have been someone important.

He hears the creaking of his jail door as the Sheriff comes in and cuffs him again. "Rise and shine prisoner, its judgement day." he sneered. Losing practically the remains of fight left in his body, he forces his legs to walk towards the stage that carries his fate.

A crowd had gather to view the public execution of this suppose criminal. Each step towards the noose gets heavier. The actual feeling of the rope feels like a thousand needles. Closing his eyes he blocks out whatever words the Sheriff has to say, he only wish he could've seen his brother once again. To finish teaching him how to count, write and read. He could hear the cheers getting louder. They must be ready to pull the lever.

" Fire! There's a fire at the saloon. Help!" Sure enough a fire began to grow as the few patron around this time of day ran out screaming. The Sheriff ran off the stage to check out the incident leaving just the Deputy holding the lever.

" OW, who did that!" the deputy yelled. He looks down and sees a small pebble was what hit him. He looks up again and sees another pebble hit him in the face. With the chaos of the raging fire and scattered crowd of the hanging, they seem to have missed a small 12 year old boy using a slingshot at the Deputy.

The kid moved closer to the stage and placed a bit larger rock in his slingshot aiming it at the Deputy's knee. The pain caused the Deputy to stumble and lose his balance falling off the stage. Rushing ahead now to Ren he could feel the ropes on his wrist being cut through and freed removing the dreaded noose around his neck.

" Morgana, what the hell are you doing here. No wait forget it, lets go!" The Deputy who was outsmarted by a slingshot gets his bearings in the crowd and chases after two.

" Stop them!" he shouts.

Finding a horse nearby, the two jump on and race out of town being quickly followed by the Deputy and a few others. "Come on horse, come on!" guiding the horse to move as fast as they can, shots are whizzing by. "Shit, they're shooting at us"

" Hurry Ren, they're gaining!" Morgana yells. Ren needs to come up with a plan and fast, the road is started to end near a small cliff with a river below.

" Morgana, do you trust me?" as sweat beads down neck.

" Of course," the younger brother replies back.

" Then get ready to swim!" Ren skidding the horse near the cliff causing them to lose balance and fall into the rapid river. "Morgana! Morgana! Hang on!" he reaches out and feels the fingertips of his younger brother trying to keep them afloat. He able to graps his wrist when he feels a sharp pain to his head. All he saw was black.

Waking up in an unknown Saloon after being wanted for robbery and murder wasn't the ideal situation. An old man sitting by his bed wrings out a cloth and applies it to Ren forehead.

" You boys sure gave me startle on my fishing trip. Had to bring the cart to carry you both. But you'll be safe here." Ren still disoriented tried to speak but his throat felt parched.

" W-Who…ar…e…" the younger man tried to speak.

" Relax kid. Don't speak right now. The names Sojiro. Sojiro Sakura."

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Present Day 1885.

Sunlight filtered through the small room alerting the the older Amamiya sibling of the pending day. Yawning and stretching as he gets ready, he can already feel the start of a 5 o'clock shadow on his face. He starts to hear fast footsteps approach his door as a younger girl comes barreling in.

"Wake up, wake up, wake up, I got it this time," she yells. The younger sibling who was still dozing on the other bed in the room is startle awake, falling face first on the floor

"What the hell!" he yells back at her. Ren lets out a chuckle as he finishes putting on his boots. He's use to the antics between these two. Futuba Sakura, Sojiro's daughter. They've known her for as along as they've known Boss. Morgana may act like he's mad at her all the time but they're all good friends.

"So what is it that you got right this time?" Ren asked.

A cheeky grin forms on her face as she takes out behind her some vials. "I got the ingredient correct this time. Dip some arrows or knives into these and your enemies will be paralyze for a good 2 hours now. I was a bit off on the time from last batch. Sorry." She hands 3 vials to Ren as he gently places them in his satchel by the bed post.

Morgana who's still grumpy for the day takes the other 3 vials for himself. "Thanks Futaba….but you couldn't have waited till after we had some grub?"

"Nonsense, you wouldn't have been up till high noon," she accused. "Anyway, I'm going back to work on my project. Let me know if you need any updates." Futuba leaves the two brothers to get ready for the day. There small break coming to an end.

They had stay in this hideout town of theirs for a few days rest and gather supplies before moving out for a longer trip. They were on a mission, one they don't want to fail.

"You two need any more last minutes supplies before heading out?" Boss asked, cleaning the Saloons tables.

"We'll stop by Iwai to pick up a few cartridges, then head out. If we find anything, I'll send a telegram." Ren brushes off his black duster coat and grabs his hat. He makes sure to secure his holster and gun on his right side. With the satchel now secure, he leaves the saloon. "Come on Morgana, while the sun still shining!"

Morgana runs from the second floor of the Salon towards the door with his bag in tow. "Okay, okay. I'm right behind ya. I didn't want to forget the these two," pointing to the twin silver plated pistols in his holsters.

Ren climbs up a Red Chestnut Horse, calm and collected. He named him Arsene. He was a rebellions mare when he first found him, bucking Ren off whenever he can. But a bond formed between them after butting heads to much, he's been a loyal horse ever since. "Come on buddy," steering them out of town.

Morgana followed closely behind him on his midnight black mare Mercurius; it was named after some character he saw in a book one time.

"So Ren where we going again after Mr. Iwai?"

"North. Next state over. My informant found a couple of leads I wanna check out," he answers back. They continue to ride in the spring like weather up the mountain. Iwai sometimes came to work in town, but most days he keeps to himself. Setting up a shop near the entrance of the woods, smoke drifting towards the sky. He once ran with a gang of misfits before he had his son. Not wanting his son in that life, he left. He had always stayed good with weapons though.

The brothers hitch their horses to the post before walking in the medium size building. The middle age man in question sat behind the counter browsing through his own catalog. He breaks from his readings to see the young men come in. "Well if it isn't my two favorite customers."

"I think we're your only customers Sir." Morgana stated.

Glaring at the younger sibling, he places the catalog down on the desk and motions them towards the back. Several boxes of ammo were stacked ranging in for rifles, shotguns, repeaters and so on. Iwai takes down one of the boxes and presents it to the two. "I finish some of the custom ammo last night, but some regular ammo should be in there as well. And Morgana as promise…" He turn towards another box and pulls out a rifle with a small scope on it. "I finished your order as well. You may have to clean it more often but it should pack a punch. Careful on the kickback to."

The younger brother takes the rifle and inspects it, admiring the craftsmanship. While Morgana gets a feel for his new weapon, Iwai goes through a draw near the boxes and pulls out a small case. "And for you Ren, I made the upgrades on that pistol you found awhile back. It was pretty badly damage but reversible. It should take the custom and regular ammo for them."

"Thank you very much Mr. Iwai. Your dedication to the craft is always admirable. How much I owe you this time?"

"$42.00 for all." Ren hands him the cash and gathers the inventory stashing some in his Satchel and planning to carry the other to the saddle bag.

"Thank you again Sir."

"Till next time Mr. Iwai" Morgana shouts

He grunts his thank you and returns back to the room. "Kaoru! Come down here and help me with these boxes!"

The Amamiya brothers gather themselves on their horses and head out again. They continue to cross over the wild birth of plains, hills rolling as far as the eye can see. Wild horse, buck, rabbits, there was bountiful good eating if you knew how to hunt. Feeling the waning light, the two found a rock cover near the bottom of a cliff and set up camp.

"Do you think we'll be lucky this time Ren, it feels were getting nowhere closer," Morgana ask once settled in. He was resting by the small fire looking at his elder brother on the other side.

"We'll succeed this time, I know it. But get some rest, we are leaving at sunrise," he states leaning back into his bedroll, his hat covering his eyes.

Their journey had no finish line yet, still the next destination held many promises. A location and a name they were given. The first truly big lead since they started 5 years ago.


1880

Gunshots and broken glass could be heard from behind the Saloon. A young man aims with a pistol at the empty beers bottles on boxes. Sojiro stands behind adjusting his posture.

" You're starting off good but you'll strain your back if you aim like that. Here, stand more like this." Ren moves as told and continues to aim at the bottles determine to get better.

Him and his younger brother Morgana had been staying with Sojiro for the past few weeks. After healing up, Sojiro allowed them to stay until they can get back on their feet. But Ren is still a wanted man. No doubt a bounty on his head after escaping his near death. That man….that man had ruin his life. And he almost died all for a misunderstanding. But he won't let this happen again. It's why he is training now with Sojiro. He's been thankful for him taking them in.

Ren aims the pistol at a few more empty bottles lined up, hitting 3 of 5.

" Alright, that's enough practice, come inside I'll finish making some dinner." Sojiro walks through the Saloon's back door as he gets ready for his evening patrons. While some customer were a bit rowdy and Boss had no problem throwing them out, most just came as a passerby looking for a place to rest and some Whiskey. He offered room and board for free as long as Ren and Morgana help around every now and then. And especially making sure his daughter stayed out of trouble.

Boss had been nice enough to show them the ropes, simply wiping down the tables, sweeping, pouring drinks, etc. His daughter would wander about the place during the day but he prefer her staying in her room come evening time. She didn't mind though, she also seem to be tinkering with weird gadgets or pieces laying around. An interesting character she was.

But even with the hospitality, people will come looking for them. He had to be prepared to not only protect himself but his younger brother he thought. It's why Sojiro has been teaching him when he asked. Ren was a rookie no doubt but was showing great potential.

It was a few nights later, a particular guest came through town and stopped at the Saloon. Ren was running about the Saloon cleaning tables while Morgana help wash the dishes. The quiet man sat down at a table Ren was finishing cleaning, having a glean in his eye.

" Can I help you Sir?" the young man asked.

" Yeah. I'm looking for someone, a young boy that matches your description. Your messy hair, height and complexion." The man pulls out his gun and twirls it around his finger. "Same description also had a decent price on his head, not much but it will make due for a meal."

Ren felt his blood turn cold as the man had his pistol trained on him. A Bounty Hunter! "I..I'm sorry sir…but I think you have the….w..wrong guy. I'm just an assistant here. I assure you."

The joyful boaster around the Saloon had quieted down as they all faced the incident going on around them. Morgana was frozen behind the bar trying to think, but he was afraid any sudden movements would put a bullet in his brother head.

" Nah, you look just like those wanted poster back at that-" A gun clicked behind the hunter's head, the cold barrel of a shotgun was pressed to the temple.

" Now I don't mind a few rough housing here and there but when you come into MY establishment and threaten MY employees we got a problem pal," Sojiro said standing behind him. "Now then you can either leave peacefully or we can take this outside and settle it like men."

The Bounty Hunter had chuckled holstering his weapons. "If that's the case then lets settle this old man. Maybe now I can double my profits"

Sojiro and the hunter had stepped outside, Boss trading his shotgun to a side arm. The Patrons, the Amamiya bothers, even his daughter watched through the windows outside. "What is he doing! He could get hurt!"

Morgana clamped a hand over her mouth. "Sshhh let him concentrate. I hope the Chief knows what he's doing!?"

The two turn in the street and stared at one another. The hunter still chuckling to himself. Hands twitching towards the weapons. Sweat was pouring from the hunter face looking for any sign against the Saloon owner. But Boss remain as calm as can be. The hunter saw a twitch and pulled out his gun but all they felt was 3 shots to the chest. The old man had not only beaten him in a duel but got him fatally. Sojiro's revolver was still smoking after such a quick draw.

" What the hell?" Ren look on in amazement.

He puts the barrel to his lips and blows out the smoke. "They never learn do they? Alright everyone back to your business. Next rounds on the house." The crowd of Patrons cheered and went back to their seats nursing even more Whiskey and Beer.

Murmurs of "Same old Boss" and "He still get got it" could be heard as they dispensed.

The older Amamiya walked up to Sojiro who holstered his gun. "Boss where'd you learn how to duel like that. It was incredible! Can you teach me that as well?"

Boss goes to ruffle Ren's hair playfully. "We'll see how your training goes." He walks up to the dying Bounty Hunter who lays bleeding on the ground heaving for air.

" Urrghh…this w..won't be…for…gotten. Mr. Sam..ael does no..t forg…et a slight against….him." He attempts to point at Ren when his eyes roll back and slumps to the ground dead.

Sighing Sojiro guides Ren back inside. "Come on lets forget about this and finish up."

But one thing keep occupying Ren's mind.

Who was Mr. Samael?

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Present Day 1885.

Ridgeway Springs, 11:30 a.m

 

Ren and Morgana rode into the Northern town in good time. It was more updated than most towns they visited so far. Much larger too. No cobble stone but clearly distinct organization of roads and businesses. It had your typical hotels, food stores, gun shops and other amenities.

"Look and ask around on the West side of town, I'll take the East side okay Morgana," Ren informed the younger Amamiya.

"I understand brother," he acknowledges.

"And no fighting either again. See you in a few hours." He rides off on Arsene.

"Hey! I….I didn't start that fight," Morgana grumbles.

The two headed off in their respected directions. The East side of town was a bit more rundown than the part they came in at. Excessive trash and dead small animals were left on the "road". For the person they are looking for, a place like this would be there hiding spot. Ren places a hand on his gun belt and the other still steering his horse into a slow trot. He doesn't want to draw his revolver and cause a reaction but its best to be safe.

A commotion was heard to his left as he saw a group of what looked like hired thugs throwing a man out into the streets falling face first in the mud. "We told you to get lost pal, if we see you around here again Boss ain't gonna be afraid to put another bullet in ya!"

Ren sees the thrown man getting up and running to the door only to have it slam in his face. "Fuck you and your boss!" he says as he kicks the door. "Shit that hurts." The stranger looks at Ren glaring as he tries to wipe the mud from his face. He was completely covered from head to toe.

"This may be none of my business, but need any help Stranger?" Ren offers.

"What is it to you!" he yells.

Ren calmly gets off Arsene with his hands raised showing no threat. "I just saw that confrontation and merely wish to help. I have some cash on me, if you like I can rent you a place. I'm sure you would not like to be wandering around in that well gunk."

The stranger ponders the offer and lessen his glare. "…I appreciate that. Thanks."

"Great. I saw a hotel a few block back." Ren hops on his horse once more. The stranger whistles for his and slowly limps to the horse. Once securely on, he nods to Ren.

They make their way to the hotel where Ren pays for the stranger's room and bath while he also grabs himself a shot of Whiskey. He nurses his drink as the other man returns mud-less now. He can see that the mud no longer cakes his now revealed blond hair and clean shaven face. His jacket was probably still being scrub but the yellow vest he was wearing look better than normal at least.

The stranger places 2 bullets on the counter and pushes it to the bartender. "Let me pay for his next shot and I'll take one too."

The bartender pours them both some more Whiskey, each taking a shot. "I appreciate you renting me a room Stranger. You must be new around here. Most either just mind there business or are the lowest of low. You appear to be neither."

"I'm just a humble man on a mission is all. My name is Ren," he offers his hand.

The stranger takes it with a firm grip. "I'm Ryuji. Nice to meet you. Now that I'm not smelling like muck, what brings you to this town?"

"I am looking for someone. A man who said to run an underground business in this area. I've been trying to track him down the past few months based off my informants leads. All I have to go off is a code name of sorts; Asmodeus. Does it ring a bell?" Ren inquires.

"Never heard of an Asmodeus, but if you're looking for an unruly bastard in town best bet would be Kamoshida. Heard he's been doing some shady shit even before I got here. He acts like the brothel he runs is all fair and legal but I know he's up to something." Ryuji says slamming his glass down. "Those assholes that threw me out earlier work for him. I've been keeping an eye on that place for the past month or so trying to get back in."

"What's so important in that brothel?" Ren asked. He sees Ryuji's hand clench and unclench as he tries to keep his emotions under control.

"I got a friend there. Two actually. She and her friend got into some trouble awhile back and was working with him to pay it off but that bastard keeps raising her debt specifically. Hell even I had a debt with him over a matter of 30 bucks. But that wasn't what got me shot," Ryuji explains as he takes the last gulp of his Whiskey. "She's one of his star brothel girls, apparently brings him a lot of money with all these request. We had spent a night together when he was out of town but one of his hired thugs must've found out an told him."

Ryuji pats his left leg the one Ren saw him limping with earlier. "When I tried to see her again that sunava bitch shot me in my leg, nearly put a damn bullet between my eyes as well if she didn't stop him from pulling the trigger. Now I heard he hardly lets her out," he says as he slams his fist down on the bar. He has been trying for the past few weeks to gather more information about her which resulted in today's incident.

Ren ponders over the information received from this new Stranger he met. That brothel owner could be the person he was looking for. Especially if there were more secrets that could be uncovered from whatever shady business this Kamoshida could also be running. "I'll help you," Ren tells the fiery young man.

"For Real?" Ryuji looks back at him wide eyed.

"Yeah. We have mutual interest in this Kamoshida character, and I would also like to help your friends. Do we have a deal?" Outstretching his hand for a confirmation.

Ryuji grabs his with a firm shake, "I believe this is the start of a wonderful friendship."

Later that day

Morgana had taken the West side of town to find any clues of his own but came up empty. He decided to head back to the East side when he sees Arsene hitched to a post by the Bar. Ren must be inside he thought. He secures Mercurius as well and walks inside. Its a bigger Saloon than what Boss had, more rooms and baths helped no doubt. He sees his older brother talking to a Stranger with blond hair over by the counter.

"Ren!" the younger Amamiya shouts. The oldest turns his head in his direction and signals him over.

"I have good news. It seems our tide is turning for the better brother. I like you to meet Ryuji. He's going to be helping us out while we are here." Ren introduces the two.

Ryuji offers his hand to shake, "Nice to meet to meet you pipsqueak. I'm Ryuji."

"I'm not a pipsqueak you blonde turd!" Morgana yells at him.

"Who you calling a blond turd!"

"That's enough of that between you two" Ren attempts to step between them. He was starting to wonder if this was a good idea, his brother was already a hot head and from the interaction he saw with Ryuji so was he. "Both of you need to calm down. I rented a room from earlier, we'll discussed things there alright." The two backed away from each other after a few more insults were hurled around. Eventually making there way inside the room where they continue to discussed their plans.

"So this guy who runs a brothel is Asmodeus or so we think?" Morgan inquires as he was caught up to speed.

"It's a strong possibility, we wouldn't know till we get a closer look. My informant was pretty sure this would be the town. I'll check it out my own tonight, if I find anything worth wild then Morgana I'll have you recon tomorrow night," the elder brother states. "Ryuji, since your face would be recognizable to anyone in that building, think you can sketch us a map of what you remember. Anything that was odd?"

"Sure I guess. In terms of anything odd nothing really stood out….but there always one door that was constantly being guarded almost at all hours of the day. Seen the bastard go in there from time to time, might be his own personal room," he ponders. "If you are going in there, there's something I want you to delivery for me."

Nodding his head, Ren accepts the request and waits for after the sun goes down to head over. He heads back to the location he first met Ryuji and walks towards the other side of the building. The strong stench of smoke and perfume invades his senses as he takes a look around.

Various tables were strewn about within one section another lead to a hallway that held the various rooms. He took a seat and eyed the room, looking for a particular target. Ren attempted to stay focus as there was excessive giggling at the next table over. A young brown hair woman sat on a bearded man lap, the man probably hoping to spend the night with her. She was a pretty sight. But young even for him, a bit too young for this sorta place he thought. She had to be around Morgana age and he's only seen 17 years pass by.

Ren eye some more tables when a young woman with black hair tied up in a ponytail plops herself in his lap.

"What are you doing here so lonely Mister. Wanna have a good time?" She drawls out her voice as her hands runs up and down his shirt. He gently grabs her hand to remove them and place them at her side.

"Sorry Miss, I actually have other plans for today. I'm looking for someone from a friend, not sure if you know her. A Miss Shiho?"

The woman on his lap gasp and stood up "Why are you looking for me?" She asked.

Seeing his luck continue right from the start, Ren stands up and places his arms around her. "Don't worry, I won't harm you just play along. I have a few things to discussed and prefer it to be in private."

She slightly nods again his chest and drags him to an available room adding extra sway to her hips for the other patrons. Play along he says.

Once the door was close Shiho leans against the door and lets out a big sigh. She eyes this new customer with the messy black hair. "If you're looking for money, I don't have any, I barely have enough to pay my own debts as is."

Shaking his head he goes to correct her, "I'm not here for money. I'm here on my own merit and with a request from a mutual friend of ours." He reaches in his coat pocket and hands her the letter Ryuji requested he delivery.

"It's from Ryuji! He still okay. Ann and I were so worried when we last saw him, I'm sure that bullet in his leg didn't do him no favors."

"Ann?" Ren ask with an eyebrow raised.

"Oh yes, Ryuji and Ann they are…well…um I guess its complicated." She said looking down. If only she can get this letter to Ann so she can read it too.

Ren ponders for a bit and thinks back to the "Her" Ryuji mention. Maybe it was this Ann woman. "Do you know where I can find her here. Ryuji mention she was also working in this establishment to pay off a debt."

"Well…even I hardly see her anymore, at least since the day Ryuji got shot in the leg. Kamoshida the head honcho around here was going to kill him but Ann promised him something cause he didn't pull the trigger for the kill. Since then I've hardly seen her. I'd been trying to get by myself with acts but I still worry about her."

"I see. Stay in this room Miss, I'm going to take look around," Ren tries to reassure her.

"But its dangerous, if they catch you in an area you shouldn't be then."

Ren points to his holster where his revolver resides. "I'm prepare for any surprises. I'll be right back"

He quietly closes the door behind him and wanders back down the hall he came from. The sound of beds creaking and passionate voices could be heard during his journey. "I'm really starting to doubt sending Morgana here tomorrow…"

There are still many patron out and about enjoying a pint or two and the company of woman. He looks to another corner that's not as populated but had some left over rooms. Turning down the far corner he sees a man standing in front of a door. Almost like he was guarding it. It must be the door Ryuji mentioned back at the hotel. Only really important things get guarded.

"Time to use Futaba's gift" The elder Amamiya whispers under his breath. Still standing behind the corner, Ren pulls out a small dart and blowgun from his back pocket and one of the vials from his satchel . Dipping some of the dart in the vial provided, he turns quickly surprising the guard and blows it right at their neck. The hired thug attempts to attack Ren but quickly begins to stumble and trip. He catches him so the thump of falling doesn't make too much noise. Ren drags the paralyze guard into one of the nearby rooms and stuffs his mouth with a cloth. Just because he numb the body doesn't mean the mouth couldn't talk.

He goes to to open the door that was being watched only to find out it was locked.

"Of course" He checks his satchel for his picking tools and begins to unlock the door in front of him. Once done it opens up into a small seating room, a dead end.

"All this precaution for a desk and bookcase?" He looks around for any clues, finding some financial papers. These could have some further use he thought. He examines the bottom draw when he sees skids mark by the book case.

With a closer look he can feel some air coming behind the bookcase. Jarring it a bit allows it to open up more. Ren finds a staircase leading downstairs behind it and a more prominent draft. Taking as quiet steps as he could, he heads down hand on his holster….just in case. There's hardly any light except for a few flickers here and there.

When he makes it down, what he finds horrifies him. A hand full of young women shackled to the wall, some with bruises some looking like they hardly ate in weeks. Age ranging from anywhere between 12 and early 20's.

"That bastard!" Ren goes to check the ones that are hanging on to consciousness. The girl he first encounters aims to scream when he muffles her mouth. "I'm not here to hurt you, I'm a friend. I'll make sure to get you out." He continues to check the others and thankfully they all had pulses; weak but still there. The older Amamiya searches the room counting about 16 girls in all. The last one though catches his eye. Raw cut from the cuffs around her arms and legs stained her smooth skin. She had blond flowing hair that was tied somewhat in twin ponytails. She weakly looks up at him with a small sign of hope.

"Don't be alarm its going to be okay. My name is Ren, what's yours Miss?" he asked

"Ann. Ann Takamaki"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

1 months ago, 1885

 

Ryuji woke up to the sun rays filtering in from the window. The beginning signs of Spring could be felt in the weather. Normally he doesn't get the greatest nights sleep, doing odd jobs during all hours of the day. A few hunts here and there to pass the time. But none of that matters right now as he looks down at his companion. A young woman laid rested beside him, smooth skin and soft blonde hair. They're both naked as the day they were born.

Last night shouldn't have happen given the circumstances, especially with that bastard always around, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him Ryuji thought. With the morning arriving on the horizon, it would be best to leave soon before they are caught by his personal hired thugs.

" Ann…Ann." He tries to gently shake her awake. Waking up from her own sleep she turns to look at him. "I have to go soon, but I'll make sure visit you and Shiho as soon as I can." With one last kiss goodbye, he attempts to sneak out of the building without alerting the other patrons. Coat in hand and shirt and pants dishevel he leaves through a side door.

It would've been one of the best night of his life if only he saw the guard hiding behind the corner.

Back at the brothel, Ann was still resting in bed not really needing to get up till the afternoon. But three knocks on the door ruin that. "Ann are you up yet?" A soft voice ask, her best friend Shiho, "I wanted to make sure you were okay?" Ann wraps a robe around herself and opens the the door to see a concern Shiho.

" I appreciate the concern Shiho, but I'm okay. What about you and your customers, nothing to bad I hope," she asked back.

" I'm fine I just didn't make much money back. I thought we were close but he keeps raising the money again," Shiho said. Kamoshida started this debt. They were just two young woman trying to make a living in this town, what they thought was a simple comfort lounge providing drinks and cigar to guest turned out to be a brothel run by him. The first night they found out was awful. Whenever they would tried to escape he would track them down like dogs. They were only there for one purpose, to make him money. They've seen other girls come and go some younger than it should be in this place.

" I know thing are bad right now but Ryuji promised he would help us. We were talking about it last night a little before we got…distracted." Ann couldn't help but think of her evening with Ryuji, a boisterous young man but kind and compassionate. Its better than when she is "requested" to join Kamoshida for an evening.

Shiho looks at Ann glad to know she is able to find some form of happiness. "He snuck in here to visit you. I'm a little surprise about that, the last time you two talk you were bickering like cats and dogs." She said almost cracking a smile, "Wait Ryuji snuck in with Kamoshida around?"

" No he went out on some business trip a few days ago. Probably won't be back till tomorrow or the day after. Thank goodness. I can't stand another minute around that creep." With Kamoshida taking an interested in Ann, no doubt he will request her again once he returns. Better her than Shiho she guess. She doesn't want her to get hurt if she can help it. If only they can escape this life…..

With Ryuji performing various odd jobs around town the following few days, he had some money to spare to properly see Ann. Minus the climbing and sneaking into a window every so often. He just hope that bastard was still out of town.

When evening rolled around he walked through the front door and took a seat and order a drink. The woman would wander about the patrons, some picking and choosing. He waited about an hour and still didn't see her. Not even Shiho. He leaves the main floor and exits out one of the back doors and attempts to climb in her window instead. "Ann are you-"

He feels a bottle break over the back of his head and falls to the ground; sore but not out. Ryuji looks up to see Ann and Shiho tied up on the floor with a piece of cloth wrapped around their mouths. Eyes widen with fear. A muscular man with wild hair and eyes standing in the corner glaring at him; Kamoshida.

His men roughly grab Ryuji up from the floor as he makes his way over. Ann and Shiho struggling to get out of their restraints, voices muffled. "I thought I told you not to mess with my property peasant. You don't think I have eyes around here. This is my DOMAIN!" He punches Ryuji in the stomach then throws a right hook at his face. He punches him some more until he spits out blood. Bruises start to form near his right eye.

Ryuji tries to stay focus as more blows hit him in the stomach and face. He able to gather strength and swing back only to get hit in the face with an fist.

Kamoshida yanks his hair and forces Ryuji to look at him. He pulls out a pistol and points it at Ryuji's face. "Maybe I should put a bullet in you each time you been fucking her behind my back?" He aims the pistol at Ryuji's knee and pulls the trigger. "That's one."

" AAAAAAAHHHHH" Ryuji falls down grasping his bloody knee. Shiho has tears running down her faces as she is force to witness the torture. Ann continues to attempt to break free from the ropes an almost removes the clothe from her mouth.

" My what a lively slave you are. However, this wouldn't have happen if you've been a more willing participant with me," he says as he aims the gun at Ryuji head, "Maybe now you will change your mind."

" STOP!" Ann yelled finally able to shuffle the clothe away. "I'll do whatever you want, anything you ask! Just please don't kill him. PLEASE!" She continues to beg, eyes pleading him Kamoshida.

With the gun still aim at the blonde hair young man, he puts on a slimy smug. "Anything at all then?" Ann nods her head in defeat, feeling the last of her strength wither away over her new fate. Shiho muffles her protest to Ann and tries to keep an eye on Ryuji who is slowly losing consciousness.

" Put this peasant in the trash." He orders. "And as for these two, take the black hair err… what's her face to my special chambers." He creeps down to Ann face, eyes maddening. "I have a special place for you."


 

Present Day, 1885

Ann has been in an out of that cellar for a month. She and Shiho always wondered what happen to the other woman in the Brothel. They were under there the entire time, his playthings she soon found out. This stranger however found her and hope slowly eased in her fragile heart.

"You said your name was Ann right, I ran into your friend Shiho upstairs."

"Shiho!? Is she okay!" She asked.

"Ssshhh. Yeah so far. I'm gonna get you all out I swear. Is there a certain time Kamoshida comes down here? Or any other places he takes you?" Ren was trying to gather as much information as possible, running a brothel was one thing but entrapping people and possible kidnapping were something else entirely.

One of the other woman spoke up, "That filthy man only shows up when he feels like it. His choices are random depending on his mood." Tears start to pour down her faces.

"Sometimes he takes us back to his special chamber, its on the highest level in the building…..at the end of the hall." Ann explains.

"So he has two special rooms, upstairs and the entrance to this place. I know you all have suffered for who knows how long. But give me 2 days to gather the cavalry and your all getting out I swear." The woman look at Ren with small hope in their eye unsure if this is just another trick of Kamoshida or something better.

Ren gives them a glance back. 16 women they need to rescue and figure out where they all came from. Running low on time, he heads back in the office and closes the bookcase behind him and leaves just as quietly as he came.

Heading back to where he left Shiho, he finds her sitting on her bed knees to the chest in worry.

"Hey."

Shocked at his return she runs up to him seeing that he was in the same shape as when he left. "You didn't run into anybody, was Kamoshida there? What happen?" Shiho ask frantically.

Ren raises a hand to calm her down, looking through the crack in the door making sure no one was near or in listening distance. "I found your friend Ann, a bit worse for wear but she still alive. Along with other woman I found. I promise I will be back in two days time with some more help."

He goes to leave stopping around corners when he sees hired goons checking the area about. Safely exiting out of the way he enter he heads back to the hotel he shares with his brother and new companion.

When Ren arrives, he was mentally thankful the two didn't kill each other while he was away. Morgana was cleaning his guns while Ryuji was napping off in a chair. Morgana punches Ryuji in the arm and startled him awake. "What the hell is your problem!"

That didn't last long the elder Amamiya thought. "We have a change in plans. I didn't find Kamoshida but I did find your friends; both of them. Shiho on the outside looked fine…..Ann though, we'll get her out Ryuji. She and 15 other women are trapped downstairs in an chamber underneath the main Brothel. I also was able to get a hold of these." Pulling out the financial files he found in the desk earlier.

"Something shady gotta be in those papers that we can use." Ryuji exclaims. He was still worry about Ann and Shiho and knows Ren must have left out a few details about what he really saw in the chamber. Looking down at his left leg, he was managing to walk now but he will most likely have a limp for the rest of his life. A limp was better than being 6 feet underground.

The three of them review the financial papers Ren found in the office, records of the incomes and how much was spent wasn't adding up to them. Shipments orders that contain large amount of weight going in and out of that place. Weights that wouldn't equal up to alcohol crates.

"What the hell can you ship out of a brothel that would produce this amount of funds and shipment fees. I can understand the shipment coming in but his income for selling off these crates is more than he makes at the actual brothel." Morgana proclaims in frustration.

The older brother ponders off the information. By the law a brothel was legal as long as a certain age was met, but some of the woman he saw were fairly younger, almost a child. A child had no place to be anywhere near there unless they were force to be there.

"I don't think its a what Mona but a who, that bastard must be running a sex ring of sorts. But where it goes who knows." He shuffles through some more papers when one signature catches his eye. Signed off on one of Kamoshida's record had a name, an alias. Asmodeus.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Present Day, 1885

They had a problem on their hands. The man Ren and Morgana were tracking was also the same man Ryuji had an issue with. Asmodeus was Kamoshida. And he was practically keeping his victims locked underground, trading them away here and there. Kamoshida was merely a pawn in that mans game.

"It might be best to attack during midday, most patron wouldn't show up till the evening. This way they wouldn't be expecting it and it will minimize the casualties. Behind Kamoshida guard door there's a bookcase that can be open and leads down to the chamber. Unfortunately, I didn't seem him last night but was told he operates in two different rooms. One being on the highest floor at the end of the hall. We will need to go in hard and fast. Morgana, you will take the look out spot make sure his hired guards stay in check. Ryuji will take down the guard and head down the chamber. I'll track down Kamoshida in his other room. Everyone clear on the plan?" Ren explains to the other two in the room.

"Got it Ren, as a bona-fide gentleman I am here to help any damsels in distress."

"I already appreciate you helping me so far in such a short time. We're gonna take that bastard down."

"Right. We gonna have to make it look like a robbery, mask and all."

The plan seem like a good one but there was one problem, "The other woman trap in the chambers, where are we gonna put them all? We can't just bring them back here, it would be too noticeable," Ryuji told them.

"Hmmm, with the commotion it can buy us time perhaps to steal a carriage. There's also a train station not to far away but not in walking distance," the elder brother ponders.

"As much as I would love to continue discussing this, its been a long day. We should go to sleep," Morgana reminds them.

Letting out a resounding yawn himself, it would be best to try and rest before further planning.


Brothel, Next Day 12:30pm, 1885

It was always quiet down in the chambers. The occasional moan and groan could be heard, rumbling stomach. The chains that tied them allow little freedom to at least stand and walk a small portion but still immensely painful. She felt so tired and can't even remember the last time she ate. Her other neighbors were mostly dozing in an out themselves. Ann was awoken by the slam of a door and yelling.

"Why do I have missing files from my desk and a tamper door! Can you answer me that!?" She could here Kamoshida upstairs yelling at someone. His hired guards perhaps? That stranger she met, Ren? Maybe he took them.

"Sir, I apologize it won't hap-"

Gunshots could be heard and the sound of a loud thump was heard hitting the floor above them. There was a few mumble words that she didn't pick up but it sounded like they were dragging something away. That's when the footsteps came down. His sneering grin stretching ear to ear. Kamoshida glances at the women tied up, those that were still awake begin to shake in fear not wanting to be pick next.

Ann felt a shiver down her spine when his eyes landed on her. "That annoying peasant from the outside sure doesn't quit. Thinking he can sneak in here and steal my stuff" He reaches in and brushes her hair, she tries to turn away in disgust but fought her instincts. "Why spend time with a peasant when you can have fun with a King. If not, maybe I'll give that friend of yours another talking to."

"Please don't, I'll go."

"Ahhh, now that's the look you should've had from the beginning."


Hotel, 1:52pm

Ren, Ryuji and Morgana had finish eating some grub for lunch before the brothers set off locating carriages to use as a means of escape. They can always leave on their own horse but they needed to get the others away safely. There wasn't much in what they could steal but they can make due with what they found in reconnaissance.

"I hope tomorrow goes well. It's been awhile since we've been in a real fire fight," Morgana said back in the room with just the two of them. Even at 17, he still was too young for this life. He should've been off at some school or reading books not tracking down the worse of society.

"I'm more worry of you not keeping a straight head for tomorrow, you tend to get carried away. Never forget what Boss told us…"

"I know, I know!" the younger sibling exclaims. "Kill only those that need to be killed, Steal only things that need to be stolen…"

".….Protect those who need protecting. That is the way of the Phantom Thief," Ren finishes. This mantra is what they lived by, its how they survive in this cruel world. They weren't saints but tried to limit how much blood was on their hands.

The door opens with the blond hair gunslinger walking back in.

"If it isn't the blond barrel boarder," Morgana feels a smack to his head as he can hear Ren mumble "Be nice."

Ryuji let his glare towards the younger Amamiya brother go and decided to focus on Ren. Tomorrow was going to be a big day and they were going to get Ann and Shiho out. "Any luck with extra transport?"

"We found some carriages that can be "borrowed" for tomorrow as long as we play a long enough distractions to get those trapped out. Maybe even the ones who aren't stuck in the chambers too. It would probably be best to turn in early once a weapon check is done."

"Sounds good to me." Morgana gets ready for bed settling on the left side of the mattress.

Chuckling at his brother antics, Ren looks back at Ryuji who is making himself comfortable in the chair across the room. "Was there a nickname you wanted to go by?" He asked.

"Huh?"

"If we are facing Asmodeus tomorrow, its best not to yell our real names. Morgana and I only done something smaller like this before and decided on code names for safety. Well Boss mostly thought it was a good idea. I'm Joker; he's Mona."

Thinking it over Ryuji never had any nicknames to go by and wouldn't know where to start. Though his friends once commented that he was thick-headed. An idea popped in his head. "Skull! That's what I want to be called tomorrow."

"Skull it is. Let's get some shuteye."


The Next Day After, 1885

With guns holstered and scarves plaster to their lower face, it was time to begin. "What ever happens follow my lead and stick to the plan. If things go south meet at the lowerside cliff two miles Southwest from here. Got it," Ren explains. The other two nod in agreement securing their hidden faces.

Busting through the front door, Ren shoots a warning shot to get the few patrons attention. "Ladies and Gents this establishment is now closed. Don't try anything funny and no one gets hurts."

"Who the hell do you think you are!" One of Kamoshida hired guns went to reach for his holster before Ren shot his hand. Some of the patrons and woman had left by now or others hiding beneath the tables. More hired guards appeared trying to surround the three.

"Gentlemen, we are merely here to have a word with your boss. We can do this the easy way or the hard way." Ren cocks back his newly acquired pistol from Iwai. Ren likes to dress up during these moments, his black duster coat and form fitting red riding gloves don his appearance. Morgana stands behind him to his left tightly griping his rifle. Bandito below his shirt carrying extra bullets. Ryuji to Ren's right has his shotgun raised ready for the slightest flinch from the guards. Clean with the now mudless jacket and vest.

Standing still waiting for the first move, Ren sees a guard reach for his gun. He puts a bullet to his stomach before all hell broke loose. Kicking up a table to get some cover Morgana and Ren clear two guards standing near the hallway that lead down below. Morgana shot hits one in the leg, another straight in the chest.

"Skull GO!" Ryuji runs down while the Amamiya brother provided cover fire. Ren still needed to make his way upstairs. Him and Morgana were running out of space behind this table. Pulling out his revolver, he makes his way over to the bar rapidly letting off six shots. Each hitting three guards in various vital points. They now only had five to deal with.

Hearing a glass explode next to him, Morgana ducks and kicks over another table to add more cover. He cocks back and aims for another guard who hides behind the walls. "Shit, I miss." He waits for the guard to take a shot but the younger sibling had the quicker draw. Four left. "Joker, go I got this."

Ren takes out out his pistol again to provide his own cover fire. He's able to make it to the second floor when he feels one of the guards trip him up from behind. Wrestling on the floor he tries to point Ren's gun at him before the outlaw is able to swipe him with an elbow to the face. He loses his pistol as it skids across the floor. Ren goes to reach for it only to be grab back by the guard in a choke hold from behind. He is able to elbow him once again, this time in the rib. Freeing himself he swings right hook that gets blocked by the guard. He counters the man's right hook of his own before pushing him away. Ren quickly draws his revolver as the guard falls back down the stairs with a hole in his chest. Quickly picking up his pistol he dashes towards the highest floor, still hearing gunshots in the distance.

"Mona seems to be hanging in there so far. Hopefully Skull is fairing just as well." He runs down the end of the second floor hall looking for access to this higher floor when a door opens unsteadily to reveal Shiho. Loosening the grip on his gun he sighs. "It's too dangerous to go downstairs now until we clear the way Miss.

"Ah you're the stranger from the other day aren't you?"

"Yes. I need to reach Kamoshida personal chambers. I'm told its on the highest floor here." He holster his gun as a sign of peace. "Can you show me please?"

Shiho hesitatingly nods her head and leads the way. She heads back to the end of the hall where a portrait of Kamoshida hangs. The man is clearly obsessed with himself. She pushes the space on the side of the frame where a small portion of the wall started to flip around.

"He's careful with his secrets, I'll give him that. Wait here okay. Count to 100 when you here no more gunshots then run. Got it?"

She nods back to Ren more confidently now and keeps herself in one of the other rooms nearby. Some of the woman were still frighten to leave their room with all the noise heard.

Walking through the two sided door he reaches for his revolver and cautiously makes his way up. He comes to the only door on this floor, light dimly shining under the frame. It was now or never for some answers. He kicks the door open ready to fire at a non vital spot when he holds back.

Kamoshida had a gun pointed to Ann's head as he holds her in front of his body like a shield and eyes crazed. His hand wrapped around her neck in a choke hold, her hands tied in front of her with rope. Ren should've know men like him play dirty.


Down in the Chamber

Ryuji kicks down the door ungracefully. He moves towards the bookcase as told and pushes it to reveal the stairs that lead to the basement. Ren wasn't kidding about the women stuck down here. Most were cuffed to the floor or wall while others hardly had any energy to move from the spot at all. His worries started to grow as Ann wasn't amongst them. He pulls out a side pistol and aims at the various chains. A shotgun would've been preferable but he was already low on ammo for that.

One by one they become free, some still chaffing from the cuffs but at least they weren't stuck to the wall.

"Thank you mister, bless you," one woman said. A few others gather around him offering praise.

"You all can thank me after we get out, stick behind me."

He carefully walks back up the steps, the other following behind. He was hearing gunfire earlier but it seemed to have stop. Pressing a finger to his lips, he signals back. Pistol raise as he checks the corners of the former door he busted. A guard jumps from around the corner before a bullet befell his chest. Morgana peaks his head around the same corner, gun still in hand and smoking from the last shot.

"All clear"

Ryuji's sighs and motions the women out the door, unfortunately they didn't have time to clean up the dead bodies. Commotion outside was getting louder, they needed to hurry.

"Mona, get them into the carriages. I'll check up on Joker!"


 

 

Guns were still drawn, no one has made any move yet. Ren could get a shot off but he still would risk hitting Ann or worse setting off Kamoshida own gun.

"Since were here, I have a few questions for you Asmodeus. While I doubt you will answer them truthfully, you might want to think wisely before you have a bullet between your eyes."

"You think you can threaten me you peasant." He says pressing the barrel closer to Ann temple. "It would be a shame to spill this pretty head's blood, don't you agree Ann?" he said leaning in smelling her hair. She in turn retches away in disgust.

Cocking his gun back, Ren tries to keep his aim steady on Kamoshida head. "I have questions you creep. Where can I find a Mr. Samael. I know your loyalty doesn't run thick in your inner circle.

Chuckling, he turns his attention to the elder Amamiya brother. "Now that rings a bell. What would you want with the old fart. He ain't done much in bargaining but you could have all the women, booze and money you want. Be king of your castle, isn't that right Ann."

A shot rang out and Kamoshida fell to the ground grabbing his leg or what was left of it.

"IT STINGS DOESN'T IT YOU FUCKFACE!" Ryuji had snuck in behind him and shot Kamoshida in the leg with his shotgun. Ann who avoided the blast was stuck on the floor tied up. Ryuji rushes to her and cuts the rope with a pocket knife.

Slowly walking to the bleeding Kamoshida, he crouches and aims at his face once more. "I'll ask you again, where can I find Samael?"

"Hehehe…you'll only find him when he wants to be found." The loss of blood start to makes his words slur. "He's to powerful to take down…."

Ann who is freed from her captivity comes to kick Kamoshida where she always wanted to. "You son of a bitch…..you will never…..touch me…..or Shiho…ever AGAIN." Each kick getting harder with each words spoken. His recoiled caused him to roll back into a small side table that knocking down a candle.

With a very wooden structure surrounding them, it was a good time to leave.

"Ryuji were you able to-" Shiho had run up to the highest floor checking the situation after running into Ryuji on his way up. Seeing Ann freed, she went in for a quick hug finally knowing they should be safe.

"I know this is touching and all, but the building is catching on fire so lets save it elsewhere," the blonde hair gunslinger explain. If only they notice Kamoshida dragging himself to his dropped weapon and trying to aim. He lets off one shot before collapsing back with two bullet holes in his torso. Ren should've been faster.

"SHIHO!"

He looks back to see Shiho grabbing her arm that was now bleeding from a bullet. A flesh wound that will hurt but wouldn't cause permanent damage. "Come on we need to go now!"

He picks up Shiho and Ryuji helping Ann down as they leave the now burning brothel. Any patrons or leftover worker mostly were gone by now. Ren sees that both carriages were long gone. Morgana already escaping with the survivors. He whistle for Arsene as Ryuji calls his stead. They can see commotion all around as people were trying to get water to the now blazing building.

Steadying Shiho and being careful with her wound on his horse, Ryuji helps Ann up on his. They gallop away as fast as they can, they lower their mask once they reach a far enough distance. Even in the waning sun they can still see the smoke drifting towards the sky. The man known as Asmodeus was struck down.


A Few Days Later

The incident with the brothel burning down had been the talk of the town. Volunteers were still sifting through the debris seeing if there were bodies to be found.

A young man with soft brown locks stood watching them as they dug. His coat and vest pristine, black gloves firmly covered his hands. Some might think he was a son of rich business owner that drop by in a down on its luck town. This was a mess he thought, but nothing a bit of damage control wouldn't stop. He was able to talk to some witnesses who fled the scene, most staying three men with mask busted into the building. Some even saw more leave, a group of woman with disheveled appearance.

Asmodeus assets were a lost. A trail they been tracking for a while, but someone got to the evidence first.

"Detective Akechi, we found something!" A worker had pointed to a spot in the rubble that peaked his interest. What was found was a burnt corpse with few day old bullet holes in it. The body structure already alerted the Detective to who it was.

"Headquarters isn't going to like this…"

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Present Day, 1885

With Asmodeus behind them, the Amamiya siblings felt like they took two steps forward only to take those two steps back again. But they were able to free people that needed to be freed. The women that were left in the bottom chamber had separated when they reach the cliff. Taking the "borrowed" carriages with them, some were escorted to a nearby train station. But they'll never have to deal with that monster again.

Disrupted from his thoughts, Ren looks towards the current situation they are in. Morgana, Ryuji, Ann, Shiho and himself were gathered around a small fire under the cliff side. They were able to treat Shiho's bullet wound without to much damage but prefer they get a real doctor to check her out. Morgana had some left over ointment and bandages he carried in his own satchel. The same bandage that was currently wrapped around Shiho's arm.

"You know you guys aren't obligated to stay with us, you're free from Kamoshida and can go wherever you want." Ren wanted to give them an option as they had been with the brothers the past few days. Whether it was safety in numbers or maybe accepting their new fates still left a shock to them. He also doubt all three would go their separate ways, with Ryuji and Ann insisting than were nothing more than good friends and Shiho knowing Ann for much longer.

"I'm not sure about Ann and Shiho decision, but if its alright with you two I would like to stay. Now I doubt you guys are Bounty Hunters but your not the law either. And if you're chasing other bastards who are ruining peoples lives, I want in."

"I would like to stay too. I may not be good with a weapon but I can help out with other things you may need. No one really spoke up at the brothel but I think I'm pretty good at picking up information," Ann spoke.

Shiho was the last to speak, she seem hesitant but what else could she do or even go. Her family was so far away by now and the closest people she knows were going with their saviors. "I guess I can come with you all. If you need a cook, I know a little bit with making food."

"Shiho are you sure?" Ann went over to comfort her. It had been awhile since the two friends actually were in the same area since the incident over a month ago.

"Yes, I'm sure, if you two don't mind," She confirmed tuckering her hair behind her ear.

"Guess we're getting more camping materials then." Ren chuckled. "But in all seriousness, if you all are willing to go through with this, it won't be easy. We might be shot at, hunted, face dangerous wild animals, unpredictable weather conditions, the list goes on. I expect everyone to do their share. The people we are facing will not be your typical street urchin. Kamoshida was mostly likely at the bottom of the barrel, the more we get closer to that man's inner circle the more guarded they'll be."

"Who is it that you're after?" If Ryuji was going to risk his life for this cause he at least need a face or a name.

Settling in his seat, it would be best to explain to their new companions. Morgana was stoking the fire to his left trying to keep them warm in a slightly chilly night.

"I don't know what his real name is, just a code name they go by. Mr. Samael he is called…"


1882, 3 years ago

It was 2 years since Ren had that incident with the Bounty Hunter, 2 years since he heard of the name Samael, the man that ruined his life. He will find him one way or another, but he needs to be stronger to prepare. He was 22 years old now, a man in eyes of Society. He wasn't no gunslinger yet but he was making a name for himself.

The past year, the elder brother felt he was good enough to take on some bounties much to Boss's disappointment. Not only could he make some money on the side but people talk. Find a big enough bounty and one could land on good information. But bounty hunting was a double-edge sword. He was still a wanted man, last he check he was worth $250 bucks. It was a fairly high price for someone so small. But if he wanted to find that man, the hunted must become the hunter.

He hadn't traveled too far from what he now called home, a few small towns South where he found his current bounty. Only worth about $25 for stealing, but nothing else was better on the board.

Ren comes closer to his target's last known hideout, an old abandon shack on the hill. Leaving his horse a few paces away, he calmly walks up near the window peaking in. He can see some camping gear as if someone was living there. He grabs the revolver Boss gave his for his 22 nd birthday and kicks the door.

A scrawny young man sat in the corner eating out of a bowl with no utensils. Scared for his life he drops the bowl and raises his hand in surrender.

"Pleasedon'tkillmeIwasveryhungryandidn'tknowwhattodooooo"

"Huh?"

"You're not….gonna kill me….are ya mister?"

"Hmm, lanky build, dark hair, and a shinier on your right eye. You wouldn't happen to be Yuuki Mishima?"

The young lanky man was still shaking in his corner. Saying yes would probably mean he would be taken into the Sheriffs office. Saying no might agitate the stranger in front of him and he's end up dead anyway.

"But are you going to kill me if I say I am?"

"I might say you escape if you got something interesting for me?" He cocks his guns back to intimidate the poor man in front of him. Ren was never going to kill him, but sending him back to the Sheriff officer would guarantee a hang even if it was just for stolen food. Ridiculous. But being useful would be preferable.

"I'm sorry mister, but I don't have any cash on me. I don't have any valuable possession either. I lost everything when I got fired and moved West looking for a new job. Some luck that's been. Unless your filthy rich, you can't cut it in the cities up North."

"You came from the North?" Ren asked the now identified Mishima.

"...I'm mean well…yes. I know a few people still up there. One works for the newspaper and a few mostly just word on the street….well if they sti-

"Do you still have contact with them?" It would seem this Mishima might have a use after all.

"I…guess…I wouldn't know till I send them a telegram?" Accepting his answer, Ren holster his weapon and nods towards the former target. Reaching out his hand he goes to introduce himself.

"Yuuki Mishima, I'm Ren Amamiya. Nice to meet you and sorry about the scare. Though its best not to show your face around this area again to avoid other Bounty Hunters."

Gesturing to his horse, the elder Amamiya saddles up before offering a hand to Mishima. "It won't be a comfortable ride, but I know a place you can stay for awhile. If that's alright with you. I prefer not to kill a man who simply wants food to ease his stomach"

"I appreciate that Mister Ren, I owe you my life. I'll pay you back, anything you ask just name it!"

"We'll discuss more when we get to out destination." Directing his horse he leaves the old run down shack behind. It's near sunset as he finally rides into the town that is home.

"I'm afraid we don't have much space left in the boarding up in the Saloon, but I can offer a drink on me while we discussed those connections."

Groggy and sore from riding on the back of a horse for what felt like days under the blazing sun, he nods and takes a seat. Ren appears to be having a brief discussion with the Bar owner behind the counter and grabs two mugs of beer and a small plate of food.

"Drink up and eat!" he said as he starts chugging his own.

They enjoyed a bit of small talk while enjoying their beers. Mishima asking about the town, Ren asking what it was like in the northern big cities.

"It's okay there, a bit to crowded for my taste but everything is so convenient it seems, like watching the future unfold. But the West has its own charm too I think." Mishima said, finishing off his beer. "The people I know upstate, some were coworkers or friends. I used to be a part of a newspaper company but got fire for costing the company money for a really bad misprint or so they said. There's always dirt to be dug and news to find. If you give me a few weeks, I promise to do what I can and see what's been shuffling around the country. Is there something you're particularly looking for? "

"More of a someone. I'm not sure if its an alias or real name, but all I have to go by is a Mr. Samael. Think you can start with that?"

"For saving my life anything for you Mister Ren!"

"...Please don't call me that…."

Ren had allow a few weeks to pass to allow Mishima to work. He was mostly getting what he likes to call " noise" or "useless chatter" They always seem to consist of what famous wife was sleeping with who, petty crimes, achievement in science, etc. They weren't looking for what would be printed to the public, they needed news from the underground.

He didn't receive any news till over a month later. He was minding the Saloon for the early evening as Boss took Morgana on a small hunting trip, said he needed to learn how to shoot a rifle himself. Ren was stuck downstairs cleaning the mugs as Futuba was in her room testing who knows what.

"Mister Ren! I think I got something. Do you have a minute?"

He eyes the place which didn't have to many patrons this evening, most people had been taken care of and nursing their drinks. He nods to the young man that's probably his age to continue.

"I was talking to my friend Ohya up north who found some interesting dirt. There's a railroad company that's own by some big wig up North. Some whispers of Samael and others were going around but it wasn't confirmed all the way. It passes a few hands but the product seems to benefit him. Some sources heard that some of the trains shipments might also be illegal."

"Illegal how?"

"That part I don't know I'm afraid. But no matter what, the cargo always goes to the same place every 6 th Day. But they have also been expanding some of the railway lines, so its been having to take a detour since. But fortune is on our side, one of the detours passes through Great Falls Post Station which isn't far from here. Tomorrow night would be the perfect time for you."

Pondering it over he wonders if he should take the offer. The cargo could be connected to Samael or someone associated with him atleast. You don't have the law in your pocket and still be a good citizen. Mishima information could also be related to something else entirely but he wanted to check it out for that slim chance.

Another part of his brain believe he should just drop revenge all together. There was no need to chase this man. Ren was alive and him and his brother were living fairly decent lives.

"Mr. Samael doesn't forget a slight against him " That Bounty Hunter had said. Ren Amamiya was a mark that got away. He was probably considered an insignificant speck. But a speck that knew the truth and can't be bought by money. This Samael committed a crime and got away with it pushing it onto innocent lives. He wouldn't be surprise if others were killed or lives ruin just as well.

So now the question remained, does he want to live his life in fear of being hunted, always looking over his shoulder for his possible killer? No. He needed to find his own justice even if it meant going to hell and back. Ren needed to face his fears head-on and see it through.

"I'll check it out tomorrow night, any time it's expected to past the station?"

"Sometime between the 8 th or 9 th hour? I'm sorry I don't have more specific time-frame."

Patting him on the back to encourages him. Mishima did good. "Don't worry about it. I should get back to work though. I'll let you know in a few days how tomorrow goes."

The morrow arrives with a sense of confidence. Morgana and Boss had arrived back early that morning from their trip. Thankfully it meant he didn't have to watch over the Saloon that evening. Not that Boss hasn't closed the Saloon before much to the disgruntle townsfolk. But he didn't want him asking questions. For all Boss know was the elder sibling pass the time doing bounty work.

Gathering his supplies in his satchel he sees the sun dipping lower into sky. It was almost time to leave.

"Whatcha doing brother?" Morgana was standing in the doorway to the room they shared. Arms crossed leaning on the frame. He had a small bandage on his cheek. Apparently a cougar had surprise them while hunting and was barely able to avoid the swipe, but his face still got nicked.

"Packing. I got something I gotta do."

"Can I come!?"

"No stay here with Boss and Futaba. I should be back by tomorrow. And stay out of trouble!"


The older brother climbs out the back way of the Saloon and made his way to his horse. Saddling up he leaves town as quickly as he can to reach that destination before the suppose time Mishima gives him. He didn't want to miss that train.

Ren arrives at the station a half an hour before the 8 th hour. He settled his horse a little ways away from the station and waited. He warps an old scarf he found while cleaning their room around his face just in case.

Around 8:20pm he hears the noise of the train as it slows into the station. That has to be it he thinks. Tip toeing down as quietly as he can, he hops on the back of the train and waits before they start moving again. It was another 20 minute wait until the cargo train moved off. Making his way to the top of the roof he scales each section one by one. Ducking for a few close calls with bridges, his mask still securely tied to his face.

Slowly but surely he reaches the front of the train where he sees the conductor. Jumping down he surprise the old man in front of the controls and pulls out his weapon.

"Stop the train and no one gets hurt." He doesn't want to kill the old man. But it wouldn't be his first kill. That kill had left him throwing up and sleepless nights for a few days. But that bounty had it coming, he was a wanted rapist and murderer.

"Get off this train!" He had yelled back.

Cocking the gun back, Ren still keeps it aimed at the conductors head, "Don't make me pull the trigger old man."

The older man took a swung at him that Ren avoided. He then turns around and hits the conductor head with the bunt of his gun. It wouldn't kill but he should be unconscious for awhile. "Sorry. But I asked nicely."

The elder Amamiya fiddles with the train controls as he tries to find a way to halt it. Pulling one level cause the train to screech as it slowed to snail pace before stopping all together. "That should buy me some time."

Ren goes to check out the cargo cars, gripping his revolver tightly. A cargo train carrying important shipment should have bodyguards wouldn't it? Thankfully he hasn't run into any yet.

Nothing of significance was found in the first two cars, mostly construction equipment and supplies. He searches the third car that had various unmarked crates stacked upon one another. Something promising.

Before he could check he is grabbed from behind by surprised, the attacker wrapping his arms around Ren neck attempting to choke him. His gun falls to the floor from shock. Ren tries to grab at his attacker face from behind but is unsuccessful. The assailant squeezes harder around Ren's neck before the elder Amamiya is able to rock his head back hard enough to break the attacker's concentration. Ren turns around and kicks the aggressor into the wall before swinging a right hook. His fist is blocked before receiving at fist of his own.

Staggering back the assailant charges at the young man, tackling him to the floor. Ren attempts to fight him off but is at a disadvantage. He is trying to keep his attacker from wrapping his hands around his neck again. Ren was able to knee the man in the torso buying a few seconds to get free. Shouts are starting to get closer from the other cars. Others were coming, no doubt wondering why the train stopped out of nowhere.

"Shit" the young man gets up and successfully connects his fist to the guard's face. Exchanging blows to body and face, Ren uppercuts on the assailant knocking him out cold. He's not sure how he will explain the now forming bruises on his face to Boss.

Ren attempts to check the crates again but a shot rang out. Ducking behind one of the crates a few more bullets ricochet off. Taken a quick peak over, he sees maybe 2-3 guards entering from the other train car. He aims at the lead guard missing by a slim.

"He's got a gun!" They relay back to each other.

Gunshots are firing around him now trying to draw him out from behind the crates. Most hitting the corner of the crate he was hiding behind. There was a brief pause in two of the weapons firing, someone was reloading. Using this chance he quickly draws his revolver and fires hitting one of the guards square in the chest before jumping behind another crate.

"Come out ya bastard!"

Ren fires off two blinds shots hoping to hit. The second crate didn't have a better angle to work with he thought. He had to rush em. Refiling the chamber with some more ammo, the young man rushes back out rapidly cocking the gun back and firing as fast as he could. He was able to take down one guard while the other was grazed by the bullet in the middle of diving behind another crate. Ren was getting the upper hand now. Moving closer to the last guard he skids behind the box for cover. With the train engine dead and no gunfire he could hear the other man's fast breathing.

"If you walk away from this train right now, I won't kill you I promise," the Amamiya sibling offered.

"You think I trust a word from an outlaw!" The last guard said, he sounded young, maybe around his age?

"I'm not an outlaw, all I seek is justice to right the wrongs."

"Justice? Who are you to claim that!"

Ren stays behind his current crate as the guard fired off a few more bullets. With so many hitting the crates around him he found a few broken planks on the floor. Grabbing one decent size piece, Ren waits for the guard to pop up again before throwing the piece of wood directly at his face nailing him.

"Ooof" clutching his bloody face and dazed from the hit, Ren goes to rush him knocking him out with the blunt of his gun as well. He drops like a fly, out cold. He shouldn't lose to much blood from the grazed bullet wound and no doubt a broken nose.

Taking one last look at the guard, he recognizes the man's outfit almost like he's seen it before. It kinda reminded him of what that Bounty Hunter wore a few years prior.

"Hmm similar outfit, maybe same department or some agency?" He spoke out loud. He should probably check those crates now though.

Selecting a random crate, he jams it open to find out why this train had armed guards. In the busted crate laid piles of small wrap packages; drugs possibly. Lifting one of the packages, he exams it some more. If all the crates were filled with them it would be a fortunes worth.

Cocaine? Opium? Ren wasn't sure. Said big-wig was shipping drugs in disguise of building equipment. Destroying this would surely hurt his profits.

Ripping open the bags and pouring them around the crates, he soon felt excruciating pain on the left side of his body. Looking down he finds he was bleeding. Glancing behind him, the guard he had knocked out from an uppercut earlier regain conscious and shot him. Dropping to a knee Ren put pressure over the wound as best as he could. The guard was walking unbalance towards him but still aiming the gun.

"You thought you could get away you stupid thief!?" The guard said cocking his own gun back.

"Or so he thought," A new voice said, before the guard could turn around a high power bullet had caught his head.

Ren was reeling at the other man blood on his clothes. Looking up, he sees the last person ever expected to bail him out.

Boss was standing in the doorway with a rifle in hand and a disappointed look on his face.

"Where do I even begin with you kid?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

1882, 3 years ago

Ren was breathing raggedly as his hand continue to press his bleeding side. Sojiro holsters his rifle and reaches for the young man.

"Come on, we need to get out of here," Sojiro said, lifting him up and placing his arm over his shoulder.

"...I'm…not done…yet. I gotta-" Ren tries to say.

"No! We are going back home. You're enough trouble as is."

Pleading his case, Ren removes himself from Boss using the last of his strength to stand on his own.

"Please….help me finish….this," Weakly pointing to the last unconscious guard. Ren tries to gather his breath. "That one is…still alive but…knocked out. He needs to be rem…oved before we blow…the train."

Grabbing the elder Amamiya sibling, he drags him outside and coaxes him to the horse helping him up.

"Wait!" he grunts on his way up to the saddle the blood more obvious on his dark clothes. Sojiro takes a cloth from the back of his horse and tightly bounds it around the wound.

"Wait here and don't move."

Boss walks back to the train car and drags the last guard away some distance. He then goes to finish what Ren was trying to do dumping most of the substance throughout the train floor. He follows the trail slightly outside the train before moving away from the impact zone. Hopping back on his horse safely, he aims at the end of the trail shooting at it to create a spark. Flames lick the powder back to the train car itself before it explodes.

"That's our cue to leave," Sojiro says. Kicking the horse into run he looks back at his charge in the seat behind him. The young man was starting to look paler as his grip was loosening.

"Keep pressure on that wound kid, I'll get you looked at as soon as I can. Hang in there."

Ren attempts to nod his confirmation back but soon feels the ground rushing up to meet him.


 

 

The first thing he feels is warmth when he wakes up. Disoriented, he cracks his eye open to see he is in a bed covered up to his neck in a soft blanket. The walls surrounded him are fairly blank with no distinguishing features. He can feel his body ache all over from the bruises to his torso and face. His head feeling the worse. Ren then pats the side he remember being shot at only to feel bandages there. Shocked, he jolts from his mindless daze and regrets it immediately. Agonizing pain erupts from the wound as he falls back down.

"Try not to undue my work if you can." Staring through his eye lids, he notices a woman sitting at a desk in the corner writing in a journal. Short dark hair cut right above her blouse, one that was tuck in a skirt that was a lot shorter than designed.

"It already took awhile to make sure you wouldn't die from blood loss. It was a close call but you'll make it through," She said.

"Where am I?"

She gathers up a pitcher and pour an odd color content into a glass cup. "You're in my house. Drink this it's medicine."

Hesitantly taking the glass, he takes a few sips before gagging. The taste and smell were awful, "I thought you said it was medicine!?"

"It is. Its my own concoction. Finish it, it will help the body against infection. Ice and some good night sleep should help that bump on your head."

"So you are some kind of Doctor?" He asked trying to ignore the cup's foul odor.

"My name is Tae Takemi. Didn't get your full story from Boss, but from what I heard so far seem like a wild ride."

The young man sighs, not looking forward to the lecture he would probably receive.

"How do you know Boss?"

"You can call him an acquaintance of mine. Helped me set up shop a few years ago. It was awhile since I saw him until he dragged your half carcass in here."

He listens to her explanation as he downs the rest of the medicine forcing himself not to throw it back up. Ren vaguely remembers what happen the other night. That train car that was carrying that man goods were destroyed. And even though there were two survivors, they never saw his face to be identify.

He hands her back the glass that he regrets ever taking and asked how long he was out for.

"Almost two days kid." Boss had appeared behind her in the doorway, "Sorry if he was bothering you Doctor, I got It from here."

"If you say so, I'll head into the kitchen and check on the Stew he'll need to eat soon as well."

Sojiro grunts his acknowledgement back to her. He grabs the chair by the desk Takemi was previously sitting in and moves it besides the bed. He opens his mouth looking for words, trying to find the right thing to say to the young man. Boss still looks disappointed at him. Ren can't help but really feel like a small child that got caught doing something they shouldn't.

"I'm sorry" Ren blurts out first, the silence between them was tense.

"You're sorry?! Do you understand how reckless you were the other day. What if I never found out where you were and you got killed. How would I explain that to Morgana! To Futuba!"

"I understand Sir. But….how did you find me?"

"Kid, if you're going to have an informant you need to find one that doesn't squeal at the first sign of intimidation." So Boss went through Mishima. That guy was good at information but seem so easily startled. They would need to work on that.

"I know it was dangerous, but something needed to be done. Do I just sit back waiting in fear for this Samael to hunt me down! I won't let him track me down. I need to go to him."

"And you thought the best idea was bringing more heat on you by destroying valuable cargo? Not only that but anyone investigating the train murders!"

Ren would admit not everything was thoughtfully planned out, but he had limited time to work with.

"Just because you've gotten stronger doesn't mean you can throw the consequences out the window, they will always follow you. While I wasn't excited with you doing bounty work, it was at least a honest living. But I refused to see you become some outlaw. You don't know what your getting yourself into!"

"And you do!?"

"I did what I thought I had to do, and those I loved paid the price!" Boss yells back at him. He can see the sadness in his eyes frame by the spectacles. "I know what its like cause I was once a wanted man. I was young and cocky and I was good at what I did. But even among outlaws, I still had a set of rules I followed: Killing only those that needed to be kill, steal only things that need to be stolen, protect those that need protecting. I could barely follow my own advice. Because of my actions, I couldn't protect the people important to me."

Ren was shocked at seeing this side of him. Him and Morgana always thought he was a humble bar owner. Whenever they asked why he had a good shot he would just say he was an avid hunter. But thinking back a few years ago with the Bounty Hunter, a reaction like that isn't typical to an avid hunter. The anticipation of another human moves, Boss was calm because he done something like that before.

"I..I didn't know Boss."

"Of course you wouldn't know cause I….I never really told anyone. It's my fault why Futuba's mother is no longer here. Things were going south with a rival gang I stole from, and there was a shootout….." Sojiro takes a pause as he gathers himself. "I knew Doctor Takemi around that time, but the bullet had hit a vital organ. There wasn't much she could've done. After that I took Futuba and left, trying to start a new life. Hanging up my guns, I vowed to provide the best life I can for my daughter. Then you two dropped in my life."

The young man absorb the information given to him. It was odd knowing Boss had a completely different life. He helped people but also hurt others. And from his actions those sidelined paid the ultimate price. If Ren was going to continue his chance for revenge, he would have to step outside the lines of the law. The men he would be going against wouldn't be playing fair. Actions have consequences. The big wigs up North will be upset their product and profit got ruined but they'll just make more. More people would come after him. Would they target his brother next? Futuba? Boss?

Slowing easing himself to sit up this time around, the elder Amamiya sibling looks back at his caretaker.

"I know what I did was reckless and should've been more planned out. I wanted to hurt him in the only way I could and was angry. But….I want to help others too if I can. There will be those out there that will prey on the weak. Those that don't have a voice, almost like I did."

Sighing, Sojiro gets up and walks around the room. The kid was trying to be like him when he was younger. A savior for the people, one who stood up against the unjust, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor tales.

"You know its not going to be easy kid."

"I know"

"You're going to face a lot of hardships and need to be ready for it."

"I know."

"You need to be careful on who to trust. That guy won't be some small town criminal. Eyes will be everywhere for you."

"Yes sir."

"And don't lose heart. No matter how many times you are knocked down. You must be a thief in the shadows and harness your patience. Anger will only send you six feet below. You must also understand that sometimes good deeds will go unnoticed if you wish to follow through. This life isn't for fame, you understand this?"

"I understand."

"Alright. Now I gotta figure out how to explain this to your brother when we go home."


Present Day, 1885

"It was the first taste of being a Phantom Thief. Opportunities came and went but it never felt like I was getting anywhere closer till Mishima told me about Kamoshida. I was hoping he would be closer in his inner circle…"

"It didn't turn out bad though Ren," His brother offer positively, "We still helped."

"I never did get to thank you Mr. Morgana. You played just as an important part in our rescue," Ann said. Morgana tried to shuffle away to hide the red on his face.

".…You can just call me Morgana…Miss Ann." He swore he never seen a more beautiful woman in his life.

Chuckling at his younger brother, Ren laid back against a small mattress, "Well I think I've talked enough tonight. I'm going to hit the hay, we'll look for a town in the morning. Morgana you got first shift."

"Goodnight brother." Morgana preferred to be the later to stay up. He continue to stroke the fire as the women went to sleep wrapped up in blankets the brothers had stored on their horse. Ryuji offering to stay up as well to keep company.

He knows they gotten off on the wrong foot. Ryuji was more honestly amazed the kid held his composure during the shootout. Killing so young has to take a toll, but here he is silently sitting in front of the fire.

"So what's your stake in this short stack?"

Glaring back at the blonde haired main, Morgana ponders if throwing a flaming stick would be a good idea.

"I want to help clear my brother's name. He was falsely accused and almost hanged. He's….he's the only blood family I got left. You got family?"

Stretching his back out, he shakes his head no. He looks back at the two woman dozed into a peaceful slumber. "I guess those two have become my new family. Started with a silly conversation we had one day really. But if there are others out there suffering like Ann and Shiho, I do wanna help stop it. And I know my leg may slow you all down but I'm good with a gun and hunting."

"If you already wanted to stay you can stay. Ren already agrees with you."

"Yeah, " He says laying down.


Next Day, 1885

Ren was the first to get up after Morgana went back to sleep. Their fellow new members were rising as well. With limited horses, the girls had to share the saddle between men as they rode South for their next destination.

"Where are we going now brother?"

"A port town South of here if the map is correct, we need to gather supplies first"

"If you say so Ren." South meant ports, which meant more swamps and water. Morgana hated water.


 

 

Oakwood Harbor, Same Day

A lovely couple sat on a nearby bench watching the rhythm of the waves, the feel of soft sea breeze on their face. The young man moves his arm on the park bench as he attempts to get closer to his companion.

"Don't move the arm! You two need to stay still if I am to capture your essence on this canvas!"

Turning behind them they are surprise to see a dishevel young man sitting partially blocked by a bush. Faded paint on his clothes, a journal in one hand and a pencil in the other.

"What an odd man?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Present Day, 1885

The newly formed group continue to travel South taking breaks in between. Ren wanted to find a nearby hideout to hold up in near the town. Resting by a small lake they found, it gave the horses a breather and water.

"Hanging in their alright Arsene?" Ren ask his horse. Arsene's red coat was starting to get dirty from galloping up and the down the states. Brushing the dirt off the best he could, he feeds him a left over carrot from his satchel.

"Here you go boy." He pats him down one last time while Arsene enjoys his food.

"He's a beautiful horse."

Turning around Ren saw Shiho standing nearby admiring Arsene herself.

"He's a good horse, unruly at first but he answers the call when I need him. Dragging me back home when I was too hurt to steer myself."

"Good qualities in a steed, can I?" She offers to see if its okay to pet him. Nodding back, she hesitantly pats Arsene. He's not easily as startled as Morgana's horse.

"How's your arm been feeling. Any itching or numbness?" Ren asked. They used the last of their medical supplies to make sure the bullet wound were taken care of. Open wounds were one things, infections could become deadly.

Shiho still had the bandage wrapped around the arm as it hasn't fully closed yet, "It feels fine so far. Thank you."

"Good to hear Miss Shiho. We'll be departing as soon as Morgana gets back."

Walking around the small perimeter Ren wanted to make sure they were still the only one's in the general area. Hearing hooves hitting the ground hard, he recognizes Morgana coming back on Mercurius.

"Any luck finding anything Morgana?"

"I think so." Getting down from his horse he grabs a map from his pack to show the elder Amamiya sibling. "There's a town a couple of miles Southeast but I found an empty rundown house maybe a mile or two out from town. Searched the surrounding areas I didn't find signs of recent living," Morgana states as he points to the places on the map.

"This could work, this could work very well. Not bad." Ren proud of his little brother ruffles his hair.

"Hey!"

"Alright, everyone pack up we're moving." Ren goes to nudge Ryuji who was napping on the ground near the lake, "Hey wake up, we're about to leave."

"I'm up! I'm up." Ryuji still in a sleep daze jumps up from the ground. Ann, off to the side with her feet in the water scoffs at Ryuji's antics. Dusting off his jacket the best he can, Ryuji hops on his horse before helping Ann up. "Ready to go?" He asks her.

Nodding back, she wraps her arms around his torso to right her balance on the horse. She sees Shiho hopping onto Morgana's horse and Ren's taking the lead.

With the lake behind them, it had taken almost an hour to find the abandon house they were looking for. It was hidden in a treeline with a small stream behind it. A broken down outhouse and broken windows decorated it. At least the door worked.

"Morgana, Miss Shiho, and Miss Ann will stay here and settle in. Ryuji, you up for another ride?"

"Sure." Ryuji help Ann down from the horse before saddling back up.

"Morgana, you're in charge till I get back. We will be gone for a few hours alright."

With that said between the group, the two young men went off to investigate the nearby town. With the missing added weight they were able to make it in good stride. Being only in the afternoon, they most likely will be able to return back to camp around evening.

Walking into the harbor town, they made their way down to Main Street. Filled with merchants trying to sell the leftover catches of the day. The smell of the sea breeze infiltrated their smell. They could use the food as well, trying to use rations between the lot of them wasn't ideal.

"So what are we looking for Ren?"

"Just merely observing is all. Not every town we go to needs gun fire and explosions. But we need supplies, food, medicine to restock." He ease Arsene to a stop before tying him up to an outside post. Ryuji does the same with his stead.

"Argh. I should have brush Kidd off back at the lake. He's getting dirty."

"You named your horse Kidd?"

"Of course, after the best pirate in the world. Or at least that what Ma said when she read me bedtime stories."

"No shame in that," Ren offered.

The two ventured further into the Marketplace. The elder Amamiya sibling made a few purchases for fruit and placed them in a spare bag. With no cart, they would have to hunt later for their main course. Merchants were hollering off the latest sales and prices still. It wasn't overly crowded in the street but the volume was enough to make the gunslinger caution for pickpockets. With the thought of pocket on Ryuji mind, he wondered.

"Where'd you get all this money from anyway. You've been paying off a lot of things. Hotel room for multiple days, drinks, food. I mean you ain't exactly have a stable income."

Ren did carry money around, not the stash, that was buried. "You'll be surprise how much pocket change wanna be outlaws carry," he explained. "But it doesn't mean I don't return what is stolen if someone needs it more. Sometimes a wanna be thug is just someone trying to put food on the table. My mentor told me that one."

They continued to move through the crowd, memorizing the city. It was almost like the previous town in turn of updates but better. The roads had cobblestone pavement, the buildings had some height to them. It seem it was a booming harbor town with trade and entertainment all around it.

"Ryuji come on, I wanna check out some vantage poi-"

"Unhand me you ignorant fools! I've done nothing wrong," someone yelled. A young man with neatly comb dark hair was being handle by officers of the law as they rounded the corner.

"I told you, I'm not a drunkard. I was merely trying to capture the beautiful essence of the lovely couple." The man wasn't resisting but still verbally trying to prove his case.

"What a weird guy?" Ryuji stated.

The two moved on past the incident to check higher ground. Ren wanted to scout any and all possible exits to and from the city. The layouts between crowded streets, the pathways between alleyways. It took a few more hours than they wanted to check out the town, but he was satisfied

"Let's head back after one more thing. Tomorrow we'll gather more information."

"For real? We're not doing anything else here?"

"Today was a visual recon, tomorrow we listen. Listening to the world is a key part to being a Phantom Thief. The last thing I want is to go in blind or walk into a situation with incorrect information. Someone might get hurt that doesn't need to," Ren whispered to him. Listening was key but he also didn't want to go blasting to the world that they were wanted outlaws.

"Come on, I need to drop off a letter before heading back."


"Dear "Uncle",

I know I said I send a telegram, but I thought a letter would explain things easier.

First, the two of us are doing just fine. If you can believe it, our little group has gotten bigger. We're still getting to know them but they are good people. People who were dealt a bad hand of fate. They were hurting when I meet them and I couldn't pass them by. Besides, it might be nice having more company than just us two.

I have also enclosed money for Mr. M. He did quite well this time, please make sure to give it to him. I'll check in two weeks time if he has any "job proposals for the article". His last "article" was a little rough, but nothing I wasn't able to read unscathed.

I hope you and Miss Oracle are doing okay still. I know Mr. Cat doesn't want to admit it, but he still misses your food and her tricks when we leave for more than a days trip.

I will try to update you when I get a chance once more. Till next time.

Your "Nephew"

Akira Kurusu

Sealed up tightly, he gives it to the Post Master to be delivered to a specific address. He would be stupid to send it straight to Boss but sent it to Dr. Takemi address instead. She would give to Boss during her check-ups with Futuba anyhow.

Making it back to camp before the sun fully went down was an accomplishment. The others had settle in the abandon house. Two rooms the house had, and spare linen to use between the two rooms thankfully found.

Being an odd number of them, someone was going to be left on the floor. Some arrangements had the woman share a room with the brothers taking the other, Ryuji wasn't too please. Ren also knew that even if he took the floor, he doubted Morgana and Ryuji could share the room. But the other option would leave his brother out himself. Ren also believe Shiho would still feel uncomfortable sharing a room with either men, even Ryuji.

"It's decided, the woman get their own room and we'll sleep on the floor."

"For real!?" "What!"

Having Morgana and Ryuji yell at him wasn't pleasant. But he wanted to make this dynamic work.

"It's best it works out this way. Someone will be on look out every night anyway. We don't want any unwanted surprises either. I'll take the first night shift." They come to a murmur agreement on the sleeping condition.

For Ann, it was nice to have a bed again after sleeping chained up on the ground. Shiho was more or less the same way. Ren offered fruit for the evening to hold them over till the next day when Morgana goes hunting.

The three of them had straighten up most of the place during the day, but dust and broken furniture still littered the property. They made due with what they had.

Settling in for the night, Ren got ready for his shift. Walking a path around the perimeter revolver in hand, he had to be sharp. Most of the noises were nocturnal animals looking for their own prey, just as he was cautiously looking for his own.

The closes that got to them was a small fox. Stepping near the stream, it lapped at the water quenching its thirst. Ren eyed the Fox, silently warning it to not come closer. Another Fox appears before him slightly bigger guiding the smaller one back into the treeline. A mother looking after the son.

Ren wishes he could remember his own mother sometimes. So many faces he has met but he can't remember what she look like before she was riddle in her own sickness.

Hearing footsteps in his distraction, Ren cocked his revolver back only to see Morgana coming out of the house.

"I almost shot you, you know," The elder sibling stated.

"Sorry, I thought you would've heard me come out. You usually do anyway."

"No, it…it was me. I got a little distracted," Ren holster his weapon. "Was there something you wanted Morgana?"

"I couldn't really sleep so I wanted to switch shifts early, if you don't mind." Looking at his younger brother he notices small bags forming under his eyes. Morgana usually does the first shift of the night for claiming he has a hard time sleeping.

"Nightmares again?" Ren asked.

"Somewhat…"

Wrapping an arm around his shoulder he guided the younger sibling around the house still watching for any intruders, "Tell me about it as we walk."

Morgana debated on telling his brother the whole thing. Each time he went to sleep, he's afraid the same dream will appear again but no new ending.

"I keep dreaming about the same thing over and over brother. That…something not right with me. But every time I'm in the dream it gets hazy and I'm always in this weird chamber. I don't know what to make of it. It's suffocating."

Pondering Morgana words, he stops their walking and let's go looking out further into the treeline again. Futaba told him once medicine can help dreams but this may be something else.

"Do you think it's a sign Mona?"

"A sign?"

"That you want out of this life, that it's suffocating you." Ren turns around to face Morgana, looking him straight in the eye.

"What! No, that's not it. I want to be here, you have a promise to keep remember," Morgana said as he tries to plead his case.

"I know. But maybe your dreams are trying to tell you something. Hell, sometimes I wonder myself if I should've had to tag along the past few years. You're still young. You shouldn't be out here sleeping on dirt roads with one eye open. You should be back home in a nice comfortable bed, hot meals everyday. Being sweet to whatever pretty girl walked your way."

This wasn't the first time they had talks like this. Make no mistake he loved hanging out with his younger brother, but Ren was always worried about him in a gunfight. Clearing out other gangs in the heat of battle. But he made a promised. A promise that they would have each other back no matter what.

"But that isn't the life I wanted. I choose to be here, just like the others choose to stay. Besides who's going to be the one to patch you up when you lose a fist fight."

Chuckling back, he ruffles Morgana hair once more much to the younger sibling complaints.

"Alright, alright. You win this round. I'll head back inside. If you see anything strange, let us know. And do make sure to wake up Ryuji for his shift. You still need sleep yourself."

Giving a thumbs up, Morgana starts his own perimeter with his weapon on standby.

Heading back in the house, Ren sees Ryuji was nowhere to be found in the main room. Peaking into one of the bedroom, he sees the blonde hair young man sharing a bed with Ann. Both embracing one another as they sleep. His arm was wrapped around her in a protected hold, her face under his chin as she clung to him. He must have moved after Morgana got up. And after all that arguing about who staying where, Ren still got the short end of the stick.

"Traitor," he mouths under his breath. Leaving it be, Ren gets some blankets and tries to settle on the floor near some left over furniture. It wasn't long till sleep took hold of him.


The Next Day

Ren awoken to the sunlight filtering in from the broken windows. Gathering his thoughts he sees Morgana a few feet away covered in his own set of blankets. He gets up as quietly as he could to avoid waking up his brother. Peeking back in, he sees Ann room has one less occupant and Shiho was still slumbering on her bed in the other room.

Walking out closer to the treeline he sees Ryuji sitting on a rock, shotgun strap to his back.

"Anything unusual Ryuji?" Ren asked plopping down on the grass next to him.

"Just your typical critters." He lets out a big yawn and relaxes a bit now that he's not the only eyes, "So when are we are heading into town?"

"In an hour or so. I wanna give the women some more time to rest. Speaking of which…"

Ryuji could already tell where this was going. "It wasn't like that, she just wanted some reassurance last night."

"Reassurance?" Ren wondered.

"Yeah. Now that the bastard's really gone, he won't be hunting her down anymore. But that doesn't stop her own feelings thinking that everything so far was just a dream. Her and Shiho use to try and runaway but he would always find them and it never turned out well. I actually thought it was Morgana waking me up not Ann."

"I see." Ren was shocked the two haven't broken down yet during their short travels. They've been quiet but no outbreaks. No doubt the horrors they faced under Kamoshida should never be wished upon by anyone, "Let's head back."

They would be in two groups today after a small breakfast with the left over fruit. Morgana and Shiho were going to go out and explore to find some game. Ryuji, Ann and Ren would head into the town and see what they could find out and whats been going on.

Taking their time to town, the three of them walk about mingling with the crowd. Checking out the harbor, they saw tons of boats and fisherman unloading boxes upon boxes of shipment. Word has it that was for some big artist exhibition arriving in town. That art event meant a party for the rich to be seen, meaning lots of money was going to be in one area. For an outlaw who thought nothing of gold, their mouth would water at the thought of it. But Ren was looking for something more.

Ann had enjoyed the sights and the sea breeze from the harbor. They brought her with them not just to gather info but she did need some updated clothes. Ryuji may need a new piece too….and probably Shiho. Ren could already feel the lightness of his wallet. The two blondes clothes were accumulating dirt and grime all over them. Washing and scrubbing can only do so much.

Deciding to skip straight to the clothing store, the two men sat aside as they let Ann pick whatever she wanted at a reasonable rate; it's all Ren asked for. She had found some dress she like that looked well on her and some form-fitting shirts. A skirt or two and a pair of men pants causing the store employee to raise an eyebrow.

"Just take a skirt, pair of pants and the shirt Ann and change," Ren said. They felt like they were for hours.

Paying for Ann purchases, she changed into a durable red shirt and tan pants. Ryuji took less time finding what he wanted in a new pair of dark pants, pale yellow shirt and clean vest. The jacket stays apparently.

"Are we ready to go?" Ren asked. Ann was waiting for the store owner to finish wrapping Shiho's new clothes and her skirt. They were close to the same size so finding something similar was easy.

Walking out the men were carrying the clothes instead. On their way to the horse, Ann started to get nervous. Since the store she felt a presence constantly near them. No matter which direction they took.

"I think someone is following us guys," She whispers to them. On edge Ren switches the box to his left hand leaving his right for a quick draw if needed.

"Alright, follow my lead," he directed.

Moving towards an alleyway, Ren and Ryuji took two different corners leaving just Ann appearing to be alone in the street.

There was indeed someone following right behind her, picking up the pace. He sees her by herself and thinks this is the chance. Reaching out to grab her shoulder he was blocked by two men with threatening looks.

Sizing up their stalker, they came across a familiar face.

"Hey isn't this that weird guy from yesterday?" Ryuji had ask Ren.

"I beg your pardon, who are you calling weird," the stranger replied back.

"You are weird. You're the one following me." Ann had push past the two young men to face her stalker.

It seems that he was having two misunderstanding back to back days.

"That's preposterous I was not stalking you. The reason I was following you was-"

"Yusuke my boy! Where have you run off too?" They heard an old man yell from the main streets. And old man with graying hair and beard had peaked over in their direction. He wasn't wearing usual shirt and attire but a modest robe it appeared.

"I see this is where you went. Who are your new friends?"

"Sensei, I'm sorry for leaving you behind I was….in the process of explaining the situation. I wasn't trying to embarrass you again." The odd man now name Yusuke had bowed low to his teacher.

"No worries my boy. Please disregard any slight my student may have caused. My name is Ichiryusai Madarame, its an honor to meet you."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Elsewhere, 1885

 

Papers always seem to pile up on his desk just when he clears it. He knows there are possible back ups when he's out of the office,this was getting out of hand. But its paperwork for now until he can find a new lead.

Detective Akechi; the pride of this special agency tasked with catching the worse society has to offer. An ace he was called, able to capture and arrest hundreds of outlaws over his young career.

He didn't feel like an ace as he was back to square one. Akechi was following a case regarding illegal prostitution and trafficking up and down the east coast and some Midwest. By the time he was able to trace the trafficking to the main distributor, all he found was a roasted body and a burned down building. The higher ups deemed it cased closed. Now he is stuck behind his desk again with piles of papers he wanted to burn himself.

"You look like you had a rough day." A voice said from his doorway. Looking up he sees Sae Nijima standing there with a coffee in hand. She was what they called a speciality lawyer. It was almost unheard of for a women to be in her position.

"You can say that. Chief had closed the case I came back from. The distributor we were looking for, the one that was called Asmodeus was dead by the time I got there. All the witnesses I talked to mention three masked men went in before all hell broke loose." Akechi explain to her.

He went to scratch the small scar on his nose, a habit that formed during the early years working for the agency. They started him out as a field agent and he got stuck on a train robbery gone wrong. He remembered waking up to the train on fire and he some distance it was at least keep him alive.

"Shame about that case, I was looking forward to you bringing him in so I can prosecute him." Sae said.

"Isn't your plate full already Miss Sae?"

"I have a job to do, and I intend to do it well no matter who it is I will win."

Akechi had to admit he admire Sae determination somewhat. Add to the fact that her superb fighting skill scared him a little bit.

"I see. If you're heading out, I'll come with you. I could use the fresh air."

 

 

Oakwood Harbor, 1885

 

Ren wasn't sure how he felt about today so far. First clothes shopping, then leading their suppose stalker to him, only to find said stalker was a student of a famous artist.

"The honor is ours Mr. Madarame. My name is Akira. Our female companion was a bit startled but no harm, no foul." Ren said trying to deescalate.

"As an apology for this misunderstanding, why don't you all visit the exhibit later this week. It's will open for special guest by the end of this week and later on for the public."

"That would great Sir. Thank you very much."

"Well then with that settle, Yusuke come along we have preparation to finish." Madarame offered a slight bow while Yusuke bowed lower behind him before walking off with his Sensei.

"Well I wasn't expecting that." Ryuji mutter still pissed.

"Think of it as an opportunity Ryuji. Admiring art with fellow stuck up socialites."

Calming after that, the group thought it would be best to just call it a day. So much for recon.

Taking the time back to the hideout, they found Morgana and Shiho already sorting out the food.

"You guys are back early." Shiho had commented. Her and Morgana had found some success in rabbit meat and fish. Morgona was packing away the fish trying to preserve it for later meals. They had a fire going not to far from the abandon house with the rabbit meat on sticks ready to be cooked.

"Yeah. We decided to come back after a strange run in. Oh Shiho, I got you some clothes, here lets go inside and try them on." Ann drags Shiho into her room with the newly purchased clothes. The three men were left outside to finish setting up for the evening. Hitching the horse, and making sure they were feed as well.

 

 

 

"So it appears we got invited to some Art Exhibition later this week in town." Ren updated the other two as they all sat around the fire eating.

"Oh that sounds fun. Think I can come with you brother?"

"It's only going to be open for special guest this week. But if we have time, I can try to get you in when the public can go." The elder sibling offers.

"I don't get whats so great about art anyway. The only thing I've seen is naked women in ponds."

"There's more to art than naked woman Ryuji." Ann said tapping him on the head. "I mean people get their portraits done right?"

"Something like that. The only art room I ever saw was on a date. The room had more statues than paintings though."

"Wait Ren you were on a date!?" Ryuji asked surprise.

"Yeah you should've seen it blondie, he went out with this local school teacher and made an embarrassment of himself later that night." the younger sibling tattled and laughed.

"Look it was years ago and I was young and new. And you shouldn't have been spying on me anyway Morgana." Ren didn't think discussing an art invitation would delve into his sex life. "Besides her later invites got better anyway."

The group all laughed at Ren's expense. It was good to relax for once around a fire.

They were biding their time for the week running errands to and from the hideout. Gathering small food supplies, ammo, and restocking the medicine.

Ryuji was also joining Morgana this time on some hunts. They still bickered every now and then but co-operated to bring back some fresh deer and herbs. Ryuji was impressed by the younger man's hunting skill, it was like he had a sixth sense of smelling prey or something.

Ren had went into town by himself a few more times gathering information. People around did seem excited for Madarame exhibit. More they were excited someone so famous was visiting. A man and his apprentice from overseas the gossip said. Ren always did wonder what it was like out there. All he knew were small towns and plains.

Wandering in thought he was bumped into by someone small. Turning around he goes to offer his apologies only to see a small child there maybe 10 years old. They were grabbing onto him trying to fix their balance.

"Sorry Mister, I'll watch were I go next time." The young boy said taking off.

Ren pats his back left pocket confirming what he hope didn't just happen. "Slick kid."

He goes to chase after the little thief chasing him down the alleyways. The boy was trying to trick him by going in different circles hoping the older man will take a wrong turn somewhere. Left, right, left, left, right, as the boy was still being chased. Ren doubling back the other way decides to wait and let the prey come to him. It seems the kid love running in a pattern. Ducking behind a container he sees the kid making another circle and looking back believing he lost the perpetrator. The young boy smirks as he opens up Ren's wallet that's filled cash.

"Jackpot!" he exclaims.

"Not exactly kid." Ren said quickly grabbing the boy's arm before he can run away again.

"Let me go! It was just a game Mister!" The kid tried to twist his arm out of the elder Amamiya's grip with no success.

"I'll let you go if you give me the wallet back." Ren patiently waits for the young boy to give the stolen wallet. Reluctantly, the kid sighs in defeat and gives him back the wallet.

"Thank you. Now are you hungry?" he offers letting him go without so much as a fuss.

"What!?"

"I don't mind treating you to a meal as long as you promise not to steal from me again. Alright." Offering his hand out as a peace offering. "Besides kids your age probably steal looking for some funds for a meal."

Staring back at the hand, the young boy seem hesitant to take it. Unsure if it was a trap.

"Look, if your not interesting in hot food, at least eat this to fill your stomach." Ren offered the young boy the last apple he carried in his bag.

Examining the apple, the boy was truly shocked with this stranger's kindness. Most people he stole from tried to have him arrested or was shot at. But the older man was offering him food at no cost and was letting him go no trouble.

"Can…Can I still get that hot meal Mister?"

 

 

"Slow down there before you choke yourself, the foods not going anywhere." Ren took the young boy with him to a place the kid always wanted to try. It was thankfully inexpensive and right off the harbor marketplace. A lot of people that immigrated to this town brought a lot of culture and food with them, something they were trying now; something called ramen.

"So Shinya was it? What are you doing running around the streets by yourself? Do you have any parents I can try to contact for you?"

Finally take a break from slurping down noodles as fast as he could, he looks back up to the elder man and shakes his head. "I don't know no address. I got lost from my Mother a long time ago. There was this argument and after that I can't remember much. She could be anywhere. I do know rich folks like visiting this town a lot and I tried begging for food, but I felt it got me no where. So I started stealing, and I got real good at it."

"I will admit you are not bad at that slight of hand, but your moves are too predictable when escaping. You're lucky you've been avoiding others this much so far."

"You think so? Think you can teach me to be better Mister?"

"Weellll….." Ren wasn't sure it was a good idea on how to teach a kid to steal better. He already had Morgana to worry about. The best course of action was to ignore the question all together and finish his food.

Slurping up the rest of his noodles, Ren sees a familiar combed dark hair man in the the corner of his eye,ordering at the same booth. Instructing Shinya to stay were he was and finish his food, Ren makes his way over to the other young man.

"Mr. Yusuke, its nice to see you about again. Not running into any trouble today I hope."

"Mr. Akira, hello to you too and no I've been assisting Sensei with the exhibition. There were a few…difficulties. But I trust your female companion will be visiting as well?

"Yes, we will all be there."

"The stiff one to?" Yusuke ask when referring to Ryuji. Nodding back, Yusuke scowls slightly but tries to play it off.

"If that is the case, I hope you three enjoy the show tomorrow. We have already given your descriptions at the door as part of our invited special guest."

"Thanks, I'm sure we will. I guess I'll leave you to your meal now." Ren walked back to his seat near Shinya as he goes over the conversation in his head. Yusuke body language was unusual. He seemed guarded when they first spoke but relax when asking about Ann. Difficulties didn't equate to suspicion as Ren can imagine setting up all the pieces can be hard. But he also scowled at the idea of the the other men being there. Over thinking once more, he feels rapid taps on his arm.

"Hey Mister Ren, um can I get another bowl please?"

"Sure kid" Ren had important matters to deal with tomorrow but for now he will focus on today.

 

 

The Next Day….

 

Polishing their clothes the best they can Ren, Ann, and Ryuji headed back into town for the Art Exhibition. Ann deciding on her new shirt and skirt and Ryuji leaving his old patched up jacket behind for the clean new pants and shirt. Ren left his black split duster coat behind and opted for just the red shirt and grey vest. He was uncomfortable leaving his gunbelt back at the hideout, but did carry some hidden throwing knives on his person. It was suppose to be an evening of finery but it never hurts to be cautious.

Walking up to the building they could see they were under dress compare to the other patrons roaming about. But they were let in regardless as Yusuke mentioned. Exploring the layout, it was a two story building with portraits and paintings strewn about. Some artifacts and small statues were placed in the middle to give the room a more populated feel. Ren didn't know what it was, but he started to feel nerves crawling up his spine. Whenever he had this feeling, bad things had happen. Boss always thought it was some hidden instinct of his. Morgana believe he ate some bad herbs.

"Okay, let split up and look around. Ryuji, Ann, you two should check out the second floor and I'll stay here by the entrance. If you find anything odd or out of place, report back."

"Is something wrong?" Ryuji asked.

Shaking his head, Ren didn't want to make every occasion guarded or suspicious. But something just didn't feel right. "I don't know Ryuji but keep your eyes peel."

Taking a glass of the champagne that was being passed around, Ren went around observing the different art pieces on display. On the second floor, the two blondes were also wandering among the crowd. Ryuji was bored out of his mind already but Ann appeared to be generally interested.

"Hello Miss." Turning around she sees Yusuke standing behind her with two flute glasses in hand. "I didn't know if you were thirsty so I brought some drinks."

"Oh thanks man I was getting parched." Ryuji exclaims grabbing a glass for himself. Yusuke slightly glared at the other man as he hands what was suppose to be his glass to Ann.

"Have you been enjoying the show so far." The dark haired man asked.

"Yes. I have. Thank you so much for inviting us. And…sorry for yelling at you the other day. It's been a pretty stressful past few weeks."

"It's okay Miss…."

"Ann. Ann Takamaki and this one over here is Ryuji."

"Miss Takamaki, would you like a personal tour of the show. I'm very familiar in a lot of the pieces being presented. If your companion doesn't mind."

Ryuji shrug in disinterested and just keeps an eye from the corner.

Exploring the different rooms on the second floor, Yusuke gives her an in dept detail and history of the artworks they come across. Continuously asking for her opinions or likes and dislikes.

"What do you think of this one Miss?"

Observing the painting in front of her, she can feels the artist sorrow and pain as if they were locked behind a jail cell. "Mr. Madarame must have been really lonely when he did this piece. Its amazing he has done so much work and styles. But this one truly feels like a league of its own."

"I..I see. I guess Sensei was going through a rough time when he made this. Come on lets look at some other work." Yusuke says as he grabs her hand and drags her along. He knows the one piece he wanted to show her that was finally being exhibited again after being lost for so long.

"This one is beautiful. What is it called?" Ann stared in awe at the painting in front of her. A portrait of a lovely young woman held in mystery.

"Sensei called it the 'Sayuri', it was one of his first piece he made when he buried the sword and picked up a paint brush instead. It has been my own inspiration to be a better artist."

"Oh I didn't know you were an artist Mr. Yusuke. Do you have any of your artwork display today?"

" Uh….I'm afraid not. Sensei believes I am not ready even though I have been under his tutelage for quite some time now. But that is why I was following you the other day. I saw you enter that clothing shop and knew you would be the perfect person.

"Person for what?"

Grabbing her hands in his, he looks directly at her as sincerely as he can. " Miss Ann, please be my model for my next work."

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Present Day, 1885

 

Standing dumbfounded, Ann wasn't sure what to do after these questioned were asked. Yusuke had asked her to be his model for an art piece.

"I can't be a model, I've never done that before."

"I don't have much money, but I can pay you for the job Miss?"

Waving her hands she tries to back away from the exuberant man who keeps insisting she be his model. Getting paid would be a plus but she still doesn't know this man and was starting to get nervous. Feeling herself being backed into a corner. Yusuke's image started to blur between smooth comb hair to wild black hair and crazed eyes.

"Hey! She says she's not interested." Yanking Yusuke back, Ryuji gets between the two and glares at the other man.

"I'm sorry, it was never my intention to startled you. Would you like a glass of water?" Yusuke offered as an apology.

Shaking her head, she grabs Ryuji arm to calm him down as others around them were starting to look their way. They don't want to make a scene.

"I will be fine. Can I take some time to think about it?"

"Of course, one moment." He goes off to find a pen and paper and writes down his address. "Sensei and I are staying in a small shack not to far from town. If you are still interested, please feel free to stop by."

"Okay."

"If you'll excuse me, I have some other matters to attend to. I hope you enjoy the exhibition Miss Ann. Mr. Ryuji."

Yusuke vanishes into the crowd as Ryuji and Ann stood in front of the "Sayuri". Ann takes a moment to gather herself. She was safe, away from anything to do with that man.

"Come on Ann, lets go meet up with Ren."

Ren had walked around the first floor twice already and found nothing suspicious. What he did find was Madarame being jovial to all the guest that came his way praising the work. The man had a lot of different styles, enough to fill up a decent size two story building. He couldn't tell you what each style meant, but he did know artist tend to stick with a particular "look" to market themselves.

In the corner of his eye he sees Yusuke coming down and walks up to his mentor. They were speaking softly to one another and he couldn't hear what they were discussing. Moving around to a better spot, Ren was able to see Madarame mouth movements.

"I want you to stay here. I'll go in the back." he leaves the younger man and disappears behind a pair of doors with an odd design on it. Ren thinks nothing of it and tries to enjoy the rest of the night. Maybe his mind was getting sick thinking every person they meet is up to something. There were kind folks in the world he had helped and had come across. But he just couldn't shake the feeling. At least the champagne was decent.

"Ren!"

Hearing his named called he looked around and sees the two blondes by the exit, ready to make their way back to camp.

"So did you find anything yourself?" Ryuji had ask the de facto leader.

"Nothing really unusual. Just surprised Madarame has such a wide range of….styles." He offered back.

"I got invited to be his model. He even gave me his current address, says he pay me. We could use the money. Your funds are getting low right Ren?"

"Hmm. I should be okay to cover our expenses for a week or so. Maybe sell some pelts in the meantime while were visiting. Doesn't hurt to do some odd jobs either."

Thankfully they were able to ride back to the hideout without any ambush from other ruffian in the night. Morgana was the guard left back in the abandon house. He was attempting to teach Shiho some card games to pass the time.

"Everything run smoothly Morgana?"

"No intruders near the vicinity. Miss Shiho and I had an early dinner, but we left you some rabbit stew in the kitchen." Morgana said. He went back to his card games as the other three filled their stomachs with the luke warm food.

"Alright! Who wants to play Poker. I want to see if my protege can be matched." the younger sibling snickered.

Morgana and Shiho were mostly getting along as they were the two left behind the most. Morgana to guard the place as Shiho wander about doing odd task. She had help straighten the place up in the past few days. Finding a few books left behind that she could read. Other than talking to Ann in their spare time, Shiho tended to keep to herself.

The five of them sat around on the floor playing a few games of Poker. Betting small trinkets like watches or bracelets. Tomorrow was a new day for them.

 

 

Elsewhere. 1885

Ace Detective Goro Akechi was finally catching a break. After the failed case with Asmodeus, he picked back up solving other bigger issues. Putting behind bars a gang that was robbing post offices. Siblings that planned to rob one of the banks. Kidnappings, etc. It was nice to be a field agent again, though his suit was drench from the last mission. Cleaned up and in his office once more, he faced another pile of papers.

"Ah Detective, you're still here. Sorry to bother you Sir but we needed you to review these documents and sign off on them. They were some lost papers from the trafficking case that needed to be file away."

"Put them on the chair over there and I'll get to them in a moment." Akechi said. He felt like his hand will fall off after all these signings. Finally getting to the missing papers he would have to go through his desk to find that case again.

The trafficking case with Asmodeus was an odd one. They had gotten an anonymous tip about a barn being used to hide women. Kidnapped women, prostitutes, and children. When Akechi and his men arrived, the women and children were let go after a brief gunfight and the man in charged arrested.

Interrogating the man, they found he was just a middle spot in line for this whole thing. The women from the barn came from who they called Asmodeus: the distributor and point A. Asmodeus sold women to the middle man who then traffic them out to other places getting paid. That money would then go back to the distributor. One was already dead and another soon to be hanged. Case closed….right?

But the money during all of this, someone was funding them and some off the women in the barn were still missing. So why were his higher ups so quick to shut it down?

Getting up from his chair he leaves his office and walks down to the basement where the prisoners were held. Akechi knew who he wanted to talk to. Stopping by a particular cell, the Detective sees a heavy set man sitting on the bed propped from the wall. His head bald as the day he was born.

"Kobayakawa."

"...Detective."

"I have some more questions to ask you."

"What for. I am to be hanged anyhow." The hairless man replied back disgruntled.

"If you answer truthfully, I can see if your neck can stay in place a few more days."

"And I already told you everything I know. Why don't you ask Asmodeus for information."

Leaning back on the jail bars, Akechi was keeping his patience the best he could. "I'm afraid Asmodeus is dead. You're my last witness currently. You mentioned that you received the women and children from him. At your station, you shuffled them away to other locations and received money in return. A portion you sent back to the Brothel owner. Where does the money come from?"

"I don't know!"

"Do I have to bring Loki down here again?"

"PLEASE NO! I'LL TALK!"

"Okay then. What about the funds, where did you receive it from."

Already sweating down his neck, Kobayakawa was a dead man walking already. Even if all he got out of this was a few more days to live.

"The money sometimes come from two different places. The women usually goes to another point and shuffle some more. Sometimes I get money to fund things from the other dealer. We know him as Azazel, probably Southwest of here. But I swear that's really all I-"

A loud bang was heard behind Kobayakawa as the wall was torn apart and Akechi sent flying back into the cell wall behind him. Dazed, confused, and bleeding he gets up to check the prisoner only to find him on the ground with debris shards lodge in his back and head.

"Damnit!" Akechi cursed, now both men in this case were dead. But not before he found a slight lead. He could still feel his ears ringing and a headache forming from the blood rush. Someone knew Kobayakawa was entrapped here waiting for the execution. Someone who wasn't afraid to attack a Detective and Security agency outright from the outside.

"Detective Akechi!" He heard a few voices coming down the stairs, the clerk from earlier was the first to arrive. "What the hell happen here!?"

"An assassination it seems." The young ace said, kneeling to catch his breath. "Get a medic down here and three men. Make sure they are ready to leave once I get bandaged."

"Where will you be going Sir?"

"To re-open this case."

 

 

Oakwood Ridge, 1885 Present Day

Walking up to a worn down shack outside of the town, the runaway, outlaw, and gunslinger stood by the entrance deciding who should knock.

"You sure you wanna do this Ann?" Ryuji asked.

"I'll be okay with it as long as you two are nearby." Ann goes to knock on the door of the address Yusuke had given her the other day. Muffle footsteps could be heard coming to the door.

"Whoever it is Sensei is not in at the moment. Please come back at anoth-"

"Um Mr. Yusuke this is Ann. You ask me to stop by to model." The front door open so fast it startled the three of them.

"Miss Ann, I am glad you could make it….with the others. "

"Don't look so down pretty boy. We're here to keep an eye on you. Think of us as statues in the corners of the room." Ryuji said.

"Very well. Please come in. Sensei is out at the moment. Now would be a good time to start without too many distractions." Yusuke had let them into the worn shack. They worried that the slightest hint of guest would topple it over.

Walking up to his studio, Yusuke arrange the room how he wanted the lighting to go and setting up the canvas.

"Well then lets get started."

Ann was seated in a chair trying her best not to move. The other men sat in the corner. Waiting for the piece to be done. The dark hair artist seem frustrated during the first half hour as he made outlines on the canvas.

"This doesn't seem to be working." Yusuke sighs two hours later. No matter how he alter it, it wasn't turning out how he wanted.

"I'm sorry. Is…it my fault?"

"No Miss Ann, it's not you. I'm just having a bit trouble focusing. Do you think you can come back another time to finish?"

"What! After making us wait all that time." Ryuji was dead bored the entire time they were there.

"Nevertheless." Yusuke interrupted Ryuji and his attitude. "I did promise I would pay you Miss. I can offer you 50 right now and will provide the other half the next time. If that is okay?"

"That would be great. Thank you. I hope you will be feeling better next time. Same time and day?" She offered.

"Of course. And I imagine I will be seeing the two of you as well again."

"You know it pretty boy."

Taking the 50 dollars with her, the three of them trotted back into town for supplies. Ren on his own horse with Ann sharing with Ryuji.

"Hey Ren, I was wondering if we could stop by the stables while we're still here? I wanted to purchase something."

"I guess we can take a break."

The three of them stop by the stables as Ann wanted to use the money she just earned to purchase a mare of her own. Ren had waited off to the side for Ann while Ryuji decided to check out some other things in the Market. By the time she decided on a horse, the saddle, and other nick knacks that went with it, she still had around 15 bucks left.

"So what are you going to name it?" Ren asked. Ann had picked a smaller horse similar in red coating like Aresne. Not too fast and not bulky to carry a carriage. But it fit her.

"I think I'm going to name her Carmen." She said giving the horse a light pat. He helped her get on and lead the horse outside the stable and around for a bit so it can get familiar to the added weight.

"You feel comfortable enough to take the reins?"

"I think so. So far she seems calm enough." Ann offers the horse some hay to keep it calm.

Ren suggest she trots around the stable area herself once more before heading out in the road. Leaning on the fence, he sees Ryuji making his way back checking behind his shoulders.

"What got you spooked Ryuji?"

"I just heard something interesting in the Marketplace. I overheard this lady talking to some friends about this guy that's been stalking her. Seems there break up didn't end to well. She was mentioning how he was having a rough time at his job, some bank teller. This could be a perfect side job Ren. Image us swooping in a saving the day."

"There's a problem with that Ryuji, we don't know what this guy looks like or even his name."

"Now I know I ain't too smart but I have been learning these past few weeks. The lady's other friend mentioned a Natsuhiko. Works a bunch of night shifts. How's THAT for recon."

"How's what for recon?" Ann said walking up to them leading her new horse.

"Ryuji might have found us a side job to do tonight. We'll walk you back to the house and then stake out this place."

Taking their time back to the hideout, the group took a small break for dinner, finishing up the last of the stew. Ryuji and Ren would set out on their own back to town to examine this woman's complaint.

"Why am I stuck babysitting the hideout again!"

"Cause you're the youngest. Besides I don't want others to associated us together in case I need you for something different."

"Oh don't be so down Morgana. You have Shiho and myself here." Ann added.

"On second thought, you two go right ahead. I must keep my utmost focus to protect Lady Ann and Miss Shiho." Morgana said changing his tune. Ren openly laughed at his younger brother's antics. Always trying to impress the ladies.

 

 

Ryuji and Ren went back to the town. Locating the bank they looked through one of the side windows they were able to see two tellers on duty; one male and one female. Maybe a third in the back. Peaking through the window, Ryuji was able to see the makings of a nameplate but couldn't tell the name.

"I can't see the names, should one of us go in?" Ryuji said.

"No, if we walk in and identify him now and follow him later, he'll recognize our clothing and voice. Let's wait for now."

They waited another half hour before the bank closed. The tellers from the front leaving first.

"Goodnight Natsuhiko. I hope things get better for you." The women said before walking in the opposite direction. They're target stood in the middle of the road, with a bowl cut hair and wrinkled suit. His head down in defeat started walking past them to a alleyway. He really was making this easy for them.

Following a reasonable distance behind making sure he wasn't alerted but enough to keep and eye on him. The two shadowed him to a housing complex near the edge of the city.

"So how do you want to do this?"

"Why the hell are you asking me Ren?"

"Cause your the one who found out about it. Your call."

"I say put the mask on and scare him a little. Get the message across that his stalking is not wanted." Ryuji suggested. Tying the scarves around their lower faces and pulling out the side arms, they rounded the corner to the complex and kicked Natsuhiko door open.

"HANDS UP AND AND DON'T MOVE!" Ren ordered to the frighten bank teller. Aiming his revolver up to the defenseless man, he quiver in his corner in fear.

"Take the money, any valuables, but please don't shoot!" he cried back.

"We're not here for the money. We want you to leave her alone." Ren had said.

"What?"

"You're girlfriend asshole. If we find out you are still bothering her, you'll get more than a warning ya hear." Ryuji cocks back his pistol for the effect.

Natushiko went from cowering to having an angry look on his face.

"None of that is my fault, she never listen to me. After everything I worked for, she didn't want to hear it."

"That doesn't give you the right to stalk her!"

"I was stressed." He tried to use as an excuse.

"None of that matters. You need to leave your ex-girlfriend alone or else." Ren calmly stated trying to keep everything in order.

Still cornered in fear, he stood up straight and stared at his intruders.

"All everyone does is patronizes me for what I do. You're no better than that bastard Madarame. Telling me to do better this and better that. Only to sign his own name over it."

Surprised Ren lowered his gun from his threatening position shocked to hear Madarame name coming out of this stranger.

"What did you just say?"

"Madarame, the artist and his stupid exhibition. He's nothing but a lying cheat, stealing others hard work for his own. Dammit I had talent to! But no one will ever hear my name be utter in fame. I just hope Yusuke can get out in time."

Ryuji and Ren were stuck in an awkward situation. Looking at each other as similar thoughts ran across their mind.

Shit….

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Present Day, 1885

 

"So let me get this straight. The guy you followed and threaten was a former student to the artist who's exhibition you recently seen and the house you recently visited. And Lady Ann is expected to see him next week?" Morgana said.

"If we take his word on it, then yes. Though I'm not sure what we can do with stolen artwork, but if Yusuke is being abused, we should check it out." Ren was on the fence with the information. On one hand, there was a man taking credit where he shouldn't and on the other possible abuse allegation. Even if he was able to stop the stolen artwork, how would he be able to find all the students this man has stolen from?

"Can't we go back to his stupid exhibit and yell that he's a liar and a thief? Get the whole crowd into it!"

"And what if we're wrong Ryuji. What if the words of a disgruntle former student puts us in more hot water. I say we check into the statements for proof before taking further action. Ann will be going back to model a few days from now, we can ask then."

"If you say so. Anyway I'm going to bed, wake me up for the third shift." Ryuji left the small huddle by the fire and headed back into the worn down house. It was a bit chillier than normal tonight. He walked by Ann room seeing her and Shiho sitting on the bed.

"I didn't mean to startle you two, just surprise you're still up."

"We were just having a talk. But I was about to head back to my own room to rest for the night. Goodnight Ann, Ryuji." Shiho said walking around Ryuji in the doorway and next door to her own arrangements.

"Goodnight Shiho." Ann replied back.

Taking a seat at the edge of the bed, Ryuji faces her with a concern look. "Will you be alright tonight or do you want me to stay here?"

"Ryuji I will be fine tonight. You should get your own rest for watch duty."

"I know, I just wanna make sure you are okay before I begin my snoring." Ann had chuckled a little. He wasn't the most silent sleeper.

"I told you, I will be be fine. Besides I think I'm getting be—

"Ann you're shaking."

"It's just the weather." She rebuttal.

Sighing, Ryuji takes off his boots and wraps his jacket around her shoulder. Taking the left side of the bed, he has her lay down on the right and places her head under his chin. He could feel her shaking calming down when she's in his arms. Since they have been on the road, he had come into her room a few times to help and reassure her.

"He's dead Ann, and he will never lay a finger on you ever again no matter what your nightmares say. I won't let anyone else lay a harmful hand on you again. I promise you that." He said placing a gentle kiss on her forehead.

"Why are you so good to me Ryuji?"

"Because you were different. You were the first person other than Ma that was kind to me. Things didn't turn out how I plan the first time around but we have friends to help. You're safe."

"How is your leg?"

"It's progress. But I'll be good to go fully in no time."

"Hey Ryuji…do you think you can tell me a joke before we fall asleep?"

"Hmmmm. How about this one. Why did the chicken cross the road?"

"Ugh anything but that one please." They both felt lighter after he told some more bad jokes. Shiho hearing them through the wall fell asleep with a smile on her face.

 

 

"So the plan is to have Ann model for Yusuke tomorrow with Ryuji on watch. Me and Morgana will check out the exhibition separately today while it is open to the public. There was something I saw there that I wanna check. That way if anything holds true, we can question Yusuke about it tomorrow."

"I'll head out now Ren. Meet you in an half and hour." Morgana stated as he headed into town first. Ren would start his trek ten minutes later taking his time. He wanted to check the mail too to see if anything was returned from Boss. It would buy him time from being seen coming into the exhibition to closely to Morgana.

Hitching his horse to the the post, Ren waited in line till it was his turn at the window. He was starting to get a little worry as their stay was longer than expected. Two weeks were the maximum when it was just Morgana and him. But they were going on nearly three weeks. Faces becoming familiar to the food merchants and gunsmith. Making a few bucks here and there with what they can find and sell. Ren counted his stars their hideout hadn't been investigated so far. Nor any bounty hunters looking to get paid for his head.

"How can I help you Sir?" Distracted from his thoughts, he realized he was the next person in line at the Post Office.

"Sorry about that. I was wondering if you had anything for a "Akira Kurusu?"

"Kurusu…..Kurusu…Kuru- ah found something. You have a small package as well. Just sign here."

"Thank you very much. Have a good day." Ren walk towards a nearby bench. He sets the package and letter down. He quickly checked his pocket watch to see Morgana should've already been in the exhibit for about 15 minutes. He had some time to spare.

He found the envelope had a few letters from different people based on the different writing styles.

 

Dear "Guinea Pig",

I hope you receive this before you move to the next town. The box provided has medicinal supplies for you and your "cat". Please use sparingly.

Best regards,

The Plague

 

 

To Mister R.

Thank you for your payment.

My "articles" have been going well so far. I've been working on another "article" by Northsbury. Said to be called "The City of Money". There seem to be another person of interest. When you are available, my boss would like you to research it if you can.

I have also received payment from a prior job that was finally wired. Yours and Mr. Cat share should also be in the package provided.

This shall be my last message, till stated otherwise.

Best of luck,

Mister M.

 

 

"Dear 'Nephew"

I hope you and your companions are doing well. If you haven't read the other messages yet, your "cousins" have sent you some supplies. Please check.

"Oracle" is doing as well as she always been. She still hasn't step outside of the bar still but we are trying. I'm not sure if I should tell you this. There's been a lot of government agents nearby town that's been making her nervous. She will be okay soon, I'm sure of it.

There is not much more I can tell you other than to keep your head up and don't stray from your path. You'll do just fine.

Let me know if you decide to continue your travels elsewhere. Watch each other backs.

Your "Uncle" Boss.

P.S REN/MONA COME HOME SOON ~Oracle

 

 

Finishing the three letters, he quickly checked the box to see the medical supplies Dr. Takemi mention. Looks like she packed more bandages, salve, powder medicine, and that special gunk he hated. A wad of $600 was also found in the stash. 300 for him and 300 for Morgana. Pocketing the the items into his satchel he sense a small bump into his body again. This time, keeping the wallet and recently gained money in check.

"At it again Shinya?"

"I swear, this was an accident this time Mister Ren. I…was actually trying to go for someone else."

"And I thought you were suppose to stay out of trouble?"

"I need to keep up my skills Mister. How else can I find money to eat."

"I'm afraid I'm a bit busy at the moment, so I can't treat you to something to eat." Ren said.

"If you're going somewhere, can I come?" The kid was eager to hang out with his newly found friend. Ren didn't want to leave him either where he could get in more trouble. But a small child could be useful.

"Hmm."

 

 

Morgana was examining the art exhibition on both floors. He tried to appear like he was interested in the various pieces but he was waiting until he spotted his brother around the area. He did notice the oddly painted door in the corner. Whenever Morgana wandered over, a guard would walk the perimeter just nearby. He needed a long enough distraction to pick the lock.

Strolling through the first floor for the third time, he has yet to see this Madarame make an appearance. But he did see his elder brother walking in with a little kid. Did he just kidnap a little boy for cover?

Unable to approach him directly due to the plan, he waited by one of the pieces near the entrance to catch his eye.

Morgana sees the elder Amamiya sibling staring back at him across the room.

The childless brother blinks twice and rubs his left ear: Found something of worth.

Taking the hint, he has Shinya with him who he promised can help as long as he followed all of Ren's instructions to a letter. Ren is explaining to him one of the portraits he saw the first time he was there. One hand behind his back that Morgana can still see from his angle on the other side. Still pretending to observe another painting.

Right thumb points down then right, down and right again. Palm open: Not yet, five minutes.

Morgana takes a walk to the other corner but still opposite of Ren. They had to create signs for situation likes this. Thumb to the right meant to not continue but pointing to the left would be to go ahead.

By the third pass of the guard, he waited for another sign from his brother who was entertaining some street boy. Thumb points left then down: Proceed, but quietly.

Walking behind the guard at a leisure walk, he waits until they reach a blind spot down a hallway before wrapping his arm around the guards neck and muffle the voice with his neck scarf. Holding on just enough for the man on duty to pass out. Morgana is able to drag the guard further away from the public and more into the blind spot.

If any one cared to notice after a couple moments, the "guard" would've seemed a bit smaller and with darker hair. Morgana walks the former perimeter and had yet to be met with resistance. He walks up straight to the oddly painted door and stands with his back to it. The younger man takes out a smaller pin and fiddles with the door. If there were keys for this, it would probably be on the old man's person. The door was slightly obscured by a corner, but one turn would've brought you out and in the open.

Morgana feels the nob twist and he backs in checking both sides for any on lookers.

Now it was time to find out the truth.

 

 

"So how are you liking the show so far Shinya?" Ren asked the young boy.

"I'm not getting any of it." Replying back to the older man. While he never been invited to the art show, he saw the elder Amamiya brother was acting strange a moment ago.

"Its okay. Now remember what I said when we walked in here right?"

"Yes!"

"Alright, your my little sidekick today. Unleash your fury." Ren directed.

Shinya was told to run around causing a distraction for the guards. Touching the paintings with his greasy hands.

"Hey do not touch those!" One guard yelled.

"Can I touch this?" Placing his full palm on a statue.

"Hands off now!"

"What about this one?" Running to another piece and placing both hands all over the painting.

"I'm warning you kid!" The guard yelled once more. Giving a thumbs up to Shinya, Ren decided to make his way to that weird looking door from last time, hoping Morgana already made his way in. The knob was lose. Picked.

Checking over his shoulder once more to make sure no one was watching before stepping in. He had to be quick on his feet as he was almost punched walking through the door.

"Easy Mona, its just me." Grabbing his younger brother's fist.

"Sorry. I wasn't expecting you to walk in so quick. Who was that kid?"

"Just a homeless kid looking for a few meals. He's a good kid though. But never-mind that. What did you find?"

"All of this." Morgana walks further into what is assume to be some form of storage. He removed this large clothed that was laying on various frames and paintings. Some he recognized from outside but they looked altered.

"These look like the pieces on display. All in different styles but they are missing something."

"His signature. Each of the pieces on display showcase similar alterations. But the ones here don't. These must be the "original" copies before he duplicated them and added his own twist conveying they are "his." Morgana explained.

"And he can do that to this many pieces. Interesting."

"Machinery is changing rapidly Ren. Before we know it, we might have giant machine birds carrying people in the sky over a horse."

Ren chuckled as he made his way through the different frames. The back wall had a curtain attached that he reached for. Pulling it aside, he sees a large safe behind it.

"This is definitely something. What do you think is behind the door Mona?"

"Money, gold, jewels. Something of high value to be locked away for sure. It will take a few minutes to crack the combination for an answer."

Ren took position and eyed the door as his younger brother placed his ear on the safe door carefully listening for distinctive clicking.

"I got the first number." He said.

The elder sibling was getting a chill up his spine again. Something wasn't about to go right.

"I got the second number."

"Morgana, I think we should forget the safe for now and try to come back later."

"Hold on, I almost got the final combination." He continues to mess around with the dial waiting for the final click. Voices are heard coming towards the door, one sounding like an older man.

"Mona! Forget it. HIDE." They quickly moved to vanish themselves under the clothe that was hiding the pictures as best they could. Keeping their breath as low as possible.

The door open and the sound of four pairs of feet could be heard.

"I want to know who and how someone broke into the backroom." Ren recognized the voice of Madarame and he was not sounding happy.

"We found a guard passed out in the back hallway. His uniform was stolen. No worries, we will catch the culprit Lord Madarame." The first person said.

"You better or else you will be dealt with. I cannot have the public go snooping into this room. Has Yusuke stopped by or walked anywhere near here?"

"Not that I recalled Sir. He has not been seen from door security the past few days."

"Good. Keep it that way. I'll talk to him myself when I return home. He best be hurrying up this piece he promised. I need something new for my audience. If he can't delivery than his usefulness will be coming to an end."

Madarame eyes sweep the room once more to make sure nothing was out of place. He sees the curtain revealing the safe wasn't fully closed.

"Hmm. You three turn around." He puts in a combination for the safe opening it and checks to make sure the item is still there and good condition.

"Excellent." His smile reaches ear to ear as we walks back to leave. "I want someone to stand guard until the door is repaired."

"Yes Lord Madarame."

Great. The two of them were stuck until who knows when. But they did know one thing, Natsuhiko claim wasn't as disgruntle as they thought. Yusuke was going to be in trouble if he wasn't able to be useful for his "Sensei." Ryuji and Ann would have to try and get through to him tomorrow. But the now was getting out of this dusty room without alerting the guards. No window, no other doors. It was one way in and one way out.

Checking his pocket watch it had to be about 20 minutes since they have been stuck. Signaling over to Morgana the time who was looking bored to.

"Hey Mister, what's behind this door?" He heard a young voice muffled. Shinya!

"None of your business. Scram kid you already were causing trouble."

"But what's that over there!?" Shinya yelled pointing at absolutely nothing.

"What's what?" The guard asked. Shinya had jumped and grabbed his hat before running off.

"HEY! GET BACK HERE!"

Taking the chance, the two brothers raced to the door and and closed it just as fast. They couldn't fathomed that the guard fell for the oldest and stupidest trick in the book.

Easing back in with the crowed who probably had enough of Shinya rough housing. He throws the guard's hat back at him and leaves the building. Ren leaves first then Morgana a few minutes after taking the other guards clothes off.

Ren went to look for Shinya as Morgana headed straight for the camp. The execution of the plan was sloppy. But the results were what they wanted. Feeling far enough away, he was able to find Shinya hiding in an alleyway closer to the edge of the harbor.

"Not bad back there kid. How did you know I was behind that door?"

"I saw this scary old man and then I didn't see you for awhile. I got worried Mister. Then they had this guy stand in front of the door. No one was there when we first came in."

Decent sleight of hand and fairly observant. He's good. "It's probably not best to head into town for the rest of the day. However, I do still owe you something to eat."

He whistles for Arsene who comes neighing in a few moments later.

"Hop on."

"Where are we going?"

"To feed you and regroup with the others. Things are taking a serious turn for the worst.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Present Day, 1885

 

Ren rides into the hideout with Shinya on the horse behind him, everyone was already there and accounted for.

"Welcome to our humble abode kid. It's not much but its home for now. Come on, I think we still got some stew left over."

Ren helps Shinya off the horse as everyone gathered around to meet the new kid.

"Everyone this is Shinya, he will be staying with us for a little bit. Miss Shiho, if you would be so kind to help him with the food, there is something else I need to handle."

"Of course." She said. Shiho help guide the young boy to the house and help pour a bowl of the left over deer stew.

Ren had walked over to Morgana who was explaining to Ann and Ryuji what he found out back at the exhibit.

".…..Yusuke might be in danger if he doesn't finish that painting of you for Madarame according to what he said. We are not quite sure what has happen to his other students, but it can't be good." The younger Amamiya sibling said.

"Morgana is right, do you think you two can try and talk some sense into him tomorrow? Make him see the man he is working with is not who he thought he was." Ren followed up.

"I can try but I'm not sure if he will listen to us."

"If he doesn't wanna end up like that Natsuhiko fellow he needs to."

 

 

Elsewhere.

"Welcome home Sensei, was your visit to the exhibit successful today?" The young artist Yusuke had greeted his teacher by the door. He was task with staying in their shack and looking out for any unwanted visitors lately.

"It was mostly quiet, we did have some disruptions with a homeless child but none of that matters. How is your piece coming along my boy!"

"I'm working very hard on it Sensei and it should be completed tomorrow, I promise. Once this piece is on display, Sensei will find inspiration to paint again right?"

"Of course." Madarame said chuckling lightly under his breath. Why work for yourself when you can farm the talent for you. "You have been very helpful for my time in need. If your mother was still alive, I'm sure she would be just as proud. Shame her own talents couldn't flourish. Such is the harsh reality of the old homeland."

"I understand."

"Never forget Yusuke, you are doing this for the both of us. Once my poor slump is over, you will get your chance. I have never steered you wrong now have I."

"No Sensei. I've been very grateful for you taking me and teaching me not just the sword but to paint as well."

"Good…good. You should get rest now my boy, tomorrow will be a long day I'm sure."

 

 

The Next Day, 1885

"Are you sure this plan is going to work Ren?" Ann asked cautiously.

"I'm sure it will. And Ryuji, please make sure to control your temper around him."

"WHAT! I DON'T HAVE A…fine. But if he looks at me funny again he's getting a bullet in his foot."

The two blondes saddle up on Carmen and Kidd and headed towards the rundown shack out East of town. The Amamiya brothers needed a cool down day after the fiasco in the art exhibit the prior day. The younger wanted to go out and catch more food now that they got more mouths to feed.

Ren stayed behind at their hideout as a watchful eye on things. He saw Shiho washing the sheets in the stream nearby to keep them relatively clean during their stay. Shinya, after getting another hot meal on Ren sat by the horse examining Arsene large but sleek frame.

It was a little odd today for Ren as he was used to doing something at least everyday. But he had enough people around him to get the things they needed to get done, done. It felt….nice. Taking a walk around the property midday to make sure no strangers stumbled onto the location, he decides to walk a little further out up the stream. He finds a broken down cart with one of its wheels dislodge nearby. The items in the open faced cart had already been ransack some time ago but the actual empty chest could be of use to hold more of their belongings.

All the cart needed was a two man power at least. One to lift and hold while the other slams the wheel in. It would be good as new. But having a cart with them might slow them down as well. But having a place to store extra supplies were a plus too. Decisions….

 

 

Madarame's House

Ryuji and Ann reached Yusuke and Madarame's shack a little bit before noon. The house still looked like it would tip over if someone blew on it.

Knocking three time, the young artist open the door to welcome the two in.

"Your other friend isn't here today?

"No he had other business to attend to." Ryuji told him.

"I see. Anyhow, let us get started."

Ryuji sat over by the wall out off the way while Yusuke had Ann adjust her pose from last time. Arranging the lighting the best he could and his brushes he began once more. He worked for about an hour or so capturing her beauty. He looked so focus between looking at her and the canvas.

"Um…Mr. Yusuke, can I ask you a question." Ann said trying to sit as still as possible.

"Sure."

"Do you like working under Mr. Madarame. I mean, don't you wanna be your own artist?" Yusuke had put the brush down pondering her question. What an odd thing to ask.

"It's an honor to work under Sensei, he's been a great teacher to me all these years."

"But the paintings at the exhibit, are they really all his creation?"

"Sensei is a great artist…..he's just been having a rough time lately." Yusuke said fighting back.

"Whatta you mean 'having a rough time lately' huh?" Ryuji decided to join in. Trying to dig deeper into Yusuke's doubt.

"THAT is none of your concern. Now if both of your suspicions are done, I would like to continue. This needs to be finished today."

"But will you be okay after today Mr. Yusuke."

The young artist paused again mid brushstroke. His Sensei had promised him that he will get his name out once the slump was over. But this was also going on for a few years now. His pieces were still being signed by Madarame. Yusuke shakes his head to get these doubts out. No, Sensei was kind to him. Yusuke would get his chance just like he was promised.

"I am fine Miss. Ann, but please drop this conversation." He continued to work for a few more hours finishing his new piece without the distractions. The blonde hair man was surprisingly quiet during the rest of the session but seem bored more than anything.

"It is done. Would you like to see it Miss. Ann?"

"I would love to." Stretching out her body from sitting almost all day, she turn to look at the beautiful painting. The colors blending together so smoothly . You couldn't tell where one started and ended. "It looks absolutely beautiful. I love it. Will this be shown in the current exhibition?"

".…I'm not sure."

"Regardless of what anyone says, I think you are an amazing artist Mr. Yusuke. I hope one day we are able to see an entire exhibition of just your art."

"I appreciate that Miss. Ann, your comments are very refreshing. And as promised I have the second half of your payment for modeling. I hope we come across each others paths once more." He said handing her the second payment of $50 and escorts them to the door.

"What if we had a way to prove it." Ryuji said abruptly turning around.

"Excuse me?"

"Your Sensei. What if we had a way to prove he is not really who he says he is."

"Enough of these accusation!"

"If you wanna stay blinded then fine. But we are trying to help you out! If you really wanna know the truth, find us 5 miles West of here, there is a rundown house by a stream." And with that Ryuji got on his own horse and rode off with Ann leaving Yusuke with conflicting feelings the rest of the evening.

 

 

 

"WHAT THE HELL BLONDIE! You don't go off telling people where we are hiding!" Morgana had given Ryuji an earful when they got back to the broken down house.

"I thought we were trying to help him, what was I suppose to do pipsquek!"

"NOT giving away our position."

"I would like the two of you to quit your arguing and help me with this cart wheel." Ren yelled at his companions as he spent most of the day moving the cart closer to the house without the wheel on. Not the brightest idea he's had.

Shinya was holding on to the wheel itself mostly, trying to help out where he could.

The two quit their arguing for now and moved to the cart to help. Ryuji and Ren lifted the cart up enough to place the wheel in a stable position. Morgana used a large rock they found to hammer it in until it was stable on all four.

"Excellent. Now we'll have some extra space to store what we can't on the horses. When we leave, we'll pack up the blankets and sheets from this house and other essentials. Does that work for everyone?"

Murmurs of agreement could be heard around the group. The six of them sat around the fire for the evening finishing up the deer meat Morgana had hunted earlier. Ryuji probably ate the most, next to Shinya who Ren had to tell on multiple occasions to take his time. Eating something earlier in the day, Morgana decided to start his watch early and walk around the perimeter.

The nights were getting warmer as Spring was ending and Summer was starting. But the nights still had a cool atmosphere to them.

"BROTHER!" He heard Morgana yell 30 minutes later. Ren and Ryuji both pulled out their side arms while Ann and Shiho grabbed Shinya behind them.

"Stay here Ryuji, I'll check it out." Ren had followed Morgana voice further into the tree line where he was able to see his younger brother with his rifle raised. The other person in attendance had his hand raise to show he was not a threat. Grabbing the small lantern Morgana had attached to his belt, Ren raises it to reveal Yusuke's face.

"So you do want answers Mr. Yusuke." Ren said.

"I want these accusations to end."

"That's a little bit hard when he steals from others and makes them his own. Did you tell him where you were going?" The younger Amamiya brother said. Rifle still aimed at the poor artist.

"No, I came on my own once he fell asleep. To be frank I almost got lost trying to find this place.

"I see. Mona please lower your gun." Morgana aims his rifle downward but still keep a grip on it, just in case the artist tried something funny.

"Are you hungry?" Ren offered to the dark haired man. Guiding him back to the fire pit in a friendly gesture.

"Thank you for the offer, but I am fine." Yusuke declined just before his stomach made a loud grumble.

"Are you sure, you did come all this way. The least I can offer a stranger is something to eat."

Yusuke stomach grumbled again at the thought of food and hesitantly nodded his head. Eating the last bit of their deer meat, the men and Ann stuck around the fire while Shiho help put Shinya to sleep back in the house. It was getting very late into the night.

"The trip to the art exhibition was merely a coincidence, but we didn't become accusatory until we ran into a former student of his a few days ago; Natsuhiko Nakanohara." Ren explained to Yusuke.

"That's impossible. Sensei said that Natsuhiko had left and died in a robbery."

"He is still alive and living in the same town. Surprising you two never saw each other after that. Yusuke was feeling very conflicted now, why would Sensei lie about one of his former students. What reason was it for these strangers to lie to him, they have nothing to gain from it?

"We had talked to him. He was having troublesome issues himself, but he was also worried about you as well."

"He was?" The artist ask back to the elder brother.

"Yes. But Natushiko is the least of your worries. There is something more important you need to see."

Yusuke needed to know, he needed answers to the lingering doubts in the back of his mind from the past few years. Taking the leap, he joins them on a midnight ride back into town.

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter 13

Unknown Time

 

A young inspiring artist sat in front of a canvas working on his first artwork. Just a simply still art piece to start. His teacher stood behind him dutifully to make sure the young boy was following the proportions right. Even at a young age the boy was very talented when he started teaching him. In the morning they would practice the way of the sword and in the evening after chores, art lessons.

His poor mother, a student of his has been left bedridden recently. He has been taking in her son while she recovered. However, her outcome wasn't looking well.

" How does it look Sensei?" The young boy asked.

The older man observed the drawing to see it almost completed. "Its coming along very nicely Yusuke. I'm sure your mother will be impress when she sees it."

Beaming a smile back to his teacher, the young Yusuke turn back to his work and continued.

" Where are we going Sensei?" A teenage Yusuke asked. His skills had greatly improved over the years since his late mother's passing. He never really did get to show her that painting he was working on.

" I am taking you West, to a new land my business associates told me about. But no worries, in a few more years I'm sure you'll make a name for yourself in the art world boy.

" Sensei, where have the other students gone to?" Yusuke questioned now into his adulthood. They have been staying in the same region for a few years now. Mostly staying in the same harbor town for a while. There were many students that wanted to learn from the great Madarame. Many have come and many have gone. One by

one they all seem to leave after awhile, heartbroken.

" They left on their own merit my boy. Unfortunately, they didn't have what it takes to be an artist no matter how I try to help them." He said. Yusuke remembers all the times Madarame would look him in the eye and place comforting hands on his shoulders. He would always tell him "You Yusuke are special."

It made him feel like he could achieve his dream of being a great artist like his Sensei. He had the skills and his teachers support throughout the years. All those paintings sold in his Sensei's name instead. It was only temporary he would keep telling himself. Sensei will come around and promote him, any day now. But the days went on and on. And he started to wonder…

 

 

Present Day, 1885

 

The four of them stopped just outside of the town. The three men guided Yusuke to the exhibition building. They would have to sneak in this time around as it was so late into the night. Even for the artist student to show up at this hour would be just as suspicious.

There were a few windows they could try to enter from. Ducking below the window edge to avoid the lights the guards had in hand.

"Alright mask on. Mona, Skull, check around the other side of the building to see if you can find another entrance. Yusuke will stay with me." Ren directed.

The younger brother and gunslinger went around the back to find a different entrance without argument. Ren and Yusuke took the window they were standing below. They waited till the guard pass by before slowly creaking it open and heading in.

Yusuke was very curious now on what his teacher could be hiding. He was just a humble artist wasn't he?

Ren ushered Yusuke to follow closely behind him as they hid behind walls avoiding the guards and their lanterns. The elder Amamiya sibling had put his own mask up covering the lower half of his face just in case. They had to reach that door on the first floor and show the evidence underneath. Coming through a side window, the two made their way to the center of the building where the room was located.

Ryuji and Morgana was able to find a window to enter closer to the back side and the door they were looking for. They quickly jump behind two separate pillars as a guard just turned down their corner eyeing the window.

"Who left the window open?" The guard had spoken out loud. He temporarily sets down his lantern to go shut it when Morgana rushes up behind him. Covering his mouth to keep the struggle muffled, Ryuji joins in and knocks the guard out with the butt of his gun.

"Thanks blondie." Mona whisper.

"You're welcome pipsqueak."

The two help hide the guard's body behind some curtains and moved towards the center as quietly as they could. But they had a small dilemma on their hands. Ryuji and Morgana were in the hidden hallway away from the main floor but the door was in sight. Unfortunately, a guard was standing right in front of it unmoving as directed by Madarame. Morgana could used that knock out fluid Futuba gave him and his brother awhile back. But a second guard that walked right in front of the area would see the first guard in front of the door drop. Even Ren and Yusuke couldn't make a move from their angle with the door guard.

 

Doing things quietly never seems to go their way. They would have to lure out the second patrol guard before catching the door hired henchmen.

"Yusuke back up towards the window, don't move 'til I say so. I hope you don't mind if I break something…"

"WHA—"

"SSSSSHHHHHHHH" Ren had to quickly clamp a hand over Yusuke exclamation.

The guard heard the unusual noise and went to check it out.

"Hide" Ren whispered quickly. He ducks behind a bench while Yusuke opted for the floor length curtains in this room. It was mostly used for one of the few larger paintings.

The patrol guard walks in with his light raised high checking for intruders. He was certain he heard a noise just moments ago. All the while Ren was doing his best to remain silent. He was able to locate his blowgun in his satchel and one of the darts. Dipping quickly, he loaded the dart in and shot the guard in his neck just as the light turned on him.

The patrol guard tried to yell for back-up only to have his words mumble incoherently before passing out. He must have put to much on it this time Ren thought.

But that didn't matter now, they needed to move. Grabbing Yusuke from behind the curtain, the older brother took a peak around again. He sees Morgana taking out the door guard with his own paralyzing formula in the form of a syringe.

With the door still being broken, it was easier to walk into the room. The brothers learned their lesson from last time of leaving to much evidence and moved the unconscious guards into the room with them.

"So what is so important that I needed to see?" The young artist asked.

"All of this" Ren had removed the clothe that sat on top of the replica paintings. Yusuke was in awe as he went through the copied pieces. He recognized some of them, artwork he's seen the other students work on years prior.

"Why would he have these?"

"People pay top dollar for "rare" things. The first time we found this, we notice they were different than the one's displayed on the main floor right."

Even with a second look Yusuke was able to clearly see the difference. They all lack that flair that appears on almost all of Sensei's pieces. His teacher had taken the work of those former students and made them his after they ran off. This can't be right. These other men had to be lying, they had to be setting his Sensei up.

"This can't be true. My Sensei would never do this! He is—"

"He's doing it right now isn't he. Taking credit for something he doesn't deserve." Ryuji claimed butting in.

"As I told you….he's in a rough spot now. I am just helping him out. "

"Then what about you Yusuke, are you sure you're okay with this. Is this how you want to live the rest of your life. Living in his shadow?" Ren asked.

No he didn't want to always be in Madarame shadow. He wanted to be his own artist to express his passion and love. He wanted to paint the beautiful trees as they bloom in the spring, the cold and treacherous mountains, the deadly rain storm moving through the rolling hills he heard so much about.

"I want to be an artist, but I am indebted to Sensei. I'm sure he will come around soon."

"You don't believe that, I know you don't" The elder brother said.

Yusuke doesn't know what to believe in anymore but he feels like his standing ground is crumbling.

"I think it's best I head back home before I am discovered missing. Thank you for your time gentlemen."

"Wait a minute! Don't you wanna know what's behind this safe, I've almost cracked it." Morgana was messing with the safe from before. He was able to get pass the first two numbers again, but was listening carefully for the last one. Spinning left and right to the left again he heard a third click; it was unlocked. "Got it!"

Opening the the safe revealed a portrait size painting partially wrapped in white clothe and framed in a golden pallet. Lifting it up, the four of them were able to see that the painting consisted of a few brush strokes in the shape of a silly face.

"What the fuck is this garbage!?" Ryuji complained. All that trouble with picking the door lock and safe lock for a cheap piece of work. It was now starting to feel like a waste of time.

"Henohenomoheji"

"Huh?" The three other men express in confusion.

"Henohenomoheji, it was something I learned when I was a young child, back in my homeland. But why would Sensei consider this important enough to lock away?"

"Why indeed?"

The four men turned around to see non other than Madarame and his hired guns behind them. One of the guards was holding a similar size gold plated frame themselves.

"Good job luring them here Yusuke, you always were a loyal student to me." Madarame said chuckling. Yusuke felt uncomfortable, this wasn't the Sensei that he knew.

"This wasn't my intention, I wasn't trying to lure you all here. I swear"

"Don't be so modest now my boy, that was your intention all along wasn't it. After all you have zero reason to go behind my back." He voice held a malicious tone as he spoke to his student. Yusuke was in trouble.

"Cut the shit old man, we know you're lying."

"And what will you do about it, as far as I'm concern your all outnumbered and cornered."

"Is it true Sensei? That the paintings display are nothing but fakes. All the work I did for you, were you always going to string me along or let me be my own person? Please tell me they're lying, tell me that these copies here are not what I think they are. Please Sensei, tell me the truth…."

The older man looked at his student, the emotion behind the younger man's eyes almost look like it would break. But Madarame never cared. "Yusuke, you always did put silly ideas in your head, but your skills were so useful. You're not like these riff-raffs over here. You're much more important, you are special." Madarame walks up to Yusuke, placing both hands on his shoulders just like he used to. "You're my prized cash cow. You honestly thought I took you in out of the goodness of my heart? With your mother proving to be a failure of her own, I needed someone new. And there you were ripe for the taken. You were a natural boy, and as long as you stay out of this, I'll make sure you'll still get to see the light of day."

Feeling Madarame grip on his shoulders tighten, Yusuke slaps them away, walking as far away as the room could allow him.

"So that's how its going to be boy. Then let your fate be tied with the others, your usefulness was coming to an end one way or another. But I'll show you one last parting gift." Snapping his fingers the guard holding the other other golden frame turned the portrait around to the others.

".…..Mother?" It was the 'Sayuri' but not. It looked different to Yusuke compared to the one displayed on the second floor. Instead of staring off into the abyss, the women in the painting had a baby in her arms as she looked down lovingly.

"It was very fortunate luck obtaining this "maiden" artwork of mine. Shame really, she was such a good student but was frequently sick. If only her medicine wasn't wash away in the river. For all the world knows she never even exist. Whats mine is mine now." Madarame said letting off a boisterous laugh.

The man really loved to talk about himself it seems, but it did give them an advantage to get them out of here. During his speech, the two brothers position themselves on both sides of the clothe, throwing it at Madarame and his men. Ryuji took a running start before throwing the fake portrait at the former teacher knocking him out the doorway. Finally, some more breathing room, they needed to leave. The three gunslingers went into the fighting while Yusuke just wanted that painting back.

 

Ren and Morgana went and disarm two of the guards. The guns falling on the floor. The younger sibling took a fist to the gut but followed up with a left hook. His opponent was slightly bigger than him, but that's how he likes it. He grabs and trip him down to the floor and gets in three more jabs before being knocked off. The guard Mona was fighting was getting up to continue before being knocked down by the guard Ren was handling. Ren had the upper hand for their fight. Dodging two right jabs and a left. He landed an upper cut before kicking the second guard into the first guard.

Yusuke had his own mess to deal with. He was struggling with the third guard who still had the "Sayuri" in his hand. Both trying to rip it from the other. He'll be damn if he lets Madarame keep this one piece of his past left.

"Let the painting go!"

"NO! This doesn't belong to Sens…..Madarame anymore."

Being a stronger man, he tries to throw Yusuke off swinging the frame harshly. But Yusuke keep his grip as tight as he could. There was only one way to get the guard to let go. Reaching into his left pocket where he carried some art supplies at all times, Yusuke grabs his sharping tool and stabs the guard in his hand.

Screaming in pain, he lets go to examine his hand, Yusuke yanks the painting back closer to him. Some blood did make it onto the golden frame, but the image itself was perfectly preserved. He could always clean the frame later on.

 

Ryuji was closest to the doorway taking on the last guard. They were hoping they could finish this before the previous guards would wake up. The blonde young man dodges a right hook and returns a jab to the ribs. He goes for another punch to the face that was block. The guard in turn slammed into him with his headbutt stunning Ryuji. He feels a three punch combo to his stomach before being slammed to the ground. The guard goes to get the jump on him but the blonde gunslinger kicks midair and toss him into the replicas. Gathering his footing, Ryuji drops a right hook to keep the guard on the ground. He grabs one of the fake paintings, and uses it to slam it on the guard's head, its canvas being torn in the middle of the impact knocking him out.

Yanking the sharping tool out of his hand, the guard goes after Yusuke once more. With no weapon to defend himself and unwilling to let this "Sayuri" have any further damage he was left defenseless. The brothers were busy with their own fights at the moment, but where was Ryuji…

"HYAAAAAAAAH!" A canvas came flying at the third guard with a harsh rotation hitting him in the stomach effectively putting him out of commission indefinitely.

"Couldn't you have taken him down another way without damaging priceless artwork?"

"Hey I just saved your life pretty boy, a 'Thank You' would've suffice. And if you think those dumb paintings are light and easy to swing you try doing it!"

Down to the final two guards, the brothers were finishing their own fight with knock outs. No thrown painting necessary. "That should be all of them Mona. Let's get the hell out of here."

"You will not be going anywhere." Madarame had taken one of the fallen guard guns and raised it at Yusuke. The old artist was clutching his stomach in pain as small driblet of blood ran down his mouth. "No one steals from the great Madarame. You are an ungrateful child after everything I did for you."

".…You let my mother die. You stole from others just to keep yourself relevant. You lied to me for years, you were like a Fath—No. You stole from my family, I'm merely taking back what was mine. I'm not afraid of your Madarame, I almost feel sorry for how low you have fallen. But these past few days, these few weeks have open my eyes to see how despicable you are."

"The world is a harsh place, I did what I had to do to survive for us!"

"YOU DID IT FOR YOURSELF! I will no longer let my eyes be clouded." Madarame own eyes were filled with rage towards his last student. He cocks back the gun and prepares to shoot only to have the gun shot out of his own hand.

"This inspiring artist is under the protection of the Phantom Thieves, we won't let you harm him." Ren said under his mask. Madarame tries to reach for the gun again but the elder brother shoots at Madarame hand. "I wouldn't reach for it if I were you. Mona, Skull, tie this has been and his henchman up." He order keeping the revolver trained on the suppose artist

Gathering them in a group, they use the rope from the exhibit cue lines to tie up Madarame. The rest were tied and muffled with rope and clothe.

"You all will pay for this, I have friends in high places who will hunt you down like dogs. The man in the black mask will always finds his targets, I'll make sure of it. He'll never forgive a sleight against him and his associates!"

Ren was ready to leave the old man stuck rotting until he spoke.

"You can tell your boss we'll be ready. Skull, shut him up please." Ripping more of the left over clothe from the storage room, he ties it around Madarame mouth.

"Better."

Leaving through the front door this time, Yusuke held firmly to the canvas that carried his Mother's legacy, riding back to the hideout in the early wanes of the morning.

 

 

"Thank you for saving my life Akira." The black haired artist uttered back at camp.

"You're welcome Yusuke. And my name is actually Ren, I'm sorry for being deceitful in the beginning, I have to be cautious with who I meet."

"I understand. Feels like the people you thought you knew is someone completely different." He voiced sadly. Yusuke felt like his life had been a lie up to this point. "Akira…I mean Ren there was something you mention back there something about the Phantom Thieves. What did you mean by that?"

He had a feeling this was going to come up eventually. "I guess you can say we are a gang of outlaws, a group of rejects that doesn't conform with society. Two of us are wanted men, and some are just people trying to live their life however they can. We're not cold blooded murders, we just want to help those less unfortunate."

"I see."

"There is someone we are after, one that had trampled on the lower backs of others. Just like I told Ryuji, Ann, and Shiho, there are no obligation with us. I'm not forcing you to stay. If you like we'll be happy to drop you off at the nearest train station or town."

Helping others less fortunate he said. It didn't take long for Yusuke to see that when he walked into the camp. It wasn't much but Ren tried to make it a temporary home for his companions. Even the small child had a glow to him. "I would like to join you all if you don't mind?"

"Are you sure, it might get dangerous like you saw back there."

"I'm afraid I'm not very familiar with a gun but that man did train me a little in the way of the sword. I believe I am also proficient in the throwing knife if you'll have me."

"I think we got a spot for you." Ren guided the artist closer to the run down house as the rest of the group started to pack thing away for their next destination.

 

 

A few days later…

Madarame was beyond pissed. Him and his men were still stuck in the blasted back room for who knows how long beaten and sore. People had to wonder why the exhibit was closed abruptly without his appearance. Maybe two days pass before the door was busted open from the outside. They appeared to be Lawmen based off their clothing. He was roughly picked up and dragged all the way to the station. They took him to a back room where it was just two chairs and a table.

He had to wait another 30 minutes before anyone came in. A young man in a pristine suit walked in with some folders in hand. He carried a small bandage on his head and left hand.

"I apologize if my men were rough with you, it seems you've had a rough couple of days yourself. Mr. Ichiryusai Madarame I presume."

"Yes, that's me."

" I am Detective Goro Akechi, I have a few questions for you….

Chapter Text


Chapter 14

Present Day, 1885

 

"Hello Mr. Madarame, I am Detective Goro Akechi, I have a few questions for you." Madarame looked back at the Detective in question, he was young for his age.

"How can I help you Detective?"

"I've recently came down here for a case of mine, however some concern citizens were mentioning your recent absences around your venue. Some loud noises were also reported to the local law enforcement the other night. First and foremost I'm sorry to hear you were hogtied in your own exhibition. Was anything stolen?" The young detective asked. Akechi keep a neutral look on his face when asking the questions. He still needed to find this Azazel that Kobayakawa mentioned. Famous people tended to know one another, after all money talks.

"Yes Detective, I would like to report that one of my students stole my maiden work. A former student name Yusuke Kitagawa. I would like to have this piece back to me!"

"I'll have my agents look into this for you." Akechi replied back writing down more notes during the questioning. "Was there anything else stolen?"

"No Detective." The disgrace artist uttered.

"If you'll excuse me Mr. Madarame, I have a few things to review first, I will be right back." Akechi got up and left the room. He will get two of the men that came with him to check through Madarame's inventory before moving on. They already wasted time at a previous town. No Azazel found their either. Someone wanted these links dead and he needed to find the next link before they were killed too. He had some temporary help from the local deputies to increase his searching.

"Sheriff, sorry for the wait, I will need about two of your men to go through Mr. Madarame's inventory and mark down everything. We will cross check them later on. I will also send one of my agents to assist them. In the meantime, I will take the rest of my agents with me to search the town for my case."

"Sure Detective, I got a spare deputy that can join you all." The older law officer said. That will increase his search party including himself to five. Just enough to focus on the main purpose they are here for.

"Thank you sir. Lets go cut Madarame loose and send him home. I want to get his inventory check done and over with." The young ace Detective walked back to the back room where the held their questioning.

"I am sorry for the wait, you are free to—" What awaited Akechi was the last thing he wanted. Madarame was in his chair dead. His head was leaning back, eyes still open in fear. A piece of cloth was stuck in his mouth as fresh strangle rope marks appeared on his neck. "DAMNIT!" Akechi slammed his hand on the door. This was the second time a person of interest was killed under his watch. He was only gone for a few moments. It could've been anyone that came through here. He would need to check the deputies, hell possibly his own men. It could even go so far as a hired gun sneaking in and out without no ones noticing. But everyone was credited for?

"Change of plan, I want all available men to search through Madarame properties right now."

"Hey you can't do that Detective, this town is under my jurisdiction!"

"And this has now become a Federal case Sheriff. My words are the law at this moment. I want his house searched, any other properties he's owned and the art venue. Someone wanted him silenced and I want to know why? Report back to me if any of your deputies find anything. And if anyone does anything suspicious, I will find out."

They had closed the entire art exhibition to canvas the whole building, they needed to find if he had any other extra dealings. They first started from where they found him and his security being held. Would someone be that upset to owning a fake to commit murder though.

"Sir, I think we found something!" One of his agents called him over. Akechi had started with the art venue first. His men found a note in the safe upon further review of the room.

 

Sir Ichiryusai Madarame, a despicable man of vanity whose talents have been washed up. You are an artist that used his authority to steal the ideas of others. We have taken back what you have stolen in the first place. We will make sure you will not harm another again. May your crimes shine into the light from your own mouth.

From.

The Phantom Thieves

 

"The Phantom Thieves?" Akechi wondered. "Was there anything else in this room room from them?"

"Other than the copied paintings and ropes, nothing Sir."

"I see. I'll check up on the team at his house. Alert me of any other findings while I'm gone Loki."

".…Of course Sir." The young Detective got on his horse and trotted over to the run down shacked he supposedly stayed at. The poor thing looked ready to fall down any minute now. The deputies looked around the premised already when he got there. Checking every cupboard, mattress, chest, closets, nothing unusual.

Akechi was really starting to be convince that Madarame and Azazel were one and the same. The location made sense and the man was killed shortly after he showed up talking with police. Every witness he talked to about this case was dead. The only leads he had were narrowed down to the Phantom Thieves and Madarame former student.

Taking one more walk around the house, Akechi felt a floorboard give away. Attempting to remove his foot from the floor he notice there was something underneath the broken wood. Ripping up a few more planks he found a giant wad of cash right under his nose. $10,000 possibly or more. Even an artist as famous as Madarame couldn't even dream making that much with just the paintings.

Perhaps luck was still on Akechi side, but it would run out soon. He needed to find those Phantom Thieves.

 

 

Elsewhere

 

The group of seven now had packed up their belongs and left the harbor town. Hooking up Ann's newly purchase horse with the cart, they were able to carry much more items and also provided extra room for Shiho and Shinya to sit during their travels.

Ren had caught Yusuke up on all he needed to know. Everything they knew about Samael and where they were going to strike next based off Mishima's information.

"What an rotten apple this Samael must be to lock up an innocent person." Yusuke said as they trotted down the road. Oakwood harbor was a two days behind them now.

"I guess you could say that. I have a few other choice words myself." Ren chuckled. They were enjoying peaceful talks as they made their way to their next destination.

Morgana had went on ahead to make sure no law enforcement awaited them. Ann was riding on the back of Ryuji horse again. Whispers being said between the two. He doesn't understand why Ryuji insist the two of them were friends. The way they reacted around one another made an outsider believe they were lovers. Maybe they just didn't want to define it. As long as they didn't become distracted from the task, all was well in Ren's mind.

It would also be a good time to stop by Boss's place to catch their breath and come up with a solid plan. They also needed real supplies and food. Ren knew where he could find some extra cash that needed to be dug up. A payout stolen from one gang of thieves to another and then to elder brother himself. Ren didn't feel bad taking their money, they were a ruthless gang that had burn down a school house for the fun of it with some children inside. Him and Morgana felt no remorse sneaking up on them in the middle of the night and emptying their guns. They gave half of the money to the mourning families and buried the other for future emergencies.

It was probably the closest rage he felt at that time since starting this journey. It would be another days journey before they would be close to digging up that spot.

"Everyone okay back there. Anyone need a water break?"

"Kidd is fine, but Carmen could use a break since the gal is lugging extra weight."

"Alright, we'll break off into the side over here for a short break." Ren had directed the rest of the group. It allowed them to unhook the horse from its harness for a brief rest. It shouldn't be too hard to find and break some wild horse they could use instead in the future.

The elder Amamiya brother took quick inventory of what they had. They would be okay with food for awhile and if they were desperate, they could always hunt with the harbor behind them and the abundant grass fields ahead. Yusuke's painting laid secured in the cart wrapped in a think blanket. Extra clothes stored in the chest that came with it, blankets and sheets. Once they get camping supplies for everyone, he may need to upgrade it to a wagon.

"Hey Mister Ren, is there anything I can do?" Turning around, he sees Shinya by the cart wearing the only pair of clothes he had with him. The boy hardly had anything at all with him since wandering the street. He's pretty sure some of Morgana old clothes back at the Saloon could fit him.

"You don't have to do anything right now Shinya. Once we get more settle, I can teach you some cool tricks." He promised. The young boy had something to look forward to and went back to rest in the cart.

Shiho had been reading some of the books she found in that house to Shinya on their trip. The physicals wounds had healed on her and she seemed to be opening up more to the others. A small how do you do to Yusuke was progress he guessed.

A few strangers had rode by tipping their hat while they rested. Ren couldn't wait to get back to the Saloon and get to a proper bath and shave. His one o'clock was starting to look more like a six o'clock, he learn from Boss growing it can get itchy. Morgana been trying to grow one but he just gets various strands here and there.

"Break is over, we need to hurry up if we wanna find some decent shelter before the sun goes to far down." The group minus Morgana got back on their horses and reset the harness for the cart.

After traveling for most of the day and the morning of the next, the group had caught up with the younger sibling. He set up his own small camp while he waited for the rest to follow up.

"About time you all caught up. The town is just over that hill, only seen about two patrols ride pass. But we should be able to make it undetected in time." Morgana said. Truth be told these patrols did make him weary. But most Bounty Hunters or law enforcement tended to stay away from their little home. The town folks protect Boss and Boss protects them.

They pulled in later in the afternoon, the Amamiya brother's being greeted as usual. "Since the Saloon only has a certain amount of rooms, we'll have to place you at the Inn at the edge of town if that's alright with you all. Shinya being the youngest can stay with us.

"Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in." Ren looked behind him seeing Boss carrying some boxes back to the building.

"We thought we make a pit stop before continuing on. Get some real decent sleep and home cook food."

"You didn't run into any further trouble did you?"

"No….but we did pick up some new people as I mentioned in the letter. Everyone this is Boss, he runs the local Saloon here. He may seem grumpy, but he's really nice." Ren said. They introduced themselves to the older man and went inside to quench their thirst.

"So where are going after this place Ren?" Ryuji asked. Him, Ren and Morgana sat at one of the tables discussing their next set of plans. Yusuke was sitting at another angle sketching something on a spare piece of parchment. The two women decided to turn in early at the Inn. Shinya himself was observing a local Poker game, the patrons didn't seem to mind.

"My informant sent word about our next target. We will be heading up to Northsbury to find our person of interest. He might be in a closer ring than Kamoshida was so things might get dangerous."

"Dangerous. We laugh in the face of danger brother."

"That we do. But if this person has a whole city under his hands, we have to be vigilante Mona. But with that said, I could use a real bed right about now. You to better not start a fight. Boss won't be afraid to throw you out."

"Don't bother, I'm sure its bedtime curfew for the pipsqueak anyway."

"I told you not to call me pipsqueak you bucktooth monkey."

"I ain't a monkey you fopdoodle!"

"You are too you stupid scallywag!"

"ENOUGH! Both of you go to bed." Children, he is surrounded by children.

Wearily walking up to the housing section of the saloon, he walks up to Futuba's door and knocks. She normally greets them whenever they come back into town but was unusually absent this evening.

"Futuba, are you in there? It's me Ren." He could hear a some sounds of shuffling but she didn't open the door. "Can you at least knock twice to let me know if you eaten yet?"

Two knocks were heard from inside the room. "Okay. Is there anything you want to do before I go to bed. If so knock three times." He waited a few moments but no knocks came. He hope she wasn't reverting back. She seemed so excited when they stayed the last time. Did something happen while they were gone for a few weeks?

"If you don't need anything else Futuba, I'm going to bed. My door is always open okay…..good night." Ren goes to the room him and Morgana share and tried to get some rest. The slight sounds of mumbled insults could be heard under Morgana's breath. He doesn't give up does he. No matter, tomorrow was a new day.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Present Day, 1885

 

 

Morning arrived the next day as a groggy Ren got out of bed to wash himself. Taking some shaving cream and a blade, he trim down the beard that was threatening to get out of hand. Now clean shaven, he puts on a pair of clean black pants and shirt over his undergarments. His silky gray vest is the last he adds.

Since they weren't in a rush at the moment the allowed his brother to continue sleeping. Shinya being the youngest slept in a makeshift bed by the window, this room was getting awfully crowded. Ren passes by Futaba room before making his way down. He wonders what had her so distant lately.

The Saloon was technically closed in the morning, the only stragglers being those too drunk to move from the table. Boss would leave a glass of water by them to drink when they wake.

"Mornin Boss," Ren offered. The former outlaw stood behind the bar wiping down mugs from the previous night.

"Coffee?"

"Sure."

"Your new friends seem nice," Boss said pouring some coffee in a tin mug. "Especially the blond hair woman. Is she someone…"

"She's already spoken for by the rowdy blonde one."

"What about the dark hair one? Her friend was it?"

"She's a nice person, but not my type." The older Amamiya brother knew what Boss was trying to pull. He did it every time a new girl enter the scene around him.

"So your type runs to older women then? Who was that lady you used to skip off to, the teacher a few years back. Kaki….kai—"

"Kawakami," Ren corrected. "Things got complicated and it didn't work out unfortunately. But it sure was fun times." He wouldn't call her his first love, but it was his first time with a woman. She had a debt problem when he met her and help make the debtors "go away." Her house had also provided a nice hideout location for a job him and Morgana just started doing. But some sweet words and a few bottles of beer later, he made a fool of himself much to the amusement of the younger sibling a door down.

"I see. Just make sure you don't have any random kids running around alright. I've had enough years already looking after you all," Boss joked.

"I think we've been on our best behavior. But I am worry about Futaba. She seems quiet lately. Did something happen?" Ren asked.

"Nothing that we can't handle here. Just focus on you. If we need the Calvary I'll just alert Iwai." Boss had laughed it off but Ren felt that the older man was hiding something.

"Alright." Ren decided to do various task around the town. He wanted to make sure they weren't ill prepare to tackle the worst of enemies; the weather. Longer days were almost upon them which meant bad storms and strong gales that were able to pick up homesteads and wagons on a whim.

"Mornin partner." Ryuji and Ann had found him by the main road hand full of provisions.

"Mind giving me a hand here?"

Taking off half, he helped Ren load them onto their new wagon for later. Feeling proud of getting most task done before high noon, Ren offered them a request, "If you two don't have anything else to do today, mind helping me round up some horses. This piece of wood and nails ain't pulling itself. And besides I think its time we showed you the ropes Ann."

"Are you sure? I don't know a single thing about catching horses," she said.

"You'll be just fine Ann. We can even work on teaching you how to shoot."

"Why would I need to know that Ryuji?"

"Cause it can be the difference between life and death," Ren explains. "As of now its just Morgana, Ryuji, and Myself defending if we are attack. But what happens if we get separated or one of us goes down? We are not sure how good a fighter Yusuke is and Shinya is just a kid."

"I guess you have a point."

"Good. Now I want you to hold onto this until we get to a good location." The older sibling had removed folded up rope from the wagon for her to hold.

The three left town and headed towards open field. They need to find a band of horse and tussle for a couple. They didn't need to wait more than 15 minutes before spotting a group idling in the grass.

"Alright Ann, I want you to tie the rope I gave you up like this. Under, over, under again, through this hole, over and then tug. The loop should be about this size." Taking a few tries to get the noose right, she succeed on her 6th attempt at making a lasso.

"Observe me as I pick a horse, then we'll try you next." Ren kick his horse into a slight trot, his own lasso in hand ready to place it on an unsuspecting horse. Ryuji stood off to the side inspecting his shotgun for the later lesson.

Ren had found his target and twirled the rope above his head before launching it on a beige color breed. Holding tightly the animal fought back trying to escape the confinement of the rope squeezing its neck. Once secure, the young man hops off his own horse and pulls the freshly capture one closer before jumping on. If Ren could tame Arsene, the most stubborn and strongly spirited mare he ever seen, breaking in this horse would be easy. It tried to buck him off a few more chance before it began to tired out. He had it walk around a tree a few times to make sure it was under his command.

"Now it's your turn Miss Ann. You wanna make sure that when the horse leans to the right or left you need to lean against it, else you get bucked right off," he directed. Ren hitched the newest horse to a low hanging branch. "I'll herd some horses towards you and you can give it a try. You joining in Ryuji?"

"Nah, I'm good. Don't mind me."

Ann and Ren chased some more horses around the open field. Third time was the charm for Ann to successfully get a lasso around the horse but was thrown off just as quick. A dozen more attempts later she finally was able to tire out a horse for use.

"Not bad for a first-timer Ann. I'll take the mares back into town and grab some grub. Try to stay out of trouble you two." Getting back into town around 2pm, the elder Amamiya sibling would settled for a late lunch at the Saloon. Boss should still have some left over stew brewing.

Dropping off the horses at the stable, Ren walks in the Saloon and is met by an average crowd. Morgana was helping Boss behind the bar wiping down plates and mugs while the older man was having a conversation with their newest member.

"Hello fellas," Ren said sitting down. "Boss can I get a bowl of some stew please?"

"Coming right up."

"Enjoying your stay so far Yusuke?"

"It has been calming to say the least. I've been discussing with the proprietor here on the atmosphere of this venue, it has provided me some good material to work with on my sketches."

"Whats so interesting at a bar?" Ren asked.

"Ever seen the face of a man losing $100 to a kid in Poker? The anguish in his eyes, the red glow in his cheeks, the passionate cries from his voice. Fascinating." The artist replied.

"Kid? You mean Shinya, what did he do?"

"Clean house is what." Morgana added in as he placed a bowl of hot stew in front of Ren. He could feel his stomach gargling after a long morning of errands.

"Yes, your brother is right. The young one was observing a group of men playing the game this morning and asked if he could join after a few rounds. An hour or so later, he seemed to out play them, so Mr. Boss here sent him to your room."

Ren cursed under his breath, can't catch a break with that kid can he. "I'll deal with him later."

"No need kid. I think he understood me the first time around as I gave him my lecture," Boss said.

"Don't tell me you gave him the whole 'let me explain' speech!?"

"Hey now, my speeches are not terrible. I get the point across is what matters."

"Sure Boss." The three of them chuckled at Boss's expense. Ren went back to eating while Morgana continue pouring glasses to the various patrons.

"Now before we were interrupted. I wanted to ask you young man what is it you plan to do with this canvas you been lugging around?" Sojiro asked Yusuke.

"To be honest, I'm not quite sure? My whole life I've only admire but a tainted version never seeing it in its original beauty till now. Actually, if its not to much of a burden, can I leave it here with you? Its not the most ideal setting but perhaps it can be admired on an otherwise dreary day."

"Sure…I guess. Thank you. I'll make sure to take good care of it," he promised.

 

 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the Saloon. Boss took a plate of food up to Futaba but she still hasn't come down or even said hello since they've been here. Ryuji and Ann had come back sometime later in the evening after shooting practice, clothes dishevel more than usual. Ren almost felt bad for any passerby that saw them during "practice."

Ren, Morgana, Ryuji, Yusuke and Ann had all sat around a table enjoying a pint on the house. It got loud during the evenings and late in the wee hours of the morning as the alcohol flowed through the system. Ren was feeling a slight buzz after his second cup. All of it going straight to his bladder. Excusing himself from the table, he heads out back to take a piss. The red-orange glow of the lanterns could be seen from various building but after that it was darkness for miles. Or it was suppose to be.

Zipping up his pants and rinsing his hand in a water bucket, the older brother could see a small blue light in the distant. He knows only one person that knew the materials to make flames look blue in that shade. Whistling for his horse, Ren jots over to the lone light in the shadows. The blue flames were being contained in a lantern held by a young woman wearing a dark dress from head to toe.

"It's good to see you again trickster."

"I find it incredibly rude your Master leaves you out here in the middle of the night under no guard at that. You could get hurt Lavenza."

"Your words are kind, but I'm afraid this isn't a friendly visit. My Master would like to see you. I shall lead the way."

Ren helps the young women on his horse as she provided directions to the requested destination. He sees a wagon hidden in the treeline that also has a blue lantern tied on the coach.

"Please step inside trickster." He leaves her on the horse and makes his way over to the wagon. He opens the door and sits down across from a deform looking man. Nose abnormally large with eyes bulging out of his sockets, his suit wrinkle free along with his pristine white gloves. He almost came across intimidating.

"Welcome to the Velvet Room young man."

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Present Day, 1885

 

"Welcome to the Velvet Room young man."

"Dr. Igor, I've been informed this wasn't a friendly visit. What do you want?" Ren asked the older man.

"Straight to the point I see. I just want to know how your rehabilitation was progressing."

"I'm doing just fine. Can I go now?"

"There's no need to rush. I'm sure the ride over here left your throat parched. Please have a drink on me." Dr. Igor said lifting a container with liquid inside.

"And have you experiment on me again, no thanks." The large nose man chuckled at his guest.

"I've heard no complains so far. But still, I would like to see the results for myself. Besides you'll get to spend more time with Lavenza." Ren contemplated his next move. He was worried for the little girl and only agreed to meet her Master just to check up on her. Though the results of how he got in this situation was less than pleasing.

 

 

1 Year Ago, 1884

Ren had been coming back from his own separate mission away from Morgana. Mishima connections only located small fry so far. Clearing out buildings and getting nowhere was starting to irritate the older brother. He was riding on Arsene when he sees two young girls run out of the woods. They were nearly identical, no older than 12 years old Ren observed. However one had a braid running down her back while the other had her's tied in a bun.

" Please Mister, were scared and lost and trying to get back home. Can you help us?" The braided one asked.

" Where are you two from?"

" We live up in the mountain. My sister and I were playing but then a storm came so we took cover. But once it passed we got lost and haven't found the trail since. Perhaps with your help Mister we can get back to a familiar area?"

Ren out of the goodness in his heart just couldn't leave them be. There were animals and people out here much more dangerous. He could afford a detour. "Here, hop on my horse you two and I'll guide you up the mountain towards home," The elder Amamiya sibling said getting off his horse to help them.

" What're names by the way?" The twin girl with the braided bun pointed to herself.

" I'm Caroline."

" And I'm Justine. I'm sure our caretaker must be worried about us."

" We really appreciate this Mister—"

" Call me Ren," he said to them. The three of them made the trek up the mountain. It was getting a bit harder to climb with Arsene and Ren towing him with two young girls on the back. "Hang in there boy."

" Ah this is the area. It's starting to look familiar right Caroline!"

" I see, I think your right Justine. Mister Ren, our home should be a little more Northwest of here. There should be a cottage nearby," she directed him.

" I'll keep a look out." It took about another hour before he found a cottage built into the side of the mountain. An old man had greeted them at the door. He had an abnormally large nose, bulging eyes, and a receding hair line.

" I see you two have return home safely, I was starting to get worried when you didn't return last night. Thank you young man."

" No problem Sir, I am glad to return them back home," Ren replied back to the older gentleman.

" It must've been quite the journey, please come inside and have something to drink." The four of them walked into the house after hitching Arsene outside. It was a modest home, nothing really fancy about it.

" So this is where you two live. What is this place exactly and who are you? I mean most people don't willingly live up all the way here." The young man said sitting down on a chair.

" Welcome to the Velvet Room, I am Igor. This place is for weary travelers who come and go. The twins Caroline and Justine have lived here for quite some time. I take care of them." The deformed man offered Ren a glass of juice that he happily gulped down. He was quite thirsty after walking up the mountain.

" I guess living up here has its perks, its nice and quiet from the city life but also seems lonely with no one nearby."

" We've gotten used to it young man," Igor said sitting across from him in his own chair.

" I see. Well I should be heading back. Thank you for the drink Sir. And you two, try not to get loooo….looourr." The elder brother words were slurring the more he spoke. He got up from the chair only to feel a wave of dizziness hit him.

" You should sit down if you feel unwell young man," the other man offered. Ren tried to look at Igor but his face was starting to blur as well. His feet felt like rocks were tied to them as we attempted to take steps only to result in falling down to his knee attempting to stay steady. He could feel numbness climbing down his shoulder to his arms and legs.

" What the hell…did you do…to me?"

" Relax, in the Velvet Room reality fades." Ren was trying his damnest to move from the floor. It was feeling like the walls were closing in on the cottage. The house owners faces continue to blur and morph in his mind, no longer was there an old man and two young girls, but monsters with with red eyes. He needed to get the hell out now. Using whatever will power left, Ren crawled to the door only to be meet by a wall of stacked bricks. Reaching for his gun he felt nothing on his belt. But it was just there a moment ago. Voices and faces were yelling at him.

Weapons gone and a door he just entered blocked by bricks, there had to be another escape. The shadowy figures with red eyes were getting closer to him. Reaching out strongly for the window, the elder Amamiya sibling blacks out before he could reach the latch. He couldn't remember what happened next. It felt like a blur of odd dreams. He dreamt of wearing funny masks and talking monsters, or a blue butterfly. So odd indeed.

The next time Ren woke up from the dream it was night time based off the lighting.

" I see you are up trickster," a soft voice said. It sounded different than the twins voices. Was he somewhere else?

" Ugh. Where am I. What time is it?"

" It's a little bit afternoon and your in the infirmary," She explained.

" Afternoon? Why is everything so dark as night. I can't see anything."

" We wrapped a clothed over your eyes. But don't worry, everything was successful."

" WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO ME. WHY CAN'T I SEE!"

" You will have to talk to my Master about that. For now, continue to rest." Panic starting streaking up his spine. How STUPID could he be. He gulped down the juice like it was water and was now strapped to a bed. The only way he could tell the time was by the visits of the soft spoken one. She came three times a day. The third time and the next first visit was always the longest breaks. And each visit he would eat and have his bandages changed. But he still couldn't open his eyes. She was a lot nicer than the other two that also came. They would poke at how much he squirmed under their administrations. They seem so different than the two who offered for help.

" Enjoying your sleep inmate."

" Our Master has provided you with something very generous. He has a task for you once you have finished resting."

" Forget your dumb task and get me out!"

" We can't do that ." He heard them speak at the same time. Footsteps echoing away before a door was slammed shut. Ren tried to fight through the restraints, but they just wouldn't budge. It felt like hours later when Ren heard the door open again.

" Hello Trickster," the soft spoken sounding girl said.

" It's you again."

" It's time for your meal. I will change your bandages as well."

" You have been visiting me the past few days. What is your name?"

" I go by many names." she replied.

" Then what is the one you prefer?" Ren offered back. He could hear her setting down a bowl pondering.

" My name is Lavenza. It's nice to meet you."

" Okay Lavenza. Can you get me out of here please. At least remove the restraints, they're cutting into my skin." Ren waits for what feels like forever before feeling his wrist and ankles loose. "Thank you." The elder brother grabs the wrapping around his head and blinks a few times. His vision felt….different. Much clearer and crisp.

" Why do my eyes feel funny?" Ren asked the newly named Lavenza.

" My Master worked on them. Would you like to see his other projects," she offered.

" Uh okay." Ren's eye were adjusting to the flame lit lighting. He was in some cave, further in. This was all probably hidden behind the cottage. The young girl walked him to another room where he was absolutely horrified. Even the worse enemies he took down shouldn't deserve this treatment. Bodies were displayed in cases, human body parts switched out or mixed with animal carcasses. Who was this man trying to play; God?

Ren definitively didn't want to turn into one of these people locked up. "I gotta get out of here. Where are my guns!?"

" I've stored them by with your horse."

" My horse IS still outside right" he wanted to confirmed.

" There's no need to be leaving so soon. We haven't even started your rehabilitation." The old man Igor appeared in the room.

" What the hell are these things!?" Ren pointed at one case that clearly showed the mans insides were not normal for a human. Locked behind glass, unmoving like a deer carcass in a dining room.

" There my creations of what humans can do if they were enhance with other creatures."

" You're MAD!"

" No I'm much more. But if you wish to leave, you're free to go." That seemed way easier than Ren thought. He wanted to respond but felt a needle stab into the back of his neck. Attempting to grab at the assailant, his vision fades as two twin girls look down on him.

The next time he regain conscientiousness, he was set in the middle of the woods by a river with Arsene hitch to a tree unfazed. Did he image the whole thing? It couldn't be, his eyes still felt different. Checking his reflection in the water, his eyes were the same but the skin round them were still a bit red. "Who the hell were those people?" Since then Ren had been very cautious not only about his drinks but running into them again.

He almost put a bullet in Igor when he did pop up, in wagon this time. Ren was camping outside some weeks later. But Lavenza being patience and kind to Ren had asked her Master's questions in his stead. Dr. Igor he was officially called. Some mad scientist hell bent on perfecting fusions between humans and animals. The Amamiya sibling hated getting random visits every now and then from them to see how his eyes were progress. Ren was afraid to ask if any other part of him was switched out with animal organs. Or if his eyes were indeed "human" eyes.

That was probably the only thing Ren took away from this incident. Being able to see better in a duel. Able to detect the slightest twitch of an eyebrow or hand, see farther in the dark. He could try to restore the eyes by visiting medicine people at those local tribes. But they had enough on their plate.

 

Present Day, 1885

Back to the task at hand, Igor was making another check up on him to make sure the effects were still working all this time later. Ren was able to shoot empty bottles clearly in the complete darkness.

"Well if you look at that, the former inmate still proving himself useful Justine."

"You're right, for once he is not slacking off," the twins critiquing him from the top of the wagon.

"I don't need banter from you two. I've kept my end, my eyes are fine."

"A deals is a deal it seems. Lavenza, see to him." Dr. Igor walked back inside and waited.

The younger girl in the dress broke her formation by the wagon and walked up to Ren, hesitating at first before giving him a hug.

"You know you can still come with me instead of Igor. There's no need to participate in his experiments or games."

"You are very kind trickster but I must stay with my Master," she replied back.

"You always call me that; trickster, but you never explained it?"

"It's the look in your eyes. You're unpredictable, but I'm confident you will do great things. Farewell." She hops back in the wagon as Justine and Caroline guided the horses to move.

"See you around inmate," Caroline said. And just like that they were gone as the wind.

The sun was rising about the time he got back into the town. He wanted nothing more to rest for half the day after being up all night and guarded.

"Where have you been all night. You left to take a piss and never came in. Thought we had to send a rescue squad." Morgana was the first person he saw walking up stairs.

"Long story Mona…..wake me up around noon."

 

Elsewhere…

The town was constantly living in fear of their oppressor. Most would leave if they had the money to leave but even that was drying up, with all of the "taxes" they were forced to pay or else they be buried six feet under. She hated it so much, and wanted to do something about it.

"Makoto you should leave before they spot you." The women turned around to find her albeit unusual friend Eiko hiding behind the wall.

"I can't, I need to get down to the bottom of this. One way or another…."

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

4 years ago, 1881

A young woman was living in a decent size house in the city that was originally owned by her parents. Her mother died when she was real small and her father killed in the line of duty. All that was left was her and her sister. But even then it just felt like it was her. Her elder sister constantly left on long trips to help out in some justice department in one of the bigger cities and tend to only stay for a short weekend at most.

" I've enrolled you in an all girls prep school, it should be good for you. I expect nothing less than your very best Makoto." Her sister had finish packing her suitcases and was ready to leave for the train. "You are to report to this address in one weeks time."

" ...Ok." She wanted to have a different discussion tonight but never got the chance. Makoto wasn't interested in learning how to be a lawyer. She wanted to follow in their late father footsteps, to be a detective. She's read any books she could get her hands on about crime and outlaws. News clippings she keep hidden in a box under her bed. Her sister had worked hard to bring their father killer to justice, but he was set free roaming the lands.

Their house would be left empty while both were away. Makoto had other plans though when she left. She wanted to find her father's killer and bring him to justice one way or another. She didn't want to feel useless. But that's how it still felt. Useless.

1884 was the year she left the school. Reading and studying day in a day out for the past few years for what her sister wanted out of her. Makoto didn't mind reading, it was enjoyable to be honest. But she was antsy lately. Her elder sister contacted her less and less as the months and soon years dragged on. She would set out and prove her usefulness. This brash thinking was what got her into the current position now.


Present Day, 1885

Makoto had tracked her father killer to a gang of outlaws. He was apparently a lower tier outlaw working for someone higher up. They had been station in the town of Northsbury, draining folks of their money with these bogus tax laws. People get tax whenever they come in, tax if someone leaves, tax if they don't share their portion to the boss. It was excessive. People had feared for their lives, starving practically since no one wanted to bring food in fear of being reprimand.

Makoto had snuck in when she met a young working girl by the name of Eiko. She was able to see the horrible things committed by this gang. She had to do something. The young aspired detective stayed hidden for a few days trying her best to plan her attack. The only thing she had on her was her father's old gun, a gun that only contained one bullet. If she could get a good shot, it would be enough.

She saw her opportunity four days later. The man in charge of taking over this town. A large set man with a cigar in his mouth, surrounded by others. They stood nearby the main Town Hall and eagerly watch the startled townsfolk attempt to go about their day. She took her position and aim for his head. Cocking the revolver back like her father told her years ago, she pull the trigger and fired…..

Elsewhere

"Are we all ready to leave?" Ren had ask his companions. They had finish packing extra clothes, food, and other essentials they needed for the trip in a new wagon. The horse Ann, Ryuji and himself collected earlier were strapped in front ready to go.

"We're all set back here brother," Morgana said from behind the wagon. Yusuke and Ann were going to take the back side while him and Ryuji would guard the front. Shiho and Shinya would be in the wagon while Morgana drives. They were following Mishima last lead to Northsbury. Upon some further recon, they would be packing heat and their group needed to be ready.

Ann and Ryuji were practicing on her shooting while idling in town. Yusuke was constantly seen sketching various things. Ren had talked to him the previous day about his skills in knives. Having him throw a few in the back of the Saloon. He was accurate was all Ren could think of. It would do for now.

"Alright lets move before its gets to late."

"Wait kid before you go," Sojiro had pulled him to the side. "I heard things are going to get rough where you going. Watch your back and be careful. Some men hold no prisoners."

"I understand Boss. You and Futuba take care. We'll be back when we can." With that they headed out of town and up the road. It would take a few days before they were there, they would need to find another hideout, somewhere near the town itself but far enough to remain undetected.

Mishima's report to Ren was vague but still important. His informant told Mishima who then informs Rens.

Arms Crowded

Cage Lion

Hidden Gem

The coded message had told Ren. The town was heavily armed by hired gun, but civilians were locked in, the man in charge tends to stay hidden. This was going to be a firefight unlike the previous encounters.

"So Ren this next guy is also associated with who we're looking for? I mean doesn't seem like this one is concern with hiding when they're taking a town."

"Just because they have money, doesn't mean they're smart. This isn't a Kamoshida or Madarame, this is going to be dangerous. Morgana and I are use to being outgun, you sure you feel comfortable with this. Does Ann?"

"She's a natural though Ren, you should've seen her the other day," Ryuji replied back.

"Shooting at game or empty bottles compared to live ammunition being fired above your head makes one act different. I wouldn't know what its like to be in love but I'm sure you would be devastated if something happen to her."

"I would be upset to lose any close friend."

"Cut the bullshit Ryuji, I know you don't treat Shiho like you treat Ann. The staying during nightmares, the disorganized clothes when you two come from an outing. I don't care if you two are lovers. I just ask you don't do anything that will get all of us kill." Ren just didn't understand why they insisted. Did Ryuji think Ren and Morgana really care that about him and Ann being together. Well Morgana might mind with his "Lady Ann."

Sighing on his horse, Ryuji was probably glad they were out of hearing range of the wagon and the rear riders. "I do what I can to make her feel feel better but I'm no good for her. She deserves much better. I'm some punk that can't read shit and lived in a dump my entire childhood. She came to that town looking for better opportunity and that sunava bitch used her. She deserves better than me," he said. Ren could see they cared for one another and wanted nothing but the best for the other. If Shiho was close enough she probably would think the same.

They had travel a good distance during the day before settling down off the road some ways. Hunkering down with a fire starting, the group gather as they waited for the salted meat to finish cooking. Ann went out to gather some water in a bucket for them. It wasn't a large stream of water but flowing enough to fill it up. She was almost done when she saw something attempt to crawl away from the bank. It look like a person, a young women perhaps?

Ann gently flip the body over with her foot, they were still breathing but barely. A bullet wound could be seen on the top of their shoulder. She was going to head back to camp to get help when a hand grabbed her ankle.

"Hel..p….me."

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Present Day 1885,

It was a scream that alerted their camp. Morgana and Ryuji were closest to the scene and rush to Ann's last location. What they found was a startled Ann on the ground near the bloody and wet body.

"Ann! Are you okay?" Ryuji asked her checking for any markings on her own body.

Nodding her head up and down, "I'm fine but she's hurt."

Morgana rushed up to the bleeding woman and saw a gun shot wound on her shoulder. "Hey blondie, head back to camp and get my satchel, there's medical supplies in it," he said. He took off his yellow scarf that hung around his neck and pressed it tightly to her wound.

"Will she make it?" Ann had asked the younger brother. She had stayed while waiting for Ryuji to come back. She could see the young woman was going in and out of consciousnesses.

"Morgana, what happen!?" Ren had burst onto the scene with Ryuji hot on his heels; satchel in hand.

"Someone's hurt. I think she came in with the current and tried to get back on land," Morgana said taking out some medical cream and bandages. The Amamiya brothers had been taught by Dr. Takemi in basic medicine some years ago. But Morgana had the steadier hand when it came to sorts like this.

Ren looked down at the woman in question, she looked to be in her 20's, hair caked in dried blood and dirt. There was a gun belt around her waist but no gun in the holster. He wondered if she came across the wrong crowd and was left for dead. Morgana had cleaned the wound as best as he could and applied the bandages around it. If she survive the night he would need to change it in the morning.

"Lets carry her back to camp, she would need to stay dry and warm for now." Ren and Morgana gently lifted her up, the older brother steadying her legs while Morgana held her back and good shoulder. The rest of camp was in for a surprise when they came through. Yusuke saw Morgana and Ryuji run off first while Ren had scan the area for any immediate threat. When Ryuji had come rushing back yelling about a medical bag, Ren followed. They had placed her on Ren's bedding and added an extra blanked. Being further North the night would be a little bit chillier.

"Did she say anything Ann when you found her?"

"She said 'help me' and grabbed my leg. It made my heart jump" she explained.

"I see." This would put them at a slight delay. They couldn't move while this young woman was injured. If she didn't last the night they could always dig a hole, say a prayer, and be on their way. But he hoped that wasn't the case. Taking a peak over, he could see her faint breathing, chest still moving up and down albeit slowly. Morgana believed she lost a lot of blood but nothing vital appears hit at first.

"So how are we going to approach the town when we get there? Did your informer ever send a map?" Ryuji asked their defacto leader. They needed to approach Northsbury cautiously. Mishima did try his best to get as much information as he could out, but Ren didn't like having vital information missing. Like how many guards there were, the amount of paths in and out of town. Back at the harbor they were merely visitors to the outside person. The world could simply believe they were passing through or looking to make a home. That was the beauty of staying low and out of the laws eye.

"It would be suicide to go in guns blazing. We could lure them into a false sense of security and surprise them," Morgana suggested. "But then it will give their leader a chance to escape. We would need him alive for questioning.

All good ideas but they needed something solid. Maybe if he was able to find some high ground, he could eye the town from above with binoculars. If they were in range, Morgana could pick off the hired guards one by one with his scoped rifle providing the cover fired. A small smile was forming on the elder brother's face as a plan was coming to fruition. "I think I have an idea."

The group of outlaws stayed in one place for a few more days, delaying their travel plans. Morgana could see that Ren was getting antsy staying in one place for so long. They couldn't move due to their newly acquired acquisition using up their medical supplies. The young woman had survived the first night and the second. Morgana had reapplied the medicine cream and bandages to keep it clean. Shiho had help clean the young woman up and help feed her when ever she came back into consciousness. Ren still never got her name or where she was from. But her breathing was looking more prominent.

They passed the time with more planning or sitting around with a game of poker, the youngest of the group winning most of the matches. He picked up this game real quick. It wasn't till late in the fourth day that their patient was not only awake but coherent.

She was a bit dazed at her location and tried to move out of the bedding. The last thing she remember was being thrown into the river.

"Miss, I know things may be scary, but you are safe here." Ren keep space between them to not scare her anymore than he needed. "My name is Ren, what's yours?"

"Nijima…Makoto Nijima," she said grabbing her shoulder.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Makoto. You sure gave us quite the scare finding you. Thankfully the bullet in your shoulder went right through. It may be sore for some time but you should make a full recovery. You need to gather your strength, wait here I'll pour you some stew."

Makoto wasn't quite sure where she was and how far away she gotten from town. But her cover was blown.


….…..She took her position and aim for his head. Cocking the revolver back like her father told her years ago; she pull the trigger and fired. The bullet had just missed her father's killer and alerted the others to her. She made a mistake with her aim. The single bullet she had saved just for that man was wasted and now lodge into the wall behind him.

A hail of bullets came after her as she attempted to run out of town. Multiple footsteps were heard behind her as she ran for her life. She hope she could at least come back in the middle of the night to help her obscure friend. Ducking through some houses to lose them, she drops underneath one porch and crawl her way forward. If she could just hide long enough for them to forgo the search, she could fight another day.

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel she saw her chance at freedom. Climbing from underneath, Makoto is soon grabbed by multiple hands roughly pulling her up.

"Look what I found, a little rat!" One of them said roughly tying her down. She was dragged back into town racking up scrapes and bruises before being presented to their boss.

"We found ourselves a wench boss. Tried to take a shot at us before runnin"

They were in what she assume was the former Mayor's room if the dried blood on the wall had anything to say about it. A heavy set man had his back to her as he was counting his cash behind his desk. His hair receded, leaving a shiny spot on his head.

"Can't you idiots see I'm busy," he said back to his goons.

"But we caught a real pretty one here sir. Maybe we can make a pretty penny by sending her to the "shops." She needed to get out of here. She really didn't want to find out what these said shops entailed.

The man in front of her had finished counting his money and turned to examine her, "You are a pretty sight aren't you. I hear you caused a ruckus in my town. I don't like that. Your stunt destroyed property, meaning I'm out of some money." He pulled up closer to her and stare her straight in the eye. "I really don't like that. It means my case is not perfect!" Their boss had slapped her hard sending her on the ground.

"Kaneshiro….sir. She had dropped this as well." One of the hired guns had given this man her Father's gun.

"THAT'S MINE! GIVE IT BACK!" Makoto yelled at them. It was one of the few possessions she had left of her beloved father.

"This is a well crafted revolver Miss. Where did you get it?" The man now know as Kaneshiro asked.

"It was my Father's. He hunted scums like you down."

"Is that so? Well its my gain now. This could catch a few bucks on the market. Lets leave it as part of your payment back from disturbing my order of things," Kaneshiro said with a grin on his face. "Send her to Asmodeus for some lessons. I'm heading out for a trip to one of my associates. Her mess better be cleaned up when I get back."

Makoto tried to fight out of the ropes to get to this outlaw. He snickered at her struggles and begin to walk away. Managing to elbow one of the men holding her from behind, she rushes up to Kaneshiro and bit his hand causing the weapon to drop.

"Get off you BITCH!" He pushes her off before discharging his own weapon. The pain that follow on her back through her shoulder was excruciating. "Just great what a fucking waste. Throw her in the river then," he said examining the damage on his hand.

Her consciousnesses faded in and out since then before she saw a younger man with soft black hair and eyes crouch over her…


"Here Miss, I hope it still warm for you." Ren had handed her a small tin bowl and spoon with warm left over deer stew.

"Thank you," she said mumbling out.

Taking a seat a respectable distance away, Ren was snacking on some berries he found earlier that day. "So you said your last name was Nijima was it. You wouldn't happen to be related to that famous woman lawyer would you?"

"And what if its true."

"Then you would make a good hostage," Ren replied back. She was spooked by his answer and immediately got defensive in her wounded state. "Is what I would say if we were those kinds of people. But what I want to know is what was the younger sister of a Miss Sae Nijima doing near a gang hub?"

"I was looking for someone."

"I see. Obviously things didn't turn out in your favor."

"I know that I made a mistake, but you don't have to be an ass about it," Makoto yelled at the elder brother.

"Sorry Miss, that wasn't my intention. But I do advise you to stay here at our camp while my group and I handle some business in town. Once the dust settles, I'm be more than happy to drop you off at a safe town or train station."

"No! I have to go back, I need to get my father's gun back. Its one of the few possession left I have of him," she pleaded to Ren.

"I can't make any promises, but I'll see what I can do. It's getting late, you should finish eating and get some rest." Getting up from his cot, he started prepping his horse for a ride out in the night.

The elder Amimiya brother needed to clear his mind. He prefer taking rides by himself whenever a new mission would start. He had to stay focus on the path he chose to tread. But he couldn't stop the nagging feeling he had in the back of his mind, about a brown hair woman and crimson eyes.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

The very next day the brothers, Ryuji, and Ann would scout out the land near the town. Yusuke would keep an eye on the camp while they were out.

"Morgana, if you would be so kind as to give Mr. Yusuke here your throwing knives while we are away." The younger Amamiya sibling went to his horse's satchel and took out four wrapped blades.

"Please be gentle with them," he said. Yusuke was greatly admiring the design of the hilt more than the blade.

"Fascinating, the intricacy of the handles patterns, along with the curvature, and…."

"Yusuke, you're doing it again," Ren pointed out.

"My apologies."

"No need, just be alert." Ren had grabbed a gun from his extra bag on Arsene and walked over to Ann. "Take this Miss Ann. While we are strictly doing recon it could be possible to run into trouble. I can offer you my spare pistol, think of it as shooting a rifle but shorter. Easy right."

"Okay," she said taking the gun. She tried to get a feel of it and relax as best as she could.

Ren hopped on his horse when there new guest walked up to him. "You sure your well enough to be up already?"

"I was getting antsy. You guys are heading up to Northsbury; I want in," Makoto demanded.

"You're recovering from being shot Miss Nijima, its not wise for you."

"I refuse to be useless, I'm going!"

Hopping down from from Arsene, Ren goes to confront the young brown hair woman. "You're not useless, you're hurt. There's a difference. I get you want some revenge, but in your state all that's gonna get you is six feet underground. Now are you going to rest or do I have to use force?"

"I need to get to the bottom of this. My father's murderer is still alive!"

"You lost your weapon and you were shot!" Ren yelled back at her.

"I'll think of another way around. Let me through."

Sighing at the situation Ren had to go through the hard way, "Force it is then." The elder brother grabbed Makoto and lifted her onto his shoulder. Grabbing the rope he keep on his horse, he goes towards the nearest tree and tied her up sitting down. She didn't go down without a fight.

"I would've like to avoided using force Miss Nijima but you've forced my hand. I can't have you running off injured and interfering with my mission." Tugging the rope around her hands, he was making sure it was tight enough to avoid escape but won't cause chafing around the wrist. "Miss Shiho, please make sure to feed our guest for lunch. I don't want her to starve. We'll be back in a few hours."


Ren and the others left, leaving the other combatants behind. Riding just a few miles from the town, they scanned the area for any guards nearby.

"Brother, bandits at 4 o'clock," Morgana whisper. They were hold up in a tent down the hill. They each wore the same purple cloth on them. Gangs usually all shred something amongst them to show a form of unity. Whether that be a share in accents, clothing, facial features, etc.

"We'll go in non lethal and hide them," Ren ordered. Him and Ryuji snuck up quietly behind the two men and grab their necks. Putting them in a choke hold until the two bandits passed out. "That's handles that, lets hide them and keep moving."

The group of four continued on till they found the outskirts of town in a ravine. Taking position on the hill looking over the town, Ren takes out a pair of binoculars for recon.

"I can see hired gun out in the open from this distanced," Ryuji offered.

"This is Northsbury?" Ann tried to take a peak from their position. They were crouched down to stay out of sight.

"I see about 14 guards out, 5 pathways in and out of town. Some defensive position on Main Street, but the Second Street could work for cover fire as well," The elder Amamiya brother pass the item over to Morgana.

"I don't know brother, the Second Street could funnel us in and we'll be sitting ducks. If you and Ryuji take the Third street or Main Street, I'll have more room to pick them off."

"What about a compromise with Yusuke. Ren comes down Main Street followed by Ryuji on Third and Yusuke on Second. I could back Morgana while he focuses," Ann suggested their approach. Morgana and Ren look at each other as if the pieces were aligning.

"That's not a bad idea actually. Mona, make a mock up map. I'm gonna recon some more. You're welcome to join Miss Ann." He had already recon with Ryuji and his brother before. It was time to give Ann some training.

Morgana took out a journal and made a sketch of the town's layout. Ren and Ann moved to another spot on the hill looking down to observed. He could see that each town member seemed tired and frighten no matter where the went. Shopping or walking past the guard made them nervous. Whoever they were up against had a strong hold on these people. They were extorting money, stealing whatever lively hood these people had left.

"Can't find our target, but I'm sure he's nearby somewhere," The older brother spoke out loud.

"Does he too have a code, like you known, like that other man?" Ann had questions back.

"Most likely within their own little group to keep the businesses going. But my informant wasn't able to get it. It seems things around here are very tight lipped. I do have a rough description to go off of, I just feel a bit concern without a solid count of the situation. They spent another hour watching any pattern, any changes of guards. They notice they were a little bit sloppy, Ren observe, but the gang still needed to be on their toes.

"Lets regroup and head back to camp." Riding back to their hiding spot without incident, the older Amamiya brother gather around everyone to discuss the plan.


"Alright everyone listen carefully, Morgana has made a sketch of the town, study it carefully. We have about 14 guards that we can see visibly but we need to be prepare for more hiding around. We have about five exits in and out of town, however based off positioning of some stores, three of us can come in from the Main Street, Second, and Third street from North to South. Its position in a ravine where Morgana will take a higher ground and provide cover fire. We need to do our best to minimize civilians casualties as best as we can. Ryuji and Yusuke will come with me. Ryuji, you will take Third Street and Yusuke will take Second. Think your throwing can handle that?"

"Its been some time since Madarame trained me in the art of sword, I am still comfortable with the knives temporarily provided. Firing a gun hasn't been my forte."

"Understandable. But back to business," Ren says pointing South on Mona's sketch. "Morgana will use his rifle to pick off those we may miss and Ann will back you in case others sneak up on you. Once finished, we'll sweep the town for any stragglers. Any questions about the plan? Is everyone okay with it?

"20 guards," he heard. The voice came from their tied up guest. "I saw 20 guards there, 6 stood by the Town Hall almost at all times where their leader resided. If there's only 14, they he's out of town with his bodyguards." Ren had to admire he was impressed with her deduction.

"Thank you for your deduction Miss. Once we gone through town we'll cut you loose." Ren replied back.

"So you're keep me as your hostage. Typical outlaws. How do I know you're not working for Kanshiro and plan to kill me once I'm free!"

The older Amamiya brother walked over and sat down in front of her with a smile. Morgana knew what that smile meant, the others wouldn't know but he did. Just another mask his brother wore to keep his emotions in check.

"Miss Nijima, the Phantom Thieves are far different from men like that. I don't like being compared to scums of the earth. I consider myself a kind person Maam. I love my little brother, Boss, Futaba, and all the new friends I've made. Now if I was a more shady person…." She heard the click of his revolver and saw the barrel pointed below her chin. "Your head would've already been blown off. But I won't cause your in need of help. Also I prefer not to have big sister hunt me down in case your body was found." Ren holsters his weapon and goes to untie her from the tree before going to his ending. Makoto stared at him oddly with his change in tone. One minute he seems like a kind gentlemen, but could snap into a rage the next. What the hell happen to him that would've caused it?"

"Don't look surprise Miss Nijima, I ain't heartless."

It was after supper that most of the gang went to bed that evening. Ann and Shiho shared a tent while Ryuji laid on a bedding right outside, shotgun in hands reach. Shinya rested by the fire while Yusuke slept near his own steed. Makoto still hadn't regain all her strength and was using Ren's bedding. The only other people who were up were the brothers.

"There was no need to startle her like that Ren."

"I know, I just want to make sure this mission goes smoothly. I don't want any of you hurt."

"I'll have your back brother, so don't worry about it," Morgana said trying to offer comfort.

"I wouldn't if I didn't feel the chill down my spine again," Ren described. It always felt like a whirlwind of emotions at times and he didn't know how to react. Why he would put on a face sometimes. Either acting overly nice or stern. He was scared of helping people again, but he also didn't want to lose the kindness his mother taught him as a small child.

"Don't stay up to late, I'm going to bed," Ren said.

"But isn't that women sleeping your bedding?"

"Not the first time I've slept on the ground."

The group slept peacefully without any issues from the outside, from the inside of camp, the young injured Makoto Nijima moved as quietly as possible attempting to not startle the blond hair watcher by the fire. She waited till their leader and his brother both went to sleep before making her move. Moving to where the horses were tied up, she attempted to pull out Ren's pistol that he always kept in his extra bag. Arsene started neighing and hugging during her action.

"Ssshhhhh please be quiet," she whispered. Miraculously Arsene obeyed. She successfully took the pistol and holstered it in her own gun belt. It too had once belong to her father. Crouching and moving silently, making little noise as she could, Makoto began to move away from camp.

CLICK

"You can't stay still can you, Miss Nijima.


Chapter Text

 

Chapter 20

Present Day, 1885

"You can't stay still can you Miss Nijima?" Ren had caught her behind a tree, revolver pointed directly at her.

"Let me go and I'll hand you your gun back after," She told him.

"If I let you go, there won't be an 'after'. Now please hand it back." He stretched out his hand waiting for her to give his pistol back. But she had other ideas. Quickly drawing the gun, she raised it to Ren's head.

"Let me pass."

"I can't allow that," Ren said to her.

"I will shoot you if I have to!"

Ren sighs at the situation," Morgana put the gun down, her threats are empty." Makoto was confused until she felt the barrel of the gun behind her back. "Miss Nijima, my gun please." Handing it over without a choice, the three walked back to camp.

"Way to keep an eye on things meat head!"

"What the fuck did I do!?" The blonde hair gunslinger yelled back to the younger brother. The two bickered by the fire while Ren escorted Makoto to the tree again.

"I really hate having to do this to you. But I can't have you running off getting killed." He sat down across from her once tying her up. "I know it may not seem like it, but I get why your insistent. I understand your desire for revenge on your Father. I understand you probably miss your Sister's love. The man who has taken over Northsbury, he's the man I'm after. He belongs to a inner circle of people connected to a man I only know as Samuel. I had been accused of a crime by him that almost had me hung. I've been tracking him and his associates down since then. If your father's killer is amongst this group as you say, then don't worry, he will meet his judgement day." With that said, the elder Amamiya brother went to his bedding to catch a few more hours of sleep.


8am the next day had the gang ready for their plan. His revolver was loaded and clean as Ren holstered them. His extra pistol he had to retrieve the night before was given to Ann as she would cover Morgana. Ryuji's gun belt held extra bullets for his shotgun and repeater he cared over his shoulder. Morgana made a last minute check on his scoped rifle to make sure it wouldn't jam. Their newest recruit was twisting and flipping the knives in his hand getting a feel of them.

"Hey brother….remind me not to upset Yusuke in the future he looks scary with those knives." Ren had snicker at his younger brother's confession.

"Just be glad he's on our side, speaking of which." He called both Yusuke and Ann over to him. "Since this is your first time you will be going on an 'outing' with us, you two need code names. Sometimes we wear masks and go by codes as we don't want others to find us. Do you have any preferences of your own?"

"Call me Davinci."

"No."

"The Great One?"

"Nope"

".…Kitsune?" Yusuke suggested,

"Kitsune? What is that?"

"It means fox in my homeland."

"Then how bout 'Fox'? Ren suggested back.

"I guess that will do." Ren turned towards Ann for her suggestion.

"Hmmm, I'm not quite sure what it is I want to be called."

"What about 'Lady' Ann!" Morgana loudly suggested as well.

"It's not suppose to have her name dumbass!" Ryuji bickered back. "Besides, I think 'Bones' would fit since I'm Skull."

"Can I be called Panther?" Ann confirmed ignoring the others.

"Panther it is. Alright we're cutting it close as is. Shiho will you and Shinya be alright here?"

"We'll be fine Mr. Ren, I'll make sure to feed Miss Makoto as well." Nodding back, Ren hopped on Arsene and lead the way. This reminded him of the mini shootout at the brothel roughly a month go. Thankfully they all came out unscathed. But nothing could compare to the shootout of New Years of '84. It was just him and Morgana hunting down the gang that murder and burned that schoolhouse. Over 50 men against 2. It probably help that the members were sitting on a dynamite deposit blowing half to hell. Morgana had to shoot like a needle in a haystack.

"Joker! Panther and I will veer off here at the entrance of the ridge. We'll find our spot on the hill. Good luck brother, I'll see you on the other side."

"Same to you Mona. May your aim stay true." Ren, Ryuji, and Yusuke directed their horses into the ridge by the town itself. Few people were out and about doing morning routines.

"Gentlemen, lets initiate the plan." Nodding, Ryuji trotted to his spot before reaching his side of town as done by Yusuke as well. Ren would take the straight and narrow path into Northsbury. As soon as he came into a view, four men step in front of his horse.

"Good morning stranger, Imma have to ask you to remove your iron and hand it over to the deputy over here. We can hold it for you for 20 bucks, your horse for 70," the man in front of him said.

"90 dollars for my six shooter and horse is a bit steep don't you think. Why do you all have your weapon?"

"We're the lawman around here boy."

"You need all these lawman for this size of town?" Ren said eyeing about 6 men now. Two more showed up by the grocery store.

"How many we have is non of your business. Now hand over your weapons!" Chuckling, Ren gets down from Arsene and slowly pulls out his revolver placing it in the palm of his hand.

"Here you go Sir. You're more than welcome to take it from my hand." The man took one step towards the elder brother. " Though I must warn you I have one hell of a crackshot. You lay a finger on it and your hand will be missing. Sure you won't let me by gentlemen?" Ren calmly said with his gun in the palm.

"You can walk on through once you've relieved yourself of your firearm and pay the fee."

Ren signals to Arsene causing the horse to jog off out of view. "Hmmm I see, Well I do have the money to pay, but I don't think my companions feel the same." From there, Ryuji came out of his hiding, repeater lowered to the ground a smug smile littered his face. The leader of the four men in front laughed.

"You two honestly think you can take us?" They all heard a thump as one of their guards fell from his hiding spot on the roof, a knife was protruding out of his back. Yusuke had appeared from behind the sign 3 knives at his hip. Unfortunately, some blood got on his white shirt but the dark blue vest was spared for now.

"I'll ask one more time sir, you sure you don't want to let us through peacefully?" Ren asked again nicely, palm still up with his revolver in hand.

"You are all going to be dead men after what you just did!? They all had their gun raised at Ren while Ryuji had his weapon read to aim at the two men standing on the grocery porch.

A subtle gunshot was heard in the town as the man harassing Ren was shot straight through the heart and collapsed on the ground; a angle coming from above. Morgana had position himself on a hill overlooking the town. It had a clear view of the main street center where the event was going down. With a clear day upon them and little wind, he shot straight and true.

"Nice shot Mona."

"Thanks Panther but stay down," he whispered.

To say the rest were stun was an understatement. At the thud of the first man body dropped, all hell broke loose. Spinning the gun in his hand, Ren cock back and shot 3 times in the chest of the men in front of him. Ryuji nailed the first guard by the store before the second ducked in. Any of the reaming civilians screamed and ran for cover.

Another guard ran out of a store underneath Yusuke. He prepared to aim the knife but the guard was shot down first. Another kill for Mona.

"Fox get down here, you're a sitting target!" Ren yelled firing into the grocery store with Ryuji where they last saw one of the guards. Ryuji had the angle from the window and fired before the other could. A loud groan could be heard as the bullet ripped through the hired gun. 5 more men came running in from 2nd street. Yusuke jump down surprising one by throwing the knife at his throat and pinned him to the wooden store pillar. Grabbing the first knife he threw from the dead body, his aim was off and it landed one mans shoulders. But Ren had his back and fired a bullet straight towards the guards forehead. The three other guards fired back forcing Ren and Yusuke to take cover from the bulletstorm. Another gunshot rang from above just missing one of their targets who hid on the side of the building.

"There's a sniper, find him!" One of them left towards the hills.

"Shit I hope Panther and Mona are ready," the elder brother muttered.

The two more men came towards Ryuji at the grocery store, firing their shotgun that left the blonde hair gunslinger diving for cover. He jumps behind the cashier ledge as they blasted threw the windows. Switching to his own shotgun from the other shoulder, he pops up and shoots. Missed. Two more shots fire through before he attempts again.

"Augh!" Another guard slumps forwards on the window ledge dead. Moving to another part of the store, he quickly cuts between cover from the back to the front. The guard shoots grazing Ryuji in the ribs.

"FUCK!" He yells. It was only a graze but it still stings. Having to guess, he hears the hired gun reload just outside the window. Popping up from hiding, Ryuji fires a round at a turn outside the window and pulls the trigger. Blood sprays on the broken glass as he hears no more shots in his direction.

Ren and Yusuke were pin down hiding behind some fruit cart as the guards continue to shoot from the building side.

"Mona, if you can get one more shot off, that would be great," Ren hoped.

"I can't get a good angle myself without being shot at," Fox mention. They were running out of cover as the bullets broke away the fragile wood. Another shot rang out again and the two thieves heard a groan.

"You'll pay for this you bastards!" Ren peaked and saw one of the two had been downed but not dead.

"This wouldn't have happen if your leader left these fine people here alone!" The elder Amamiya reloaded his revolver and fired towards the last standing guard. Hitting a finger, the man dropped his gun in pain leaving Ren to fire another shot in his chest, killing him.

The one guard left was attempting to crawl away as he bleed out. " Leaving so soon? I have a few questions to ask though." Ren grabbed the wounded man up. They were on limited time and hope the lone guard that headed up the hill would be taken care of.


Picking off the stragglers had been fairly easy before Joker and Fox got pinned down. He did his best to get a killshot, but missed a few times. He heard bullets hit the underside of the rock he was laying on. "Panther, get ready we got company!"

"Right."

Ann took cover behind another rock as one of the guards was trying to run up the steep hill they resided on. She went to shoot the gun like Ryuji taught her but missed the first attempt. The man was aiming at Morgana who was trying to focus on the town below. Taking a deep breath, she jump from behind the rock and empty the chamber towards the hired gun, hitting him in the stomach and chest. The body fell backwards and rolled down the hill.

"Damn you shot the hell out of that guy."

"I did." She said to Morgana. Her adrenaline starting to calm down as reality sets in. Dropping the gun, Ann began to shake at what she just done.

"It's okay 'Lady' Ann, just take deep breath, it will be okay." Mona tried to coax her through, killing another human being usually illicit a reaction. Some have it immediately while others have it come later or the memory being triggered by a noise or smell.

"Lets go find the others." The two grabbed their guns and headed down to to town, all the gunfire has ceased. The civilians still stayed in their stores and homes hiding in case another fire starts.


Hoisting the injured guard to the wall, Ren starts his interrogation. "Start talking, where'd your Boss go?"

"I ain't telling you shit!" Spitting blood in Ren's face. Not liking that he threw an elbow to his face.

"I'm going to ask nicely one more time, where is your Boss? The large short man, suppose to have receding brown hair, wheres a purple suit."

"He was visiting an associate of his, an Azazel or maybe Asmodeus, I don't know I only heard them in passing…." The guard paused coughing up more blood.

"Hey you're not done yet. Name, give me your Bosses name." He threw another elbow jab to the dying guard.

"OW!"

"Name now!" Ren demanded.

"Kaneshiro….Boss wanted to .....steal the money from the bank but....stayed for the mining profits. That's…. all …..I….swear." He slumped forward, collapsing dead.

"Asmodeus?" Yusuke questioned behind him.

"Yeah Kamoshida. I'm not sure who Azazel is, but if Kaneshiro was heading to Kamoshida's last location he won't find much. Kamoshida ran an illegal sex ring and this Kaneshiro is supposedly making prfoits from a nearby mining site. The wheels in Ren's head were turning. The two knew each other atleast if he took this guards words for it. Kamoshida was receiving a lot more than one would make out of the brothel. Maybe they exchange goods. Kamoshida had distributed the women around, but that cost money. Could Kaneshiro might have paid him for the women to use here?No, that doesn't fit with the town's layout. They passed threw though possibly? Another link in a chain to figure out.

"So did we get them all?" Ryuji said coming out of the store he hid in. Ren could see he was gripping near his right rib.

"You okay there Skull?"

"I'll live, just a graze."

"Ryuji!" They heard Ann yelling, her and Morgana were coming down the hill together.

"Please slow down Lady Ann or you'll trip."

"The coast is clear up on the hill, are you all right?" The lady of the group asked.

"Just some bumps and scratches, Miss Ann but we're okay. Ryuji could use more extensive looking however. Yusuke replied too truthfully. Ryuji had elbowed him in the back with his good arm. "Ouch!"

"You're hurt Ryuji?" She asked the blonde hair gunslinger.

It's just a graze Ann, nothing serious."

"Stop trying to down play your injuries. Let me see." Giving in, he removed his hand from his ribs. It wasn't a clean shot, but it did cut enough skin to bleed through his vest.

"It just needs to be cleaned and bandage, see nothing to—" Ann interrupted him by pulling him in a hug shaking. Sighing, "Why don't you fellas start cleaning up, I'll be there in a few moments."

Taking the hint, Ren, Morgana, and Yusuke started gathering the bodies and putting them in a pile. He looked back towards the two blonds still in an intimate embrace. The gunslinger whispering in her ear before sharing a kiss. Ren had to remember Ann wasn't overreacting to the wound but the thought of almost losing Ryuji again. Afterall Ryuji's skull almost been blown off all over her at one point.

"Is It safe to come out Sir?" A frighten civilian had asked peeking through a window.

"You all are safe at the present moment, but if you have a wagon to carry these bodies, that be appreciated."

"Uh…..right away Mister."

Ren couldn't wait to hit the bed after this cleanup…

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

A few Days Prior, 1885

Akechi was not in a good mood when this train pulled up to HQ. He kept his princely persona on the outside but the inside he was reeling. He had half the evidence left from Madarame's case after some of it caught fire, a cigar wasn't properly dispose of near the cargo. This had cause some of it to alite burning his case to the ground very quickly. But if there was one person more grouchy than him at the moment, it was Sae Nijima.

"What's with the scowl?" He dare asked.

"I've sent my sister a letter a few weeks ago but haven't heard back. It's very unlike her," she mentioned.

"You look more angry than worry though, does she normally act like this?"

"No. I have very little time as it and its inconsiderate to keep me waiting."

"If she's anything like you, I'm sure she's fine. Now if you'll excuse me I have more problems to figure out on recovering my evidence." The young detective walked passed and up to his office carrying the remaining non burnt files. It contain Madarame's banking transactions, journals, and personal effects. Dumping them on his desk, Akechi rubbed his scar on his nose in stress. He had a gang of thieves and a runaway artist to deal with. The only other word he got was that the apprentice was seen going in the same direction as the gang. Two knocks were heard at his door, "Come in."

"Detective, you're needed in the Captain's room," the messenger said. Moving down the hall to the Captain's room, he himself knocked two times before being granted in.

"You wanted to see me Sir?"

"Yes, I want you to take a break from your current investigation and proceed on another federal case. This one deals with illegal mining, we've been receiving a few reports about that around our departments. The mining deposits are located west of the town of Northsbury. Take who's available, preferably keep it to a two men team and check out the sources. More information will be in the folder here. Any questions?"

"Is there a reason I'm being taken of Kobayokawa's murder case. There's been multiple deaths surrounding it?"

"Leave it be for now Detective."

"Then no Sir, I have no more questions. I'll be taking my leave." A two man team to investigate an illegal mining deposit over a murder case? This would be something assigned to lower case worker, the most he can check out were permits. He was on the cusp of something much larger, with these deaths. Akechi walked back down the flight of stairs looking for a specific person for this case. Finding him in the training room, he called out."

"Loki, suit up, we got a new assignment."


Present Day, 1885

Ren, Morgana, and Yusuke finished piling up the dead guards into a wagon to be taken to burn.

"I believe that is all of them. Mona, you know what to do," the elder brother directed. Ren turned around to address the few civilians looking on in wonder, "Is there a person of authority I can speak too?"

"I'm afraid our Mayor was shot and the Sheriff and Deputies hung a few days right after when these men came. So we don't really have one, we couldn't do anything, we got overrun by this gang." An older civilian spoke out.

"Then what is your name Sir?" Ren asked.

"Me? Toranosuke Yoshida."

"Good, your my liaison for right now. Can you and a few volunteers gather up the town folks at the Town Hall?"

"...Of course," the older gentlemen said as he left to complete his task.

Ren let out a loud whistle and waited a few moments before Arsene gallup back into town. "Ever faithful Arsene," he said patting his deep red coat. He reached in his satchel to grab a can of ointment and some bandages. He wasn't quite sure how long they will be out here but he could always start looking for herbs in nearby fields. All of his teachings with Dr. Takemi became useful in the wild.

Ryuji and Ann were off to the side on a bench, his bloody vest was laying next to him as Ann pour water from a canteen onto a piece of cloth attempting to wipe the blood away.

"Here. Once you're done cleaning that, meet me at the Town Hall." Ren handed them the health items and walked away. Yusuke was sitting on the ground leaned up against a chair catching his breath.

"How you holding up?" Ren asked crouching down to his level.

"It's not the first time killing, but it stills feels terrible each time." The artist tried his best to rid the felling of throwing up.

"First?"

"We were held up on the road, my old teacher and I some time ago. I only had a dagger to defend myself."

"I see." He reached out his hand pulling Yusuke up from the dirty ground. "I'm gathering the town folks at the moment, can you head back to camp and wrangle the others up and bring them back here?" Nodding his head, Yusuke goes to where he last left his horse tied up before the shootout.

The Town Hall was recently updated for the town and connected to the town's Bank. He was told the vault doors were made from forging special minerals found in the mines. The hall room itself was found on the other side of the building and was slowly filling up with people. He sees the older man he spoke with earlier and approached him.

"Mister, this is about everyone," he told Ren.

"Thank you Mr. Yoshida. Please stand here for now, I think the town folks would like to see a friendly face.

"Sure"

Standing in front of everyone, he can sense their nerves with a new stranger. After being ruled by outlaws and freed, they dare to reignite their hope.

"Dear citizens of Northsbury, my name is Ren Amamiya, I am here to help you. I understand that the man previously in charge has abused, used, and swindle you out of your livelyhood. He is a dangerous man that I will make sure faces justice. My companions and I will assist you during this recovery period. While he most likely will be back, we need to get you all ready. Is there anyone else amongst you that is skilled with a gun?" Ren had asked the crowd. It was nothing but silence from them, in fact a second look at the group he notice it mostly consisted of older men, women, and young children.

"Where are all the young men?" He questioned.

"They've been sent to the mines Mister." Yoshida moved to stand a few steps behind him, "We are relentlessly taxed by Kaneshiro regardess of what we do. If we cannot pay, one of the able-bodied men are force to work at the mine as punshiment. We hardly hear from them."

"Please help get my son back!"

"My husband was also taken. Please Sir!"

More shouts about fathers, brothers, and husbands were sent hurling at him. "Everyone, please settle down!" Ren yelled trying to shout over the crowd and their complaints. "Mr. Yoshida, how long have these men been away from their families?"

"Maybe four or five months. Some men have tried to resist and fight back, unfortunately we had to bury them." More people losing their lives or being trampled upon, he can see why Samuel kept the company he keeps.

"We're going to get those men back and stop Kaneshiro, that I promise you the citizens of Northsbury."

Ren tried to answer a few more questions asked by the crowd, but they needed to cut the meeeting short to start work on cleaning the buildings this time. The men of the group worked all day removing the broken glass and plywood debris with other town members. They worked tiresomely through dinner except Ryuji, he was forced to rest after aggravating the wound attempting to help. The town folks were kind enough to let them use the Inn free of charge. A thank you for getting rid of Kaneshiro's men for now.

"Oh its been so long since I've had a real bath and real sleeping bed. Hey Lady Ann, give it a try."

"No thanks Morgana, I'm going to use the room down the hall," Ann said declining his offer.

"Are you sure its wise to use any rooms? Wouldn't there be other guest that need it?" The knife wielding artist asked.

"People have been scared off from staying at this town especially during its occupation." Makoto had been on her better behavior the past few hours, so Ren allowed her to join them. "It's a gift for what we did, don't look at it in the mouth."

"We?" Ryuji questioned Makoto.

"Regardless of what you did, I'm still a bit suspicious of you."

"Well please be suspicious in your own room, I need some rest." The blond gunslinger got up gingerly with Ann putting his arm on her shoulder, helping him walk to their room. His leg was fairing well the past few weeks but was re-aggravated in the earlier fight.

"I can walk just fine Ann." He muttered under his breath. The two were heard bickering all the way down the hall.

"Today has been a long day, its best we all get some sleep. There should be enough space on this floor to have two to a room; Shinya your staying with Yusuke, Makoto and Shiho can take the other room."


The Phantom Thieves had a much deserved rest after the long day., sore bodies laying on a soft mattress was welcomed. The next morning the owner of the Inn treated them to a hearty breakfast in the main floor room.

"Whoa! Is this for us!?" Morgana exclaim as he drools at the mouth.

"Please help yourselves, its not much but we appreciate you getting rid of Kaneshiro's men for us. Many of us are just happy to not have a shadow constantly watching."

"We're happy to help Ma'am, but our works not done. Kaneshiro himself and the last of his men will be back. If he's hauling money out of here, he'll be back for it." The older brother spoke. He took a helping of grits and bacon for himself, though nothing is as good as Boss's food.

"You town folks must've been cut off a lot of supplies seeing as merchants wouldn't want to be bother with the taxes coming here. Low food, medicine, other trades. A few of us can go out and hunt some food and medicinal herbs for you."

"You don't have to do that Mr. Amamiya." The owner was a bit flustered at having some genuine food once more.

"I insist. Morgana, saddle up the horses and I'll get Ryuji, the three of us will track down some game." Morgana went and asked to borrow a wagon from the butcher to carry excess meat.

Ren had walked upstairs to wake up Ryuji who hadn't come down for breakfast at all. He's normally the first to inhale food when it came to meal time. Moving closer to the door, Ren could hear panting and grunts coming from the room.

First thing in the morning. Seriously?….., Ren thought to himself. It would be best to slide a note underneath and wait for their business to conclude.

"Change of plans Morgana, it's just you and me," he said coming back down the steps shaking his head.

"Blondie's not coming?"

"No. He's….occupied at the moment.

"Can I come instead?" Makoto had asked the two brothers to join their small hunting trip. Ren didn't see the harm in it. Her wounds were healing nicely and she hasn't tried anything to get herself killed playing hero.

"You'll ride with me then. Morgana you have the 's move, were wasting daylight" The three set out to find some game for the town, borrowing the wagon while Ren borrow his brothers rifle. Makoto sat behind Ren on Arsene as they travelled up the road to open field.

"So what are we looking for particularity?" She asked the brothers.

"Deer, rabbits, other small critters. Can't feed everyone out of a can from the grocery store." The younger brother mutter.

"Sometimes the can food taste better."

"So you've also tried hunted food before?" Ren questions.

"Well no…..But what about you? How long have you to had to hunt?"

"About 5 years, Boss taught us. We had eaten wild animals before but never hunted it ourselves."

"Boss?" she questioned.

"He was our caretaker for the past few years. Took us in when we hit the bottom. Kept bounty hunters off of Ren too."

"I see. What was your life before that than?"

It feels so long since he remembered life before living on the run. He could almost smell his Mother's cooking, watching his Father work. "We lived on a farm out west, hills as far as the eye can see," he decided to confess to her. "We had various animals to tend to, we even had a black cat. Our Mother did various crafts and trinkets, taught us to read and write. But they got sick and well….."

"I'm sorry to hear that, I also always wanted a cat myself but my sister thought it would interfere with my studies."

"That's too bad. Morgana was a good cat in his own right, he lived for about 12 years.

"You name your cat after your brother?" Makoto wondered.

"More like my brother name himself after a cat. He's really a Jr." Ren had laughed when he found out his younger brother didn't want to be named after their father but to that of a cat. But after their father's death, he didn't want the reminder.

"Hey Morgana is a good name!"

"Never said it wasn't brother."

"You two seem close for brothers?" Their brown hair companion asked. She was almost jealous of their bond.

"Of course, I'll always have Ren's back especially in all the fights we've had."

Makoto had dropped her head wishing her and her own sister shared this bond, but she was more focus on her own work. It almost feels like she was shipped off to be moved out of the way.

"Welp this looks like a good place to start. Morgana, pull the coach to the side over there." Parking off the road, Ren headed further out to hunt leaving Makoto and Morgana watching the wagon.

"It sucks being the younger sibling sometimes."

"Why would you say that Morgana?"

"Cause your always looking sad. I know the feeling, I've strive myself to make sure to be useful for Ren. I didn't want him to leave me on the side while he goes out and tracks down his targets. The only suggestion I can offer is that its gets better over time"

"Maybe…"

The two would hear a few gunshots over the course of an hour or so. Ren came back and forth with some bucks and rabbits handing them from Arsene.

"We may have to do this over the course of this week. But if the town folks are willing to trade ammo for meat, I don't mind." The brothers help carry the large buck into the back to be carried to town.

"Uh…..you guys, I see someone coming down the road and they don't look friendly." Peaking around the wagon, Ren took a look at what Makoto saw. A pair of riders were wearing a particular style of clothing, these weren't regular travelers; they were federal agents.

"Mona!" he whispered urgently, signalling his brother over. "We have feds, act natural." The elder Amamiya brother took a side glance to the woman with them. Who's to say she won't rat them out, she holds no loyalty with him. But he seen and knowns the look in her eyes. It was the same look that appears at him in his own reflection

The pair got closer as the three tried to pack up the meat. The younger looking agent had greeted them with a nod and went on his way…..is what Ren hoped for, but it wasn't going to go his way. The younger agent took a second glance at Makoto before stopping his horse.

"Makoto?" he asked.

"Excuse me sir, but do I know you?"

"No Ma'am, but I know your sister, she has shown me your photos." He got down from his horse and removed his glove to offer a hand. "Its nice to finally meet the younger Nijima, I'm Goro Akechi."

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

Present Day 1885,

 

"It's nice to finally meet the younger Nijima. I'm Goro Akechi." The young ace Detective offered his hand to shake. Makoto took it anxiously as she tried to see the expression of the two outlaw brothers. "I must ask Miss Nijima, what are you doing all the way out here? Shouldn't you be in boarding school?

"I'm….well, I wanted to—"

"Miss Makoto here was helping us gather supplies and meat for our town," Ren said wrapping an arm around her shoulder. She was a bit rattled at being caught by an associate of her sister. "She's been very helpful and kind to us during this season. I'm sure her missing a few classes shouldn't interrupt her sister's work if you catch my drift Mister…"

"Akechi," he too offered his hand to the older brother whom is keeping his outward facade.

"My name's Ren." The two stared as they gripped together in a handshake, hoping to find a break in appearance. Akechi let go of Ren's hand with a smirk.

"So you're a meat farmer?" The Detective asked.

"Why yes, been doing it my whole life. My brother and I are taking over the family business," Ren continue with his persona.

"I see. You must get a lot of thieves attempting to steal your stock."

"Oh what makes you say that?"

"I've notice your right index finger is more swollen than the rest of your hand, not including scaring from calluses that tend to form from long gun use." Akechi points towards Ren's feet and continues, "You also stand like a soldier, ready to fire at a moments notice. I take it bounty hunting was to inconsistent to bring food to the table Mr. Ren?"

Ren had to force all of his muscles to not tense up after this federal agent highly observant description of him. "I'm afraid not Mister, Pa never liked it and Mama worries to much. Just an avid hunter for our store. Anyhow, I hate to hold you up on whatever important federal business you have."

"I'm not in to much of a hurry. I do have one more question if you don't mind. Have we met before?"

"I'm sure I would recognize an agent as young as you Mr. Akechi."

"Hmmm, maybe a visit at headquarters, or was it a train?" Akechi ponders to himself.

Ren too couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't their first meeting either. "A memory of a memory doesn't give the event much justice I say."

"Justice…..? What an odd thing to say."

"Is he always like this?" Morgana chimed in at the second rider on the horse.

"Oh Loki, he is mute I'm afraid but that doesn't stop him from doing his job." They could see the silent man hardly moved an inch. Burn scars littered his hands and forearms.

"I really should be going now. And Miss Nijima, please at least let your sister know you are safe and well. Sae may not look like it, but she truly does care. Goodbye, until our paths meet again." Akechi got back on his horse and rode down the dirt path with Loki following.

Releasing a deep sigh, Ren gather his bearings and finishes loading. "That Detective's a very dangerous man. It's best we don't meet them again. Come on, lets head back to town."


Hotel Inn

It was almost midday by the time Ryuji woke up starving. He's normally the first few people to get up and scarf down breakfast. The blond gunslinger tried to get up but had another body laying on top. He had the decency to remember putting a blanket over them in case someone walked in.

"Ann, wake up it's noon."

".….Five more minutes." She clung to him tighter as he tried to keep his blood flow staying North. He already made an irrational decision a few hours earlier. Ryuji knew he wasn't book smart but he learned to pick up on people along the way, Ann being one of them. She would get worried about him whenever he got wounded or in trouble. He really just wanted a talk with her over her concerns, but things started with a morning kiss, her hands caressing his body, Ryuji knew she was distracting him from their needed conversation. He was still in control even with her in his lap…..but then she did the thing he liked and reason went out the window. It was a blur between pleasure and the pain on his side. All of it leading to the moment now.

"It's been five minutes Ann, "Ryuji gently shook her awake.

"Mmmm, is it still morning?"

"No." He checks his pocket watch left on the dresser near the bed seeing it was 15 minutes after Noon.

"Ann you did it again," he sighs.

"Did what," Ann said feigning ignorance at him. The young blonde woman was now equally awake.

"Have I ever told you how bad of an actress you are?"

"A few times." Ryuji lets out a soft chuckles as he goes to grab her hand. That conversation can wait he thought. It was so surreal to him waking up beside her with no fear of being spotted by Kamoshida. Ryuji felt the life they have now is barely better than the previous options. They get to help sure, but still on the run from the law. She tells their comrades that they are just friends but he wants so much more…..

"Ann I…I'm feeling better today. I could use lunch if its ready." He lets go and gets out of bed to pull his underclothes and pants on. Ryuji eyes a note by the door on the floor and reads it to the best of his abilities.

Once you've concluded your "business," please join us downstairs.

~Joker

"It seems we been busted by our fearless leader." The gunslinger finishes getting dress and opens the door. "I'll see you downstairs once you're done." With the click of the door he lets out another large sigh. Now what…..


Ren, Morgana, and Makoto rolled the wagon full of dead game into town straight to the butcher to divide.

"Whoa how many did you catch there sonny?"

"Quite a few, do with them what you will and let me know when your done."

"Will do Mister."

Ren had gathered his active combatants to meet in the Inn's foyer. They needed to figure out what to do about the mine deposits.

"We can't leave the town defenseless, we don't know when Kaneshiro and his men will be back," Ren started off. "But there still must be men eyeing the mines, especially if he trying to dig out something specific?"

"Diamonds," the Inn Keeper had butted in.

"Toranosuke gave me the short version, think you can explain in more detail?"

"Well….this town was lively, we had some crime here and there but nothing of this level. There's a mountain base not far from town where small fragments of Diamonds were found some years ago. Some who were traveling believing there was gold left out west camped out here instead. The money people made from selling the material help build this town. We got a new Town Hall with a clock tower and a Bank that stored the Mayor's gold inside. The vault was commissioned and forged with special material diamond material and a mechanism….or so I heard. The building was our pride and joy. Then "he" came." The Inn Keeper proceed to gather herself. "About 30 of them came riding in during an attempt to rob the bank. First he wanted the gold in the Bank but didn't know how to open it, then he found out about the mines. He's been having the men dig and dig without them coming home hoping to find more diamonds to make himself rich. He taxes us whenever we do something he considers wrong. He already has his money, he should just leave!"

"I remember you from the Town Hall meeting, he took your son?"

"Yes…..please…..please bring my boy back."

"I will do what I can Ma'am," Ren tried to reassure her. He didn't want to make promises he wasn't sure he could keep.

"If its mines we're exploring I volunteer," Yusuke express.

"I will go as well brother."

"No,you will stay here Morgana, same to you Ann, Ryuji."

"If there are staying here, then I would like to join you. You'll need another pair of eyes anyhow."

"I thought you don't like outlaws Miss Makoto?"

"We share a common interest at the moment. If you don't let me come willingly, I can force my way to the mining deposits."

Ren preferred not to argue with her. She also had a point in dividing things up evenly, that would be the strategic plan. Making the decision before he second guess himself, Ren pulls out his secondary Revolver and hands it to her. Makoto makes a move to grab it before the elder Amamiya brother holds her wrist and stares her in the eye.

"Be careful with this, it's my lucky revolver. I won it in a game of poker after outsmarting a fortune teller and a chess master. Believe me, it wasn't easy."

"I'll take good care of it, I promise. Once I've regain my father's weapon, I will return yours," Makoto said holstering the gun in her own belt.

"Now before we split, we should make some ground rules to follow. Our group keeps getting bigger and bigger and can consist of different points of few.

"But aren't you the leader Ren?" Ann asked him.

"I don't want to leave you all in a plan you don't feel comfortable about. If we need to do something, we need to it together, I no longer have just the final say, we all will." Ren realize he wasn't leading a team of two where he made all the decisions. Others lives were at stake with this now. His comrades, he dare even say his friends so far with some. To survive they needed to agree together, to function as one.

"So….who wants to go first?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Present Day, 1885

"So… who wants to go first?" Ren had asked around the foyer. Ryuji was the first to speak up.

"I think we need to have full agreement over any plan that affects all of us not just one person. No offense man."

"None taken," Ren replied.

"Ryuji has a point, it would be a good way to avoid infighting," Yusuke added himself.

"Your all here on your own accord, I'm not forcing you to stay."

"We know that Ren, but have you thought that we want to help you out along with taking these bastards down."

"And I'll always be here for you brother in case things get crazy."

"I know Mona. I can always depend on you to watch my back. So, what else." Ren went to address the others. Ann appeared in thought for a few moments.

"What about money? We need money for supplies, food, clothes and well Ryuji, Yusuke, and myself no longer have incoming funds. Maybe split whatever we have left amongst ourselves."

"I'm afraid the only money I have left was from a request Morgana and I took some months ago. There's not much left of it, however what I do have Ann is still buried. I can't get to it."

"I would also like to suggest adding more anonymity to our appearance. If this life is as dangerous as you say, a simple scarf will only go so far. Might I suggestion a mask?" The young artist spoke.

"Mask?" Ren looked back at Yusuke.

"Yes I will wear the most magnificent mask of them all of course. The artistry and—"

"Yusuke, not now please."

"Oh, my apologies."

The group discussed a few more ideas being thrown around. Makoto sat in the corner of the room. She had nothing to do with their group meeting, she just needed them to help her with her own goal. But Makoto will admit, being around them was nice.


Unknown Location, 1885

Kaneshiro was not a happy customer, he had a shipment to complete and that dumbass Asmodeus was late again, really late, the outlaw thought. No telegram or notes, nothing. Kaneshiro was force to do the thing he hated most, waste time and money. It would be a week before he could get to Rideway Springs to met in person. The amount of times they did meet could be counted on a single hand.

Stopping his coach, he got out only to be met with a vacant spot where the building was. Where the fuck was this Asmodeus bastard!? Snapping a finger, his subordinated started to search the surrounded area.

Smoking a cigar while he waited, one of his men came up to him.

"Sir," he said looking glum to deliver the news.

"What is it?"

"Uh…..Sir there's word that the Brothel owner was killed in a fire a while back. Federal agents had showed up and took all the evidence. I'm sorry Sir."

"You're telling me my money burned to the ground and all you have to say 'is sorry'!?" Kaneshiro pulled out his side arm and shot the poor man between the eyes. The nearby civilians screamed and fled away from the scene as the dead body plummeted to the ground.

"Just great! Can't find decent help around here. Men we're leaving here, what a waste of time!" He hops back into the coach wagon slamming the door now a man short and heads back to Northsbury. His boss would need to hear about this.


Detective Goro Akechi was still upset with being sent all the way out here for permits of all things. He was afraid more of his evidence was going to go "missing" while gone. Someone in the agency was up to something. The lack of police detail with Kobayakawa death, even having Madarame killed under his nose. If his intellect was worth as much as a new penny, he suspects the owner of this mine was also on this invisible hit list.

Loki and himself were near the mines when they got off their horse. His partner decided to pack a Repeater with him as Akechi decided to stay with his pistol. The two Federal Agents made their way to the mine on guard. He could see a few guards standing nearby the entrance, carrying their own weapon. Akechi couldn't see much from where he was at. A few sifting trays and some camping tents but no working men. It was afternoon, maybe they were off to lunch or working further inside?

"Can I help you with something Mr….."

"Detective Akechi, this is officier Loki to my right. Please excuse him, he doesn't say much."

"Well Detective.." the guard said clenching his weapon tighter. "How can I help you?"

"I'm here to investigate reports of illegal mining. You do realize thats a Level C felony and equates to some jail time?"

The guard in question looked a little nervous when speaking to the young Detective, or perhaps he was intimidated by the stoic looking man next to him.

"No Detective, I didn't know that. We have the papers and you're welcome to browse." This really was a waste of his time and resource when he had bigger cases that needed attention. Goro gave a quick once over on the outside not even going in. Loki was reading over the documents and handed it over to him. The young Detective gave it a once over before smirking and handed the papers back.

"All in order Loki?" The quiet man nodded. "Good we're heading back. I have more things to worry about. Sorry to bother you Sir. Good day." Today was going to be a long day.


Ren, Yusuke, and Makoto were heading to the mine deposits themselves based off the map the townfolks provided.

"When we get there you two be ready for anything."

"Understood," says the artist.

Makoto nods on her borrowed horse. The three thieves hitch their horse a few paces away before making their own way up the hill. Ducking behind some broken wagons, they were surprise to see someone already up there. The Detective and the muted man spoke with the guard briefly before walking away.

"Some Detective he is, hardly even looked around," Makoto complained.

"Men like him don't get fooled that easily. He's probably buying his time for something else," The leader of the group countered. "Come on, lets see if we can sneak pass them." One by one they waited till the guards blind spot before moving further into the mines.

Makoto, still angry at Kaneshiro's gang wanted to take aim but Ren held her wrist before she blew their cover.

"Not yet," he ordered.

It was very smokey the further down they went. Ren covering his nose with his scarf to breath a bit better. They had to hide around corners, some corners on quick calls and knocking out various guards they encountered. After 15 minutes, they found the entrapped men working endlessly under the watchful overseers of Kaneshiro's. Four of them stood attop the giant pits, gun in hand ready to shoot at the slightest rebellion.

But the world wouldn't be fun without a little bit of rebellion. He had only one revolver to work with seeing he gave his second to Makoto and his pistol to Ann. But his six shooter was full. He would need a good angle to pick them off in the current covering. This place also didn't have much to hide if there was a hidden outlaw. Slowly walking out of the corner, hand raise, Ren greeted the overseer.

"Greetings Gentleman, if you would spare a moment of your time I would like to ask if you could kindly free these men and let them go home?"

"What are you stupid! Someone shoot that fella." One ordered the other overseers.

"Ah I wouldn't do that, I am asking you nicely, but people like you wanna do things the hard way. Just like your companions from town," Ren spoke.

"If you keep talking I'll give you something worse than a bullet in your head!"

"Is that a warning?" the thief asked.

"Yes…."

"Okay then." Ren confirmed before firing off 4 shots aimed at their groins. There was a painful shift throughout the men as the overseers fell to the ground.

"He should've choose his words more carefully."

Makoto herself was impress as this was the first time she's really seen him in action. Ren stood on top of the large rock to address the masses.

"You men are free to go. Please go back home to your wives, your mothers, your children's, your sisters. And if you would like to take your pound of flesh there are guards by the entrance as well. May the spirit of rebellion live on inside you." Ren finished. It was probably still a good idea to stay on the rock and the other two behind it as 30-40 men rushed towards the daylight.

"Well that was fairly easier than I thought. Nice speech." Yusuke commented.

"Thanks. Now we just wait. It's been about a week since we found you Makoto. If Kaneshiro left shortly after he could be back any moment. We need to prepare the town for another hellfight."

"I'm sure my father's killer would be in his personal group. When he comes, I'll be ready." Ren had smirked at the young women's passion, it was nice to see someone with similar goals as him.

"You're turning into a pretty decent Phantom Thief."

"I'm NOT a Phantom Thief. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You've broken laws yourself."

"I see, well Miss Makoto I will do what I can to help you out," he replied back. Ren felt a bit kicked down. She really would make a great addition to the team, especially from what he's watched her do and her decision making.

It was a long walk back to town with the men. After 6 strangled guards were left by the mines, the jovial group was just happy to enjoy the fresh air and freedom. The older Amamiya brother also asked around the group to see if anyone knew about the Inn keeper's son. After asking half a dozen, one spoke up.

"Do you know where I can find him? Or what does he look like?" Ren questioned. The mine worker had sad look on his face as he relay to the leader the information he knew. The kind young man related to the equally kind Inn keeper had died a month before from exhaustion.

Ren knew death was apart of life, he's surrounded by it everyday. He was just never good at relaying it. But those moments had to be on hold as the town burst into excitement with the returned men. Families were reunited, hugs and kisses passed all over. He walked back to where they were staying as the lady was looking despartely towards the group hoping her son would come walking out. The only ones approaching her were the two young men and the young women of the thieves.

Ren takes off his deep red riding gloves to grasp the Inn keeprs shoulder. Looking into his eyes, she knew her one and only child was gone. He hated this feeling. The feeling of loss, loss for his parents, loss of friends, loss of seeing innoneces dying. The older women couldn't keep the strength in her legs and collasped on the front porch of the Inn. Ren catches her so she wouldn't hurt from the impact.

Makoto herself took a seat next to her and offer a silent condolense. Being in a gang was like a two sided coin Ren remember Boss telling him. On one side was joy and freedom, to run as a freeman. But the consequences of actions always catches up. Where freedom goes, death on his horse follows…..


Two days have past and the gang were on high alert waiting for Kaneshiro. They have been working long hours to set up defensive positioning for the upcoming battle. The town also wanted to gift the group some of the cash left behind in the Mayor's vault as a thank you. But they needed to solve the mechanism of it first, only the Mayor knew. But Ren has seen Makoto eye the vault from time to time as if she was mentally solving it.

Morgana would also ride out every 3 hours to check the horizon for their target. Most preparations were done for the day allowing Ren to clean his weapons. Makoto, curious with the process sat across from him with a book in hand.

"You know, you don't have to follow me every where I go. You free to wander the town, visit your friend."

"I know, but there's only so much of Eiko I can handle. She claims she found love and have been talking about him nonstop." Ren had chuckled as Makoto retold her "sorta" friend's antics since things been in downtime.

"You'll find friendly people in the most unlikely places. I mean I meet Ryuji, Ann, and Shiho at a brothel, Yusuke stalking us, and you," he pause "Scaring us half to death as a bloody body."

"I wouldn't say I'm friendly."

"You're better than most I know. You don't give a damn when intimated and your stubborn. Something you Nijima siblings share."

"I feel that's the only thing Sis and I share." The young leader pauses his cleaning to pay more attention to Makoto. She still held a book in her hand that was quite weathered down. "Also, I'm not trying to follow you, its just the rest of your group does their own thing. But your…..calming to be around."

"Me? I'm the farthest thing of clam. Having to always watch behind my back can make a fellow tense," Ren said going back to cleaning. "I don't recognize that book, what is it?"

"Oh its a children's book. It got wet when I was injured through. Its the story about a bear that's black and white. My—my sister sister read it to me as a child." She look somberly at the book reminiscing of another time.

"From what I read in the papers, she must be a busy woman. Must not hear from her much."

"No, she sends letters sometimes every couple months, mostly cash to spend on essentials. We hardly speak anymore, but its nice to see you and Morgana get along so well." Makoto really did mean that to the elder Amamiya brother. She would've idle by the younger brother if he wasn't always on the move or napping midday somewhere.

Ren was finished cleaning up his revolver for the day and put it back together. "I'm going to get some supper, its beef stew tonight,you coming?"

"No thanks, had a big lunch" she said going back to her book.

"Suit yourself." He grabs his black duster coat and pauses at the door. "Makoto, know that us older siblings may not show it all the time, but we care, we just may show it differently. If Miss Nijima knew you were hurt, she would take the first train here. Keep that in mind. Good night.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

Present Day,1885

 

Yusuke was busy at the end of the dinner table working on his own project the past few days. Ren sat down at the table next to him with a bowl of hot stew and bread. His younger brother was snoozing down on the table, his own empty bowl finish. He's been running ragged lately checking for Kaneshiro and his men. Mecurius was the fastest horse they had, so it made sense he would deliver the inevitable message. The freed men had also pitched in to help when he wasn't out riding. Maybe he'll buy his brother some candies when this is all said and done.

Ren notice Yusuke was still fiddling with an object in his hand. "What are you doing Yusuke?" Ren asked the artist.

"A mask, what do you think?" He presents a white animal mask with red markings and holes where the eyes are.

"It looks like a creature, what does it represent?"

"A kitsune, it would be called a Fox in your language."

"So the mask is to match your moniker?"

"Yes, I've actually made masks for all of you with the materials I found around town. Here." Yusuke searches through a small bag nearby and pulls out a white mask. It was fairly small only covering a small portion of the face. The two ends curve to meet in the middle and curve in a point. Black covered the lining of the eyes which spiked out in various directions.

"I tried to fit the Joker theme for you." Ren grabs the item in question and uses the clips at the end of the mask to tuck it in his hair for placement.

"So how do I look?" He models to the artist and a sleepy brother.

"I say it looks good," Ryuji had walked into the room with a cup of coffee for the late night.

"You got any for me Yusuke?"

"Yes, I gave my design to the blacksmith and had yours forged." Yusuke pulls out the heavier mask in the shape of a skull.

"Awesome!" Ryuji yelled. The three men spent the evening posing in the new mask that the artist made. Ann and Makoto coming by to see whats the commotion.

"If you guys are any louder, you'll wake up Shinya," Ann scolded them.

"Aww don't be like that, here you have one as well." Jokes and lover spats filled the evening air as the gang enjoyed the last peaceful night in Northsbury.


 

Elswhere,

Akechi was stuck spending his days sleeping in a train station. This whole fiasco did rub him the wrong way after reading the very forged documents the guards at the mine provided him. It was almost comical. He would have bother further until he saw a particular inked marking on their wrist; The Kaneshiro Gang. His message at the station should've gone through by now, its been a few days.

Headquarters, backup.STOP.

Northsbury, Kaneshiro.STOP.

Coordinates, 38.597 N.STOP.

80.454 W. STOP"

Clear message to the Captain to send more re-enforcements his way. He had debated whether he should've address another message to Sae. Akechi wasn't sure if Makoto was in immediate danger, but he was last informed she was to be in school. Seeing her here was a true surprise. But those were thoughts for another day as a train pulled up to the station. Right on time, he thought.

 


 

Ren woke up early the next morning, planning to shave. Hair grew fast on him to the point most days he doesn't bother. During winter he doesn't mind but with the hot sun bearing on him, it can get itchy. Using the last bit of shaving cream he begins. Ren scrapes off the last bit with his knife when a loud commotion cause him to nick his chin.

"Ren! Reeeen! Where are you!?"

"In the washroom Mona, what's wrong?" Morgana took a moment to catch his breath before delivering his message.

"I saw them on my last shift…..Kaneshiro and his men….coming from the South.

"How far out?"

"I don't know, maybe an hour or two? They look to be packing up camp!" Patting his brother's head, he knew he was exhausted.

"You'll be back up, you're to tired to be on the front lines."

"But brother—"

"I know, do me one last favor and wake up the town. Move the women and children into the into the store cellar. Have group one position themselves on the South entrance, take group three to cover the back in case he has men surround us. Have group two take the roof. Go!" The young brother turn messenger sprinted his tired body to get everyone in position.

Ren went to get dress and alert his own group, "Wake up we got incoming! Get in position, Miss Shiho, Shinya go to the cellar with the others. Ryuji your with me, Ann, Yusuke, your with group two. If you can't find a good shot stay down."

They all nodded back and dispersed. The elder Amamiya brother peaked in the room Shiho and Makoto shared seeing her boots on and fastening a gun belt.

"You ready?" he asked. She takes a quick look at the borrowed revolver to make sure it was full.

"Yes." They jogged down the steps to outside as the town bustles around them.

"You've been working with that in practice?"

"Of course."

"Good, cause your coming to the frontline with me. I'm gonna to need you to stay focus." Ren made a quick check around town to make sure the defenses were up. The groups were split into their designated areas. The women and children were hidden below and guarded by a few men as well.

A large cloud dust of dirt entered Ren's vision as a small group of men plus a stage coach made up the caravan. Waving the signal to the next group on the South side alerted them of the incoming gang.

"Joker," Ryuji had called down the line. "Thought you might want this?" The blonde gunslinger throws a white mask with the black lining near the eyes to Ren. The outlaw see Ryuji put on the Skull mask of his own and cocks his gun. Peaking to the roof, he could vaguely make out a Fox mask and a red animal mask. He was sure Mona had one around his face too.

"Ah what the hell." Quickly equipping the mask to see better vision, he tightens his red riding gloves and grips his weapon. "It's time."

Everyone was staying in their hiding places until the gang got closer to town. Kaneshiro had to be in the staged coach, he would know him by description. Ren had yet to hear noise from their backside, no split yet. The townfolks worked hard with making barriers and digging trenches. They had plan to lure them into a plan deadzone.

Closer…..almost there…less than a half of mile out, Ren gives another signal.

BOOM!

The loud bang goes from the ground disrupting the coaches horses stalling it in the field. They had planted dynamite in the trenches as a first defense just in case. They had used the last bit of dynamite from the mines getting about 5 or 6 of Kaneshiro's men in the initial blast.

The man of the hour spills the wine he was drinking from the explosion. "WHAT THE HELL!?"

The civilians of Northsbury open fire as the outlaws fired back. Ryuji got a couple of shots in from his repeater. He was Ren's long range specialist being Morgana was not by his side. Some of the civilians got hit by stray bullet some the panic sets in as those without weapons tried to stay hidden. People fired from doorways, from the roof and behind the barrier. The limited fire power they had started to drive away Kaneshiro's guards, but he still was hiding in his coach.

A few men were still hanging around guarding closely. Ren and Ryuji were going to storm the wagon, jumping over the barriers they made, avoiding incoming fire while the civilians of Northsbury defended their home. The two men saw the coach be pushed around as if in retreat. Finding shelter behind a large rock, Joker and Skull waited for the next move. Once Kaneshiro's coach finished turning around they were met with immediate gunfire; Kaneshiro at the helm.

"Shit Machine Gun!" Joker yelled. Him and Skull were bogged down.

"You thought you bastards would get away wth disrespecting me! I'll mow you all down!" Kaneshiro was indiscriminate moving the heavy machinery on its stand. More of the townsfolks tried to get away as their makeshift barrier was decimated. The group on the roof also had stray bullets coming their way.

"Stay down everyone!" Ann directed. Yusuke crouched near the edges picking off any rouges that burst threw the barriers.

"I'm running out of knives, someone give me their gun!" A young man around his age pried a rifle out of his dead neighbors hands. The unfortunate timing of looking up to soon. The artist wasn't as good as Ren, Ryuji, or Morgana, when it came to shooting, but he had to aim straight and true.

There was a pause in the firing as Kaneshiro had to reload. Joker and Skull took that time to jump back over the obliterated barrier. Makoto had stuck close to Ren, Ren wanted Kaneshiro. The man who murdered her father was a personal bodyguard, where Kaneshiro went, he follows. She fired two shots that missed their desired targets.

"Why are you shooting like that!?" Ren yelled back at her in the commotion, picking off a gang member from their horse. Her aim was horrible as she attempted to aim with her arm straight out. Her father had taught her another method she thought she could try. Cocking the revolver at her left hip, her fired shot landed a hit on the man closest to the leader. The man clutched his bloody hand while falling off his own horse. By now all of Kaneshiro allies had either fallen or left to injured to continued.

The machine gun was overheating and jammed after loading, causing the plump man to let out a string of curses. They had him now. Rushing up to the bullet ridden stage coach, Joker held him at gunpoint.

"The show's over, Kaneshiro," Ren said. Makoto runs to kick the gun away from the man she shot. She finally faces her father's killer face to face.

"Do you know who I am? Do you!?"

"I don't care little girl. Fuck off."

"Nijima, Detective Nijima, a father who was murder in cold blood by your hands as you walked free!"

"Ah….I remember him," The gang leader reminisces. "He was sticking his nose in places it didn't belong. Even pleaded for his life before his brain blew out. Only wish I got a piece of that wench of a prosecutor. Would've made me a lot of money. Ghahahahaha—AH!"

Makoto shot Kaneshiro in his foot out of anger. "I've been listening to you go on and on…..shut your damn mouth you money grabbing asshole!"

"Now that we have your attention, I have a few questions to ask you." Ren still had his gun trained on him just as Makoto did for her target. Kaneshiro was grunting through the pain.

"You, this Azazel person and Asmodeus all share something in commend, where can I find Samael?"

"Oh he'll find you, no doubt about it. He's the shadow people sense in the darkness. You must be crazy to wanting to hunt him down. Though you're probably not the only one," the wounded gang leader chuckled. Makoto still had a scowl on her face and didn't see the movement in the corner of her eye.

Ren's quick draw from Kaneshiro to his bodyguard firing twice in the chest. Makoto felt a slight burn to her right cheek. Ren had just saved her from taking a bullet to the grave.

Kaneshiro was becoming more unnerved at what just happened. The older Amamiya brother grabs his scarf and picks up the fallen gun from the dead man hands. He checks out the details and sees a name plated on the weapon.

"Miss Makoto, I believe this is yours," He softly says handing her back her father's revolver. Ren turns his attention back to the defeated man who was trying to hobble away.

"You're not going anywhere." He drags larger man through town and ties him to a light post. Searching his clothing he finds a pouch filled with money. "Very kind of you to donate your coins. I'll make sure this is distributed correctly." They found more money hold up in the chest off the damaged coach wagon.

"Skull, please give this away to the kind folks of this town. Panther, Fox, please help start clean up. Makoto, you're with me."

"Hey, HEY! You can't just leave me tied up here," Kaneshiro pleaded.

"I actually can leave you tied, I'm sure the townsfolk need to relieve their stress. You will do just fine." Ren had a smirk on his face as the nearby civilians were just itching to get their hands on him. A brutal beating was coming for the gang leader.

"Wait…ok I have info just HOLD them off!"

The mirrored outlaw signal for the mob to stop, "You have one minute."

"Look if you're looking for Mr. Samael, our next point of contact is close to him. He's the one that coveres the transportation by train. Money, woman, drugs, its all there. I only know him as Mammon. He pays well, I pay well, so cut me loose you sonuva bitch!."

"I don't think I will, Mr. Tora, folks, he's all yours. And as promise, we'll take out portion of the safe as a reward." Ren had the gang pack a few nights before. All that needed was to crack the safe.

"Ren!" Ryuji had called to them, "I only got one pack of dynamite to spare. Think it will be enough?"

"Wait!" Makoto intervened, she didn't want them to blow the safe up. It could backfire drastically. "Just give me a few minutes to solve the puzzle. They said the Mayor design it as a weird mechanism?"

"Yeah."

"Alright then. I'll get to work." This wasn't an ordinary shut safe with a combo dial, it was a 3 layer coder that needed to be unlock. For a Mayor, this man really wanted to keep his funds tight.

"Joker!" This time Ann had yelled rushing into the room vault. The older man sighed in frustration, he was getting antsy and started to get that tingling sensation down his spine.

"Please be good news," he said as Makoto broke through the first layer.

"Mona spotted 50 Federal Agents coming from the North side. The barriers on that side is still in good condition, but were down on man power and they're coming fast.

"Shit," Ren whispered under his breath." Ann, get Yusuke and the others to leave now to get a head start. I'll send Mona after you shortly. The meet up point is the hills two days time in that direction. Ryuji, take Makoto and ride out fruther West until nightfall. When the coast is clear, head to the meet up and take her to a safe haven. For me, I'll distract them."

"But what about the money?" The brown hair woman asked. She was able to crack the code on the second layer since the breaking news.

"Forget the money. These guys don't know about you all, but someone higher up will know about me. I can handle it."

"Two minutes."

"What?"

"Give me two minutes to crack the code." Contemplating quickly he orders Ann and Ryuji to follow through with their task. He turns back to the woman in question,

"You got two minutes, or else we got explaining to do with a very large aggressive group."

The older brother gathered his revolver, the second one finally back in its home. He could already see a few agents racing into town on their horses. He just hope looking at Town Hall wasn't a priority.

"I got it!" He heard Makoto exclaimed. As told there was cash and gold bars in the vault, probably a fortune the Mayor earned when the town was being built and the mines new.

He goes to grab 5,000 leaving the rest in tact, stuffing all he could in his satchel. Ren attempted to make his exit through a window without alerting the growing number of agents and cops searching through Kaneshiro's remaining members.

"I'm going…."

"No."

"Why not?" Makoto bothered asking.

"Were nothing but outcast Miss Makoto with not much left in our lives or to our names. You have a home and family waiting for you. It's best not to get caught up in trouble. Your father has been avenged and his weapon returned."

"But what if I want more," She expressed to him. "There are many things in this world I don't understand, things I can find in a book alone. I want to learn. I don't want to be stuck in that school only expected to do what I'm told."

A moment had past before Ren lifted the window higher to let her out. The two ran outside behind a building before whistling for Arsene.

"Get on," he ordered.

"I don't think she should." Turning around the two came face to face with none other than ace Detective Goro Akechi. The young Detective had spotted the back of Ren's head as they were leaving and grew suspicious. The other agents would handle the situation in town.

Ren wasn't sure if he should feel lucky or silly while still wearing Yusuke's mask.

"Mr. 'Butcher', I'm going to ask you to let Miss Nijima go."

"She's here on her own free will."

"Seems like kidnapping to me. Didn't know Outlaw Ren Amamiya was interested in those crimes. For someone wanted, you should do a better job at hiding."

"I'm glad you're no longer dumbing yourself down Detective. It makes what I read in the papers more truthful." Ren fired back.

"I'm happy my impressions have not disappointed you Mr. Amamiya. But still Miss Nijima is innocent in this let her go."

"I see….." Ren with a quicker step took out his blow dart gun to launch the paralysis dripped needle into the Detectives neck. He had a small bit left of Futuba's weird concotion. Dr. Tae must have put weird ideas into her head.

Akechi tried to reach for his gun but whatever he was hit with was fast acting. All he could do was watch as the outlaw and Nijima sibling rode off on a horse. His tongue was numb when calling for help. Looks like he was going to be stuck there for awhile.

"Damn it"...

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

Things were just becoming a downhill spiral for Ace Detective Goro Akechi. It took him about 30 minutes before he could get feeling in his legs, another 45 for full upper body. He had to sit propped up on a wall while his coworkers around him rounded up Kaneshiro'S men.

"You have a habit of coming across high-profile cases son," he heard a voice above him say.

"Captain!?" It was very rare for the Captain of their agency to be out of the office. His hunchback and receding hairline showed his longevity.

"May I ask why you're on the ground?"

"I was struck by some fast working paralysis poison, a mistake on my part. It won't happen again Sir."

"Good, cause I will need your full report on the train ride back. The horses could rest back in the cargo trains. I'll have Kaneshiro's gang place in the compartment behind the horse dung where they belong. Understood?"

"Yes Captain," Goro Akechi said as he shakingly got up with the affect wearing off.

It was a silent trip back to headquarters as Akechi wrote down his notes for his full report. Loki sat across from him in the cabin, silent as always. Akechi still couldn't believe he made a rookie mistake. Confronting a mask person and no weapon drawn, he should be lucky he was hit with a poison and not a bullet.

He finally made it back to the headquarters building dumping what he had on his desk. Pulling down his filling cabinet revealed a small bed with sheets neatly placed. Sleeping on the station bench plus train chair caused aching in his back, it was nice to have a mattress underneath him. The young Detective had arrange a full squad to protect Kaneshiro and his men just in case before he came here. With that thought, he felt he deserves a small nap.

A would be nap as knocking was heard from the door, "Come in," he says sighing.

"Detective Akechi, the arraignment is done, he's ready for questioning.

"Already?"

"Yes Sir."

"Alright, but I want the protection squad to stick with him as he transitions room to room."

"Will do Sir." Hardly anytime to relax his body he re-equips his gun belt and vest, reties his shoes, and sets off.

Walking to the back up holding rooms as the original is still being patch up, he sees Kaneshiro's men were still in various jails awaiting their day at the noose. A squad of four stood by Kaneshiro himself, two outside the door and two inside.

"Has there been any other persons coming through here?"

"No Detective," the guard on the right said. Nodding he checks himself and walks inside.

"All these bodyguards just for me, I feel so special," Kaneshiro smirked.

"I'm trying to keep you alive so I can get to the bottom of this. After all you've been a wanted man for a very long time. How fortunate I get sent on a dirt mission to end of up hitting gold." He continues while opening a folder that contains many notes on said man's activities. "Robbed 4 banks, 12 stage coaches, 6 counts of murder and 7 counts of aggravated assault. You've racked up a record Mr Kaneshiro. Anything else you like to add?"

"No."

"Of course you would say that. Are you in any association with the notorious gang known Medjed?

"I own more respect than those halfwits."

"What about the Inaba gang?"

"Nope" Akechi was hoping he would get info on other local targets to bring them down. Rivals gangs are out for blood and would do anything to cause sabotage.

"I see, have you perhaps heard of the Phantom Thieves.

"Doesn't ring a bell."

"Mmm, they must be new, the last report I got was of them fleeing Madarame's art exhibition. Shame he is now dead."

"WHAT!?" Kaneshiro jumped up from his seat but didn't go far as he was handcuff to the table.

"A fan of his?" The detective questioned. He wasn't trying to spring something by mentioning Madarame, he was just stating the facts. His intention was to see if the Phantom Thieves struck more than once.

"No."

"Okay. Have you ever met a person name Azazel Mr. Kaneshiro? Akechi looked intensely at the captured gang leader. The moment he mentioned this name, he saw an eyebrow twitch in recognition. Oh…he is getting somewhere he thought to himself.

"I first heard that name while talking to an associate of his a Mr. Kobayakawa, unfortunately he met a bloody end."

The young Detective could see the smug look was gone, his answers quieted, jaw clench. The fish had taken the bait, now Akechi needs to reel it in, "You seem tense Mr. Kaneshiro? Friends of yours?"

"No matter what I say, I'll still have a rope around my neck."

"Perhaps, but you could leave this world on good consciousness."

"Fuck you!" he yelled.

"Very poetic of you." Akechi points to the left guard. You, go and bring me the case files of Kobayakawa and Asmodeus.

"You're not getting it yourself Detective?"

"No, I think I'll stay right here with our prisioner." Akechi learned his lesson from Madarame, he wasn't going to slip out only to come back with a dead gang leader. Thankfully the guard he place followed through and left to get the files.

"I know you know more than what you let on Kaneshiro, so cut the chase and tell me what you know, and maybe we'll give you a extra week to breath."

"You don't even know who's on the other side of the chest board do you?"

"What?"

Kaneshiro chuckled, "That man gets what he wants. If Azazel and Asmodeus are dead….I won't see the end of the rope. And to think that kid in the funny mask has a head start."

Akechi was about to ask another question when the door flew open, "Sir I got the files you asked for," the guard said.

"Thank you." He checks them over to make sure its all there. He could still see the bodyguard stiffen in position.

"You have something else to say?"

"Uh yes Detective, on my way from the file room, the Captain wanted to see you, said its urgent?"

"Tell him not now."

"But Sir…."

"I SAID…not now. If he's looking for a report he will need to hold on."

"Of course." He goes to leave again, leaving the room back to the three of Akechi, Kaneshiro and the second guard. The other two still standing dutifully outside the room.

Akechi was trying to reveal more information the next couple minutes when the door slammed open again, this time with the Captain behind it.

"Detective, when I request you to come to my office, I expect an appearance immediately. Gather what you have and come with me now."

"You stay here!" Akechi grumbled to Kaneshiro as he gets up to leave. He looks at the two guards standing on each side of the door. This was Kaneshiro's only way out and in. No windows or nothing. "You two, do not let another soul in that not me. Understood?"

"Of course Detective."

The Captain leisurely made his way back to his office with Akechi in tow. Opening the door he sees Sae sitting in the chair closes to the desk.

"Sit down Goro," The older man said lighting up a cigar. The young Detective took a seat next to the elder Nijima sibling. "I understand you are still writing your report, but you been acting a bit rebellious lately and dare say disrespecting."

"Those are not my intentions Sir, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this case, but lately I've ran into some unforseen circumstances.

"So I've heard. Miss Nijima, how have the arrest and conviction rates been?"

"Capture rate has remain high, we have recently capture two high ranking members of the Yoshimori gang." She responded calmly.

"Good, good." The Captain took a few more puffs while looking out the window. "I've been getting concern about this Medjed gang appearances lately, Miss Nijima has been convicting associates of there. I want you two to investigate their last known sighting."

"With all due respect Captain I will like to continue with my original case."

"Are you questioning my orders again boy?"

"No Sir, I just want to follow my lead before it gets cold," the young Detective answered back.

"And when I give you an order, I expect you to do it. When I promoted you I wanted the best of the best, not some dirt laced kid no one wanted from the orphanage. So you will follow through on the assignment I give you. Do not disappoint me. Am I clear?"

"Yes Sir."

"Yes Captain."

"You may resume your duties, I expect you all to leave at 0900 tomorrow on assignment." Nodding back, the two were dismiss from the Captains office.

"It's been awhile since he's been riled up like that. What did you do?" Sae Nijima asked her companion.

"I was interviewing Kaneshiro, and he interrupted."

"I see, mind if I join in?" Typically Akechi has let her in on a few questioning he had. But he also was worried if Makoto would be mentioned. He was still trying to figure out how to break it to her.

"Not this time Miss Nijima, sorry."

"Then I will start pulling the files we have on Medjed. Good luck." She left him be as he raced down the flight of stairs to get back to Kaneshiro. His heart relaxes as he sees the two guards still there in the same positioning.

"No on has come through here right?" He questions them.

"No Detective, just you." Akechi opens the door to find Kaneshiro right where he left him looking incredibly bored.

"I hope you've been comfortable since I left Mr. Kaneshiro."

"Ugh…"

"I believe we left off about the man in the mask, was it a white mask with black lining on the eyes by any chance?"

".….yeah."

"Was he also wearing a black duster coat as well? Red gloves?"

"From what I can remember before his little bitch shot me in the foot. Nijimas have been a thorn in my side."

"Nijima you say?"

"Yes, rambling about her dead father. Can I get a smoke?" Kaneshiro demanded. Akechi snapped his fingers at the inside room guard to surrender a smoke to the larger man.

"Anyone else during this confrontation with the white mask?" Kaneshiro went on to describe some kid with bright hair with a skull mask, another woman wearing some feline red mask on her face also with blond hair. Some of the descriptions were matching the notes from the Madarame case. He will swallow his pride and continue with the Captains job, but this was his true mission.

"Thank you for your time Mr. Kaneshiro, if you gentlemen will be so kind as to escort him back to his cage so he can await his day at the noose.

"Bastards!" Kaneshiro yelled in his face.

"You bought yourself a few extra days under tight security. Count that as good fortune." With that said, the ace Detective went back to gather his thoughts and notes. The same persons seen fleeing the Madrame exhibit match those in the Kaneshiro case. All of these cases are connected for a reason. Or connected to someone. And this outlaw Ren Amamiya was seen at two crime scenes. But who is he chasing according to Kaneshiro's word and why? What does he know that Akechi doesn't?


Present Day, 1885

It had been a full two weeks since they escaped Northsbury. The Phantom Thieves were relaxing in the main based of operation, the bottom floor of Boss's Saloon. With the money received, they were able to upgraded their weapons, fitting clothes for everyone, and update their horse equipment. It was also nice going back to consistent meals. Ren only wished Futuba would just join them. She had seem distant lately the entire time they came back, Dr. Takemi has been frequenting the establishment on her behalf. He just hopes whatever has her down will be resolve.

"Hey kid, if you're done staring at nothing, give me a hand in this." He heard Boss tell him. The older man was unloading a cart full of alcohol barrels. His stock has been depleting faster than normal no thanks to Ryuji challenging every stranger.

"So when do you think you'll head out again? I heard your informer is stopping in person soon."

"It depends on what he finds Boss," the older brother grunts while lifting another barrel.

"And what of the girl?" Boss asked. Ren knew who he was referring too. It also wasn't the first time he brought Makoto up.

"She has been on her best behavior and hasn't caused anyone any trouble."

"Her sister is a top prosecutor for the SUI, she could have the Feds here any minute now for all we know!" Ren sets down the barrel to confront Boss, they been having this merry go round for awhile.


Two weeks ago…..

Their group had reconvene 4 days after escaping Northsbury, Makoto had been riding behind Ren on Arsene. Ren himself hadn't slept much as they were constantly on the run confusing their pursuers. Only resting for a few hours to let his stead rest. Ren only had a few snacks to spare giving her the rest of the crackers he carried around.

" We should've lost them now, lets head back to our main base to rest," the leader order. They really could use all the rest after the tense past days. Ryuji and Makoto's bullet wounds still left phantom pains every now and then, the others dealt with their own aches.

Ren didn't relax until he step foot in Boss's Saloon, legs giving way from exhaustion. Riding and keeping a lookout for days on end could do that to a man. Joker is skilled but Ren is human. Morgana and Ryuji had help carry him to his room upstairs. The blonde gunslinger could see a room at the end of the hall crack open before being slammed shut.

Ren had rested in bed for nearly a full day, leaving him be is what the gang agreed to. When he did wake up and recover, it took him a moment to recognize where he was. Walking down to the bar in just his pants and long shirt, Boss greeted him with a cup of coffee and a plate of bacon and eggs.

" Thanks Boss."

" That woman was here just a few moments before you came down."

" Huh?" Ren muttered still waking up.

" The one you brought back, the Nijima girl."

" She just needs a place to stay for now Boss."

" Are you crazy kid! Who hasn't heard the name Nijima. For all we know they could believe she been kidnap with you being her captor. Or what if she alerts her sister to her location?"

" She isn't like that Boss, she won't rat us out to her sister. You have to trust me on this."

" You I trust kid, it hers thats yet to be seen." Ren didn't have the energy to continue arguing against his former guardian. Being so early in the morning, he never notice the young brown hair woman overhearing their conversation from the washroom.


Boss hasn't been outright rude to her, he's treated her like a guest in his Saloon. But he's clearly more wary of her than the other members of the group. Enjoying talks with Ann, lecturing Ryuji on breaking things, traveling discussions with the quiet artist. Boss has even taken a liking to Shinya, though Ren thinks its the kid earning him money at Poker in his place.

Nevertheless, the older Amamiya sibling finishes his task with Boss and goes to sit on the bench outside.

"So this is the life of the infamous outlaw?" Ren hears a feminine voice beside him. Looking up he sees Dr. Takemi with her white coat and medicine bag in hand.

"It's been a slow morning. You're here early," he comments.

"I came down to check up on my patient, I take it shes been in the same place as last time?"

"No changes. I've notice she's been eating less food from the tray outside her door."

"Hmm. I'll take note of that. And how about you my guinea pig, feeling off anywhere?"

"I'm feeling fine Dr. The last of any bruising is gone."

"Good, I'll go ahead upstairs then." She left him by the bench and went to meet Futaba. Ren enjoyed the morning summer breeze. It was warming up that he didn't need his black duster coat, just a clean long sleeve shirt tuck comfortably under his deep red vest; Ann's fashion picked for him. His new black sturdy pants and boots put him in a eased mood.

Boss protects the townfolks and the folks protects them, Ren guesses he could afford taking a nap in the open.

Dr. Tae Takemi greeted Boss as she walked in the building, the owner was still doing inventory. "She's still in her room," the older man directed her.

Knocking three times she waited for an answer. "Futaba, its Doctor Takemi, can you please open up?" She didn't hear any noise that indicated the young girl was moving.

"If you do not open up I will get Boss to break down the door." It was a few moments before the door was wedge open a little. Dr. Takemi cautiously walked in seeing shuffling on the bed as the girl in question was attempting to hide herself from the world.

"Good morning Futuba." She look at the food left on the bedside stand, Ren was right her breakfast hardly touch save for a few spoonful of eggs gone. She eyed the girl hiding under the cover once more, it was sorta an improvement, if one considers hiding from under the bed to under the sheets.

"If you're ready, lets being out sessions."

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

Present Day, 1885

It was days like this when he remembers his Mother's first falling ill. Ren didn't think much of it at the time, not knowing her sickness would get worse. The lies that things would get better. He dreamily reminisce of the days when his own mother was there when a hard tug shakes him awake. Groggily waking up, Ren sees Makoto shaking his shoulder.

"Isn't it dangerous to sleep out in the open?"

"Typically yes…but this is a safe haven. A place where people with dark past can start all over. A nap is nothing to worry about."

"I see," she said taking a seat next to him.

"So how have you been adjusting to all this?"

"Its been relaxing around here, when there isn't a drunken fight."

"You'll get use to it," Ren replied back. He always seems to ease naturally into a conversation with her, especially after the rough start they had. Her life without her sister, his life with his brother. Her memories about her father, his nightmare over that life altering night.

"So I've been doing odd chores around here to earn some coin to by my own horse."

"Anything in particular? Old man Inui has a stable just down that way."

"I want something study and fast I guess. I will have to look when I get the chance. Thank you."

"No probl–" Ren stopped himself mid-sentence as he look to the man riding into town. An older weary gentlemen riding on a malnourished horse. The older brother angrily stalks over and dragged the rider down from his horse.

"You better have a good explanation for showing your ugly mug around here again!"

"I've learned the errors of my way, please I wanted to see her," the man said frantically.

"The hell you will. You've learn nothing, you should be lucky Boss hasn't fill with you lead!"

"I have a right to see her, she's my Niece!" Ren would be damned before he ever let Futuba's Uncle anywhere near her. He would claim to be checking up on her well being but would always come back to asking for money. She would make such good progress being around others only to slowly regress at the sight of him. The impact of seeing the man that left you in your own filth could make her mentally worse.

Grabbing him by the front of his shirt, Ren stared him dead in the eye. "Leave now, because the next time you pass through here I won't be so lenient," he threaten.

"Can you least spare me pocket change?" He had enough of this man's antics. Ren throws him down on the ground as Futuba's Uncle tries to scurry back to his horse.

"One," the elder Amamiya brother said.

"Two." The older gentlemen was struggling to get the horse calm enough to climb on.

"Three," as he places a hand on his side arm.

"Four." as the troubled man fled from town as fast as he could. Most of the people around the street seem indifferent watching the spectacle. No worries for them as a young talented gunslinger such as Ren could handle a dishevel unskilled wanderer.

Makoto herself was surprise to see Ren so irritated like that. "Who was that guy?"

"An annoyance who's pushing his luck." He points back to the Saloon, "Boss is Futuba's father. The man that just came by is her no good Uncle from her Mother's. All I know is Boss has raised her since she was young. She can been cheerful and happy but lately she's been regressing."

"How come?" Their new member asked.

"I wish I knew. It seems Doctor Takemi has been helping out while we were gone."

"Is it rare to have a female Doctor in these parts."

"Perhaps." The elder brother commented out loud. Today was not turning out to be a good day. "But she's good at her job. Keeps us patched up. If you like you can ask her about a cream to use for the scar on your shoulder."

Makoto absentmindedly rubbed the arm the bullet went through. It was the most excruciating pain she ever felt. Morgana had did his best fixing it with the supplies they had at the time.

"I think I'll leave it as is, a reminder of sorts."

"Understandable. Anyhow, I need to let off some steam. I'm going on an ammo run, feel free to ask around some more and learn. Lunch should be in about an hour or so."

Nodding her head she watches Ren walk down the dirt path to the stables. She really did think he was an odd man. How his anger can be flipped so quickly, but its seems more of him being protective of those he cares about like his younger brother or this Futaba girl she hasn't met yet. Still she doesn't regret coming with them. Makoto hopes her sister won't be too angry if she finds out.


 

Unknown Time, Unknown Area

 

A sweaty older gentleman rode on his horse as fast as he could. Wanting to put great distance from his last location to were he needed to be now. Riding into an abandoned cave, he is greeted by three men.

"Did you do what we asked?" the middle man asked him.

"I tried…..but the stupid kid got in the way. I couldn't get into the building before he threaten me. But I'm sure he's there. Do I get my money now?"

"Why should you?" The second man said.

"We asked for the confirmation of Sojiro Sakura. You've failed in that tasked." This time the third man spoke.

The jittery older gentleman tried to bribe his way out of this predicament. "Wait, just give me another chance. I'll get you good information. I swear!" The three men in shadow didn't seem convince from their expressions.

The middle man smiled as he calmly walked up to their informant. "No worries Sir,  we all make mistakes. I'm sure your mind was just occupied with seeing your Niece. Right?"

"Yes, that insufferable kid the only one left on my sister's side."

The first man placed a comfortable hand on his shoulder. "And you know not to mention our conversation to anyone else as well, right?"

"Of course."

"Good," the man said as a knife plunged into the unsuspecting older man's neck. His attempt to speak came out in gurgle sounds as blood dripped down his front. Dropping the deceased body, he signals to the other two to dispose of it.

"It looks like we have to deliver the message ourselves. Time to regroup."

 


 

Present Day 1885,

A young girl with orange locks continues to sit quietly in her room. The Doctor had stop by on and off the past few days. She's seen her friends come and go the past few weeks. Typically greeting them upon leaving and returning, she hasn't done either. This action greatly concerns Sojiro, fear of her slipping back further than before. Young Futuba had mentioned strange visual sights and noises. Hardly use to eat anything except pieces of bread. But she got better when the brothers showed up. She still never went outside but learn to come and meet them downstairs in the Saloon than from her room.

Her periods of tranquility would be broken whenever her awful Uncle would appear, demanding from Sojiro something of his. Screaming matches that reminded her of the stench, the sickness caught from ill shelter. The smell of blood as her mother laid dead at her feet…everything was her faul—

"Futaba did you hear what I said?"

Sojiro's daughter snapped out of her inner thoughts as she peeks from underneath the sheets. Dr Takemi who is patiently sitting across the room was asking her a question.

"It appears you weren't paying attention. I wanted to ask you if these strange visions or sounds have been getting worse?" Takemi questioned.

A vertical nod; yes.

"I see, have you tried taking the medication I suggested before you go to bed?"

Horizontal nodding of the head was detected; no. Sighing under her breath, Dr. Tae makes some notes.

"There's not much I can do Futaba if you refuse to take the medication. We'll end today's session. Please make sure you get a full meal in okay."

The young girl receded further into her blanket. Takemi was worried for the young woman. The doctor walked downstairs to the main bar area, lunch was about to be served. Boss was finishing up his signature stew for the various guest lounging around playing card games.

"So how was she today?" The concern Father asked.

"I'm afraid the same, she still appears to only nimble on food but not eat the amount she should. She'll make herself sick if she doesn't eat."

"I've tried but….." Tae can clearly see the frustration on Boss's face. "Maybe with her Mother's anniversary coming up its causing her to take a step backwards.

"But not this badly before I take it. Did something else happen?"

"We've been getting a particular 'visitor' lately that can upset her. That and feds have been roaming nearby making me a bit nervous."

"I see. As usual I left you some medication she needs to take. Please make sure she takes it after a full meal." Takemi explain, taking her leave.

Ren had appeared right as she was leaving, giving his own goodbyes. His satchel full of ammo cartridges was placed on the bar as he took a seat.

"What did she say about Futaba?" Ren asked Boss.

"No progress so far. She's worried her condition may worsen."

"It almost could've today." The young man pour himself some stew and added more meat. " I had an encountered from one our infamous visitors."

"Who some bounty hunter?"

"Worse, her Uncle."

"That stupid son of a—" Boss reeled in his anger and rubbed his eyes underneath his glasses. "What did he want this time?"

"The usual, money for the road." The elder brother takes his time scarfing down his portion and grabbed another small bowl of stew.

"Hey save some for the guest!"

"This isn't for me." He wraps his satchel around his body and headed upstairs with the bowl of food. Stopping by his room first, he could see Morgana taking a nap on his bed. Ren is glad that his brother was finally catching up on sleep after their recent exploit. Probably having more bodies around for guard duty also helps. He places the bag full of ammo on his bed and heads down the hall.

Knocking four times he waits for movement, "Futaba, its me Ren, I got some food for you. Boss made your favorite stew."

Still nothing. Ren could always pick the lock to break in, but that would do more damaging in breaking her trust. She felt safe where she was and forcing her out to soon was what they wanted to avoid. He tried knocking again hoping for a different result. He could hear sounds of mumbling as if she was talking to someone under breath.

"Futaba?"

"GO AWAY! PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!" Ren heard her yell.

"Futaba!?" He yelled back, door be damned. He tried to break in only for the door to stay jammed, giving a few more pushes he realizes something on the other side is blocking it. A dresser? There's at least one window from her room, he would need to reach from the outside.

Inside the young girl's room, she laid huddle under her bed now still hearing the voices. A vision of her mother stands on the other side of the room, she doesn't smell right.

"This is your fault"

"I'm sorry."

“If you didn’t exist, I would’ve avoided that bullet."

"I was scared Mom!"

“I’m DEAD because of you!" the voice screeched.

"It's my fault…."

“It’s you that should be buried!"

"I know. It's my fault, I'm sorry….."

The noise in her head got louder and louder. She tried to run away from it as the image of her mother came closer as if to drag her under. Arms wrapped around her small frame startling her out of the nightmare. She felt like she was suffocating until the smell of dirt and coffee reached her senses.

"Futaba it's me. It's okay!" Ren assured her. It was a bit tricky climbing up the back to reach her room, but he's happy he made it in time. He saw her running around with the covers as if something was chasing her, nearly ran into her tool shelf. Ren was confident one of those items would've caused bodily harm if they fell on her at that height. He continued to console her when voices came through the blocked door.

"Futaba open up, what the hell happen!" Mona yelled, woken up from his nap.

"Hang on Morgana." The Amamiya brother pushes her dresser back to where it belonged. Seem like the Doc misdiagnosed how fast her regression was really turning. Boss came in right after Morgana with a cup of water.

"I'll handle this, you two go back downstairs and check on the guest." Reluctantly leaving, the two brothers head downstairs for damage control.

"This is bad Ren, will Futaba be alright? She's never had this bad of a reaction before?"

"I don't know Mona, I wish I knew. It would probably be best to chase after the Doctor and bring her back to town."

Walking around the bottom part of the Saloon, Ren could see Ryuji and Yusuke walk in for food.

"What's with all the commotion today? People could hear someone screaming in the streets." The blonde gunslinger asked.

"Boss's daughter isn't…she's not feeling to well."

"Wait that little girl that lives upstairs?"

"Yes."

"Oh. Must've witness some personal horrors, especially from the sound of the screams. Used to hear those from an old man that fought in that war years ago."

"Poor kid, perhaps a painting might cheer her up?" The artist offered.

"A painting won't erased seeing her Mother killed in front of her." Ren somberly said. He remembered being stuck in bed from a gunshot wound himself and Boss briefly told him the tale. A rival gang looking for revenge. Futaba's Mother crossed in the gunfire. The two hadn't been the same since he told.

Yusuke and Ryuji looked sadden to hear the news, they both knew what its like to lose one's mother. Illness sometimes can't be avoided as if its apart of life, dictating who lives or who dies. But to be taken violently at such a small age can leave an inward scar no one knows about.

Boss comes back down after a few hours later, looking more stress than normal.

"How is she?" Morgana questioned. The rest of the gang had come over to the Saloon after a while where the two brothers caught everyone up.

Sighing, he scratches at his hairline, "She's able to go back to sleep after calming her down. Made her finish at least half of the stew Ren initially brought up. Seems her condition is worse than I thought. Perhaps a change of scenery might do her good. Hey Ren, can you go out and fetch Doctor Tae again? I want her nearby in case this happens again."

"Sure Boss." It was a little chilly this night so the young man grabbed his black duster coat. Making sure his revolvers and knife was strapped, he didn't expect to run into bandits around here but never hurts to be too careful.

"I should be back by morning," Ren said hopping onto Arsene, clicking him in motion. He should be able to make it to her lone house before dawn and ride back. Arsene had plenty of rest recently, it was time to stretch out. Cutting through a narrow wooded passageway he keeps a keen eye for any surprises, a hand on his side holster ready to strike. The sounds of the forest jarred Arsene a little but a few hushes calmed the mare down. The two were out of the narrow portion and was picking up speed before he was forced to pull the reins back, causing him to fall off.

Falling hard on his back, Ren tried to make sense of what was in the road that startles Arsene so bad.

A faint hue of blue that can only come from a lantern greeted his vision.

"Hello Trickster," a soft kind voice said.

".…..Not again."

Chapter Text


Chapter 27

Present Day 1885

Ren was sure Lavenza means well and all, but he was starting to learn she has unfortunate timing. Picking himself off the ground he begins to dust of his hat. Ren whistles for Arsene, the poor mare startled by the young girl.

"My apologies Sir Arsene, I did not mean to frighten you," Lazenva says as she pets the mare's noise gently.

"He's a horse, you don't have to call him 'Sir'."

"But he's your noble trusted stead, is he not Trickster?"

"You haven't been reading those funny novels the twins partake in have you?"

Shaking her head no, she straightens up raising the lantern between the two, "I have important information to pass to you."

Ren was about to follow through when he felt a rain drop on his face. "Come on lets find some shelter first," he stated hopping back on Arsene. The elder brother was able to find an unoccupied barn not to far, escaping the torrential downpour.

"So what message does Igor wish to deliver to me?"

"This does not come from my master. You are in great danger Trickster, you and your companions must leave that town at once."

"What makes you say that?"

"This game is no longer in your favor. Something big is coming, our eyes have seen it."

"I know you're concern Lavenza, but we're also on our home territory which we have plans for such an occasion."

"Please listen to me!" She desperately said grasping his hand tight. He could see her shaking in concern over his well being. Sighing in his breath, he takes the ungrabbed hand and patted her on the head.

"Thank you Lavenza. I'll do what I can to heed your concerns. Is your Master nearby, I can drop you off before continuing on my journey."

"I walked here."

"You walked! How far?"

"The sun rose at least twice," she explain to the young Trickster.

"I guest we'll wait out of the rain. Igor knows where to find me so he'll find you." Ren took his coat off to lay it on the young girl. All she had on was her blue dress to keep her warm. Ren was getting more anxious the longer they stood in the barn. How was Futaba fairing? Did she have another breakdown? Her Uncle was outside and scamper off just as fast as he got there, so he couldn't cause this effect.

"Trickster, the rain has stop," Lavenza interrupted his thoughts. It should be sun rise according to his pocket watch.

"Lets get moving." He arrived just as the sun was coming up, he could see Takemi's house on the hill.

"This is where we depart, my Master does not like others seeing us."

"But its dangerous, you said so yourself!"

"I can find my way back." She folds up his coat and hands it back to Ren," thank you for your kindness." And just like that she walked off into the distance.

"Stay safe…"

Ren bangs on the Doctor's door interrupting her egg breakfast. "I need you to come back to town, its an emergency. You may want to pack for multiple days," he explained.

"What happen?"

"Futaba, her condition is worsening. Boss order me to come fetch you."

"Alright, wait here." She seem to have a travel bag for situation like these that came with her odd medical conceptions. He never wants to swallow those again.

"Ren while I am getting the last few things, can you prepare my horse?"

"Sure, she's out back?" Nodding, the elder Amamiya brother guides Takemi's horse and carriage out of its protective covering. The Doctor takes her bags and place them in the wagon space and hopped up front. Ren would need to be her eyes for any bandits or other despicable. Plus whatever dangers Lavenza told him about. His plate of things were getting full.

With Dr. Takemi ready, they set off.


Elsewhere….

Sae Nijima sat in a train booth composing another letter to her younger sister's school. She hasn't heard back in over a month which has the Prosecutor a bit concern. The sliding door of the compartment opens as the young detective brings in two cups of hot liquid.

"Here, I've added two cups of sugar like you asked. We should be departing soon," Akechi said. She takes the cup and puts it on the table going back to her writing.

"A letter to you sister?"

"Yes, she still hasn't sent a reply back. It's very unusual."

Goro Akechi was fighting his inner thoughts on the matter, should he tell, should he tell half truths?" The only reason he knew what Makoto Nijima looked like was the lone photo Sae keeps on her desk of her family. However, Akechi carried that knowledge that her sister was in the company of a wanted criminal. Ren Amamiya motives were odd, a few reports of stolen money from corrupted individuals, freeing workers contracted to work in mines. But the weirdest criminal charge of all was the suppose murders of the Shujin fire. It just didn't add up.

"Your tea will get cold if you think hard like that," Sae had called him out.

"Same to you. The dining car only have so much in stock left."

"You have a point." She places her finish letter down to enjoy her hot beverage."

"I know Makoto will be fine, she's smart."

"Yes, I expect her to excel, opportunities that I have been given are rare almost nonexistent for women in this department. With that I must succeed in bringing the law to the land."

"That remains to be seen, Miss Nijima." Akechi was relaxing in their compartment car when a young lady came up.

"You're the ace Detective Goro Akechi, oh its an honor to meet you. I've seen your photograph in the papers." The excited fan exclaimed.

"Happy to have fans." Akechi adores his fans when they meet him, he was young, smart, and solved a bunch of cases at a tender age. Even helps the papers exaggerate a little. But his fans at times can be a nuisance.

"Cant I sit with you Mr. Akechi!" She asked.

"I'm afraid you can't, I'm on official business and my partner and I have a lot of work to review."

"Oh…well will you sign this for me?" All she had was her train ticket.

"Sure." Signing away she soon left in content. Sinking further into the seat, Akechi sighed in relief, the train was finally moving.

"Your charm seems to attract a lot of people."

"A hindrance more than help truthfully. But—its nice to feel wanted." The days of being in an orphanage are long pass him. Having to watch other kids his age move in with loving families. Akechi doesn't even remember what his mother's face looks like only the sway her body made at the end of the rope when he found her. He remember haven't eaten in days and went looking for her in their tiny dwelling. She always told him he wasn't allowed in her room, only the strangers that came by from time to time. But it was the one place he hadn't looked.

Everything was a blue after the Captain took him in. If he wasn't given a chance would he have turned out like the criminals they were chasing?

"You're distracted again Detective," Sae had said annoyed. She had finished her own cup when she called him out. "Somethings been on your mind since you came back with Kaneshiro."

Tell the truth his subconscious warns. "I'm just worried."

"About?"

"The other case I was working on. My witnesses have been dying left and right. I can hardly solve a case when the lead is shot down."

"It is a cause for concern, but when you're ready to truly tell me what's bothering you give a fair warning." Sae went to inspect her own documents signaling this conversation was over.

Chuckling under his breath, "Nothing gets past Sae Nijima.


Present Day, 1885

Ren and Dr. Takemi made it back to town before the sun hit Noon.

"Mister Ren!" he heard a voice call out to him.

"Mr. M…"

"I'll go on ahead Guinea pig, thanks for the escort." She left behind the two men to their discussion.

"Come on lets talk privately," Ren ordered. They headed up the hill to a small graveyard.

"Interesting place to speak."

"The dead don't talk, you got any new leads?" His informant shook his head no.

"I'm afraid I haven't head from one of my resources in awhile. Things have been tightening up in the underground, you've clearly upset someone powerful. Maybe the man you're after?"

"Perhaps. The last two target know the other along with this Azazel person."

"Azazel?"

"Kaneshiro's man mention him. Think you can track him down?"

"I'll see what I can do once this mess gets sorted out," Mishima said. "But honestly you probably need to take a breather, you've been in an out for almost two months now."

"Do you know how many men we had to go through just to get this close!" Ren yelled.

"Hey easy…"

Shaking his head, "No….I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I just got a lot on my mind."

"You've always lend an ear for me Miser Ren, how can I help you?" The elder brother hesitant on his informants offer. Talking out loud about your concerns can be relaxing.

"I've been given a warning that something big is coming. I don't know when or how big. And of course my concerns for Futaba. It was why I was getting the Doctor."

"I see."

"Have you had the chance of meeting my new companions?" Ren mention switching the subject.

"Just the angry one."

"Ryuji has his moments but he's a good guy. Come on I'm starving, lets get some grub." Patting Mishima on the back, he leads him towards the town for food.


Two weeks they stayed in town. It was as much as a vacation they ever got for awhile. Ren was constantly on edge waiting for Lavenza's warning to come to light. There was still no progress with Futaba either, completely shutting everyone out.

Evening had rolled around in the Saloon that night, drinks pouring, food passed along. Morgana had been working behind the bars those days as Boss worries over his daughter. Ren and his brother temporarily gave up their room to Takemi so she could be close at all times.

"Haha royal flush!" The elder sibling heard Ryuji yell.

"Huh?"

"Royal flush, I won the game."

"Good game then."

"You hardly played Ren."

"Sorry, I was distracted. Lets play again, I'll deal." Ren shuffled the cards and passed them out.

"So any news on when the next target will be announced?" The blond gunslinger asked.

"No, still waiting to hear back. I'm starting to anxious."

"Same. Though I find ways to burn it off."

"I know, the whole hotel hears you two." Ren fired back. "Why don't you two make it official?"

Ryuji discards a card and selects another from the deck. "I would like too….if we both make it through all of this. But I have nothing to offer her. I barely have 20 bucks in my pocket."

"I don't think that's a deciding factor of her's. You're clearly sweet on her, stop the foolish dancing around and do something."

"When did you become knowledgeable in love ole fearless leader," Ryuji jokingly said.

"That's nonsense, I'm just explaining my observations."

"Mind if I join you two?" The two Phantom Thieves looked up to see Yusuke hovering. After a few jobs they got some funds to spruce the artist up. Buying him a pristine white shirt and deep blue vest and pants. They had commission Iwai to forge eight new throwing knives now stored around his gun belt. Hell Ren even threw in a pocket pistol.

"Have a seat, I'll deal."

The three men played a few rounds into the night while the alcohol continued to flow.

"Alright, I'm out. I don't feel like getting beaten by Yusuke anymore," Ryuji expressed to the other men.

"If you're interested, Shinya is giving tips and lessons." The leader laughed.

"Yeah, yeah." Ryuji slammed his cards on the table and walked back to the hotel.

"I too should probably say my farewells."

"Goodnight Yusuke."

Cleaning up the cards he neatly stacked them on the table and got up. He was felling a little woozy after having a few glasses to drink.

"Here some more mugs Morgana." He hands the used cups back to the younger sibling. The only noise in the saloon are snores of patrons and idle chatter of stragglers.

"Don't mind if I just sleep right here." Gently resting his head on the bar.

The bright lights of morning came along with a pounding headache. He sluggishly moved outside where the water barrel was to wake himself up.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eye, he turns to look up as about 15 men walked into the main street.

"Can I help you gentleman?"

"We are looking for Sojiro Sakura."

"Who is 'We'"

".….We are Medjed."

Chapter Text

A weary stranger rode into town on his horse, tired from his prior excursion. Walking into the first food establishment he saw the man in question plops onto the bar stool tossing out some money.

" Would this be enough to cover a pick me up drink?" He ask the bartender.

" No, but I can get you a cup of coffee Sir." The young women behind the bar took a freshly clean mug and pour hot liquid in it. Mixing other things in the concoction, she placed the hot drink in front of him.

" Here you are Stranger, one cup of coffee."

Mumbling a thanks he blows on it before taking the first sip. It wasn't bitter or harsh like he normally used to. Hell his own creation left a bad taste in his mouth.

" Well that's some might fine coffee Miss….."

" Wakaba."

" Its nice to meet you Miss Wakaba. I'm Sojiro."

" Just Sojiro?"

" I rather not say my last name Miss."

" I see." She wonder off going back to a book she kept under the bar.

" You know how to read?" Sojiro had asked her.

" Yes. Yourself?"

" More or less," he answered back. Downing the rest of the coffee, he gets up ready to move on. "If I'm in the area next time, think I can try that special coffee again?"

" I'll throw in my special stew if you want."

" I look forward to it. Thank you for your hospitality Miss Wakaba." Sojiro needed to get moving again, not wanting to be in a place longer than an hour. Being a wanted man in a gang keeps you busy.

The jobs they partake in would help those less fortunate. Fighting corruption, keeping their way of life alive. And when he had a moment to himself, he would ride out to that town with the coffee that smelled like home, and the stew that would warmed his hunger. Wakaba and him would talk about anything and everything as he ate. He would tell her of his adventures; though omitted some things. And he would hear of her interest in the human mind. Particularly those that came back from the war. Researching a theory of how intense moments could affect one's mentality base off the senses.

" That's a lot of research for a small town bar maid." He was there late one evening, to anxious to make the trip in the morning.

" It keeps me away from my brother for a few hours, I don't mind. "I plan to present my findings someday."

" I'm sure you will!" Scarfing down the rest of the stew. Sojiro neatly places the empty b owel on the bar.

" Hey….I got a few 'things' coming up and I might be gone for a few months. When things quiet down, I'll be back. I promise."

" Your 'job' I take it?" She questioned the man.

" Yes."

" Be careful out there." Tipping his hat, he leaves in the middle of the night.

Sojiro was always getting worried with the gang each time he came back from his trips. Their leader was becoming more aggressive, ruthless towards the innocent. This wasn't their way.

" We should wait before starting this new job. There's still a lot of heat on the money we took," Sojiro tried to bargain with the leader.

" We got enough men to handle this. We are simply retrieving what should've been ours in the first place." Seeing no budge in the conversation he decided to cool his head. Traveling to that familiar smaller town in the middle of nowhere. It would be a two day trip from his current location with little rest to get there.

The sun was rising behind him when strolling into town. That means he'll have the first fresh pot of her creation.

" Miss Wakaba," he greeted her coming in. No other patrons were in yet.

" I'll be with you in a second." Her back was to him as he took a seat at the bar. "Here you go, the usual." Before Sojiro could take a sip, he was surprised by her new appearance.

Mainly the swollen belly.

" — You're with child?" He curiously asked.

Wakaba rubbed her stomach gently, "Yes."

" Who's the Father?"

" The stew will take another hour, is there anything else you're hungry for?" He notice she completed deflected the question. It definitely couldn't be him as they never spent a night together.

" Was it some vermin? If so I'll hunt him down!" She gently places a hand on his.

" Thank you but there's no need. Would you like to hear the latest on my research?"

" .….Sure." Sojiro notice she would always get giddy when talking about the books read or the people she wold interview. Drinking his second cup, he felt a plan form in his head. He would need money. More than he currently carried, and he knew where to find it.


Riding back into the hideout, he notice most of the gang was gone. Taken on that mission he opposed of. A handful always stayed behind protecting their goods, but he only found one.

" Sojiro! You're back. Where'd you been?" They asked.

" Out."

" Did you find any good leads?"

" No, in fact—" the young outlaw pulled out his gun and aimed it at his fellow bandit.

The other man tried to reach for his own only to realize the gun belt was off.

" The money from the last job, where did he put it?"

" I'm not telling you anything fucking traitor! You think you can just leave the gang like this after we done!"

Sojiro had shook his head. He couldn't stay, not with how fast their ideals have change the past few months. They weren't like this, the Leader has change them without caring who lives or dies. Taking risky ventures for what!?

Cocking his gun he aims at the mans head threatening him. "Once again, the money?"

" Fuck off—" Slamming the revolver to his cranium a few times effectively knocked him out. He searched in the main tent or any chest they had laying about. The Leader was very particular when it came to stashing. Waiting till everyone was asleep before dropping the money, he had to keep it close to him. Sojiro checks the tree closes to the first tent he originally checked finding it hollow. Using his arm to feel his way around, he felt the material of a bag and grabbed it. Peaking in he knew it had to be around 5 grand if he remembered correctly. Swiftly leaving as fast as he came, he became a phantom in the night never wondering what was to come.

It felt easier to breath after he left the gang Convincing Wakaba to move as far away from her brother and that bar, even to another State. It was rough at first, but the friendship the two shared on long mornings talking, the late coffee visits. The two found familiarity in one another.

" So how is your research today?" The former outlaw asked one morning. He comes and goes from the isolated ranch home he gave her…and her newborn daughter; Futbaba.

" I haven't had a chance since this little one came." The baby girl cooed back in her Mother's lap.

" Give it some time. I told you, I don't mind taking care of Futaba."

" You're a good man Sojiro, even with all your secrets. But I can handle this."

And handle it she did he remembered. She was a strong caring mother as Futaba grew, even though she got busy at times. He secretly loved when the young girl would shout excitedly as he rode upon the hill.

" Sojiro!"

" Hello Futaba," as he pats her head. It felt so much like a dream, but like all dreams they must come to an end. The three planned to head into the closest town to see the Circus. Futaba was just as excited to get her Mother away from her books for a day.

" I want to see the lions, do you think they will have lions Sojiro?"

The older man chuckled, "I'm sure they will."

" Futaba dear, why don't we pick a seat while Sojiro gets us snacks."

" Okay!" She tightly holds her stuff bear in one hand and her Mothers in the other. The two separated as he went to a nearby stand to buy candies.

Futaba was turning 10 soon and they decided to treat her early as a present. He had been taking odd jobs here and there to pay when the stolen money ran out. Luck had keep him hidden these past 10 years. No doubt his old gang was pissed. He hadn't heard any news about them for awhile and was hoping they died out on their own. But it wasn't time to dwell on that, it was time to enjoy the show.

An hour later the party of three were seen outside the tent ready to hop in their carriage again.

" Did you have fun Futaba?" Sojiro asked the little girl.

" Yes! I really like the ora….ora?"

" Oracle," her Mother corrected.

" Yeah her. She said she could see into the future!"

" I see." The former Thief directed the horses back to the Ranch. No trouble was insight until the halfway mark where bandits had surrounded them.

" Are you Sojiro Sakura?"

" Who wants to know?"

" Our Boss sent us, you may have done well in hiding but that won't help you anymore."

" What's goin on?" The small child tried to peak out.

" Stay down Futaba," her mother hushed at her. Sojiro eyed his chances against five men, he also had two others to worry about. He would have to be careful with his bullets.

" What would your Boss want with a lowly farmer?"

" Enough bullshit!" The main bandit yelled. "You have money you stole from him and he wants it back."

" .….I don't have the money." Sojiro could see the man was getting upset and placed one hand on his holster. He moved the horses reins into motion and fired off two shots. The bandits chased after him shooting at the carriage.

" Both of you stay down!" Sojiro told them. Knocking another one of his horse, he only had two left. Their carriage ran over a rock causing Futaba's stuff animal to skid to the edge.

" My bear!" The young girl tried to reach for her toy before it fell all the way out. A bandit raised his gun ready to shoot.

" FUTABA!" Wakaba yelled jumping in front of her daughter. Multiple shots rang out as the final two thieves went down.

Slowing down the wagon, Sojiro let his heart calm down. "Are you two alri—"

" MOMMY! Sojiro she's not getting up!" Wakaba was laying in the back with a gunshot wound, blood on both her and the child. Doctor…..he needed to get a doctor. A female Doctor he help awhile back, she should be close to help.

" Hang in there…..please."


 

 

Present Day 1885

The nerve of them to show up at his Saloon after all these years. The older Leader roped in some new faces on his quest.

"There's no need to bother the kid. I'm here." Boss walked out with his rifle and bandito over his shoulder.

"Now if you come over here and die like the dog you are, no one else will get hurt," The man said.

"Your men killed Wakaba, you think I'll believe you?"

The odds were against them as 15 bandits surrounded Morgana, Sojiro and Ren at the Saloon's entrance. The cocking of a shot gun caused the attention behind them as Ren sees Ryuji aiming at the group from the Hotel porch. Ann taking her own position beside him pistol at the ready. Yusuke and Makoto took their own stance covering the side. Makoto hand twitched on her holster waiting for the first move.

Ren picked a bad night to sleep at the bar, reeling in the effect of a night of drinking. He's happy he had the instinct to keep his gun belt buckled on him or else the elder brother's a sitting duck. They all were standing in place eyeing who was doing what. Some of the locals civilians were taking up arms. It was looking more and more like a fair fight.

"I'm disappointed Sojiro. I offer you protection and friendship all those years ago and you betrayed me!" The Leader yelled.

"I thought Medjed ideals were to help those like us. Not murdering and stealing whoever we came across."

"We did what we needed to survive."

"So killing innocent woman and children after the men was 'surviving'. I left for a reason!"

Ren only knew a glimpse of Boss's life before he met him. So this was his old gang, the one's who murdered Futaba's mother.

"Do you know how long it took me to rebuild, all the men I lost!"

"Not my problem," Boss said. The shadows of the past will continue to haunt him until he puts a stop to them. With that said, all help broke loose on the street.

Gunshots open fire every which way in the impending chaos. Ren and Morgaana duck back inside the Saloon, shooting from the window. Ryuji pulls Ann down behind a wagon for cover. Yusuke running on instinct dives back to the Hotel and aims back. Makoto dangerously shoots in the open streets. She downs one Medjed member before wounding another. The wounded men gathers himself as Makoto was trying to reload.

"Get Down!" Ren yells jumping through the broken window. He tackles the frozen young women to the ground taking a bullet to the shoulder in her place. The older sibling shoots towards the enemy from the ground, nailing a bullet in an eye.

Sojiro aims his weapon at their Leader and shoots, missing the man by a hair as they duck around the building. Boss gives chase making sure he doesn't enter the Saloon.

Dr. Takemi on the second floor doesn't dare go near the window after hearing gunshots, locking her and Futaba in a room. He own pistol aimed at the door. Morgana on the first floor was providing cover as best he could. He needed to move his cover before the wall was just a twig. Switching to his side arm, he runs out of the Saloon drawing fire as he slides to where his brother and Makoto lay in their own small cover.

"Are you okay!?" Morgana asked his brother.

"I'm fine, get to the Hotel and cover Yusuke!"

"Makoto….stay focus you got this." Nodding her head, she reloads and goes back out, aiming at the bandit pinning the blondes down. The bullet strikes the man legs allowing Ryuji to fire a shotgun blast to the chest.

Ren commanded both of his revolvers, shooting down the streets in a sprint as his bleeding shoulder screamed in pain. A handful of Medjed members got past Ryuji and Ann trying to go up the Hotel.

The first was met with a throwing knife to the throat, falling back into the window. The second never saw the bullet to his head as Mona took the doorway. The third surprise the younger brother grabbing him from behind attempting to choke him. A gunshot rang out as the man's grip loosen and groan to the floor, Ann's gun smoking from the shot.

"Good shooting Lady Ann!"

The numbers were dwindling between the Phantom Thieves and Medjed. Some of the locals were able to kill two themselves before being wounded. With a half a dozen left, the odds were swinging back in their favor.

Ren shot another Medjed bandit down who was attempting to hide behind a carriage. He felt something wet hit his back as he turns around to see a different bandit headless. Makoto wasn't far away, breathing heavily when she took the shot. She digs into her reserve ammunition, learning from her prior mistake of staying hidden when reloading. But she was becoming a scary shot.

"Thanks..." Ren said.

The remaining four tried to run away from the mess but not before Ann took her lasso and pin one of the stragglers. Hog-tied their hands and feet like Ren explained, they'll have one survivor. The three others successfully fled, but not without Morgana giving a few shot attempts. Blood flowed freely in the street as they took an assessment of the damages.

"Where's Boss," Ren questioned.

"He was chasing after that guy last I saw." Morgana had last seen the older man heading out back before things got heated.

"I'll look for him. The rest of of you pack everything into the carriages. These bandits will be back and they'll bring more. We can no longer stay here.

"Ren you've been shot, you're not at full strength. I'm coming with you." Makoto wasn't going to take no for an answer. She rips the bottom part of her shirt and wraps it around his shoulder as best she could.

"That should hold for now." Truth be told, the elder brother appreciated the gesture, he was feeling a little lightheaded from blood loss.

"Alright. Mona, guide the others to the backup location. And blindfold our intruder, he's coming with."

"On it."

Whistling on his injured arm, Arsene comes bursting through the stables doors. Makoto takes a few tries for her own horse, Anat.

"Let's go." Bustling as fast as they can, Ren hoped Futaba won't have another tragedy on their hands.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 29

Present Day, 1885

The Phantom Thieves were buzzing about to make their exit. Ren's ordering everyone to stay half pack for a quick getaway was good foresight on the older brother. Though he had the warning in advance. There was a second location the brothers agreed on in case an event like this occurred. Mishima would provide a small hideout, a leg on their journey before moving on.

"Come on everyone, wee need to move. Your main essentials should've already been packed," Morgana barked.

"What a mess down here," Takemi came down the first floor peaking out the broken glass windows.

"Where's Futaba? Mona wondered.

"She's still up stairs, shaken up by the noise." The younger Amamiya brother ran up the steps to Futaba room. Just as the Doctor said, the young girl was huddle in the corner.

"Futaba, grab my hand we have to leave!"

"The bad man…..he still here," she whimper, "He killed mom, now he's…"

"No one else is here except for us. But if we don't hurry more trouble will come," he pleaded. Kneeling closer he offers a gentle embrace, "I know you're scared Futaba, truthfully I'm a little scared to. But I can't let this fear control me, not when other are depending one me to protect them. I've depended on you when I've been hurt. Be brave Futaba….."

She was terrified the first time she rode a Horse. Afraid to fall and hurt herself. Scared the first time she went to town with her mother. Frighten over gunfire that killed her mother.

" I'm so scared Mom!"

" you SHOuld be, ITs aLL YOUR fault!"

" It's all my fault."

"Futaba! Hey stay with me!" Morgana could feel her slip into one of her panics.

"I shouldn't have gone after my bear."

"But it's your favorite, you love that toy." Futaba was shocked to hear the voice in her head soften. Like the voice that lulled her to sleep, gently brushing her hair. Remembering when her Mother soothe her during a storm.

"It's okay to be scared Futaba. The storm will pass."

" But its been going on forever," she muttered.

" Perhaps," her Mother said eyeing the fire, "But it's not so scary anymore. One day you will be brave enough to tackle the storm."

" Be brave, Futaba.."

"Be brave…"

Morgana was worried as the young girl aggressively grabbed her head. She took a few deeps breaths before letting go.

"I….think I'm okay, for now."

"Can you stand?" Nodding, he helps her to her feet making sure she's steady before letting go. "Come on I'll help you down."

He throws whatever she considered important into a chest before dragging it downstairs.

"Mona, I think you guys should use this. I was working on it awhile ago, I hope it helps." She hands him some form of weapon analysis it.

"Is this….a crossbow?" The brother questioned.

"It's something like it."

"Well take it, come on." Done with packing, the gang got on their individual horses and carriages leaving the dust behind.

"Mona, what about Sojiro and Ren?" Futaba had looked around from her hiding spot and notice those two were missing.

"Don't worry they'll find us."


"Where the hell could that old man be? Ren wondered chasing on Arsene. Makoto was right behind him on her own horse looking for any sign of Boss. Ren could feel the wound on his shoulder bleed through the initial wrappings.

"You need to get that properly taken care of or else you'll bleed to death without ever finding Boss," She scolded him.

"No time, it will just have to wait. Besides, I think I know where he went off too."

"Where?"

"An old tombstone had to be built some years ago all the way out here. Boss likes to hide stuff nearby there."

The two continued to push their horses until the sound of gunfire could be heard.

"We're close," Ren said. He could already see the silhouette of the two. The Leader had kicked Boss's gun away after firing. He swung only for Boss to block the punch. Sojiro delivered a staggering punch to the jaw knocking him down.

"It's over! It's three against one." Jumping down from his horse, Ren aims at the Medjed leader. Makoto follows Ren's lead as Boss retrieves his gun from the ground.

"So is this how it ends?"

"You're too dangerous to be left alive. You'll just keep coming after us," Boss stated.

"Medjed will never go away. We are everywhere."

"...Not anymore." Sojiro pulled the trigger shooting straight through the chest. He hoped this would be the final remnant of his past.

"You okay Boss?" Ren could see his frames were partially cracked and bruises on his face.

"I'll be fine son, I would've handled it on my own."

"Didn't look like it from where I'm standing. Besides your horse was shot, you would've walked!?" Ren half-jokingly asked his mentor.

"And why did you come?" Boss directing his attention to the brown hair woman.

"Ren is hurt, I didn't want him to pass out while looking for you." Sojiro chuckled as a thought crossed his mind.

"Guess I'm riding with you Kid. Let's get back to the others."


"Keep It movin, we need to get the distance between the Town," Mona ordered. He needed to stay calm for the group. At least till Ren got back. Ryuji and Yusuke position themselves at the back of the caravan. Shiho was leading one of the carriages that contain Futaba, Shinya, and their "cargo." Takemi took point with her own medicinal supplies. The young brother and Ann took the sides keeping an eye out.

They have been pushing the horses as long as they could go. If only they can reach Mishima's checkpoint without any encounters.

"Fellas we got company!" Ryuji warned, "Shit, there's got to be over 20 of them." There was a cloud of dirt kicked from the large group on horseback.

"Move the carriages over there, we can use the treeline for cover!" Yusuke suggested this time.

"Good thinking Fox!" Halting the horses, the four remaining members took their positioning.

"Hey Doc, you got any more shells in that shotgun? I could use a few." She only had a handful left from the prior fight.

"Here!" She tosses her reserve to Ryuji.

"Ann, you covered?" The blond gunslinger asked, she quickly nodded back checking that the pistol was full.

Morgana switch to his rifle stored on his horse, " Yusuke, take my sidearm, you need it more." Throwing the pistol towards the Artist's way, they brace themselves. The one leading the charge was the survivor from the previous fight.

"This bunch must have been waiting out of sight for a signal," Yusuke commented.

Gunfire blasted through the treeline cutting off further communication. Futaba, Shiho an,d Shinya took cover by a rock downhill. Takemi armed herself with a scalpel if any bandit dares to get close. The Phantom Thieves were at a disadvantage with ammo. Not having enough time to replenish their personal supply, ever shot HAD to count.

Morgana took out the first man from the last fight, a rifle shot through the chest. The younger brother duck behind a tree, quickly dodging from his right as a bullet buzz past. Ryuji started with his repeater first downing three men quickly. Ann kills a bandit to her left covering what Ryuji couldn't. She misses a second bandit causing her to hide behind the thinning tree. They were rushing towards the treeline to finish of the Thieves. The four were doing their best to fire off as fast as they could hoping their target would go down in one shot. The only saving grace was an open field in front of them. Nowhere for Medjed to hide, buying time to pick them off one by one before they run out.

Yusuke rushes out to another tree tackling a man attempting to pincer them. The two roll on the ground fighting for dominance as the bandit's elbows Yusuke in the head stunning him. Pinning Yusuke down in a chokehold, the young man uses his strength to grab the knife on his belt gutting the bandit before him. He takes a moment coughing, inhaling the air moments denied to him before re-joining the fray.

Chips of tree bark blast by them with missing shots. "There's to many of them," Ann shouted. She ran out of bullets while doing her best to stay cover.

"Hang in there Lady Ann!" Morgana takes down another two bandits from his position. He was close to the carriages to protect the others. The younger brother goes to fire another shot only for the gun to jam.

"Damnit!" he already gave his sidearm to Yusuke for back up.

"Mona take this. Hurry!" He looks to see Futaba jumping with the crossbow.

"Toss it and stay down!" She heaves the weapon and canister of arrows; eight arrows to work with.

The blond then took down two more Medjed members before his repeater ran ammo ran out, " How are we looking guys!?"

"Not to good Skull I'm out," the swordsman said.

"Me too," Ann muttered.

"All of you get down!" loading an arrow in the cross he aims a headshot at a nearby enemy. "Got another."

Morgana ducks down quickly trying to load another arrow when he heard a commotion. Three riders came up behind the remaining Medjed gang taking them down from all around.

"The others are back!" Ryuji confirmed.

Boss reminded the old gang that he hasn't rusted a bit, with his protege in Ren taking down just as many. Makoto overcoming her own nerves helps where she can. They survive back to back encounters on shorten rest and injury.

"Is everyone accountable for?" Ren asked the group.

We're still whole you can say." Yusuke was just as physically tied as the others.

Jumping down from his horse, Ren lands unsteadily on the ground.

"Careful son, you still need that wound check. Dr. Takemi quick!" Boss keeps him standing while Makoto offers him her water canister.

"You need water."

"I need a drink…."

"This isn't a leisure time to have a beer."

Chuckling he motions to be placed on the ground, "For the wound."

After quickly rummaging through her bullet-ridden cart, Takemi brings supplies to the injured leader.

"I just need a new set of bandages and…and…" The blood loss and exertion finally catching up, he falls unconscious.


When he wakes up once more, he sees a dark starry sky staring right back. Attempting to get up, Ren groans as his body reminds him of his condition.

"You need to rest some more," a voice said. He turned to his right to find Makoto wringing out a wet cloth.

"Dr. Takemi said you were feeling a bit warm after patching you up," she placed the cold wet cloth on his head as he laid on his bedding. A campfire burned brightly behind her.

".…Thanks."

"Just returning the favor."

"Heh, and you're still just as stubborn then as you are now," he mentioned.

"I was on a path to right a wrong, you were in my way."

He tried to chuckle only to wince, "You know I was pretty suspicious of you, but I also couldn't abandon someone in need." He reaches up to his bandage should and sighs, "But then I saw you were like me. Though, I think I have the better aim with revolvers."

"That wasn't what you said when you took me on those bounty missions a week ago."

".…well…." The elder Amamiya sibling burst into a coughing fit, making his body feel worse. "Water"

Makoto reached over his body to grab her nearby canister, "Here." She helps lift his head as his lips greedily drank the water.

"Thanks." Ren turns to his left to see Futaba snoozing under a blanket. "How long has she been there," he questioned.

"Quite a while, she was really worried. The others went back to sleep, Ryuji and Yusuke are checking the perimeter, and last I check Boss and your brother were checking in with our guest. "

"Thanks for the report, but what about you? Did you rest yet?"

"Earlier, I have a guard duty after Ryuji."

"Well look at us, the gang moves like clockwork," Ren felt a sense of pride in his voice. Once just a band of misfits each toss aside were coming together, maybe to become something more than what they were told they are.

"We need to meet up with Mishima and find a new hiding spot. A large group like us is the prime feeding ground for other bandits," Ren mention worriedly.

"Dr. Takemi doesn't want you to move till you are healed. The bullet might have nicked an important organ."

"I can rest in the carriages, we can't stay here."

"That's not my decision." She got up and dusted her pants off. "I'm off."

Sighing Ren looked back left to Futaba snoozing form. That girl already saw horrors and needs some new scenery. She was further from the fire, but his body wouldn't corporate getting up to give a spare blanket. He should take his own advice to rest.

Morning soon came for the rest, the fire being used to hear up perishables. The smell of food woke the injured Phantom Thief up from his slumber. Feeling better from the previous night, he was able to sit up with less stiffness.

"What time is it?" yawning out loud.

"Just after 9 a.m Mr Ren." He sees Shiho roasting food over the fire. Shinya sat on a long on his own digging in.

"I got you your own plate," looking to his side, Futaba is kneeling beside him with a plate of bacon and biscuit. The plate shakes as she nervously hands it to him.

Thank you Futaba, I'm starving." Before he could begin she tightly wraps her arms around his torso.

"I was…..worried when you didn't wake up immediately." He pats her head gently while keeping the food steady in his other hand.

"I didn't mean to scare you like that, I'm glad you're feeling better yourself. But I have a small favor to ask."

"Hmm?" she pondered.

"Please loosen your grip—you're hurting my shoulder."

"Oh! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"It's alright Futaba."

"Looks like the Guinea Pig is up already." Dr. Takemi was followed by Boss as she walked up. "Finish eating and I'll change your bandages." She places a hand on his forehead checking for his temperature.

"Hmm, your still a little bit warm, more than usual. Let me see what I have in stock," Takemi said leaving the three.

"How you feeling Kid?"

"Like hell," Downing the last of his bacon he lays back on his bedding and grabs his shoulder, "I forgot how painful being show was."

Boss huffed under his breath and look up to his daughter, "And what about you Futaba?"

"I am trying. I….I want to be brave." She told her Father with a determined face.

"No rush, just take your time. We're all here to help you. Okay." Sojiro gently kisses her forehead before walking away.

It took the following hour for the others to wake. But who could blame them for sleeping in after the previous day's events?

The two blondes took their own portion of biscuit and bacon while Yusuke was fine with just the biscuit.

"You sure you don't want anything more Yusuke? Plenty left," Ryuji offered the Artist.

"I must preserve my portions, as we don't know when we'll eat again.

"You worry too much, we'll just hunt some grub if it comes down to it. The freshly hunted game, a mug of Ale and a campfire. What's not to love?"

"I think Yusuke may have a point Ryuji," This time Ann chides in.

"Oh not you too Ann."

"These are all fairly good points." Makoto had walked over to the three with a cup of coffee. "Our supplies are limited, we're in the middle of nowhere and Ren is still hurt. Plus traveling civilians. We need a new safe haven and fast."

Don't worry, I got the coordinates from Mishima." Ren was being helped by Morgana as he addresses the group. "We should be safe in the new place."

"Well, we're not moving anywhere until your back to your normal self. Unfortunately, the medicine I need I'm missing some ingredients." The Doctor searched high and low in her cart but not everything was packed. It would be too dangerous to turn back to her home alone.

"Seeing the day is still young we can fetch it now right?" Ryuji offered first.

"The herbs I need might not be nearby."

"Uh….I'm not too familiar with plants.

"Then we split up. Morgana will go in my place, he knows what to look for. Yusuke, Ann, Ryuji, and Makoto will go with him. More people to spread out with. Boss and I can hold down the fort."

"Are you sure Brother."

"Yes, I'll be fine. But be careful, we don't know if there's any Medjed left hanging around."

"Got it." They all got on their horses and took off for the horizons.

"Safe travels….."


Elsewhere 1885

A large sigh escaped the young man's mouth as his frustration was starting to rise. They found Medjed or what was left of them. The green scarfs motif wrapped around their arms and waist, it was them.

"I'm sure the Captain will be pleased with this development," Akechi scornfully said. Throwing his hat to the ground in frustration he sits on one of the remaining benches.

Sae pulls out a handkerchief to cover her face, the smell of rotting flesh nauseates her.

"This has been nothing but a wild goose chase for the past two weeks! We are doing things my way now."

The remaining town folk have been slowly removing the bodies from the streets and burying them outside of town. He sees two sets of carriage tracks leaving the town out over the fields. Grabbing his hat from the ground he examines them further.

"Miss Nijima, over here," Akechi says pointing down to the ground. "These wagon marks are still new maybe about a day old."

"They look a bit sloppy and inconsistent."

"Almost as if they were in a hurry. But who was here that Medjed started a shootout with and why?" The gears starting to turn in the Ace Detective's mind.

"Follow the tracks Detective."

"So we shall." He hopped back on his horse and whistle his mare into a slow trot, keeping an eye on the ground. The two had travel for almost 7 miles, dead bodies began to spring up.

"We're still headed in the right direction," Akechi was getting close when he saw a tree line. "Wait here, I'll check this out," he ordered.

"I will not sit here idle Detective!"

"You don't have a rifle Miss Nijima and hand to hand combat can only get you so far."

She pulls out a pistol from her stash bag located on the horse, "I think this will work just as well." The young Detective shakes his head and quietly signals to fall behind him.

Akechi could see the remains of the second fight once in the treeline, more Medjed bodies found lying in the grass. Whoever took them out put up one hell of a fight. Pieces of bark laid on the ground splinter from the gun blast. They walk as silent as possible attempting to avoid any twigs that could alert whoever was nearby.

He was starting to see another clearing up ahead; carriages. Snapping his fingers to get Sae's attention, he points to the objects in question. Someone was camping here and very recently. From this distance more clues for him to—

Click….as they heard the sound of a shotgun pump behind them.

"Put your guns down," The voice ordered. Akechi tried to take a side glance only to shove with the barrel of the gun, it was best to surrender their weapons. "Face forward, put your hands in the air." The two agents complied and walked fully out into the clearing where the camp was located.

"No need for hostility Boss, they're not a threat." The Ace Detective picked up on the familiar voice.

"They're SUI kid, I recognize those badges anywhere. The familiar voice walked out from behind the first wagon with his arm in a sling.

"Detective Akechi, good to see you again. And you must be Miss Nijima, I've seen your face in the papers. I take it I'm not a big fan of yours."

"You're just another criminal, you'll get your just due," Sae confidently said.

"I see where she gets it from. But I'm afraid that can't happen until I get my own. I have my own mission to fulfill and I can't have you getting in the way," Ren responded back.

"You're still under arrest for the crimes you committed." Akechi wasn't going been outwitted by this trickster again.

"Hmm, I don't feel like I'm arrested, not even a little. What about you Boss?"

"I've dealt with more threatening agents." Ren chuckled at Boss's reply before falling into a coughing fit. Recovering with his own hands he offers the two a peace offering.

"In exchange for your lives, we'll let you go with this remaining Medjed member. We have all the information we need from him anyway. Only if you swear you never saw here. Deal?"

Akechi had a bigger fish on the line only for a smaller fish to take the hook. He guesses its better than coming up empty-handed.

"Deal," He reluctantly agreed.

"Excellent; Boss." Sojiro went to to retrieve the prisoner as Ren keep a hand on his holster…..just in case.

"You're too smart to try anything reckless Detective. But you can never be careful." Muffling noises could be heard as the bandit hogtied and gagged was being carried by the one known as Boss.

"You can place it on the back of my horse," Akechi instructed the older man.

Sitting on their respective horses, the two SUI agents had to swallow a bitter defeat.

"Enjoy your freedom for now criminal."

"I'm not a criminal Miss Nijima…I'm a Phantom Thief."

Tired of dealing with them they rode away from the location quickly.

"You all can come out now, they're gone," Ren said as Futaba, Shiho, and Shinya came out from hiding. Takumi was an ace in case fighting broke out.

"That was quick thinking Boss."

"Attribute it to good timing during a patrol. We're lucky it's just two this time, but those two are good at what they do for a reason."

"Detective Akechi isn't looking for a fight, he's looking for answers."

"What makes you say that?"

".…A gut feeling."