|For the Love of Hell
Author: IDespiseTragedy PM
Medieval AU yaoi lime with sprinkles of gore. A white-haired demon massacred his family. The same white-haired demon captured his heart. As an illusionist, he knew best that these feelings of his were not mere illusions.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Mukuro R. & Byakuran - Words: 13,143 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-01-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5413733
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: For the Love of Hell
Disclaimer: KHR belongs Amano-sensei
Credit: many thanks to MaskedSoldier who dutifully beta read this fic as well as to avishi who kindly provided me with valuable info
Settings: early fifteenth-century Medieval Italy in most parts, some third quarter of first-century Ancient Rome and brief mentions of others
Warnings: historical fantasy AU; somewhat florid diction; anti-heroes; underage sex & semi-graphic rape; heavy violence theme with bits of gore, including numerous OC deaths; multiple flashbacks; sappy ending
Note: Although 'Estraneo' is canon, 'Eugenio' is a made-up name; I don't know Mukuro's supposed name before he was called 'Rokudou Mukuro'. Mukuro and Byakuran are Italians in this fic, and to make the atmosphere more Italian, Byakuran's spells are in Latin and Mukuro's skills of 6 realms becomes 9 layers of hell, following Dante's Inferno; the Japanese numerals are replaced by Roman numerals; and the way these realms work is different from the one in the canon story. For this reason, his name 'Rokudou', which means 'six realms' in Japanese, is changed into 'Novestrati', which means 'nine layers' in Italian. He will be called 'Vindice Mukuro Novestrati' in addition to 'Eugenio Estraneo' in this fic. 'Vindice' means 'avenger' in Italian; 'Mukuro' means 'corpse' in Japanese; 'Byakuran' means 'white orchid', also in Japanese. For those who are less familiar with Italian grammar, 'Estranei' 'Gessi' and 'Vongole' are the plural forms of 'Estraneo', 'Gesso' and 'Vongola', respectively.
It's British English for this story (hence, some spelling differences, such as 'enquire' instead of 'inquire' and single quotation marks for normal speech).
I. The Last Surviving Estraneo
'In the name of the merciful God, spare my life, I beg you; my children still need—' The plea would have continued had the speaker's throat not been slit by the young manslayer, who, face unflappable, replied with, 'I know no such God.'
This sort of plea did not merely come from one mouth, no. In fact, that was the two hundred and thirty-eighth one that day — and, like its predecessors, was not granted. Lords and peasants, women and children, young and old — everyone without exception fell to Vindice Mukuro Novestrati's bereaving hands.
Mukuro was a young boy whose sixth summer was yet to come when he himself survived his family carnage. The grace of God had long relinquished his life; no salvation came when he cried in desperation nearly nine years before. Ever since, each time he killed someone, he always imagined what kind of expression his family executioner would give him as he slit the victim's throat.
Looking at his blood-spattered hands, Mukuro cogitated. He was no better than the abominable man who had butchered his family. He had reaped thousands of lives upon entering his teenage years, all for the sake of sharpening his skills in order to vanquish the one who had deprived him of his joy of living.
Just like that night, his memory recalled the last time he was called 'Eugenio Estraneo'.
Under the veil of darkness, when other dukedoms were fast asleep, the Estranei was experiencing their carnage. It was to be the first one ever since the name 'Estraneo' had been ennobled. And the last.
No ally came for succour. Not a single soul knew about the ruin of the illustrious family until the castle illuminated with fire an hour before dawn spread her cinnabar robe over the vault of heaven. The mass slaughter had only lasted as briefly as a child's game.
No horde of arrows rained down the crenelated tower of the castle. No huge rocks from the catapults destroyed the masonry structure. No climber's ladders were leaned against the wall. Nothing stirred the peace of Duke Estraneo's castle until a single man paid it a visit. Swift were the black hands of death, swifter still was the arrival of the mage, who killed the sentinel on duty before any word of warning could come out of the victim's mouth.
The intruder made himself known only after he had penetrated the outer bailey of the castle. Against him, the guards hied with their brandished swords, axes, maces and lances. All perished in his hands.
Screams and pleas echoed in the crumbling towers, past the lips of little Eugenio's kinfolks, attendants and guards. All fell to the unrelenting ears of a stranger. Some of the ladies-in-waiting, minstrels, cooks and stable cleaners endeavoured to take flight. Others stood firm on the ground to face him. The grinning grim reaper killed them all the same.
Duke Estraneo defended his honour as valiantly as he could, only to meet Death. His wife gathered all her remaining children in tears, obviating them from perishing under the same extirpating hands: The first and second sons had just been butchered along with their father whilst trying to aid him. The other sons and daughters were hidden in a chamber whence secret passage was accessible from underneath the duke's desk, inside the bedroom. In the confusion that followed, a daughter — her youngest and most favourite daughter — was forgotten. The duchess nearly shrieked when she realised this and hurriedly scurried to hide the infant in the nearest wooden chest. The manslayer was coming near; there was no more time to reopen the chamber.
Like any other futile endeavours, hers was no more fortunate. Her departure to the netherworld was decided in mere seconds after the merciless man entered the bedroom. As life began to ebb away from her, and her soon-to-be lifeless body was collapsing onto the bed, she noticed that her fourth son was still sleeping, unperturbed by all the hostilities; the medicine he had taken earlier possessed a considerably powerful soporific effect. He, Eugenio, had been suffering from fever; for which reason, he had been sleeping in his father's bedroom instead of his own room, together with his bothers, today. The duchess shed the last tear of her life: If only she had been a better mother and discovered this sooner, the life of such young and innocent boy could still have been saved.
Eugenio woke up at the thud of a body falling upon him — his mother's. A hole occupied her stomach and between her fingers nestled a rosary of which beads of jade became ruby-red, spattered with her own fresh blood; she must have been praying when the assassin took her life.
Mukuro still remembered, very vividly, how the slaughterer's white hair glimmered playfully in the fire light from the flambeaux-mounted wall, contrasting with his dark backdrop. The pitiless man in his mid-twenties took out the duchess' liver from her stomach and crushed it before her very eyes. With his grin, somehow the rib-vaulted sepia ceilings seemed loftier than usual. At that time, the less than six-year-old Eugenio did not even dare to breathe. Fright took control of his body; all he could do was staring at the blood-painted scene.
It became the tenth and youngest child of the Estranei' turn to encounter demise next: Her hiding place was hot and humid, and her cry gave out her location. The snow-haired killer was delighted to see what had been hidden inside the chest. He uplifted the duke's fifth infant daughter high in the air, in the same fashion as her father used to carry her. Then, as a smile of relief embellished the babe's countenance, he let go of her completely. He stomped on her head as soon it touched the floor, before she could utter another bawl. Shortly, streams of blood, coming from her head, irrigated the stone floor.
It was then the exterminator caught a glimpse of a brooch on the floor. Knowing that all the duke's children wore matching brooches, the soul reaper came into conclusion that they must be hiding in a secret chamber and the entrance to that chamber must be located somewhere therein: The brooch must have fallen in the children's hurried rustle.
Seven minutes was all the eradicator needed to find the door latch. In a matter of seconds after he descended through the staircases, screams of toddlers and teenagers were audible from the underground chamber. All were brief and incomplete — unequivocally, the screamers' windpipes had been cut before they could finish hollering.
The six-and-a-half-year-old Eugenio witnessed further macabre from his bed. He could not be sure if the madman learnt that he was still alive; he was too frightened to make sure of it. In his heart, he called for God. Alas, the Creator of Heaven and Earth delivered him no answer.
The little boy tightly shut his eyes and held his breath as the destroyer of the clan re-emerged from the secret chamber; the butcher's face, hands and garment blotted with his casualties' blood. Relinquishing the room, the white-haired grim reaper moved in rapid succession from one victim to another, leaving trails of blood in his course and thus wiping away the remainders of the Estranei. It was blood, blood, and more blood wherever he stepped. Only his triumphant laughs echoed through the halls.
The little boy was too timorous to relinquish his father's bed; besides, there was still a chance of survival if the executioner assumed he had already been dead — the canopy of his father's four-poster bed must have helped in hindering the killer's view of him — so he might as well pretend to be so. Nevertheless, at length, puffing smoke and sweltering air urged the fourth son of the duke to leave: The demented murderer must have burnt the castle before abandoning the place.
While scrambling towards the exit, Eugenio passed broken poles and furniture, punctuating the corpses of everyone he knew. Some were headless, and were only recognisable from their bodily attributes; others bore holes on their chests or stomachs. The little boy ran and ran. The pools of blood splashed beneath his feet. No more father to protect him, no more mother to soothe his agony, no more siblings to share his wellaway, and not even a retainer to aid him in any way, the last of the Estranei sought for the Father of mankind. Still, no matter how hard the child wailed, the so-called omnipresent and omniscient entity was nowhere to be found.
Once outside, still coughing vehemently from the ash, and with flames reflecting on his tear-flowing eyes, Eugenio Estraneo avowed: One day, he would kill this demented murderer and burn him, just like he burnt the castle and all its corpses that night. It would by no means be easy; his enemy was a man who had slain hundreds single-handedly, after all. Yet, by hook or by crook, as long as his goal was achieved in the end, his own life was a low price to pay.
Eugenio grasped a bit of earth. Here, earlier that afternoon, the siblings were glad to greet the first day of spring. He, the fourth son of Duke Estraneo, had engaged in a game of wooden swords with his first, third and fifth brothers. The second eldest son was an overly diligent boy who would rather devote his time in reading manuscripts than involving himself in an outdoor activity whereas the sixth one had been taking a nap under a nearby shady tree. Under the same tree, three of their sisters had been watching, save from the youngest one, cradled in their mother's arms, who had been peeping from behind a machicolation. Above this machicolation was the castle battlement, of which crevices sometimes hosted a temporary shelter to pigeons, when the sentinels were too deeply immersed in gossiping.
Casting one last glance at the portcullis of his family castle, the last surviving Estraneo inserted the soil into a leather pouch, which never parted from him henceforth.
Thus, the illustrious lineage of the Estranei was reduced into nothing but history.
Ever since, the little boy had been wandering, learning how to survive on his own. He joined a band of bandits and learnt their dirty works. He did not bother to try to beseech any monastery to shelter him in, no longer having faith in the Lord who had abandoned him in times of need.
He did try to visit the Vongola Castle — the administrative centre of the kingdom in which his father's dukedom was part of — for a helping hand in retaliation. Nevertheless, unrecognising the little boy's tattered raiment, the guards regarded him as a peasant boy who sought for the king for a mere joke and dismissed him unceremoniously. That became the first time the little Estraneo learnt that destitute was destined to be friendless.
To a helpless little child whose entire world — home and family — had been uprooted, nothing felt more daunting than everything. The trees seemed taller; the pebbles felt sharper; the sky grew darker; even the strangers on the street sounded harsher. Rather than be frightened, he'd better frighten the world instead, thought the boy. Hence, having cast the name of Eugenio Estraneo aside, the survivor of the relics of the past glory adopted a name daunting enough to his enemies' ears. 'Vindice' or 'avenger' became his first name; he was an entity who lived on solely for vengeance.
Vindice made his first kill in less than twenty-four hours after his own survival. He reft from the dead hours after that, and from the living, days after. Next, he learnt how to rob, albeit not successful on the first attempt, for how much could a child stand against an adult opponent?
It was then he made a good use of what flowed inside his blood: The Estraneo genetics allowed him mind control — a most potent illusion. It was also by this means he had several heads obey him afterwards. A victualler would fix him a free meal. A tailor would habilitate him. A gambler would reveal to him the artifices of cheating. A pilfer would show him how to rob properly. A monk would acquaint him to vellum and quill.
The best of his teachers happened to be an unfortunate rounin — a masterless samurai from the far-off eastern land — cast ashore by the inexorable waves of the tempestuous sea, from whom he learnt to wield weapons, especially trident. Therefrom, 'Mukuro', meaning 'corpse' became his middle name; he was, after all, no more than a breathing corpse deprived from the joy of living.
His last name 'Novestrati' or 'nine-layers,' came from his self-training to create realistically vivid illusions of the nine infernal layers.
Other atrocities — burglarising, smuggling, blaspheming, desecrating, raping, torturing — he perpetrated out of inquisitiveness rather than of necessity. By the age of eleven, there wasn't any single crime that Mukuro had not tried; none of those brought higher content to his heart more than killing. Vindice Mukuro Novestrati had become the youngest slaughterer throughout the land before reaching his teenage years; so vicious was he that grown men shuddered at the mere mention of his name.
II. The Clash between a Celestial White Orchid and a Chthonic Vindicator
Now, fourteen years and eight months old, Mukuro was confident he could triumph over his family's murderer. After all, he alone had undergone the nine layers of hell during his nearly nine years of training. In addition, he could also summon a Mist Owl or Gufo della Foschia — a bird made of the mist of his own creation for espionage purposes. The bird's outer semblance was no different from a common white owl, save for its one blue one red eyes, but it could disperse into mist in times of peril or simply for convenience.
As a matter of fact, today, his reliable Mist Owl, sent eleven days before to search for the abhorrent bastard who had obliterated the Estranei, returned. As soon as the bird perched on his arm, Mukuro looked into the owl's eyes and assimilated all the information he needed through non-verbal communication.
After flying for days, his bird espied a man who looked exactly the same as the Estranei's killer from nine years before, not a day older. This man, known as Byakuran, who turned out to be the king of Millefiore kingdom, was purchasing a pear in the marketplace. Unlike kings in common, this king frequently left his throne as he pleased, disguising himself with a commoner's attire to pursue his leisure: Human slaughtering.
Assuming that this was the killer's younger brother, and that further observation would eventually lead up to him, the owl did not change its target. The king seemed benign and innocuous until he looked at the owl's direction. It was a gaze that turned the warmest July into the coldest January and, in alert, the Gufo della Foschia then took flight forthwith.
With no further delay, Mukuro headed towards the town where Byakuran sojourned. Every step the pillager took hastened him to move faster. His years of waiting would be concluded soon. At last, he would prove that he was no longer the child who had been too afraid to move as much as a muscle during a massacre. He reached his destination two days later.
On a pasture at the border of the town, where grasses were as green as emeralds on the soil below and the clouds were drifting serenely in the sky above, stood the very man he had been anxious to meet; sanguine vestural cloak billowing in the wind. His smile was cordial, yet, his aura, feral. There was no mistake: no matter what ruse he had applied to masquerade his age, this man brought stench of blood wherever he went and was the very one who had uprooted the Estranei.
'You have come at last, Vindice Mukuro Novestrati, or should I say as Eugenio, son of Adalberto Estraneo?'
Mukuro had no inkling of how his opponent knew his identity, but chose knife throwing in lieu of words for his greetings. With the long lapse of years, his retentive mind nourished the animosity towards his family killer more impregnably by far.
While evading the knives, the king among the Millefiori addressed him again, 'Nine years have lapsed since we last lay eyes on each other. I am glad that time brought no assuagement of your hatred for me.'
He has been aware that I would take vengeance upon him all these times; why did he spare me in the first place?
It did not matter now; he was going to take vengeance for every tear his lady mother has been forced to shed.
The boothaler called forth the first layer of hell: The Heathens. As soon as the Roman numeral "I" appeared in his right eye, reality was warped. The meadow disappeared from sight; a limbo came into view. The earth where they stood and the welkin above vanished into nothingness. Whoever was trapped within would lose his or her mind, forgetting his or her purpose to live and would thus be very pliable to mind control. Those who had abandoned their religious faith were perfect targets and Mukuro could not see why such a cold-blooded murderer would not fall under this category.
Byakuran still stood unmoving on his spot when Mukuro accosted him. 'Tell me why Age's immortal claw has touched you not.'
'Ah, we are but a moment reunited and already you have enquired such personal question?' the king retorted teasingly.
Squinting, Mukuro withdrew at once. Sometimes, when the target had such a strong willpower, the first realm of hell would not affect him. Therefore, after activating the second realm, The Lustful, the young footpad attempted to unveil his opponent's secrecy by asking him the same question.
In this realm, driven by lust, the victim was supposed to slavishly obey him, regardless of how intolerable his request might be. Nevertheless, he heard a murmur of 'O sensus mihi, noli egredi! '('O feeling of mine, be unwilling to come out!') from Byakuran's mouth instead.
This king is a mage as well; what a troublesome hidden talent lurking behind his cherubic façade! deduced Mukuro. Vexed, the illusionist had no choice but to try his nine layers of hell one by one while searching for his opponent's weakness.
'Oh, I see.' Byakuran made a light comment as his stomach began to rumble at Mukuro's third realm of illusion: The Gluttonous. Stroking his tummy, the mage then chanted, 'Satis habeam.' ('May I be content.') and the rumbling sound stopped.
This time, Mukuro descried Byakuran touching his ring before chanting his spell. Although most witches and wizards used wands, some did use amulets in their stead. The indigo-haired marauder was hence determined to get that ring out of the king's reach.
To counter The Avaricious — the fourth infernal layer — Byakuran cantillated, 'Tempus optatem debit; dura!' ('Time will grant wishes; endure!')
However, the illusionist did not leave illusion as his only offensive this time. He swooped fast in attempt to snatch away or destroy the ring. His opponent realised this and eluded, much to Mukuro's dismay, slippery and quick. So light were their footfalls that the grass did not even rustle as they stepped, engaging each other in a deadly dance.
Mukuro's fifth chthonic illusion, The Wrathful, found no luck of success either. Byakuran did not even need to counter-spell him; he merely smiled … so sweetly it became pestiferous. None of Mukuro's trident lunges hit him still.
The Roman numeral in Mukuro's eye had indicated 'VI' when Byakuran uttered, 'Non sine Deo sum; Deus ero' ('I am not without God; I am going to become God') and hence The Heretics illusion was nullified.
One swift movement from Byakuran and Mukuro's trident was knocked out of his hand, landing yards away from its owner. Resorting to their erratic feet and assailing hands, the illusionist met the mage in a clash. Both movements were swift; both movements were lethal. Where the younger struck, the older would elude; where the younger charged, the older would evade. Their fight had escalated to a point where they were slowly circling one another, swinging, defending, striking, turning their waists and spinning on their toes; their hands became motion-filled blurs, and their duel became terpsichorean-like, as mystifying as the mist itself, yet as all-embracing as the sky.
The attacks ensued, as did the counteracts; the fluidity of the arms and the speediness made it difficult to clearly see exactly where the one combatant would then strike the other. Amidst their dodges and lunges, the boy's temper kept ascending, propelled by his durable hostility towards the manslayer of his family. His attacks then became verbal as the despoiler provoked the despot with a sneer: 'Is this all you've got, Your Majesty?'
Nonetheless, Byakuran wisely chose to ignore the bait, waiting patiently for the right time to launch an onslaught. And, when the time did come — when Mukuro's trident hit an empty space next to Byakuran's left ear, and the boy did not have sufficient time to riposte — the king landed his knee on the ransacker's diaphragm, where the liver was positioned. Bile acid gushed forth from Mukuro's mouth, preceding the boy's collapse; his buckling knees gave away.
Lying on the ground, the last Estraneo stared at the pouch dangling from his neck. The bit of earth inside it — the earth from his family castle ground — rekindled the flame of belligerence within his near despondent spirit once again. Up rose the outraged Mukuro, enduring the pain on his abdomen. His fury was immoderate: The dying screams and pleas during the debacle of his household resounded loudly in his head, blocking out everything else.
His onslaughts were all blinded with rage, and his opponent evaded them with ease. His seventh illusion, The Violent, proved to be the least accomplished of all. There was one absolute condition to be fulfilled if Mukuro was to create a perfect illusion: His mind had to be calm. In his current state, it was he himself, rather than his opponent who was more likely to be affected by the illusion. And, when an illusionist using a chthonic illusion was affected by his or her own illusion, the person was bound to sacrifice his or her life to Satan himself — such was the condition for working with the works of the underworld.
As soon as the symptoms of Mukuro getting trapped by his own hellish illusion appeared, however, Byakuran's playful smile disappeared. The mage no longer toyed with the illusionist's offences, but cut him mid-strike, allowing himself — the more violent of the two — to be entrapped by the seventh chthonic layer instead.
Here, Byakuran found himself in an enclosed space where crimson wrapped his surroundings. Hereupon, a raging bull — Mukuro's transformation — galloped into his direction, undoubtedly trying to trample him.
With a simple chant of 'Leo fiam!' ('May I become a lion!'), the albino-haired mage metamorphosed into a lion. Readying himself for a hunt, the lion ran to meet his challenger and sank his razor-sharp teeth on the side of the bull's neck. In pain, the bull transformed back into a boy and the crimson illusion vanished.
Again, the eighth illusion, The Fraudulent, failed to impact Byakuran in any way. His trident did hit Byakuran, but to no avail, for the mage's skin was as tough as iron, and he had the courage to match it. 'I prefer a more direct way of conveyance,' the mage licked the blood from the boy's wounded neck, 'especially when it comes to you.'
Mukuro withdrew, flustered of how his execrable foe licked him. Desperation spread all over him, as well. None of his attacks — illusory and martial — was left without counterbalance thus far; in fact, it would not be unjustified to call them 'overwhelmed' instead. If the next offence, the ninth and nethermost layer of hell, could not harm his mighty enemy, he had no other solution but to throw his life away without achieving vengeance. Hence, the nefarious boy concentrated really hard, accumulating all within his capacities to create his ultimate illusion, The Treacherous.
'It is no use, lad. Never have I betrayed you, nor do I plan to do so in the future.' Byakuran sidestepped and launched an attack towards the boy — something that was too fast for less experienced combatant's eyes to see.
Mukuro's usually tranquil expression was maimed with shock from the pain and the breathing difficulty. His invincible enemy's fist was ostensibly empty, but its blow, especially when combined with such speed and accuracy on the solar plexus, also known as the pit of the stomach, was heavy enough to cause his diaphragm to spasm, temporarily deprived of air.
With chance on his side, the king contused the plunderer, hitting the avenger exactly in the same spot as before. Mukuro staggered and eventually tumbled, yet again.
His odious foe prevailed. There was only woe to the vanquished. What a fool he was for thinking that by attaining the age of fourteen, he could actually triumph over this god! He should have known that Byakuran was not a figure he could lay eyes upon without awe. Mukuro felt his eyelids getting heavier and heavier…
III. A Looter's Loot
The moment he regained his consciousness, he was on a bumpy ride. The scent of air was thick with moisture. There was a sound of water droplet dripping on the stone surface as well as the sound of footsteps on the same surface. Opening his eyes and still recovering from dizziness, Mukuro could barely see anything but darkness and … him!
His own body was slung on Byakuran's shoulder in the same fashion as when a miller carried a sack of grains. Descending through the stone stairway, the mage advanced through the sombreness. Down, down a long narrow corridor obscured with shades of grey he went, occasionally avoiding the dangling cobwebs. Amidst the frictions of their habiliments, Mukuro perceived an odour so dank and musty invading his senses, for the stones that made up the walls, ceilings and floor were covered with moss. The niched walls bore inscriptions of the names of the dead. It was then Mukuro realised that despite the lack of the hemispherical vault, that place was a catacomb.
Byakuran stopped at one recess, where he lay Mukuro down and articulated, 'Apage involucra!' ('Coverings begone!')
As soon as the mage pronounced these words, Mukuro felt his body tilted from the ground and was suspended in mid air by some invisible strings. Subsequently, from the outermost layer of his garment, the farsetto jacket, to the innermost linen braies underpants, all slid away from his body, before falling scattered on the floor.
Chill went down the marauder's spine; did the king intend to violate him and let the buried cadaveric bones witness their copulation?
Of course, to a boy who had long bid farewell to his boyhood, coition was nothing new. To someone who had practised desecration at the age of seven, indecent exposure before the dead was not exactly the problem either. Not to mention his years of training with the nine layers of hell in no manner made him uncomfortable with darkness. What really concerned him was that he — the usual hunter — would become the hunted tonight. Never was defeat more unadulterated; never was frustration moulded something with so ill a grace!
The white demon pushed him onto the wall. Even though his face was pressed against the stone, Mukuro could feel a stare. A stare ravenous to every curve of his puerile body contour. A stare that belonged to the Millefiore leader.
It was dark, stale and, above all, bleak. Yet, Byakuran's warmth soon encased him in, dispelling the malignant air in the subterranean chamber of the catacomb; for what could overwhelm the dread of the dead, other than the bringer of death himself?
Triumphantly, flauntily, the xanthochroid demon sheathed himself into his prey, entering from behind. No preparation was made. His target involuntarily arched his back at the acute intrusion, eyes widening and muscles contracting with pain. The victor's lunges persisted nevertheless.
Back and forth.
On and on.
These were not for pleasure; these were possession marking — not very much different from how the better of the two stags won the battle of herd leadership and marked his chosen doe to forefend any other stag from approaching her. With each thrust, Mukuro's bone-deep hatred to Byakuran increased even more … more and more and more … until eventually his immense detestation became no longer containable. At length, his mind went point blank.
His conquered body, contrarily, kept on moving, much against its owner's will. Outside, a force compelled it to swing; inside, the same force stimulated it to vibrate. In front of him, a wall with many skeleton-bearing niches stood. Behind, the white demon's limbs pursued him on in rhythmical motions while holding him tight by both forearms. An escape route did not exist for him.
Biting his lower lip, the once proud son of a duke did all he could as not to let any groan tear from his mouth. As much as he was cognisant that his moans were all his foe needed to hear at the moment, the indomitable lad refused to give them away at any cost. The incessant squelches, resulted by their somatic conjugation and reverberated by the stone enclosure, had delivered him into shame; he was not going to allow himself to sink deeper into the abyss of ignominy.
Later, much later, only after their two bodies had wilted onto the funereal wall, having lost their rigidity, did the white demon start to enjoy his spoil of war thoroughly. Even in this embalmed darkness, Byakuran's adept fingers did not fail to find their way down Mukuro's body, trailing so freely down his back and missing no spot during their itinerary. Soon the captive felt his captor's breath on the crook between his neck and shoulder. Pinning the contumacious lad against the wall still with their midsections connected, he licked Mukuro's wounded neck — the wound which he had himself inflicted earlier as a lion — before whispering, 'How does it feel to have a man inside you?'
Mukuro clenched his fists; he should have known that his foe had no intention of letting him taste humiliation and excruciation for only once. The unflappability in his tone did not hide his contempt. 'You call yourself a man? A man ages, debilitates and eventually dies.'
There was a pause. Thinking that the mage would be enraged by this remark and torment him in return, Mukuro mentally prepared himself for the worst possibility. Then, he felt it; Byakuran's relentless fingers were coming…
… only, the expected pain was absent; instead of afflicting further injury, these fingers palpated his chin lightly, swerving Mukuro's head to face their owner.
'True enough,' responded the mage. 'Time and age are not the substances capable of palavering me.'
The boy cast a quizzical look of what his adversary meant by such statement, but the king dismissed the unspoken enquiry with a smile. Next, lifting him whole, Byakuran carried Mukuro in his arms until they reached a nearby sarcophagus on which he then made his blue-haired captive sit.
With no more words, the mage parted the illusionist's legs and positioned himself standing in-between them. He teased the sensitive area of the upper part of the boy's inner thighs, but purposely avoiding the junction. He took delight in every shiver that Mukuro's delectable body yielded to him; notwithstanding, the most important assail ought to be saved till later. For now, Byakuran opted to spread the illusionist's legs even wider. Then, with a glance, he obtruded upon the adolescent once again. It was neither an affectionate glance that asked for the boy's consent nor a mocking glance that derided the boy's defeat. It was a glance piercing yet unreadable enough for the master of illusion to find himself inebriated in its enigma.
A poisonous spider crept by on the sarcophagus lid near Mukuro's derrière. A monosyllable of 'I!' ('Go!') was all Byakuran needed to send it away; an unseen force pushed it flying onto the far end of the stone chamber. The boy was ashamed of himself; he focused on his foe too much to even realise the presence of another danger. The king, on the contrary, acted as though nothing had happened and carried on his tantalising ministration on his toy's flustered figure.
Byakuran plunged himself into Mukuro again, letting nothing but the boy's tightness to encase him. He went even deeper; his concupiscent flesh ripping Mukuro's innermost tunnel until it bled again. Although the lad did not utter a sound, his ragged breathing denounced his agony, and the mage wasted no time in grasping his partner on both hands, interlacing their fingers. The indigo head cast a vexed look, but the albino-haired one smirked and rearranged their facial distance to ensure their view to be out of focus through a simple but thorough kiss.
Mukuro strove to resist, though to no avail. He struggled to push the other male away, but the demon had already had his weight on him. He even endeavoured to bite Byakuran's lip, but the mage had already delved his tongue into the illusionist's mouth, tasting and invading. The boy nearly choked: The kisses he had shared thus far were all about experience, not technique; and he had always been the kisser to his indisposed victims at any rate. In the shock that followed, the younger pulled away, but the older let not the chance slip by. In that ephemeral moment of weakness, the subjugator stroked his victim's manhood.
It was too sudden; Mukuro couldn't help tipping his head back, but Byakuran nibbled his Adam's apple, earning himself a strangled gasp from the lad's mouth — rasped and quivering. Yet, with each resistance the blue-haired made, the more eager the snow-haired turned to be.
He took him again.
With their breaths chased each other endlessly, just as undulating waves upon the shore, the king held the youth's tender body in his arduous embrace until Aelius mounted on his quadriga to substitute his sister, Aurora, traversing the celestial course.*
Afterwards, no different from a boy about to leave the house, patting his dog on the head, Byakuran blithesomely remarked 'I shall return' before disappearing into the light, leaving Mukuro to curse him under his breath.
In the company of Solitude, Mukuro then stared at his own body. Although down here in the catacomb, the light was scanty, he could still identify the numerous kiss marks and finger bruises that the older man had left on his frontal part. He could not see what happened to his back, but the throbbing pain in his lower region was real; his underside was still even moist from the white demon's spillages. Until minutes ago, Byakuran's flesh was pulsating inside him. Until minutes ago, Byakuran's fluid flowed within him. Until minutes ago, Byakuran's arms were embracing him. Until minutes ago, Byakuran was breathing next to him.
The fury was obviously expected. The dishonour? That was just a mere aggravation into the matter. The problem was: There was something else. A sensation, for which he could not adumbrate, had taken accruement of his soul; blood and sweat, admittedly, were not the only types of liquid that dripped from him upon Byakuran's seizure. Only one thing was sure: He wanted…
Nine years before, Byakuran killed his family, his status quo, his joy of life, his everything. Exuberance and delight were no longer things he could afford. Only bereavement, wrath and vengeance were left in his care to nurture. These were all he had. These were all the feelings he allowed himself to get acquaint to. These were the pillars of life that supported him hitherto. How dare this fiend, to whom he owed a grudge on account of the slaughter of the Estranei, introduce another type of feeling to him now!
Mukuro punched the stonewall hard enough to make his knuckles bleed before quickly dressing himself.
Who is this man? What kind of devil is he? All those years, the night of the Estraneo slaughter remained the most vivid in my memory. How could he replace my years of painful memory that easily with mere one night's activity? Clenching his jaw, Mukuro grabbed his dissuaded trident. He needed to kill; he needed to do something to help him forget Byakuran's touches.
Ignoring the fatigue and enduring the pain, Mukuro hobbled outside; his faithful trident became his walking stick. Down the vale he went, passing many a shrubbery. On the way to the nearest village, he met I Lupi or The Wolves — the band of bandits he used to join years before.
'Long time no see, Novestrati!' greeted one of them, 'I see you have got quite an eye for choosing a target. We're about to loot that village ourselves.'
'For that reason,' added another, 'we cannot let you pass. We know you are capable of subjugating the entire village by yourself, no, you and your freaky illusions. We cannot let you reap all the pillages, can we?'
The others drew their weapons at the sound of his words; none of these caitiff pillagers dared to face Vindice Mukuro Novestrati single-handed.
Killing these resisting whoresons will be much better than those villagers, smirked Mukuro. 'A fragment of the past? Perfect timing. I was thinking of destroying all of those fragments. All without exception.' Just wait for your turn, damned mage!
With these words, Mukuro swooped in a zigzag motion, ripping as many bodies as he could in his stride. When he reached the other end of the road, his knives were soaked in blood which was not his own. Behind him, bodies collapsed one after another, just as frailly as autumn leaves. Only seven remained standing, the seven best fighters I Lupi ever had. Subsequently, the six villains beleaguered Mukuro. The next second, a sword, a morning star flail, an axe, a halberd, a pair of daggers and a lance were all directed onto his body.
Mukuro faltered not; speed was on his side. While his obstreperous enemies were rushing onto him, all eager to embed their weapons into his skin, he jumped onto the air. His nimble feet had left the ground before any of his opponents managed to graze him; their weapons hit an empty spot. He attacked them in his own pace sequentially. Taking advantage of their panic and anger, playfully he teased them, occasionally using their heads or shoulders as stepping stones. However, no matter what he did — dodging, lunging, eluding, defending, parrying or reposting — he could not get rid of Byakuran's phantasm in his mind.
Byakuran's smirks — those contemptibly beguiling smirks.
Mukuro knocked the enemy's halberd out of the way and sent it flying before he holed the halberd's owner in the liver.
Byakuran's intense gazes — the gazes that melted him to the deepest inferno.
Mukuro pried his trident into his enemy's eyes. Blinded by his own blood gush, the opponent could not aim his daggers and was immediately sliced vertically in halves.
Byakuran's tongue — the pitiless tongue that beset his body inch by inch.
Mukuro shoved his trident into the lance wielder's mouth; its prongs went through his parotid gland, lacerating the occipitalis and re-emerged through the holes on his skull.
Byakuran's neck — the neck he intended to strangle and embrace at the same time.
Mukuro landed a blow on the flail master's stomach, pulling along some of the viscera entangling on the trident's prongs as he withdrew the weapon from his casualty's torso.
Byakuran's sweat — the sweat trickling from his shoulder blade to his chiselled torso.
Mukuro cut the enemy's sword into two, and so as the swordsman.
Byakuran's penetrations — those demeaningly luscious penetrations…
Mukuro thrust his trident onto the axe holder's genual marrowbone, and then twisted the latter's neck in an obtuse angle with his bare hands while the victim was yelping in pain.
How he wished to see that white-haired mage again!
Subsequent to his opponents' downfall, Vindice Mukuro Novestrati stood unquenched from blood thirst. Forty-nine corpses clotted with gore, including the last six, lay scattered on the ground. Yet, these deaths could not extinguish the fury in his heart; he doubted it would ever abate before he took his vengeance upon the Millefiore king.
The demon that had been haunting his mind was currently walking down a yonder hill with two young pheasants in hand; he had been out hunting for their meal. A charity now after what he did last night? A fresh ferocity blazed within Mukuro at the very sight of his archenemy: How far did this mage intend to degrade him!
'Starting a revel without me?' smiled the mage in an amiable tone upon seeing the corporeal remains around the trident master's feet.
Normally, Mukuro would reply with a smile — a cold smile to deliver his opponent to the next world. But still, a smile. In this world, only to one man he would lose his calm, and that very man was standing before him.
'Millefioreeeeee!' The clangour tore from the irate youth's mouth as he rushed onto his archenemy with trident facing forward, ready to strike. Fury rekindled in his eyes. Even though he knew that his opponent was immortal, he was still desirous to charge at that abominable creature, to hurt him as much as he could, to torture him alive! Right now, there was no greater desire than to pierce the sharp prongs of his trident through the snow-haired demon's heart … even if it meant he would lose his life in vain in the process; ill-being as he was, he had no purpose to live otherwise.
However, Byakuran — loathsome Byakuran — moved not from his spot, but letting the trident pierce through his body, just as Mukuro intended … except that there was no blood. In fact, rather than piercing through Byakuran's body, the trident merely passed through it.
Without any attempt to remove this weapon from his chest, Byakuran spoke, 'I am not invulnerable to minor injuries, but whenever my mortality is endangered, my body protects itself — such was the curse bestowed upon the last lineage of Gesso, my true family name; Millefiore is what I founded.'
Even the master of illusions could not decide what to do with this archenemy of his … not after he saw such a mirthless smile. For quite a few passing minutes, the two of them just stood there. The wind swept them by, sending the blades of grass swaying and some foliages fluttering.
At length, the indigo-haired illusionist broke the silence. 'How long have you lived?'
'Thousands of years. I've lost count of my own age a long time ago. All I remember is that although I travelled through different dimensions, different eras, different lives, I have always ended up falling in love with the same person.' At that precise moment, the mage's collected expression faltered; the master of illusion failed to see anything other than sincerity in the usually cold eyes.
Mukuro's eyes flickered. He had experienced blows, punches, kicks and bullies from various gang members as a defenceless child; none of them could compare to the pain of hearing his foe's latest statement as well as the dread of the possibility to hear his own name coming out from the same mouth next. The scenes from the previous night in the catacomb flashed through his head, replaying themselves uninvited. Fear, anguish and anticipation conspired to seep through the pores of his skin simultaneously, and in attempt for denial, he altercated, tone filled with dogged obstinacy, 'THAT IS A LIE!' But then, Mukuro regained his equanimity, inhaled and laughed caustically, 'You must think me mad to be amenable to such cajolery.'
'Then may it please you to employ your Estraneo blood's speciality to possess me and read my mind. I shall block you not this time.' Byakuran preserved his composure despite Mukuro's vociferation. Then, the albino turned to look skyward with his eyes closed, relaxing his mind and admitting the indigo's influence to loom over him.
V. The Mage's Buried Past
Once he was inside Byakuran's mind, Mukuro saw the multiform lives that the xanthochroid mage had led hitherto. Each life had different environment, different tongue, different culture, different people, different sun, same treatment.
At first, there was a planet called 'Rainbow', where two opposing powers held sway: the Estranei, to which Mukuro was born, and the Gessi, to which Byakuran was born. The Estranei were endowed with different coloured pupils whereas the Gessi bore birthmarks on their cheeks: Left cheeks for males and right cheeks for females.
Their years of bitter animosity concluded when the Estranei won the battle, and slain every Gesso within sight. In desperate measure, the Gesso empress bestowed immortality unto her infant son with her life as a sacrifice in order to fortify the spell with irrevocability whereupon the infant's dark hair turned into white. The Estraneo empress, who arrived on the scene a little late and found her despicable sister's corpse, realised what went on. To terminate the bloodline, she then cursed her nephew to lose his ability in procreation despite the immortality he had. Out of fear that the Gesso crown prince might one day took vengeance upon the holocaust of his clan, she took the child back to her multi-turreted palace to be kept under tight control as a slave. She instructed her chamberlain that Byakuran Gesso was to be kept away from weapons and magic arts; in fact, he was not to be educated with anything but menial labour.
Byakuran was such a polite little boy and a diligent worker that his overseer and fellow workers often felt sorry for all the harsh treatments that they gave him; still, as was stated by the empress' injunction, they dared not be kind to him. One day, the seven year-old Byakuran collapsed due to exhaustion and a passerby gave him water and vestured him with his cloak. Ever since, a bond of fellowship was established between them, and everything would have been all right, had this stranger not been his very own cousin and the crown prince of the land, Mukuro. The prince also taught his cousin all the knowledge from his palatial education, including how to read and write, how to defend one's self with martial arts.
All those years, Mukuro was always careful while slipping away from the guards eyes to meet Byakuran in secret; he failed, however, to deceive his mother's eyes. Behind the colonnaded portico, the empress peered disdainfully at the affection between her nephew and her son. Even though she knew the meaning of immortality, she still refused to give up killing the boy. She resolved to poison and even sent assassins one after another; still her accursed nephew survived. Worse still, when Byakuran was fifteen, what had started as friendship now blossomed into love. Nevertheless, Mukuro was three years older than him and, by his parents' arrangement, was betrothed to a neighbouring princess.
That night, Mukuro planned to elope to another planet with Byakuran. The spaceship was ready at the port, waiting for them, when an assassination squad known as 'Varia' attacked Byakuran by order of the emperor. The fight was nothing easy; these assassins' skills were more pernicious than the former ones by far. All of Mukuro's personal guards — Ken, Chikusa, Chrome, M.M. and Bird — lost their lives. Amidst the strife, Mukuro discerned the presence of an eighth assassin: A sniper on top of the lighthouse.
The veteran sniper chose the precise moment to shoot. When the rotating beam from lighthouse illuminated his target and thus temporarily blinding him. Under the pressure of Varia and in the name of love, Mukuro's body acted faster than his brain: With all thoughts of Byakuran's immortality forgotten, he spontaneously shielded his lover from the traversing bullet. Amidst the flashing light, the slave boy could only watch his prince collapsing. Turban flipped from the indigo head, abandoning its rightful owner.
On the muddy ground, the blood Mukuro coughed seconds later fused with raindrops and Byakuran's tears. The albino-haired teenager clung to his beloved's lifeless form, refusing to let go, until eventually, Mammon put him to sleep with illusory mist. Varia gave up killing the immortal; their weapons could not imperil him at any rate. Instead, they brought back the crown prince's corpse to his parents for a proper funeral.
Hours later, the slave boy awoke to find himself alone; there wasn't even a corpse to mourn for. Only a thousand (mille) flowers (fiori) — the thousand flowers that grew in the precinct — kept him company in his bereavement, as though mourning over Mukuro's loss in unity: One thousand flowers with one voice; they were no longer 'mille fiori' but a conglomeration of 'millefiore'.
The last Gesso wandered far and wide to search for a method of dimensional travel, polishing himself with all sorts of magic and martial arts in his course. Nine years later, he mastered the required spell and left for another parallel world accordingly.
Mukuro saw more than a hundred different lives after that. He was a farmer in one life and a soldier in another, an artisan as well as a banker. So was Byakuran. He lived in a hut in one life and a mansion in another. So was Byakuran. He was called 'Vladimir' in one life and 'Hassan' in another. So was Byakuran. In all of these different lives, Misery acquainted itself with them by manifold forms: Circumstances always ripped them apart.
The last universe in Byakuran's memory was a twenty-first century Japan. There, he stood firm as the Vongola Mist Guardian to the end, and Byakuran faced defeat — though not mortal defeat — in the hands of Vongola's tenth leader, Tsunayoshi Sawada. The Millefiore leader never experienced true amity without treachery either; Irie Shouichi had been one of those examples.
When Byakuran found out about Mukuro's whereabouts in this universe, he even worked behind the scene to keep Mukuro incarcerated in the dark water of the deepest level of Vindice's Prison. It pained his heart to do so, but if he could not have Mukuro, no one should ever have. And, being in Byakuran's skin, he felt his grief. Wholly.
There was a reason beyond Byakuran's ambition in conquering all the universes. When all the doors to the parallel world were opened, Byakuran would become the ultimate creator of space and time. That way, he could arrange the encounter with Mukuro as he pleased. In order to unravel the trinisette mystery, Uni's presence was indispensable. Nevertheless, the Sky Arcobaleno sided with the Vongole and Byakuran's aspiration crumbled into naught.
Then, Mukuro also saw how the snow-haired demon left that world and reappeared in the world they were currently in through a mere incantation. He saw, through Byakuran's eyes, excitedly, his younger self of nine years before. Byakuran forbore embracing him, and decided a better away to make a seven-year-old child remember him all his life rather than to make him see him in a more favourable light. Thus, the eradication of the Estranei commenced.
Even after that, Byakuran continued watching him from afar. His magical Sky Ring allowed him to see whatever victuals Mukuro consumed, the victims who fell under Mukuro's hands, the development of the nine illusory chthonic techniques, and even those who plotted against Mukuro — and the mage killed them all before they could harm the boy.
In all those times, all those different lifetimes, aberrant and abstruse though his way of conveyance, Byakuran's love remained illimitable and irreducible; what the immortal had declared was no fustian. Mukuro could not bear to stay there any longer. He returned to his own body, but his knees barely support him to stand still; Byakuran did all those just for him? The blue-haired youth looked at the amethyst-eyed demon before him, vacillating.
The Millefiore king stepped closer, but the boy retreated at once. Perceiving the older man's hand halting in mid air while reaching out for him, he impulsively vocalised, 'Just because you showed me some strange buildings and horseless carriages doesn't mean…'
Such tremendous affection … such idolatrous devotion … it cannot be!
Words became suspended in Mukuro's throat. He did not know what to say hereupon. He did not even know why he was speaking in the first place. He ended up mumbling aimlessly '… it does not … I …'
A doleful smile embellished the Millefiore king's visage while he was removing Mukuro's trident from his body and gave it back to its rightful owner. 'When it comes to you, and you alone, I would not hesitate to uproot the whole tree just pluck a single olive. For your sake, I would purchase a minute's mirth to weep a year. Such is the depth of my love for you. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that I shall be fortunate enough this time either.'
A spark, of fury or of compassion, he could not tell, surged within Mukuro's chest. Byakuran memories in the past lives — from how he smiled while feeding Mukuro a piece of bread to how they faced each other in a deadly combat — replayed in the boy's mind. Notwithstanding, he then grabbed Byakuran's hand and pulled the snow-haired demon onto him, capturing the immortal by the lips. Neither knew why he did so; neither seemed to mind.
'There it is; the proof of sin!' an unfamiliar shout interrupted them. A raucous bunch of villagers approached them with pitchforks, hoes and other agricultural devices.
'I told you bandits were going to plunder our village! I saw them on my home.' The same voice told his companions.
'But to think that there are only two of them remaining … no doubt they must have quarrelled amongst themselves. Possessed with greed, they slaughtered one another, each man hoping to acquire all the spoils for himself. But these two here did not harm each other because of lust — o despicable heathens! They have forsaken the law of God and engaged themselves in such a heinous act!' asserted another, who was a cowled monk. 'Ugh, even The Pears of Anguish would be too lenient for them!'
'All the more reasons why we should kill these sinners,' encouraged yet another.
The villagers attacked en masse. To Byakuran's surprise, Mukuro offered no resistance. Eight pitchforks pierced through the different parts of the illusionist's body; two hoes and a spade hit his head.
'Why?' the albino-haired mage knelt, holding his blood-bathed fallen beloved in his arms, ignoring the eleven pitchforks that were stabbing his own back and shoulders as well as the villagers' shrieks upon witnessing that he was invulnerable to their weapons.
Mukuro raised a hand to caress Byakuran's cheek. 'I am tired. Let me end this. All of it.'
'You are forsaking me once again?' asseverated the king, forlornness all over his face. Even after kissing me on your own volition?
It was not something new to the immortal mage, but he was never able to be accustomed to the grief from each parting. If only he had accrued the ability of healing!
The last Gesso breathed softly onto his beloved's ear, vey softly, as soft as the moan that once escaped Mukuro's mouth while he held him in the catacomb the previous night. 'Amabam. Amo. Amabo.' ('I loved [you]. I love [you]. I will love [you].')
More villagers arrived on the scene, carrying flambeaux on their hands. 'Our weapons don't give him a scratch; the white-haired one must be Satan's incarnation! Let's burn him alive and send him back to the hell where he belongs!'
Mukuro displayed his last smile as he felt two hot tears falling on his cheeks before he managed to close his eyes. Byakuran — godlike and diabolic Byakuran — embraced his lifeless body with a quiet sob.
The villagers threw wooden logs and tree branches onto the mourning mage's surrounding, and then ignited them.
As the luminous fire started to crackle, Byakuran heard a mild chuckle. It was not any chuckle, but the very chuckle of Vindice Mukuro Novestrati. 'How long do you intend to stay there?'
The mage looked up and saw a figure with eyes glowing red as ruby and blue as cobalt standing behind a condensed layer of mist. It was then he realised that the dead Mukuro was no more than a mendacious illusion.
'Playful to the end?' The immortal mage's voice wavered slightly in attempt to suppress the mixture of animadversion, tears and laughter that simultaneously scended within him.
The indigo-haired illusionist only simpered. This was Vindice Mukuro Novestrati. This was the man he was in love with for almost his entire life.
The immortal rose to his feet and embraced the master of tricks once more, whispering 'You could have appeared sooner.'
'And missed your love confession?' jeered the boy.
Meanwhile the riotous villagers were talking among themselves, 'Lo, the devil is losing his mind; he's talking alone in the mist. Behold!'
Notwithstanding, Byakuran cast a hopeful gaze towards Mukuro. 'Do you trust me?'
The lad's fists tightened. The phrase 'with my life' was struggling for utterance upon his tongue, but in the end, he allowed nothing more than a slight nod on his head as his response. For nine long years, he had become an incipient entity without Byakuran's presence, and this would likely to continue for much longer, albeit his reason would change: From vengeance to affection.
Without breaking his embrace, the mage touched his Sky Ring behind the illusionist's back and murmured, 'Concordia igne fiat.' ('Let there be harmony through fire.')
All at once the field around them was ablaze. Fire erupted from the ground and spouted from the air; its incinerating flame quaffed every single soul of the villagers in the precinct. What had been a lush meadow turned into the sea of flares.
'You could have cast that spell sooner,' remarked the teenage boy as he gazed quite unfazed at the lambent tongues of flames.
But the immortal shook his head. 'My spells can only work when a certain condition is met. Beatitude, that is, and a great amount at that …' Byakuran tightened his embrace before carrying on, '… so immensely mirthful that I feel I could taste defeat with no regret.'
'That did not explain why you needed to wait to feel elated.'
'It just happens that your presence is required for my felicity.' Byakuran's gesture while speaking this sentence became the proof that age did not always succeed to bequeath anyone calmness — especially when it came to love. His playful smile and imperturbable expression were all gone. All his life Mukuro had never perceived Byakuran to be this nervous.
'Impertinent adulator, you are saying that you won't be able to cast your spell unless I am with you?' leered the illusionist rhetorically, his tone content instead of rebuking. 'Together in the end — is this what you want for us?'
'If I could die from fire, air deficiency, poison, illness, age or weapon, I would have died a long time ago. There is still a long path ahead and I want you to come with me.' The immortal mage gazed into the eyes of the illusionist, searching for an answer which he hoped to be a tacit consent.
'So this is how you burnt my family castle nine years ago,' the last surviving Estraneo began, glancing at the fire around them and earning another nervous glance from his speaking adversary. 'You really are twisted,' he stroke the demon's soft white hair, 'but so am I, for loving such a twisted man.'
He kissed him again. Rough and tasty. Like his other kisses had always been in their previous lives. And at last, at long last, after so many failures from the previous worlds, the mage's wish was granted.
Safely tucked in Byakuran's embrace, Mukuro did not feel uncomfortable with the engulfing flame. The fire did not sear as much as an inch of his skin. The temperature did not even feel any warmer than normal. No smoke suffocated him either. The only reason why he became deprived of air came from the king's capturing lips.
After that, the cacophonous screams of the villagers grew more and more distant. His surroundings whirled into a mixture of unknown substances. Odd shapes and multitudes of colours passed them speedily, no, they were speedily passing those objects. Mukuro blinked; this unfamiliar celerity blurred his vision.
The next time he reopened his eyes, he and Byakuran, arms still entwined around each other, already arrived at a new environment. Still astounded, he craned his neck over the albino's shoulder with voice trailing off, 'Did we…'
'Travel into another world? Yes,' said the smiling mage.
'What about the possible usurpation of your throne?'
On hearing this, the formerly Millefiore king drew the lad even closer. The last Gesso then caressed the last Estraneo's jawline. 'Need I care?' He pecked the boy's forehead. 'You are all I've ever desired.'
Discomfited by such statement, Mukuro chose to avoid eye contact and studied his surroundings instead. Pedimented buildings with stout columns were copious. Three donkeys ladened with amphorae containing wine and olive oil were trundling past in a procession, led by a slave in a mediocre tunic. Nearby, togae and stolae* were swaying on the same busy paved street. The steam from the nearby bath house gushed onto the sky. Nevertheless, the blue-haired boy was still yet to discover the one thing that made a broad grin grace his lover's countenance: Homosexuality was a common practice in ancient Rome.
No more aeon of solitude for the immortal mage. With Mukuro on his side, Byakuran walked to start a new life in their paradise.
Read the omake below onlyif you don't mind with 69100 OOC fluff.
VII. Everlasting Affinity
Ten years had passed since the mage and the illusionist shared a live in Rome. That day, two young men of mid-twenties, spent their late morning reading some poetry, taking a refuge from the strong summer sun under an umbrageous tree on a hill overlooking the city with its forum and white edifices.
'… Quae mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fuit,
… Why didn't I have, when I was a youth, the mind I have today,
vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genae?'
or why can't those untouched cheeks return to visit this soul of mine?'
(Horace's Odes Book IV:10 line 7-8)
'What?' the indigo-haired man asked indignantly as he discerned that the amethyst-eyed companion wouldn't take his gaze off him. 'Was my recitation that bad?'
The answer came after Byakuran's soft chuckle. 'No, I was merely thinking how entrancing you looked, wearing a tunic.' With that, he slid one hand under the white linen, caressing Mukuro's thigh.
Swiftly Mukuro caught his lover's wrist. 'Don't tell me you still haven't grown accustomed to it after a decade.'
'I cannot help it,' grinned the immortal, 'your beauty always mesmerises me to no end.'
This time, the illusionist rose from his seat and knelt closer to the mage until his figure overshadowed the latter. Then, bringing his face until it was one palmus* distance to the one lying on the grass, he remarked, 'Thinking of seducing me in broad daylight in such an open place?'
'Why not?' Byakuran groped Mukuro's rear, 'Your mist can easily cover us. If not, then why don't we do it in the public for a change?'
But Mukuro's eyes blazed with coltish flames. 'Speaking of change, last night you shook me hard enough to make my bottom hurt even now; do you not agree it is revenge time for me?'
A smile now adorned Byakuran's lips as he facetiously remarked, 'Oh, help! The great Aulus Fabricius Vibianus is ravishing me.'
'Ravishing you I shall be, then, Laetus Caedicius Creta.'* The person in question played along, hoisting the immortal mage's limbs and planting multitudes of kisses there.
Byakuran blissfully closed his eyes. Only decades before, a feeling of elation such as this was a far-off dream. The last ten years of his immortal life so far, however, had been the best, thanks to the enticing indigo-haired figure who, having yanked his tunic and undone his subligaculum underpants, was currently playing his twin orbs below. The immortal gasped the name that had become his purpose of living over millennia.
The owner of the name glanced at him with a triumphant smirk, and then continued administering his tongue and fingers. The mage clasped the illusionist's hair in excitement as the latter drank his nectar.
The illusionist glided with ease inside his immortal lover, the fabric of his tunic teasing the mage's thighs with sweet caresses. He was content to see the body underneath his squirming with pleasure while his partner's arms were wrapping his neck ever so tightly. Every muscle movement, every intake of breath, every facial expression, every enthralling moan … how he used to despise this man, but now how he loved him so! Later, he would have to deal with confabulating illusions over those vexing orators who talked about a certain indecent exposure on Caelius Hill. But that was latter's concern. Right now, only bliss presided over their conjoined bodies.
'Carissimus …'* Byakuran stroked Mukuro's soft hair after the latter's body slumped atop him, '… remember the first time you submit to me willingly?'
The visualisation of himself sitting on Byakuran's lap without invitation — though without refusal either — during their first night in Rome, swam into Mukuro's memory. This nostalgia of how he, with rubicund cheeks, had impaled himself between the older man's legs made him simper. 'Do you expect me to say "no"?'
'As a matter of fact, yes,' teased his lover, amative fingers indulging themselves in Mukuro's rear curvature, 'Since if you do, I may have the honour to bethink you.'
The man riding his body emanated, 'Do you not have an appointment with Nero at the eighth hour?'*
'Time is plenty.'
'Hmm, planning to meet the emperor whilst limping, are you?' chided the illusionist.
'Will that blighter nag about it?' his lover answered with the same playful smile.
'He will nag about your insufficiently rehearsed work, o royal playwright.'
'When the spoiled lad or his officials made the protest, it's not that hard to kill them all. Or perhaps the royal bard would kindly lend his hand?'
'You are hopeless.' Mukuro shifted to trace his irresistible inamorato's lips with his tongue again. No matter how many kisses they had shared, his hunger in this matter could never abate. Sweat besprinkled Byakuran's skin, but to a lover's eyes, this sight was no less beauteous than the bedewed grass, glistening in the morning sun, and his heart did waver for that reason.
Constraining the conflagration of passion within his chest, the indigo-haired man verbalised, 'Speaking of Caesar, I wonder why you were never after his toga picta* all these years. Will a god not need hegemony?'
'I forsook that ambition a long time ago…' Byakuran dared not breathe; the question of 'why' was imminent in Mukuro's eyes, '… since you consented to come with me to this world.'
'Ho, my company keep you too occupied to take care of the parallel universes?' replied the royal bard jokingly.
But the immortal meant his words. 'My life's ambition could conceive of no loftier aim; what would I be a god for, if my wish has already been granted without being one?'
Silence presided over the indigo-haired illusionist. He had already known, since nine years before, when Byakuran asked him to possess his mind; the immortal needed to deify himself in order to control his fate so that he could arrange meting Mukuro in different lives.
His ageless lover readdressed him softly, 'Have you decided about my offer?'
The illusionist did not answer him right away. When his eyes fell upon the celestial form underneath him, they were riveted in amazement: Why until a decade before, he had never realised that the fulgent sun above could not shine any brighter than the radiant countenance below.
Only after Mukuro had kissed the back of Byakuran's hand did a reply came forth from his mouth, 'It is not my desire to let you watch me wan and wane.'
'Then…' But the mage dared not proceed further. The anticipation was so overwhelming that even words choked somewhere in his throat.
'Frightened though I am about immortality and eternal youth, I shall be willing to risk them all so long as I am with you, dilectus.'*
That moment, tears started to fall down from Byakuran's eyes — the second sincere tears he shed in five lustra*; the first one was when he mourned over Mukuro's illusory corpse a decade before. Then, smiling through his tears, the immortal mage told the one he treasured most, 'A life eternal I shall bestow upon you. So shall a love everlasting. And the power of wisdom beyond measure. Live with me as my soul mate forevermore. Nevertheless, in order to stop your growth, I need to kill you once.'
Quaintly, these words sounded soothing rather than alarming to his ears. Feeling nothing of trepidation, the illusionist extended his hand to wipe the streaks of tears on the immortal's cheeks. 'If it is by your hand, I mind not whether to live or to die. Do as you please, my friend.' My brother. My lord. My love.
Byakuran took Mukuro's hands in his own and murmured, 'Incenduimus.' ('Let us be burnt.')
At his word, white fire came into existence, swathing both bodies in its flame. Unlike the fire ignited by the medieval villagers a decade before, to which his body had been insusceptible, this divine fire did burn him. This mattered very little to Mukuro: His hands were linked with Byakuran's; he knew he was going to be all right.
The scorching heat did not last for long nonetheless. Mukuro witnessed his body and Byakuran's crumbling into a pile of ash within a minute, commencing from their feet upwards. Queerly, seemingly pendulous in air, no longer in possession of the feet to support them, their torso did not tumble. It was as though their limbs remained where they had been, but invisible. The same happened to the rest of their bodies. The oddest sensation was that after all parts of them had burnt out, Mukuro could still see the flame, smell its combustion and hear its crackle. His senses, internal organs, bones and everything else should have been gone, but he still felt as alive as ever.
'As ash, our fates will blow together in the end.' He heard Byakuran's voice hereupon. The voice rang like an inner thought, as though Byakuran was enunciating every syllable from inside him, rather than from outside.
At the mage's words, the pile of ash spun itself in spiralling motion, encasing the two invisible bodies. Slowly but surely, their flesh began to materialise: Cream colour gradually disseminated throughout their transparent skins. When the process was completed, he felt as though his weight had all gone; he was as light as ether, and, in a way, this made him some sort of tangible wraith. As far as appearance concerned, they looked exactly the same as before. Yet, a single glance and the illusionist cognised: With this, their substances had blended; and as a result, decrepitude would remain a stranger to him forever and ever — he would everlastingly be twenty-six years old, just like his beloved.
A feeling of exaltation Mukuro had never known flooded his mind. It was a bliss that passed far beyond the ordained limits of mortal sensation. The feeling was Byakuran's, yet he felt it as much as the other man. Their minds had truly been connected. Their two entities have become inseparable.
'Henceforth, your blood and mine shall flow as one stream; I have become a part of you as you, a part of me.' It was Byakuran who emanated this remark, and Mukuro touched his lips afterwards, allowing his finger to be kissed by the Gesso whose blood now flowed within his veins and whose flesh and bones now indistinguishable from his own.
'What are we going to do now?' Byakuran made a gleeful remark while staring at their nudity, lustrous look gleaming in his eyes evermore.
Mukuro — now the immortal Mukuro — smiled at the snow-haired man who loved him more than life itself. Gathering his arms round Byakuran's back, he succumbed himself to his eternal lover's embrace.
No sacral blessing from Hymen's yoke, no sweet music from Phoebus' lyre, no festal dance from the Graces' limbs commemorated their union; only their own love — the love that was truer and more constant than Pandemian and Uranian Venuses altogether could offer — existed.*
TERMINOLOGY & TRIVIA:
For those who are interested, think of Maroc architecture while picturing the Estraneo palace in Planet Rainbow.
Aelius replaced Aurora = the sun replaced the dawn ('Aelius', sometimes also spelt 'Helius,' is the Latinised form of 'Helios,' the sun god, while 'Aurora' is the Roman counterpart for the Greek goddess of dawn 'Eos').
The Pear of Anguish = the pear-shaped instrument consisted of four leaves that slowly separated from each other as the torturer turned the screw at the top and was inserted into one of the victim's orifices — the vagina for women who performed abortion, the anus for homosexuals and the mouth for liars and blasphemers. This medieval torture device would tear the skin, expand to mutilate the victim's orifice, dislocate or break the jawbones. The Pear of Anguish was rarely washed, thus frequently causing infections.
togae = the plural form of toga, which was the national costume for free adult male Roman citizens, made of a large woollen cloth cut with both straight and rounded edges and then draped over the body on top of the tunic. Toga colour marked the differences in age and status of their wearers.
stolae = the plural form of stola, which was a long, sleeveless tunic, frequently if not always suspended at the shoulders from short straps, which was worn on top of tunica interior by married women.
1 palmus = 1 palm = ¼ feet = 74 mm
Carissimus = dearest, most cared one.
The eighth hour= the eighth hour after sunrise, i.e. 2 P.M.
Dilectus = beloved, most esteemed.
Toga picta = purple toga embroidered with gold thread worn by a victorious general during a triumphal parade and later adopted by emperors for state occasions (Mukuro was referring why Byakuran never attempted to become an emperor, not just to acquire the clothes, obviously).
Creta = (1) Crete or from the island of Crete; (2) chalk (Byakuran's Italian surname, Gesso, also means 'chalk').
Lustra = the plural form of lustrum; a lustrum is a period of five years.
Hymen's yoke = the Greco-Roman equivalent for 'tie the knot'; 'marriage yoke' is a common term in the Classical world and 'Hymen,' in this context, is the God of Marriage.
Phoebus' lyre = Apollo's lyre (Phoebus is one of the epithets for the god Apollo, who is associated with music as well as medicine, sun, youth, archery and prophecy).
Pandemian and Uranian Venuses = Common Venus and Heavenly Venus, i.e. respectively, Venus who was resulted from the union of Jupiter and Dione, and was associated with physical love; and, Venus who came into being as a parthenote from the castration of Uranus and was associated with psychological love.