Duty Of Service

With desperation riding like a physical weight on his shoulders, Doku led Yaone down the corridor to the room that held the imprisoned Rasetsunyo. Nii's laughing voice hung in the air behind them. What had he done to their beloved Prince? Doku should never have been so utterly foolish as to let the perverse scientist take care of Kougaiji, however serious those injuries had looked. There should have been another way. There should . . .

He drew a sigh of relief as they entered the room. Kougaiji stood beneath the statue of his mother, back turned to them, head tilted so that his deep wine-red hair fell down his back in long tails. He was wearing a simple plain tunic rather than his usual jacket and trousers, and his earrings were missing, but otherwise he looked normal enough. Perhaps -- perhaps --

Doku stepped forward to touch Kou's shoulder. "Hey, Kou . . ."

"Remove your hand or I'll kill you," Kougaiji said in a cool soprano. He turned.

There were not only breasts, there was a positively voluptuous cleavage.

"And don't stare," he -- no, she -- added. Fine-drawn eyebrows drew together.

In a sudden access of cowardice, Doku dragged Yaone in front of him. "Your private physician's here to give you a check-over, Prince."


"I am at your service, your highness," Yaone said, bowing gracefully.


"Well?" Doku demanded once they were alone together again. "He didn't. He couldn't. It isn't possible, is it? I don't believe it."

Yaone sighed. "Dokugakuji, I am as distressed as you are, but I have to say it. Our Prince is now, well -- a Princess."

Doku closed his eyes. This didn't help. Vividly lifelike images danced inside his eyelids. He opened them again. "Completely?"

"In all parts," Yaone agreed. "And there appear to be certain signs of, um . . ." She blushed. "Increased appetite in certain areas."

Doku frowned. "Not . . ."

"Apparently Gyokumen wanted someone more in sympathy with her. Nii-hakase seems to have translated that as "more like her"."

"The filth!" Doku raged. "The scum! The . . ."

"Oh, absolutely," Yaone agreed hastily. She paused. "I take it that means that you won't be attending Kougaiji-sama's bedchamber tonight, Dokugakuji-san?"

Doku looked at her, aghast. "Of course not!"

She grew even pinker, cheeks staining a delicate scarlet. "But, ah -- not that I wish to imply that I am in any way aware of anything that might be going on, or that you are usually a frequent visitor there, or indeed that . . ."

Doku sighed, and clapped her on the shoulder. "Yaone. How could I possibly take advantage of Kou in such a way?"

"Quite, quite," Yaone agreed. She seemed mildly distracted. "Well, in that case --"

"You need to find a way to reverse it!" Doku agreed. "Will any of your apothecary stuff work on it?"

"I'll look into it," Yaone said hastily. "It'll probably be an all-night job."


Next morning, Doku could see that Yaone had been up all night studying. She was pale with fatigue, and seemed almost too tired to walk in a straight line.

"You shouldn't push yourself too hard," he scolded her.

Yaone yawned delicately, concealing her mouth behind one hand. "Oh, don't worry, Dokugakuji. It's my pleasure and my duty to sacrifice myself for our Prince's sake."

"Nh." He resolved to make sure she had a good meal and a nap later. Unworldly scholars had no idea of what was going on in the real world around them. "So, ah -- any luck?"

"Well." Yaone hesitated. "I've spent the night studying the matter, and I think I may have a way to persuade Gyokumen Koushu to persuade Nii-hakase to reverse things. We do want to reverse things, I take it?"

"Of course we do!" Doku stared at her. "How can you think otherwise?"

"It is a far, far better thing . . ." Yaone muttered to herself. "Oh, never mind. Give me a couple of hours, Dokugakuji, and I will see what I can do."


Next morning, Dokugakuji was a great deal happier. "Of course," as he said to Yaone over breakfast, "we now have the problem that he's a cold-blooded psychopathic murderer with a sutra fixation, but I think this has to be a step forward."

Yaone nodded pensively, and sipped her tea. For some reason she seemed a shade depressed.

"How did you persuade the Empress?" Doku asked curiously. "I thought that Hell would freeze over before she changed her mind about something."

"Oh, that was the easiest part of it." Yaone blinked innocently. "I just arranged for the rumour to come to her ears that everyone now thought Kougaiji-sama was prettier than she was."


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