(glares at the strange bunch of numbers that appeared at the beginning of each paragraph in Ch. 6) Damn Quickedit! The minute I get rid of one problem, another crops up!
To all who read my stories:Gemini Star started driver's ed this week, and the bonehead instructor put me in the actual 'driving' part at 5 o'clock EVERY FREAKIN' DAY! Tied in with classes, and the distance from my home means Gemini Star now has 1 hour before, and 1 hour after school to eat, do homework and write, which, unfortunately, means it may take a while for stories to be updated. (low bow) Gomen, gomen! Please be patient!
Wee…Look, another story done! And I really like this one…Even if this last chapter was like hell to write, and probably turned out real choppy at the beginning. Either way, I hope you all enjoy the end!
Disclaimer:I don't own Kouji, Kouichi or anything from Digimon Frontier. I just felt like writing this strange little thing.
Lost In The Dusk
Chapter 7: The Truth
Dusk's body lay on the ground, perfectly still, as the dead should be. Kouichi stared, dumbstruck, at the black-gloved hand limp over his foot, then at his master's twisted, painful face, and finally at the blood-stained green knife still clutched in his own fist.
"Oh…my…god…" he gasped, dropping the knife and stumbling back. He fell backwards to the ground, tears beginning to well up in his eyes.
"Kouichi…" Kouji whispered as he pulled himself to his feet, eyes wide with confusion. "What…?"
"I-I'm s-sorry…" Kouichi stuttered out moments before the first sob broke loose. He buried his eyes in his knees, covering his head with his arms as he sobbed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
The prince found himself at a loss for words, staring at him. Lowe sighed, standing and brushing himself off. He walked to Dusk's corpse, searching for something in the deep cloak, then he came to knell beside the crying servant.
"There there, now…" he soothed, putting an arm around him. "It's okay. Everything's going to be okay now."
Kouichi blinked up at him, tears staining his cheeks. Lowe smiled at him warmly.
Kouji came up to them, looking dumbstruck. "Will someone please tell me what's going on!"
Lowe chuckled just a bit, motioning the prince over. Kouji raised an eyebrow, his usual façade almost shattered, and came. He looked at Kouichi a moment, then reached out to put a hand on his shoulder, which caused the servant to gasp and yank away from him.
"Kouichi…" the prince faltered, more confused than hurt.
Lowe seamed to understand, as he slipped back behind Kouichi and gently, very gently, lifted a bit of the tattered cloth to see his back. "…Bruises." he reported, partially to Kouji, and partially to himself. "Quite a lot of them, it must have been quite a vicious beating. I'm surprised you can move properly."
Kouji gapped, then it started to come together. "Did…Did he…beat you?"
Kouichi whimpered again. "I-I'm sorry…"
"There's nothing to be sorry about!" Kouji exclaimed, but was silenced again by Lowe.
The black-armored knight stroked the boy's short hair with a slightly grim smile. "He was a cruel man." he whispered reassuringly. "He tortured the village for years… threatened the royal family…and, I'm certain, far worse things against you…No. No one will mourn such a demon's death."
It took a minute for Kouji to register that, then his eyes widened. "He…He's the warlock, isn't he?" he whispered. "From the other's stories…He was your master!"
Kouichi whimpered in shame, but Kouji hadn't finished yet. "Then…the little boy from the story…That was you?" The servant nodded hesitantly. "So…your mother…and you…you…"
He dropped his voice again, then knelt down level with the other boy. "…I'm sorry. I didn't…know."
Kouichi hesitated a bit more, then looked up and smiled just very slowly. He reached over and place his hand over the prince's. Kouji smiled back at him, slipping his hand around to squeeze the other comfortingly.
Lowe smiled under his masks, then sighed. He sat down, crossing his legs, to face the boys at eye level. "Now…I believe there's something that must be addressed."
The two looked up at him. Lowe smiled a bit wider, producing the object he had taken from Dusk and holding it out to Kouichi. "I believe this belongs to you."
A gleaming gold pendant dangled from its worn leather cord. Kouichi took in a sharp gasp, reaching out to snatch it into both hands. He gazed down at his precious treasure, holding it close to his heart.
Kouji blinked. "That's the…thing…you always wore." he said blankly.
Kouichi held the piece lovingly. "My mother gave it to me." he whispered. "It's all…I have left of her…"
"But…It looks just like…" Kouji left off, his fingers drifting to the gold piece around his own neck, blinking again in confusion.
Kouichi smiled just a little, reaching over to take the other pendant from the prince. Holding it where they all could see, he slipped the two pieces close to each other. With a small click, the two connected, forming a large, thick, gold heart.
Kouji's mouth dropped open in uncharacteristic shock. Then he turned and stared pointedly at Lowe, waiting for an explanation.
The knight sighed again, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "It's a…long story, I suppose." he shook his head thoughtfully. "But it's been so long…it's time you boys knew the truth…"
He settled back in the grass, closing his eyes. Kouji and Kouichi waited impatiently for him to work out his thoughts, the servant occasionally glancing hesitantly the prince's way. After a long while, Lowe finally spoke:
"About…thirteen years ago." he sighed, sounding older than he probably was. "It was discovered that the Lady Queen was barren…unable to bear a child, let alone an heir. Partially in desperation, the King had an affair with one of the servants…a pretty young chambermaid. The result was a pair of twin boys…"
A shocked look spread across Kouji's face as the two points connected. He glanced sharply at Kouichi, who shrugged a bit, remaining silent. Lowe smiled, if only a little.
"Yes…Two boys, identical twins." he shook his head, looking bothered. "But the Queen flew into a rage of jealousy. She was crazy with fury against her rival, having the woman jailed barely a week after childbirth. The King begged her to reconsider, if only a little…he asked her to take one of the boys, to raise as an heir. The Queen agreed to that…reluctantly…as long as she was given control over the woman and her other child.
"Obviously, she made her choice. She took one of the boys and presented him to the kingdom as the Crown Prince. But she was still furious at the King's scandal. There was no way she would allow her rival to live in the palace, or anywhere else, happily. She ordered that the woman be sold as a slave, and her remaining child…" he shook his head slowly. "She ordered the remaining infant to be thrown in the moat…drowned."
There was silence a moment, then Kouichi spoke. "Lowe…how do you know this?"
The question already had its answer. The knight smiled slightly wider. "You are perceptive, aren't you?" he mussed Kouichi's hair as a father would, making the boy grin slightly, then leaned back again.
"At that time, I was only a lowly guard…barely older than the two of you. I was on duty, that night before the sentence was to be carried out, patrolling the dungeons as usual. I remember…as I passed by that cell, I heard a baby cry…and his mother, trying to soothe him, though she was crying as well. It was…painful, in a way…"
He glanced at Kouichi, whose eyes said he had already figured it out. "Yes. I was the one who slipped you and your mother out of the castle. The miller's wife, Kaze, is a paternal cousin of mine…I trusted your short-time safety to them. After that, there was little I could do. I never thought anyone would understand the connection, and the only ones who ever knew were Kaze, Lobo and myself…"
"As for the necklaces…" he turned to grin a Kouji, pointing at the golden charm. "Your mother received them as a gift from the King during their affair. She gave me that half the night I snuck her away, asking me to give it to you when you were old enough to understand."
"So…When you said that my mother wanted me to have it…" Kouji tried to work his thoughts into words. "You didn't mean…the one I thought…But then…why didn't Father…?"
"The King hasn't looked at anyone properly for years." Lowe sighed, standing. "I get the feeling, sometimes, that he regrets what happened…after all, he still thinks Miss Tomoko was sold and her child murdered…it would weigh heavy on anyone's soul. It's been a great burden to him, all these years…"
There was silence as the thoughts worked themselves out in the boy's minds. Suddenly, Kouji's eyes lit up and he stood.
"I've got an idea." he said simply, grabbing Kouichi by the arm. "Come on."
Kouichi allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, yanked off in the direction of the castle. "Where're we going!"
"You'll see, now come on!"
Lowe chuckled a bit under his breath as he watched them go, then turned disposing of the remains of the villain's final stand.
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
A day of hearings may not seam particularly exhausting, but when you've heard the same proposal eight times from nine different people, it tends to try on one's nerves. Which is exactly the state the King was in when there was one last entrance requested…that of his son's.
"Kouji." The King sighed as the boy came through the grand double doors, stepping down off his throne and taking off the decorative crown. "Can't this wait? It's been such a long day, even a King needs some rest."
"Father." Kouji glared seriously. "This needs to be addressed. Now."
The King raised an eyebrow, curious at his son's serious reactions. But he sighed again. "Surely this can wait…"
He left off suddenly as another figure entered the room: A second boy, with short, dark hair falling into navy blue eyes. He entered hesitantly, looking afraid and almost weak, to stand beside the prince. They were dressed the same, in borrowed clothes, and when they were next to each other it was almost impossible to tell them apart.
The King's voice seamed to have vanished for a long while, then he managed to whisper one word: "…Kouichi?"
"…F-Father?" the boy gulped, afraid.
The King took a hesitant step forward, then suddenly rushed down and wrapped his arms around the boy. Kouichi took in a sharp breath, surprise keeping him from moving as the man stroked his hair.
"I never thought…" the old man whispered, then leaned back to looked at the boy again. "…I should have known when I saw you. Not your face…your eyes. You have Tomoko's eyes."
Kouichi hesitated a moment longer, then his face spread into a hesitant smile, eyes welling up with tears. He closed his eyes and buried them in the King's shoulder, whimpering. "Papa…"
The King smiled in a way he hadn't for years, holding the crying form lovingly. A short distance away, Kouji stood back, smiling the stunning, radiant smile he had held in such reserve for so long. He ran his fingers over the golden heart pendant, and for once in his life he felt…content.
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
The kingdom would soon undergo many changes, but, at the same time, changed very little.
For one, slavery was quickly abolished, the trade shut down almost overnight. Those who had been sold were either set free, or their masters were ordered to give payment for the services.
A certain restriction was placed on the practice of magic, to prevent creatures like Dusk from rising to power again.
But outside those minor details, life changed very little for the two Princes. Even though it was eventually found that Kouichi was oh-so-slightly older, he seeded the path to the throne to his more-experienced brother. As for the Queen, well, she was more than a little frustrated at first, but soon found that she had much in common with the other boy, and soon accepted him with a friendly air.
And in the end, there was peace with the two boys. Through it all, this story ended the way fairytales should…
Happily Ever After.