TSK is copyright Tanemura Arina
this fic is copyright Meg 2005
(and Tanemura-sensei's welcome
to Hizuki, the little emo wanktard.)
scratches head This fic took me three years to write. Don't ask me why. SPOILERS for the entire series.
Tell you what, demons are as what demons do. A scared little boy, rejected and uncertain, waiting for someone to notice him, waiting for someone to put a hand on his head and tell him it was all right. An angry little boy, knowing he was different and not knowing why.
Demon child, come on. Some of us fell into heaven, and some of us fell down to hell. Waiting still, waiting, wanting, staring at that other little boy who turns into a dragon like he's supposed to, father's favorite son, everybody's darling, waiting for him. Waiting for rejection, waiting for those clear blue eyes to turn his way and see right through him.
He can't turn into a dragon. He makes the dragon instead. Big and angry, too big, too angry, so he's sorry, ok? He doesn't mean for this to happen, never meant for this to happen, father, I'm so sorry. The dragon he will never become rears up and roars but there is not fire but ice and it stabs him as it stabs everyone, as it stabs his father, as it stabs his village, and the ice is suddenly fire again.
You can raise an eagle with chickens but it's still got talons. Just because you were born in a barn doesn't make you a horse. Just because you wake and pray that today will be the day that you are one of them, that you are accepted, that you will make the air around you go POP! as your human form disappears and your dragon form comes through, doesn't mean it's going to happen.
Village dead now. Everything that matters to you is destroyed by your own hands. They hated you but you loved them.
And somehow one of them survives, somehow he survives, and you look at him and you say with perfect truth that it was probably a member of the demon clan that did it. That the dragon clan was a threat. And he believes you, which is worse, and you hate yourself more and more.
"Aren't you scared of me?"
There is a short pause while he looks at you like you're an idiot, a look he perfected on both you and the princess. "Why should I be?"
You open your mouth and close it again. "I would be." I am.
"I'm not you, am I."
He has a point.
Cats see a lot. Cats know a lot. Cats don't tell anybody anything. So when you go to one of them she just looks at you with her dark eyes and agrees to help you out. I can make you that sword, certainly. It's not going to cost you your soul but it's going to need a pint of blood. And a pound of flesh, if you think you can spare it. Preferably yours.
You agree, of course. You even cut out the meat, a little at a time, letting it heal in between, until the cat's got her blood and her meat and you sit and watch while she does something with it and it congeals and solidifies into a lump of dark red metal. And then she makes the sword for you, and it hurts like nothing else you've ever known.
This sword, she says, holding it out to you, properly, with it balanced on both hands, is you. Take care of it.
And you smile politely and nod, and she knows and you know that you might take care of the sword, but you aren't going to take care of yourself. Kitty just helped you commit suicide. A little bit at a time.
"Someday," he says, "I'll pay you back for telling her."
She turns around and looks at him, one fine black eyebrow raised. "Whenever you like."
"Why did you, anyway?"
"Because I didn't want you to throw your life away for nothing," she says, coolly, and walks off.
The demon clan, for obvious reasons, keeps to itself. No village, no anything. People tend to get upset when they find out there's a member of the demon clan around, and even if you can't be killed, you certainly can be very inconvienced by a mob sticking pointy objects in you and nailing you to something or burning you. So if you like hunting, you keep yourself to yourself so they won't find your lair, and if you don't like hunting, you keep yourself to yourself so you don't end up staring down the business end of a gun. Or worse. If you want to pretend you're human ... well.
The demon clan likes big cities. Room to hunt, room to hide, room to pretend that you're human. Room to pretend that you could not probably survive an earthquake or a fire or pretty much anything, really, if in a form that looks like Demon, Interrupted, in stone. Besides which, people pay good money for protection that really doesn't care about trifles like bullets or knives or even poison, and the best way to find the people willing to pay you is to be in the city. Some people are even willing to ignore the little problem of you not being human. Some people are even a little turned on by it, not that you personally have had anything to do with them. You've heard rumors, though, in the invisible way the demon clan manages to pass on news, that there's even better money to be had with that sort of people than with the sort of people who want protection.
Humans are sick, sick bastards, but the demon clan doesn't care.
It takes time, and patience, but slowly you find the members of your clan. Slowly the list of kills begins to build, and the members of your clan begin to spread rumors about you. Slowly, even humans and the other clans hear about you. There's someone killing demons, they say. Someone managed to find a way to kill the invincible demon clan.
Good riddance, say most of them.
You follow the rumors, the reports -- something killing humans, something demanding tribute, something coming in the dark of night -- and you find them. It's easier to kill than you thought it would be. Some of your clan are just barely human, abandoned by their dams to live or die, living off the blood of others. Like killing rabid animals, mostly.
You remember all of them.
He is at an inn somewhere, sitting alone while his brother chases after their princess, bellowing about schoolwork and protocol and God alone knows what else, looking up at the stars. The brothers have a silent agreement about the princess, a schedule never mentioned but carefully followed, where each of the brothers has so much time alone with the princess. He is thinking about the stars and his brother and their princess, and how much he loves them both and how much he deserves neither of them. He thinks about them and the last person he killed and the hatred in that person's eyes.
Someone sits beside him, and he turns his head to see a girl about his own age, pretty, with tired, sad eyes. She doesn't say anything, but reaches into the sleeve of her yukata and pulls out a knife and slashes her wrist open.
It heals in a second, the drops of blood hitting the ground as rubies.
He takes the knife from her and slashes his own wrist open. It's as close to a formal greeting as his clan comes to, a proof of what they are.
They sit in silence for a little longer, looking up at the stars. Finally, she says, "You hold the Li Night, don't you?"
"Yes," he says.
"How many have you killed now?"
He shrugs. "A lot."
She nods politely. "I was hoping I could find you," she says.
"Did you need something?" he asks, although he's already sure of what she wants from him.
"Yes," she says. "Would you mind terribly if I asked you to kill me?"
She sighs. "I'm tired."
He knows exactly what she means, and he nods. They sit for a little while longer, as the faint sounds of his brother and his princess arguing float toward them on the night air.
"I heard that one of us killed the village of the dragon clan," she says finally. "And there were only two survivors."
"That might be true," he says, politely.
"Does the other one know?"
He doesn't bother asking her what she means. "No."
He kisses her, a soft kiss that might be apology or a thank-you or simply a kiss.
She is smiling when she dies.
He rarely gets sick. He never even got sick during his student teaching, while the rest of his classmates wheezed and hacked their way through classrooms of childhood germs. It's a good thing, he supposes; his body processes medicine too quickly for it to have any effect, unless he drinks whole bottles of it, swallows handfuls of pills. You could hand him a bottle of rat poison, the type that you have to have fifteen or twenty different licences and certificates and trainings to even look at, that you have to handle in gloves and a gas mask and shower after you touch the bottle, and he could swallow the whole thing down and walk away with a mild headache and a queasy stomach.
But he rarely gets sick, and neither does his brother -- although when his brother manages to come down with something, he comes down good and hard, not like him. He sneezes for a day, maybe gets a sore throat or doesn't quite feel like eating. His brother spends a week in misery and lightheaded conviction that their princess is combining mischief somewhere he can't stop her, that she's going to do something without him to catch her at it. Usually both he and their princess spend most of their time trying to keep his brother at least sitting down, until at last he falls into sudden heavy sleep and wakes recovered but even more irritable than usual.
The only time he was ever very ill was when someone tried to poison their princess, and he'd laughingly stolen the food they'd put it in -- a cake? ice cream? he forgets now -- and ate it before she could. The bittersick cloying scent/taste of it had filled the air, but the only other person who could sense it was his brother, and he was moving, hawk-swift, toward the poisoner, and struck as he himself fell to the ground, retching up blood and fighting the stone-change as hard as he could.
He's pretty sure it wasn't the poison that made him ill, but fighting the change. He still isn't sure.
The next thing he remembers, though, is being in bed with his brother yelling at him with a voice shaking with fear turned to rage not to die goddammit Hizuki wake up that was an ORDER he was going to fucking kill him if the princess didn't get to him first come on goddamn you son of a bitch brother brother brother wake up /wake up/ WAKE UP don't leave me what would our lord father say dammit you can't fucking die and leave me to deal with her I need you she needs you she'll be sad she'll cry you can't make her cry goddamn you WAKE UP.
The doctor said that he was very lucky, very lucky indeed; somehow the poisoner had gotten Mazoku venom, from someone who carried poison like blood in their veins and had fangs like a cobra, probably, but he'd managed to live through it with only a week in a coma to show for it.
(He found out much later, very very much later, after everything had happened, that his brother had locked the doors, claimed he was wild and delirious and didn't know even him from a nail on the wall, and did anybody want to be within striking distance of a member of the dragon clan who was out of his mind and apt to attack anything that moved? and sat and watched as his blood took over and he lay encased in stone. He cursed at him, called him, until at last the stone shattered and he knew his brother, the traitor who had killed his family and his clan, would live, and crushed the stone that had encased him and scattered it before he allowed anyone in the room.
He asked his brother why he had done that, and his brother turned and looked at him as if he had finally managed to produce a piece of idiocy that stunned even HIM, and said, You're my brother.)
The next time someone tried to poison their princess, his body was ready for the venom, and even though he collapsed long enough for his brother to catch the poisoner and snap their neck like a piece of dried kindling (nobody touches her nobody hurts her she's ours she's ours we are hers forever and completely she is our princess), he got away with a fever and a horrible prickling feeling like his blood had turned into small, sharp rubies.
That ability works against him, though; no medicine stays long enough in his system to have any effect. He can't get drunk, either.
Never, ever, even if he drank bottles upon bottles of hard liquor, and he wishes he could. No brief euphoria for him, no forgetting, ever. Forever and ever I will remember my sins, forever and ever, amen.
His brother is also more or less immune to alcohol, although if he ever sat down and really /tried/ he could probably manage a buzz eventually. By some strange quirk of genetics or dragon nature, though, his brother gets incredibly high when he eats chocolate. His brother is so serious and self-controlled that it is even more unnerving than it ought to be to see him half-float through the palace, a dreamy smile on his face, his eyes glazed as he flies through some world of his own.
What is worse, though is the way his brother loses every inhibition he had ever had or been trained into or taught himself.
The first warning you get is usually some guard bellowing in panic or your princess shrieking your name at the top of her lungs HIZUKI HIZUKI COME HERE DEAL WITH HIIIIM!!!! as she tries to hold your brother off. Your brother generally can't be held off, though, and by the time you reach them he is melted over her, relaxed, smiling vaguely, in a world of his own where there is only warmth and light and a princess to hold and cuddle and pet, like a cat or a puppy or who knows what your brother is thinking in that state. Your princess is always shrieking, trying to push him off, get off me Sakataki RIGHT NOW, do you hear me?! GET OFF!! and when you run up she gives you a look that means your afternoon and probably the entire night is now gone to dealing with your brother, stoned out of his mind and happy to be there, thanks.
Someday you will sit down and figure out why your brother always turns and looks at you when you groan and give in, why his eyes brighten -- he's always so feral in this state, as if his human, rational mind has clocked out and left the dragon part of him completely in charge -- and he lets go of your princess, only to attach himself to you instead. All you can do is curse him and curse dragon DNA and quietly curse your princess for a coward as she flees without shame.
Dragons are very attracted to warmth, it seems. And what they think are other dragons, but you can't think of that right now. You'd never had chocolate before coming to the palace, and whether that's simply because it was too hard to come by, too soft for the warrior clan, or because, God forbid, all dragons react like that, is something you'll never know. You try not to think about that, because it brings to mind clutches of dragons all curled around each other, long necks tucked around each other and tails tangling any-which-way, dreamy and relaxed and seeking warmth like lizards in the desert sun, and that is something that is too disturbingly absurd to even think about. Certainly chocolate never affects you. You rather like chocolate, but it never even gives you a sugar rush.
Once you sat down and figured it out, so many killings a year over the years -- you didn't start right away, you had to wait a few years while you found out who could make the weapon to kill -- and you realized you had killed over ten people a year, closer to twenty, actually.
The definition of a serial killer. Or an assasin.
Or, for that matter, the demon clan.
He was such a nice person, they always say, so nice and quiet and kept to himself. Can't believe he did that. Such a polite person, so nice.
So very deadly.
He was angry, but resigned, when he found out that his brother had saved her from the other mazoku -- he couldn't kill her, not without everybody finding out, not without showing his true colors, and he didn't want to, not yet, just for a little longer, he thinks, let me be just a little longer, let me lie to them just a while more -- but more than that he was relieved. Soon enough, he would lose his last excuse, soon enough they would be able to care for themselves without him. His brother and his princess grow closer every day, and he hates it and welcomes it all at once.
He wanted to kill her. He needed to kill her, to make her pay for making them sad, for making them upset, he wanted. To kill her, slowly, slowly driving the Li Night into her heart, an inch at a time, while she tried to transform and discovered she couldn't. He wanted to be covered with her blood, laughing as she screamed, laughing as the screams turned into horrible choked sounds.
But he couldn't, and the princess saved the others, as a princess should, and his brother saved the princess, as a prince shoud, and he hid in the shadows like a villian should. You hurt them, he imagined himself saying, this is what happens to people who hurt them, this is what you (I) deserve. I you we. Deserve this. Demons deserve the sword. Those who live by the sword will die by it and it will be the good that inherit the earth because we've left them nothing else after our hunger was satisfied.
Darkness eats the darkness and all that comes from it and the light will eat the darkness without even knowing it, without knowing what it is doing because the darkness is weak and the light is strong.
He dreams at night after he kills his own, and his dreams are of the moment that the Li Night is turned against him oh to be free at last. He can't say he's sorry, he can't say it enough, so he will pay blood-debt instead.
The first time the princess ever really struck anybody, really really in anger struck them, was when she came between them. They'd been hit with bowling balls and fans and thumped repeatedly on the head with large sticks in her tantrums, but she'd never struck them in anger never struck anyone in anger, their gentle princess. And she hit him hard, flat-palmed and angry, and he'd been stunned more with the thought of /she hit someone in anger she really did/ than with the sting to his cheek.
It shocked his brother, too, more than anything else that could have happened, and then she called him an idiot and burst into tears and fell on his brother wailing. Typical, he thought, distantly, and began to move away. He'd failed, all that time and he'd failed. And it was his only chance, too; his brother wasn't so stupid to fall for the same trick twice and he'd spent nearly a decade setting this one up. He didn't have the patience to set it up again. He didn't have the time, he thought, as his brother petted their princess resignedly.
Princess Ui is not Princess Kyoko.
This is a simple fact that he still has trouble understanding. His brother, of course, seems to have no problem with it -- he treats Princess Kyoko as he always has, and Princess Ui with a polite deferential manner that drives Kyoko-sama insane even when not directed at her. Stop it, she wails, You're creeping me out, Sakataki, stop being so damn polite!
Ui-hime, retorts his brother, inarguably, appreciates /manners/.
Ui-hime also appreciates pretty clothing (like her sister), books (unlike her sister), food (she is the darling of the palace cook, who cannot believe that someone could enjoy his cooking so much and yet keep an air of delicacy like she was one meal away from floating away in the breeze -- Eat, princess, he says solictiously, eat, eat! Here is a new cake, invented just for your highness), and, for some unknown and doubtless terrifying reason, Hizuki.
Well, my darling, says the king, what will you do when you reach your majority?
Marry Hizuki, she says, calmly nibbling on some little treat the cook has made to tempt her appetite.
Ha ha ha, says his brother, with a total lack of fraternal sympathy. Serves you right.
Princess Ui dislikes being made to wait to eat, rain, and people brooding. It makes them look stupid, she says, disapproving, sinking beside him as he sits and watches the sleet fall outside in the palace garden. This is how your face looks. She makes a terrible face and surprises a small smile out of him. There, she says, that's better.
He closes his face again, offering her the wide smile he wears as a matter of course.
Don't make me slap you, she says, perfectly calm.
I don't know what you're talking about, he says.
Yes, you do. She settles herself more comfortably and holds out an imperious small hand. He sighs and digs out a bag of candy out of his pocket and hands it to her.
You should marry me, she says, eating chocolate like a little girl, wholy unselfconcious. Even Neesan thinks so.
I don't think so, he snaps, and gets up.
This chocolate is good, she says, placidly. You should buy more. For me.
That afternoon, when the sky clears, he is horrified to find himself in a chocolate shop.
Hizuki dreams of his family, his father, as he last saw them, bloodied and broken and uncomprehending. Father, he cries, Father, forgive me, please. His father says nothing, his face blackened with frost and fire. The smell of death rises, organic, suffocating. Father, he says, weeping, Father, Mother, Sakataki. He sees his brother lying beside their mother's body, a little bundle with flies buzzing around it, like doctors importantly examining the cause of death. They dip to his brother's mouth and drink the blood there in little kisses. Their eyes are covered in flies, like black flowers blossoming in their faces.
He is alone, and it is his fault, he will always be alone and nothing he can ever do will ever make up for this. He wants to die. He wants to join them. He wants them to live, and himself to die, and his tears are hot, molten rock, melting the ground he kneels on into glass.
Hizuki, says a voice behind him, Hizuki, what on earth are you doing? He turns to see his brother standing behind him, tall and strong, regarding him with puzzled exasperation.
I -- he begins, and turns to the corpses. You -- and he stops.
There's nothing /there/, says his brother, irritated. Only flowers.
And where his family lay dead, there is a patch of flowers, poppies and rosemary and roses, intertwined.
When Hizuki woke up, Ui-hime was beside him on the bed, her legs tucked neatly into her nightgown, watching him, her eyes solemn and unafraid.