Everyone was gathered around the bed where Horo Horo, the usually cheerful and high-spirited blue-eyed ice shaman, was lying on the bed, breathing in sharp rasps of air. His face was pale, his body a mass of quivering sweat.
"I don't feel so good," moaned Horokei Usui, his eyelids half-closed.
Pirika, his younger sister, tried her best to smile confidently. "Y-You're imagining things. You…you look good, Onii-chan! Really good!"
"As in…really, really good?" murmured the shaman.
"Y-Yeah!" She turned to her brother's secret object of affections, Tamamura Tamao, asking her to cooperate. "R-Right, Tamao-chan?"
Bad move. The girl turned scarlet from the roots of her already pink hair up to the tips of her toes. "A-Anou…"
Horo opened one eye and looked at the prophetic young shaman. "You're lying."
"Um…" This only made Tamao blush hotter.
He suddenly grabbed his pillow which he was hugging, moaning in pain.
"Onii-chan!" His sister rushed to his side, shaking his shoulders. "Onii-chaaaan!"
"Horo Horo!" Oyamada Manta cried as well, but the height of the bed prevented him from going over to comfort him.
"Should we get a nun…uh…priest already?" asked Lyserg Diethyl, torn between seeing his friend get well and being able to see the nun-in-training Jeanne-sama.
"Horo Horo, my dear ole best friend!" Ryu of the Wooden Sword ran and scooped the blinking Pirika into his arms. "You were such a fine, fine friend, but don't worry, ole buddy! I will take care of your sister for you! I will hug her and love her and—" The blade of a certain spear pummeled on his head, and a second later, a kick sent him flying over to the other side of the room.
Ren Tao, who just arrived in the room straight from his training, placed his weapon on his shoulder, and then went to Horo's side, eyebrow arched. "So it's true that you're dying."
Horo paused long enough to glare at him, and then buried his head on his pillow.
Pirika, who had recovered, marched towards him, hands on her hips. "Hey, hey! Do you really have to act so arrogant until now? My brother's terribly sick. What he needs right now is some compassion. C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N."
Ren turned to her, as if asking her who did she think she was, wasting his time. In the end, he shrugged. "No, what your brother needs is a good slam on the face. In the first place, what is his illness anyway?"
She exhaled in exasperation. "Dr. Faust is coming anytime now to check on Onii-chan—"
A soft muffled cry from Horo Horo, whose head was still on the pillow.
"—and besides, I do not have to know his illness because I can see in his state right now that he's in great pain!" Her eyes crinkled in annoyance. "It's a sibling thing!"
Ren gazed at her for some seconds, and then let out a groan. "Fine, fine. Forget that I said anything."
"D-Don't fight, you two…"
Both heads turned to the boy on the bed.
Horo continued to speak. "I…I want you two to promise me…"
Hurriedly, Pirika clasped his hand. "Anything, Onii-chan. Anything." Her eyes were threatening to spill tears again.
The Ainu boy looked at Ren.
"What?" The Chinese shaman spat out. "You want me to hold your hand too?"
"You're…hardly my type…"
"Likewise." Ren crossed his arms, shaking his head. "Geez, I can't believe I'm actually in this blasted situation…"
"Ren, promise me…"
His narrowed eyes looked at the sick boy sideways.
"Promise me…that in my absence…you will take my place…"
Ren looked at teary-eyed Tamao, and then shrugged. "Yeah, yeah. I'll take care of your lady love. No problem."
"Not her, you stupid dwarf…" Horo gestured towards his sister.
This made the pointed-haired shaman cringe.
Slowly, a smile that the Chinese shaman would have thought of as wicked if not for his sick, bedridden situation formed on the Ainu's face. "Promise me…that you will be… the one to suf…undergo my sister's training program…that you'll obey whatever she tells you, and you'll never refuse her, and you will…"
"Dammit, dieeeeee!" He would have stabbed the ice shaman if not for Chocolove and Jun Tao quickly holding him back.
"Promise me…" murmured Horo Horo weakly, his trembling hand pointing his way.
He gaped at him openly, as if saying 'You wish!'.
"Promise meeee…" His monotonous tone suddenly turned whiny.
Making the Tao boy roll his eyes. Was everyone else in the room so gullible as to fall for this trick? He silently surveyed everyone's faces. Oh yes, they fell for it, indeed. Hook, line, and sinker.
Suddenly, Pirika grabbed his hand. "We promise you that, Onii-chan! We won't let you down! Never!"
Ren glared at her, asking her what right she had to decide for him, and she glared at him back, telling him that if he wished to talk about rights, he wouldn't get one in her court martial. He immediately shut up. This girl had the makings of a Kyouyama Anna, that was for sure.
"H-Here, Horo-kun…" Sniffling quietly, she sat down beside him. "You will be well, Horo-kun, don't worry."
"You know, Tamao-chan…I never got to tell you this, but…but…I've always thought of you…as…as…"
"Horo-kun!" gasped the girl, helplessly looking at him.
He smiled weakly. "As a strawberry cake."
"And I love cakes very much," he finished. "It's something…I always look for in the refrigerator. Even at the risk of diabetes…I…could never get enough…of its sweetness…cakes complete my life."
Ren fought the urge to gag. How lamer could this guy's confession get?
Tamao's cheeks turned warmer. "W-Why, thank you."
"Do we still have leftover cakes from last night?" he asked, suddenly feeling conversational.
This made the pink-haired house cook frown. "W-We did not have cakes last night, Horo-kun. We ran out of flour two weeks ago, remember?"
With that, his eyes flapped open. "Wait a minute…"
"Horo Horo!" Asakura Yoh entered the room, behind him his fiancée and the much-awaited Doctor Faust VII. "Hang on! Faust will check up on you."
"So are you really dying?" asked Faust cheerfully, preparing his operation gloves.
The Ainu's Adam's apple moved. "I…I hope not…"
"How do you feel?" continued the doctor, now taking out a whole board of surgical knives. Underneath the bed where he was hiding, Manta nearly squeaked.
Horo eyed the blades cautiously. "Uh…"
"You don't know?" Faust grinned. "No problem! My lovely Eliza will assist me in your physical examination. We'll know the cause of your illness in no time at all."
"C-Can't Eliza do it alone? W-Without you?"
Faust launched into one of his theatrical madman laughter, and then eyed him closely. "No."
"Yeeep!" Horo Horo suddenly collapsed back into bed, unconscious.
"Iieeee!" screeched Pirika, sobbing. "My brother…my brother's dead!"
"Horo-kun!" Tamao buried her face on her hands, weeping.
"He lived a good life, girls," said Ryu, placing consoling hands on both girls' shoulders. "Anyway, you must be strong. He has found his best place, and it's time you find yours. Allow me to guide you—"
The handle of the spear landed on his face, knocking the swordsman's teeth out. Ren let out a sigh, and then peered at the Ainu. "Is that guy really dead? As in really, really dead?"
"You speak my thoughts." Yoh's fiancée touched her itako beads around her wrist, eyes on the blue-haired shaman. "I didn't feel a soul come out of his body."
Faust inspected his body. "Hmm, he has signs of epigastric pain…" He tapped Horo's stomach. "And this seems like a sign of flatulence."
"What's the diagnosis then?" asked Jun worriedly. Her little brother snorted. He would rather see the autopsy than this. But since Horo Horo was still alive…
"It's either dyspepsia or…"
"He just ate some spoiled food, and his body just reacted too much."
Everyone's faces turned dark.
"I knew the prospect of Horo Horo dying was too good to be true," muttered Ren Tao, slapping his hand on his forehead.
"No last sacraments for him then." Lyserg looked down, depressed.
"What's dyspepsia?" asked Pirika.
"Indigestion," answered Lyserg, shaking his head.
"Spoiled food won't affect him," said Anna wryly. "Maybe it was the indigestion, after all."
Chocolove grinned. "Huh? Water fall?"
Everyone sweatdropped. They all had a fair guess on whose turn it was to replace Horo Horo in the hospital bed.
So in the end, it was all a waste of time. That Ren concluded as he struggled to push himself above the ground, ignoring the cruel glare of the sun. Everyone had pretty much returned to his and her respective lives, including him, who was back on training.
"Are you alright, Master Ren?" asked his power spirit, fanning himself.
He came out with a gruff 'Of course!'.
He was a warrior, after all. A Tao future clan head at that. He was stronger than all the negative forces of nature combined.
"Eighty-one…down…" A voice coming from above instructed. He glowered. Unfortunately, he was not prepared for THAT one force of life.
Pirika was sitting pretty on top of his perspiring back, sipping a tall glass of cold orange juice, as she flipped over her training program brochures. Taken from Anna, no doubt.
Hey, a promise was a promise…even if it wasn't he who exactly made it.
"Down, Tao boy, down," she yelled.
He shut his eyes tight, pushing away the urge to whip his spear out and slash this bossy little girl into thousand pieces of torn flesh.
Right now, he was sure that Horo Horo was sunbathing in the yard of Yoh Asakura's house as Tamao massages his back and feeds him grapes. And here he was sweating under the heartless glower of the sun at high noon, carrying out the stupid training programs of a kid who was more brutal than his own father.
There was no justice left in this world. And X-Laws was a lost cause from the start.
"Hey Bason, don't you think Ren-chan looks very cute when his face is all red and sweaty?" chirped Pirika in a syrupy voice that made him imagine of red ants creeping around his body. His breathing harshened.
His power spirit stole a look at him uncertainly, and then laughed uncomfortably. "M-Master Ren has always been…ah…cute."
"Bason…" His voice threatened apocalypse for the spirit.
"I know," agreed Pirika sweetly. "I've already noticed that since our days together in the…what's that place called, Tao Boy?"
"Patch Village," he said through gritted teeth, only to regret it a moment after. He caught her grin widen from the corner of his eyes. Damn, he wanted to pound his head repeatedly on the pavement for his stupidity.
"Oh, so you remember, Ren-chan!" she purred. "And we had the same place in mind! My, what a surprise! Do I smell romance, Ren-chan?"
Why oh why couldn't looks kill?
It was that damn ice shaman's fault. And his fault too, for being too much of a gentleman with promises. Damn, damn!
"Down, Ren-chan." With that, she gracefully slipped down to the ground, her long blue hair that smelled of brooks landing in perfect rhythm along with her hips. Even under the scorching rays of noon sun, she still managed to smell fresh and clean and lovely.
Her singsong voice interrupted his musing. "Training's done!"
He crumpled on the ground, not caring if it was unbecoming of the future Tao clan head. "And I managed to stay alive today. I'm stronger than I thought…" He ran his hand on his already sweat-wet hair, trying to deafen himself from the complaints of his aching muscles. He closed his eyes, catching his breath. Man, what he would give to find a pool of water in front of him. He could really use some cool water now.
Then he smelled it againthe faint scent of brooks. Unconsciously, he sniffed the air, knowing it would only linger for a while before dying under the hot noon breeze.
"Why the heck are you smelling me?" Pirika demanded, but her eyes were laughing at him silently. She was kneeling in front of him, handing him a towel.
He froze, blood and heartbeat pounding loudly at the same time. He knew the colors of his face had given his humiliation away.
"Well?" she asked, her eyes challenging him.
"None of your business," he snapped, grabbing the cloth from him.
She cupped her chin, watching him intently. "Hmm, you look the cutest when you're annoyed. Must do that often."
He threw her another lethal glare. As usual, she was not even affected. "Are you crushing on me, little girl?" he growled.
He watched her lips twist mischievously. "Are you?"
"W-What?" he spat out. How did the question return to him? "Rubbish." He got up and scrubbed himself briskly with the towel, firmly aware of the uncontrollable scarlet on his face.
"Juice, Ren-chan?" She offered him her orange juice, smiling apologetically.
He frowned at her, then snatched the glass from her hand. As he was just finishing the glass, Pirika spoke up.
"Hey, did I mention that the drink is spiked with love potion?"
Last Will and Testament
A three-month-delayed RenPiri fic grant for Deanette-nee-san. I'm sorry if my Christmas gift took me three months T.T