The leaves crunched under his feet as he walked steadily toward the house cloaked in an unsettling quiet. It had been two days since the incident, two days since Kakyou had prostrated himself on the ground before him, begging the chance to dream no more, as his most recent dream had apparently not come true.
Two days, since the eradication of the kekkai at Rainbow Bridge.
And no sign of either casualty.
He had gone through the rubble of the bridge, but there was no lingering presence of Angel or Seal. All Kakyou could see concerning the combatants after that was a great, black space, like a bubble of oil, he had said. No past, no future.
However, he, the Kamui of the Angels, had a suspicion.
As he neared, a strange phenomenon was occurring. All signs of autumn began to fade, giving way to greenish leaves, which grew increasingly healthier as he approached. The brown brush gave way completely to lush life as he stepped into a ghostly gorgeous garden. A faint breeze shook the leaves and rustled the petals of the thriving camellias adorning the bushes, and the great, blooming sakura trees cast long shadows on the ground.
The light of the afternoon was dying away in the distance. But it was eternal spring in this garden. The power humming within the cores of the plants seemed to create an eerie glow despite the lack of actual light in the pervading shadows. There was life in this place, but it wasn't warm. Even the strangely calm, stone-lined pond in the middle of the garden seemed like ice. But no frost would kill this place.
…not a place kept alive by the generational magic of the Sakurazuka legacy.
He smiled as he walked up to the back sliding door of the house. It was impolite to enter a home from the rear; perhaps, but propriety wasn't his strong point anyway.
With a forceful push, he entered. The door rattled as it slid open, granting him access to the home.
The initial room he encountered was cold. Not so much in the way that a cold day felt. No, it wasn't in terms of temperature. It was clammy in much the same way a dead body was, just after it had been killed, even when all the warmth had yet to flee. Undeniably frigid, chilling in a way only death could be.
His footsteps were nonexistent as he slipped into the house unnoticed. It was dark inside. He didn't turn on any lights. He did not want to startle any wild beasts, after all. It was an old piece of advice to be weary of injured animals, even ones you knew well. His boots clicked slightly against the hardwood floor and he frowned at the startled noise that echoed in response from the deepest of alcoves. Animals had a keen sense of danger too it seemed.
He ventured forward, passing dark, unlit rooms until he finally came to the one from where a barely perceptible scratching sound was issuing. This room was lined with bars. This is where young assassins are raised, he thought to himself darkly. A fitting prison – a dismal place.
The hairs at the base of his neck prickled and he scowled, raising his hand to brush over them in confusion. He turned around, eyes lingering on the door from whence he had entered, still partly visible from his position deep in the hallway. He wasn't deep enough yet to no longer view his means of escape, not that he would need one. There was nothing threatening there. Rolling his eyes at his own uneasiness, he turned his attention back to the room lined with bars.
With a rush, a roar of sound assaulted his ears. It was illusory, not like the sounds heard within the bounds of reality, but rather a blast from within one's head, such as a popping noise in the ear when descending from too great a height at too fast a rate of speed. This time he half turned, not quite revealing his attention to whatever drifted so near with watchful eyes. The rush of sound faded abruptly to be replaced with a glittery noise, rather a cross between something made by a small bell or xylophone. It was off-key.
Next, the tinkling was joined by a flutter of noise, perhaps wind billowing against long kimono sleeves; perhaps, the wings of birds in flight. His peripheral vision was good, so he was able to make out the form of something slinking in the darkness down the hallway. He thinned his lips and tried to still the gooseflesh rising on his forearms. It wasn't for fear, the reactions his body was having. When faced with an apparition, no one could deny that the symptoms were only natural.
Again, the unusual glow was making its presence known. It wasn't at all unlike the nonexistent but undeniably real light that floated about the garden outside. Smirking, he turned to face the visitor. It fled, a firefly caught out of season. Before it dissipated, he made out the delicate form of a young sprite. It shone in bright shades of varying whites, the glow extending from its form to touch all the air that surrounded it. The eyes had been vibrant – green in a way brighter than leaves or grass. They reminded him of expensively cut emerald, the kind that had been in that jewelry shop the other day, before he had destroyed the store along with an important kekkai. The rose-petal lips had been a delicate shade of pink, like the stained sakura blossoms the Sakurazukamori tended.
Fly away little ghost, he murmured, a cruel smile twitching the corner of his lips.
Labeling the presence as unthreatening, he turned back to the prison room, placing one hand on the door and making ready to slide it open. The movement that sounded from within the room proved that a presence waited inside. The door was unnecessarily loud as he slid it open – it was probably one of those doors that hadn't been used nearly enough to slide smoothly. As soon as the dank, musty air from this new room hit him, he knew.
The room was dark, but he could just barely make out the form of a body scuttling across the floor like some deranged, overgrown beetle. The smell was almost intolerable, even for him, a Kamui who had murdered countless human beings. He heard the scratching of nails against wooden floor and grinned.
"Hello, Sakurazukamori," he greeted smoothly, the tone of his voice reverberating cruelly in a room that was too silent.
A few seconds passed, and the figure on the ground paused before sitting upright. The movements were jerky, like someone using their body for the first time after a traumatic traffic accident.
"Good afternoon," the figure replied, throat crackling as if parched from thirst.
"How are you?" Kamui inquired politely.
One could hear the dilapidated smile in that voice.
"This is a very nice house. The garden is lovely," Kamui continued, cautiously inching his finger towards the light switch.
A moment's silence; then, a murmured, "Yes."
"Have you been sleeping well?"
Kamui took a step to the side, and heard a quick sliding movement in response to his action. The Sakurazukamori had moved further away from him, he figured. With a lazy flick, he flipped the switch and was rewarded with a buzzing, inconsistent light overhead. It flickered a few times before settling on a dim state. It was good enough for him to see the inside of the room. He first noticed the space around his own feet – it was splashed with old, dried blood. Quite a large amount, by the looks of things, but then, the room did smell like decaying death.
He let his eyes travel the trail of blood leisurely. It led to the Sakurazukamori, past the Sakurazukamori. Just to the side of the hunched over man's crumpled figure was sprawled a vaguely familiar coat. It had once been white, had once belonged to a Dragon of Heaven. The back of it sported a large hole, around which the thickest of blood was gathered and crusted.
Blinking his eyes shrewdly, Kamui returned his attention to the Sakurazukamori, observing with indifference. The man was unclean – his hair was sticking out in all directions, and he was covered in specks of blood. He was curled about himself, long limbs folded protectively in a way that reminded Kamui of a lost child. So unlike his normal, nicely groomed persona.
The Sakurazukamori raised his face then, glass eye glinting in the dim light. A dead, false eye, it was…but the other eye looked just as dead. There were scratches adorning his entire face – most of them centered around his left eye and cheekbone. Glancing at his hands, one could see broken fingernails that were sullied with blood. Those hands were shaking, fingers shuddering with individual motion.
Kamui took a step further into the room, watching as the Sakurazukamori became more spooked by his presence, though the reaction was veiled impressively by a thin smile and the squaring of broad shoulders. But Kamui could see through anyone as easily as looking through a clear window on a sunny morning. Experimentally, he stooped to pick up the red-speckled coat. He turned it over, fingering the few spots of soft fabric between all the dried blood. The Sakurazukamori, meanwhile, was tense, muscles coiled as he pondered pouncing on his enemy to reclaim the coat. Kamui, as if sensing the irritation in the other, let it fall to the floor carelessly.
It fluttered as it fell, the long belt flapping like the wings of an innocent butterfly. He suspected that whenever the Sakurazukamori caught butterflies, he made a habit of rubbing his finger pads over the wings – diminishing its beauty, removing its chance of escape, and setting the stage for its quick death.
The Sakurazukamori strained an arm out to grip the edge of the coat, and he dragged it towards himself, burying his face in its folds and inhaling the sweet scent of blood. He smirked, the action a motion that had been practiced for so long it required no effort. He scooted towards his futon then, dismissing Kamui's presence as an unimportant nuisance. The mask of serenity and politeness had not lasted long. And even during its brilliant execution, it had flickered as steadily as the overhanging light.
Without speaking, he sauntered forward, boots clicking loudly against the hardwood floor. He came to a halt on the opposite side of the futon and stared down curiously. The Sakurazukamori was currently leaning over the covering, smoothing out whatever wrinkles had accumulated there.
Two days, since the eradication of the kekkai at Rainbow Bridge, he mused.
Two fighters; two supposed casualties.
Where there was one, there was the other.
The Sakurazukamori moved slightly, and Kamui was able to observe the other body nestled comfortably within the blankets. The Sakurazukamori flicked his eyes around nervously before throwing his arms out and leaning possessively over the one sleeping within the futon.
Kamui chuckled, nudging the side of the body with his foot. The body against his boot was stiff. His eyes traveled down the covered form until he found the feet, which were peeking just barely from underneath the luxurious covers. Very interesting indeed. But one alteration of one stitch in the fabric would not change the entire pattern—fate would remain on its steady course, directed by an unseen compass.
"It's a beautiful thing – when wishes come true," he murmured, gazing at the sunken cheeks of what could have one been called a beautiful man. Now, it was merely a body – parasites and natural decomposers working in such a way that the skin and organs were soon to be completely exhausted. Already, two days' time had caused the stench of rot and decay to stain the air in the stuffy room.
The Sakurazukamori swiveled his eye to gaze at him bitterly, his lips pulling back from his teeth just slightly in a display of basic human aggression.
"What do you think of him now?" Kamui called, his voice bouncing emptily off the walls. "You can no longer enjoy his beauty, so what purpose is there in holing yourself up with his rotting corpse?"
The Sakurazukamori's eye was more intense and gold-colored than he had ever seen it.
"Surely...you didn't love him?" Kamui chuckled, delighting in how the whole left side of the man's face twitched at the question. "Of course you didn't," he continued slyly, staring at the sunken spaces of the former Seal's eye sockets. "But I never had you pegged as a...necrophiliac."
The effect was immediate. Whatever false humanity had been painted on that face before melted away like hot wax. A ferocious snarl broke the short silence and teeth were bared in the manner of a rabid dog. Regression was an ugly thing, Kamui thought.
He danced away just as the other man had managed to stagger to his feet. The Sakurazukamori took a swing like him – it was rather graceless and very basic. With the Sumeragi, it seemed, had gone the Sakurazukamori's good sense. His thoughts were distracted as the man growled hotly and came at him again.
But Kamui just kept flitting out of reach. He stepped out of the room and hovered in the hallway, eyes daring the Sakurazukamori to come closer.
The Sakurazukamori stared at him maliciously.
"Are you really willing to come after me?" Kamui taunted. "If so, you'll have to leave him."
The Sakurazukamori froze, his eye moving rapidly to stare back at the precious bundle that lay in the futon.
Then, the fire died.
And Kamui was forgotten once more in favor of something infinitely more remarkable.
The Sakurazukamori's form crumpled once more, instantly making him seem shorter and smaller. He crossed the room with an almost drunken sway to his movements. He knelt by the futon and climbed inside, arms wrapping possessively around the body that rested there.
Seized by a pinch of distant pity, Kamui felt indistinctly like Monou Fuuma again. But the sensation passed quickly, and he made to shut the door behind him. Problematically, the door refused to shut completely. Kamui thought it was a regretful thing that it would not close – the odor would soon contaminate the entire house. On retrospect, however, given that this was a house belonging to a family of assassins, perhaps it didn't matter at all.
He walked down the dark hallway until he reached its end, and the backdoor leading to the garden was visible once more. He rested a hand against the handle but froze when the familiar sound of bells ringing echoed all around him. A breeze touched his cheek and he turned to glance down the hall at the opening to the room he had just exited.
The boy-sprite was back, doll-like hands resting against the doorframe as he peeked sadly inside at the room's inhabitant. Those evergreen eyes were glowing with anguish. His pale pink lips were moving silently, while his white shikufu was a stark contrast to the surrounding blackness.
Kamui tilted his head and smirked.
Where there was one, there was the other.
Sliding the door open, he stepped out. He never looked back.
End Part 1.
Disclaimer: CLAMP owns.
This is for FinMefiant. Happy birthday!