1.

Sometimes, Ken thinks about getting back with Jose.

This is usually when he wakes up late at night, with the thunder of battles and the color of death everwhere he sees, when he has to hug his knees really hard so that he won't scream and wake up his dad. Then, he remembers how Christine felt with Jose, so safe and warm and happy. He remembers sitting on a couch, Christine's legs tucked beneath her and laughing at Jose's stories about his patients, or going to the movies hand in hand, or how, when Christine was sad Jose would know it and he would hold her and Christine wouldn't have to say anything.

When he thinks about that, Ken is sure that he wants it again. The part of him that still is Christine whispers, night-breeze soft how it would be, what he would have. Ken knows, with a certainty that comes from over four thousand years of memories and dozens of lives, that it wouldn't take him much because Jose already loves him and the memory of Christine is still fresh enough that he, most likely, still searches for traces of her in him. If he'd just push a little, let some more of Christine into his words, he knows that Jose wouldn't resist.

It never last more than a few moments of weakness, of being eight years old and being scared -- because the part of him that remains, only, Murata Ken is scared and tired and he doesn't want to deal with all of this. And the part of him that is still Christine – because it was just a few years ago and the part of her spirit that is still awake remains there – also tells him how it would break Jose, and Ken knows that it's better to yearn than to hurt him, because Jose doesn't deserve it.

So in those nights, he pulls the covers over his head and closes his eyes tight, repeating over and over:

He is not Christine, he's Murata Ken, age eight, and Jose is his doctor and friend and nothing else.

2.

As she finally takes off her shoes and sits down in what she hopes is a mostly hidden area, Gisela lets out a long, tired sigh, while making a mental list of why exactly she dislikes formal parties so much, starting, for example, with the fact that she can't get away with using her uniform and ending with the fact that, since she has to use a dress, she can't very well use her boots with said dress.

Whoever had designed high heels deserved a kick in his sensible area and then be forced to use them the rest of his hopefully ong and miserable life. Not everyone is like Yozak, who can run and jump wearing said monsters and still keep his neck intact.

Sighing again, Gisela lets the cool sufrace of the grass sooth her aching feet. She is oh so very tempted to order Dorcas to suddenly be awfully, violently sick so that she can make a gracious retreat that, if it it didn't mean she'd have to stand up and a) her feet would probably refuse to do so unless there was a goala coming after her and b) she risked getting exposed and thus forced to endure more small talk, she'd be doing so.

Instead, she leans on her hands against the bench she's sitting on and closes her eyes, letting the distand sound of music wash over her. Humming under her breath, she's completely started by the Sage's voice offering her a drink.

"Highness!" She doesn't blush, but she does move her feet a little under the bench she's currently sitting, hoping that her shoes, that are currently over the floor, aren't noticeable enough for the Sage to see them. "I didn't hear you come near."

"Is that so?" Murata grins as he moves to sit down, offering her one of the glasses he carries, his smile ever so cheerful, sweet and innocent, and while Gisela is sure that he is a very sweet person in his own way, she is also sure that the Sage hasn't been innocent since he stopped using diapers, which means that she is more than a little convinced that he's planning something.

Still, it's hard to know just what it is that he's planning, so she smiles, tilting her head to the side.

"What were you doing around here, Highness?"

"Trying to remember how to dance the Cabalcade traditional dance, I'm afraid," his lenses glint and his smile remains the same. "I'm not sure if it's step-jump-twirl or twirl-twirl-bow-step. Do you remember how it goes, miss Gisela?"

She knows for a fact that the great Sage spent a lot of time helping the maou learn the traditional dances of other countries, so Gisela also knows that there is little to no chance he doesn't remember.

So she smiles and nods, taking a sip of the sweet wine he brought for her.

"I'm sure I could help you remember, Highness."

"Really?" His eyes are still hiding something, she thinks, but she doubts he isn't being somewhat honest. "Oh, but I wouldn't want to bother you, miss Gisela."

"It won't be a bother, Highness," since she can use healing maryoku and all.

Murata stands up and offers her a hand, and if he's not as tall as the other lords she has danced today, at the very least he's keeping his eyes on her face. His hand is settled on her waist and he's smiling cheerfully and Gisela finds out that even with her feet still aching a little, she's also looking forward to dancing with him.

Well. Gisela supposes that if he really can't remember how to dance and he steps on her feet, she can do the same.

3.

"Okay, say, 'aaaaaaah'."

Yozak laughs, careful not to do it hard enough so that his still sore side will hurt, but does as the Sage says, accepting the spoonful of soup.

"Remind me to congratulate Doria," Yozak adds once he's done with the soup and the Sage has put the tray away. "That soup was amazing."

"Mmm, I'll take that as a compliment," the kid grins and Yozak stares for a moment before he laughs, harder this time, wincing as he puts a hand against his side.

"Never knew you could cook, Sage."

"Never really asked, did you?" The Sage grins before he tilts his head a little. "And if you roll over, I'll rub your back, too."

Yozak, who had been trying to roll his shoulders and head discretly, snickers again, pushing the blankets a little away – blasted bed rest – as he lets the pillows fall to the floor, instead pillowing his head in his arms.

"Clever hands for cooking and for massages? Why, Sage," Yozak teases, grinning. "If you ain't careful, you're gonna get slapped before you know it."

The sage laughs and Yozak feels how his weight shifts the mattress before he settles down his thighs. He can feel him lean forward, and then his breath upon his ear, warm and moist.

"Nah. Been there, done that. Not really my thing."

Yozak laughs and then moans as Murata straightens up again, digging thumbs down his back around the bruises he has. He breathes in slowly as some of his muscles complain before giving up and relaxing, but he smiles.

"Lucky me, then."

4.

Shibuya keeps shaking his head as they walk: it takes all of Ken's concentration to put a contrite face rather than to grin and laugh as he wants and play the part of apologetic teenager.

And he is sorry, after all, but Shibuya makes it hard to remember when he's almost acting like a dog.

"I'm really sorry, Shibuya" Ken says instead, a hand behind his head. "I should've stayed to help you."

"Nah," Shibuya grins, leaning his bike against his side, cocking his head to the side as if to let any
water that remains in his ears leak out. Ken bites his lip. "If you've done that, then we both would've been pushed into the toilet. You did the right thing, Murata. I should've done the same."

"For what it's worth it, I'm glad you didn't?" and since this is just the first time they're talking this way rather than mere classmates, he laughs to takes the possible seriousness off his voice. "My dad would've killed me if my school jacket had gotten wet."

The other teenager pretends a glare before his smile washes over his face, and that is a grace that Ken wonders if he takes from his previous reincarnation or if it's just Shibuya coming through, but the thought is ugly and unfair so he doesn't ponders on it much. Instead, Shibuya sighs and looks ahead, looking thoughtful and distand. Ken knows that he is, most likely, probably thinking that Shin Makoku is nothing but a dream because who'd believe that a fifteen years old boy could possibly become the demon king of a whole new world?

Then Shibuya shakes his head and laughs, the sun over his face. Ken can't really read his expression, but if he'd have to guess, he'd say that he has just decided that it doesn't matter if it was a dream or not, because it was a nice one to have.

"Well; I just hope that there's not a next one. Mom's already gonna shout enough when I tell her that I'm going back to baseball."

"Eh? Seriously?" Ken blinks and then grins. "Awesome!"

"I didn't know you liked baseball, Murata!"

Yuuri's grin is saying that he is about to launch himself into a thousand words a minute about his favorite teams and stats of the season, so Ken laughs and nods.

"Yeah! I just, you know, suck about playing it. But I'm the new manager of the team. I was surprised you weren't part of it."

"Man, the coach's so gonna kill me," Shibuya says sheepishly, but he smiles at him again and for all that he has spent over eight years of his life smiling all the time, Ken still remains surprised at how easy Shibuya makes it seem. "But at least that way we'll see each other frequently, yeah?"

Knowing what it's about to come in the next months, Ken has to refrain from laughing as he nods. Yuuri nods too, satisfied with his answer, pointing over the corner near the flowershop, indicating that he's turning there.

"Well, then... see you during practice, I guess," Ken smiles and bows his head a little. "And thanks again, Shibuya. I owe you."

"Nah, don't mention it. It was..." Shibuya's nose wrinkles as he thinks his next words. "... not my pleasure, but you don't owe me a thing."

Ken laughs again and starts walking down the street but then, Shibuya shouts his name. When he turns back, Shibuya has his open, friendly grin again and he's cocking his head to the side of his street.

"Oi! Wanna come over for dinner?"

"But... your mom..."

"Loves to have people over because other people aren't 'dirty, ungrateful baseball boys'. Besides, that way she'll be too distracted by you to yell at me."

Ken tries and fails not to laugh at Yuuri's falsetto. Instead, he lets himself fall for an honest invitation and a cheerful grin and the thought of eating dinner with someone else.

"Yeah. That'd be great."