After running the bath, Kurogane sat waiting on his bed as Fai soaked for a while. He felt agitated, and after a while got up to change out of his training clothes; which he still had on from the morning. Sitting down again after he'd changed, his mind played over the day's events, wondering if it was going to be a pain having Amaterasu know about Fai.
After he felt Fai had had a reasonably long soak Kurogane rapped on the door and was answered by "Yes, Kuro-pon?" to which he replied by hauling Fai out of the bath a little more roughly than necessary.
The bath had done Fai good; his eyes seemed brighter and the fevered look was gone from his face. His burns still needed treatment however, and by unspoken consent Fai stayed still while Kurogane finished his back for him; gently smoothing the liquid over the merman's soft skin.
Tomoyo, with her uncanny timing, arrived immediately after he had finished, flourishing another robe for Fai to wear to dinner.
After Kurogane had translates Fai's thanks rather gruffly and the merman had shrugged on the robe, the three departed for the main dining hall- Tomoyo leading the way through the suspiciously empty halls with Kurogane following; Fai slung over his shoulder once more.
Amaterasu and Souma were the only people there when they arrived, sitting at the large and polished table that had been laden with a number of dishes.
"I have asked my sister to dismiss the servers for tonight." Tomoyo told Kurogane pleasantly, aware that he had spotted the lack of them. "I believe Fai-san will be more comfortable, as so."
Kurogane grunted non-committly, dragging out a chair to drop Fai in before the soldier sat down next to him.
"Wow!" Fai laughed, his eyes alight as they took in the food. He turned to smile appreciably at Tomoyo, who, understanding, smiled in return.
Kurogane, decidly ignoring them, went to eat the food he'd piled on his place- and was interrupted immediately by Amaterasu.
"I'm curious." The princess said quietly. "Tomoyo has told how you came across Fai. I wish to know where he comes from, after all, the legends of merpeople have always been considered false."
She looked pointedly at Kurogane as she spoke, and he set down his knife angrily, realizing he'd have to translate her questions and Fai's responses.
Sighing he turned to Fai, who was looking curious at the conversation.
"She wants to know where you come from." He grunted. However, he kept his eyes directly on the merman's noting the sudden weariness and deceit that entered them.
"Kurogane." The elder princess voice made him look up. "What is that?"
Kurogane looked at her, incredulous. "Japanese, what else?"
"That was not. It sounded very different." Amaterasu's eyes left him to examine Tomoyo, who was eating serenely.
"It is Fai-san's language." Tomoyo said gently, smiling at her sister in answer to the unspoken question. "As Fai-san can only understand Kurogane's Japanese, Kurogane can also understand Fai-san's language when he speaks it." As those around the table stared at her, she continued, smiling. "Kurogane spoke it unconsciously. That was the wish; to be able to understand each other."
"What the hell?" Kurogane growled, "Why didn't you just make him understand Japanese completely?"
"He does," Tomoyo said pleasantly. "When you speak it, and when he speaks to you. That was the wish." She repeated.
"You can understand Fai-san's language when he speaks to you, and when you speak to him." Tomoyo gently broke a roll in half to eat. "To be able communicate. Both languages must be included to do so; it is a connection."
Kurogane glared at her, annoyed at being wrapped up in such shifty magic. Amaterasu however, continued to watch Tomoyo, her facial expression carefully controlled.
Fai had sat and listened intently while this exchange had played out in front of him, but he now turned to Kurogane.
"What is it, Kuro-sama?"
Kurogane grunted irritably. "Looks like I can speak your stupid language or whatever." He was less than pleased about this.
Fai looked unsurprised, smiling happily at Kurogane as though he were a grumpy child. "Of course."
Kurogane snapped round, opening his mouth to angrily inquire if Fai had known this all along, but the merman had turned away to Amaterasu, a lying smile on his face.
"Princess, you wanted to know about me?" His eyes were lidded again, as Kurogane had noticed happened when he grew weary, and unconsciously the soldier tensed.
Translating stiffly, Kurogane put the question to Amaterasu, who nodded and motioned for Fai to continue.
The merman complied; his fake smile happily playing on his mouth. "Hmm, well to be honest, I'm not all that sure." Fai grinned. "I was born in the sea and I've been there since."
After Kurogane had translated – though his eyes had never left the merman- Amaterasu blinked.
"Are there others?" She asked politely. "Of your Kind?"
"There are!" Fai answered cheerfully, and his expression was intact and controlled. It was only Kurogane's eye's, so intent on the man, that noticed how edgy he had become.
Amaterasu seemed to perceive his reluctance, but before she could say anything Tomoyo once again spoke.
"Kurogane, may I ask something?" She folded her hands in her lap and looked at him happily.
"What?" The soldier grunted in return.
"I believe you'll have to return to your position tomorrow." Tomoyo smiled at him. "You're sure to be busy with the soldiers."
"I was gonna." Kurogane snapped irritably. "They're under my command."
"Yes." Tomoyo seemed undisturbed. "I was wondering what you planned to have Fai do during this time?"
The soldier looked at her quickly. "Can't he just stay in the room? In the bath or something?"
Tomoyo's tone was stern. "Fai-san is sure to get quite bored in that arrangement, Kurogane."
Kurogane grunted; signalling his unconcern. He'd rescued the guy, but he wasn't going to sit around entertaining him; he had work.
"Would you object to Fai-san spending the times you're away with me?" The little princess asked, causing Kurogane to pause; reflecting any hidden motives behind this request.
"I guess." He muttered finally, unable to find anything wrong with that idea; it would get Fai out of his hair after all.
"Good!" Tomoyo said pleased. "If you would just inquire of Fai if that suits him?"
Once Kurogane had related Tomoyo's suggestion to Fai, the merman smiled and answered through the soldier that he would be pleased to. He liked the little princess and her gently and sweet nature.
Tomoyo too was happy that Fai had accepted and reciprocated his smile, before once again returning to her dinner.
Kurogane, exasperated with both of them, ate as well, and the meal continued in silence.
Fai pressed his teeth hard together to keep them from clacking and waking Kurogane. The soldier had decided it would be best for Fai to spend the night soaking in the bath, where he was now as Kurogane slept.
The merman had found it impossible to sleep though, his burns were raw and smarting and though his skin felt ten times hotter than normal; his body was shivering fiercely- feeling colder than he'd ever been.
Wincing, he tried to lay lower in the bath, closing his eyes and resigning himself to suffering the night out, but it had hardly been more than a few minutes before he was scrambling out of the tub and bent over the toilet; nausea gripping him and wrenching the food from his stomach.
He coughed and sat back, shaking miserably, a grimace set on his face.
Fai's head snapped around to find Kurogane's form looming in the doorway; dressed in baggy night shirt and trousers, his spiky hair slightly ruffled from sleep.
The merman watched him, expected the soldier to turn away; disgusted. Instead, Fai blinked in surprise as Kurogane cursed again and strode over to him, crouching down to touch a hand to Fai's shaking back.
"You okay?" The man grunted; his brows drawn in a severe from.
Attempting a smile, Fai looked up at him. "I'm fine, Kuro-pon."
Kurogane's glare sharpened, looking Fai full in the face. "It's heat-stroke." He growled, more to himself than Fai. The soldier had seen it before; many of his men, new and careless, had suffered it in their first days of training. "Why the hell now? Usually it hits on the first day." The man frowned.
Fai gave a blank smile. "Tomoyo-chan's medicine must have delayed it." He said; trying for an easy cheerful tone. "But I guess it had to happen sometime."
Kurogane grunted in reply; accepting this. "You done?" He asked, glancing at the merman.
"Yeah. I'm okay, so Kuro-chan doesn't need to worry."
The answer only served to make the soldier's frown deepen and his exasperation peak. "C'mon." He growled, picking Fai up gently and moving him into the bedroom.
"I'm fine, Kuro-chan!" Fai laughed; trying to sound incensed, as though Kurogane were mothering him.
The man didn't reply; instead, he put Fai gently on the floor and fetched Tomoyo's bottle, squatting once more beside the merman once he had.
Instead of even bothering to let Fai attempt treating himself – the merman was still shivering too badly; his hands shaking – Kurogane carefully applied the mix himself, at the same time gently gripping Fai's arm to keep him from trembling.
"Tomoyo-chan said twice a day, Kuro-sama." Fai reminded the soldier between chattering teeth. Kurogane simply grunted.
"Shut up. You need it now." Ignoring him and continuing to smooth the medicine on Fai's flushed skin.
Resigned, Fai did his best to sit still until it was over, letting Kurogane treat his burns. Once again, the merman was surprised at how gently the callused hands were, and his evident worry stirred some long forgotten emotion in Fai's chest.
The hand stopped abruptly and Fai turned his head to watch Kurogane throw a pillow on the floor, along with one of the bed sheets. Grateful, the merman was about to crawl over and lay down when he found Kurogane's arms once more lifting him and dropping him, this time into the bed.
Surprised, Fai glanced up. "Kuro-chan?"
The soldier grunted; his face turned away from the merman as he threw the blankets over the Fai's shivering body.
Kurogane then made to move away- however, no sooner had he let go of Fai than the merman was slipping of the bed again; his tail dropped over the edge, combined with his trembling made it hard for him to stay on the single bed.
Fai laughed apologetically, trying to hold on, while feeling weak and sick to his stomach, finding his situation utterly ridiculous.
Kurogane put him up once more, using the heavy blankets to weigh him down and at the same time, hoping they would stop his shivering. Fai laid passively; his eyes closed and a bitter smile on his lips, but the trembling continued and once again he was sliding towards the edge of the mattress.
Kurogane cursed, seeming even more irritable than usual, and snatched the blanket and pillow from the floor, then- without warning- he dropped down by Fai's side, preventing him from falling off the bed.
Fai shoulders pressed lightly on the soldier's back and his shivering seemed to make the bed shake slightly as he blinked, and very slightly looked over his shoulder at Kurogane.
"What are you doing?" Fai asked, disguising his bewilderment with amusement.
"Making sure you don't fall." The soldier grumbled; eyes closed and his head leant his propped up arm.
The merman laughed, the sound quickly cut off by chattering teeth. "Kuro-pon is so kind!"
Fai felt the man tense, almost feeling his blush and anger in the dark room. "Just shut-up and go to sleep, idiot!"
Fai smiled to himself, laying his head back down. It was a while before his shivering seemed to lessen, and he felt slightly warmer; pressed against the soldier's back and the heavy sheets. He silently thanked Tomoyo again for her medicine; as the burns which had smarted earlier were now barely noticeable.
His thoughts though, spun rapidly, and a horrified feeling lurked somewhere in his chest, pushed down by his conscience. Buried even deeper, was something almost akin to yearning, but Fai denied it completely; closing his eyes to force sleep.
Kurogane awoke in the exact same position as he fallen asleep in, his training meaning that he never moved nor drifted off too deeply, as at any slight intrusion he should be fully awake and ready to fight.
Apprehensively, the soldier became aware of the warm body pressed against his back, closer than when he had last been conscious.
How in hell hadn't he noticed? Kurogane twisted silently to stare at the sleeping figure; who was laying on his stomach, face pressed into a pillow. Even if it was only a slight motion, he should have noticed it.
Kurogane frowned severely, he already felt distrusting about the merman and his presence; fully alert that there was something insincere about him, it seemed completely illogical-not to mention irritating- that he failed to notice and awaken.
Still staring, annoyed, at the pale form beside him, Kurogane found his eye's studying the man. The soldier was weary of people like him; those that had lying smiles that were used to hide something. And yet...there was another side to Fai. Kurogane would never have let him stay anywhere near the princess if he suspected the merman was dangerous. It was not malice or ill-intent the merman hid with all his might, but a weakness; a fear.
The soldier felt a sudden need to awaken the form beside him; to force Fai to look at him honestly for once and stop his idiotic masquerade. Of all things, Kurogane hated weakness- not the helplessness of a child or the sick- but the lack of worth that came from someone who should be strong, yet is afraid.
Kurogane didn't realize just how penetrating his eyes had become, how focused, until Fai shifted slightly, his head turning on the pillow to reveal the side of his face and one blurry blue eye- which immediately locked onto his.
For a minute that look was held by both of them – Fai's gaze becoming instantly alert as he stared back at the soldier, and then; Kurogane yanked back the bed covered, clambering out of the tousled bed.
His back to Fai, he began stripping off his night shirt, trying to divert his thoughts from the merman to the training session he had this morning.
Kurogane glanced around to find Fai leaning up in the bed, his hair ruffled and a default smile on his face, watching him.
Suddenly detesting getting undressed in front of the merman, Kurogane reached for the robe Fai had been wearing that night and tossed it over; grunting "Get dressed" and using the opportunity when Fai pulled it on to finish changing-unseen.
Picking up his sword and strapping it to his belt, he shrugged his shoulders, ridding them of the stiffness of sleep, and waited until Fai had navigated the loose robe and managed to get it on. Only then did it occur to the soldier that Fai should have put on more of Tomoyo's lotion before getting dressed.
Seemingly realizing the reason behind Kurogane's blank stare, Fai smiled and shook his head. "I think I'll be okay without Tomoyo-chan's medicine this morning." He held up an arm, to show how the flushing burn had faded. "Since you put some one last night, and I think the worst over." He said cheerfully.
Kurogane continued to stare at him a moment longer. "You feel sick or anything?" He grunted.
"Nope!" Fai flapped a hand breezily; as though dismissing Kurogane's concern. "I'm okay!"
Kurogane grunted a reply; pulling on his boots and double checking that his sword was strapped correctly, before finally moving over to the bed.
Fai smiled ruefully as Kurogane hoisted him over his shoulder, who didn't bother to warn him or ask permission – in fact, it didn't occur to the soldier to do either. The merman dangled there, perching his arms on the slope of the other man's shoulders and smiling brightly.
Sighing, Kurogane slipped out of the room in into the clear hall, taking an obscure route to the room Tomoyo had directed Fai to be bought in the morning. The palace was still quiet, and though there was the faint sound of motion and voices that occasionally drifted into the pair's hearing, they encountered no one on their way.
Reaching the room and supporting Fai on his shoulder with one arm, he brusquely knocked on the door; swinging it opens without waiting for a reply.
The interior was large and spacious; wide windows lining the walls – that is, where shelves of books did not occupy the space instead. A table with elegant chairs sat in one nook of the room, and opposite it- perched on a window sill with a large book resting in her lap; Tomoyo smiled at them as they entered.
She gently shut the book and placed it aside, slipping off the sill to walk towards the table. Pulling out a chair she motioned them over, smiling. "Good morning, Kurogane, Fai-san."
Kurogane grunted and said nothing, bringing Fai over and letting him slide down onto the chair, where the perched, sharing a smile with the princess.
"Make sure no one see's you." Kurogane growled simply to Fai, before turning to go. Tomoyo's light touch on his arm caused him to halt and glance back at her.
"Will you join us here for lunch, Kurogane?" The princess eyes were pleasant. "I will have it brought to this room."
Kurogane frowned. "Why? I was gonna eat out on the grounds like always."
Tomoyo smiled up at him, brightly. "I'm sure your men can spare you while they rest."
The soldier sighed, accepting in his own way, and turned to go, this time, Tomoyo simply smiled, letting him.
"See you later, Kuro-sama!" Fai grinned and flapped an arm from his position on the chair, and Kurogane grunted a reply, before slipping out the door towards the training grounds.
Fai watched him go; wishing he wouldn't – he wanted to talk to Tomoyo, and that would be difficult without the irritable soldier to translate.
When the door shut, Tomoyo walked back towards Fai, pausing at a one of the many shelves to draw a number of thick volumes down and into her arms. Then, she sat down gracefully next to Fai; spreading the books onto the table.
The merman watched interested, and reached to gently touch on the books – a rough ancient parchment under his fingers.
Tomoyo smiled and leaned forward to open it for him. "A book." She said quietly, looking at Fai.
"A book." Fai tried, raising his eyebrows, a suspicion of why Tomoyo had asked to see him beginning to form in his mind.
"Yes." The princess drew another of the volumes towards them; opening them to thick pages filled with illustrations and strange markings. Intrigued, Fai peered over them, grinning.
Only Tomoyo could have done it. In a simple and polite manner – not one of patronization, but that of easy conversation between two equals – she moved through the pages of each of the books on the table; pointing out details of illustrations, forming words for Fai to repeat, while the merman listened and learned.
When the volumes in front of them had been exhausted, she brought down new books; all of different topics and, with the same patience as she had with the first set, continued her lesson.
She linked the pictures on the pages with things around the room- pointing them out while she spoke. Fai found in one of the books; that of plants, that he could name many of them before she told him, because they were the same as Kurogane had showed him the day before. The princess was delighted, and Fai found himself smiling, actually enjoying the time. Tomoyo was kind and patient, her wise eyes seemed to know whatever he said – even felt- and while sometimes, Fai felt uneasy about it, he also found he trusted the little princess.
The hours they spent were not wasted – Fai was quick to catch on, and he remembered each of the names the princess gave him. He watched intently and studied the pictures the books displayed, and gathered from them what objects were used for, what was done to make food – numerous things that seemed bizarre and unworldly to the merman.
It was with surprise that Fai heard the thump at the door, and it swinging up. He glanced up to see the sky outside the window was bright – the morning had faded into afternoon without him noticing.
He looked round to see Kurogane closing the door behind him, the soldier's brow and shirt were damp with sweat and his eyes glittered; the pleasure of exertion and sparring bright in them. The larger man stopped suddenly and his eyes swept over the many books on the table with a frown.
"What're you doing?" He grunted, looking to Tomoyo.
"Hello, Kurogane." The princess smiled, remaining seated. "How was training?"
Kurogane didn't bother answering, but drew closer to the table, glancing down at the books again.
"Tomoyo-chan has been teaching me about your language and culture, Kuro-sama!" Fai grinned, stretching his arms across the table in ease.
"Why?" Kurogane grunted, bewildered.
The word, though Fai could not determine why- caused a slight twinge somewhere in his chest; immediately seeing what the soldier meant; why bother learning about them? He who was a temporary guest and a constant stranger? Fai reacted in habit; shielding his thoughts with a pleasant smile.
"Because it's fun, Kuro-chan." He told him, his voice light and amused.
Kurogane continued frowning; pulling out a chair and dropping into it – as though the conversation was more wearing then his hours of practice battles and drills.
"How was training?" Fai repeated Tomoyo's question with a half lidded smile at the soldier.
Kurogane glanced up at him and then away. "Normal. Less injuries then usual I guess." He grunted briefly.
His eyes found Tomoyo's and studied her knowing smile with faint apprehension.
A courteous knock caused him to glance tensly at the door- but Tomoyo rose easily and walked towards it; opening it a minute amount and slipping out into the hallway. The merman and Kurogane say and watched intently, relaxing a bit as the princess came back in; baring a platter of sliced meat, rice and bread. Fai grinned in delight as he saw she also carried a basket of apple in her other hand.
"Lunch." Tomoyo announced pleasantly; placing the food and basket on the table and returning to her seat.
Kurogane disappeared to tend to his men as soon as the meal was finished; leaving Fai and Tomoyo to continue the lesson.
Fai found his mind less engaged then before; sweeping back and forth briefly over the stoic soldier. He was beginning to piece together Kurogane's personality; learn his habits and manner. He enjoyed the man's quick and easy to a-light temper that made him so much more fun to tease, and though Fai wished Kurogane wasn't so shrewd and watchful, he enjoyed being around the soldier. It was clear to the merman that despite his scary looks; Kurogane was honest and kind- and fiercely protective of Tomoyo. He was blunt but honourable, arrogant yet deserving of it at the same time. There was the ruthlessness of a soldier in him – but Fai now knew it didn't stem from malice or evil; from watching Kurogane with his princess, the merman could see it came from a severe desire to protect.
While part of his brain wondered, Fai concentrated the other half of listening to Tomoyo, who was talking more than before – stringing together sentences that the merman tried to decipher. As the afternoon wore on, they abandoned the pages and Tomoyo helped Fai towards the window. In delight, Fai could see- though from a distance- a large group of men, twisting and thrusting with swords in hands at nimble partners. And, though Tomoyo pointed him out, Fai had no trouble recognizing the larger figure of his own soldier, hard at work at directing the training.
They spent the time by the window watching and talking; Tomoyo naming the motions the men made, as well as their weapons and armour. Through this aspect of the lesson, Fai found his eyes continually drawn back to the form leading the exercise, though if Tomoyo noticed, she decided not to mention it.
It was late when Kurogane trooped back towards the room, his muscles alive with the feeling of physical exertion. Not bothering to knock, he found the princess and the merman crouched over some cluttered piles of paper strewn before them on the floor. When they turned and saw him though, Tomoyo quickly but elegantly swept them from sight, getting up to place them on one of the bookshelves.
Telling himself he didn't want to know – Kurogane approached the pair, who were smiling at him.
"Hey Kuro-sama!" Fai laughed. "Is the soldier done training?"
Kurogane glared at him, but the man continued to sit relaxed on the floor, beaming.
"I suppose you should go change for dinner, Kurogane." Tomoyo said amiably. "And perhaps treat Fai-san's burns."
"Yeah," Kurogane grunted, stooping down briefly to pick Fai up- this time letting him rest against his chest.
"Thank you, Fai-san." Tomoyo turned her smile to the merman. "For the pleasure of your company."
"Yes, Tomoyo-chan." Fai said glancing at her to make sure he'd got it right. Kurogane started a bit, realizing the merman had understood- if not all, enough of- what Tomoyo had said to answer it, and he felt slight astonishment at Fai's ability to learn.
Tomoyo, in her mysterious manner, managed to produce from it's hiding place on one of the chairs a fresh robe of light blue for Fai, which she pressed on them before Kurogane finally managed to esxcape; tropping back to his own rooms with Fai in tow.
"What were you and the princess talking about?" Kurogane growled suddenly after a moment of silence.
"Hm?" Fai glanced at him, then smiled. "Everything! Tomoyo-chan was teaching me a lot about different things."
"What's wrong, Kuro-sama?"
"Nothing. Just don't see why you care is all."
Fai smiled bleakly, and said nothing for a moment. "Kuro-chan's world is so interesting!" He chirped, avoiding the soldier's.
Kurogane's however, suddenly became glaringly intent on Fai's face. "Why do you do that?" He growled.
Fai feigned innocence; keeping his smile intact. "Do what, Kuro-chii?"
Kurogane let out a rough sigh; infuriated with the stupid deceit. He said nothing however, and continued in silence until he got to his room, letting himself in and placing Fai in the bath once more.
Sitting on his bed while the other man soaked, Kurogane stared in thought at the wall of his room; trying his best to decipher the infuriating Fai.