Not in Our Stars, But in Ourselves.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings
Julius Caesar, Shakespeare.

"I'm dying," it's his greeting. Daikenja tries not to blanch at his words and he takes a slow, deep breath, to try and keep his reactions in control. Spitzburg smiles, and it's still the sun's smile upon him, despite his exhaustion, despite the dark shadows that have crept inside blue eyes.

He starts to speak about his research. He hasn't found a cure yet but perhaps soon, perhaps, perhaps, a thousand perhaps that form their future and nothing certain except for this: Shin Makoku's beloved's king is wasting away, and he's the only one aware of the fact. He says nothing in the end.

"Ah, you keep quiet, my Sage," Spitzburg smiles. He stands up and Daikenja wonders about this king, who hasn't allowed anyone else to find out about this darkness that is eating away his life and magic, and he wonders that Spitzburg still trusts in him despite the fact that it was his idea what is taking him to an early grave. "Does it show so much?"

"You have always liked your dramatics, have you not?" he finds himself saying instead of the apologies he had thought. Daikenja sighs. "Now, come. You need to rest. Tomorrow you have to--"

"Tomorrow I shall rest. And the day after that as well. And the day after that," Spitzburg interrupts him He's still smiling, but he looks at him with grim eyes. "I'm afraid that I cannot fight this anymore. "

"Are you certain?" This time he can't keep his questions to himself. "I'll have Lord Wincott fix a potion to give you more energy, something so--"

"It won't work, my Sage, and he already suspects enough with the beverages I take now," the lord interrupts. Carefully, he takes off his cape and his pelt, the shirt. The miasma covers most of his skin, and it has already reached his neck, the once soft skin of his wrists. Daikenja closes his eyes.

"So you see, Sage, how I'm running out of time."

"My lord," he starts, but he doesn't know what else to say. He feels shaken and weak, guilt eating at his breast, growing inside him like the miasma that devours his lord. Spitzburg's hand touches his face and his skin is the same Daikenja remembers, and he reaches for that hand, brushes a kiss against a beloved palm and tries, oh he tries so hard not to shake.

"If I could, I would still ask something of you," Spitzburg says softly.

"Anything," he promises.

Spitzburg remains quiet for long minutes and then, softly, he adds: "Even my death?"

It's like being hit by magic, or perhaps this is how it feels when a sword plunges its way through a body. Daikenja isn't sure if he's breathing, but then he bows his head forward, keeps his lord's hands clasped in his.

"Even your death," he agrees, and he's distantly aware that his voice doesn't shake.

"I have asked so much of you already, and I keep doing it," Spitzburg says. He breaks apart and Daikenja lets him go, and he watches how Spitzburg puts on his shirt, covering the disease Soushi has brought upon him. Once clothed, Spitzburg gets close to him once more, touches his face again, leans his forehead against his. "And yet, if you could... please, remember me kindly?"

This is no death, no promise of eternal slumber, not even the promise of reincarnation. Spitzburg is proud and he cares too much for this land to allow Soushi to roam free now that he's too weak to keep it within his body alone. One hundred years he lasted with this curse, and Daikenja knows that is but a speck of time, compared with how many centuries the proud demon king's soul will have to last carrying this disease until the one who'll conquer Soushi is born.

When they kiss it's gentle, a touch that speaks of long campaigns and trust borne from within their heart. Spitzburg's hands tangle in his hair, touch the back of his neck, and Daikenja focuses on that for as long as he dares, until he fears he will not be able to follow this last command.

"I'm afraid," he speaks finally, shamed when his voice trembles. "That you are not allowed to a quiet death, if we want the miasma to remain a secret."

"I thought as much," Spitzburg says, and as he withdraws again to pick up his cape and pelt, he withdraws a plain dagger and offers him the hilt. Daikenja makes it so that his hand doesn't shake when he takes it. "Shall we take a walk down the garden? It's a beautiful night."

On their way out, Spitzburg informs the soldiers that he thought he saw a shadow outside his room, and he commands them to be careful. He laughs their suggestions for a escort away, and the love these soldiers have in his king is enough for Daikenja to look away, feeling like a traitor already.

So they walk and Daikenja hears Spitzburg talk about their campaigns, about the lords, about a thousand and one memories they share, about a thousand and more memories they do not. Daikenja's thirst for knowing all this remains, but he knows his cue when Spitzburg turns his back to him, when he looks up, glancing towards the full moon that baths the courtyard like this.

"Such wonder," Spitzburg says, and then nothing else as the dagger embeds itself between his blades. Daikenja holds him before he hits the floor, and he holds the lord as his body spasms, fighting to catch a breath that will not come, he holds him as the blood comes. He makes himself scream as Spitzburg is still alive for help, scream that someone has struck their lord, and he makes sure to use his maryoku to sooth the pain away. Spitzburg's eyes remain on his until the light flees and his breathing stop, and Daikenja still holds him, feeling the precious blood soak his clothes, the ground, his hands.

Spitzburg has always been such a fool and he won't follow him, won't be allowed yet, never yet, not until that blood is avenged.