A/N: I'd like give my thanks to the readers and reviewers for staying with me till the end. Special thanks goes to the following:
May, who patiently listened and helped with the storyline.
LePetitPappillon, who proofread the first and last chapter and made a lot of great suggestions.
Thank you all!
Yes, sadly, this is the last chapter, and I want to apologize to the readers beforehand. There is character death, so read at your own risk! T^T
Chapter 10 – Last Farewell, and Epilogue
What now? There was no answer on his part. Now that he had been pushed into the light, things were no longer the same anymore, and he wished to return to the darkness, where his troubles were less complicated. The pang of betrayal left him raw in the chest, and bitterness flooded his mind with hate – the sense of revulsion for the fact that he could not bring himself to discard his sentiments for the traitor. Had it been with anyone else, he would not need to think twice for sweet retribution… but no… He could not even venture with that notion when it came to Arthur, despite that he bore the violent urge to kill him a hundred times over. His throat burned with qualms of grief, yet despite his want to scream out his anger, no voice would come, save for the cracked whimpers that were barely audible.
"Are you quite finished yet?" a woman called out dryly to him with a hint of annoyance, releasing her grip on his wrist with a thrust.
"I think you should mind your own business," Kiku flung a cold response at her as he rubbed upon said wrist.
"I think I am minding my own business, considering what you had planned to do with this," she held up the encased sword and dropped it before the Japanese man, "Now that both houses have mended ties, you should keep this away from my brother."
Then, darting her cold eyes to the entrance, where a young brunette was patiently conversing with the crabby rickshaw man, she hollered out authoritatively, "You there, you're drawing attention. Send the man on his way already," and before the young man could respond, she turned and walked back into the Siheyuan.
"Yes, ma'am," he bobbed his head up stiffly, finding no one else but the Japanese man before him. His green eyes lit up immediately when he caught sight of Kiku, and approached him with caution, as if they might have been watched.
"Ah, Kiku Honda?" he asked gently despite the anxiety written across his friendly features, "I'm Toris, one of the Baltic brothers. I've heard about you from Katyusha."
On the other hand, Kiku had no desire to speak with anyone, yet still… Old habits were hard to break, and he did not want be rude, "Yes, I am. Can I help you?"
"There's something I think you should know," as Toris began, the decrescendo apparent in his voice, "It's about your friend, Arthur Kirkland."
Mentally, Honda winced at each syllable of the traitor's name, but his neutral countenance remained intact, "Yes, what about him?"
Toris glanced around one more time, before he made his response, "He's in grave danger. They plan to have him shot tonight."
"'They'?" the Japanese man inquired without as much as a hint of worry.
"The men at the Union. Mr. Braginsky plans to execute Kirkland and another agent, even though the British Secret Services had promised not to further pursue with its affairs."
He felt his blood turn cold, but regardless, he pressed on with a steady voice, "Where and when will this happen?"
"Midnight at the amphitheater of Forgers Gate… Ruins not far from the Grand Bastion," the brunette divulged discreetly, "Do you think there's anything we can do?"
Kiku made no answer at first, but then, he walked over to where his katana lay and picked it up. Having dusted the dirt from the polished case, he partially unsheathed the blade, which glared sharply in the sunlight.
"I will take the necessary actions."
Thirty minutes until midnight, thought Kiku as he entered the site of his destination. Bricks and debris lay untouched in the subdued moonlight. The night was as silent as the way he treaded through the remains. His hands sweated on the case of his weapon, for the Japanese man had hardly loosened his grip since he had left the house. Despite that he came with resolve, he still ached at the chest with guilt, having to leave his family with only a note, but he knew if his siblings had realized his intentions, they would have held him back by all means. He did not want to further agitate his family, now that tensions had slightly eased in the Wang household. Though he still held a grudge over the Russian for the knife-wound, he apprehended that Braginsky was equally keen to protect his Brother Yao, which was probably for the best. It certainly was a relief, for he had matters of his own to settle.
Forgers Gate appeared to be an isolated section of the city, which was appropriate for an assassination to take place. He grimaced. How could he be so naïve to have himself sold – mind, body, and soul, to his beloved, only to have been swindled in the end – only to realize that all along, he was the enemy? Even if the enemy had wronged him terribly, Kiku did not revel when Toris had briefly disclosed that Arthur would be executed by the end of the night. If anything, he wanted to put and end to his personal affairs by his own hands, and not by the works of fate – which could be so cruelly ironic at the best of times.
CRACK. Out of the blue was the snapping sound of dry twigs. Kiku made no sudden movements, but tactfully readied his weapon, while his heart pulsated in increasing volumes.
"Who's there?" a familiar voice of striking British accent called out from the shadows, but the Japanese man did not answer back.
Arthur loomed into the moonlight. His emerald green eyes widened when he recognized the dark-haired youth before him. Unlike his usual composed self, the Englishman had frantic uneasiness spelled across his features, "Kiku? What the bloody hell are you doing here?"
Kiku fixed him an apathetic look with the dark void of his eyes, unsheathing the katana, "You and I have some unfinished business, Mr. Kirkland – or should I say 'K'?"
Without another word, the Japanese man lunged forward, storming his way to the blond, yet his endeavor was swiftly repelled.
"So you've figured it out…" Arthur blocked the assault with the guard of his sword, giving a once-over before he shoved his assailant back a few steps.
"…And I suppose this is how we'll finish things?"
Kiku stabbed forward, shooting Arthur a glare when the British man dodged the tip of his blade, "I thought there's another agent with you."
A smirk lifted at the corner of the Englishman's mouth, "I found his corpse on the steps of the Grand Bastion. If I didn't know any better, I think they're after me as well."
"Not that you have anything to do with this, I suppose?"
The inquiry infuriated the smaller man with disgust, and he slashed indignantly, effectively slitting through one of the sleeves of his opponent's coat. Offended to have the traitor grace him with such doubts, Kiku mounted a swift uppercut, nearly knocking the British man off his footing; however Arthur allowed himself to roll back to avoid the direct thrust of the katana.
"This will be easier if you stopped moving," Honda uttered bluntly.
On the floor, Arthur swiped at his opponent, who dropped his sword as he fell forward, crashing into the Englishman. When Kiku opened his eyes, he found himself face-to-face with the blond, who regarded him in all seriousness.
"What would you have me do, Kiku?" replied Arthur in between his breath.
Honda pulled out a knife, but Arthur quickly caught both of his hands. The placid green eyes met the fierce, bronze ones, trapping them in a fixed gaze. No matter how hard he had tried, Kiku could not tear his eyes from Arthur. He is the enemy… the villain who ruined your brother…the man who took advantage of you… And you will show him no mercy…spoke his conscience, as he attempted to stifle his emotions. Resistance was futile. The misery of his broken heart overtook his sense of reason, and the Japanese no longer persisted to struggle, releasing the weapon in his hand. The agent watched on, making no further attempt to fight.
"Why…" Kiku's voice cracked; the aloofness on the pale countenance had melted off, replaced by one mixed with anger, sorrow altogether, "Why did you give me the tea-box?"
The Englishman cast his eyes down with a painful smile, "You shouldn't be asking this, Kiku. If you're determined to kill me, you should do it now."
"I want your answer, Arthur," the youth commanded with irritation, "If you knew I was an enemy, then why did you give me something so important?"
Arthur released the latter's small hands, "Do it now before it's too late."
"Because it was then that I realized I had made the biggest mistake in my life," he admitted guiltily, his voice became unsteady, "I've done far too many things to be forgiven, and I couldn't bear to lie to you anymore."
He subtly placed the fallen dagger into the small hands, whispering gently, "This is the end. I either die by your hands or theirs."
Arthur's eyes brimmed with pain, as he closed the delicate fingers on the knife handle, his voice rising once more, "I only wanted you to know that I love you, Kiku."
The Japanese man clenched the given knife, raised it up, and, with a cry of distress, slammed it down with all his might. Fine strands of hair flew about, concealing the stream of tears trickling down along his cheeks. Self-restraint crumbled as he embraced the man beneath him. He gasped, choking in mournful lament of the work of his hands. Crimson liquid soaked around the knife and bled into Kiku's long, white sleeves. The blood was spilled as droplets of his tears fell on Arthur's paling visage. Revenge had been claimed, leaving the Japanese man no prouder than he was.
"Sayonara…" Kiku closed his eyes as he kissed Arthur on the lips...
But this is the end, and there was no going back...
Dabbing the sweat from his forehead with a hankerchief, Kiku marveled at the white and yellow chrysanthemums, having blossomed a second batch of flowers for the season. It was a nice surprise, considering that the plants were hardly lasting through the winter. To his delight, the chrysanthemums had bloomed quite beautifully; their stems were strong and firm; their broad florets of loosely arranged petals burgeoned invitingly of the new season. Adjacent were the newly planted roses, having flourished in the most variegated fashion.
"Kiku!" Mei called out from the doorway, "It's our turn to make lunch. Hurry up before Brother Yao gets home!"
"I'll be there in a moment," the brother acquiesced, and the little sister nodded before she went on her way.
Then, she popped her head from the red door again and announced giddily, "Oh, and Ivan's coming too, so we'll need to make extras."
Kiku bobbed his head, confirming her message.
In the past three months, Yao had healed progressively and eventually returned to the Circle. The organization had yet to recover from the damages of internal conflicts and factions, but the Chinese man's battles were not fought alone. Having concurred on the unification, he had been able to rebuild with the help of the Union, brick by brick. Recuperation proved to be difficult, but not impossible, and that gave Yao some hope as he sweated through his labors. Regaining some normality, the family felt slightly relieved of the weight on its shoulders, though Yong Soo and Kiku occasionally bickered over little things.
The Japanese man quietly snipped off a rose, set it into a clear vase of water, and placed it near the open window of his room. For a moment, he paused to gaze at the scarlet floret - just like the one in his flat...
"Kiku," Hong arrived before him as expressionless as ever, "I'll take care of the garden. You should probably go to the kitchen before Mei starts complaining."
The elder one acceded, handing Hong the scissors as he headed to the kitchen. How lovely, Kiku noted as he raised his eyes to the blue sky once more. His hand grabbed his chest tautly, as he reminisced of those bittersweet days.