Pairings/Characters: Homura x Kougaiji, Zenon, Shien, Lirin, Dokugakuji, Gyokumen Koushou
Prompts: Homura/Kougaiji; vision
A/N: This was originally written for valentine_smut 2010 but Real Life decided to be evil so I wasn't able to finish this in time. Still, I wanted to keep writing so here it is (and lacking porn for which I am most apologetic). I hope whoever gave me the original prompt will come across this and like it.
Beta: The ever-awesome whymzycal. Without her, this would probably be a lot crappier.

Love Your Enemy (It will drive him crazy)

Homura spent the first day of recon spying on Kougaiji as the prince sparred with Dokugakuji. Initially, he thought that he'd be bored to death. He was pleasantly surprised when he wasn't.

Kougaiji landed a blow against Dokugakuji's stomach, causing him to take a few stumbling steps back. Kougaiji was obviously much stronger than he looked, a fact that piqued Homura's interest. Despite being slim—for added speed and agility, Homura assumed—Kougaiji could still pack a punch.

Homura familiarized himself with how the prince attacked, evaded, and blocked. He admired how agile Kougaiji was, and was only slightly disappointed that he didn't use the fire magic that he allegedly possessed. Homura watched as the prince dodged Dokugakuji's blows, his body a graceful arc as he moved.

At the end of the day he knew almost every single move Kougaiji made during a fight. He also knew how Kougaiji's chest looked covered in a sheen of sweat and how the prince's pants hugged the curve of his ass faithfully when he extended his leg for a kick.

The fifth day was spent following Kougaiji through a small market town a few hours south of Houtou. It was Homura's first time surrounded by so many youkai, and he tugged on his hood, conscious of his mismatched eyes, though probably nobody around him knew what they meant.

He kept his distance from the prince, not wanting people to notice that he was tailing Kougaiji. He was having trouble keeping Kougaiji in sight, though; the villagers kept flocking around him. The older youkai bowed and praised him, saying that it was such an honor for Kougaiji-sama to come and visit their small town, and asking what they could do for him. The small children looked up at him in awe while the young women giggled shyly.

Kougaiji handled the crowd with ease, managing to pay attention to everyone that jostled for space around him. He even squatted down to talk to some of the children, making a little boy laugh when he reached out to mess up his hair.

Homura stayed near the back of the crowd, watching as Kougaiji excused himself and somehow managed to disentangle himself from the hands that clutched at him. He followed the prince to a stall that sold jewelry. Kougaiji bought a bracelet and blushed when the stall's owner insisted that he have it for free.

Homura's first thought was that a blushing Kougaiji was actually quite adorable. The second one was speculation about who the bracelet was for.

He managed not to laugh when Kougaiji practically ran away after putting some money in the protesting stall owner's hand.

During the twelfth day, Kougaiji didn't come out of Houtou Castle. Homura sat on one of the many cliffs that surrounded the castle, contemplating the complete waste of his day. He'd gone through the trouble of coming all the way to Houtou to spy on Kougaiji, and he hadn't even seen hide nor hair of him.

Feeling more than slightly annoyed, he stood up, getting ready to teleport back to Konran, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Homura turned around to look and saw Kougaiji on one of the balconies. He squinted to make sure that it was him, and when he saw the distinctive earrings, he ducked behind a nearby boulder, peering around the side to try and make out what the prince was doing.

He couldn't see much aside from Kougaiji's posture and the way he slumped against the balcony's railing. For a moment, Homura thought that the prince would jump. Concern welled up in him, hands spasming against the boulder he was hiding behind. The feeling was both unexpected and unwelcome.

Kougaiji didn't jump; he just ran his hand through his hair and then rubbed his eyes. Even from afar he looked completely drained. Homura watched Kougaiji until his legs started cramping from squatting too long behind his rock. On the way back to Konran, Homura wondered what had happened to make the prince look so tired.

The next day Homura wasn't able to go and do recon; Zenon had wanted to visit the place where he and his wife had once lived, and Homura couldn't find it in him to abandon his friend during what was obviously going to be a trying experience. However, Homura couldn't help but feel a bit miffed when Zenon pretty much ignored him to lean on Shien for emotional support instead. Personally, he felt that he was much more qualified to sympathize, seeing as he had lost Rinrei.

By the end of the month, Homura knew how easily Kougaiji could control the flying dragons they rode and knew how he couldn't really resist Lirin when she begged him for something. Homura knew the way Kougaiji's eyes lit up when he was with his little sister. It was different from how they looked when he was with Dokugakuji or Yaone, and sometimes, Homura wondered what the prince's eyes would look like when they were focused on him.

At that point, Homura realized that there wasn't really anything more he could learn from long-distance spying. Shien tried to dissuade Homura from embarking on his new campaign; after all, infiltrating Houtou Castle was no mean feat, even for a god. But Zenon sided with Homura, and it was with much suppressed smugness that Homura put on the special limiter that he'd bought during one of many unsavory, but necessary, transactions.

When he slipped on the ring, the first thing he felt was … nothing. Homura'd expected something to happen—being taken over by a sudden feeling of vulnerability, maybe—but not nothing. Shien told Homura that his chakra wasn't there anymore and Zenon handed him a mirror when he wanted to see what he looked like.

Homura's skin was a shade darker, his ears pointy, his teeth and nails sharper and longer, his chakra gone, and a vaguely dragon-shaped youkai marking had appeared on the side of his neck. What Homura stared at, though, were his eyes. Both of them were a deep blue, though if he squinted, he fancied he could see minute golden specks in the right one.

The last thing Homura did was to take off his shackles. He tensed up, trying to steel himself for the surge of power that usually came with the removal of his chains. This time, something did happen: there was the tiniest surge of energy, so weak that Homura could barely feel it moving through his body. He felt restless—though being restless was a lot better compared to the adrenaline-fueled craze he was usually in when he wasn't wearing his shackles.

Zenon was all for Homura going to Houtou as soon as he'd changed clothes, but Shien put his foot down. He insisted on making back-up plans for their back-up plans and raised an eyebrow when Zenon tried to argue otherwise, effectively silencing him. Homura wondered if his friends had started sleeping with each other yet.

It took around one more week before Shien was completely satisfied with their plans. He and Zenon accompanied Homura until they reached the market town near Houtou and left the war prince with a reminder to stay safe before they went on their way. Homura grinned. Honestly, Shien worried too much. Homura made them leave before the villagers started getting curious about the hooded and cloaked strangers fussing over a strange youkai.

Once they were gone, Homura made his way to Houtou Castle. He didn't seem to merit more than the occasional curious glance, and no one paid much attention to him; since this was one of the closest villages to Houtou, a lot of people passed by through on business, and strangers came and went without much notice.

From all the surveillance Homura'd done, he knew that in a few weeks time, a delegation from a powerful youkai clan somewhere to the north was arriving. He also knew that Houtou would be horribly understaffed for the occasion, Gyokumen Koushou having gotten rid of a huge number of servants in a hissy fit just last week.

Despite knowing all that, it was almost ridiculously easy to get hired as a helper in the kitchen, especially once the head cook got a good look at him and deemed it her duty to fatten him up since he was all skins and bones. She said that he was just like Kougaiji-sama—too skinny to be healthy and in dire need of feeding.

It took Homura three days before he got along with the entire kitchen staff. By then, he was mostly done with sketching the first five floors of Houtou's layout. He was also close enough with the servants that served food to the table as well, so when one of them got sick, no one complained when Homura took his place.

He pushed the cart through the door that led from the kitchens into the dining room, eyes taking in the table where Kougaiji was sitting with his sister and stepmother. From what the head cook had told Homura earlier, it wasn't common for Gyokumen Koushou to eat with her children. She also told him that when the delegation arrived, everyone would be eating in the much larger dining hall.

Since there were only three of them, Homura was the only one serving Gyokumen, Kougaiji, and Lirin. He pushed the cart around the table, placing food-laden plates in front of his new masters, pouring drinks, and trying not to be obvious about listening to Gyokumen instructing the prince and princess on how to behave when their guests arrived next week.

He noticed a golden bracelet around Lirin's wrist and remembered seeing Kougaiji buy it. When Lirin looked at him curiously—she'd probably felt him staring—he offered her a small smile and snuck some extra food onto her plate, earning a giant grin from her. Homura placed an extra helping on Kougaiji's plate as well, remembering the head cook's words.

As he served Kougaiji his drink, Homura took note of how stressed the prince still looked. Listening to Gyokumen Koushou as she went on and on about how they shouldn't offend the delegates because their help would be invaluable for the resurrection of Gyumao, Homura could guess at the source of Kougaiji's problems.

The next day, Homura was put in charge of bringing Kougaiji his breakfast. The prince had specifically requested him to do it, the head cook said, preparing the breakfast tray that Homura would be bringing up. When Homura asked her if she knew why, she just told him to relax and that it was probably nothing. She cut off further questions by sending him on his way, giving Homura directions to Kougaiji's bedroom.

The living quarters for the higher-ranking servants and the royal family were on a floor that Homura had yet to map out. As Homura exited the elevator, he looked around, trying to memorize the branching hallways that he could see, pushing the cart with the breakfast tray in front of him.

He was about to go down the nearest hallway when he remembered that he was supposed to be bringing Kougaiji his food. Not wanting to risk getting the prince angry and be sent packing because of a late breakfast, Homura walked briskly towards the prince's room, keeping count of the different corridors that led off to other rooms. He finally arrived at the prince's door, hesitating a moment before knocking. After a few seconds, Homura heard Kougaiji say, "Enter."

Homura opened the door and pushed the cart inside. Kougaiji's bedroom was large and, unsurprisingly, not lavishly decorated. Homura had guessed that the prince's room would be more practical and comfortable rather than opulent. He noticed the large open space in the middle of the room and wondered if Kougaiji used that area for training; there were scuff marks on the floor.

Kougaiji was sitting on his bed, on top of the sheets. Homura chose to ignore the fact that the prince was just wearing a robe and pushed the cart up to the side of the bed, then uncovered the breakfast tray and picked it up. He was surprised when Kougaiji took it from him and settled it on his own lap. Unsure if he was supposed to wait until the prince was done eating or come back for the tray later, Homura hovered by the bed as Kougaiji started eating.

Much to his annoyance, Homura started fidgeting, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Ever since he'd taken off his shackles, he'd been edgier than usual. Usually, when he was doing something, it was manageable, but just standing around and wondering if he should leave or not didn't help things.

"You're new here, right?"

It took a moment for Homura to realize that Kougaiji was talking to him. "Yes, my lord. I just started this week."

Kougaiji speared a bit of food with his fork. "Lirin seems to like you," he said conversationally. Homura's confusion must have been evident on his face because the prince went on to add, "You gave her an extra helping last night. She really likes eating." Homura memorized the fond smile that appeared on Kougaiji's face, confirming that one of Kougaiji's biggest weaknesses was his little sister.

"Lirin-sama seems like a healthy child," Homura answered neutrally, sticking his hands into his pockets, not knowing what else to do with them.

"You don't have to be nervous," Kougaiji said, smirking slightly. "I was just curious about you. I talk to all the new servants when they arrive. What's your name?"

Homura blinked curiously at Kougaiji and decided that the prince wasn't making fun of him. From what he'd learned about Kougaiji, it made sense that he would try to get to know about a new member of his household. The prince actually cared about the people who worked for him. That was one of the things that made him so charismatic.

The two of them talked as Kougaiji ate, Homura ending up casually sitting cross-legged on the floor. When the prince was done eating, Homura got up and took the breakfast tray from him, placing it back on the cart.

"Thank you for entertaining my questions," Kougaiji said politely as Homura bowed deferentially towards him.

"It was nothing, my lord," Homura answered, surprised when he realized that he actually meant it.

For the next several days, Kougaiji kept requesting that Homura be the one to bring up his breakfast. And every day, the two of them would talk. The conversation revolved around almost anything and everything, though Homura noticed that Kougaiji would never mention anything about his family—apart from Lirin. On his part, Homura was relieved when Kougaiji never asked about anything too personal.

Homura found himself slipping into his role more and more easily as time passed. He was on friendly terms with almost everybody in Houtou and that helped him with his mapping out of the castle. He usually hung out near the barracks when he wasn't really doing anything, the boisterous laughter and talk reminding him of the soldiers he used to work with in Heaven.

Homura found it difficult to keep contact with either Shien or Zenon. He asked the head cook if he could be the one to do the daily shopping at the nearby market town and used that as an excuse to meet up with the other two gods. Slowly but surely, they built up their plans, changing or adding parts based on the information Homura gleaned from his stay at the castle. They met only once or twice a week to keep the villagers from noticing them.

The hardest thing about the undercover work, however, was that Homura found it increasingly difficult to manage his pent-up energy. He'd dropped a couple of plates once or twice because his hands kept shaking, and training in the woods alone—moving for the sake of moving—wasn't helping anymore.

It was during one of his attempts at working off his extra energy that Lirin came across him in one of the woods near Houtou Castle. He was in the middle of punching a tree in half when he heard the merry jingle of the bells attached on the band she used to tie her hair back. Homura stopped mid-punch, not daring to turn around to look at the princess.

"Wow! You're strong," Lirin said excitedly, quickly moving so that she stood in front of him.

Not sure what to say, Homura replied, "Thank you, Lirin-sama."

Lirin bounced up towards him, excitement evident in her green eyes. "What's your name?" Before Homura could answer, she added, "Oh! Will you fight with me? Onii-chan's too busy to spar today."

"My name is Homura, Lirin-sama," Homura said. "And I don't think sparring is a good idea." Even with his shackles on, he was infinitely more powerful than a little youkai girl. And feeling on edge as he was right now, he wasn't really sure if he could pull his attacks so he wouldn't hurt her.

Before he could decide on how to turn her down nicely, she kicked him. He flew back a few feet, slamming up against a tree. Lirin grinned fiercely at him, already in a fighting stance. "Come on!" she said. "It'll be fun!" Homura opened his mouth to protest, but Lirin beat him to the punch, pouting and using the puppy eyes that were so effective on her older brother.

Homura thought again of all the reasons why he shouldn't spar with Lirin, decided that he could stop himself if things got out of hand, and attacked.

He quickly learned that he'd underestimated Lirin—like how he'd underestimated Kougaiji—and realized that he didn't have to hold back as much as he'd thought. While Lirin lacked the finesse and technique that her older brother had, she had much more raw strength and power than Kougaiji did.

Pretty soon, Homura was finding it harder and harder to keep himself in check. He threw a punch at Lirin, knowing that if it made contact, he'd probably break some of her bones. Luckily, she managed to evade it, doing a back flip and landing a few feet away. "Ha!" she shouted as she got ready to charge at him. "You missed!"


Homura and Lirin both froze in place. Kougaiji was standing in the clearing with them, arms crossed and disapproving frown on his face. The prince was obviously unhappy. Homura grimaced; he'd probably be fired because of this.

"How many times do I have to tell you that you're not supposed to go out alone?" Kougaiji snapped angrily. Homura thought he heard a thread of concern lacing the prince's words. "You're supposed to be with Yaone whenever you leave the castle."

"But onii-chan, I'm not alone!" Lirin protested. "I'm with Homura!"

Homura bent at the waist, bowing at low as he could without actually getting down on his knees. "I'm very sorry, Kougaiji-sama. I should have escorted Lirin-sama back to the castle when I saw her out here." He stayed bent, waiting for Kougaiji's response, sweat beading on his forehead.

Before the situation could get any more awkward, Lirin latched onto Kougaiji's arm, pouting. "It's because you wouldn't spar me with, onii-chan," she said. "That's why I had to sneak out and find something else to do."

Homura watched the anger drain from Kougaiji's face and vowed to sneak Lirin extra dessert for the rest of his stay at the castle.

The next day, Homura was cleaning dishes in the kitchen when Dokugakuji approached him with a surprising offer: Kougaiji wanted to know if he would be willing to undergo training and become Lirin's personal bodyguard. It took Homura three seconds to think about the pros and cons before he agreed.

Dokugakuji brought him to one of the castle's basement training rooms, shrugging when Homura asked him what was with the sudden offer. "He's coming down here in a bit. Why don't you ask him?" he said. "Wait here."

Homura sat down on one of the benches facing the empty practice mats, wondering if they'd found out that he wasn't really who he was pretending to be and this was all actually a plan to kill him. He was in the middle of wondering how to get a message out to Zenon and Shien when the door opened and Kougaiji walked in.

The prince smiled at him. "Relax, Homura." He closed the door and made his way towards the bench where Homura was sitting. "I'll get straight to the point. I watched you and Lirin for a bit yesterday before I stopped you. After seeing your skill, I want to offer you a new job here at the castle."

It was almost too good to be true. Being Lirin's bodyguard meant that he was actually required to go wherever she went, meant that he had access to a lot of places that he would have had to sneak into before this opportunity arose. Homura was practically cheering on the inside at the turn of events, but he knew he had to be careful about seeming too eager. "Are you sure about this, Kougaiji-sama?" he asked.

"I trust my judgment," Kougaiji answered evenly.

Homura's training started as soon as they managed to convince the head cook to let him go. It took a lot of cajoling—she felt that she was being thrown away—and Homura had to resist the urge to stab the woman and be done with it. It was Kougaiji's charisma that did the trick, and by the end of the day, Homura was moving his things into his new quarters near the barracks.

The next day, Homura ripped the soles off his shoes and went into town to buy a new pair to replace them. He met up with Shien and Zenon in an alley. While Zenon was busy laughing about how easily Homura had fooled everyone in Houtou, Shien reminded Homura to be extra careful and not to give anything away.

The hardest part about training was that he still had to hold back, even if he could let go a little more than he could with Lirin. He wasn't afraid to hurt the trainers and the soldiers that Kougaiji assigned to teach him, and Homura received glowing praise from the youkai who'd handled him. Homura had to remind himself that he wasn't doing well because he wanted to see the pleased look on Kougaiji's face.

When he was deemed good enough to be Lirin's bodyguard, Homura wasn't even operating at half of his true skill level. He began immediately, spending most of his day following the princess around and making sure that she was safe. He rarely tried to restrain Lirin from going into the various "forbidden" floors of the castle, taking advantage of her restlessness to gain access to levels he normally wouldn't be able to reach. Sometimes, he'd even encourage Lirin to go exploring.

Things got a lot harder when the delegation of foreign youkai finally arrived. Security was tightened and Kougaiji was much stricter when it came to scolding Lirin for wandering off. Homura's meetings with Shien and Zenon became practically non-existent, and he still hadn't managed to find out where Gyokumen Koushou kept the sutra that she was rumored to possess. To add to the trouble, one of the ambassadors had brought his son with him, and the much older youkai kept making unwanted passes at Lirin, which always ended up with her hiding behind either Kougaiji or Homura, depending on whoever was nearer.

It was in the middle of a self-pity session when Gyokumen Koushou suddenly announced that it was time to show their visitors the chamber where Gyumao was kept. Homura immediately perked up from where he was busy fending off Lirin's unwanted suitor. The chances of the Seiten Sutra being kept near Gyumao's body were great and he prayed that Lirin and Kougaiji would be expected to go along with their mother.

Homura barely restrained himself from jumping up and down in glee when Lirin and Kougaiji got on the elevator along with the rest of the group. The ride to the basement was quick, and Homura paused for a moment before stepping out of the elevator car when it finally stops.

Gyumao's frozen silhouette loomed menacingly against the far wall, the dim lighting barely illuminating his hulking form. Tangles of wires and tubes arced upwards from his body, disappearing into the ceiling which was so high above them that Homura couldn't see it. The thing that really caught his attention, however, was the scroll in the glass case mounted on the wall beside Gyumao's body.

As Gyokumen Koushou led the group of youkai further inside the room, Lirin trailing after them, Homura stayed back, watching Kougaiji standing a few feet away from him. The prince's entire body was rigid, his fists clenched, his mouth pressed into a thin line. He was pointedly looking at the tubing that led into his father's body.

"Are you all right, Kougaiji-sama?" Homura asked softly, making sure his voice didn't overpower Gyokumen Koushou's. "You seem … tense."

"I'm fine," Kougaiji said flatly.

He was obviously lying but Homura chose to keep quiet and focus on counting. He followed after the rest of the group, counting the number of steps he took until he reached the far wall where Gyokumen Koushou was showing off her stolen sutra. When Lirin got bored and wandered away from the group, he followed, still keeping count of the steps, memorizing the dimensions of the room. By the time they all went back upstairs, Homura could navigate around the basement in the dark.

That night, he wrote a letter addressed to himself. The next day, he showed the letter to Kougaiji and said that it was from his brother who'd just arrived in the nearby village to visit. After a few moments consideration, the prince let him have the day off and Homura bowed and thanked him profusely.

Shien and Zenon were eager to finally move into action, Zenon especially so. "It's easy for you to play undercover," he sniped at Homura. "You try pretending that Shien's your painfully shy wife. Let's see if you last half as long as I did." As Shien sharply rapped Zenon on the head with the butt of his whip, Homura tried not to think about the cover his friends had come up with.

The night before the planned attack, Homura found himself unable to sleep. He sat up in bed, running a hand through his hair and thinking about tomorrow. He thought about Heaven and Rinrei, Shien and Zenon, and what he would do if he died before he could finish what he'd set out to do.

He got out of bed and pulled on his boots. The urge to go to the basement and just sneak away with the sutra was strong, but he kept himself in check. Kougaiji at least deserved a fighting chance to defend his castle and attacking from within in the middle of the night really wasn't Homura's style.

Homura ended up wandering through the hallways, looking at old paintings and murals on the walls lit up by the weak moonlight that managed to get in through the open windows. He chatted with some of the night guards, telling them that he couldn't sleep when they asked why he was up and about.

Eventually, he ended up on the floor where the royal family's quarters and guestrooms were. He stopped outside the door to Lirin's bedroom, thinking about how he'd actually miss the princess a little bit once he left. He glanced at the door to Kougaiji's room, just beside his sister's, and admitted that he'd probably miss the prince a bit too.

The sound of muffled footsteps reached his ears. Homura moved quickly, going towards the nearest corner and hiding around the bend. When the footsteps stopped, he peered around the corner and saw Lirin's unwanted suitor standing in the middle of the hall. He swayed where he stood and Homura's nose wrinkled as the smell of alcohol reached him.

The ambassador's son nodded decisively and reached out to take hold of the handle of Kougaiji's bedroom door. Homura snorted derisively at the drunken mistake. Then he saw the dagger.

Without really thinking, he attacked, kicking the dagger out of the drunk youkai's hand. The young nobleman blinked at him stupidly, the surprise on his face quickly morphing into anger. "Asshole!" he shouted and tried to hit Homura. Rolling his eyes, Homura easily avoided the poorly-aimed punch and kicked the nobleman's legs. The youkai went down with an indignant squawk.

By that time, the noise of the quick scuffle had alerted the guards stationed nearby and they arrived, spears at the ready, to see what was happening. Bedroom doors opened and curious heads poked out to see what was happening. Kougaiji's door opened as well and the prince stepped out into the hallway in a tightly-fastened robe.

"Go back into your room, Lirin," he said sternly when he saw her nudging the nobleman on the floor with her foot. One of the guards had placed the tip of a spear against the back of the youkai's neck as a warning and the ambassador's son didn't make any attempt to get up.

Lirin pouted but went back into her room just as Gyokumen Koushou marched up to them. "What's going on here?" she demanded.

"That's what I'd like to know," Kougaiji said, turning to look at Homura.

Homura told them about not being able to sleep and wandering around the castle. He told them that he saw the ambassador's son about to try and enter Kougaiji's bedroom with a dagger in his hand. "I think he was about to assassinate the prince," he said evenly.

"I was not," was the mumbled retort from somewhere by their feet. "Was just gonna try an' get Lirin-sama to be nicer t' me, s'all. Didn' know it was the prince's room."

Kougaiji's fists burst into flames even as Gyokumen Koushou's face went stony. A guard hauled the drunk youkai up by the back of his tunic. There was a tense silence where everyone looked at Kougaiji, expecting him to hit the ambassador's son. Before anything could happen, Gyokumen Koushou broke the quiet. "Bring him to the dungeons," she said, her voice icy.

The guards marched their prisoner away, the offender's father chasing after them and berating his son for his highly embarrassing conduct. People started going back into their rooms, gossiping and whispering, looking at Gyokumen Koushou as she swept past them on the way back to her own chambers.

Homura turned to leave as well when a hand landed on his shoulder. "What is it, Kougaiji-sama?" he asked.

Kougaiji's lilac eyes looked steadily into his and Homura stuck his suddenly sweaty hands into his pockets. "I just wanted to thank you," Kougaiji said. And, after looking around to check that they were alone in the hall, he leaned forward and kissed Homura. It was quick and chaste and before Homura could react, Kougaiji's bedroom door had clicked shut.

Homura spent the rest of the night just looking up at the ceiling of his bedroom. When early morning came, he snuck out of the castle and made his way to the cliff where he was supposed to meet up with Zenon and Shien. The moment Shien handed him his shackles, he took off his ring limiter and tucked it into his back pocket. He'd probably throw it away later, but for now, it would be okay in his pocket.

"Homura, are you ready?" Shien asked, his voice soft.

Homura stood up and grinned. "As ready as I'll ever be."