I hope you've enjoyed my first Tactics story. Thank you for reading.
After a few days, it was as if nothing ever befell the arrogant folklorist. Things were back to normal. Or at least as normal as it got for them. Kantarou returned to his evil manipulating little self. Youko returned to nagging the writer and complaining about how she was worked to the bone. And Haruka merely did as he was told, making snide remarks whenever the situation called for it.
Business as usual.
However as the days passed, Haruka thought frequently over the advice that Sugino had given him. The way it was said made it seem so simple, but Haruka knew it was anything but. He had no idea what to really do or say. He understood every point the mountain god made, but it wasn't so clear cut for him. Each choice had a multitude of consequences. Some he shuddered to even consider.
It always came back to the final question Sugino offered him.
'Which choice would I regret more..?'
Every time he asked himself the less certain he was about his answer. How could he possibly know which choice he would regret more? You don't regret something until after you've done it.
'Then again.. Doing nothing is another choice... Would I regret doing nothing?' After a moment Haruka immediately nodded. He knew he would regret standing idly by and not making a decision either way. "Well.. That's one decision out of the way... Now what the hell do I do?" he muttered to himself in annoyance.
When only silence answered him he frowned and let himself flop back onto his futon. He was spending a lot of time in his room, like he always did when he was trying to figure out the troubles in his life. It sort of felt like he was sulking, which only agitated him. He was an all powerful tengu. He wasn't supposed to sulk.
"But here I am.. Sulking... Dammit, I am pathetic..." he grumbled to himself as he curled up in the sunlight that poured through his window right onto his futon.
He enjoyed watching the light that reflected off his many glass trinkets and made them sparkle. The shining lights eventually led to his memories of his master's eyes in the midst of that horrible fever. How he loved to look into those sparkling eyes. Though they didn't sparkle like they once had, he still enjoyed the life that seemed to shine within them. Whenever he could, he would watch those crimson depths and relish the secret knowledge that they belonged to him. Only Sugino knew his secret, and even though Kantarou didn't remember, Haruka still thought of the ruby eyes as his. It always made him smile on the inside whenever those eyes locked onto his own. It was a treasure that he had to enjoy in brief glances. Which seemed to make it all the more special.
The warmth and thoughts of his most precious possession was about to lull him into a light doze, but he was shaken from it when he heard his door begin to slide open. He frowned at the intrusion, but kept still and made himself ready to glare and growl at whoever was trying to disturb his peaceful moment. The growl died on his lips when his gaze met twin crimson. "Kantarou?"
The writer froze on seeing the tengu in his bed and immediately shrank back as if readying himself for a scolding. "Haruka.. I.. I thought you were out.." he seemed to stammer.
The nervousness in his master's voice was odd, but Haruka's attention quickly shifted to the box that the pale hands tried to hide miserably. "I came back and just climbed through my window... Why were wanting to come into my room while I was away?" he asked suspiciously. He still didn't fully trust this human, but he had to admit his schemes made things interesting.
A strange blush dusted over the pale cheeks as Kantarou shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Well.. I.. I had gotten you something..." he started slowly as he held up the box. "I.. Was going to leave it for you to find later, but.. Since you're here.. I guess I'll just give it to you now." he pieced together slowly. His gaze dropped to the threshold and he began to crouch down. "I'll just leave it here.."
Kantarou lifted his head to see the tengu sitting up straight on his futon with a curious expression on his face. "Yes, Haruka?"
Haruka motioned for the writer to enter his room. "Is it something I need for an upcoming case?" he questioned as he attempted to figure out what was going on with the human's strange behavior.
"Ah.. No.." Kantarou hesitantly stepped into the room and carried the box to the seated tengu. "It's... A gift."
"A gift?" When Kantarou nodded and held out the box to him, Haruka wasn't sure what to say. He carefully took the fair sized box from his master and looked at it with a puzzled expression. "Is there any reason?"
The human rubbed lightly at the back of his neck as he glanced away uneasily. "It's.. It's to thank you... Youko told me how you never left my side... Even though I don't remember..." Kantarou looked back to the deep eyes watching him. "It means a lot to me that you stayed.. I've been looking around for a while for something that might work, and I think I found something you will like."
"I see..." Haruka looked at the box for a moment then back to his master. "May I open it now?"
Kantarou blushed once more and gave a slight cough. "Actually.. I was still wanting to sort of surprise you.. Would you mind covering your eyes while I put them up?"
'Them.. So it's more than one?' Haruka nodded slightly and handed the box back. "Alright. When should I uncover my eyes?"
"You can once I leave the room. I won't take long."
Although he was still a bit suspicious, Haruka bowed his head and covered his eyes with his hands. He soon heard the lid of the box being removed and the sound of glass gently clinking together. 'From the pitch it sounds fragile... He's carrying it to my window...' He could hear more clinking and sound of something gently being tapped into wood. He heard the process being repeated one more time, the then soft shuffling of feet to his door. The sound of his door sliding shut was followed by footsteps that trailed off down the hall.
Once the footsteps faded, Haruka slowly lowered his hands from his face. His eyes cracked open, but he immediately became confused when he saw hundreds of red and prismatic dots of light covering his room. "What the..." He lifted his head towards his window only to freeze in alarm when he caught sight of what had been hung there.
Hung from his window frame by strings of red and clear crystal beads were two blown glass ornaments made of the most brilliant red glass that he had ever seen. The crystal beads sparkled and shined with the light and the twin delicate glass balls seemed to glow as they cast a red hue over Haruka's bed. It dazzled him into a state of awe to the point he wasn't aware when he finally moved to stand. His right hand was trembling slightly as he carefully took one of the delicate glass ornaments into his grasp. He could tell the glass was very thin, but the color was so captivating that he had to remind himself to breathe.
"It... It's the same color as his eyes..." he whispered as he held the ball of glass up to the light. The glass ball fit comfortably in his hand, and the warm red glow that spread over him from the light of the sun made a smile slowly curl onto his lips. "Beautiful..." he whispered as he admired his newest treasure in silence.
His eyes began to sting as his emotions were stirred once again, but this time for an entirely different reason. He was happy. His master had given him something far more precious that the human probably realized. It was like Kantarou found a way to actually give him the beautiful red sparkle that he loved so dearly.
Such a gift from his master made his chest ache. "Maybe.. A part of him does remember?"
Suddenly the urge to be near the human gripped at him tightly. After releasing the glass ornament carefully, Haruka moved to his door. He quickly made his way down the hall to the stairs, but when he reached the sitting room he was surprised when the human wasn't anywhere to be found. "Kantarou?"
"Kan-chan went out."
Haruka looked towards the back door to see Youko walking in with a basket full of freshly dried clothes from the line. "He went out?" he repeated with a frown.
The kitsune nodded and shifted the heavy basket in her arms. "Yeah, he seemed like he was in a hurry too. It was kinda strange, really." she mused with a thoughtful frown.
The tengu was about to frown as well, but his eyes caught on a thin silver bracelet that was on Youko's right wrist. "Is that a new bracelet?"
Youko instantly beamed as she placed the clothes basket on the table in the sitting room. "Isn't it pretty? Kan-chan gave it to me this morning. Look, it even has a cute little fox charm on it!" she chirped while holding out her wrist for inspection.
Haruka took hold of her delicate wrist and examined the small silver charm in the shape of a sitting fox. "It is pretty... He gave something to me just a few minutes ago, too. Said it was a thank you gift."
When her wrist was released, Youko tilted her head to the side curiously. "He said he had been looking for something special for you. Can you tell me what he got you?"
"Two red glass ornaments with some crystal beads. He hung them in my window before he left. They fill my entire room with little sparkles of light." Haruka described, still feeling a faint tingle down his spine from just recalling it.
Youko's eyes grew wide as a happy smile lit up her features. "It sounds pretty. Seems like Kan-chan found the perfect thing for you."
"Yes..." Haruka glanced towards the front door as that urge to find his master tugged at his heart once more. "Did he say where he was going?"
"No, he just said not to worry about making anything for him for dinner. I'm guessing that means he won't be back until tonight." On seeing the strange look on the tengu's face, Youko began to frown in concern. "Haruka-chan...? Is something wrong?"
Shaking out of the daze he seemed to have fallen into, Haruka let out a sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "No.. I.. Was just hoping to be able to talk with him for a moment..."
The wistful tone had Youko confused for a moment, but soon her eyes lit up with a knowing expression. "You know.. It's only been about five minutes.. He couldn't have gotten very far on foot. Why don't you try to catch up with him?"
Haruka was about to decline, but he paused when he noticed the strange look that the kitsune was giving him. "Why are you looking at me like that..?"
Youko smirked and lightly nudged the clueless tengu in the side. "Don't play dumb with me, Mr. Big bad demon eater. You've been giving Kan-chan gooey looks ever since he got better."
"Gooey looks..?" Haruka nearly balked.
"You know! Those little looks the girls give you all the time! If you were any more obvious, you'd have little pink hearts floating around your head with sparkly bubbles." Youko accused with a wide grin.
Haruka felt his cheeks begin to heat up, but stiffly turned away before the kistune could see. "How absurd. I'm going back to bed." he muttered loudly.
Youko was still grinning as she placed her hands on her hips. "Have it your way. Still, it'd be a real shame if that new school teacher got a hold of him. She's been trying to butter Kan-chan up for a while now. In fact I think he was heading in the direction of the school when he left. I wouldn't be surprised if she was hanging all over him right about now." she called out a bit louder than really necessary.
When the sound of Haruka's footsteps suddenly stopped, Youko smirked and began counting down. '5... 4... 3... 2... 1...'
A blur suddenly shot out of the hallway and towards the front door. Youko had to stop herself from giggling as the tengu quickly put his shoes on. "Go get him, tiger!" she cheered, ignoring the several grumbled curses he threw her way before the door opened and slammed shut.
Now alone, Youko had an infinitely pleased smile on her face.
"About damn time."
In the air before his feet ever touched the road, Haruka flew high into the sky to hunt down his master. For some reason his heart was pounding and this weird possessive instinct was telling him to locate the writer fast. Just the thought of that bombshell of a school teacher latching on to his Kantarou made his teeth grind.
"I'll rip that harpy apart if she even looks at him.." he muttered as his eyes continued to scour the land.
It took him a moment, but he soon spotted the red hakama heading in the direction of the school. A growl rumbled in his throat as made a sharp dive.
On the ground, Kantarou slowly shuffled along the road, his gaze cast down on the ground passing beneath his feet. His mind was churning with several different thoughts, but a sharp nervousness was causing him to ring his hands tightly in his sleeves. "What if he doesn't like them..? I probably made a fool of myself.. He thinks I'm an idiot.." he mumbled to himself as his expression fell.
He barely took note of the children that were suddenly rushing around him, yelling and laughing at the end of their school day.
"Ichinomiya-san!" a voice seemed to squeal nearby.
Kantarou lifted his head and blinked in alarm when he suddenly got a face full of cleavage. "Ah.. Sumiko-san... Isn't it a bit early to let out classes..?" he asked while glancing at the clock above the school entrance.
The raven haired woman giggled a bit over eagerly as she seemed to press her too visible chest further into the writer's personal space. "It's only a half day today... Quite lucky since I've been meaning to have a chat with you, Ichinomiya-san.." the highly underdressed teacher seemed to purr.
Feeling his right eye twitch, Kantarou attempted to back away before he was sucked into the low neckline of the woman's pink blouse. "I'm afraid I'm not in the correct frame of mind for that kind of chat, Sumiko-san..."
"That's okay. We could always skip the chitchat..." Sumiko giggled as she attempted to close the space between them.
Kantarou tried to step out of reach, but his back suddenly collided with something solid. Startled, he glanced back and gaped at the scowl on a certain tengu's face. "H.. Haruka? Wh.. What are you doing? Hey! Wait! Haruka?!" Kantarou yelped helplessly as he was suddenly flung over the tengu's shoulder like a sack of grain.
Ignoring his master's struggles, Haruka held him tight with his right arm while pointing rigidly at the woman with his free hand. "You ever touch him, you die. Got that?" he growled sharply.
The woman teacher swallowed hard at the serious gleam she saw in his eyes and was quick to nod. "Got it..." she squeaked, frozen to the spot.
Without sparing her another glance, Haruka stiffly turned and carted his master away.
Bewildered at this point, Kantarou decided to stop struggling and see what his tengu was up to. So far the treatment wasn't so bad since the position gave him an excellent view of Haruka's backside. The thought made him snicker in amusement.
"What's so funny?" Haruka asked on a grunt.
"Nothing. I've just never been treated to a view of you at this angle before." Kantarou was able to get out in a somewhat even tone. His giggles turned into an indignant squeak when he felt something pinching his ass. "Haruka!"
Hearing his name cried out like that made a little smirk cross the tengu's lips. "I don't think I ever thanked you for giving me such a nice sounding name." he mused aloud, ignoring all of the stares he was earning from the other pedestrians moving along the streets.
Kantarou also noticed the gaping looks they were receiving, but he found himself unable to care. "It's the only name I ever considered... Even before I found you, you were always Haruka to me." he answered as a smile formed on his own lips.
"Hm... Good thing for me you're so damn stubborn."
"Stubborn as hell and twice as feisty!" Kantarou readily chirped. "Now speaking of Hell, where the hell are you taking me? I'm starting to get dizzy back here."
"First away from all these annoying humans. That woman looked like she was going to eat you." Haruka snorted, still pissed at the trashy teacher.
The growl he heard made Kantarou laugh. "I'm certain her buxom bosom would have devoured my head if my winged knight hadn't swooped in to my rescue. Although from the way you're treating me, I'm wondering if you aren't planning to make a tasty snack out of me." he teased, lightly poking at the conveniently placed tengu bottom.
Haruka promptly swatted the upturned rear just to hear the yelp it provoked. "I'm still deciding. You just behave."
"Me? Behave? Pfft. Who do you think you're talking to? I'm a picture of innocence and light, dammit." Kantarou stated before promptly groping Haruka's ass.
Nearly tripping at the sudden grab, Haruka hissed through his teeth and quickly darted into an alley between two large buildings. Behind one of the buildings, he moved for several stacks of crates and deposited his master atop one that would have them at eye level. There he simply looked into those red eyes he couldn't get out of his head. They were wide open and once more watching him with a barely contained wonderment. Something he hand missed more than he had realized.
Kantarou remained silent as his tengu simply looked at him. He was completely thrown by the strange behavior, but he bit back the questions he wanted to ask. There was something in Haruka's eyes that was different. An almost possessive energy rolled off of him. It was strong enough to make him want to blush, but instead he decided to see what would happen.
He had thought that his master would be ranting by now about the way he was treated, but, to Haruka surprise, the human seemed to be waiting on him. He had counted on trying to match wits before dealing with this subject, but the silence and expectant look in those ruby eyes were forcing him to skip ahead. It made Haruka realize that his impulsiveness was only going to take him so far. He had to make a decision.
"Kantarou... I... When you were sick.. Something.. Happened." he pieced together slowly.
The silver head tilted slightly, but Kantarou said nothing. 'This would be cute if it didn't seem so serious.'
'The one time I want him to babble, and he shuts up on me..' Haruka groaned internally. He suddenly turned away and pinched the bridge of his nose tight. "Dammit... Why can't this be easier?" he grumbled under his breath.
"Hm, it wouldn't be life if it was easy." Kantarou called out. He pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them as he watched his tengu. When he saw the tension in the tall frame he gave a soft giggle. "I could order you to say it, if it's proving such a strain." he teased.
Haruka actually gave the idea thought. "Hn.. That would probably move this along faster.."
"I was only joking. Take your time. I'm not going anywhere." Kantarou encouraged gently.
On hearing that, something in Haruka's mind clicked. His hand lowered from his face as the words came spilling out. "No.. That's what I've been doing wrong..." He turned around to focus his attention on his master. "I've been taking too much time... Assuming that you'll always be there for when I get around to it."
A concerned frown creased Kantarou's brow. "What do you mean?"
The dark head bowed as Haruka clenched his fists tight. "You kept getting worse when you were sick.. There was nothing I could do. Here I am, the strongest among youkai, and I was helpless to even ease your pain by a fraction... It scared me. I knew you told me you would get better, but I.. I thought I was going to lose you."
Crimson eyes widened when there was a thickness in the tengu's voice. "Haruka.."
"No.. Let me finish while I still have the will to.." Haruka interrupted quietly.
Although his concern was building, Kantarou bit his lip uneasily to keep from asking any more questions.
Now that he had the writer's undivided attention, Haruka felt his resolve weaken in the silence. A sharp bite to the inside of his cheek forced him to focus as he took a deep breath. "I.. You told me a lot of things... Made me promise you things that I'm uncertain if I should keep to... But you kept saying how you were sad that you wouldn't remember..."
Kantarou felt his throat go dry when Haruka trailed off. "I wouldn't remember what?"
Haruka felt his voice leave him again, but he struggled to get it back. When it was proving too slow, a deep growl rumbled in his chest. "Hell with it..."
The tengu was suddenly directly in front of Kantarou within the blink of an eye. Startled, Kantarou was about to pull back when a strong pair of hands cupped his face. Those impossibly deep eyes filled his vision, but when a warm touch brushed over his lips he immediately forgot how to breathe. 'Haruka...?!'
Feeling the unresponsive tension that stole over the small frame, Haruka mentally winced at his rashness. His eyes slid shut as he pressed his forehead to the one crowned with silver. "I'm sorry, Kantarou... I've been a horrible companion to you... Please forgive me..." he whispered before pulling away.
Just as his hands slipped off the pale cheeks, a firm grip caught both of his wrists. Haruka's eyes snapped open only to widen when he saw his master's bowed head. The slender shoulders were trembling faintly, and for a moment Haruka feared that he had done something wrong. "Kantarou?"
The weak words felt like a slap to the face. Haruka gritted his teeth when he caught sight of the tears rolling down the suddenly flushed face. 'Why can I do nothing but hurt him..?!'
His dismay was abruptly turned into confusion when the hands holding his wrists loosened. He watched closely as those delicate fingers moved to smoothly twine with his own. They squeezed gently before they were pulled up to the writer's face. There he felt his heart threaten to crack when those soft lips placed a tender kiss to each knuckle on both of his now quivering hands.
Able to sense the confusion from his tengu, Kantarou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Haruka... My entire life.. I've only wanted one thing." The silver head lifted and his eyes immediately locked with the ones watching him. "You."
The single word combined with the shimmering ruby eyes that seemed to silently worship him made Haruka's entire world crumble around him. Everything he knew or thought he wanted suddenly didn't matter. Nothing seemed capable of comparing to this feeling of utter awe that stole over him.
He held tight to the hands holding his and leaned in closer. "There's probably a more romantic location for this... But I don't want to waste any more time..." he mumbled as a smile slowly curled his lips.
Kantarou beamed happily at the tengu. His Tengu. "What are you talking about? I have the most beautiful view right in front of me." He released one of the larger hands and brought his own up to gently cup the Tengu's cheek. "You don't have to worry, Haruka... I'll never leave you. Nothing will change that."
Haruka readily leaned into the touch and smirked at the human. "I know.. Because no matter where you go, I'll follow you. You're stuck with me, troublesome human. "
The way it was playfully growled had Kantarou giggling. "Bossy Tengu. I'll deal with you later."
"I'd rather you deal with me now." Haruka purred before closing the space between them.
As their lips met everything seemed to fall neatly in place.
They knew where they stood.
They knew where they belonged.
fjfjfjfjThe End fjfjfjfj
Author Note: The glass ornaments that Kan-chan gave Haruka are called 'witch balls'. Crude name, but it's an item used in olde English folk lore that is hung by a window or door to ward off evil spirits. The beauty of the glass drew in negative energy and trapped it inside. They are still made today if you want to check them out.
Anyway, I hope to write more for this fandom in the future.
Thank you again for reading.