Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all goes to Bisco Hatori and the people who will sue me if I claim otherwise.
A/N: (11/22) Let me just apologize and say that I am sooo sorry! There is no excuse for how long I took to upload this. I'm just a loser, haha. Well, now it's up. Hopefully the sheer length will make up for how long it took me. 20 pages! This is my longest chapter yet. A very large thank you to everybody who is still reading this story and all the reviews/author alerts/story alerts/etc. I am incredibly flattered. Enjoy!
"The sweetest thought, I had it all
Cause I did let you go
All out moments keep me warm
When you're gone.
All my thoughts are with you forever
Until the day we'll be back together
I will be waiting for you."
Bittersweet, Within Temptation
Rene sat in a huddle on the ground, hugging her knees to her chest and clutching the black cloth of her pants like a lifeline. Her breath left her lips in shallow, shuddering gasps, and she shivered. It was cold. Very, very cold. She pulled the thin sleeves of her jacket over her hands, trying to keep them warm. The men guarding her glared down at her accusingly, and she turned her head away from them, avoiding their stares. She was uncomfortable enough without having to worry about the suspicious looks. The tile beneath her was hard and cold, and her back was getting sore. The unforgiving surface didn't help her bruises any, and the black and blue marks were aching. That wasn't the worst though. The worst was the anticipating fear that clawed at her stomach.
How much longer was she going to have to sit there? The sun had gone down long ago, and now a deep darkness had settled around the campus. The stars winked down from a large window, and her worrying intensified. She must have been sitting there for at least an hour now. What was taking them so long? What were they talking about? What if they don't believe me? she thought, and she shook her head. No, she couldn't think like that. Thinking like that would only make her panic more, and she couldn't handle that. She had to be strong. She had to be composed. If she didn't…
A door opened, and the scary faced, red haired man entered the hallway. Lord Kasonoda, he'd told her his name was. He walked over to her, and the group of gunmen promptly stood aside, allowing him access. "Lord Kasonoda-sama!" the cried, saluting their leader.
Lord Kasonoda waved his hand. "That's enough," he growled, and he looked down at Rene. The girl swallowed nervously and slowly raised herself to her feet. Her whole body ached from sitting in that position for so long, but she ignored it as she faced him. She wrapped her arms around herself and waited for the man to speak.
Kasonoda looked at her for a moment before sighing. "They've agreed to see you," he growled at her, making her flinch. She cursed herself for that moment of weakness, knowing that it had been born from her time at the Orphanage, but Kasonoda didn't respond. Instead, he turned around and started walking. He only took a few steps, however, before he paused and looked over his shoulder to give her an intimidating glare. Rene flinched again and focused her gaze on his shoulder, not wanting to meet his eyes. "And let me assure you," he said fiercely, "it would be in your best interests to not try anything funny." He pat the pocket of his long coat, and Rene's eyes widened, knowing that a weapon was concealed there. "Do you understand?"
Rene nodded weakly. "H-hai," she stuttered, once again cursing herself mentally. Kasonoda raised his eyebrow at her before making a "che" noise, and he started walking again. Rene hurried after the man as best as she could with a limping leg, but the gang leader refused to slow down for her. Rene grit her teeth and painfully picked up her pace.
Unfortunately, they didn't go through the door that Kasonoda had entered from, instead taking an alternate route down the long hallways. It made sense, she supposed. They obviously wanted to keep their secrets safe from the potential Tojiwaran spy, but she still couldn't help being slightly annoyed by the situation. She was so tired, and everything hurt. The random pieces of rubble and debris strewn across the tiled floor didn't help her cause much either.
The inner hallways of the South Building were nearly as dilapidated and crumbling as the entrance. The only difference was that the fire that had burnt the majority of the school hadn't been able to reach the upper levels, but otherwise, the destruction was just as devastating. Large gaping holes in the walls revealed patches of the classrooms on the other side, abandoned and abused by the elements. Some of the windows had been shattered, letting the wind float through and carry random pieces of loose leaf paper in its breeze. In the darkness, they were almost ghost-like, drifting through the hallways like spectral beings bound to haunt the school for all eternity. Several marble statues had been destroyed, leaving pale white and broken pieces of rock to scratch against the once pretty pink floors. Some of the faces looked up at her, their gazes pleading and anguished, and Rene had to turn her head away, preferring not to look at the now demolished art. She couldn't escape, however, the random patches of dark brown splattered all along the walls and floors, long dried up and stained. Rene felt her stomach twist and her heart ache at the sight of those, and she had to remind herself to keep breathing. Who had died in that specific spot? Whose life was cut short? A person her own age who probably had had a life and loved ones. The destruction repulsed her.
"It's disgusting," she muttered weakly, her face twisted in horror and her eyes wide and shocked.
"That's the Tojiwarans for you," Lord Kasonoda said, startling her out of her thoughts. He looked around at the devastation sadly, as though he had already seen it too many times before.
Rene frowned. "Did you," she hesitated, "did you lose somebody in all of this?" she asked cautiously.
The Yakuza leader barked a laugh. "Haven't we all?" he demanded. They walked past a lonely briefcase on the ground, still fastened and abandoned. Kasonoda looked at it for a moment and sighed, his gruff disposition dropped for the moment. "My son used to go here," he said. "He got out fine, but…" he looked around the hallway, and Rene did too, taking it all in. "A lot of kids died here. I may have been a Yakuza lord, but kids. Kids are a totally different matter." He shook his head and clenched his fists. "That's why I'm here."
Rene nodded, stunned at his declaration. Her wide, sad eyes looked around at the broken hallway. All those people…The girl wiped a stray tear from her eye and felt something akin to grief fill her heart. It was strange, but at the same time it felt totally natural to mourn those faceless, nameless students as though she had known them.
"Here we are," Kasonoda said gruffly, his rough disposition back. Rene looked up to see a pair of double doors. They were a dark black color that looked rather strange next the light pink color that the rest of the hallway had. They were not nearly as tall as the majority of the doors in the South Building, but they weren't small either. There door handle was rather grotesque with little gold skulls and thorny vines wrapping around the metal. It was almost occult, which in Rene's opinion, seemed very strange for such an elite academy. She raised an eyebrow, and Kasonoda, seeing her expression, rolled his eyes. He took hold of the doorknob. "Stupid occult magicians," he muttered as he opened the door. Rene blinked in surprise.
Every inch of the walls and the floors were coated with black, but unlike the exterior of the campus, this shade of black seemed to be the room's actual color rather than an ash induced darkness. A few skull decorated candles hung on the walls, their flames giving off a soft, luminescent glow. Dumped and forgotten in a corner were several strange, dark items like skulls, voodoo dolls, crosses, and several textbooks full of strange writings. They lay there gathering dust amidst the bustle of activity that surrounded them. All around the room, people were rushing around, completing various tasks. A dark haired, teenage girl jogged past her, carrying a large pile of papers, and Rene had to step to the side to allow her past. In a corner, a man sat at a computer, furiously typing away and barking orders into the headphones and microphone. Two other men were bent over a map, arguing amongst themselves, and a woman had her nose buried deep inside the pages of a large volume, occasionally pulling away to scribble something down on a sheet of paper. Several more people were rushing around, carrying large boxes. None of them raised their heads or acknowledged their entrance, too wrapped up they were in their work.
Rene stared open mouthed at the energy filled scene. This was so much more than she had been expecting. Kasonoda prodded her in the back, knocking her out of her awe. "Come on," he said, and he started weaving through the crowded black room. Rene followed him, trying to keep up. Nobody paid them any attention, and more than once, Rene nearly bumped into the scurrying people. Never the less, she determinedly hobbled across the busy floor, trailing after the yakuza lord.
Kasonoda approached a desk and placed the bottoms of both hands flat upon it, his figure towering over the wood. When Rene finally caught up, she too, braced herself against the wood, trying to keep herself from falling. She was so tired. She looked up, and across from the desk, a white haired, bespectacled man sat, propping his legs up on the table. Despite the pale hair, he didn't look old at all. In fact, he seemed to be somewhere within his mid-thirties with a tall, slim posture and a perfectly smooth face. A bright, yet cunning grin spread across his face. "Oh, Kasonoda-chi!" he cried joyfully, clapping his hands. "You brought me a new friend!"
Rene blinked in surprise at the cheerful outburst and looked down at the man in confusion. Lord Kasonoda, on the other hand, looked anything but amused. He glared down at the smiling grin with nothing but malice. "Shut it, idiot," he growled, his eye twitching. He gestured toward Rene. "Suki and Seishiro apparently sent her over."
Behind the man's round glasses, green eyes looked Rene up and down. In a single fluid motion, the man swung his legs off the desk, got to his feet, and leaned across the wood. Rene's eyes widened in surprise, and she took a step back as the man leaned very close into her face, invading her personal space. "Does she have a name?" he asked, still looking into her face.
Rene felt a spark of irritation. How rude. She was standing right there. "Rene," she said, struggling to keep her voice polite.
"Hm." The white haired man straightened up and placed a hand on his chin. "And no last name?" he asked curiously, eyebrows raised.
Kasonoda reached into his pocket and pulled out the white sheet of paper that Rene had given him earlier. He handed it over to the white haired man, who snatched it out of his grip in a single fast movement. The man carefully unfolded it and looked it over. As he did so, Kasonoda explained, "Apparently she lost all her memories six months ago. Just escaped from the Orphanage last night."
The white haired man whistled. "Orphanage 3, huh?" he said admiringly, "That's supposed to be one hell of a place." He looked back up at Kasonoda. "And this has been checked by intelligence, I assume?"
Kasonoda nodded. "She's clear."
The white haired man clapped his hands together and smiled, tilting his head a bit. "Wonderful! I can take it from here then!"
Kasonoda nodded. He looked down at Rene and clapped her shoulder, making her shift slightly from the new pressure with a small cry of surprise. The yakuza leader turned around and started walking away. "Good luck, kid!" he called over his shoulder.
Rene straightened herself and turned, watching him. "Thanks!" she called back before he got lost in the sea of bustling people. Rene smiled.
The white haired man clapped his hands together again. "Now," he said exuberantly, "while Lord Kasonoda goes off to protect the barrier, why don't we get you set up? My name is Sutori Chosha." He waved the white piece of paper around in his hand. "So, Suki says that you're trying to get out of the country. France, Italy. Pretty ambitious don't you think?"
Rene frowned. "What do you mean?"
Sutori smirked. "Well, look at yourself. You're barely standing," he said with a casual wave in her direction. Rene bit her lip, knowing that she couldn't really deny it. Her knees were shaking, and the only thing holding her up was the rough wood of Sutori's desk. Her knuckles were turning white from gripping it so hard. She was skeletally thin and had bruises racing up and down her body, and she couldn't defend herself if her life depended on it. But still…
Rene raised her head and looked the white haired man straight in the eye. Determination blazed on her face as she said firmly, "I may not look like much, but there is something that I have to do. Something important. And I will complete it whether you help me or not."
Sutori barked a laugh and raised his hands in defense. "Merely stating facts, Rene-chan," he giggled. He crossed his arms and grinned at her. "I do love the determination though. Very heroine-esque. It works."
Rene frowned and shook her head. "I'm not a heroine," she denied.
The white haired man chuckled and looked at her with sharp, mischievous eyes. "Well, you should fix that because I have a feeling that you're going to need to be if you really want to do this." Before she could respond, Sutori gracefully fell into his seat and yanked open a drawer, pulling out a laptop. "You'll need a cover story, some money, a guide. We'll have to get you some documents too, but that's the easy part. It's been awhile since we've sent somebody to France. "
Rene blinked in surprise. "France?"
"Of course." Sutori set the computer to the side and took a pad of paper out from his desk. "You've heard of the Underground Railroad?" He didn't give her a chance to respond. "It's sort of like that. Send the refugee with a guide from the Resistance that speaks the language and will take them from safe house to safe house." He raised his head and absentmindedly twisted his pen in his hand. "Unfortunately, our only Italian guide got himself caught. Quite tragic actually." He shook his head. "Very bloody. You can imagine how that turned out."
Rene swallowed nervously. Yes, she could.
Sutori leaned forward in his desk and looked her in the eye. Rene held his gaze, meeting it straightforward. "Are you sure that you're up to this? It will be dangerous." he asked, raising his eyebrows doubtfully.
Rene nodded, not breaking the gaze. Determination blazed in her fiery chocolate eyes, and she didn't even notice herself raise her head slightly. Danger. Danger was bad. But there were worse things. "Yes," she said.
The man leaned back in his chair, a sly grin on his face. "Well, then," he said, "I think we should be able to work something out."
Several minutes later, the short amnesiac found herself in the middle of a long, windowed hallway with nothing but her pack and a thin blanket in her arms. The doorway to the black room closed in front of her with a loud thud that echoed for a moment before dying down. Hugging the bag and the blanket to her chest, Rene sighed, turned around, and began walking down the hallway. Mentally, she was scolding herself. "It's late," she muttered quietly, "Of course, we're not going to do anything." She felt slightly silly for thinking that she would be able to leave the country that night. Too much had to be done, guides had to be found, documents needed to be forged. It was way too much to accomplish in a single night. But regardless, she had been hoping for that very thing, and she found herself slightly disappointed that it didn't occur.
Her shadow stretched long and dark down the hallway. The light that shone in from the tall, ceiling to floor windows silhouetted her, making her outline dark against the glass. Goosebumps trailed up and down her arms again, and once again, she rubbed them, trying to put even a little bit of warmth into them. That was one thing that she was looking forward to about escaping Japan. Finally leaving behind that never ending, never relenting frigidness that followed her around everywhere she went. It would be nice, she thought, to be able to sit underneath the sun and feel its heat for once. And not just externally, but internally also. To get rid of that piercing cold running through her veins, chilling her to the core…
She sidestepped a broken statue and listened to her feet clacking along the tile. She had to admit, though, she did like the tile. So far, she could only remember walking on wood, grass, and concrete, but as weird as it was, the tile was a nice change of pace. It all had to do with the sound her shoes made as they hit the floor. There was something familiar about it that puzzled her. Something that pricked at the back of her mind, as though this were something she had done often. She snorted. It was called walking, of course she did it often. Nevertheless, she let her legs guide her down the hallway, not even paying attention to where she was going. That was fine with her. She had only been told to pick a room, but it did seem rather odd to her…
She turned her gaze to look out the tall windows on her left. It wasn't hard to see the grounds underneath the moonlight, but the darkness that accompanied it seemed to mask some of the wear and tear that the campus had suffered. The grass didn't look nearly so overgrown, and she really had to search to find the pieces of rubble. Not even the dark, ash coated brick looked suspicious in the darkness of the night. At one particular window, she had a perfect view of the clock tower a few buildings over. Rene paused in her walking to look out that window, paying closer attention to her surroundings. In its own way, it was almost beautiful. A door below her window opened, casting a small rectangle of golden light into the yard. A small group of black crows took off at that moment, and Rene watched them as they gracefully arched up the building, the line of them curving slightly. They flew up close to the window and then veered off to her right, where they continued on, disappearing in that direction. Rene watched them wistfully and then sighed. The sight would have been so much prettier if they had been doves.
She turned around again, preparing to leave, when something stopped her. At the end of the hallway, a pair of large, pink double doors stood tall and elegant. At first glance, they didn't seem any different from the rest of the doors in the hallway, but at the sight of them, something sparked inside of her. A quickening of a heart, a dropping of a stomach, a slight dizziness of the head. Rene had to place her hand against the glass window to stead herself. Her long hair fell in her face, and she tossed it away, staring at the door. It looked so ordinary. That was all it was, an ordinary door. It probably held a classroom of some kind or maybe even some storage items, but despite herself, Rene's legs guided her towards the door as though they had done so a thousand times before. As though they knew some great secret about that door that she didn't.
She stood in front of the pink wood and looked at it. A black sign in the top right corner caught her eye. "Music Room Three," she whispered, reading the sign. At the top floor of the South building, on the end of the North Hallway…Rene ran a hand over the wood, feeling the smooth grain underneath her fingertips. A shiver ran down her spine, but not the kind that she usually got. This one didn't originate from the constant chills that haunted her.
Pale hands, pressing gently down on the golden handle.
Rene blinked and looked down at her arm, which, subconsciously, she had raised and placed on the handle. She yanked her hand away as though the gold hand burned her and held it against her chest protectively. That was…odd. The brown haired girl frowned. She was being stupid. Excessively stupid. So stupid that she should be ashamed of herself. She looked up and down the hallway and back at the door. It wasn't any different from any of the other doors in the hallway. But there was still something about it. She found her hand reaching out towards the door again. Her brow furrowed. Surely…it wouldn't hurt to just look…to just take a peek.
She inhaled a deep breath through her nose, and as though daring herself, placed her hand on the door handle. Her grip tightened for a moment, and she pushed handle down. There was a small click from the mechanism, and the door cracked open, leaving a small gap. For some reason, she felt her heartbeat quicken at the sight of it. Her stomach rolled a tiny bit, and she felt her throat go dry. She couldn't understand why, but for some reason, she felt incredibly nervous about entering this room. But that made no sense. Rene pushed her hair behind her ear and stood a little straighter, trying to inspire confidence. Don't be silly, she thought to herself as she pushed on the door slightly. It's just an abandoned music room. The gap got wider, and, cautiously, Rene poked her head through and peered inside. A brilliant flash of bright color crossed her eyes, and the dark orbs widened in surprise. A gasp escaped her throat, and she threw the door open as the panic raced through her head. No, it can't be. The wood hit the wall, and Rene twisted her head left and right, scanning the area with her eyes. But there was nothing. A dusty old room faced her. She stood on the threshold for a moment, her hand still resting on the wood and her body still alert. She blinked confusedly. For a moment, a single second, she could have sworn that she had seen the blurry outlines of several people. People in blue…She shook her head. No…that couldn't have been possible. She sighed, relieved. "It's just an old room." But a strange sense of disappointment pricked at her, and ignoring it, she slipped fully inside and closed the door behind her, letting it fall with a small click. She dropped her bag and the blanket to the floor with a muffled thump.
It was rather large for a music room in Rene's opinion. The large pink tiled floor held enough room for several symphonies and maybe, if they sat closely together, a small audience. Large ceiling to floor windows on the north wall let ivory moonlight flow into the room and cast long, rectangular shaped patches of light onto the floor. All in all, in comparison to the rest of the castle, this room was in decent shape. There were no holes in the walls, and as far as she could see, no dark, ominous stains had set themselves in the floors or walls. There was only one shattered window, and underneath it, several shards of glass and leaves lay scattered around a long metal pole. A chandelier lay broken on the floor, its crystal decorations dripping like tear drops upon the crack floor beneath it. A few dishes lay broken around beautiful wooden furniture, but otherwise, everything seemed to be intact. Perfect. Unharmed. And for some reason, Rene felt comforted by this. There was something about the normalcy of this room and how different it was from the rest of the school. It made her feel safe somehow.
Rene walked further into the room, looking around. A small breeze blew into the room through the window, and a few leaves rattled along the ground. She ran a hand over the surface of a round wooden table, leaving behind a small trail of brown. Confused, Rene brought her hand close to her face. It scrunched up in a look of disgust. "Urgh," she muttered, wiping her hand on the cloth of her ratty dress. The whole room was covered in a layer of think, grey dust. Looking a bit closer, she could see that every surface was coated in the powdery substance, and she inwardly cringed. It's going to take forever to clean all this up, she thought as she bent down and blew on the table. A cloud of dust exploded in the air, and Rene leapt back, coughing into her hand. The dust cloud hung in the air for a moment before descending back down. Rene wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, wondering for a moment what she'd need to buy to straighten up the room.
At that moment, she laughed a bit. "Buy. Like I have any money to buy anything, nonetheless cleaning supplies," she scoffed quietly. Besides, it's not my responsibility…Rene picked up a tea cup and rolled it around in her hands, inspecting it, before placing it back on the table. She removed her hand from it slowly, letting it caress the cup slightly before removing her touch. She looked at it for a moment with soft eyes before moving on. As she did so, she frowned. There was something strange about this room. It was perfectly normal, but still…there was something different about it. Something that set it apart from normal rooms and buildings. It was even stranger than the rest of the school, which had already struck her as odd. The abandoned Third Music Room was particularly troubling, and she couldn't even understand why. It bothered her. Why did this room, with its dusty furniture and its pretty dishes and its pink walls and shattered window affect her so?
A soft object underneath her foot brought her out of her reverie. She was standing a few feet from the broken window, and she looked down, blinking in surprise. Underneath her foot, a soft, pink, fluffy object was squished, bending underneath her weight. Rene's brow furrowed as she removed her foot and bent down to pick up the object. Long, floppy ears and a thick cotton tail and black, glassy eyes with a sewn in mouth.
"Usa-chan?" Rene gasped, looking at the rabbit with wide eyes. The hands holding the stuffed rabbit tightened, creating little indents in its soft, furry stomach. The sewn in mouth smiled cutely up at her, and Rene felt her heart twang. She looked at her reflection in its glassy black eyes. She didn't care that she was a mess or that she was confused or that she had just randomly spat out some random name that she had never heard before. Instead, she focused on the strange feeling in her chest. It was an aching feeling, but it was so different from the ones she had felt in the past. Whereas those had been pure pain, this one felt a bit more bittersweet, a bit warmer. Comforting and yet painfully prodding at the same time. Not even paying attention to what she was doing, Rene brought the stuffed rabbit close to her body and hugged it tightly, squeezing the doll with all her might. Where did it come from? How long had it been there? Whose had it been? At that last question, the ache in her chest leapt to her throat, and she swallowed it down, preferring instead to smother her face in the fur.
A faint scent filled her nose, and she breathed it hesitantly for a moment and then inhaled deeply. She pulled back a bit and stared at the unresponsive rabbit. "Roses?" she said, thoroughly confused. The floral scent was barely there, bit she could still smell it as though the rabbit were stuffed with the very flora. How that was possible or why a stuffed rabbit would smell like roses, she wasn't sure, but she wasn't going to argue with it. It was pleasing in a way, and for the first time in months, she felt a smile curl around her face. Not a small smile or a polite smile, but a real one, a genuine one. One that raised her cheeks and touched her eyes.
She laughed softly. "This doesn't make any sense," she said to the empty room. It stared back at her unanswering, but that didn't matter. There was something special about these things. This room, this rabbit. The tea cups and the furniture. The entire place, actually. She couldn't begin to explain why, but for some reason, it stirred up feelings that she hadn't felt in a long, long time. Familiar feelings, things that she knew she'd felt at some point in her life. It was almost like… "Dreaming," she said aloud. Yes…it was almost like those moments she'd have after her dreams, the warm, almost happy seconds that lingered in her chest after waking up. It was almost like that…
Rene pulled a hand away from the rabbit. Her fingers found the front of her shirt, and she pulled on the gold chain hanging there until the vase pendant slipped out of the fabric. Her feet guided her to a dusty red couch, and she slowly sat down upon it. She brought the light blue vase close to her face and intensely focused her gaze upon it. "What are you?" she muttered quietly. "Where did you come from?" She leaned back into the seat, knowing and not caring that dust was gathering in her hair. She looked up at the ceiling, still holding the vase. "Where do I come from?" She sighed, hugging the stuffed rabbit close to her chest. She looked down into its black, glassy eyes. "You don't happen to know, do you?" she asked it playfully. It stared back at her. She snorted softly, letting her fingers slide through the soft pink fur. Great, I'm talking to dolls now, she scoffed silently, but for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to care. Not when it was so late, and she was so tired, and the moon looked so perfect through the shattered window, and for once she wasn't freezing, and that strange smile still graced her face. Not now…
"It's okay," she whispered, stroking the ear. "I didn't expect you to know anyways. But it won't be long now, will it?" A yawn worked its way through her mouth, and her eyelids started to fall slowly, sliding over deep brown orbs. She yawned deeply, snuggling into the warm, soft rabbit. Beneath the stale dusty scent, the smell of roses pervaded, and Rene couldn't help but breathe it in as deeply as she could as the sweet, floral scent lulled her to sleep.
The red liquid fell in a graceful arch as it dribbled through the air, falling into a tall crystal wineglass that sparkled in the light of the chandelier above it. The servant placed the heavy bottle of wine back on the tray and bowed, stepping back a few feet. Rasputin, leaning back in his seat, lazily took hold of the long stem of the glass with pale fingers and lifted it off the white clothed table. He brought it close to his face and breathed the scent in deeply before taking a small sip. He pulled it away and looked down at his reflection in the rippling liquid, watching it distort itself in the gleaming light. "So, our little kitten is going to France," he muttered quietly.
Across from him but standing with crossed arms instead of sitting, Gomon nodded tersely. "That's what our source says," he said gruffly, his face betraying all his irritation. The white haired man was silent for a moment, and Gomon rolled his eyes impatiently. He reached into his pocket and flicked his hand as quick as lightening. There was a sharp thud, and inches away from Rasputin's hand, a knife quivered upright in the grain of the table, its handle wobbling a bit in the air. Rasputin looked up from his wine glass with a raised eyebrow. He hadn't flinched a bit at the sudden attack.
"Was that really necessary?" he questioned calmly. He took hold of the knife and yanked it out of the table, flipping it over and holding it out to his partner handle first. As Gomon retrieved the weapon, he said, "If you were anybody else, you would be rotting in jail right now."
The black haired man tucked the knife back inside his pocket. "Well, aren't I incredibly fortunate," his sarcastic voice said scathingly. He snapped his fingers at the servant, who hurried forward to pour the man a glass of wine. Gomon looked at Rasputin with narrowed eyes as he pulled a chair out from underneath the table and sat down. "The main question now is," he said, taking the now filled glass from the table and drinking from it, "what to do with the brat."
Rasputin grinned, his teeth barred like fangs. "Actually, I had an idea for that." The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver cell phone. Gomon raised an eyebrow. Rasputin spoke into the phone. "Yes, bring the Tojiwaran boy down. And make it quick." He closed the phone with a snap.
Ezekiel stared up at the chandelier hanging above his bed and glared up at it. Dripping crystals hung from it, and the light reflected off of them, casting little squares of light around the bright room. He snorted. Really, what was it with these people and chandeliers? He knew that this was a western style house, but he highly doubted that the people on that side of the world were truly this obsessed with the sparkling, hanging lights. The flashiness just seemed ostentatious to him.
On the other side of the room, a short, brown haired boy was chattering away. His hair was carefully combed, and his black slacks and white button down shirt were pressed and ironed to perfection. A pair of large, circular glasses hung from his nose and made his eyes seem far larger than they actually were, giving him a slightly insect like appearance. He had a thin face, but it was soft and rounded, like the rest of him: thin and round, lacking angles. His voice was light as he rambled on. "And the flight wasn't bad at all, it was sort of nice. Although I'm surprised that they made us come in on a ship, but apparently, they're not letting any flights into the territory these days. It's supposed to be too much of a risk, which I suppose makes sense. But from an economic perspective, it's got to be catastrophic. But based on what we've seen, I don't think that's something they're particularly worried about in this place. They're probably paying more attention to that in some of their more recent acquisitions, but I wish I knew why that was the case. Old Japan might not have had many resources, but from what I've read, they were rather strong technologically, especially in the automobile and entertainment industries."
Ezekiel rolled his eyes and could feel his eyebrow twitching. "Leo," he said in an irritated voice, "shut up."
His servant stopped his rant and smiled gently before bowing. "I apologize, your Majesty. I didn't realize how irritating I was being."
Those words made the black haired teenager grit his teeth, and he shot up into a sitting position. Leo's eyes widened at the sudden action, and Ezekiel pinched the bridge of his nose and looked up at his servant with a frown. "Really," he scolded, "how many times do I have to tell you?"
A light red tinge was starting to form on Leo's cheeks. "But your M-" Ezekiel took hold of a tennis ball that had rolled out from one of his duffle bags and threw it at Leo, forcing the younger boy to duck with a yelp and interrupting what he was about to say. Leo stood up, his glasses falling off his nose. "Hey!" he protested, straightening them. "You could have hit me."
"That was the point, you baby."
Leo only grinned in response. "Who's the baby? Last time I checked, adults didn't express their frustration by throwing things at people."
Ezekiel scoffed. "You'd be surprised." His gaze zeroed in on the younger boy. "But seriously, the formality is unnecessary. We're hanging out. There's nobody else here. You don't have to address me with things like 'My lord' or 'your Majesty'. It's just annoying."
Leo turned his face to the side, averting his gaze, and his fingers found a stray string on the sleeve of his shirt. He fiddled with it. "But that's weird."
Ezekiel snorted and lay back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. "What's so weird about it?" This wasn't the first time they had had this conversation. Ever since he had know Leo, they had had this argument. He didn't mind formality from other servants or inferiors. It was actually required from them. They should have to treat him like that. But for some reason, he hated it when Leo acted like that. He had known the boy since they were kids. It bothered him to hear the formality and the servility and the inferiority in the boy's voice.
"It just is!" he heard Leo say, and Ezekiel's irritation pricked. He folded his arms behind his head and groaned.
"Fine, whatever," he snapped.
At that moment, there was a loud knock on the door, and both boys turned their heads. Leo started forward to get the door, but Ezekiel waved him back down. He didn't need to get that. Leo sat down, looking a bit conflicted, and Ezekiel nodded in approval. He called towards the door, not moving from his reclined position, "Enter."
The door opened, revealing a black haired woman in a dull gray uniform. Her lined, weary face looked at the two teenagers disinterestedly, and she said in a heavy tone, "The master requires your presence, sir." She bowed slightly and stood aside, making room in the doorway for him.
Ezekiel frowned at the gesture, and he felt his lips curl. No, that was not how this was going to work. He was not going to be ordered around like some common servant. His uncle was the Emperor of the Tojiwaran Empire. "If he wishes to talk with me," he drawled, "then he may come here himself. You may tell him 'the master' that." He turned away from the servant and the door and waved his hand in dismissal.
The maid sighed. "I have been instructed to bring you to him. We have been instructed to use force if necessary."
Leo's eyes widened, and the black haired teenager sat up and looked sharply at the woman. "Force?" he demanded in confusion. His narrowed eyes widened in shock as a man dressed in a old, threadbare black suit appeared in the doorway. He had a slightly gaunt look about his face as though he had lost a great deal of weight in a short period of time, but he was still tall and thick and could probably bend him into a toothpick if he wanted to. His eyes were covered by a pair of dark sunglasses, which was odd considering the fact that he was inside, but that was the least of his concerns. What worried him most was the single shotgun the man held in his hand, which was held casually at his side.
He heard a small clatter and turned his head. Seconds later, Leo was standing in front of the bed, a panicked look on his small face. His eyes were widened behind his glasses, making them appear even bigger, and his alarmed face looked at the servants with incredulity. "Hang on!" he cried, holding his hands up, palms forward. "You can't just burst in here and make demands like that!"
The gunman sighed tiredly. "Unfortunately, we can," he said, sounding as though this were the last thing he wanted to be doing. "It would be easier for the both of us if your master would just come along calmly." The man looked at Ezekiel behind the sunglasses.
Ezekiel's fists clenched. This could not be good. He swallowed dryly and slowly rose from the bed and got to his feet. "Very well," he said, walking towards the door. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Leo start to follow, and he inhaled sharply. Quickly, Ezekiel turned around to face his servant. "You may stay here, Leo. I will be back shortly," he said in a commanding tone of voice that he hated instantly.
Leo bit his lip and clenched his fists. The look said "After what happened in that car? No way."
Ezekiel glared at him, trying to convey his message. "Stay here. I'll be fine."
They stared at each other for a few seconds, brown and hazel fixated in worried glares. Finally, Leo's shoulder's slumped. The boy sighed and raised his eyebrows at his master. "Don't be an idiot."
Ezekiel nodded and turned back around, ignoring the wide eyed, worried look directed towards his back. Leo meant the best, but he didn't want to expose the boy to more of those men than necessary. The memory of those pale fingers clutching his hair and slamming him against the window of the limousine flashed in his mind, and he mentally winced. He preferred to keep the younger boy far away from those hands.
He followed the maid down the hallways of the fancy house. The building wasn't too bad, he supposed, looking at the marble tiled floors and the expensive antiques that were aesthetically placed an pedestals along the walls. Of course, it was nothing compared to his home in Tojiwara, but it certainly was far different from the tall, broken buildings from the destroyed city he had been driven through. He kept his face in a stern mask of disinterest and boredom as he walked.
A few moments later, he found himself standing before an elegantly carved oak door. The maid took hold of the door knob and pulled open the door, bowing to him. He ignored her and strode in, his body erect and regal. With a slightly bored expression, he scanned the room he had just entered.
The white haired dignitary and the cloaked man from the limousine were sitting at a round table with wine glasses in their hands. Rasputin looked up from the conversation, and his face split into a sly grin. It took all of Ezekiel's effort to keep himself from shivering at the predatorily expression. Rasputin spread an arm out, gesturing for him to enter. "Ezekiel-san. Come in, come in. You are just the person we were hoping to see."
Of course, I am. You called me, you moron. The mental bravado calmed his nervousness a bit, and he was able to, with a lot of effort, produce something that he hoped resembled a smile. He had a feeling though that it was more of a grimace. "Thank you," he said in a strained tone as he entered the room fully. He walked towards the table, but noticed that no effort was made to draw him up a chair. Irritation pricked in his mind. "If you wouldn't mind, I would like to sit down," he said in a lofty, superior tone. The two men might have a chilling effect on him, but he would not let himself be disrespected. Disowned or not, he was still royalty, and he would be treated as such.
The black haired man- Gomon?- snorted, and Rasputin raised an eyebrow, and the evil smile widened. Ezekiel could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, as though the white haired man before him was some kind of hunter out for his blood. The man leaned forward, resting his chin in a cupped palm. "Oh, do forgive me, my boy, but this will only take a few moments." Ezekiel's eye twitched. My boy… "I have a proposition for you."
Ezekiel raised his elegant eyebrows. A proposition? He crossed his arms and leaned back on the back of his heels in a mildly interested pose. "And what kind of proposition would that be?" he asked, his chin rising a bit.
Gomon lifted a manila folder from the table and with a sneer, handed it out to him. Ezekiel looked at it suspiciously before stepping forward. His tan hand took hold of the folder, and barely able to hide his interest, he opened it. The covers spread to reveal several papers and a long, golden key. The object that caught his attention however, was a photograph in the middle of it all. It looked like a typical school portrait with a girl in a dark blue sailor uniform. Long, brown hair stretched past her shoulders, and a set of carefully cut bangs framed a pair of large, dark brown eyes. The sheer size of them struck him as odd. Leo's glasses gave him the appearance of large eyes, but in actuality they were not really so big. He had never seen such large eyes. A gentle smile accompanied them.
As he examined the photograph and the contents of the folder. Rasputin was speaking in a lofty, deceivingly careless tone. "As you are well aware, your reappointment and acceptance in the Tojiwaran royal family depends heavily on my reports of you. You cannot be reinstated unless I deem it so."
Ezekiel looked up from the folder with grit teeth. "What does that have to do with this?" he bit out, losing all semblance of politeness with the mention of his disownment. But there was an eagerness in his voice that he couldn't hide. To be back home, to have his titles back, his land, his birthright, his honor…Could the slimy dictator be saying what he thought he was saying?
Rasputin barred all his teeth in his grin and steeped his fingers in anticipation. "There is an easy way to take care of this. A way that could make this process so much quicker for the both of us. All you have to do with complete one little task for me." There was a strange glint in the man's eyes, and Ezekiel felt his stomach start to churn furiously.
"And what," he asked quietly, "would this task be?" His grip on the folder tightened. Please don't let it be what I think it is. Please. His mouth started to grow dry, and his heartbeat was quickening.
The white haired man nodded towards the folder. His obsidian eyes were as cold as ice, and they seemed to pierce right through him. His voice was quiet as he said as though he were talking about the weather. "Kill her."
Hunny dreamed that red rose petals were cascading down all around him, drifting slowly through the air. A soft breeze tugged at his hair and clothing, making them wave gently in the air. He was standing in the middle of a dark expanse, and every way he looked, all he could see was an inky blackness. And the rose petals. They stood out bright against the darkness, scarlet against the black. The petals descended softly upon him like a sprinkling rain, their silky surfaces brushing against his skin. They gathered on the ground, forming a sort of carpet of flowers. Hunny turned his gaze upwards. Where are they coming from? he wondered. They just seemed to tumble out of the darkness…He stood there for a few moments, admiring the mystery and beauty of the place. The silence stretched all around him, and he breathed in deeply, inhaling the floral scent of the empty void. He closed his eyes. It was so peaceful.
Suddenly, there was a small padding sound behind him. Hunny froze and his eyes snapped open. The sound had been soft , and he probably wouldn't have heard it if it weren't for the awareness born from his martial arts training, but it was definitely there. Suddenly, the area didn't seem as peaceful anymore. A sense of alarm sparked within his brain, and when he heard it again, with his heart pounding in his chest, he spun around, kicking up a few of the petals on the ground. At the sight before him, however, the suspicious look on his face vanished. No way…His mouth dropped open, and his eyes widened to the size of saucers. It couldn't be. There was no way she could be…that this was…He swallowed dryly, trying to make his voice work.
The source of the padding sound stood in front of him. A thin, boyish figure was standing in the carpet of flowers, but despite its figure, it most certainly was not a boy. Huge, bright brown eyes sparkled underneath a thin layer of messy bangs, and long, brown hair waved in the air with the wind, twisting and dancing in its flight. The girl wore a white, spaghetti strapped dress, the only other source of color in the vast expanse of flowers, and slowly, oh so slowly, she was walking towards him. Her bare feet stirred up to flowers, which lazily fell back to the ground like feathers. Hunny couldn't take his eyes off her. The same pale skin, the brown eyes…The girl smiled a dazzling smile, and Hunny's throat choked. How long he had prayed to see that smile again…"Ha-Haru-" he choked out, but his voice wouldn't allow him to say anything else. A huge lump had clogged it, making it hard to breathe, let alone speak.
She walked right up to him, and he had to tilt his head up a bit to see her properly. He longed to throw his arms around her, to hug her tight and never let go, but for some reason, he couldn't move. It was as though his entire body had gone in shock at the sight of his absent friend. He could smell her, that same rosemary scent that she had always had. With a pang in his chest, he realized that he had forgotten about that.
He missed her.
A hand reached out and ruffled his hair a bit, but her eyes never left his. Hunny absentmindedly noticed that the wind had picked up in speed and force. It was blowling around viciously, and the rose petals were flying everywhere in its hard gale. The girl's hair no longer waved gently but was instead tossed around her head, and her dress flapped against her form. Hunny could feel his own hair and clothing being pulled around, but he pay attention to any of that. He focused on the girl in front of him. She leaned down a bit and opened her mouth to say something. Her hair blew forward into his face, and Hunny had to strain his ears to hear her. She whispered something in his ear and drew back.
Hunny looked up at her in alarm. "What do you mean?" he demanded, having to raise his childish voice to hear it over the wind. The girl smiled at him and took a step backwards. The action made Hunny inhale in alarm. A sickening feeling filled his stomach as though he had been punched in the gut. No. The girl turned around and started to walk away from him. Every step sent aching pangs in his chest, and he forced himself to move forward. Nonononono. She couldn't leave him. Not again. He couldn't let it happen again. He wouldn't lose her again. His running footsteps kicked flowers into the air, but this time, the didn't fall back. Instead the wind took them up in its gust. He had to fight his way through the wind and shove against it. It whipped at his face and stung his eyes. The girl, however, seemed to be unaffected. Hunny grit his teeth and pushed against it with all the force he could muster. He wouldn't lose her. In a few steps, he caught up with her, reached out his hand, and seized her elbow. She turned towards him, eyes wide and surprised.
Hunny braced himself against the wind. "What does that mean?" he shouted over the wind that swirled around them. "Where are you going?"
Her gaze softened, and she smiled at him. She tugged her arm, but he tightened his grip. "Stop!" he yelled, his voice frantic. His face twisted in an expression of urgency, alarm, and fear. "You can't leave," he whispered, and at that moment, the wind picked up in intensity. It surged like a hurricane, and he felt his grip rip away from the girl's. The gust forced him away, making him tumble against the ground. He landed on his stomach on the ground, and he looked up. All the rose petals had been lifted off the ground and were now zooming everywhere, particularly around the girl. A few feet away, she stood straight and tall, watching him. The roses and the wind whirled about her, and her clothing and hair whipped back in forth. The petals seemed to congregate around her, swirling around her in a tornado of red. Hunny's mouth dropped open in horror, and he yelled, but the roar of the wind drowned him out. He watched airborne river of red circle around her, spiraling and obscuring her from view. No. She smiled at him. No. He couldn't see her any more. No. The tornado sped up, going faster and faster. No. He tried to push himself up, but the wind forced him back down, slamming his chin into the black floor. No. The wind was starting to lose it's force. No. The flower petals were starting to fall, and he couldn't see her. No. They separated and tumbled down softly. No. She was gone. "No!" The wind had vanished, and the petals were on the ground again, the carpet recreated. From his position on the floor, Hunny shook his head in disbelief. The flowers had taken her away, and she was gone. Gone, gone, gone, gone.
Hunny propped himself on all fours and hit the ground in frustration. The tears had escaped now and were running down his face, liquid crystals dripping off his chin and onto the ground. A few fell onto the petals beneath him and stained them a darker shade of red. Hunny looked at them for a few seconds, and then a wave of anger ran over him. Those flowers…had stolen her away from him. Taken her away again. An cold, enraged glare took over Hunny's face, and with an angry "AHHHH!", he quickly and fiercely swept his arm across the floor, scattering the offending petals. Breathing heavily, he stared at them uncomprehendingly. And in his mind, he heard her voice again, the words she had whispered before she had disappeared. Hunny clung to them. They weren't much, but they were his only clue, the only things had had to go on. And he would be damned if he lost them too.
"Come and find me."
Hunny awoke with a gasp and shot into a sitting position, his heart thudding rapidly against his chest. He took in deep, gasping breaths, the remnants of the dream still floating before his eyes. He pressed his fingers against his eyes, pushing a bit until multicolored sparks erupted behind his lids. At that point, he pulled them away and opened his eyes.
The hosts had retreated back into their own rooms for the night, so he was alont again in the room that Renge had given him. Hunny slid out of bed, his feet silently hitting the floor, and padded over to the desk to the left of his bed, He opened a drawer in the desk, and with the help of the moonlight drifing in from the large ceiling to floor window to the right of his bed, he could a flashlight. A small finger pushed the button, and a round beam of light illuminated the papers and documents on the desk.
Hunny peered closer at the paper, tired eyes roving over them. The documents stared back at him unanswering. A book on Tojiwaran history, Ootori records on Rasputin, articles from and about the invasion, list of names, pictures of the Fujioka family and their friends, a textbook on the German occupations of France and Poland. He had even gotten a hold of a few military documents thanks to his connections with the United States military, but they all added up to the same thing. Nothing. Or at least nothing that Kyouya hadn't found already. Nothing they didn't already know. In short, nothing useful.
Hunny sighed and absentmindedly flipped a page over in the French Occupation book. He thought about the dream he had just had. The darkness, the roses, the girl. Haruhi. Hunny ran a hand through his hair. How in the world could he come and find her if there was nothing to be found? Nothing to go on? Nothing to imply or give any inclination that Haruhi was anything but…
"Dead," Hunny whispered, finishing his own thought. He tiredly pulled out the leather rolling chair and plopped down into it, resting his head on his crossed arms. He sat there for a few seconds and he lightly pushed a pencil with his index finger and watched it roll. The flashlight, which he had placed on the table, cast his shadow upon the wall.
Why couldn't he let this go? This overwhelming, obsessive feeling. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't escape it, couldn't make it leave. It was all he could think of that last two days, all he could focus on. A frame rested on the back corner of the desk, and Hunny reached out and took hold of it. He dragged his arm across the table and propped himself up on his elbow, cupping his face. He looked down at the photograph within the frame. A small smile curled on his face.
The rest of the Ouran High School Host Club stared back at him. It was from the night of the Ouran Festival, the night that they had almost lost everything. It had been taken towards the end of the night, and fireworks still exploded behind them, illuminating the night. Tamaki stood in the middle, his expensive white suit still somewhat wet and water-logged. His hair fluffed around his head, slightly messy from diving into the water. A careless arm was thrown over Kyouya's purple clad shoulders. The black haired boy's cheek was still slightly swollen from his father's blow earlier in the festival, but there was a genuine smile upon his face, and Hunny could see the relief in his eyes as though he had lost everything and fought for it and won. The twins stood in front of the two second years, their eyes closed in mischievous grins. Kaoru held up two fingers in a victory sign, flaunting their triumph that night. Hikaru still had his arm in a sling, but he was happy too, and Hunny could tell that the younger red head was about to burst out in laughter. It had been awhile since he had seen his friend so happy. Mori stood to the side and slightly behind Tamaki. A rare smile was on his face too, and his eyes sparkled through the camera, overjoyed in his own way. With one hand, he held onto Hunny's arm, keeping him from toppling over his shoulders, and with the other, he gripped Tamaki's shoulder as though to ensure himself that the tall blonde was there. Hunny smiled softly to himself. Takashi was always so protective.
He barely gave his photographed self a glance. He was just hanging on to Takashi's shoulders as usual. No, his gaze was drawn to the brown haired girl, the one at the center of it all. His stomach flipped a bit looking at her. She looked even prettier than usual despite the water stained, rumpled dress. A tiny bit of makeup stained her face from the water. Hikaru and Kaoru had tried to fix it before the dance, but she had fought them off, not caring one bit that her makeup was running. It hadn't lessened her appearance anyways. Her smile seemed to ignite the page, it was so warm. The twins had their arms wrapped around her waist, and Kyouya's arm rested on her head like an arm rest, but she seemed to radiate happiness. Triumph and relief had made her giddy, and the picture had been taken at the moment the girl was in mid-laugh, her mouth open and eyes squeezed shut in mirth.
Hunny ran a finger over her face. He noticed her short hair, which had dried much more quickly than Tamaki's had. It framed her face, brushing gracefully across her forehead. That was one the twins wouldn't let her get away with. It had taken a lot of effort for Hikaru to hold her down on the limo ride back to the school so that Kaoru could forcefully blow dry and straighten her hair. Hunny smiled at the memory, and the image of his dream floated through his mind. I wonder how long her hair has gotten, Hunny wondered distractedly before he froze. He looked at the photograph Haruhi for a moment and mentally hit himself.
"You're dead." he whispered to the picture. The hands holding the frame started shaking, making the picture rattle. Brown eyes looked at him. Hunny bit his lip and felt pricks in his eyes. "Why can't you leave me alone?" he hissed. "If you had to leave then why didn't you just leave?" Haunting him. She was haunting him. The frame fell from his quivering hands onto the table with a clatter. Hunny collapsed in his seat, falling back into the leather back and sinking down into a slouch. He sent a frustrated glare up a the ceiling. Why can't I let this go? he though frustrated. It was bad enough that she was gone…
As far as you know, a small part of him whispered. Hunny sat up again and scooted closer to the desk. He lifted the flashlight and shone it over the documents. There was nothing to indicate that she was alive, but at the same time, nothing said that she wasn't. All they had to go on was Ranka's word, and he could have made a mistake, jumped to conclusions, anything. Or maybe there was something that he hadn't been aware of. He saw her body, but he didn't see her die. He bent his head over the documents. How did they kill the hospital victims? Where did they take them? How much time passed between their arrival and their deaths? Did they arrive there live or dead? Who murdered them? Were there records of this? Did they keep a list of the dead? Were there escapees? And if there were, how could they have done so? And was there a chance that maybe a scholarship student and the smartest girl he had ever known had found the way out?
There was a small creaking sound, and Hunny lifted his head in surprise. He swung the flashlight around to focus it in the direction of the sound, which happened to be the door to the bedroom. Peering through the small crack of the slightly opened doors were two pairs of olive green eyes. The eyes blinked sharply against the light, and a weary, irritated voice drifted towards him. "Jeez, sempai, shine that somewhere else, will you?"
Hunny clicked off the flashlight, casting the room into darkness. "Sorry, Hika-chan, Kao-chan." His eyes weren't used to the darkness, and he couldn't see the twins slink into his room, even though he could hear them. Their feet shuffled against the carpet, and there was a thud as Kaoru cried out "Ah!" Hunny snapped the light back on and whirled it around and held it out like a sword towards the direction of his cry. The red haired teenager was standing near the dresser, hopping up and down on one leg as he held his foot.
"That. Flipping. Hurt," Kaoru growled, and his twin sighed.
"You're such a klutz," Hikaru muttered, shaking his head, and he took his brother by the shoulders and began to guide him to the giant four poster bed.
Hunny, whose eyes had adjusted to the lack of light, flicked off the flashlight and padded over to the arm chair by the bed. He specifically avoided his desk, preferring to keep his research efforts to himself. The last thing he needed was the club to find out about his doubts. He inwardly winced for a moment. There was no way that that could end well.
He directed his attention to the twins on his bed. They sat at the edge of it, gripping each other's hands. Their eyes wouldn't meet his gaze, instead taking a particular interest in the ground or the pattern on the handmade quilt. Hunny bit his lip. It was hard to believe that they were the same laughing people that he had just seen in the picture. Instead of mirth and triumph, their expressions were heavy and sagging. He noticed for the first time just how pale they had become. Their skin had turned a pallid, sickly color, which only made the purple bags underneath their puffy eyes stand out. A red tinge covered the whites of their eyes, and he could tell that they had been crying. They sort of leaned up against each other, as though they were deathly tired and the effort of holding themselves straight was just too much to bear. Their hair hung limply upon their heads, and it looked like they hadn't washed it in a few days. They would never had let that happen a few months ago.
After a few moments of awkward, heavy silence, Hunny broke the silence. "Hika-chan? Kao-chan? Why are you still up?"
Hikaru flinched at the sudden shattering of the silence, and Kaoru squeezed his brother's hand tighter. Hikaru gripped it just as tightly, and Hunny could see that both of their knuckles were starting to turn white. Kaoru swallowed and forced himself to look up at Hunny. The first year's eyes were still glistening with tears when he muttered quietly, "We couldn't sleep."
"And there was a light from the crack underneath your doorway…" Hikaru added, biting his lip.
Hunny nodded wearily and leaned against the back of the arm chair. His head hit the comfortable fabric and slid down, ruffling him his hair and he slouched. He folded his hands on his chest and looked at the sky out the window. "I couldn't sleep either." He turned his gaze back to the twins on the bed, who sat there awkwardly clutching each other. Somewhere within the house, he knew that the rest of the hosts were having the same problems. Insomnia, nightmares. They had been terrible when they'd thought that Haruhi was alive, but now that she was gone (supposedly), they had gotten much much worse. The last three nights had been awful on all of them.
Surely one more night wouldn't hurt…
Hunny slid off the armchair, making the twins look up sharply. They watched him pad over to the desk and pick up the abandoned flashlight before turning it on again. He turn back to them. "Well, come on," he said, and hearing their feet fall to the floor by his bed, he opened the door to his room. The dark hallway was slightly illuminated by the bright city outside the windows, but Hunny kept the flashlight on anyways as he led the way. Behind him, he heard another door opening and another, and five sets of footsteps were following him down the hallway. So much for trying to sleep in separate rooms, Hunny thought, but the thought didn't bother him so much. Despite the awkwardness, it was much easier when they all slept together. Maybe it would be easier to just ask Renge if they could move some extra beds into Tama-chan's room or something. Just until Haru-chan comes back.