Bamboo leaves rustled softly in the wind, as cicadas droned on mercilessly. Moonlight cascaded onto the still palace, as a few, solitary dark figures could be seen crossing the grounds, checking to make sure that nothing appeared.
The windows in several of the higher up terraces shone brilliantly.
In all, it was a peaceful, quiet scene, and was shaping up to be perfect in every respect.
It was of course, rudely interrupted like all perfect nights.
There was a dazzling flash from the courtyard, as a shining symbol appeared on the ground. People across the complex woke up in surprise, hurrying to windows and doors to peer outside, or to hurry towards where they could peer out a window.
The air twisted, and flared, as the shining light vanished, gone in a heartbeat.
It left in its place, three weary travelers, and one bouncing manjuu bun. "Well at least we didn't land in an ocean this time."
"Or in an garbage dump Kuro-pii. One must count their blessings." The blond-haired man smiled serenely as he grandly gestured around himself to the courtyard.
Kurogane grunted as he looked up at the sky, before looking at the bouncing manjuu-bun that had nestled atop Syaoran's head.
"Either way, it looks like we have visitors."
Kurogane grunted as his hand lashed out to grab an arrow from mid-air. "Oy, Mage, don't get too hurt-"
"Kurogane?" The surprised, female voice stopped him from saying anything else, as Kurogane's hand lowered.
"So it is you Kurogane." The female ninja strode out of the darkness, lighting a torch on her way. "It's been a year and you finally decide to come back huh?"
Kurogane grunted as he crossed his arms, looking decidedly odd and out of place in the clothing that they had received from Clow. "You guys have been getting slower. It took you what; three seconds to attack?"
"Many went to go guard Hime and her visitors."
Kurogane's head tilted back to stare at the second floor where light poured out from the windows. "Up there, huh?"
Souma simply nodded. Kurogane snorted as Syaoran desperately bit back a yawn. Souma's face softened slightly as she gestured, "Here, allow me to lead you in."
"Go ahead and take the mage and the kid Souma, I need to speak with Tomoyo."
Kurogane swept towards the palace, ignoring the other ninja's eyeing. Fai giggled softly as he looked at Souma. "I think I'm going to go eavesdrop on Kuro-pii!"
Souma attempted to grab him by the back of the cape, but it was too late; like smoke he had vanished after the already gone Ninja. Syaoran spoke up quietly, "Miss Souma, I don't think that you're going to catch him."
"I guessed as much." Souma grumbled. "Come on kid, let's put you to bed."
Syaoran nodded obediently, as Mokona did a little tap dance on top of his head. "Bed! Bed!"
Fai eased himself up against the paper doorway, staring at the wooden lines that criss-crossed their way into making a frame. Through the doorway he could hear muttering and sounds of outrage- that certainly sounded like where Kurogane would be.
"Tomoyo." More outraged hisses and whispers. "I came here to talk about my vow."
Fai's heart squeezed. Vow? Inside of the room, he could hear outrage erupting in a storm.
"What? Do you mean to be a traitor and rescind your vow?"
"Outrage, how can one such as he work for the Princess?"
"What is he thinking?"
Fai sank into a sitting position out of sight, but still listening carefully, despite the fact that it was as if his heart was in his ears. Was… Kurogane going to stay? He had been slightly quieter lately, and had been staying up later; Fai had known Kurogane was thinking, he just didn't know what about.
Was Kurogane leaving him behind? "Peace."
Tomoyo's quiet, calm voice broke across the angry voices that cascaded through the room. "Kurogane."
"I take it you came to renew the vow?"
"…Yes, and… to add on to it."
Fai blinked at that. Add on? What had Kurogane sworn to the Princess Tomoyo?
"I see." Was it just his imagination, or was there an almost disapproving tone to Tomoyo's voice?
No, there was no way the Princess could be displeased about Kurogane continuing to swear allegiance to her, and only her. Fai's heart squeezed painfully once more, which he continued to ignore.
It should be no real surprise that Kurogane would choose to stay behind in Nihon- he had obligations, family, and a life here. He didn't have to wander the worlds. He chose to wander the worlds with them, and just as easily could choose that he was done with the traveling lifestyle.
He wasn't like Syaoran, who had given up all chance of returning home and staying home for the rest of his life. Nor was he like Fai that no longer had a home to return to. Instead, he had been forced out of his home, forced to leave behind those he knew and probably loved to travel.
"Come Kurogane, we will talk about this in private."
There was the soft rustle of silk, and Fai remained where he was.
Tomoyo silently slid the door close, as Kurogane ungracefully collapsed into a near approximation of the Seiza position. "Kurogane, what is this about the vow."
"Renew it; and add on a little bit more. I have sworn my entire being to you Tomoyo- and I will not take that back."
Kurogane paused as he could've sworn there was a rather displeased look on Tomoyo's face. "But- I also have other obligations now as well."
The maybe-displeased glint disappeared as fast as it had appeared, and asTomoyo's serene smile shone brilliantly, "And what would you like to add to your vow then, Kurogane?"
Kurogane's head rose. "My Being will be for you… but my soul belongs to the four- no I guess five- that I have underneath my protection."
Tomoyo giggled in response, as Kurogane's eyes narrowed. "What's so funny?" He grumbled.
"I am simply amazed at how much you've grown in this past year Kurogane."
"It's been three years for me Tomoyo-hime. Time travels differently in each world. And I can't leave those two to wander the worlds by themselves."
"Good." Tomoyo serene smile had a slightly dangerous tint to it. "If you were going to try to, I would've sent you with them anyways."
Kurogane snorted, but he seemed to have no doubt that she would do exactly what she said. Tomoyo took a deep breath as he knelt, extending the sword to her. Smiling, she held forth her hand, and received the vow.
Fai wasn't quite certain just how long he had been sitting here beside the door. No more then twenty minutes at most, but more then five minutes. Silently he listened to the ninjas that padded through hallways, ever searching for danger.
Once, Kurogane was doing this as well… of a sort. Somehow Fai doubted Kurogane quietly walked through the hallways, and somehow he doubted that he bothered to hide his presence.
The blond haired man adjusted his stance, as he heard the rattle of doors being opened once more. "Princess- Princess!"
"Very well then, Kurogane of Suwa. I have received your vow." Tomoyo's clear voice rang through the doorway. "Your room is still open to you, to use how you wish."
The wood and paper door rattled violently as it was slid back, and Fai looked up as Kurogane looked down. "Get lost mage?" Kurogane bit out, crimson eyes clearly showing his disbelief.
Fai didn't smile, all he did was latch onto an arm with a warm sigh. "Evesdropping!" He chirruped, ignoring the fact that everyone in the room behind was listening. "I was afraid you were going to leave our family."
Kurogane snorted as his head jerked back up to stare down the hallway, feet moving forward, and Fai blinked as a sudden darkness colored Kurogane's cheeks as a gruff voice, well aware that everyone in the room behind was listening, snarled, "What kind of dad would I be if I let my family go without me?"
Fai's grip slackened as he stopped dead in the hallway, mouth hanging. A loud squeal sounded from the room behind as Kurogane stomped through the hallways, determinedly not looking back.
"I told you Souma!"
"Princesses, please, jumping up and down is behavior unfitting for-"
Fai squealed twice as loudly as he charged at the blushing Ninja full tilt, wrapping both arms the waist, and clinging tightly. "Kuro-daddy I love you!" He sang out to the world in general.
Instantly Kurogane began attempting to pry him off. "Get off mage!"
"Nope, not gonna!" Fai chirruped. "After all, Fai-mommy is soo happy that Kuro-daddy has finally admitted how much he likes his family!"
The enraged Ninja bent to his task with a will, as Tomoyo's unprincess like giggles filled the air.
Kurogane wearily allowed the mage to cling to him as he slid the door open, dragging himself and the extra dead weight towards the futon. Tiredly he collapsed on top of it, not bothering to change clothes; it was too much work.
Fai instantly went face down into the pillow, while Kurogane rolled over onto his side, leaving his main sword arm free. Within moments the two were breathing shallowly, bodys relaxing into a close approximation of sleep.
But not sleep itself.
Kurogane found himself slightly on edge for no reason. Something was bothering him- "Kuro-pii?" The soft voice broke the silence, and Kurogane's eyes snapped open as he levered himself up onto one arm.
"What Mage? You steal half of my bed-"
"Is it just me, or does it seem empty?"
Instantly Kurogane realized just why he couldn't sleep.
For the three years the four had been traveling together, at any given time, they were not separated by anything more then a single room other then when they were working. From one room houses, to dirty caves, to mansions, to any type of accommodation possible, the furthest they had ever tried sleeping apart was one room. That was why he had been on edge; he hadn't been able to feel Syaoran and Mokona's presence.
"The kids aren't here." Kurogane snapped back. "So go to sleep Mage-"
Light footsteps echoed down the hallway, as Mokona's sleepy voice drifted in through the hallways, "Kuro-daddy, Fai-mommy~"
"M-Mokona, I don't think you should say that, you might wake someone up. We should go back to our rooms-"
"But I can't sleep and neither can you, so we got nothing to do- hey, that rhymes!"
Syaoran groaned. "Ah, wait- which was is back?"
Fai giggled at the confused tone as he threw open the sliding door. Kurogane slid out of the futon, to sit on the floor and lean against the wall, silently counting down the noises and seconds.
Fai had just managed to capture Syaoran.
Fai was dragging Syaoran into his room despite flailing arms.
Said two people had now taken up all of his bed, and he was now stuck sleeping in this position-
Until a ridiculously over-happy magician pulled him down, and proceeded to tuck Syaoran into his chest, and then curl up on the other side, Mokona happily snuggling into the space between heads.
"Shush Kuro-daddy! Our son is trying to sleep."
"Mage, I'm not sleeping on my metal arm." Kurogane's voice was flat as he began to disentangle himself from the mage.
To his credit, Fai didn't protest, and Syaoran quickly pulled away as his sleep-deprived mind recognized where exactly he was. "S-Sorry-"
Fai clambered over Syaoran with a relieved smile, as Kurogane awkwardly scooted around to the other side.
Once again, Syaoran found himself in the middle of a human sandwich. "Sleeping time for the family! All we need now is a fire and a blanket, with snow outside the window-"
"Shut up Mage and go to sleep." Kurogane growled, eyes fluttering close.
Fai giggled as his eyes also closed, and within moment, all were asleep.
Tomoyo pouted angrily as she peeked through the (quickly getting holey) paper doorway, as other Ninja that knew Kurogane from before crowded around behind her, determined to see this 'family' he had become father of.
The news had spread like wildfire- strong, manly Kurogane that could kill you a mile away had gotten tied down? Who would even dare try?
"Why don't I have anything to record this moment? I wish I was in a different world where you could record these sorts of things-"
A sword cleanly sliced through the doorway, and thudded against the wooden wall, slicing a thin cut an attempting to peek ninja. The doorway rattled open to an extremely pissed looking Kurogane.
"All of you are going to die come training in an hour, so I hope you're all prepared."
The ninjas scrambled, fleeing the scene as Kurogane yanked the sword out from wood. Tomoyo smiled back as she nodded gracefully. "I will leave it to you, be a good protector of your family."
a/n: … Did this get too long/confusing? I tried to make it flow, but somehow I kept getting interrupted, so eventually I gave up. XD Either way, I dearly hope you like, and please review!