Heine

Komugi sat next to the bed that Zaken slept upon, in the room she'd rented out in Heine. She'd sent word to Ryonai, who was in Schuttgart, that she was safe, and she had someone she wanted him to meet with her. She figured he'd be there within a few days, always eager to meet a prospective addition to Haibane.

She played with his large hat curiously, turning it this way and that as she tried to figure out how it was made. Feeling playful, she plopped it on her head, and pouted as it engulfed her head down to the bridge of her nose. She felt another presence enter the inn and lifted the hat up slightly to find Eva standing next to her.

"Very good." Eva complimented in a soft voice, looking at Zaken.

"I suppose I have you to thank." Komugi said bitterly, letting the hat fall back over her face.

"Only if you truly want to. Your gratitude shall be shown to me when you become my servant." Eva said simply. Komugi sighed and lifted the hat from her head and placed it on her lap.

"About that whole reincarnation thing….you weren't serious were you?" Komugi asked, looking up at the goddess. Eva tilted her head at her in expressionless curiosity.

"Of course I was, I do not make it a habit to lie to mortals." Eva said, blinking sweetly. Komugi frowned and chewed the inside of her lip, trying not to think the thoughts that attempted to slide through. "There is one problem though…because he drank from you while the curse was resetting itself; he still retains some of his vampiric tendencies. He will have to feed occasionally."
"What was I supposed to do? Tillion was going to try and change history!" Komugi snapped, sitting upright in her seat. Eva shrugged lightly again, and Komugi's temper lit.

"Make sure it's only you he drinks from, otherwise he'll re-merge with the ghost left on the island and return to being as he was before." Eva stated, turning away from the bed.

"What?" Komugi exclaimed as the goddess disappeared. "I gotta let him bite me from now on? No way, I'll turn into a raisin! Are you listening to me, Eva!" Komugi shouted. Zaken stirred with the sound of her voice, and Komugi whipped back around quickly.

"Hi." He said with a weak smile, and then smacked his lips, trying to wet his dry mouth.

"How are you doing? Are you hungry?" Komugi asked reflexively, and then winced as she recalled Eva's words.

"I'm a little thirsty…" Zaken admitted, and Komugi froze. "Got any water?" She relaxed and then smiled.

"Sure, let me go get some." She said, standing. Zaken struggled to push himself up with her, and she put a concerned hand on his chest. "You should rest." She said gently.

"I'd like to get out; it's been a long time since I've seen the sun." Zaken smiled.

"But…" Komugi began, but was silenced as Zaken placed a finger on her lips.

"I'll be ok." He assured her, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

Komugi helped him shed his heavy coat and dress in a soft cotton shirt, trying to disguise him from the rest of the city. He leaned heavily on her as they exited the inn, and Komugi glanced up at him in worry as they stepped out into the sunlight. He winced as the light hit his eyes, and shielded his face from it, but did not burst into flame or melt, as she heard vampires did when faced with the light.

"That feels wonderful." Zaken said, sighing. Komugi's face broke into a smile, and she turned a determined expression to the walkway ahead of them.

"The water is this way." Komugi said cheerfully, helping him walk. Zaken glanced down at her and squeezed her shoulder in an affectionate manner.

"I can't remember a lot of things…" Zaken admitted later, as he and Komugi sat on the edge of a walkway and dangled their feet in the water. Komugi had purchased them both iced milk on a stale cookie cone to eat while watching the water. Komugi had nearly finished hers, but Zaken seemed baffled on how to eat his.

"I'm sure that'll return in time." Komugi said, licking a drip of milk from her hand. Zaken gave her a half smile and then sighed as he gazed out over the water.

"I remember you, that's enough for me." He said, taking a tentative lick from his cone. He raised his eyebrows in surprise as he found it good. Komugi blushed and looked down, suddenly feeling shy with his comment.

They strolled through Heine's square later, Komugi bashfully taking his arm when he offered it to her. They spoke little, enjoying each other's presence and the beauty that was Heine without bothersome speech. Komugi's mood melted a bit and she came to an abrupt halt as Kyosuke, standing on the other side of the square, met her sight. She grimaced inwardly, not knowing how to handle the impending situation.

"Kurikups." Zaken said suddenly, blinking in surprise at the boy. Komugi looked up at him in bewilderment.

"Kurikups? Where?" she asked, looking around the square.

"Right there. You were looking at him." Zaken said, pointing back to Kyosuke. Komugi's eyes bugged out of her head as she slowly turned back to look at the youth, who strolled over to them with a grin.

"Ah so you got back together, tough luck." Kyosuke said, rubbing the back of his head. Zaken frowned and lowered his eyelids in annoyance at the demon, and hugged Komugi to his chest protectively.

"You're Kurikups?" Komugi repeated in disbelief. Kyosuke nodded with a grin and her jaw dropped open. "I suddenly feel kind of ill." She said, glancing away with a grimace.

"Sorry for tricking you all of this time, but I really just wanted to find a way to get Zaken out of my hair so I could go back to sleep. It's really rough being awake and noticing the passage of time while waiting for Beleth to return, I'm really quite bored with it." Kyosuke said good-naturedly. "I planted myself on the cargo ship that Zaken attacked because I knew you'd be there. I'd heard you were looking for a way to cure Zaken you see, so I thought 'what a great chance to be rid of him!' Everything that happened after that was just an unforeseen bonus." He sighed in disappointment, his shoulders drooping. "You sure you want to stay with him? He's a bit rusty on his romance I'm sure. You could come back with me to the island and be my next wife; I'd treat you like a queen." Zaken glared and tightened his hold on Komugi, letting out a slight hissing noise at the disguised demon.

"I think I'll stay with rusty romance as I've had enough of queens, thank you." Komugi said flatly, her stomach churning in unhappiness as she remembered all that she'd done with Kyosuke. Some part of her heart felt betrayed and hurt, but she pushed it aside.

"Suit yourself, but come and find me if you ever change your mind." Kyosuke said with a shrug as he disappeared. Komugi let out a tense sigh that she hadn't realized had built up, and looked up at Zaken who still glared at the spot where Kyosuke had stood.

"What'd you do with him?" he asked defensively, turning his glare on her. Komugi lowered her eyelids in annoyance.

"What'd you do with Freya? Or Wimere for that matter?" Komugi retorted. Zaken's expression changed immediately and glanced away, aloof.

"Can't seem to remember a Wimere or Freya." He said lightly. Komugi scoffed and rolled her eyes, pulling from him and walking away. He grinned roguishly at her and jogged after her. Kyosuke materialized again as they left, and watched them with a wistful expression.

His memories recalled Zaken, ridden with nightmares of Triage's death, had contacted the Magus Kenishee in an attempt to find out what part of the abyss her soul was hiding in. He intended to storm the abyss himself and beg for her forgiveness, to make the guilt and sorrow end.

After consulting her magic potions, the Magus announced that Triage's soul was no longer in the abyss. Kurikups remembered following him then, as he left Devil's Isle after receiving a strange message from the Magus. He followed the vampire to Talking Island, where Zaken landed outside of a tiny cottage in the corner of the village. A little girl with mousey brown hair stood outside a window, from which the sounds of a woman in labor emanated from, trying to peek over the sill. The little girl turned to look at Zaken was he approached, pushing large spectacles up her nose.

"Mommy's squeezing bacon." The girl said, and Zaken's mouth twitched slightly as he tried not to laugh. He took another step forward to glance into the window as the girl turned back to trying to look in. The cries of a baby suddenly emanated from the room, and the mother of the child laughed in relief.

"It's a girl!" the midwife proclaimed, and the father of the baby kissed his wife lovingly.

"That's not bacon!" the little girl in front of Zaken exclaimed, and then she bolted from the window and behind the house, sobbing loudly.

"Triage's soul is no longer in the Abyss because it has been reborn! Tonight, my magics say, she is re-entering the world in the tiny village of Talking Island!" the Magus' words echoed across Kurikups' memories.

"So I missed getting her as a wife again, I'll try again in the next lifetime." Kyosuke grinned, disappearing for real this time.

"I remember this place well." Zaken breathed as he and Komugi walked to the beach leading to the Garden of Eva. Wanting to visit it at least once as a tourist, Komugi and Zaken had packed up and begun the trek there. Zaken gazed at the reef, his eyes glazed over in memory. He took her by the hand and led her over to where the water met the shore, the reef sparkling underneath the waves. "We kissed for the first time here, didn't we?" Zaken asked, gazing down at her with a smile. Suddenly feeling awkward and shy, Komugi pulled away from him, almost loosing her mask of cool at the look in his eyes.

"I can't remember. Maybe." Komugi responded, wading into the water and searching for loose bits of coral to make jewelry from. Her eyes widened as Zaken approached her, and she glanced up at him, her cheeks pink as she found him rubbing the back of his head in nervousness. With a frustrated sigh, he produced something from his pocket and placed it in her hand. Komugi looked in surprise as a pretty purple flower hairpin sat in her palm, and she looked up at Zaken with large eyes.

"I'd like to do our relationship properly this time, if you'll let me." Zaken said with a nervous smile. Komugi felt happiness welling in her chest as she put the hairpin in her hair with shaking hands. Unable to stand it, she let the bubble in her chest burst, and latched onto Zaken with all of the happiness she felt. He fell onto his back in the sand, but was silenced from making any noises of surprise or pain as Komugi planted her mouth over his.

On the other side of the beach, unbeknownst to the happily renewed couple, stood a light elf with short blonde hair, watching without expression. She looked away as they rolled over, Zaken on top of Komugi as they continued to kiss, and began walking towards Heine.

"You may have him now, silly little rabbit…but your time with him will be but a blink of an eye." The voice of the Ice Queen came coldly. "I know that once you shrivel up and die, he will return to the beautiful demon he was, and will come back to my embrace." She cackled darkly and disappeared into a gust of snowflakes, leaving no trace that she'd been there.

Back in the Frozen Labyrinth, all is shining and pristine once more. The steward guarding the bridge lives, and Sirra floated calmly at her post in front of the Ice Queen's castle. No one paid any attention to the statue of the zombie pirate, still poised in the act of catching his hat. No one heard as he cried deep in his frozen throat. But if people could hear him, it was hard to say if they would even care.