As the first few days after the final battle passed people started to trickle back into villages they had once lived in. Many of them were thin from a lack of food, tired, older looking, and had no memory of anything that had happened to them after they'd gone missing.
It seemed that Watanuki's statement had been true after all. Once the spirits that possessed people had been destroyed the witches they had created were released and the terror was finally over.
Subaru was nervous with excited anticipation as he waited outside of the council's chamber doors. Along with General Shiro, General Monou and Commander Sakurazuka, as a junior officer he was the closest person involved with the Travelers so the council had asked for him by name to be a part of the briefing that was to be held. He didn't think they could have had better news to offer even if the gods themselves had come down and offered to abolish all diseases.
"Quit twitching," Sakurazuka growled next to him. "It's annoying."
"S-Sorry Commander," he flushed, but still couldn't really help himself from bouncing from foot to foot. The four of them were decked out in their finest livery. Their weapons had been polished and shined and their leathers oiled and cleaned. Subaru thought he'd never looked better.
Fuuma and Kamui had been very quiet up till that point. Subaru wondered what they were thinking.
The doors finally opened and an aid ushered the four of them in. No one had really seen the Hunter's Council outside of staff and aids since its inception. It was one of the most secretive organizations in existence. Subaru could scarcely believe he was about to see them now, and he was only an ensign!
The room they walked into was surprisingly small. It was in the shape of a rotunda but the ceiling did not tower nearly as high as a standard rotunda would for a place of worship. It was trimmed in rich dark woods and the floor was dark black marble. It gave a rather somber mood to the small space.
The table the council members sat up at was in the shape of a crescent that followed the walls of the room. The raised seats and high, ornately designed table proved an imposing sight for those that stood in front of it.
Subaru only knew the name of one person on the council and really, how could he not? The man was Fuuma's father, after all.
Once they entered and were in the room fully the three men next to him knelt down to their knees and Subaru followed suit. The doors closed behind them and someone spoke.
"General Monou, General Shiro, Commander Sakurazuka, and Ensign Sumeragi."
The voice was deep, though the ensign was loathe to look up at the person to investigate who it was before the others lifted their heads first.
"You may rise."
They did so. Subaru chanced a glance up at the Hunter's Council and took note of the person that had spoken. He was a rather ugly man – his beard was large and parted down the center. He wore a monocle lens and rather elaborate clothes.
"Councilman Fei Wong," Monou greeted. "You asked to see us."
"Indeed. We've been hearing strange news lately from all over the country. Perhaps you can settle some of these wild rumors we've heard?"
"I'm not sure how wild the rumors have become," Fuuma began, "but most of what you've heard is likely true. The Witches' Collective has been disbanded and their threat is neutralized. Beings that refer to themselves as 'Travelers' were the ones to abolish the source of the collective's power. Captain Doumeki Shizuka was seduced by one of these Travelers, and was also directly responsible for defending our village at the final battle. He has not been seen since that day, nor have his parents and his fiance that were abducted by these Travelers prior."
Sakurazuka quietly snorted. Subaru felt his chest tighten with the painful memory, but at least the ache was starting to reduce. They lost the best of them, but at least everyone left would be safe.
The rest of the council members started murmuring to each other. They seemed restless as they moved their heads to talk to the person on their left, then the person on their right, then back again. The murmuring grew louder still.
"This is impossible!" Someone stood up and declared.
Fei Wong motioned a hand and the man sat back down. Subaru winced internally as he looked at the strangely stretched earlobes of the graying old councilman that dangled nearly down to his shoulders. It was gross.
"What's to become of the Hunter's Council?" Someone else asked. A man stood up and looked at Fei Wong. He had a very gentle looking face. "And the rest of the order?"
"I agree with Mr. Rondart," someone else confirmed. "This is not acceptable."
"W-What?" Subaru's mouth fell agape.
Fei Wong nodded to himself. "Fuuma," he looked at the general. "How many others have witnessed the events that occurred in your village?"
Fuuma's eyes narrowed. "Just the active hunters on duty, and any citizen that was brave or stupid enough to go outside."
Fei Wong sighed. "I suppose it can't be helped, then. The witnesses will have to be silenced. Guards-"
Suddenly arms were on them and holding them down. Subaru chocked up with shock and Sakurazuka spluttered angrily. "Fuckers!" The commander yelled. "What the hell is the matter with all of you?"
"Now wait a moment," one of the other, so far silent, councilmen stood up. "Surely my son wouldn't betray the order."
"Why would you do this?" Subaru cried.
Fei Wong laughed. "And just what are a bunch of trained killers supposed to do now that there's no need for them? You suppose we can tell them to run off and become farmers? You think we could let them join the Imperial Army? Fool!" He slammed a hand on the table. "Our forces are a crucial part of the political balance in this country. Have you any idea of the ramifications of allowing the Emperor to hold all of the power?"
Subaru felt his brain become derailed. He didn't think the hunters were supposed to be part of politics at all... That's not what they were supposed to do...
"Father!" Fuuma growled. "You can't-!"
"Kill them," Fei Wong pointed at the four restrained hunters.
"No!" Councilman Monou yelled out, but he was restrained by his peers.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Subaru closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. Things were supposed to get better after this, not worse! Not for the first time Subaru childishly wished Doumeki was there. The unflappable man always seemed to have an answer for terrible situations. Though, even Doumeki probably couldn't have resolved this disaster.
"Fei Wong, this isn't very nice of you!" Subaru felt a person suddenly latch onto his back and a hand slither lightly around his neck. He opened his eyes in shock and saw the blade that was frozen only inches from his throat. "What has cute Subaru ever done to you?"
The air was sucked involuntarily from the ensign's lungs. Watanuki Kimihiro was touching him. Watanuki Kimihiro was holding him, and protecting him from the steel death that was hovering just out of reach of his skin. "How-?"
"Who are you?" Fei Wong demanded. "How did you get in here?"
Watanuki laughed and walked around to stand in front of the restrained hunters. Doumeki walked up next to Watanuki, a bow in hand. Subaru took a moment to reflect on the irony of the fact that this time it was his own people that had restrained him.
Watanuki lifted his hand, a paper ward held delicately between his fingers. He held the item up to his lips briefly and his eyes flashed. "Seal the door," he spoke, then held the ward up into the air. He released his hand and the paper started to spin rapidly, then split down the middle a half a dozen times before each newly made piece shot off towards the doors situated around the room.
Some of the councilmen tried to run to the exits and escape but all of them were too late. Watanuki laughed delightedly at the spectacle they made of themselves. "I, you pitiful man, and Watanuki Kimihiro." The Traveler turned his head and revealed his profile to the hunters that were behind him, his blue eyes fixed on Doumeki. The perpetual grin from his face was suddenly gone. Subaru felt his stomach drop to the bottom of his knees at the suddenly serious countenance. It was strangely more disturbing than any other emotion he'd ever seen on that delicate face. "Shizuka, kill them."
Doumeki drew the string of his bow back, his stance rigid and powerful, and started firing.
It was like watching someone shoot fish in a small bucket. There was no sport, and no dignity in the way these men died. Doumeki was ruthless and quiet as he moved his aim around the room as the Hunter's Council scrambled. Any magic that any of them attempted to use was swiftly thwarted by Watanuki. For a frail looking creature he had amazingly quick reflexes.
At last, there were three men left alive. One of them was Fuuma's father. Watanuki touched Doumeki's shoulder which caused the ex hunter to immediately lower his weapon. The Traveler then carefully picked his feet up as he walked over the bodies towards Councilman Monou. The man's hands had been tied behind his back by his peers. Watanuki grabbed his chin and held his gaze unblinking. "Kyogo Monou." His lips thinned in a tiny frown. "Repent. You were too quiet in your time here. Help your kind now or I will take your heart out of your chest myself."
Fuuma's father nodded as a look of intense relief washed across his face.
Watanuki looked across the room to a different man. His features softened a little. "Aoki, the same advice for you."
The brown haired man nodded. His clothing was splashed in blood from Fei Wong, who had gotten an arrow to the artery in his neck right next to him. The man looked pale and shaken.
Watanuki headed to the last councilman, who at the moment was furiously struggling with one of the doors. "Kyle Rondart," he greeted, but the threat in his voice could not be mistaken.
"Stay back!" The gentle faced man from before cried out. He threw a stream of fire towards the person advancing on him. The flames came to Watanuki but merely curled around him like a long lost friend.
"You are an awful man, Kyle."
The councilman's face twisted suddenly into an ugly visage.
"Truly, a terror in this world. How many children have you ruined?"
"I'll kill you!" Councilman Rondart spat. He cried out when one of Doumeki's arrows flew across the room to land in his shoulder and pin him to the wall.
Watanuki licked his lips and grinned. "You are a coward, Kyle Rondart. A coward!" The space around the door was suddenly consumed in a cloud of solid pitch black. The rest of the people in the room heard a terrifying scream of insanity, one of Kimihiro's giddy laughs, then silence.
Watanuki walked leisurely back to the center of the council room. He looked at the four hunters with a small, satisfied smirk as Doumeki came up behind him and wrapped his arms around the Traveler's waist. "Seiichiro, do be nice to Subaru. My Shizuka still wishes for his safety, so if you do decide to harm him, I won't be able to help but do to you what I've just done to poor Mr. Rondart."
"Bastard," Sakurazuka hissed.
Watanuki chuckled. "Have fun, kids!" He waved at them as the air around him and Doumeki kicked up and swept them away.
. . . . . . . . .
Subaru breathed deeply. The spring air was filled with blooming sakura blossoms, so it was thick and sweet to breathe in. He sighed a little and continued on his walk around the lakeside.
It had been nearly forty years since the Hunter's Council had been abolished. He was old and had been mostly retired for quite a while now. Subaru was one of the last remaining hunter-trained individuals in the country. He'd been young enough that he had not been exposed to nearly enough of the witches' corrupted magic that his heart was trying to fail him early in life. He was just finally starting to feel terrible twinges in his chest but he was nearly in his sixties now so he was grateful that he'd lived as long as he had already.
The sun was just getting ready to head into sunset, so the sky above had just started to alight with orange and yellow amidst the light blue from above.
No one had ever seen Doumeki Shizuka or any of the Travelers since the massacre of the Hunter's Council. Subaru found his mind wandering and wondered how his old captain was doing. Was he still being used? Did Watanuki toss him aside yet? Was he happy, wherever he was?
He must have jinxed himself thinking of such things, for he certainly never expected to see what he did as he walked around a tree. He thought his heart might suddenly stop then and there.
Watanuki and Doumeki were lying down on a reclining chair, apparently asleep. Watanuki was curled up in Doumeki's embrace and his hands were resting on the arms that held him.
Doumeki hadn't aged a day. He still looked like a nineteen year old man that was barely into his twenties. "Captain!" He found himself spluttering out loud. By the heavens, even after so many years he still used that title.
The Traveler's ocean blue eyes blinked open and looked at him. The man smiled and pushed himself a little closer into Doumeki's embrace. "Subaru," he said softly. "It's been a while."
Subaru stood dumbstruck before them. "What are you doing out here?"
Watanuki yawned like a cat. "Enjoying the sunset. It's lovely, isn't it?
Subaru chose to ignore the man. "Doumeki... please say something..."
The ex hunter opened his eyes and looked at Subaru briefly, then back to Watanuki. "Do we know this person, Kimihiro?"
The emotional pain felt so very physical, and it was like it was fresh and new all over again. "Doumeki," Subaru pleaded. "After all you did for us, you still don't remember me?"
Watanuki chuckled and danced his hand up Doumeki's chest. "Yes, love. A very short lifetime ago, we knew this person."
"Hm." Doumeki closed his eyes as though it was the end of it. He looked ready to go back to sleep.
"Don't you care about who you used to be?" Subaru exploded. It was a question that had burned in him for years. "People loved you! They cared for you! And you left!"
"Che," Watanuki huffed. He didn't feel any further reminder was needed of what he'd done for this stupid world.
Doumeki buried a hand in Watanuki's hair. "I remember... vague emotions," he began. "Before Kimihiro, I remember only small impressions of fear, and anger... frustration, and loneliness." A kiss was pressed to Watanuki's forehead. "So much loneliness. When I am with Kimihiro I am at peace." He moved his bright gold eyes – since when were they so golden bright and not tawny brass like his memories told him?- to look back at Subaru. "I do not think I want to remember that pain. There is nothing to be gained from it. There are some things in this world that a person is better off not knowing."
The Intended pulled the Traveler further up and somehow closer still. "I love him."
Watanuki laughed lightly. "Move on, Subaru. You've only a few more months to live. Make the most of it."
He knew, deep down, that there was nothing else to be done. Numb and filled again with a stinging grief, Subaru continued to move along down the route his walk was going to take him previously. Tears leaked down his cheeks though he made no noise and he was powerless to stop the flow. When he looked back all he could in the small distance he'd put between him and the man he once knew was Watanuki Kimihiro's endless blue eyes smiling at him.
Yes! This is the last chapter. I 'might' post an omake of when Watanuki goes back to see Doumeki's father as he's dying like Sakura promised, but at the moment the story, I believe, is enough to stand on its own without further necessary additions.
Please review if you liked this and would like to see anything similar (or different!) in the near future.