Author's Note: It's been a long time since I last uploaded two fanfictions for the same series in a row. Same thing with AMVs, which I recently achieved though, also through Kyo Kara Maoh. It seems like this series is one hell of an inspiration to me ^^
Oh, and for the sake of the last scene, can we pretend that Shinou can also maintain a solid, full-sized form outside the temple? That would be nice (^-^) It's either that, or the portraits of Shinou and Daikenja have been moved to the temple; your decision xD
"Why don't you come in?" he asked when he sensed I was already standing inside his room.
"Why of course, thank you." I answered playfully, causing him to sigh in good humour.
Smiling, he turned halfway to look into a big mirror, brushing his hair. I noticed he was wearing clothes that indicated he was about to leave. Curious, I asked "Where are you going?"
At that, the smile on his face stiffened, as though he had expected and dreaded the question. Trying hard to appear casual, he said "On a date."
"A date." I stated rather than asked, not quite believing what I heard.
"Mhm." was all I got from him as he still managed to maintain the faked smile.
By now, I myself was fighting a scowl that threatened to break out on my face "With whom?"
"None of your business." he said, still good-naturedly, but with a slight edge to it and still without looking at me.
"You ditch me for the evening and it is none of my business?"
Finally, the smile fell and his brows furrowed a fraction "Ditching you would require that I had made plans with you. I am not yours to keep caged in here, in case you've forgotten."
"I am not caging you in." I countered defensively. "It's not like you have to keep me company twenty-four/seven."
He turned around to look at me incredulously "Apparently I do, otherwise you wouldn't make such a fuss just because I'm going on a date, would you?"
I wanted to snap 'Excuse me for assuming you liked being with me as much as I like being with you, my Daikenja' but somehow I knew I would be the one feeling the pain in my chest if I did.
Instead, I watched as he turned back to the mirror, pretending to put a few strands into place as his gaze hardened. Calmly, he said "You know, I don't have to do half the things I do for your sake. Believe it or not, I am, in fact, quite a people person. Yet I choose to hang out here with a few priestesses and an apparition of the past when I could have a perfectly nice room at the castle, where my advice is actually useful to people of the present and where I'd have a lot more lively company. However, I know very well how lonely you would be without me here, and I don't want that. I feel like I owe it to you."
This crossed me. Owe me? Setting aside the fact that if anything, I owed him for everything I put him through in the past, should this be all I was to him? An unpayed debt?
Resentment ringing clear in my voice, I said "If you feel so indebted to me, how come you are about to walk out on me in favour of some random other person?"
I could watch his expression darken considerably, but I had no intention of going easy on him now that he had brought this upon himself.
"Because that is what sixteen-year-olds usually do. They leave their emotional baggage at home to have some fun once in a while." he retorted evenly, and deliberately.
At this point I was sure he was only out to hurt me; nobody knows how to hurt you like an old friend, after all. I tried my best not to let anything show. With a dismissing wave of my hand and turning around for the door, I said "Hn, I see where this leaves me. Well, have fun then. As long as you are satisfied with your decision..."
At least I'd be able to guilt-trip him.
"No!" I suddenly heard the cry from behind me. I whipped around in shock to see him wearing an expression of anger I had never witnessed on him before. Certainly not directed at me. "You will not play the victim here!"
While I was still overcoming the astonishment, he continued "Damn it, Shinou! You keep apologising for the pain being reincarnated has caused me? I've never held any of it against you because it was not your fault or decision, but if you keep talking me into feelings of guilt I have no reason to have, I will hold that against you!"
After a while of silence, his face relaxed somewhat to be replaced by a desperate mixture of frustration and hurt. "I am very sorry you lost the one you loved, but there is only so much that I, as Murata Ken, can do about it. I am not your Daikenja. I really can't keep humouring you forever, and I thought you knew that. It was okay while I thought you'd vanish, but now that you've decided to stay, you're... tearing me apart."
His words stung more than I would ever have thought possible. I could hear my voice breaking when I quietly asked "Do you want me to vanish, then?"
He considered for a long time, spreading a quiet that drilled into my very heart and core. At long last, he replied truthfully ".. No. It is not my wish."
It came as a short-lived relief to me.
"However, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be easier for you, instead of being stuck around here another seventy years in agony and inevitable solitude until you can have his soul back."
I swallowed hard.
"The decision is yours entirely. I am not your advisor anymore." he concluded as he pushed past me. Halting at the door, he added "That I've left my date waiting because of you should prove how important you are to me despite it all." His voice lowered "Even though you shouldn't."
He left. I did not turn around.
When he found me that evening, I was standing before the two portraits of me and my Daikenja, like I had often seen him do. In his first life as well as in the current one.
He slowed his step to stand beside me, but I kept my gaze on the paintings.
"I was worried you had actually left." he said.
"Worried?" I asked distractedly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him lower his head slightly "Yes. I'll admit that I was too harsh. I do enjoy your company for the most part. Fact of the matter is, I actually like you. You just shouldn't mistake our weird friendship for the love you had with Daikenja. It would eventually hurt you more than accepting the fact that I am not him will."
Regretfully, I asked "And you are sure my staying here will not burden you even further?"
"As long as you are content with it, I'll manage." he replied with an audible smile.
We stood like this for a while, silently beholding the portraits together.
"I couldn't leave." I finally said and he turned his head to look at me. As far as I could tell he was waiting for further explanation.
After several moments, I returned his gaze. "Do you remember how these paintings came to be?" I asked.
It was obvious how it wasn't a memory he could retrieve immediately. I didn't know if I should be disappointed; after all, this particular event seemed so significant and meaningful to me in regards of our relationship. However, I told myself, for the first time, that my Daikenja probably had no influence on which memories were easily accessible to Murata Ken. It was an alien line of thought, but as Murata Ken had made quite clear earlier on, I would have to become used to it.
"It is very distant, but I think I start to remember..." he said hesitantly.
"What do you mean 'no'?"
"I refuse to leave it like this."
Daikenja scowled up at the portrait of himself which, by Shinou's order, had been hung just next to said king's own.
"When you asked me to have my portrait painted as well, I never once thought you would do this." the soukoku continued.
"I really do not see what your problem is." Shinou replied confusedly. "I thought you would be happy about it."
Closing his eyes, the Sage sighed "I am sure you did this with all the good intentions. Nevertheless, you are the king. You can not allow another person's picture hanging next to your own, not when they are even matched in size."
Shinou frowned "What I can or cannot allow is still up to me, is it not? I am, after all, the first king of this newly founded country. And the castle is newly built as well."
When his companion did still not seem convinced, Shinou smiled at him brightly "Besides, this, exactly, is the point of it all. I do not want to be the only face engraved into people's minds. As none of my victories would have been possible without you, I want people to know, now and for all eternity, that you are my equal."
While these overwhelming words left the dark haired man speechless, Shinou's smile dimmed down to a more emotional level. "Also, I never wish to be apart from you. Where you are, I want to be. Just as much as you promised me the same. And now, at least part of us will remain here, right beside each other, forever."
Daikenja could not help but smile in return.
"Later, by choosing to stay by my side to the very end, he effectively refused to leave without me. I intend to keep my promise too. Whole-heartedly." I concluded.
For the lack of anything to say, Murata Ken only stared at me with his mouth slightly open. I had long since turned around fully to face him properly, and I extended an arm to lay my hand upon his chest. I felt his heart rate increase, but thought nothing of it.
"In there resides the soul of the man that meant the world to me. You know as well as I do that after four millenia, another seventy years do not appear all that long." I smiled a little, "And certainly not too long to wait if it means our souls can be together like they were always meant to be..."
Author's Note: Hm, I've grown so used to making Author's Notes in the beginning and the end of a story, but there isn't much to say at this point, really ^^ I hope you enjoyed :)