Ren-sama's Note:

Yup, I thank you for the nice reviews about the last chapter! Hahaha, some of the comments even made me laugh. This is the next chapter and I hope you enjoy it as much as you enjoyed the last one. ˆoˆ

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Chapter 18

"W-Well, this is my house. Welcome!" Sakura chirped happily and bade them inside. Subaru immediately scanned the house with his eyes as they sat in the living room while Sakura prepared for dinner in the kitchen.

"I can help you if you want." Nokoru said as he went to the kitchen and offered to help but he was politely turned down.

"I can't just forcefully invite people to my house and then make them prepare for dinner, right?" She joked with a smile. "You all look tired. Maybe you should rest for a while."

"I know it's rude, but I want to check the house." Subaru suddenly barged into the kitchen too, making Nokoru and Sakura turned to him.

Sakura looked worried, but she knew that her visitors didn't look like thieves at all. "Okay, but you better not go to the basement. My father's important documents and papers are there. As well as most of his work…"

Subaru merely nodded before he was gone. He left Kamui with Fuuma alone with one another, much to his annoyance. But he didn't have any time. He needed to look for that feather now. Mokona hopped behind him in an attempt to help him in sensing the feather that seemed to cover the whole house in its massive presence.

"Where do you think it might be?" Mokona asked as he tried his best to feel it. It was really hard to do so because of the fact that it covered the entire Kinomoto household.

"Let's start upstairs." Subaru merely voiced as he ascended the stairs.

"Shouldn't we ask Kamui where he feels his soul the strongest?" Mokona asked again. "Mokona means that the feathers usually glow brightly in Kamui's presence. And bringing him with us might actually help."

"I know what you're saying." Subaru answered. "But we can't. Kamui is tired right now."

Mokona sighed. "Kamui isn't as weak as you think he is, you know." When Subaru didn't answer, he sighed again but refrained to comment anymore.

Back in the living room, Kamui was still looking at the spot where Subaru disappeared from. Shiro was on his side and sleeping again just beside the couch.

"He'll be back in a minute, brat." Fuuma's voice made the teen almost jump out of his seat. It seemed Fuuma walked over to his side of the couch when he wasn't looking and was now sitting comfortably beside him. Kamui nodded, indicating he listened to the older male's earlier words. The two of them remained quiet for a while.

"Fuuma," Kamui called so suddenly, making Fuuma look at him with an arched eyebrow. The younger male looked a little unsure but with Fuuma's quiet encouragement he still voiced what he wanted to say. "…Why do you look like the person in my head?"

Fuuma blinked. "What?" And then he realized that Kamui must have been talking about the Fuuma that he killed. And here they all thought that Kamui couldn't remember anything. "Do you mean the other Fuuma?"

Kamui looked at him directly and nodded. "He talks to me all the time… inside my dreams. And he looks like you… And… I just have this feeling that I somehow… k-killed…" And he whimpered, not wanting to continue anymore.

Fuuma patted Kamui's head before he pulled the boy into a hug. "I don't know the whole story. But that guy isn't me."

"Then why are you with us? Why are there two of you? If you're not the Fuuma that I know… then why are you here?" Kamui asked innocently. Fuuma knew that the boy didn't mean anything bad and was not in any way offended.

Fuuma sighed. Would he want to tell Kamui? He looked at the younger male still nuzzling on his chest and decided. "You're right. I'm not the Fuuma that you know. That Fuuma is already dead. I'm from somewhere else. And I want to come back to my own dimension." He started, unaware that both Subaru and Nokoru were already on each side of the doorway. Subaru had just finished raking the second floor for the feather and was about to begin his search in the first floor when he saw Fuuma and Kamui in quite a compromising position. The sight made him want to burn up the whole house, but only after making sure Kamui was safe.

"Why?" Kamui pushed him a little to look at him.

Fuuma let go of the younger male and sighed as he straightened in his seat. "I was born as a Lord Protector, brat. Do you know what that means?" Kamui shook his head, indicating that he didn't. "It means that even before conception, I was already destined to serve the royalty. And ever since I was a child, I have been trained to become a Lord Protector. I don't know who I was supposed to protect but I know that it's one of those stuck up children that the king had. I began to hate all of them, the king, my parents who were owned by the kingdom, the supposed prince or princess that I was supposed to protect, and even the trainers…"

"Why?" Kamui asked again, obviously too innocent to what 'training' meant.

"…Because everyday was a life or death situation for all of us Lord-Protectors-in-training. We were made to fight endlessly and swear our loyalty over and over again up until we were teens. It had been too ingrained to us that our body was owned by another person. That we have no right over our own heart and mind. It was agonizing to think that all our lives… we were not made because we are wanted, but because we are needed as weapons, as tools… for the kingdom. It also means that friendship was not tolerated, much more forbidden love. We have no right to love anyone except our 'masters'."

Fuuma sighed again, not really knowing why he was telling the teen everything about his life. "And so… we trained and trained and trained, not really knowing if we would even be chosen to be one of the Lord Protectors. We knew that if we're not chosen, we would just end up to be some nameless and faceless soldier that the kingdom sends in different countries they were in war with. No one wants to be a tool to be killed in a battlefield without even experiencing what it's like to live as a human… And so all of us chose to do our best and persevered. I became the strongest out of all the trainees and so my fate had been sealed. I was to become the Lord Protector of one of the princes of the country."

"It's lonesome…" Kamui looked down. Fuuma smirked and patted the teen's head.

"Well, I thought so too… Until I met him… my prince." Fuuma closed his eyes in reminiscence. "Our first meeting wasn't formal. I didn't even know he was the prince at the beginning. I have been fooled. But it's a nice experience."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Hey, I thought you might want to see your master." A male trainee jeered at the loner raven who sat while leaning on a tree in the palace's garden. They might have been trained to forget their own self and emotion and live for their masters only but that didn't mean there weren't any bullies among them. "Here's the picture of your soon-to-be beloved Ouji-sama." And he dropped a picture of the lap of the raven.

Fuuma, the raven-haired male, looked at the picture when he saw that his co-trainee was already out of sight. And his eyes widened. Pardon him, but he thought all royalties were beautiful and handsome? He continued to look at the picture of the plump blonde prince whose hair stuck out on all ends and had yellowish teeth that obviously needed some brushing. He had plump cheeks and slits for eyes, fish-like lips and a huge grin. Fuuma dreaded to think that this man would own him in many ways. And he was supposed to only think of and love this person? He suddenly had the urge to just die.

"What are you looking at?" A ringing voice from behind the tree he was leaning on spoke and woke him out of his musing.

Fuuma's eyes widened and he immediately stood up when he heard the voice. He was the best of the best and no one was able to get near behind him without being detected. He rounded the tree and his eyes widened slightly, if only because he was trained to hide his unnecessary emotion.

He looked at the male sitting on other side of the tree and Fuuma thought that he had just seen the most beautiful god. The other male stood up too, letting his raven hair flutter a little as he brushed his elegant robe off of any dirt. His amethyst eyes shone from behind his fringe and his pale complexion almost glowed under the shade of the tree. He was truly gorgeous and enthralling. And thus, Fuuma continued to stare even though he knew it was rude. The other male's chuckle snapped the taller raven out of it and made him glare.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" Fuuma asked the unfamiliar creature.

The male slightly bowed in formality, right hand over his chest and left hand behind him, before he straightened up once more and smiled. "My name is… Kamui."

Fuuma furrowed his eyebrows. He had not heard that name before. "Sorry, but that name doesn't ring a bell. And besides, this place is off-limits. Please get out before I call some security."

Kamui looked surprised for a while before he started laughing, which made Fuuma growl in irritation. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing, I was just surprised. No one has told me that line before. It was quite charming." And he continued chuckling.

Fuuma couldn't help the creeping blush on his cheeks and he growled even more. "Get out!" And that made the younger male stop.

"Are you serious?" His tone had gotten serious too, though he was still amused inside.

"Do I look like I'm joking, midget?" Fuuma asked in annoyance.

"Alright." Kamui said as he closed his eyes, deep patience and amusement on his feature. "But if ever someone thinks that the prince is gone, it'll be your fault, Fuuma Monou, the one who was supposed to protect one of the crown candidates of this kingdom." And even before the raven could react, he already started walking away as if nothing just happened. Kamui even hummed some tunes that Fuuma wasn't familiar with.

Now, the taller raven was left totally baffled as to what the 'midget' meant, but he let it be. He went back to the place he was sitting on earlier and slept. It was mid-afternoon, the best time to sleep. After some hours of sleeping, Fuuma was awakened by the loud siren. He immediately jerked up and looked around him, thinking it was an emergency of some sort.

When he approached one of the running military personnel, he found out that the prince he was supposed to have a ceremony with later in the evening was missing. It seemed some rebels were able to get their hands on the prince and was now holding him captive. And then he was called to the courtroom.

"Fuuma Monou," the King started and Fuuma bowed in one knee, indicating his reverence to the royalty. "It was reported that the prince was last seen this afternoon, talking to you. Don't worry. We don't blame you for this incident. We know that that idiotic son of mine was not happy with the setting of the Lord Protector System. He might have run away from the palace again." And he sighed in exasperation. "Did he say where he might be going? Or did he somehow leave some clue as to his location now?"

Fuuma furrowed his eyebrows as he looked up at the King. "I…I don't know what you mean, Your Highness. I still haven't met the prince, much less talk to him. The ceremony was about to be held later this evening and that was the time we were supposed to meet and exchange vows."

The King sighed again. He immediately knew that the prince didn't introduce himself earlier. "Kyouya, bring in a picture of the prince so Monou-san may be able to help in the search for his master."

The man named Kyouya bowed before he went off to somewhere. Fuuma waited for a while before the man came back and handed him a picture, which made his eyes immediately widen as he gaped at the raven-haired teen in the picture. He could see those amethyst eyes smiling even though the face of the male itself was showing no emotion.

That bastard!

If he was cursing his co-trainee who showed him a fake picture or if he was blaming the prince who didn't introduce himself, Fuuma wasn't sure. On the other side of the picture, a small signature could be barely seen. Haruka Kamui Uesugi.

Damn. He only knew the prince's first name! He didn't think that the bastard would give him his second name of all things!

And before anyone could say anything, he was already running out of the courtroom and was immediately trying to find that annoying son-of-a-king. It took him almost three hours of going in and out of the palace, in the gardens, in secret basements and secret doors before he was able to find… no, not the prince, but at least he was able to find a clue.

It seemed a dozing guard was able to see the prince leave the palace earlier. And with that, Fuuma didn't hesitate to follow the direction he was pointed to. He would rake the entire kingdom and then he would scold that spoiled prince for all the trouble that he brought. Not that he was blameless for it too…

And yet, even after many hours of searching, Fuuma still couldn't find his prince. The time of the ceremony was coming closer and closer with every passing second and the raven was starting to think that the prince was doing it on purpose to delay the said ceremony. So his prince didn't like him, huh…

"Tch, that arrogant prince!" He exclaimed when he reached the outskirt of the kingdom, where the poorest and the most starved citizens lived. He initially thought that the prince wouldn't wander around here, at least initially.

"Oya, young man, what might you be doing in this kind of place?" Fuuma turned around when he heard the voice. The old lady approached him, a basket of flower in hand, and smiled. "Do you want to buy some of these flowers?"

Fuuma looked at the flowers and saw that most of them had wilted from lack of customer. He chose the freshest one and paid the old lady, not because he liked flowers in particular, but because he felt pity for the old woman. And he knew it was forbidden to feel anything for other people. Well, it's not like it was affection he was feeling anyway.

The old lady chuckled. "Are you perhaps looking for someone?"

Fuuma furrowed his eyebrows for a while before he decided that he should ask. He brought out the picture of the prince, which was actually forbidden too because no one should be able to see the prince's face except those in the palace, and handed it to the old woman. "Have you seen this male around here?"

The old woman squinted her eyes as she took the picture. "Hmmm… He doesn't look like he's one of the people here…" And then she shook her hand, but she told him to ask a government official which was stationed in the area.

Fuuma thanked her and did what she said. At first, the raven didn't mind that the people would give him hope and then suggest to him that he go to this person or that person. But soon, he was starting to think that they were merely playing a prank on him. He was now relayed to the twentieth people and it was annoying him to no end.

When the guy told him that he should go and see Mr.-He-didn't-know-who, Fuuma lashed out at them. Not because he was really tired, but because he was frustrated. The guy who gave him the name immediately scrambled away in fright.

"You bastards…" He mumbled when he calmed down a little.

"Nii-san," Fuuma glared at a little boy who approached him so carelessly. The boy tiptoed and motioned him to lean down a little. Fuuma glared again but he still did. "Prince-sama is in our house."

"What?" Fuuma's eyes widened when the kid said those words.

"He told us not to tell anyone his whereabouts so the people were making you go in circles to lose you." The kid said shyly. "But I feel that Prince-sama will not appreciate it much…"

Fuuma could feel his blood boiling at the words he heard. The people were the prince's accomplice? How dare them!

"Nii-san, please don't get angry…" The kid said.

Fuuma sighed. "Where's your house?"

"There's no need. I'm here." A voice from behind made the two males turned around.

Fuuma was about to lash out and say many harsh statements but the prince graciously bowed and apologized even before he could say any word. The little kid giggled from beside the shocked Lord Protector and the other citizens chuckled a little.

"Your Lord Protector is either a worthy one… or a complete fool, Prince." The old lady from earlier uttered. All the other people had the same comments and Fuuma could only stare at them in confusion and silent anger.

Haruka straightened and walked towards him. "I am glad that you didn't give up on finding me. We thought that you will give up the search." Fuuma was still staring, more in confusion now than in anger, and the prince chuckled. "All the other Lord Protectors gave up after the sixth or seventh people. They were too frustrated that they chose to just leave the place and search somewhere else."

Fuuma looked down. "So… you only messed with me." He laughed hollowly. "I'm yours anyway. So it's fine huh?"

Haruka sighed and before Fuuma could react, he already received a loud slap on the cheek. All the citizens groaned as they imagined what that felt like. The prince spoke in a serious tone this time. "Fuuma Monou, if you do not want to be my Lord Protector, just say so. It does not matter to me what you have learned in your training. All I want is someone who will serve me with all their mind and heart, not because they were forced by anyone, but because they chose to."

Fuuma could only stare at amethyst orbs in shock and pain. The prince's slap hurt.

"If you think that you were forced to do this, then I do not mind if you leave now." Haruka said with determination. "And do not go saying your vow just because you deem it proper to do so. I want to know what you really feel."

Fuuma stared at him again. No one, not even his parents who gave him up, asked him that. No one had asked what he felt. No one cared… For his master to say such a thing… Why only now..?

It was true that he hated the kingdom, hated the fact that he had no control over his body, mind, or even his heart. But he hated it because he was forced. He hated it because he wasn't given any choice on the matter. But now, this person… this beautiful prince in front of him was giving him a choice…

"What will happen if I refuse to be Lord Protector?" He asked in a cool tone.

Haruka smiled, but not in his usual happy one. He was sad that he had to choose another worthy man to serve him. "Do not worry. I will ask the King for your freedom. You will not be a faceless man inside a military armor fighting for the kingdom if you refuse. I'll make sure that you'll be able to live a normal life starting from now on."

Fuuma sighed as he scratched the back of his head. He really wanted to just say he wanted his freedom. But just looking at the prince's barely concealed sadness was making him weak. "You know, if you will just have that kind of expression, then you shouldn't have offered the freedom thing, idiot prince."

"I am not having any kind of expression!" Haruka exclaimed/pouted.

Fuuma smirked. "If I serve you… will I still have my own will to think?" Haruka looked surprised for a while, but he smiled. And Fuuma thought he was really dazzling.

"I will not meddle with your mind or your feelings, Fuuma." He answered. "You can tell me what you think and feel, and I will not hold it against you for you are much of a human being as I am."

Fuuma's eyes widened yet again. It was such a new thing for him, to be called as a human being instead of the tool that the trainers said he was. He looked down, unsure of how he would feel at such an occasion, before he looked up and smiled at his prince. It was a new kind of feeling, to smile because he was happy.

He patted his prince's head tentatively, and marveled at the fact that Kamui seemed to like it. He knew that if ever someone else in the palace saw that, his head would be rolling down the pavement. "Shall we go to the ceremony then? We're late though."

"Nah, we can do it here." Haruka said as he looked at the moon hanging above them. It was the full moon right now and only now would the ceremony be possible. Not that it really had anything to do with the moon but it was still tradition. Fuuma nodded before he knelt in one knee. Whatever his prince wanted… he'd do it without hesitation. Not because it was tradition, but because it was this particular prince who wanted it.

Haruka looked at him with those amethyst charming eyes of his, full of warmth and kindness, and he felt a sword rest over his right shoulder. Where Haruka got that, he didn't know. It seemed the prince did plan all of this. "Fuuma Monou, from now on, you will offer me, Haruka Kamui Uesugi, your whole life, your whole body, and your soul. You will live for me, and no one but me." Fuuma noticed that Haruka never mentioned anything about his heart or mind, which made him silently glad.

"I bow before you and pledge my loyalty to you and only you, my prince, forever." He bowed on both knees this time and kissed the tip his prince's feet under the royal robe. "I will be yours forever."

Haruka seemed satisfied and he smiled as he sheathed the royal sword. "I trust in your eternal promise and loyalty." He used two pale slender fingers to pull Fuuma from the chin and raise his head. The older male closed his eyes as a chaste kiss fell on his lips.

The loud cheering and giggles of the crowd made the both of them pull away, though somewhat slowly. Haruka chuckled before he waved at the people whose cheers only got louder.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"What are you blushing about?" Fuuma arched an eyebrow at the teen beside him.

"It must have been nice to k-kiss… the person you like." Kamui said, thinking of someone in particular.

Fuuma chuckled, but then he immediately felt that there where many people crowding in the doorway. "Oy, idiots. Do you really think you can hide your presence from me for a long, long time? You're reeking with killing intent, Sumeragi. The fur ball keeps on making giggling noises and I can smell the food you're carrying, idiotic blonde."

Nokoru chuckled and entered the living room together with Sakura. The two were carrying trays of food and drinks. Subaru entered after a while, glaring at Fuuma for acting so cozy with his ex-leader.

"Eavesdropping was fun!" Mokona exclaimed as he hopped from Subaru's shoulder and onto the table. Subaru sat in between Kamui and Fuuma, and the latter had to shift in his position to make way. Fuuma sighed. That guy would never really change. He might have been enamored by Kamui, but it was only because this Kamui looked exactly like his prince. His prince… whom he promised to give all his life to…

They put the tray on the table and the food smelled so delicious that Mokona immediately dug in.

"Oy, idiot!" Fuuma exclaimed when he saw Mokona taking a piece of everything. "Don't go grabbing everything!" That made both Sakura and Nokoru chuckle at him.

They ate quietly for a while, or not so quietly. Sakura chuckled at their lively behavior, especially Fuuma and Mokona. Subaru ate silently and would sometimes worry about Kamui again.

"…What happened next?" Kamui asked Fuuma again. The taller male looked hesitant to open up first what with all the listeners, but he sighed and thought that it didn't make any difference since they all heard everything from the start anyway.

"I served him for four years, until he was nineteen and I was twenty." Fuuma said as he put down the glass that he was holding with slightly trembling hands. "He suddenly inherited the throne when he was nineteen because his father died of mysterious illness. After that, things went downhill for the both of us."

Mokona's ears drooped at that. Kamui wanted to comfort him but Subaru was in between them. Subaru patted Kamui's head when he noticed that the news made the teen sad.

"What happened?" Nokoru was the one who broke the silence. Sakura could only munch silently beside him, listening to the story with eyes full of sadness too.

"When I said he suddenly inherited the throne, that didn't mean he was immediately the King. There were a lot of procedures before he could take the title. It usually takes months. That's when those things started. There was a sudden murder attempt at his life. Food poisoning… Of course, I was, still am, his Lord Protector so it's my job to make sure that everything he does is safe." Fuuma gritted his teeth. "I was able to prevent him from eating anything that has any poison, but the fact was that it was my negligence that resulted to that. Of course, we all tried in desperation to know who was behind the attempted assassination. But we couldn't find anything, not a clue or whatsoever. Same things happened again. There were bombs in his room, poison in his food, and there were even small presents addressed to him without any return address. And there were nothing good inside those things. It was frustrating to say the least…"

"That only means one thing though." Nokoru said with a serious face. "The mastermind is inside the palace too." Fuuma nodded.

"We suspected as much. But we still don't know who it was. There are hundreds and hundreds of employees and staffs in the palace, excluding the soldiers. It could have been anyone. And then there's war going on between two powerful kingdoms. Shinken Kingdom, the prince's kingdom, was in between those two powerful nemeses. The two kingdoms were both trying to gain our alliance so they can use the kingdom as vantage point to attack the other kingdom. Our Kingdom is a neutral kingdom though and the prince refused to join the war. And that only made things worse for us since both of them considered the Kingdom as enemy." Fuuma clenched his fists. "Of course, the prince never left my side and he firmly believed that I will protect him. That is, until I was framed for a crime I didn't commit."

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.tbc.

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Ren-sama's Note:

That's it. I know it will get all serious again. But don't worry too much about it. Please don't forget to review! ˆoˆ