Ren-sama's Notes:

Thank you, everyone, for your reviews on the last chapter! I also thank those who made this fict their favorite! You don't know how much that means to me. It makes me cry in happiness! I hope you enjoy this chapter too! ˆoˆ

And oh, belated Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

.

Chapter 19

"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." Fuuma's voice echoed throughout the living room and no one talked for a while. "It was frustrating that one of the witnesses to that supposed crime… was the prince himself." His breath hitched a little and Fuuma waited for his quick heartbeat to slow down again before he sighed deeply. "I was sentenced to be exiled, not only from the kingdom, but from the dimension itself. That's the reason why I want to go back. I want to clear my name and be with my prince's side again. I don't care about anyone else, as long as my prince believes me…"

All of them were waiting for the raven-haired male to continue talking when they all suddenly felt it. A very dark and heavy feeling…

Shiro immediately opened his eyes when he felt the strong presence that was somehow similar to how his late wife felt though a bit different and saw that all the others were also in full alert. "Is it the feather?"

"Yes." Mokona was the one who answered, eyes wide open for a while before it went back to slits. "But it somehow feels a little different…"

Subaru felt dread at the presence instead of longing this time. This was not any normal feather… This was… the Core. His eyes widened when Kamui suddenly stood up, looking dazed. "Kamui?"

"It's… calling me…" The teen answered, still dazed at the presence. Subaru immediately grabbed his arm and pulled him down on the couch.

"Don't follow it." He said when Kamui looked at him with confused expression. "It's the Core."

"Well, shouldn't we try to at least capture it?" Fuuma asked tentatively, but Nokoru was the one who shook his head at the suggestion. All of them could feel that the presence was too strong for them to take on right now, what with their confused minds and hearts. The Core would only surely devour them all in darkness if they ever try to approach it.

"Is this the feather that we've been feeling earlier?" Shiro asked because he wasn't sure anymore. The feather that they all felt earlier when they entered the house wasn't so dark like this. But how could it suddenly feel so close even though he felt that no one approached them..?

"Subaru, I think I need to go." Kamui suddenly said. Subaru looked at him, asking for the reason. But he could only shake his head. "I don't know why… But I can't ignore it. It's… calling me…" Subaru gritted his teeth while raking his mind for anything that could make Kamui stop. He could still remember the fear that the dark Kamui put inside his already weak heart.

"You're too stubborn for your own good, Subaru. Sooner or later someone will definitely go and snatch him away from you…"

"I hate you, Subaru… And I'll make sure to make Kamui hate you too… Then you'll find yourself shattering because of your own stupidity, Sakurazukamori."

"They're coming… They will take Kamui away…"

"Kamui…" He voiced, unable to find anything to make Kamui stay. Instead, he did the only thing he could at the moment. Kamui's eyes widened, and so were the eyes of everyone else, when Subaru suddenly hugged the amethyst-eyed boy so tight they all thought the onmyouji would crush him.

"S-Subaru..?" The younger male voiced unsurely when Subaru remained motionless, hugging him as if the onmyouji's life depended on it.

"Don't go…" Subaru buried his face on the crook of Kamui's neck and hugged him even tighter, making the younger male blush in embarrassment. All the others pretended to be doing something else.

Kamui was about to answer again when everything before him went dark. He couldn't feel Subaru's warmth anymore nor could he feel anyone at all, and it suddenly felt so cold and lonely.

He stood up, for he realized that he was sitting at nothing but darkness.

"Subaru?" He called in uncertainty. He knew it wasn't the darkness that he always dreamed of. This wasn't the one where he met the other Fuuma and the supposed friends that he had forgotten. This was different, that even he knew. "Mokona? Nokoru? Fuuma? Shiro?"

He looked down and saw, to his surprise, that he could see his body even though everything around him was filled with darkness.

"Good evening, Kamui." Kamui turned around when he heard the voice that was so similar to his own and saw, to his surprise and wonder, someone who looked just like him.

"W-Who are you?" Kamui asked as he looked at his look-alike who only smirked.

"I am Kamui." Kamui blinked at the answer the other gave him so the other Kamui explained further. "I am also what you all call the Core, or the Dark Kamui. Though no one would want themselves to be called like that, right?"

Kamui nodded and the Dark Kamui smirked again. "Where are we?" The kind one asked.

"Hmm… how should I explain it to you..?" The dark Kamui looked thoughtful for a while before he answered. "We're in a place that is neither an ordinary dimension nor a place inside your consciousness. But it is also both of them." Kamui blinked at him, obviously looking lost. "It's hard to explain. But it's just like a really huge kekkai that is both a dimension and a place inside our consciousness where the only ones allowed to enter are you and me."

"Are you the one that appeared before Subaru?" Kamui asked again. And the playful aura of the dark Kamui immediately disappeared at the mention of the name, which somehow hurt Kamui a lot. "Do you really hate Subaru that much?"

"Yes." The dark Kamui's eyes darkened as he answered. "I am your unconscious resentment for him, Kamui. I live just for the sake of hating and destroying him, for having my revenge because he destroyed us. He abandoned us just when we needed him the most. He rejected us when we were the most vulnerable. He's one of the reasons why you broke your soul, Kamui." He smirked at the reaction he got from the teen.

Kamui knew that what he was hearing might actually be lies. But he couldn't help but feel the rage and deep, absolute hatred that the being in front of him was emitting through his aura alone. And it hurt him so much to know that the Core's hatred for Subaru was real. Was it really true then? Did he really destroy himself because of Subaru's rejection?

The dark Kamui chuckled darkly. "Don't worry too much, Kamui. He's not the sole reason for your self-destruction. Fuuma was a huge chunk of it too. And of course, your fellow Seals who died for the sake of the Earth also mattered."

"I…" Kamui wished he could just change the Core's feelings for Subaru. He liked Subaru so much and he didn't want Subaru to be hurt. "I like him…" He looked at the Core with pleading eyes. "Please don't hurt him."

"Hmmm… That's quite hard." The dark Kamui smirked. "Let's see then. Do you know of the one Subaru loves?"

Kamui felt his breath hitch at the sudden question. He already knew that the person Subaru loved wasn't him, but it still felt like his chest has somehow shattered. "I… It's… Seishirou… I think. I don't know him though."

The dark Kamui's smirk widened. "So you remember after all, even if it's just his name." Kamui nodded. "You want to make Subaru happy, right?" Kamui's eyes widened at the question before he nodded again, this time eagerly.

"Even if he's only using you as a replacement for the lover that he loved so much?" The dark Kamui asked again. "Even if he will never love you back no matter how hard you try? Even if he will never reach out for you if ever you're in so much pain? Even if he will leave you the moment he gets tired of you?" The real Kamui's expression was filled with pain and he started trembling slightly, but he still nodded.

The dark Kamui walked forward and hugged his original counterpart before he whispered to the other's ear, "Then all we have to do is give him his lover back, right? If you finish collecting all the feathers, all you have to do is call me. And then I will resurrect your dearest Subaru's lover back. How about that?" He pulled away from the hug just as he smirked at the pain etched in the real Kamui's wide amethyst eyes and gorgeously shocked expression.

Kamui knew he shouldn't be selfish. Subaru needed his lover back, and this was the chance to make him truly happy. If this was true, then he just had to do it, right?

"Is… Is that possible?" The kind teen asked again, doubting the words of his other half. "Subaru said that resurrecting the dead is impossible."

"It's forbidden, yes. But impossible?" The dark Kamui smirked as he lightly shook his head. "I don't think so. We have the power similar to the Gods, Kamui. We can destroy the world and recreate it again from nothingness. That's the kind of power we have. Nothing is impossible for us."

The Core lifted up the other Kamui's chin to look at his teary, anguished eyes before he asked again. "So, do you like that? I will give you the three feathers that I have if you agree."

Kamui's eyes widened. "R-Really?" He asked in uncertainty. On top of Subaru having his lover back, they wouldn't have to look for the feathers anymore? Did that mean they didn't have to fight the Core anymore, too?

"There's a condition though, Kamui. So I want you to think about it first. I want you…" Dark Kamui cupped Kamui's cheeks with both hands. "…to come and disappear with me."

Kamui wanted to say something as he looked at those cold and merciless amethyst eyes, but he found out he couldn't find his voice. He couldn't even move. The shock paralyzed his whole body as the words sank inside his head.

Could he sacrifice himself for Subaru's sake?

"I'll be waiting for your answer, Kamui." The dark Kamui smirked as he marveled at the original's vulnerability. "The moment you get the 9th feather is the moment I will ask for your answer. If you refuse, I will destroy the Sakurazukamori with my own hands. There are many ways to destroy that man without attempting to physically kill him. If you agree, then all you have to do is come with me. I will resurrect not only Subaru's lover Seishirou but also Nokoru's lover Suoh. Since I am kind enough to you, I will even let them return safely in their own dimensions. And then we will both disappear. Everyone will be happy, right?"

Kamui looked down. "You mean… Subaru… will be happy even without me..?"

"Of course, he will. He already told you that there is only one person he loves, right?" The dark Kamui asked and Kamui nodded reluctantly. "There is only one person important to him, and that person isn't you, Kamui. He is the type of person to need you only when he's comfortable with it. But if he feels that you're getting too attached to him, he will act coldly and push you away. That man will do nothing but hurt you, Kamui. You should realize that sooner or it'll be too late for you to recover, just like what happened last time."

Kamui whimpered at the statements and the dark Kamui hugged him again. "Don't worry. I'm here. I will make sure to realize your dream… our dream. I will make the both of us disappear. And no one will be able to hurt us again, not even the invincible Sakurazukamori."

Kamui couldn't help but cry as he digested the other's words. He knew that what the dark Kamui said was true. Subaru indeed told him that there was only one person he truly cared for and loved. And that he really abandoned Kamui and rejected him at his most vulnerable state. And Subaru also pushed him away when he became too attached to the man. Did that mean that Subaru never really wanted Kamui to become attached to him? Did that mean that Subaru would act coldly to him again and push him away if he told the man of his feelings?

Did that mean Subaru never truly cared for him?

"The 7th feather is inside this house, in the basement." The dark Kamui uttered right before the other's ear. "We will meet again after you get the 9th feather, Kamui. And then you will tell me your decision. Surely you know what to say, right?" He smiled and kissed Kamui's forehead before he disappeared.

And once again, Kamui found himself alone in the darkness. But unlike earlier, the darkness this time seemed to engulf him. It felt so cold and scary now, as if his very life was being sucked out of him. "Subaru… what should I do?"

"S-Subaru…" His voice cracked even though it was only a whisper. His knees lost their strength and he fell on the dark ground with a thud just as the tears fell from his eyes one by one again.

If it would make Subaru happy… then he wouldn't mind doing it… sacrificing himself all for the sake of the onmyouji…

But that didn't change the fact that it was breaking him just thinking about it. "Subaru… I…" He hugged himself as he broke down and sobbed. "I love you…"

He didn't know how much he remained motionless while sobbing, but he knew that something warm made him stop. It brushed his consciousness but he knew that warmth all too well. He looked up as he wiped his tear-streaked cheeks and looked for any sign of movement. But nothing happened. And when he thought that it was maybe just his imagination, he heard it.

"Kamui…"

He stood up and looked around in the darkness, at least to know where the familiar voice was coming from. But it was to no avail.

"Kamui..!"

He looked up again just as everything went bright. He groaned as the light hit his eyes and he immediately closed them.

"Kamui..?"

"S-Subaru..?" He asked tentatively as he slowly opened his eyes. Gloved hands cupped his cheeks and warm breath brushed his face.

Subaru was much too relieved that Kamui finally opened his eyes. He was hugging the boy when Kamui suddenly lost consciousness. The fear he felt could not be put into words and still bound him deeply even now. He hugged the boy again, tightly, and kissed his hair before he whispered to the boy's ear. "Are you alright now?"

"Yes…" Kamui answered quietly as he hugged Subaru back with the same tightness and buried his face on the crook of the onmouyji's neck, which made Subaru furrow his eyebrows. It seemed the boy was not okay after all. Although, the older male was just so glad that the Core's presence was gone now.

"It's because you were hugging him so tight that he collapsed from lack of air, Subaru." Mokona judged and Subaru immediately gave him a death glare. The fur ball immediately hid himself behind Nokoru, who laughed at the explanation. Shiro was beside Kamui but his expression remained stony. It seemed he was pondering deeply about something. Fuuma sighed as he felt that at least ten years was cut out from his life span.

Sakura, at that moment, entered the living room with some first-aid kit, medicines, and other things. It seemed she was in too much of a panic that she immediately brought back everything without looking at them first. She even brought back a pregnancy kit with her.

"I'm okay, really." Kamui looked up at Subaru and smiled before he pulled away from the hug.

Subaru recognized it, the smile that Kamui often used back when he still had his memories. It was that fake smile that he hated to see. He gritted his teeth. It seemed Kamui was trying to hide whatever happened with that fake smile of his.

"Kamui, did you, by any chance, meet the Core?" He asked. And by the way Kamui's whole body immediately tensed at the mention of the said entity, Subaru and the others immediately knew that he indeed met the other half of him. "You're scared… What did he tell you?"

Kamui looked down to hide his fears. He didn't want to disappear… "N-Nothing…"

"Kamui." Subaru's voice was calm but it was forceful. "Tell me." He appeared calm on the outside but he was seething inside. For Kamui to act like that… That bastard probably said some things about him in the past which he had no memories about…

"N-Nothing… really…" Kamui gripped Subaru's trench coat in silent plea, still afraid to look up and see the older male's expression, though he already knew just from the other's cold voice. Subaru was angry. "I-I'm sorry I wasn't able to catch him…"

"Don't force him to talk, idiot." Fuuma was the one who talked. He could see that whatever happened, it still gripped Kamui tightly that he refused to ever voice it out loud.

Subaru sighed in frustration as he hugged Kamui again. He wanted so much to protect the boy. But how could he fight something that he couldn't even see? He knew that the dark Kamui was here earlier for his dark and cold presence was so immense it almost swallowed them all. But the fact was that they couldn't see him, unless he willed himself to be seen.

His breath hitched when Kamui fell limp again. Even before he could see what happened though, Shiro was already on it.

"Don't worry. He just fell asleep from exhaustion." The kodan voiced as he looked at Subaru and then the others. By now, he was already sure of his assumption, though it seemed not one of his companion has realized it yet. He judged the presence earlier. Of course, it was mainly and mostly Kamui's. But there was something else to it. And now, the question was 'who'?

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

Subaru was absentmindedly brushing Kamui's hair gently with his left gloved hand while his right hand held a book about exorcism which he borrowed from Sakura. Kamui lay sideways with his head on the onmyouji's lap. The older male sat in the sofa while reading silently.

Nokoru and Fuuma were sitting on the sofa across the two ravens and Mokona was sleeping on Nokoru's lap. Fuuma's eyes were closed and his arms were crossed over his chest. Nokoru was absentmindedly patting Mokona's furry body as he watched Kamui sleep. Shiro was sleeping beside Subaru's feet. His head was even pillowed on one of the onmyouji's feet. They had finished eating, without Kamui of course, and Sakura was currently in the kitchen, washing the dishes.

"I hate to say it, but Yuuko is right." Nokoru voiced after a while. "It seems the Core is starting to finally get serious. He's already targeting Kamui."

Subaru stopped reading but he didn't look nor did he act like he heard anything. He was deep in thought. He wanted to get back that part of Kamui's soul but at the same time he feared the day when it would have to be returned. After all, it contained Kamui's wish to disappear… not to mention all of his forgotten memories.

He had always wished that Kamui remained the same as he was now. But he knew that once his memories return, he would once again become the cold and aloof teen who could only shatter in silence. Just the thought of Kamui in pain was enough to break him apart… His thoughts were cut when he heard Kamui groan in his sleep. He immediately put down his book and focused on just brushing his fingers on the younger raven's hair. The teen nuzzled on his lap before heaving a contented sigh.

Nokoru and the others watched as the onmyouji's cold eyes turned really warm as he fondly watched the teen sleep on his lap. It was still an unconscious action, but they knew that Subaru's feelings for Kamui were beyond simple caring and friendship now.

"Who's there?" Shiro's voice rang in the room, totally waking Mokona up. They all looked at the corner of the room where the lamp shade was placed, and saw, to their surprise, a yellow-orange teddy bear with white little wings on its back moved in an attempt to hide itself once again.

"What the–?" Fuuma blurted out when he saw the moving object, or rather, creature.

Subaru looked at the teddy bear with mild interest before his attention went back to Kamui once again, not even stopping to think about the strange thing.

"Who are you?" Mokona asked. "Or rather, what are you?"

The teddy bear who was trying to hide itself earlier immediately flew over to their place and pointed a finger to Mokona before speaking in a very strange accent. "You have no right to ask me that, fur ball!"

"What did you say!? Mokona is Mokona!" Mokona crossed his little arms over his chest. Nokoru chuckled at the strange exchange and Fuuma sighed before going back to his own musings. Shiro simply muttered something about 'strange things' before going back to sleep.

"Kero-chan!" They all looked at the doorway where a very surprised Sakura stood, wide-eyed and looking between the teddy bear and the others. "Why did you come out?! I told you to stay inside the room!"

"Don't worry, Sakura-san." Nokoru spoke for the rest of them. "We've encountered much more strange occurrences and things to even care about the talking teddy bear's appearance now, not to mention existence."

"I'm not a teddy bear!" Kero shouted in his little voice. "I'm Keroberos, the Guardian of the Sun! And besides, your companion is strange too!" And he immediately pointed at Mokona. "This creature is way too powerful to be a normal animal!"

"Eh? I thought Mokona is a chubby rabbit!" Sakura's eyes widened as he looked at Mokona.

"Mokona is not a rabbit! Mokona is Mokona!" Mokona huffed.

"Whatever, just stop shouting at the top of your lungs." Fuuma yawned before closing his eyes again.

"I knew it. You people are not normal after all." Keroberos said, scrutinizing every last one of them. And then his eyes darted to Shiro. "I don't even think you're part of this world." And then to Kamui. "And that kid is the strangest one here. He's too powerful and yet he's also the weakest among you right now."

"…How can I be both the strongest and the weakest?" They all looked at Kamui when the teen spoke. It seemed the loud shouting woke him up. Subaru glared at the fur ball and the teddy bear for waking the teen up with their bickering before taking his book and reading once again, ignoring everyone.

"Well, I can't really explain it well but that's how I feel about your presence." Keroberos crossed his arms over his chest as he answered the earlier question.

Kamui sat straight in the sofa and looked at Sakura with a strange expression. "Umm… can we look into your basement..?" His statement made his companions look at him with curiosity. Subaru put down his book and looked at him with an odd expression.

Sakura looked confused for a while before her expression turned uncertain. "I… I don't know. My father's work is there."

"I promise I won't let anything go into disarray." He answered. "I just want to look for something that might be there."

"You're looking for something?" Keroberos asked and Kamui nodded. "Now that I think about it, your companions also tried to look for something in the second floor."

"Can I know what it is that you're looking for?" Sakura asked, before looking totally alarmed.

.

.tbc.

.

Ren-sama's Corner:

Kamui: It pains me that I have to die at the end of your story… so I might as well have my revenge on you now, Ren. (*sudden murderous aura*)

Subaru: If you ever dare lay your hands on Kamui, I'll personally hunt you down and kill you myself. (*menacingly dark and murderous aura*)

Ren-sama: (*sighed*) If I ever kill Kamui, huh…

Yue: (*sips his tea without a care in the world*)

Host-san: (*sighed*) This room's atmosphere is totally dark and cold right now. So please, people, have some mercy and tell the two lovebirds here that if ever they kill the author, there won't even be an ending waiting for them, happy or not!

Ren-sama: And so, please don't forget to review! (*purposefully ignoring the dark auras in the background*) ˆoˆ