Ren-sama's Note:

It's been a while, everyone! Thanks for your reviews! Here's the next chapter and I hope you enjoy it! ˆoˆ


Chapter 24

"How dare you talk about–" Subaru was about to say something awful when he noticed Nokoru discreetly pointing towards Kamui behind the teen. He didn't know what exactly Fuuma was sighing but the onmyouji only had to look at Kamui's face to know what they meant. The teen, it seemed, liked what Mokona told him and the thought of Subaru rejecting that past made Kamui very, very upset. "Kamui–"

"I know." Kamui interrupted him, making all of them furrow their eyebrows. It wasn't like the teen to interrupt Subaru of all people while the latter was still speaking. "I know you don't want to be reminded of the past anymore. I know you also don't want me to remember anything…" He smiled as he looked at the other male's wide, obviously surprised eyes. "Don't worry… the past might serve as a painful reminder for the both of us… but I'm not too bothered with it anymore." He cupped the onmyouji's cheeks with his two hands, not even realizing that their companions already went out of the hut to give them some privacy. "…because, Subaru, I've already decided."

To say that Subaru was surprised at Kamui's actions was an understatement. He couldn't fathom it at all. "Kamui… what do you mean by that?" Instead of answering, however, Kamui only moved forward and hugged him tightly and buried his face on Subaru's chest. "Kamui..?"

"All this time…" Kamui's muffled voice echoed in the hut. "All this time… I wasn't as innocent as you think. I noticed right away that you don't want me to remember anything. I also know that you're trying your best to atone… for abandoning me. I know that you're suffering and hurting because of me. And that you're doing your best to protect me... while all I ever did was give you pain…"

"Kamui, stop making it sound like that." Subaru reprimanded gently. "I have my choices before me. I just chose to do this. Also, you don't have to worry about the fact that I'm hurting." The onmyouji returned the tight hug before he kissed the top of the teen's head. "It was different back then. But I'm glad I'm able to feel these things now."

Kamui looked up in confusion at the last statement as he saw Subaru's gentle expression. He even blushed when he realized that the Sakurazukamori had his long tail wrapped around the teen's waist, securing him in place. "What do you mean..?"

Subaru sighed. He was still not too inclined to talk about his past. But if it would make Kamui feel better, then it's worth a try. "Kamui… when I became the Sakurazukamori, I thought that it's better to lose all emotions and all my attachments to people. The person most important to me died at my hands and all I could was crumble into pieces as I tried to find why I was alive when he's dead. I wanted to die so badly too… but I couldn't because I was the eternal and undying Sakurazukamori. I became like a living corpse, unable to do anything except drown in blood and darkness. It was so hard… not feeling pain or even despair because you know you don't have hope in anything anymore." Subaru's eyes turned almost lifeless at that single moment and Kamui immediately hugged the older male tighter. The onmyouji felt the teen's warmth seeped in him and it was enough to drive his bad memories away. "So, Kamui… it's alright to feel pain. Because feeling it means that there's still hope somewhere inside your heart. It means that you're still alive and capable of having emotions."

Kamui's eyes widened at the onmyouji's last statement. It was good and well to know that Subaru was tolerant of pain. But his decision would never change. What he wanted Subaru to feel wasn't pain or despair, but happiness and contentment. And he knew that giving back the person Saubru loved and longed for would grant that happiness.

"Kamui…" Subaru's quiet voice distracted the teen from his thoughts and he looked at those mismatched eyes filled with silent concern and pain. "I want to know what the Core told you. Or at least what has been happening since then. I want to know…"

"…Because I can't help but feel that you're… distancing yourself from me. I feel… that you're about to leave me behind. I'll die if that ever happened… Don't… ever leave me…"

Kamui, not having the ability to read minds, wasn't able to hear the thought that ended the older male's statement. But that didn't mean he didn't sense the deep worry and concern the other male had for him. He wanted to tell him, really, but Subaru would only be against it. The older male would surely want to confront the Core directly. And Kamui didn't want Subaru to be hurt because of him. He wouldn't be able to live knowing Subaru's life would be in jeopardy because of him… "He just… scared me a bit…" He answered with a strained smile.

"What do you mean? Did he say awful things to you? Did he hurt you?" Subaru's worry only rose up at that. Kamui was precious to him. He loves Kamui. He'd never live it down if he learned that he was oblivious while Kamui was being hurt.

"No… he just…" Kamui started as he shook his head. "He just… scared me… That's all. There's no need to worry about it, Subaru. I'm fine now."

Subaru wasn't persuaded but he didn't show it. Instead, he smiled at his cute kitty and slowly leaned down for a kiss. Kamui automatically blushed as he closed his eyes before he felt the warm and soft lips that covered his own in a sweet, chastised kiss. It was fleeting, only lasting for some mere seconds, but it was intimate and affectionate Kamui couldn't help but blush more.

"Sorry, I got carried away." Subaru mumbled as he cleared his throat, obviously trying his best to hide his embarrassment, not to mention the unmistakable tinge of red on his cheeks. Kamiu chuckled as he hugged Subaru again.

"Ahem." Nokoru's amused 'cough' broke the two out of their intimate hug and both stared at the blonde with different expressions, one with embarrassment and one with a glare. Nokoru was on the doorway and behind him were the others. "I think that's enough sappy moment for now." He grinned knowingly even though all he saw was the two of them hugging one another.

"We should circle and check the area a bit to know if there's a feather here." Fuuma said as he also smirked knowingly. "Though if you two want to stay in bed cuddling the whole day, we also don't mind…" He earned an audible growl from Subaru while Kamui only blushed deeper at his words. Shiro only sighed at the scene while Mokona didn't even react like anything was out of the ordinary.

"Let's go." Subaru simply said before they were all out of the hut and out of the village.

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

"I can't believe this…" Nokoru mused aloud as he, Mokona, and Shiro surveyed the forest from the air. Fuuma, Kamui, and Subaru were on foot just some ten meters below them. "I can't see anything except forest." He could see the rising sun from the horizon and yet all he could see from all direction were trees of different sizes and shades of greens.

"Mokona wonders why there are no demons." Mokona thought aloud. They were already far from the village and far from the barrier and yet there was still no demon in sight.

"Maybe because it's daytime..?" Shiro asked more to himself than to answer his companion's question.

"What do you think?" Subaru asked Kamui as they walked in leisure. The two were walking side by side while Fuuma was a little farther ahead, kindly clearing the grasses for the two other ravens to walk on.

"No, I still can't feel anything." Kamui said as he tried to feel anything. "I feel that there really isn't any feather in this place."

"Are you sure?" Fuuma was the one who asked this time as he turned his head over his shoulder to have a look at the teen behind him. "We might not be able to come back here anymore and if there's actually a feather…"

Kamui only smiled. "I believe in my intuition." Both Subaru and Fuuma only sighed in defeat.

"But there's still no harm in trying to search the forest, right?" Fuuma voiced again.

"…except there's actually harm in disturbing the sleeping demons." Nokoru's voice from above made them look up just as the blonde flew down together with his two companions.

"We saw some demons not far away from here." Shiro was the one who explained. "They're heading this direction."

"They look big and scary." Mokona and Nokoru voiced in unison, though having different tones – the fur ball with worry and the blonde with amusement.

Fuuma smirked. "Time for some action."

And not a second later, they all felt the disturbingly dark auras and presences of the demons even though the creatures themselves were still a little farther away. They all readied themselves in the quickest way possible while Mokona did his best to hide in Nokoru's shirt.

"Kamui, you should stay back with Mokona. Shiro will guard you." Subaru said as he looked at the boy beside him, only to be surprised when he saw the said teen half scowling and half pouting cutely at him.

"Subaru, I may not have my memories. But that doesn't mean I don't know how to use my power. Call it instinct." Kamui said indignantly. Subaru only had a second to be surprised when the demons already appeared before them, not even waiting for them and immediately launching an all-out attack.

There were hundreds and hundreds of them, most were the size of an average human but there were those with the size of small animals and those twice the size of a giraffe.

Nokoru immediately used his combat skills and fought the demons using his physique alone. Fuuma also did his very best and was able to win without much sweat even though he currently has no sword. Shiro used his original size and bit to pieces all the demons that dared bite him. Sometimes he would step on them or use his paws and slash them apart. Mokona remained hidden in Nokoru's shirt while Subaru used his swiftness and delivered fatal blows to all the demons unlucky enough to be in his way. He sometimes used his sakura petals to turn them into minced meant but that was only for those who were quick enough to escape his physical attacks.

It was an all-easy battle for them. And Kamui half pouted and half scowled again when he realized he didn't even have to do anything at all. Or rather, he couldn't do anything at all because all the demons who were unfortunate enough to make him as a target would meet an immediate and swift death at the hands of the Sakurazukamori or at least the hands of his millions of sakura petals in the air.

The fight went on for several minutes not because they were having any difficulty but because there was just no end to the enemies. No matter how many demons they killed, there were still twice more coming at them to replace the killed ones. It was exhausting to say the least, especially since the demons were also swift even if they weren't very strong. After almost an hour, they managed to kill most of the demons but also with some minor injuries here and there.

Nokoru was about to deliver a fatal blow to one particular annoying demon when he suddenly felt himself thrown away at least ten meters away. He landed with a loud thud on a tree branch and he grunted in pain as his head spun.

"Oy, Nokoru, are you alright?" Fuuma asked from the other side but he too was thrown in the air so suddenly when he let his guard down.

That somehow caught Subaru and Kamui's attention and they all looked as Fuuma and Nokoru both tried to get up from the ground.

"It's those giants." Shiro saw the whole encounter and let the others know about it. "I saw them send some blade-like wind chi with their hands and throw both Nokoru and Fuuma in the air without physically touching them."

"Shit." Fuuma muttered as he tried his best to stay upright. The blow was enough to kill an ordinary human. And he was glad he wasn't ordinary. Nokoru was beside him doing exactly the same. They both looked up at the giants with quiet glares as they tried to gather their strength back despite the pain.

Subaru used his hands to control the sakura petals with better accuracy and attacked the giant demons without a second thought. To his and everyone's surprise, however, it's as if those demons' skin were made of metal and not even the deadly beauty of sakura petals were able to do them any harm.

"Tch." He maneuvered in the air as several wind blades tried to hit him in the same manner as they hit Fuuma and Nokoru earlier.

"Let me handle them." Kamui's voice rang in the midst of the commotion and all their attentions turned to him. Subaru wanted so much to argue and stop his lover (he thought so secretly) but refrained from doing so, seeing the serious pair of amethyst eyes looking at him silently asking for permission.

"Oy, oy. Can you even do something about them?" Fuuma looked annoyed and at the same time worried. They saw that not even Subaru could do any damage to the giants who kept on releasing wind blades on them and he wasn't entirely sure Kamui should even be a hundred meter near the creatures.

Kamui only nodded before he jumped from tree to tree in instinctual agility and swiftness before he stopped directly below the giants. He tried to look for anything akin to weakness but he had little success in finding any. So it's hidden huh… He smirked to himself, knowing it wouldn't make any difference anyway, before he blinked in confusion on why he suddenly thought that. Was he always this arrogant before he lost his memories..? No wonder Subaru didn't like him in the same way…

He sighed as he started concentrating his power in his whole body in the same way his intuition told him, allowing him to levitate in midair without any form of wings. His power alone sufficed in making the forest tremble beneath him. To say that his power didn't scare him at least a little would be a lie. He didn't think he had this much power in the first place since this was the first time he ever tried it.

Subaru and the others grabbed the nearest tree to them in order to not fall from the sudden shaking of the earth. The giants even stopped their attacks and stared at Kamui who was already some meter above them. Some of the forest animals and birds immediately flew away in fright at the shaking of the ground. Even some demons flew or ran away to save their own skin. Even a simple demon would know it wasn't wise to be near Kamui when he's prepared for battle.

"So… this is the power to either destroy or save the world huh..?" Nokoru voiced as he tried his best to stay standing despite everything. "And he's not doing anything yet too."

"Kamui has no reservation right now. He doesn't fear hurting a friend so he can go all out." Subaru voiced as he too watched from below how Kamui continued to gather more and more of his power and waited in concern as the ground continued to tremble.

Kamui looked at the three giants with unconcerned eyes. He had no pity for creatures who dared lay their hands on his friends. Seeing that the demons were the first to attack them, he would waste no time in getting rid of them.

Kamui felt his whole body glow as he clapped his hands together once, creating a huge wave of pure and raw energy that circled him. He faced his hands on the three giants just as the energy hit the maximum. Even he was surprised when he saw his energy devoured the giants in one go, leaving nothing behind. Not even a trace of the giants' ashes could be found. It was a swift and quiet attack, and one very terrifying even for him.

Nokoru and the others could only stare in shock and utter disbelief at the unbelievable display of immense raw power. The ground seized from trembling and the whole forest turned quiet again. But the loud beating of their hearts continued to rattle in their ears as they stared at the teen from above with wide eyes.

"Kamui!" Subaru immediately flew when he saw the light surrounding Kamui diminishing and the boy was slowly falling. He grabbed Kamui by the waist and hugged him close before he flew down again. "Are you alright?"

Kamui only nodded before he looked up at Subaru's worried gaze. "I'm just a little tired. That's all." Subaru's worried expression eased a little and he gave the younger male a gentle smile.

"That was… superb." Nokoru voiced, tone highly deep in amazement and admiration. "No wonder you're called… The Kamui." Kamui only gave him an embarrassed chuckle at that.

"Yup, that's the power of the unrestrained Kamui of the Dragon of Heaven!" Mokona appeared from inside the collar of Nokoru's shirt and all the others glared at him for doing nothing but hide the whole time when he's obviously a lot stronger than he looked. The fur ball didn't seem too bothered about it. "And Kamui's power right now is still less than half because the Core has half of his power! Do you see now how powerful he is?" He added the last two statements with giddy excitement that the others thought he looked and sounded like a doting mother.

"Are you sure you're alright, Kamui?" Shiro walked towards them and asked. "That power earlier was enough to wipe out a village. The toll on the user will not likely be pretty."

"I'm fine." Kamui smiled kindly before he pouted. "And please don't say such things as wiping out a village. I will never use my power like that."

"Yes, I know. Sorry." Shiro smiled as well. "So… now that the commotion is over, any luck with the feather?"

"I'd say there's really no feather here." Kamui simply said before he shrugged.

"I second the motion." Mokona hopped on to Nokoru's shoulder. "Ah." His sudden surprised voice made them turn toward him and they all saw his eyes opened before the jewel on his forehead glowed.

"Don't tell me…" Fuuma muttered just before the glow casted a ray of light which in turn shaped itself into square. A screen appeared before them and the sight of a drunken Yuuko greeted their eyes. "Well, well. Aren't you having a lot of fun while we're risking our lives here as always?" Fuuma said before he crossed his arms over his chest.

Yuuko only chuckled playfully before her amused eyes turned a little more serious. "Alright. Good evening, though I can see that it's morning in the place where you're in right now." They saw Watanuki in the background grilling some pork and fish and other stuffs before the screen went back to Yuuko's face. "I have another news."

"What now?" Subaru growled. He didn't want to know any more of those hope shattering news that the witch always tells them.

"Alright. I'll start with the fact that the Core is probably planning everyone's demise right now. I want to remind you all about the upcoming battle with the Clamp." She said casually. "Not too mention that the time you all have left is already too limited." Fuuma sneered at her but she didn't seem to notice it. Or if she ever did, she didn't let it deter her good mood.

"What else?" Kamui voiced. He knew that the witch wasn't the type to suddenly call them just to tell something they already knew, especially since she always starts with the happiest news before going on to the more worrisome ones.

With this, Yuuko's gaze turned a lot more serious than earlier and they all knew that she would be giving them an end-of-the-world news again. "I want to tell everyone that the Core is much, much nearer than you all think he is."

Subaru's eyebrows furrowed at that. It's the same words Shiro told him that night in the Kinomoto household. So it's true then..? Did that mean that the Core was always just… near them?

Even Kamui had to think about that. If the Core was always near… then where was he hiding this whole time..? Where was the Dark Kamui now? Was he actually listening to them right this instant?

"And…" Yuuko's expression didn't lighten up and they knew that the next news wouldn't be good either. "I want you all to know that one of you is hiding a really huge secret that can destroy your whole journey and bring destruction to you all."

Kamui felt his whole body froze at that. Had Yuuko seen through him? He didn't want to look at anyone right now, especially since his expression might give him away. Instead, his barely steady gaze looked at Yuuko and found her smiling at him. His amethyst eyes widened in fear and he couldn't help but step backward once. Yuuko must've noticed that and her smile turned a lot gentler.

"Alright. That's all." Yuuko drank her whole bottle of sake before the screen went blank. Mokona hopped on to Nokoru's shoulder again and noticed how stiff it was. He looked up and saw how the blonde was looking at everyone with curiosity. Subaru was also like that, looking at everybody else except Kamui coldly.

"What does the witch mean by that?" Shiro mused aloud. He knew that he had no huge secret to share so it could only be the others. He also knew that it wouldn't be Mokona since the fur ball was basically Yuuko's pawn. So who was it then..? Was it Kamui or Subaru? He knew that those two were full of secrets, especially since they were the center of all this. But he couldn't be too sure about Fuuma and Nokoru either. He didn't know much about them as well.

"I don't think that it will help our journey if we keep on suspecting one another." Nokoru voiced coolly as he smiled gently at everyone. "Even if one of us has a secret they can't share at the moment, I'm pretty sure that they have their own valid reason for doing so."

"I hope that's really the case." Fuuma answered coldly. He didn't want to risk this journey because of some secrets. He wanted to go back to his dimension once again and he wouldn't be able to forgive anyone who was hiding a huge secret that may end up in him not being able to return.

"Shall we go to the next dimension now?" Kamui asked tentatively. The only answers he got were nods and grunts, and he felt like crying. He didn't want to create a rift in their comradeship just because of his secret. But he also didn't want to tell anyone. Nokoru was right. He really had a valid reason for doing so, no matter how only barely valid it was.

"Alright then!" Mokona was the only one with enough enthusiasm as his huge wings appeared and engulfed them all in a white light. The bright light blinded them for a while and they all closed their eyes as they traveled in the in-between dimensions.

The moment their eyes opened next was the moment all sounds and excitement stopped in the huge banquet hall.

"F-Fuuma..?" They all turned when they heard a familiar voice called. A stunned Kamui in a royal robe was looking at them with wide eyes as he held a wine glass in one of his hands. Subaru and Kamui looked at one another before they looked at the mirror-image of the teen.

"P-Prince?" Fuuma felt his whole body turned cold as he realized where exactly they had landed. He never realized he would have to face his past so soon…




Ren-sama's Note:

Okay, care to leave some review people? I know you all hate cliffhangers… and I kind of love them. (*peace sign*) Tell me your thoughts! ˆoˆ