Ren-sama's Note:

Thanks you for the reviews, everyone! Here's the next chapter!

.

Chapter 26

"Stop this nonsense now." They all turned towards the source of the familiar voice and their eyes all widened at the fact that not far from them were two princes with the same face. Both wore the usual royal robe that only princes were allowed to wear.

"P-Prince!" The Lord Protector all knelt and bowed deeply, and Fuuma couldn't help but bow as well. It's been a while since he last did that.

Haruka looked in Fuuma's direction before he looked at Kamui. The two hid a well-known smirk that didn't go unnoticed by Subaru, Shiro, and Nokoru.

What the hell were those two planning? They thought as Subaru smiled at the fact that Kamui was alright. Kamui also looked at Subaru at that instance and immediately beamed when he saw that the older male was okay. Subaru felt himself calm down as he looked at his own prince, The Kamui. He knew right from the start who Kamui and who the prince was, just like how Fuuma was able to tell them apart immediately. Subaru's Kamui was a lot more powerful in both presence and air while the Prince was more overwhelming in authority and royalty. Both Kamui have the elegance and grace fitted for a prince though, since both of them were basically princes – albeit in a different way.

They also saw Mokona on the teen's shoulder and remembered that the fur ball too was missing.

"Are you okay, Kamui-san?" Nokoru asked as he smiled.

Kamui smiled as well before he nodded.

"Everyone, these people are all my welcomed guests. All those who dare lay a hand against them will receive my punishment." Haruka said in authority and everyone bowed deeply in apology.

After a while, all the Lord Protectors left them on their own.

Fuuma saw them leave and he knew that those were new faces. If they didn't know him, the strongest Lord Protector in history, and how he was exiled from the palace, then those people might have been new recruits.

"Everyone, follow me." The prince voiced kindly before he started walking along the corridor together with Kamui. Subaru and the others all followed silently without any word. Of course, Subaru only followed the obvious order because Kamui was following too. He had no patience for important people because the only person important to him now was the boy walking in front of him.

"You've calmed down a lot." Nokoru voiced beside him. He merely gave the man a weak glare before he continued walking. The blonde chuckled at the cute attitude before his gaze turned towards his other side, to Fuuma. It seemed Subaru's earlier dread was caught by the other raven. He wanted to laugh at the way Fuuma's legs looked so wobbly from nervousness. Who would have thought the guy was capable of feeling those kinds of things..? There was no way anyone could change so suddenly– But then his eyes then turned to Subaru. Oh, the perfect example to argue against his statement.

Fuuma knew where they were going but he didn't know why. He knew that that way was the way towards the prince's room. But for the prince to invite him to the room together with everyone… He now wondered what that sudden chill he felt earlier when he bowed was all about. And he closed his eyes as he reminisced about his prince.

He just finished his usual patrol circling the castle that night. He was about to go back to his room when he suddenly felt the dread that covered his whole body.

He immediately walked briskly in order to check up on the sleeping prince. He knew that it was normally not allowed to visit the royalty's room, especially during the evening. But he was given special permission by his prince so he knew he wasn't breaking any royal rule.

"Are you sure you want to go to the prince's room right now?" A voice from the hallway stopped him and he turned around to see the other male.

The King's younger brother…

Fuuma immediately bowed. "Yes, I need to check up on him."

The other male smirked. "Well, I warned you."

Fuuma's eyebrows creased at that statement. But he didn't heed it because his prince's life was more important than his own, especially since there were several cases of failed attempts on the prince's life in the past few weeks.

He walked faster and faster, the voice of the king's younger brother echoing in his head, until he already broke into a run. He wasn't exhausted from all the running and he immediately opened the door without knocking since he knew not to disturb his prince when the latter was sleeping.

But what greeted him when he opened the door was not the prince's lone sleeping form. But the four people inside the room. One of them was carrying a weapon.

"You..!" Fuuma felt his whole body turned cold at the fact that the guy with a weapon was so close to his sleeping prince.

He immediately grappled against the man with the knife just as the prince started to wake up. Fuuma knew that the man was quite strong and he didn't hesitate to give his all while fighting him. The thing that puzzled him was the fact that the three other men were just standing behind him, not doing anything at all.

The room was terribly dark so it was hard to discern the faces of his enemies. But he was sure something was off.

The man gave one final attack and Fuuma used that chance to deliver the finishing blow. The man fell on the floor with a loud thud as Fuuma panted, bloodied from the fight.

"Fuuma..?" The prince's quiet voice echoed throughout the quiet room as he turned on the lamp shade beside his bed. The sight that greeted him made him turn pale as he stared at his own Lord Protector with fearful eyes.

"P-Prince..?" Fuuma called gently, wanting to calm his prince down. But he didn't know how. It was the first time Haruka saw him killed someone up close.

"Y-You… my brothers… you… k-killed them..?" The prince voiced as he stared at the figures behind the raven.

Fuuma's eyes widened as he too turned around. The three figures standing behind him earlier were actually the prince's two younger brothers and one Lord Protector. He was set up. They looked like they were merely standing when it was dark. But since the light from the lamp shade was enough to illuminate the whole room, he clearly saw that on their necks tied a thin rope. They were hanged.

And the sole man who could tell the whole truth, the Lord Protector with the knife, was already dead. There was no one to tell his prince that he wasn't the one who did it. That the prince's younger brothers were already dead when he arrived… But no one would believe him… especially since the prince himself fully believed that he was the one who indeed killed the three men in the room together with the man holding a knife.

Fuuma opened his eyes once more, paling a lot when he saw the familiar room where he was framed. He didn't want to go inside. But he saw Nokoru and the others entering without a second thought and now he knew he had no choice on the matter but to enter as well.

"Wow, this is some royal room." Nokoru complimented when they all entered the room. The room was absolutely spacious, though not as spacious as his own room from where he came from.

Haruka smiled at the compliment but didn't comment. He merely sat on his chair and looked at everyone. "I won't ask you on the reason why you're here… since I already know." They all looked at him suspiciously before he chuckled. "Kamui-san and Mokona-san told me."

"You told him… everything?" Subaru asked Kamui and the latter nodded apologetically.

And thus, Kamui told them how he ended up in the room and how Haruka found him. "And… he also has the feather." He finished. They all looked surprised at the fact that Kamui was so casual about that.

"Where is it?" Subaru asked as he eyed the prince with suspicion.

Haruka merely laughed as he pointed at the bird perched at an artificial branch in the corner of the room. "There."

Kamui chuckled. "Pheonix-san was the reason Mokona and I were caught. He felt my presence and pointed my location to Haruka." Fuuma almost gaped at the fact that Kamui just called his prince's name without any honorific. But it seemed Haruka looked happy and amused at that so he didn't comment anymore.

"The whole bird is the feather?" Shiro asked Mokona. The latter merely shook his head and pointed at the bird again.

"That's the feather." Mokona said. Everyone was about to berate him for not being particular, but then he hopped over to the bird and pointed directly at the feather. "This feather is not the bird's." He pointed at one particular feather as he nodded to himself.

"I promised to give that feather to Kamui-san on one condition." Haruka said with a smile before he looked at Fuuma. "I want to ascertain something." Fuuma's eyebrows creased at the fact that the prince looked at him. He immediately averted his gaze, feeling shame at something he knew wasn't his fault.

"What's the condition?" Nokoru asked kindly.

"I want the four of you," he pointed at Subaru, Fuuma, Nokoru, and Kamui. "…to guard me at the masquerade ball tonight." He smiled at Kamui and the latter returned it with a cute grin. "If you managed to keep me safe from harm, I'll give the feather to you tomorrow."

"What do you mean by that?" Subaru asked.

"Ah, he meant to ask if you're expecting that you'll be harmed tonight." Nokoru added when Haruka didn't look like he understood.

"Oh, that." Haruka chuckled. "The Oracle Lady said I will meet my demise tonight."

Fuuma's eyes widened at that. And before he could even stop himself, he immediately grabbed the prince's robe's collar. "Then why do you look so calm!? You're life is in danger and yet you still–!" The hand on his shoulder, courtesy of Nokoru, calmed him down a little and he realized what he was doing all of a sudden. "I… I apologize…" He averted his gaze, obviously more hurt than anyone, before he left the room quietly. Kamui slipped out of the room too, following the older male.

"Sorry about that." Nokoru said apologetically.

"No, he's right." Haruka said as he sat on his bed, facing everyone who was standing in front of him. "I should be more worried. But I just… don't want my ex-Lord Protector to worry about me anymore. He finally… found you guys."

"What do you mean? Weren't you the ones who banished him to another dimension?" Nokoru asked, a little puzzled.

"Yes, it was us." Haruka closed his eyes, trying his best to keep his pain at bay. "But it wasn't my decision. The advisors were the ones who made that decision. Kamui already told me about Fuuma's side yesterday. But I want to hear it directly from him."

"Fuuma?" Kamui called when he finally saw where Fuuma went.

Fuuma sighed. "…I've loved him more than anyone. But I wasn't able to protect him in the end. And now…"

"I'm sure he believes that you will be able to protect him this time." Kamui smiled. "He told me he wasn't the one who was married the other night. It was his younger brother. His younger brother is now the official King."

Fuuma looked a little surprised at that. He couldn't help but smile at Kamui as he patted the latter's head. "Do you think I'll still be able to redeem myself?" Kamui immediately nodded with enthusiasm. "I wish so too, brat."

"How about you try to tell him all that?" Kamui voiced. "You're not the same Fuuma from before. I'm sure that you'll have the necessary resolve to tell him everything now." He smiled and Fuuma sighed again before he nodded.

"I just want him to tell me directly about those things." Haruka said as he sighed. Subaru didn't look like he's listening and Nokoru was wiping his eyes a little. Shiro only looked at Haruka as the latter poured out his feelings. "When he was framed, he didn't even utter a word to me. I know it was so wrong of me to ask if he was the one who killed them when I should've known that there's no way he could've done it. He just knelt there in silence and waited for his verdict. He didn't even ask for my help. He didn't know how much it hurt me." And it seemed he realized that he's already talking too much so he immediately laughed at himself. "S-Sorry, everyone. You're my guests and yet I'm…"

"Prince." Fuuma's voice from the door made them all looked. "Can I talk to you… privately?" He looked at Kamui and the latter nodded. "I want to tell you my side."

Nokoru smiled as he patted Haruka's shoulder. "Tell him everything, okay?" The blonde, Shiro, and Subaru walked towards the exit while Fuuma entered the room again. Kamui received another pat from Fuuma before he left the room together with Subaru and the others.

Fuuma sighed before he knelt in front of Haruka again. "I apologize for all my behaviors until now, Prince."

"No, I should be the one to apologize. When I asked if you're the one who killed them, I didn't mean to say that I was convinced you really did. I apologize for asking that." Haruka said as he cupped Fuuma's cheeks with his hands. "I was waiting for you to ask for my help then. I really wanted you to ask for my help even just for once. But I didn't realize it was you who was waiting quietly for my help. I didn't realize it… until you were banished." His hold on Fuuma tightened as he hugged the older male to his chest. "I'm sorry, Fuuma. I wasn't able to help you. I let you disappear from my sight. I didn't even ask for your side. I'm really sorry."

Fuuma didn't know what to do. It was the first time he saw his prince apologizing to him. It was the first time he felt his prince's warmth, the first time he felt his trembling body so close, the first time he experienced feeling so contented and at the same time excited.

"Fuuma, I want to know if you still want to be my Lord Protector after all this time." Haruka asked as he looked at Fuuma straight in the eyes.

Fuuma was surprised but he nevertheless answered as he bowed in one knee. "If you wish so, my Prince."

Haruka chuckled as he spoke. "You never changed. And yet… you also changed a lot." He cupped Fuuma's cheek again to make the latter look at him straightly. "You were never friendly back then. You were always alone, reading a book or training. I thought that you would be like that for life. But now… you returned with your most trusted friends – smiling and fighting alongside them without any care for other things. I'll admit I was a little… jealous."

Fuuma's eyes widened at that. "Prince…" He gulped before he decided to say his side. He told the prince of everything that happened that night. He told the prince of his longing, of his feelings, of everything. He even told the prince of his lost ring. And by the end of it, he felt a little exhausted, and also a lot happier. "I think I might be feeling more than just admiration and respect for you, Prince. I might actually be in love with you."

Haruka was more than a little surprised at the sudden confession, but he nevertheless hugged Fuuma tightly. "…You… You've kept me waiting for a long time, Fuuma." Haruka smiled at him and kissed his forehead since he was still kneeling. "I'm glad I declined the throne and waited patiently for your return."

Now was the turn for Fuuma to be surprised. He heard from Kamui that the prince loved someone so he declined the throne. But to think it was him… "Prince, I…" But he wasn't able to continue since his lips were already sealed by another pair of lips.

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

The masquerade ball was terribly luxurious and all the visitors wore extravagant masks to make them stand out even more. Nokoru stood in the middle, talking to the ladies without looking too suspicious, while Fuuma was beside the table, doing his best to not get drunk even though he kept on drinking wines together with the other guests as well.

Kamui did his best to socialize with the guests together with Haruka since he didn't look so suspicious beside the prince, especially when they wore masks too. Subaru, on the other hand, was on the sideline – leaning on the wall and watching the scene unfold before him. He had the least intention of doing this masquerade thing but he was the person who most wanted Kamui's feathers to be returned. Since this was the prince's condition, then so be it. Mokona and Shiro, on the other hand, remained in the prince's room together with Phoenix-san since they couldn't be brought in the party.

The ball lasted for some hours before midnight and many other guests were already leaving by the time Haruka and Kamui finished talking to the important guests while wearing their masks. Subaru remained antisocial despite the fact that many female guests tried to get his attention or get him to talk.

Fuuma was already in his eighth glass of wine when he noticed that something was strange. He immediately looked at the direction where he knew the prince and Kamui was but he was surprised when he couldn't see them any longer. He contacted Nokoru but the latter was also lost as to where they managed to be in the split second that the blonde wasn't looking. Subaru was also alarmed when he couldn't feel Kamui's nor the prince's presence anywhere.

"I think this is what the Prince was talking about." Nokoru voiced as they all met up in the middle of the ball. "Shall we split up and look for them?"

Fuuma thought about it before he shook his head. "No, you two will most likely get lost than finding the brat and the prince in this vast place."

"If they're in some kind of room just like the prince's… then it'll be really hard to find them."

"Don't worry. I did something to Kamui's necklace earlier." Subaru voiced calmly as he made some signs unfamiliar to both Nokoru and Fuuma. They watched him as he brought out a small paper before he incanted some spells. Their eyes widened when the paper suddenly transformed into a small butterfly which flew in a certain direction.

"What the hell just happen? Is that even possible?" Fuuma asked in confusion and deep surprise as Subaru started following the butterfly. "Oy, will the butterfly tell us where the prince and the brat are?"

"Awesome." Nokoru said in amazement even before Subaru could actually nod. "Not that it's something impossible for someone who can make sakura petals rain down from the sky." And he chuckled at his own words.

"This is called a shiki, a technique used by onmyoujis to track down things. It will follow the location of the necklace regardless of whether it can sense Kamui or not." Subaru explained to them quietly. He was concentrating a lot more than normal because it's been a while since he last used the technique. "A butterfly means that Kamui and the prince are near."

"Let's just hope Kamui-san is wearing the necklace right now." Nokoru said as they all followed the butterfly's awfully slow pace.

They walked some corridors and ascended some stairs before they were lead in front of some room. Just as they stopped in front of the seemingly innocent room, the butterfly vanished with a puff of smoke and returned into a paper.

"Are they inside?" Fuuma was the one who talked first.

"Most likely." Subaru answered as he destroyed the door with one swoop. The other side was dark and awfully quiet. At least until before a quiet mirthless laugh reached their ears and a blinding light suddenly blinded them all momentarily.

"So this is how things go, huh, Prince." An old-sounding voice echoed throughout the room and Subaru slowly adjusted his sight to the new light together with his companions.

All of their eyes widened at the sight that greeted them. It was actually far from their assumption. Kamui seemed like he didn't know if he'd smile or not when he saw Subaru, but the latter simply dashed beside the teen in utter swiftness and hugged him tightly.

"I'm glad you're fine." Subaru voiced quietly just as Fuuma also ran towards his prince. Nokoru just stood there and watched impassively, obviously not wanting to comment just yet.

"Don't worry. I didn't kill any of them." Kamui voiced quietly as they looked at all the bodies on the floor. They were obviously bloodied, but not quite life-threatening. It was also the same reason why Kamui was bloodied all over. They also looked at the old man who talked earlier.

"He's the mastermind behind everything." Haruka was the one who spoke before he looked at Fuuma. The latter looked like he was barely maintaining his rage. And Haruka knew he couldn't blame the man. After all, this man was also the same person who framed Fuuma for that crime five years ago – Haruka's own uncle. "Fuuma…" He hugged the male just as Nokoru suddenly appeared behind the man and tied his hands up behind him.

"Kamui-san was the one who saved me from everyone." Haruka said as he looked at everyone. "Thank you." And he bowed deeply to Kamui.

The teen only nodded. "…I think we should…"

Haruka nodded in understanding even though not a word escaped Kamui's lips. "Fuuma, please call some Lord Protectors and tell them what happened."

"I'm still alive. As long as I am alive, I will not confess anything!" The man exclaimed as he gritted his teeth.

"I apologize, but… it is my words against yours, Uncle." Haruka looked at the man with cold eyes. The man had just confessed earlier that he was also the one who killed the last king. "I will make sure that my brother punishes you greatly."

"Kamui," Subaru voiced as he looked at the teen. Kamui looked up at him with those pained eyes and now the taller man could see that Kamui didn't change much from the way he was back then. After he accepted his fate as the Leader of the Dragons of Heaven, Kamui had become incredibly averse to hurting anyone, especially not his friend Fuuma. That's why… That's also one of the reasons why Subaru couldn't help him back then… because he, the Sakurazukamori, did nothing but kill people from the time he became one…

"Subaru, I'll become strong." Kamui said quietly. "I will become strong, so that I don't have to be in pain every time…"

Subaru leaned down as he wiped the enemies' blood off of his beloved's handsome face before he gave Kamui a gentle kiss on the lips.

A sudden clearing of throats broke them up from their own world and Subaru glared at everyone since they all cleared their throats at their intimate act earlier.

Haruka chuckled at the sight of an embarrassed Kamui and he walked forward and hugged the other male. "I really thank you for earlier, Kamui-san. If it weren't for you, I would have been dead already. The oracle is right after all."

"Huh? I thought the oracle said that you will meet your demise tonight?" Fuuma's voice made them all turn to his direction. It seemed he came back quicker than normal, and with the same Lord Protectors that threatened him earlier this morning too. The Lord Protectors were immediately told the gist of what happened. They immediately took the King's brother away and also took the injured bodies to be treated before they would be put to prison. The brother of the previous King would also be put in a prison before the day of his trial.

After all was well and done, they all came back to the Prince's room and Haruka helped Kamui change into clean royal clothes. They all rested there for a while since everything was just too damn exhausting.

"So…" Fuuma opened his mouth after some relaxing minutes have passed. "I thought the oracle said that you will meet your demise tonight? That's obviously what you said." Not that he wasn't happy for Haruka's safety. He was actually really glad about it.

To their surprise, Haruka actually chuckled. "Actually, that's the prophecy… if I will not let a man with an image mirroring me… and my beloved person protect me."

"Hah?!" Fuuma exclaimed. He was definitely fooled. But he was nevertheless embarrassed at the fact that the oracle kind of predicted he would be the 'beloved.' No wonder Haruka didn't seem too afraid of the prophecy. And he couldn't help but sigh.

"Do you mean that Subaru and I were just decorations?" Nokoru had veins of annoyance showing but Subaru didn't care about that. As long as Kamui was part of it, then he would definitely be part of it too. No matter what role he has to take.

"N-Not really." Haruka laughed sheepishly. "Ah. How about we rest for the night and talk about everything in the morning?" Haruka offered to everyone as he let Phoenix-san perched on his arm. He plucked out a feather from the bird and it suddenly glowed as it flew over to Kamui.

Subaru was afraid for a while that something would happen to Kamui again, just like the last time. But he was glad when everything was normal.

"Ne, ne. Can we tour this place?" Mokona suddenly asked as he hopped from Kamui's shoulder to Nokoru's. Haruka and Kamui only laughed at his cute antics while Fuuma immediately flared.

"Just because you slept here the whole time doesn't mean we can tolerate you!" And he immediately pinched Mokona's chubby cheeks. "Tour the place on your own! We're all going to sleep now!"

They all laughed at the Fuuma and Mokona's usual antics while Haruka couldn't help but chuckle at this new attitude of his beloved. The previous Fuuma was cool for him , but this one was better.

.

.tbc.

.

Ren-sama's Note:

Yup, this is it for now. Please leave a comment, everyone! ˆoˆ