Thank you for your reviews on my last chapter!
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I hope you all will enjoy this one! Please don't forget to leave a review for me. I'll appreciate it more than anything!
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I leaned my body against the entrance to his room. My left cheek pressed against the door as my ears tried to capture a sign of his presence inside, wondering if he was awake. I closed my eyes after sometime, and recollected my time with Kazama, fearing the end of our alliance.
A smile stretched across my tired face and at that moment I yearned for him with a great voracity to have his protection, guidance, and comfort. As I leaned on the door collecting these thoughts brought ease and amenity to my apprehensive self. I was finally able to relax.
"What are you doing?" Kazama grunted from inside the room. My eyes sprang open as he suddenly opened the sliding door I was leaning against. I lost my balance and fell into the chest I once slept safely and peacefully on, under the stars.
~Kingdom of Stars~
Chapter Fifteen: A Demon's Protection
My face was consumed with warmth and my body, with alleviation as I melted into his impervious chest; free from harm. His hands tickled as he placed them on my back, giving my fatigued body support. I wheezed heavily into his chest, fighting nausea. He was dressed in his usual attire without his coat.
"You miserable thing," Kazama grunted.
I peeked up at his spiteful ruby eyes as they observed me, puzzled. My eyes steamed as tears swelled up from the heat on my face. I hid myself in his chest, averting his unwelcoming gaze.
"Kazama…they're in my room, the hallways, the shadows!" I whimpered. "They have fangs, and claws, and reek of death!"
"I'm so scared." I whispered, recalling the evil from my nightmares and of all the fiends I had encountered on this journey.
"There's nothing in this hallway." He grumbled, sighing heavily. "Humans can be so paranoid."
"I'm afraid one of those things outside is going to get me!" I sniffed.
"You know I won't let that happen." Kazama remarked, sounding annoyed. "You won't get any better without sleep. Bring your things in here." He asserted, pushing me away from him.
My body trembled as he let go of me. I was too horrified and disorientated to move. He glared down at me, looking peeved over my inability to follow his orders.
"But…" I squeaked. My bottom lip shook.
"How long are you going to rely on my protection?" He chided.
"I'm sorry." I lowered my head, with guilt.
He walked passed me and into the hallway. After a few seconds he returned with my things in his arms and shoved them into my hands. I staggered to the floor and set up my bedding a distance away from his bed. I felt terrible that he always had to take care of me.
I crawled under my covers and watched Kazama as he pulled his blanket over his shoulder and turned away from me in his bed. I kept my eyes on his back.
"Um…" I began.
"Whatever it is, it can wait until morning." He grunted. "You've pestered me enough for one night."
I hugged myself under the covers, wrapped around my body. My eyelids slowly shut as all my strength evaporated but for some reason, I couldn't fall asleep. I laid there for quite some time until I felt a very faint itch on my leg as if something was loitering on me and ignored it for a while until I became curious enough to investigate. I rubbed my eyes before lifting the blanket up and glancing down the sheets. I saw a small bent finger tap my upper leg then focused my gaze. I froze as I noticed several dark legs around a plump figure lurking up my body, crawling closer to my face.
"Spider!" I confirmed, thrashing my legs up and down. I threw the blanket completely off of me and scooted backwards against a wall. The spider raced around my bed in circles then charged under the blanket, disappearing from my sight. I waited for several minutes for the spider to reappear but it didn't. I glanced at Kazama who hadn't moved an inch from the last time I checked on him. I scampered over to his side.
"Kazama?" I whispered but got no response from the sleeping Demon Lord. Exhausted I became very inept and raised Kazama's blankets and tucked myself under them, hoping somehow Kazama wouldn't notice my presence. I yawned and stretched and as I did my leg bumped into the back of his. I yelped and jerked leg away from his. I turned on my side, facing away from him so I could keep an eye on my bed to see if that spider was going to crawl out from underneath my covers so I wouldn't have to risk sharing a bed with Kazama.
Some time elapsed and I almost fell asleep before I felt my shoulder being grabbed then pinned to the bed forcing me to turn on my back.
"What are you doing?" Kazama growled, frustrated.
"Ahh!" I screamed as my eyes shot up towards Kazama's irritated face.
"There's a spider in my bed!" I stuttered.
"Yeah, I'm terrified of spiders." I mumbled.
"Damn, you're a handful." He criticized then grabbed his sandal and moved over to my bed and searched for the spider. I sat up and observed him.
"Disgusting little bastard." Kazama complained as he glared at the spider's oozing guts on his sandal. He paused for a moment then shook his head.
"Kazama?" I blinked.
"So, a little human girl would rather share a bed with a demon than a harmless spider?" He chuckled.
"What do you mean?" I asked, puzzled.
"You used to be afraid of me." He remarked, giving me a smirk. I sat up and smiled at him.
"And you used to hate me." I teased.
"Hn?" He tilted his head to the side.
"But now, we're…" I began then coughed uncontrollably.
"Enough. Get back in your bed." He ordered. I did as he instructed.
"Hey, Kazama, can I ask you something?"
"When you said you would leave me behind in this dangerous place if I didn't get better, did you really mean that?" I inquired, nervously.
"Why do you always assume the worst? Foolish woman, of course I would kill all the remaining furies before leaving you behind." He grumbled.
"You would?!" I gasped, my heart fluttered with glee.
"Go to sleep." He ordered.
A wave of delight relaxed all the tension in my body. As I drifted to sleep, my last thoughts were of him.
"Kazama, you're right that I used to fear you and I even despised you at one point for always belittling me and bad mouthing the Shinsengumi but now, we're friends"
I woke up alone feeling unrested and light headed. I wondered how the Shinsengumi or the Kouyou Chinbutai were and if they had seized Koufu Castle yet. I was confident they had already won the battle and grew agitated from not being there to witness their victory. Frustrated, I jerked the covers off myself and clenched my fists.
"If I keep wasting my time here, I'm going to miss them again." I uttered, vexed. I sprang onto my feet then got dressed quickly and tied the sides of my hair back. I noticed Kazama's cracked sword was still on the floor and imagined he might have left to search for a new one.
"Kaori?" A muffled voice called out. I ventured to the door and slid it open.
"Hiroshi?" I gasped.
"Did you sleep well?" He inquired.
"Do you know where Kazama is?" I asked.
"He stepped out some time ago. I'm not really sure. Anyway, are you hungry?"
"I am a little." I nodded my head.
"We've prepared breakfast and there's something I want to ask you."
"What is it?"
"Just follow me." He gestured.
Hiroshi guided me into a dining room, filled with civilians. He instructed me to sit down and then prepared a tray of food as well as some medicine. I began devouring the meal realizing how hungry I was. When I was done I turned to Hiroshi who patiently waited for me to finish.
"What was it that you wanted to ask me?" I inquired, wiping my mouth.
"Is your warrior friend going to help us?" He huffed.
"Well…" I turned my face away from him, unable to give him an answer.
"Just as I thought." He confirmed.
"What?" I blinked.
"He's a coward isn't he?"
"No! He's just, complicated?" I guessed, trying to come up with an excuse for Kazama's ways besides explaining that he's a demon who hates humans.
"What kind of warrior doesn't help people in need?" He argued. "You said before that those monsters are no match for him. So, if he's capable of defeating those beasts, he should!"
"I know but he doesn't really…um," I stuttered, biting my lip.
"You have to convince him to save us."
"You're the only one who can." Hiroshi glared into my brown eyes with fierce determination.
I glanced around the room at all the helpless people, trapped from living their lives because of the plague of merciless blood sucking ghouls that haunts their village. I found it nearly impossible to convince Kazama, the Lord of the West, to help a pack of weak humans who he probably viewed as trash. It was hard enough to get him to assist me and I was just one lowly human. Still, I couldn't bring myself to evade or ignore Hiroshi's plea.
"I'll do what I can." I promised. It was all I could give him.
"Thank you." Hiroshi sighed, relieved.
Suddenly I heard a thump right next to me and spun around seeing several young girls crowding to see me.
"Hey! You're that one girl who came here with the Great Warrior aren't you?" One of them chirped.
"Y-yeah? Don't worry. I'm going to try to convince him to help you all and-" I stuttered.
"Tell us, is he married? Does he have a wife?" One of them cut me off.
"He's so handsome! I could just eat him!" One of the girls giggled.
"Ahh!" I yelped, backing away from the crowd.
"Wait a second, maybe she is his girlfriend!" Another girl in the crowd suggested.
"I think you're right! I went to check on them this morning and I noticed she had gone into his room!" Our guide from yesterday blurted out. Before I could utter a single word, the crowd in front of me grew.
"Who are you two anyway?" One of the men asked, giving me a suspicious glare. I motioned to give him an answer but was cut off.
"I've told you guys already they're obviously runaway actors. The Great Warrior must have obtained his sword fighting skills from acting in plays so much."
"Hey! I thought we decided they're star crossed lovers running away from their families?"
"No way," Another villager debated. "It's clear he is her hired bodyguard or manservant."
"But if that's the case, why would the Great Warrior bring this little girl all the way out here?"
"Maybe he kidnapped her!" One of the girls stuttered.
"Everyone, quiet!" Hiroshi stressed. "You're all making her nervous."
"Well then, which is it?" One of the men asked. Everyone in the room became silent, all eyes were on me. Pressured, I quickly chose the most harmless answer.
"Um…let's go with actors." I shyly stated. Hiroshi banged his fist on the table, as all the cankerous villagers argued and debated amongst themselves.
"No way! I always thought you were beautiful but an actress too!" Hiroshi shouted, smiling at me. I shrugged, wishing I could take back what I said.
"Anyway, thank you for the meal." I remarked. Suddenly the whole room became silent. I glanced in the direction everyone was facing. Kazama stood in the entrance of the room with a new sword on his hip. He scanned the area until his eyes rested on me. I bolted out of my seat and dashed over to him.
"What are you doing out of the room?" He inquired, observing me.
"I just left to eat some food that's all and-"I blinked my eyes and blushed as Kazama placed his hand on my forehead. His face lowered into an aggravated expression.
"Why is your kind so feeble?" He grunted.
"What?" I mumbled.
"Tell me how you are feeling."
"I'm fine!" I stressed.
"You're in no position to lie to me." He growled.
"Kazama, I'm really okay." I whispered, losing my breath.
"Your fever has returned." Kazama let go of my face and grasped my upper arm, guiding me back into the room we slept in.
"I want you to stay here and rest until you are well again." He ordered.
"Kazama, I have a request." I asserted.
"Hn?" Kazama blinked.
"We're obligated to return the kindness these people have showed us. I think before we leave, you should." I paused briefly staring into his garnet eyes, already predicting his response. "I mean, we should help these people and get rid of all the remaining monstrous furies before we go, right?" The Demon Lord gave me a vindictive glare.
"I don't owe these pathetic humans anything." He growled.
"I had a feeling you would say something like that." I sighed. "Still, what would it hurt to save them?"
"Demons aren't supposed to interfere with the human world. I thought I already explained this to you. We only got involved in this war because of the debt we owed the Satsuma Clan. I couldn't care less what happened to these humans."
"Are you saying you won't fight for them just because you're a demon? They don't even know that you're a demon." I whispered.
"That doesn't matter. I grow tired of this foolish conversation. It's pointless to explain the way of the oni to a mere human. Your kind is too conceited to understand such things." Kazama turned to leave the room.
"Kazama!" I called out. He halted and turned his head over his shoulder.
"Listen, I understand what you are but…" I took a deep breath as my chocolate eyes gazed into his garnet ones. "You don't have to be the bad guy!" I shouted. I could tell my words caught him off guard. He turned around and studied me for several seconds.
"I don't have to be the hero either." He finally replied.
"I'm not your anything." He argued.
"I'm your friend, your ally." I cried.
"Stop it," He demanded. "You forget, I'm supposed to be your enemy."
"No, I didn't forget. That just never mattered to me." I mumbled. Kazama's mouth opened slightly, looking puzzled. He stared at me for several seconds as if he was probing my conduct for some answer.
"Hn," He grunted, turning away from me. "Just get some rest."
"I can't; I'm ready to go to Koufu Castle! We're missing the battle as we speak!" I beseeched, as he advanced toward the door way, to exit the room. "Kazama please I'm okay! I want to witness their victory!"
Kazama let out a mocking laugh.
"You want to see their victory? Those idiots are suffering defeat right now." He snickered.
"That's impossible! Even so, this is the closest I've ever been to finally finding them so we have to leave." I pleaded.
"Forget it. I'm not going to let a sick woman enter a battle field." He chided.
"Wait you're not going to…?"
"Relax, just focus on getting better." Kazama stepped out of the room and turned around to close the door.
"Believe me, I can handle myself! You have your sword now, we should go!"
"I'll decide when it's time to leave." Kazama growled, in a menacing tone. "Don't let me catch you out of this room." He demanded, shutting the door.
My body trembled from the thunder in his voice and I felt compelled to submit and obey the Demon Lord's command. Still I was tired with his attitude, for once; not because of the way he condemned the Shinsengumi but because of his tendency to erode my resolutions.
"Kazama, when will you finally accept me?"
I scanned the sheets for spiders and when I found none I tucked myself underneath the covers and allowed all my ill thoughts of Kazama to subside to reach enough tranquility to relax. After sometime I felt the medicine Hiroshi gave me earlier kick in, my fever even disappeared.
Suddenly I heard footsteps hasting to the door. I sprang up, alert.
"Kaori?" Hiroshi's voice muffled through the door. "Can I come in?" He requested.
"Sure." I asserted. He lowered himself on his legs next to my bed.
"Did you manage to convince him to save us?" He asked, looking hopeful.
"I'm sorry but no." I bowed my head, feeling defeated.
"I see." His crystal blue eyes reflected great distress. He clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. "Well, it looks like we'll have to force him then."
"What?!" I squealed.
"I have an idea." He confirmed. "But I need you to cooperate."
"Me?" I blinked, baffled. He nodded his head.
"You recall when you first came into our village, yes? I mean when those fiends attacked you and Kazama slayed them."
I nodded my head.
"He was protecting me." I mumbled.
"It seems he only fights when you're in danger. So, if we use you as bait and those things attack you…"
"He'll be forced to slay them!" I asserted.
"That's exactly right. If you're in danger he'll have no choice but to kill those monsters in order to save you, it's perfect!" Hiroshi cheered. "Of course, I'll be keeping a close eye on you. I don't want you to get hurt."
"I don't know, those things are horrifying and I don't want to deceive him or anything." I uttered, recalling my nightmares.
"You have to, you owe us that much at least. It'll be fine, he's already killed some of them and I'll have your back." He reassured.
"I guess so," I uttered. "Do you even know where Kazama is right now?"
"He just stepped out. If you scream loudly when the fiends arrive I'm sure he'll rush to your rescue."
"Alright, I suppose it's the only way to save everyone." I mumbled, standing up and grabbing Kazama's cracked sword. "I'll keep this with me just in case, even though it's damaged it could still be useful."
"If we're going to do this, it has to be now. The clouds are covering the sun as we speak and it won't be overcast forever. Plus, I fear they may have learned where our current hideout is located."
"I'm ready when you are." I bravely confirmed advancing toward the door. Hiroshi leaped onto his feet and grabbed me.
"Hold on a second. There's one more thing I want to say." He remarked.
"What is it?"
"That Kazama guy, I get a dangerous vibe from him. Those hostile malevolent eyes of his look venomous. I don't think you should stay with him. Please, stay with me in my village after all those monsters are destroyed."
"I'm sorry but I can't do that."
"Kaori, listen, his incredible strength and other worldly features makes my skin crawl. I don't know how you could feel safe around him, it's like he's a devil!" He argued. It took me a moment to grasp what he was saying then I started to laugh; I couldn't help myself.
"Don't worry about me." I sputtered between breaths of laughter. "We're on a journey and have a destination we need to reach together. I want to be with him. I honestly don't know why but I feel I need him."
"He's bewitched you." Hiroshi gasped. I thought about what he said for a few seconds.
"You know what, perhaps. Still, bewitched or not, I have some place I need to be and someone I need to find. Besides, you don't give him enough credit. Behind those devilish eyes is an honorable man and truthfully he's not a bad guy at all." I spoke with such high esteemed reverence towards Kazama that Hiroshi gave up and let go of me.
"So, I'm guessing you too really aren't runaway actors?"
"Um…" I scratched the back of my head. "Sorry?"
"It's alright you were trying to hide your identities and intentions from strangers; I would have done the same thing. I hope you change your mind about that man. Let's do this!"
We both raced out of the room and faced the exit of the hideout. Hiroshi gathered some villagers to keep watch and assist us if something went wrong. Hiroshi then stood by the entrance.
"I'll be sure to rescue you if he fails, or doesn't show, okay?" Hiroshi offered. Anxious and fearful, I formed my resolve, remembering the security of Kazama's embrace.
"I'm afraid one of those things outside is going to get me!" I sniffed.
"You know I won't let that happen." Kazama remarked.
"That's okay I know he will save me." I shook with fear but kept a brave mask on. I struggled to keep nightmares from pouring into my mind. I desperately wanted to hide under the covers from everyone but felt driven to return the kindness these people showed me and Kazama so instead I prepared to assist them in the only way I could.
Swallowing my fears, I stalked out the entrance and onto the vacant streets. Everything was completely silent, the air was still. I strolled down the road a little bit, scanning every alley way and building. My heart began to race. I placed my hand on my chest preventing it from bursting through my skin. I jerked my head back and forth and spun around numerous times, suspicious. I constantly reminded myself to stay focused, knowing the monstrous furies could attack any second. I glanced up at the clouds covering the piercing rays of the sun and waited for what seemed like hours but nothing happened. I grew puzzled and even a little bored.
"What's going on? It's so peaceful, as if all those creatures are gone." I mumbled to my impassive self then my heart stopped as I recalled Kazama's words.
"Of course I would kill all the remaining furies before leaving you behind."
"No! Did he really…?!"
To Be Continued…