Author's note : Hey, this is the fourth chapter of this fic. I'd just like to say thanks to all my reviewers and readers. Honestly, I never expected to even reach 20 reviews - that's a lot for me. The reviews are really touching, so I thank thee. Well, enjoy this next chapter and please review. I live for them.
Seri walked through the corridors of Sceptre 4 at a fast pace. She was careful to move silently, for she did not want to attract any more attention after the 'little discussion' she had with her captain and Fushimi. She was no longer limping, for her sprained ankle had been healed; thanks to Munakata's power – but Seri doubted that there was a panacea for her pained heart right at that moment.
Don't think about it, Seri, just walk fast, she reminded herself sternly. When she saw the exit of the building, she almost ran in her high heels.
"Whoa, was that the lieutenant?"
"I've never seen her walk that fast before – not since they announced free red bean paste buns in the cafeteria,"
"Well, I did hear there was something going on with Homra – they're probably causing more trouble,"
The blonde woman almost fled when she heard the word 'Homra'. She was thankful when she burst out into the open night air, breathing hard. Calm down. Take a deep breath and calm down, she thought to herself. Seri walked along the huge building of Sceptre 4, before reaching a hidden corner and leaning against it.
She sighed, closing her eyes.
"You are a dense man, Captain Munakata," she murmured to herself.
How long would it take to make him see that no, she would not agree to take a Homra member as her husband? What did she have to do to open up his eyes properly, and see what was plainly written in her heart? She wanted someone else. She had fallen for someone else. For once, in her empty and lonely life; Seri Awashima had fallen hard for a man.
"I hate you, Reisi," she said. Yet I still love you. So please, God, help me.
Seri timed herself. She did not cry. Instead, she leant against the cool wall and calmed her racing thoughts.
After exactly 7 minutes, Seri stepped out into the open.
"There you are, lieutenant! I was searching everywhere for you," A familiar voice made her nearly jump out of her skin. She looked at the speaker, her face blank and untraceable. "You've found me now, Akiyama. What is it?" she asked.
Akiyama Himori, one of the members of Sceptre 4 stood in front of her, studying her almost worriedly through his windswept hair. "Your hair's a mess," she stated to her underling. "You look sadder than usual," he answered back shrewdly. There was a short silence between them. "If there's nothing you want, I'll be taking my leave," Seri said, turning her back on him.
"No, wait, Lieutenant!" Akiyama said hurriedly. Seri turned to him, her eyebrows raised. "I, uh... I… Would you like to get some drinks with me?" he blurted out, flushing slightly. Seri thought about it. "Have you finished your work?" she answered. "Y-yes, I finished it all before leaving for home. But then… well, my sister's out with my nephew for a trip to Kyoto without me, so I wanted some company tonight," he trailed off.
Awashime studied him. She wanted to be left alone right now – but Himori didn't piss her off. Besides, he had the same taste for red bean paste as she did. He even took seconds when she served her special red bean paste cake. "…Okay," she agreed, surprising both herself and the male.
"Great," he said with a small smile.
Kusanagi was not pleased when he met Totsuka at his younger friend's apartment; only to be dragged away by Tatara to a bar further away. It would be 'safer', according to Totsuka. The bar had a normal bar just like Homra's bar with stools; but it had tiny areas secluded from view too, separated by thick and tall wooden walls.
Both Homra members were currently seated at one of the secluded areas, far away from people. Kusanagi looked at Tatara grumpily over the table, as they waited for their drinks to arrive.
"…I could serve drinks faster, you now," Kusagai pointed out, almost sulkily.
"Aw, give me a break, Izumo! I just… don't want anyone we know listening in on our conversation, you know?" Totsuka said pleadingly.
"Fine, okay," Kusanagi sighed. "But this better be good, Tatara. I agreed to meet you at your home, only to be brought to a dingy old bar," he said. "It is for a good reason, Kusanagi, don't fret," Tatara beamed. "Fine. Will you tell me now why you won't accept that – "Izumo stopped talking when the waitress served them their drinks. "Thank you," Totsuka grinned, blowing on his hot cup of tea.
They heard some people settle into the seats next to their area. The waitress rushed off to the next cubicle to tend to their orders. Feeling as if it wasn't safe to talk just yet, Tatara just sipped on his tea silently. Kusanagi tapped the table impatiently.
"Now?" he asked, once the waitress had gone, leaving the other customers alone.
"Now will you tell me why you can't be the marriage candidate?" Kusanagi demanded. Totsuka smiled at him almost wryly. He looked at his cup of tea for a moment, before meeting his older friend's eyes.
"I'm dying, Izumo," he said softly, almost to himself, "that's why,"
Izumo was silent; trying to let his brain process what he just heard. "So you're telling me… you can't marry Awashima because you're – you're dying?" he repeated dumbly. Totsuka nodded, his gaze drifting out the window. "O-of what, Tatara? What're you dying of? Is someone after you? Tell me who, our clan will beat him up till he's dead. Does Suoh know?" Kusanagi asked, unable to think straight.
"No, Izumo, King doesn't know. Yet," Tatara answered calmly. "Then tell him! What're you doing, keeping this to yourself? What's happened, Totsuka?!" Kusanagi's voice was almost hysterical. Noticing that they were drawing attention, Tatara pushed Izumo's mug of hot chocolate closer to the latter. "Drink, Izumo. Breathe. Calm down," Tatara said.
"No one is after me. Don't worry. I'm dying because of myself; my own body," Totsuka said, his voice low. For once, Kusanagi could see something like worry in Totsuka's face – it did not suit him at all. "I've been diagnosed with cancer, Izumo; lung cancer," Totsuka explained. The bartender could not understand how the vassal could be so calm about this.
"…B-but how?" Izumo asked. Totsuka was silent, his eyes hidden by his long bangs. "…I need to tell someone. If I tell you, you must never let King know," he said slowly. "Promise me, Kusanagi. Promise me that you'll keep it a secret," Totsuka begged, taking hold of Kusanagi's hand. Tatara's hands were cold and they trembled as he spoke. He's scared. Tatara's scared. Calm him down, Izumo, Kusanagi thought.
He took both the younger male's hands and produced a warm fire that was not harmful for Tatara. The small fire dance merrily as Izumo held Tatara's hands and squeezed it comfortingly. "I promise," he agreed. Totsuka sighed, relaxing slightly.
"…You know how the Sword of Damocles strengthens King? King's immunity is higher, and he's more powerful – just like how a king should be like. My body accepted the Homra mark, Izumo, you know that. You were there. Externally, I had no problem. But I was breaking down internally. My body cannot handle that kind of power – it's a rejection phase," Tatara explained.
"King didn't want to mark me at first, remember, Izumo? He was against it. But I managed to convince him. From a normal person's perspective, it should entirely be my fault. But knowing King… if he knows that I'm dying because of the mark, he's sure to blame himself. He'll take it hard, Izumo, if he knows. So – so please… help me out here. Don't tell him. Protect King," Tatara said.
"…Is there nothing we can do to help you?" Izumo asked. "I've visited a few hospitals already, but they can't help me anymore. The mark's too powerful. I've tried, but my body is rejecting everything. I – I don't have long to live, Izumo, and I have a feeling that there's really nothing I can do about that. But as long as I'm still here, I'll need to create some memories," From beneath his jacket, Totsuka took out his video camera.
"So that's why you took up that hobby," Kusanagi said softly. "Yeah… I mean, when I'm gone – well, it'll just be you looking after Homra, right? That's why I was thinking about marriage too. There are some things that women can see but we can't, Izumo. A woman around would be great for Homra; especially if we think about Anna. We've been handling her well so far, a pretty good job if I say so myself. But when she grows up… unpleasant things will be flying around," Totsuka murmured.
Kusanagi leaned in slightly to hear. "People will be wondering why on Earth there's a sweet young lady like Anna staying with a gang of rowdy men. Anna will have it hard social-wise, but at the same time; Homra might be in danger of disbanding. Homra could be sued because we've been taking care of Anna this whole time, and – and anything could happen. Ugly things. I don't want to leave Homra and see it in shambles," Tatara said.
Kusanagi was silent, contemplating what Tatara said.
"You've been thinking a lot; strategizing and improvising haven't you? All for Homra. Are you – are you sure you want to keep this a secret from the rest? They'll be angry and upset, Totsuka. Do you want them to feel that way when you're gone? Hell, I'm upset with you for keeping this from me. We're friends. You should've told me, if not Suoh," Kusanagi said sternly. Tatara cocked his head to one side and bit his lip.
"I...I'm unsure too, Izumo, of what I should do. But remember what you said at the bar earlier? You said you won't shirk your duties as a Homra member. That's what I want to do. This is all for the sake of Homra – and also myself, Izumo. If we tell King, who knows what he might do? His hold on the Sword of Damocles is crumbling already. You can see the difference yourself if you compare King's Sword of Damocles to the Blue King's. You have to keep this a secret, Izumo – even after I die. It'll work," Totsuka said convincingly with an easy grin.
Kusanagi, however, was still doubtful and he was feeling other emotions too. It was unfair that Totsuka, of all people, had to go through this. Fate was spiteful.
"Please, Izumo? Promise me?" Totsuka looked at him hopefully. For once in his life, Izumo saw the worry and weariness reflected in his younger friend's eyes. So young but already so old…he thought to himself. He had to promise, for Totsuka's sake. For Homra's sake. Totsuka was right. "You have my promise," Izumo said lowly. But I still have a bad feeling about this.
"Thank you, Izumo," Tatara breathed out, looking slightly happier. Relief washed over his features. "But you have to promise me something in return," Kusanagi said. "What is it?" Totsuka asked. "You…You take care of yourself. And – and I want to meet the doctor you've been meeting. Arrange an appointment," Izumo said firmly. Tatara opened his mouth to argue, but Kusanagi glared at him. "It's the least you can do for yourself. I'm not going to take your death lying down, idiot. I'm going to help you, and you can't stop me," Izumo said easily, with a charming smile added to the end.
Totsuka shrugged his shoulders. "Alright, no worries. I'll do it," he agreed with a small laugh.
"…So, Izumo?" The vassal began, prodding his friend. "What now?" Izumo asked lazily. "So you understand that you have to marry Awashima, right? I think she will be good for you," Totsuka said in a light tone. "Yeah, I do understand, thanks. But… what do you mean, 'good for me'? She's crazy," Izumo muttered. "There's a thin line between love and hate, Kusanagi – a very thin line. You'll both be good for each other, I can see it already," Totsuka said dreamily.
"But, look, you didn't answer my question… what makes you think we'd be – "Kusanagi was interrupted when there was a loud crash in the bar. The bartender twisted in his seat slightly, trying to catch a glimpse of what had happened.
He saw a windswept looking man standing up in a defensive stance. His back was turned to a girl who sat, looking frightened, at a secluded table. Clearly, he was protecting the girl. There was an injured man who had crashed into a table and upturned it. But there was something wrong – Kusanagi had a feeling that the man protecting the girl was not the attacker of the injured man.
"I warned you already to stay away from her. I do not regret using force on you," A dry, familiar voice spoke up. Kusanagi's eyes nearly bulged out of his head when he saw the assaulter and speaker.
Awashima Seri, lieutenant of Sceptre 4, and his soon-to-be-wife stood calmly in front of the man, who groaned loudly in reply.
That's the end of this chapter. Yeah... about that lung cancer thing. Sorry about that, but from what I learnt in Biology; well, it was the only disease that would be convenient to the story plot. I'll try to update the next one as soon as I can. Please leave a review. I'd like to know what you think. - Huhuchocolate