A/N: Hello everyone! I really love No. 6 and wanted to write a lemon… and somehow I had the urge to write it in English, although it's not my mother tongue. So please don't be that strict. If there are basic mistakes please let me know. (^.^)
There are major spoilers for No. 6 in this story and I use a lot of facts from the books/manga. (Not the anime…) So if you haven't read the books you may be a little bit confused because there are a lot of differences. Especially in the end. (^^°) You should read it! I think it's much better than the anime.
Ok then. It's just the first chapter and there will be lemony scenes in later chapters! So please hang in there… Our sweet little rat doesn't have that much to do in this chapter; but he defiantly strikes back in the next one! (*-*) This is my idea of Nezumi's and Shion's reunion. I hope you'll like it.
Thank you for your attention.
Chapter 1 - Solitude
The sky was blue and bright and it was a wonderful warm day. Birds were beautifully singing and laughing kids played joyfully in the Forest Garden. Families and young couples enjoyed their time together in this now wondrous feral parkland.
A slim white-haired young man overlooked that scenery, pressing his fingers against the cold window glass. He used to take a look at the city he recreated when he had a short rest, spending this little free time in the former mayor's office on the top floor of the Restructural Committee headquarters, which once was called the Moondrop.
Shion opened the window and stepped out onto the balcony. He breathed deeply as a comfortable wind blew up at him, ruffling his snow-white hair. This brought back fond memories.
It was the same place that Nezumi used to sing and talk to Elyurias. It was the place where Nezumi rescued the City he hated so much.
Four years have passed since the grey-eyed boy vanished from his side. And it was also four long years ago since Safu died and left everything in his hands. Shion wanted to create a future that would please both of them – a bright future filled with hope and felicity.
'Safu, I really want to show you the new Forest Garden. It isn't just a park and artificial forest anymore; it's also a low-maintenance sustainable food production and agroforestry system. Some people just go there to farm together. You'd love the fruits, nuts, fresh herbs and vegetables that grow there and thanks to urban farming the city is a much greener place now, you know? And so is the Western District! We have a lot of cultivated areas there now. My mom loves the markets at that place. And the street food is amazing! Okay, people there are still a little harsh, but it has become such a vivid place. You'd have so much fun…
I'm sorry, Safu.
I'm sorry that I can't love you back in the way you loved me. You deserved much more, I know. You mean so much to me. You always will be my dearest friend.
I just hope you are fine wherever you are.'
Shion sighed slightly and leaned his body against the balcony railing. His bright purple eyes followed two birds flying higher and higher until they seemed to reach the sun. The boy squinted and raised his arms to give himself shadow. Again he let his mind wander. He closed his eyes and tried to feel Nezumi's presence. Nezumi was here four years ago, he was standing at this spot with his own feet, singing and talking. Nezumi said that he wanted to see what Shion will become. He said that he wanted to see what he was going to build on the ruins of No. 6 with his own eyes.
'Nezumi, I wish you could see this. It is a better place now, isn't it? I'm sure you'd like it. People are happy now, even in the Western District. Ah – and I got the permission to allocate a part of the northern forest to the people of the underground realm. It is a land where they can finally live in peace. We even started to afforest your home country. But it will take a while, I think. I hope you'll appreciate it.
You know I'll be waiting for your return. I really believe in you – and in the vow you gave me when you kissed me good-bye. But I want to see you again so badly.
Nezumi, do you ever think of me?
I miss you so much.'
Shion gulped. He stopped his thoughts and heard the birds singing very clearly. He also could smell various scents of flowers in the air while a gentle wind caressingly stroked his white soft hair. Shion closed his eyes again; imagined Nezumi's very own hand fondling his curls, playing with them. He imagined the touch of Nezumi's slightly rough finger, stroking his red scar softly. Shion imagined a pair of ash-colored eyes looking at him warmly. He wanted to hear Nezumi's voice.
"Shion, the meeting is going to begin now," a young man said.
Shion quivered and turned around.
"Ah, yes! I'm on my way."
He smiled politely and closed the window.
It was late when Shion sat on the patio next to Karan's little bakery. The bright warm day was followed by a balmy summer night. Shion remembered that he really wanted to spend a summer in Nezumi's underground room. He was toying with the idea of paying a visit to Nezumi's little hideaway. He pondered a while but then rejected this idea and sighed.
"My, what's wrong, dear?"
Hearing his mother's sorrowful voice Shion turned his head to the balcony door. Karan carefully balanced two brimmed cups of milk with honey in her hands and placed them on the table. She sat next to Shion and fondled his arm.
"Ah, it's nothing, mom." Shion replied and took a sip of his sweetened milk. He smiled.
"Yes. It's delicious, right? When you were small I gave this to you when you couldn't find any sleep, do you remember?"
"Then, after drinking, you huddled against me while I was reading a nice story for you. I stroked your hair and your back until you fell asleep in my arms." Karan said softly while she caressed Shion's arm.
"Mom…" Shion said blushing. "Stop it, that's embarrassing."
Karan cupped Shion's cheek and smiled sadly.
"I'm not stupid, Shion. I can see it in your eyes. They are longing. Your heart is struggling so much, my dear." said the boy's mother while her fingers played with one of Shion's pure white strands of hair.
Karan always knew that this person called Nezumi was really important for her son. It has too often happened that the boy had this longing facial expression when he thought he was unobserved. She once asked him if he was heart-broken, but Shion was still a young boy, and although they always had a very good mother-child relationship there was no way that the 12-year old Shion would talk to her about his feelings openly. But after all these long winter month they were separated, her son really changed – he was showing emotions like anger, sadness or happiness. Before that he was a typical child of No. 6, he was raised to feel happy. He was raised to be a valuable human being for the Holy City.
'Have you really been happy back then, dear? You seemed like a happy child to me. This city implanted you the urge to always be a useful member of the society and to have solidarity towards the city. But I'm sure that you – even before you met your friend – had your own critical thoughts concerning No. 6. But you are a very loyal person. You tried to rescue the city that wanted to kill you and your beloved friend. It's thanks to him that you became able to express your emotions so openly. Never before I've seen you like this, but it also makes me happy to see your smile. And it makes me sad, when I see that you're suffering so much. I don't really know how I could help you, dear…'
Shion blinked. "What? How do you know?"
"I'm you mother, silly." Karan said warmly. "Be sure that I already know most of your little secrets."
"Whaaah? No, what do you know?" Shion screeched. He blushed even more. That was really awkward. He was 20 years old but somehow felt like a little boy right now.
Karan laughed, but then showed him her sorrowful face. She wanted to comfort him. She never wanted to see her beloved child suffer that much.
"You know, you can tell me everything, Shion."
Shion gulped and stared at the cup of warm milk. He thought about telling her that he has feelings for Nezumi. Somehow it was easier to tell it Nezumi himself than another person, even if this other person was his own mother. But somehow he wanted to tell her. He wanted her to know. Maybe he would feel better if he could talk about it with someone. Karan was right – he could tell her everything. When he told her about his little problems, she always was very sympathetic. And she never had accused him of losing their elite status because he helped Nezumi – or for her just a VC – back then. She never even had asked him awkward questions about it.
The boy opened his mouth. He blinked and sighed. Somehow he was frightened.
"I… love him." Shion whispered. His cheeks turned slightly red.
Karan smiled and stroked Shion's fluffy hair. That wasn't a new thing to her. She already knew it a long time ago. Karan often wanted Shion to talk about it. Sure – talking wouldn't change this situation, but she wanted Shion to know that he wasn't alone with his sadness and that there was no need to be afraid because he loved another boy. She just wanted him to know this.
Shion looked at his mother. He seemed slightly confused. Karan smiled warmly.
"You aren't a child anymore. And although it is not easy for me to let you go, it is quite normal that you'll spread out your wings one day. Shion, don't be afraid of your own feelings. It doesn't matter what sex, race, or background your love comes from. Love is such a wonderful thing and you should appreciate this feeling so much..."
Shion's eyes began to water.
"But…he's afraid of me. And I'm not sure if I'll ever see him again, although I want to believe in his words." Shion snuffled.
Karan sighed quietly and patted Shion's arm again.
"I see," she said. "But I don't think he is afraid of you. I think he is afraid of his own feelings and just needs time to reflect on it. Shion, the day you came back home to me you two collapsed into bed holding each other tightly in your sleep. He protected you the whole time - and he not only kept you safe this particular night. I'm so grateful that he was there for you and even for me, telling me you are all right. He really alleviated my sorrows and fears. He's such a great boy."
'I only want the best for you, Shion. You're everything for me and I'm so glad you returned to me. But you are an adult now and as long as you don't forget about your mother, it is all right when you go and find your happiness. I know that he will come back one day and steal you away from me. But as long as you're with him I don't have to worry. He will cherish you and you will cherish him.'
Shion smiled warmly and looked at his mother's eyes.
Karan also smiled.
"Ah, right, mom! He praised your bread and told me that you're an incredible woman." Shion said and emptied his cup.
"My… That's pretty sweet." Karan blushed a little bit.
Shion stood up. Karan did the same thing and grabbed Shion's collar lovingly, pulled him towards her and placed a motherly kiss on Shion's forehead.
"He will come back to you. I'm sure. He keeps his promises."
"I know. Thanks, mom. Good night."
"Good night, my boy."
Several days have passed since Shion had his coming-out conversation with his mother. He felt a little bit better but his heart still ached because he missed Nezumi so much. Due to this he really threw himself into work. He didn't want to think anymore. He didn't want to feel this pain anymore. Shion really wished to have the ability to switch of his head.
"My, you really look over-worked, my dear!" Karan said very puzzled.
'You've done more than enough for the city. It's okay, dear. It's okay to cut everything down a bit. I have the feeling that you don't know how to properly live anymore... '
"You should take a rest today. Why don't you finally take a few days off?"
Shion placed his cup on the table und finished his breakfast. "No, there's so much work to do, mom. I can't. They need – "
"Shush! Shion, you sure are an important member of the Restructural Committee but that doesn't mean that you have to work yourself to death, do you understand me?"
Shion muttered silently.
"Is it clear?"
"Good boy. I want to go to the Western District markets. I have to buy a lot of things we need so you have to help me carry."
"Ah, and I want to bring Inukashi and little Shion something delicious. They're always so happy when they can eat my self-made pastries."
Shion smiled. "No wonder, mom. They're the best pastries in the whole world."
Karan blushed slightly.
"Aww, stop it, you! Wash your dishes and come. Hurry up or we'll miss the train."
The Restructural Committee also ensured the modernization of the Western District and improved the infrastructure. The trains running mostly every half hour between Lost Town and the Western District were well-synchronized. Shion convinced the other members of the Restructual Committee that for the Western District development, expansion and flourishing commerce was the key to growing prosperity and progress even for the former Holy City. Shion really wanted the Western District to become a booming town. For Nezumi, Inukashi and for all those people that had to suffer and desperately fight for their lives every day. Shion always wanted to help those people like Rico and the small Karan. He wanted to stop this fierce fighting. Although there were still people starving, the whole situation improved a lot in the last four years. Kids had the possibility to go to public schools and most families received public assistance.
Karan smiled at her son proudly, knowing that Shion performed so many miracles. She stretched herself a little and looked around. The train station was filled with people. It was loud but very lively. Shion grabbed his mother's sleeve as the huge crowd of people moved towards the exit. He followed her and suddenly stood in the hearth of the Western District's market place. Shion let his eyes wander. It still looked exactly the same as it did before. No – it was even better. Although it was loud and crowded, everything was much cleaner, the goods were fresher and there were very special fragrances in the air. Shion's mouth watered when they passed various snack bars and the scents of grilled meat, vegetables, crêpes and all other sweet stuff reached his nose.
Karan really enjoyed Shion's and her little shopping tour. And even Shion seemed to be happier and more relaxed. She wanted him to see what he and the Committee had created – she wanted him to join in this wonderful living and to have fun. It was such a nice day after all. She loved it to see her son very curious looking around, absorbing all the impressions and talking vividly to some people he seemed to know from earlier times.
This was a much safer place now. The majorities of crime in the Western District were non-violent petty theft such as bag snatching and pick pocketing. Shion was very pleased. And Karan was glad to see Shion happy again.
"Woah, thanks Momma Karan! My Shion and me love your bread so much, ya know?" Inukashi shouted happily.
Karan laughed. "I'm glad! I'm glad!" She turned around and snuggled down, holding a donut to the little boy also called Shion. "And this is just for you, sweetie."
The small boy smiled happily and opened his mouth widely. He ate the whole thing with just one big bite right from Karan's hand. A small screech came out of her mouth. Little Shion looked up at her and chewed happily with red cheeks. "Mhhhh-mmmmh! Yummy!"
"SHION!" Inukashi shouted.
"Hm?" Both boys looked at her in a very dopey way. Inukashi gulped, clapping her hand against her forehead.
"I meant this little guy there. Man, that's confusing."
Karan chuckled and stood up, brushing some dirt from her knees. The four year old boy ran happily around the place, laughing and playing with the dogs. Inukashi didn't care that much what he was doing, even when she lost sight of him. He wasn't a helpless baby anymore and the dogs where the best babysitters she could imagine, so there was no need to worry.
"Say, Shion. Whaddaya dooin' here? Wanna wash my dogs? They've missed ya!"
Shion smiled and shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. Mom wanted to go to the market place and bring you some bread. But –"
"I also wanted to see the underground room." Karan said and smiled lightly.
"Do you want to join us, Inukashi?" she asked the black-eyed girl.
"Uh, nah, leave me alone with that smelly rat's room. Besides I've my own business to do here with my Shion and my new dog hotel."
"Thanks again for the bread, Momma Karan! Ah, and Shion! Next time you've gotta help out, got it? It doesn't matter to me that you're some bigshot now. You're my best dog-washer, too!"
Shion laughed, rubbing the back of his head with one hand. "Okay, okay! Next time I'll help. I promise!"
Inukashi smirked and looked around.
"Man, Mini-Shion, where are ya again? He's like a barrel full of monkeys."
Karan laughed happily against her hand. "She's a great mother – don't you think so, too?"
Meanwhile the small Shion sat on top of a big dog, riding it. He laughed and screeched when the dog jumped about big quarry. The small boy blinked when he found a person sitting on a big boulder. Shion stopped the dog and jumped on his own feet.
"Hey!" said the small one, looking up at the young man with his big purplish eyes. Shion never had seen a human with ash-grey hair and eyes before…
The man jumped on the ground. A little mouse was sitting on his shoulder squeaking. The stranger's long strands of hair were caressed by the soft summer wind.
"Hey…" a very deep voice finally answered the boy.
"Who are ya?" the little one asked.
Nezumi blinked. He looked at the child. Somehow this kid and the airhead had some similarities. Especially their eyes really looked alike. Could it possibly be? Could it be that this brat was the baby Shion left in Inukashi's care? Nezumi smirked. Seeing this dog beside the child already answered his question.
"I'm a mouse." Nezumi answered.
"A mouse? And why don't ya squeak then?"
Nezumi crooked his head, raised an eyebrow and looked grumpily at this silly child. He bent down, picked up a short branch and threw it so hard and far away he could.
"Get it!" Nezumi shouted and watched the kid running after the branch, followed by the dog.
"Yes. This brat has definitely been raised by a certain dog." he murmured and stretched his body.
"Here we are." Shion said and opened the door to the place he used to call home four years ago. Because it was in the underground it wasn't destroyed during the manhunt. One year after Nezumi has left him behind he paid a visit, checking if the room still was there. But he couldn't stand it being in it without Nezumi around. It didn't feel right. There was no sense of warmth – it seemed cold and lifeless. He couldn't even feel Nezumi's former presence although the raven-haired boy had been living there for so many years, reading every of the books standing in these endless lines of bookshelves there a couple of times. Without Nezumi it all has lost its magic.
'I've already told you this the day you left me behind, Nezumi. The whole world means nothing to me without you.
I loved to live here because you were here with me. I even loved to experience hunger, fights, fear or despair. It wasn't that bad, because I experienced it together with you. Thanks to you I discovered things about myself I didn't know before. You broadened my horizon and I felt things I never felt before like that – anger, happiness, and also love.
Yes. Even love.
Sure, I always loved my mom very much. And I also loved Safu as a friend. But it is something different. I've never felt such a longing before, such a pain and such happiness at once… And I'm still very drawn to you.
I miss you.
And I've already missed you when you left me 8 years ago.
I didn't care that I lost my elite status. I didn't care to lose my still very safe home in Lost Town, because I always had the feeling that there was something missing.
It was you!
You are my home, Nezumi. You are my home.'
Shion sighed and let his eyes wander from the piano to the old red sofa to the coffee table, up to the bed they used to sleep in together. Karan followed her son inside, looking around curiously. Her hands rested on her chest while she gazed at the room. She didn't even recognize that she held her breath. Here the two boys had lived together, eating together, reading together, fighting, reconciling. (Of course Shion didn't tell her they were dancing and had kissed once in this room, too.) Here was this place Shion used to love that much – his refuge.
The white-haired young man went to the nearest of the bookshelves, skimming his fingers along the row of covers. But then he stopped his movement. There was no dust! Although everything was old here, it wasn't dirty at all. Someone must've been here, but he was sure it wasn't Nezumi. His scent was gone, and so was his whole presence.
Even before the white-haired boy could turn around he felt two arms clinging around his torso. First of all he thought it was his mother, but then he realized that she stood next to the piano, giving him an astonished look.
"Karan!" Shion said quite surprised. First of all, he didn't recognize the young girl he used to read out so often in the past. Four years have passed and it was just normal that she changed a lot. Now she was just half a head smaller than Shion. She loosened her embrace and looked at him happily with healthy reddish cheeks.
"Wow, Karan, you've grown so much. How are you doing?" Shion asked and smiled at her.
"Great! Rico and I are going to school; it's a lot of fun. And our mom got to work now and sometimes helps harvesting tasty vegetables. It's all thanks to you, isn't it?" the young girl said cheerful. "I'm so glad to see you, Shion! We've missed you so much. Ah, say – is Nezumi back or what are you doing here?"
Shion smiled and shook his head.
"No. He's not returned yet. I wanted to show this room to my mom." he said and pointed in his mother's direction. The younger Karan looked around and blinked.
"Ah! Your mom is here? Wow! Hello! My name is Karan, too! Shion told me once that we share the same name." the brown-haired girl blabbered and smiled brightly. Karan also smiled.
"My, I'm pleased to meet you. Thank you for being nice to my son back then." she said warmly.
The girl's eyes grew bigger and she raised both of her hands, shaking them slightly.
"No, no! He was nice to us! Shion read to us, he always was friendly. And he also did safe my brother's life! My whole family is so thankful." she said exited.
"Ah. Really?" the older Karan said surprised.
"Stop it. I didn't do that much back then. It's okay and I'm glad that you two are safe and healthy."
The young girl nodded and smiled. But some seconds later the smile faded and she blinked.
"Shion, I hope it was okay for me and Rico to come here and read some of the books. We've cleaned a bit as compensation." she said, biting her bottom lip slightly.
Shion patted her head.
"It's all right. I don't think Nezumi would mind that. He's not here after all. It would be a pity not to use these books, right?"
"Thanks a lot for cleaning here a bit."
Karan's cheeks blushed even more. "No problem at all. We thought that's the least we can do for you two. I hope you'll come back and read to us aloud. Ah and I hope Nezumi will come back, too. He may seem grumpy but he has a kind heart, hasn't he?"
Shion smiled softly and nodded. Yes. Nezumi's heart was very kind. Karan took one of Shions hands and pressed it slightly. She wasn't a small child anymore and she could also see the longing in Shion's eyes. But she didn't know what to do or what to say. Karan bit her bottom lip again and crooked her head, blinking. "Ah, I got to go now, Shion. I was really glad to see you again. Why don't you stay here some days? It is comfortable chilly in this room when it's hot outside. You look exhausted, so just relax a little bit while reading some good books, okay? And in the evenings we could grill some fish together with Rico. Please say yes!" she begged.
Shion smiled. Karan sure was a talkative girl. He nodded. "That sounds really good."
The young girl gave him a charming smile, then turned around and slightly bowed to Shions mother.
"Goodbye, ma'am. Please take care."
"Goodbye, Karan." she answered and handed her a small bag with some pastries she brought from home and she actually wanted to eat together with Shion for lunch. But they couldn't resist the delicious looking and smelling street food so that both of them were already full.
The young girl closed her eyes. This fragrance – it let her mouth water.
"Mom's bread and pastries are really good, Karan. So enjoy it." Shion said.
The girl nodded powerful. "Yes! Thank you very much! That smells so good, we'll love it. I'm sure! Thank you, Ma'am."
"My, you're welcome! Feel free to visit our bakery one day together with your brother, and then I'll show you how to bake delicious bread."
The younger Karan nodded heftily again and left the room, waving happily.
Shion and his mother also waved to her.
Suddenly Shion felt something fidgeting in his shirt pocket. The small mouse he brought along cautiously put its nose out of the pocket, then its entire head past it. Shion helped Tsukiyo out and let the small mouse sit on his hand. The mouse was very old and weak now.
"Tsukiyo. You're home." Shion said warmly and caressed its small back very softly.
Out of the three mice Nezumi kept, only Tsukiyo stayed with Shion. The little animal was very brave, intelligent and also endured the horror in the Correctional Facility together with Nezumi and Shion. It sure was a really special mouse. Tsukiyo ears quivered as it heard Shions voice. It squeaked slightly, twitching his whiskers.
The small mouse raised its head and seemed to be pointing at the books. Shion blinked.
"Ah, you want me to read to –" he said but a familiar voice cut him off.
"Karan, oh Karan!" Rikiga shouted, bursting into the underground room.
"A certain doggy-brat told me you're here! A flower like you shouldn't be in a place like this!"
Karan laughed slightly. "My, Rikiga! Nice to see you."
Shion blinked. "Ah, hello Rikiga-san."
The man turned his head and discovered Shion, smiled and raised his arms, embraced the thin boy heartily.
"Shion! It's been a while. You did a very good job, just wanted to say this to you. Let's go shopping some day; I'll buy you nice new clothes."
"Ah, thank you, Rikiga-san, but there's no need. I can buy this myself, you see…" Shion answered, looking at his mouse. "Right, Tsukiyo?"
The mouse squeaked approvingly.
"Ah, Karan!" Rikiga flushed and stepped closer to her. "Go out with me, Karan. Please let me treat you."
Karan stepped back and blinked.
"My, I have bought a lot of stuff and don't want to leave Shion alone…"
"There's a nice meadow with wildflowers I want to show you. And so many nice places you should know! Let's treasure our old friendship, come on!" he tried to convince the handsome woman.
"A meadow? It has been a very long time since I last saw wildflowers…"
"Yes! I remembered that you really used to love them back then, right? There are asters, beautiful asters everywhere." Rikiga said enthusiastically.
"My, really?" Karan said excited. Her eyes glistened. Shion smiled gently and patted his mother's back softly. He knew it very well how much Karan loved his name-giving flowers.
She sighed. "This sounds inviting, Rikiga. But –"
"Ah, I won't do strange things to you, Karan!"
"My, I never thought something like that…"
"But I did." Shion said, giving Rikiga a strict gaze.
The middle-aged man's eyes widened. "Sh…Shion! What are you saying, I would never ever lay a hand on Karan… don't you trust me? Shion! Hearing this from your mouth! It hurts."
Shion's gaze softened. "I trust you, Rikiga-san. But I also want to protect my mother."
"Shion…" Karan whispered touched. Rikiga blinked and his cheeks turned red. He cried loudly and hugged the white-haired boy effusively. Shion's face turned white.
"Shihohohoon!" Rikiga cried. "You're such an angel, such a good boy."
"Please let go of me, Rikiga-san." Shion said and gently detached himself.
Rikiga sniffed. "I already know that I'm no marriage candidate. Your mother told it clearly to me last year she invited that doggy-brat and me to this delicious meal. I know it." Rikiga said, than looked at Karan. "But I want us to be friends."
"Rikiga…" Karan whispered and covered her mouth with her hand. Shion smiled.
"It's okay for me mom. You can go wherever you like to go now in the Western District. So go and see those flowers you love so much."
"But I don't want to leave you alone here, my dear…" Karan said sorrowfully. Shion seemed to be in pain seeing this place. She was sure that he was missing Nezumi very much and being here alone wouldn't improve this situation. Karan was really worried.
"Ah. It's all right, mom. To be honest, I would like to stay here some days. I've neglected my friends all the time and I have the feeling that they've really missed me. Y…you were right, I think I really need a little break." Shion said and smiled politely. Although this place wasn't like before and he was missing Nezumi, he wanted to spend some time with Inukashi, Karan and the other Western District kids. Nezumi wasn't here. But Inukashi was! And Karan and the other kids, too. They wanted him to be there, washing the dogs, playing with little Shion and the other kids, eating together, being together. He was ashamed that he almost had forgotten these people that were dear to him – his friends. No, he hadn't forgotten them. He tried to create a better world for them. He wanted them to have a brighter future, a happier life. But he had forgotten that they needed him, too. And he had forgotten a really important thing: You don't need much to be happy.
He was happy living together with Nezumi, living in this underground room. He loved it. He loved the light of the candles and oil lamps that plunged the naked crumbling walls into warm colors. He loved the kerosene heater warming the chilly room, the smell of Nezumi's special stew, the raven-haired boy playing the piano and reciting and singing. He loved sharing everything with him, being kicked in his sleep every night, dancing together, reading together, lying awake together, the three little mice's squeaking, talking, fighting, laughing, joking and this one special time kissing him. It made him happy.
But he also was happy to spent time with Inukashi, washing the dogs, reading to the kids, seeing them joyfully, laughing together, and learning together…
He wanted to repeat all these things. Furthermore, it was not a bad idea to relax a little bit and explore the Western District, so he could find out what still needed some improvement. He wanted to do some kind of external work and ask the kids if there was something they wished for, so he could convey the Western District people's needs and wishes to the Restructural Committee.
Karan blinked and smiled softly. She was relieved, although she was sure that her son planned to do some field studies. But as long as he would also have some fun with his friends here it seemed to be okay.
"Ah, that's fine, my dear. Then stay here some days and take a good rest." She said, stepping to Shion and cupping his cheek. "Do you have everything you'll need? Do you have enough money?"
"It's all right, mom. I've everything I need here." Just Nezumi was missing.
But as for the things he needed to stay alive, there was a river full of the tastiest water in the whole world and he had enough money to buy lots of yummy market food for a couple of days.
He smiled slightly and kissed his mother's cheek. Karan closed her eyes and hugged him tightly.
"Ah, mom! Is it ok to let you go back alone with all those shopping bags?" he asked worried.
"It's fine! It's fine! I'll bring her back safe and sound after visiting this beautiful meadow! I promise." Rikiga said before Karan was able to open her mouth. Shion blinked.
"Is this really okay, mom?" he whispered sorrowful.
Karan chuckled. "Yes, it's fine. Don't worry about me, Shion. Take care and have a nice time here. And call me from time to time."
"Yes. Sure, mom."
After saying good-bye to his mother and Rikiga, Shion fetched fresh water from the river and stored the food his mother gave to him in the small cool chamber next to the bathroom. It was the chamber with the mirror in it, where he saw his white hair and the red snake for the first time. He blushed remembering that Nezumi had seen him naked back then, but he was kind of desperate because of his new look. Fortunately, he got himself together very quickly at that time. It was all thanks to Nezumi for praising his scar and his hair. Thinking about it – Nezumi always really seemed to like Shion's pure white curls. Shion loved it when he felt the grey-eyed boy's caressing hands stroking them. Somehow he felt loved.
As the sun set and it became dark the boy lit the oil lamp and placed it next to the bed on the table. The glow from the lamp casted long shadows upon the opposite wall, while Shion busily prepared some hot water to drink and a little snack for his tiny grape-eyed friend. The room was really cold and Shion was glad be brought a cardigan along. It wasn't new to him that really hot days sometimes ended with thunderstorms and rain. Shion recognized when he was at the river that clouds began to gather and the winds began to blow cool air. It felt great. He always loved storms, the forces of nature. It was something uncontrollable, impressive. Shion liked the smell of summer rain and the wind that reminded him of Nezumi and the day they met first.
The young man took a sip from the old mug he was already using four years ago. The stove heated the room a little bit. Everything was still working fine. Shion smiled at the grayish little mouse.
"What do you want to hear, Tsukiyo?" he asked gently, letting the grape-eyed mouse sitting on his palm and walking along the rows of books. The mouse squeaked weakly. "So you want this one?" Shion asked and picked a book from the shelves. Tsukiyo agreed. Shion nodded and walked to the bed, sat down and laid the mouse on his left thigh. The little animal coiled up and cuddled against the white-haired boy.
For hours Shion read to the little mouse. His gently, calming voice echoed in the room. A soft finger caressed the tiny back carefully but incessantly. Shion told his friend exciting stories about an enchanted forest, about singers and the forest god. The mouse felt incredibly loved and closed its eyes slowly, drifting into eternal sleep.
After a while Shion felt that the little animal didn't twitch anymore. He put the book on the table and nudged it.
"Hey… Tsukiyo." the boy whispered. There was no reaction.
Concern and then panic covered Shion's face.
"Tsukiyo, open your eyes! Come on!" he yelled, trying to shake Tsukiyo awake. "Wake up! Please…"
Shion breathed hectically and shivered.
No! No, no, no!
He ran a hand roughly through his bangs and pulled hard. He felt agitated.
"Don't leave me, Tsukiyo!" Shion whispered despairingly.
But Tsukiyo never woke up again.
And Shion felt alone.
~to be continued