Dark Adaptation

Disclaimer: I, Yoko Matsushita, hereby pledge, that in my absence from the writing and illustrating of the Yami no Matseui series, I have given Hickok (Alias: Some-random-schmuck) full authority over its' characters, content and plot, with which to do as she wishes. And in the event that I do eventually return to resume command over the series, that I will not be furious with the way it has turned out, nor will I take such action as to complain, protest, condemn or file charges.

Hickok: Thanks Yoko, baby! Now, are you guys ready for some more DA action?!

Yoko: HEY! I didn't authorize that!

Hickok: Details, details… anyway, you guys know the drill right now. I bet you could read it back to me if ya wanted. It ain't mine, I'm making no money, all characters depicted having hot sweaty man-sex are over the age of 18 and are therefore legal and flamers shall be eaten by my cannibal demon Eurynomous.

A/N: (Sneezes) Hey everyone! Hard to believe, we're alweady on de 31'st chapter of Dark Adaptation!

Muraki: I can believe it. I'm exhausted. And what's wrong with you anyway, Hickok?

Hickok: Whaddya mean?

Watari: Well, you're kinda talking like Meowth.

Muraki: At least she's not talking like James. Imagine how embarrassing that would be.

Watari: Shuddup.

Tsuzuki: Yeah Hickok… and you're looking somewhat pastier than usual.

Hickok: I hab da flu, okay?!

Saki: Flu? Girl, you don't have time to have the flu! We should be celebrating your next chapter of DA!

Hickok: All I wanna do is stuff tissues up by nobse, curl up in a ball on da sofa and slowly drown in by own phlegm. (Collapses onto the couch)

Oriya: Yes, well before you get too comfortable with that, at least give the readers the courtesy of your welcome spiel.

Hickok: Hai, hai… (Sits up, bleary eyed) Greetings to all ye lovely readers! Thankyou as always for your wonderful reviews (sorry if I didn't get back to all of you, or didn't respond because you were anonymous. Trust me, I did appreciate everything you guys said more than you'll know!) and support. This chapter I'll admit was a little more difficult than I had anticipated, partly because it wasn't even in the original storyline! But it gave me a chance to have Muraki talk about his past a little more and an excuse for more MuTsu goodness, which I'm sure you guys appreciate.

Count: Now, now, Hickok. You know they only read your fanfic for the storyline.

Hickok: Damn straight! Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it. Needless to say, it contains lemon-ness, so don't say you weren't warned! Characters depicted in the explicit yaoi-ness are over the age of eighteen and are therefore legal, unlike all those Tsuzuki/Hisoka pairings out there. (Dodges various missile implements from all TsuSoka fans) Dammit! How do they always find me?! Well, what are you guys waiting for? Have at it! Oh and thanks as always to my dear friend and fellow fanfic-ist Jollyolly for supporting me from day one and also for betta-reading this new chappie. And being kind enough to give it the thumbs up. Means a lot to me doll! (Makes 'Ok' sign before passing out face first into the sofa)

Muraki: Be sure to get those cushions dry-cleaned after she's revived, won't you?

Oriya: I'll try and remember…


Seventeen Years Ago…

Kazutaka Muraki had been fifteen when Saki Shidou confronted their father.

The memory has been burned into his mind ever since.

Yeryuto Muraki, son of Yukitaka Muraki, made his way down the stairs of the manor, suitcase thumping bodily down the steps in his wake. Kazutaka had been studying quietly in the right hand den, the double doors propped open so that he might see first hand who was coming and going. He glanced up at the sound of the suitcase hitting the carpeted steps, his eyes widening behind his thin-framed reading glasses. Always the studious sort, he very rarely let his fathers persistent comings and goings distract him from his work but this time it came as a surprise to him and the biology books were closed with violent haste.

Yeryuto noticed his younger son standing in the doorway, staring at him with inquisitive but simultaneously mournful eyes. The senior Muraki sighed irritably, as though his arrival had been of great agitation and checked the time on his fob watch, swaying from the cut of his dark blue button up vest.

"Don't give me that look, Kazutaka." He stated with the impatient air and grace of a man who despised having his immaculate schedule disturbed. "There's a small emergency with one of my patients in the Amakusa islands and they require my immediate attentions."

"But… you just got back from your last trip…" Kazutaka drawled, looking down towards his feet and trying to voice his objection without seeming overtly combatative. Yeryuto looked away from him, lest his resolve to continue forward out that door be weakened.

"Please Kazutaka, don't make a fuss. You wouldn't want to upset your mother." He said; as Sakaki arrived in time to relieve Yeryuto of his case, walking it back out to where the car had been parked. "Now, I won't be long. A few days at most."

"So why not stay longer?"

Kazutaka seemed to visibly wince as he looked up the stairs at his elder half-brother. Saki had not been well for some time. Since Oriya's devastating accident, he seemed to have tired of his infectious zest for life and the peppy nature that was as much his trademark as his rain blue eyes. He was glaring down at their father now, with a mixed expression of great dislike and somehow, a distinct lack of lack of sympathy.

"Saki-" Kazutaka began, intending to humbly request his strong brother relapse into silence but Saki was having none of it. He was mad, which was unusual in its' own right. He usually treated their father with sarcasm and a grudging but good-natured acceptance. None of this was now visible on his pale face.

"You don't wanna be here with us, so why not cut it out with the promises you clearly hate making and stay away forever?" Saki snapped in a brusque voice. He was clearly pushing for a fight. Kazutaka had seen him pull this self same act with other boys at their school but never their own father! "Leave us be. Don't come back. I know how to take care of myself. Did it for years before you decided to poke your nose in. And I can damn well take care of 'Zuta too. Be much better off with me. At least I care about him!"

"Saki!" Kazutaka forced himself to interrupt, frightened by the shared expression of loathing both his father and brother were directing toward one another. "Saki, Father and I are having a discussion. Please, just let me speak for myself for once."

Saki gave him a look that immediately cowed the younger boy. "You're so scared of him that it renders you completely incapable of speaking for yourself, little brother. I, on the other hand, feel I owe him no favors and as such I'm not afraid to speak up!"

Yeryuto seemed to not have heard Kazutaka's interruption and his furious features remained locked on his accidentally sired son, who even then was purposefully strolling down the stairs to meet him head on.

"I beg your pardon but what did you say?"

Saki shrugged his shoulders churlishly, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his casual pants. "The truth. You're going out on 'business'? Puh-lease!" He laughed in his fathers' face. "Why bother lying? We both know you're going out to bang one of your mistresses. You don't want any of us. And you don't want to be in this house anymore. So do us all a favor; don't come back."

Yeryuto looked taken aback for all of two seconds but then he squared his shoulders and bolstered his nerve. Saki was standing on the bottom step of the staircase, so they were eye to eye, on equal ground, so to speak.

"I will not tolerate that tone from you, young man! Not after everything I have done to bring you into my house and my life in my own good graces-"

There was a snort of laughter, Saki apparently unable to hide his amusement at this comment that was so contrary to reality.

"That's always your fail safe excuse, ain't it? Yer own good graces!" The humor left his face and a cold fury stole dominance in its' wake. "Big fat fucking deal! My Dad worked his guts out for my sister and I until the moment he died! He took us both in, even though I wasn't really his son! Where the Hell were you all that time? Ignoring the fact that I even existed, even though Mom told you that I did! Told you to your damn FACE! Papa took me in… and it wasn't even his responsibility; now that's good grace! You could learn a thing or two from my father!"

"I am your father!" Yeryuto closed the space between them and he was so angry that spittle was frothing at the corners of his mouth. "Your stepfather was a gutter crawling, drug taking and dealing, piece of filth, who had no right to be raising children in the depths of depravity into which he had dragged his life!"

Saki's delicate features reddened with palpable rage. "Don't you dare talk trash about my Dad! He may have had problems but he was still a better father to me then you have ever been to us!"

"I've worked hard to provide the two of you with a good home, with good food and a good education and this is the thanks I get?!"

"Oh, break out the freakin' violin! I couldn't give a fuck how goddamn hard you think you've worked! Work? You'd like to think you're doing everyone a favor putting in the long hours at the hospital but the only human lives you care for are the ones that can line your pockets! The only reason you work so 'hard' is so you don't have to come home and face us!" Saki surged forward, jabbing his father forthrightly in the chest. "My Papa may have been dirt poor but he put the hard work in where it was needed; with his family! He might not have been able to give us fancy clothes or weasel us into the snooty schools but at least he took us to a festival every now and again and put his arms around us when we were sad. You can barely look at Kazutaka for a second before you're compelled to look away! So don't give me that bullshit about hard work! What's the sense in trying to support sons that you don't even love?!"

Yeryuto appeared to be so angry he could barely string two words together. He drew himself up and out, like a cobra opening its' frill and then seemed to shrink back down into himself, until he seemed unaccountably small. Saki glowered expectantly, awaiting a reaction.

"I am not going to have this discussion with you right now." Yeryuto finally resolved, turning his eyes, albeit briefly, on Kazutaka. "Goodbye, Kazutaka. I shall call you first thing in the morning." He turned to open the now closed front door but Saki beat him to it. He stood between his father and the escape route that he had been so desperately seeking to use.

"NO!" The teenager roared, grasping the handle out of his fathers grip and slamming the door back into its' foundations, pressing his back against it. This was more than enough to rouse Kazutaka into entering the room proper, his porcelain like features stricken and confused. "You're not going anywhere in this state. You'll have an accident and I don't want to feel any responsibility for what you do to yourself."

Yeryuto took a step back, nostrils flaring. He seemed just about set to shoulder charge his son in a frantic bid to escape this disagreeable conversation. "Move aside, Saki, I will not stand for this much longer!"

Saki spread his arms wide, as though he were preparing to embrace his father. Though clearly this was the last thing on his mind.

"I won't. This will not be another conversation that you just run away from!"

A great silence followed, punctuated only slightly by the harried pants falling recklessly from Saki's lips. He had exhausted his already weak body, simply from yelling.

"You don't want to face up to anything." Saki finally said but now his voice was soft but delicately quavering with underlying tears. His eyes shimmered with unshed sorrow. "And you won't talk… not about Mom dying and what she really meant to you." Yeryuto bit his lip and looked to the side. "And you refuse to look up those stairs and see how sick your wife is or even to accept the reason why she became sick in the first place!" His voice and tone slowly gained momentum, along with the heat of his emotions, clearly contained for so long. "You bury yourself up to your nose in your work because you don't want to be able to see what's happening to your son; the fact that he's only fifteen years old and on the strongest prescribed anti-depressants available at this time and has been since he was ten fucking years old! This house is going to Hell; you're whole family is falling to pieces around you and you…you ignore everything! And you ignored me – BUT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO IGNORE WHAT'S GOING ON ANY LONGER!"

"Calm down!" Yeryuto roared back, the visible veins in his temple throbbing but Saki's soft voice was more powerful than his fathers ever would be and he overshadowed it completely.

"No! The only way you're walking out of here is if you tell me the truth!"

"What truth?!" Spit was flying from Yeryuto's lower lip and his face was so red it just might have been on the verge of bursting. "You're not making any sense!"

"The truth! Say it!" His face partially collapsed beneath the acute stirring of his emotions. "Say the name that you call me when you think I'm not around to hear it."

Yeryuto stared at his son in horror, having not expected to hear these words but Saki didn't relent for a moment, even as tears streamed down his face.

"Say it."

Yeryuto could no longer look his son in the face and his somber blue eyes fell to the floor, as that name, so long forgotten to Kazutaka Muraki fell from his mouth as if it were expired breath, dense of weight.

"You were sent here into my world to punish me for taking something that wasn't mine to have… so your name is… Pandora…"

- X -

Another night, slowly closes in

And it feels so lonely

Torching heat freezing on my skin

I pretend you still hold me

I'm going crazy, I'm losing sleep

I'm in too far I'm in way too deep

Over you

I can't believe you're gone

You were the first you'll be the last

Wherever you go, I'll be with you

Whatever you want, I'll give it to you

Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon

Remember after the fire after all the rain

I will be the flame

I will be the flame

Watching shadows move across the wall

Feels so frightening

I want to run to you, I want to call

But I've been hit by lightening

Just can't stand up for falling apart

Can't see through this veil across my heart

Over you

You'll always be the one

You were the first you'll be the last

Wherever you go, I'll be with you

Whatever you want, I'll give it to you

Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon

Remember after the fire, after all the rain

I will be the flame

I will be the flame

I'm going crazy I'm losing sleep

I'm in too far I'm in way too deep

Over you

You'll always be the one

You were the first you'll be the last

Wherever you go, I'll be with you

Whatever you want, I'll give it to you

Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon

Remember after the fire, after all the rain

I will be the flame

I will be the flame

"The Flame" - Cheap Trick

- X –

Confined by You


If you'd asked me a month ago, to tell you the turning point in my relationship with Asato Tsuzuki, I would have said, with implicit honesty, that it had been the night that he gave himself to me for the first time. But even though it's quite true that our sleeping together affirmed the existence of the en shared by us both, I consider now the true turning point to have occurred many months earlier. The twisted scar wrought into the flesh of my abdomen, lasting evidence of this one moment where I had been able to rethread the button, wrongly placed for so long. We might have gone on without sincerity, remaining enemies long into my old age, if not for that moment Asato had assumed that provocative stance and stabbed me. This is why; the real turning point as I have come to understand it, was not the night we made love, or even that inexpressible instant when he had first confessed his feelings for me. Rather, it was that night in Kyoto, when all manner of tidings had turned between us.

By way of explaining why this is so, allow me to divulge a short story to better serve as example.

Oriya's mother, father and younger brother live in the city of Tokyo, not far from where I myself do. At the time of my parents' deaths, our senior staff member (rather, butler, to imitate the Western vernacular) Sakaki was instated as my official Guardian. However, Tayori and Katsuemiyo Mibu had always held me in fond regard and I spent a great deal of my time as a welcome guest in their home. To this end they became, for all intensive purposes, the parents I had hungered for during my childhood. Despite my adolescence being long passed, to this very day I have always been welcomed at their home for special occasions, or even just for drinks and a chat.

Oriya's mother, Katsuemiyo, is in respect to her personality, a kind and patient (not to mention devastatingly beautiful) woman. However, it is his father, I must confess, to whom I am most endeared. Rather, Tayori Mibu is the sort of man who is so appealing and charismatic by nature that only the very narrow-minded could possibly find him to be distasteful. He is a master of several martial arts, teaching classes in Aikido, Suvate and Kendo as his principal profession. In addition, for enjoyment I would imagine, he moonlights as a Kabuki actor in Tokyo's esteemed Kabuki-za theatre. Even I, a man who has not formed relationships from predominately sincere feelings, confess to wholly enjoying his company.

To best describe Tayori in nature, I suppose one might say that he is a down to earth, comedic gentleman, who takes off into every venture in the same manner a firecracker lunges into the sky, guaranteed to erupt in an exciting, entertaining display. Needless to say, he and Oriya take a very different approach to life.

But what I appreciate most about Tayori is his undeniable confidence, which he exudes in such a manner that you could never accuse the man of arrogance. Whenever he and Kenji (Oriya's younger brother) joined a room, you could guarantee that everything would soon become much louder.

The moment I am thinking of occurred perhaps a little over a year ago, when the Mibu's organized a family reunion, to which I had thoughtfully been invited of course. Being Tayori however, just about everyone he met shortly thereafter became family to him, so suffice to say by the time I had arrived the party was in full swing and I barely recognized anyone to whom I was introduced. Then again, I don't suppose Tayori had known them any better than I did.

As the night dragged on and the guests thinned out, the closest-knit family members (for the most part Oriya's mother, father, his two sisters, younger brother, Oriya himself, Ukyou and I as well as some various aunts, uncles, cousins and various clingers on) had adjourned to the tearoom and naturally a drinking game soon got underway. The final round was between Tayori and Kenji, who couldn't hold his alcohol well but was so determined to show off in front of Oriya, whom he greatly admired, that he forced himself to partake beyond venerable constraint. It took only three rounds before he was swaying from side to side, much like a stowaway in the lower gallery of a ship after a rough week at sea. Tayori declared that the loser of this, the final round would have to perform some embarrassing task, which he then decided would be to stroll around the block wearing only their underpants and hopefully avoid arrest. Naturally, Tayori emerged victorious, though this was due in no small part to Kenji, who after neatly executing his shot had developed a tell tale bulge about his eyes and before you could blink was throwing himself backwards into the garden and vomiting spectacularly onto the verandah. (Oriya was not impressed and neither were his maids the morning after, I imagine).

We were all so inebriated ourselves by this stage (it didn't bode well to be sober at a Mibu party, I had long ago realized) that we could do little more than laugh and applaud as poor Oriya awkwardly tried to hurl his younger brother off of the woodwork and into a very large glass of water.

"It's a good thing you didn't lose, Oto-san!" Said Asuoko. "I hardly think any of the neighbors needed to see you strolling down the street in your skivvies!"

"Though I'm sure they're already used to it by now." Ukyou said, not untruthfully, as poor Kenji was propped back up at the table wearing a vacant expression much like a store mannequin.

Tayori dabbed delicately at the corners of his mouth with his handkerchief, seeming well pleased with himself. "That's the reason I proposed such a challenge, you see? I never had any doubt that I would win."

We all laughed, because this was so in Tayori's nature.

"Tayori, really! To say such a thing!" Katsuemiyo gently chided, pushing a steaming cup of coffee into her husbands well calloused hands before taking an identical cup around the table and forcing it upon her violently inebriated son. "No one can pretend that they win all the time."

Tayori adopted an expression of innocent perplexity. "Whilst that may be true for some people I suppose, it isn't true for me."

"Yeah, it's only a true winner that coaxes their son into full blown alcohol poisoning." Oriya scolded, holding the steaming coffee mug up so that his brother could tentatively sip from it. I'm sure Kenji didn't at all mind being taken care of by Oriya, fond of him as he was.

Tayori laughed in his deep booming voice, not seeming the least bit affected by all the saké he had consumed. Then again, he nearly always seemed intoxicated so I suppose it made little difference.

"Now, now! The boy knew full well what he was getting himself into! And really, is it not you whom is truly to blame, 'Ri-chan? If you had not set such a high benchmark, Kenji-kun would hardly have felt the need to impress you so."

"You're a bad man!" Ukyou accused Oriya, which sent the whole room erupting into laughter yet again. Still, I found I was intrigued by Tayori's claim that he could never be defeated, being something of a high achiever myself naturally and I waited until everyone was done laughing and then questioned him as to the secret of his success.

"Ah! I'm so very glad you asked, Katzu-kun!" He declared, which was his nickname for me. "Though I may have to kill you for divulging such sought after information! In the wrong hands, this tactic could very well bring about the end of civilization as we know it!"

"Are you sure you were the geisha and not him?" Asuoko's twin Chiemi asked her mother, to which Katsuemiyo raised her shoulders in an elegant, undetermined gesture. It is true that Tayori was in the habit of dramatizing everything.

Tayori flashed a pretend scowl at his daughter before quickly turning back to me with his infamously warm smile stealing across his features once more.

"In the way of the Samurai," He began, in a purposefully pompous tone of voice. "It is not by brute strength that you can win, nor by strength of the mind or heart. Do not seek to defeat the one whom you are fighting!" He brashly declared, bringing his fist down upon the table as though overcome with emotion. "Seek only to undermine their faith in themselves! A mind troubled by doubt can easily come undone, as can a mind consumed by overconfidence. If you are secure in yourself you have a much greater chance of success. A mind troubled by doubt or clouded by overconfidence cannot focus on the path to triumph. True equality between two individuals engaged in contest exists only when both parties are equally confident." He rested back against the wall behind him with a generous flourish of his palm. "So you see; there is no way that Kenji could have beaten me. He doubted his abilities before we had taken the first sip! The moment a son is able to beat his father is considered to be a moment of great triumph, equaled only in standing by the sons feelings of guilt. Guilt for usurping his fathers' authoritarian position. Both my boys are far too noble to wish to face such a conclusion."

"Bullshit." Oriya coughed and I knew he must have been at least a little tipsy, because he wasn't a man that habitually swore. "Don't get ahead of yourself, old man. I could drink you under the table any day of the week."

Katsuemiyo raised her hands diplomatically. "Now, now… perhaps we should ease back on the drinking a little. We don't need the garden in any more of a mess than it already is."

Tayori leered at her. "You're just saying that because there's no way in Hell you'd ever be able to win a drinking contest against me, poppet."

This was purely a means to provoke Katsuemiyo, who, in her geiko days, often engaged in drinking games in order to entertain her clients. Tayori knew this all too well, for he had once been a client of hers, long before becoming her husband.

Sure enough, Katsuemiyo took the bait, tapping her empty saké cup against the table. "You're on, smart ass. Come Oriya, let's give your Dad a run for his money." Kenji meanwhile, had quietly slipped away to the upstairs bathroom, free to escape his walk of shame for a few days at least. The drinking games continued long into the night, with Tayori the victor in each and every round.

The secret to ever-constant success is to go forth without a doubt in mind. Tayori's words rang most true and have continued to bear meaning in my life ever since. Asato's inability to usurp me for so long was precisely because of his insecurities, his uncertainty. He had never known precisely how and in what manner to deal with me, thus resulting in a tentative and doubtful disposition. Asato is not an individual whom you could competently describe as being either confident or self-assured. Having been tormented as a child, constantly reminded of his differences (or in his own mind, failings) made reaching this point in which he might finally feel content within himself seem impossible.

And having known all of this, how then could I have possibly predicted such an eventuation? When the path to victory had never seemed so clear, why then did the curtain fall vehemently upon the stage to secrete my long sought after conclusion from me?

In Kyoto, those two long months ago, only seconds had remained before everything I had worked towards would be fulfilled. I had allowed myself to rest at ease, confident that the culmination of all my efforts, pains and distended suffering was soon to be rewarded. Seconds; seconds only. They are small and slight. They are fragile. The tide can turn in a second. The winds can sweep across the world. A loved one can die in a second. They are fragile, these moments. But they are powerful. For what a second can encompass can move everything, from the continents, to a mans' broken heart. One second is all it can take to break the resolve of a prisoner, held so long by the shackles of his mistaken beliefs. Yes, they are small and fragile things, these seconds. But in what time it takes to blink, or breathe, or to kiss the person you love, you can be free. The world can change. And so can you.

And it was in these, fragmented, unsteady moments, that destiny had reversed the mantle violently about and thrust control into the undermined hands of Asato Tsuzuki. It was only seconds before both our lives might have soon ended by my hands. Why in these seconds did he choose to fight back? I might never satisfactorily know the answer… after all; I had seen to it that we would both die shortly thereafter. How was that any different to his taking our lives?

Because we were men locked in contest. In that final round, I had been propelled backwards and violently routed, much like poor Kenji one year ago. When Asato stabbed me, it was not just his self inflicted persecution that he railed against but duplicitously, he destroyed the hesitancy within his own spirit, the very thing that had allowed him to go through life, unable to fight back against that maltreatment. As Tayori would have seen it, Asato was able to come to a sound conclusion within his own constitution. My own thoughts however, had been greatly distracted and as a result of this audaciousness only one conclusion was venerable. It was then I witnessed a miraculous change, not only in Asato but within myself also. I knew then, under no circumstances would Asato ever consider me to be untouchable. I had underestimated him and not ever again would I assume that position of invincible authority over him.

I can only surmise from the way that you are shaking your head Oriya that you disagree with my perceptions on this matter. You needn't speak up; for I know very well what you would say in dispute. In fact, if I recall correctly, you have said it many a time and I do suppose you feel that it fell upon deaf ears. Well, you are almost correct!

You believe and not wrongly, that I am a man who has long been hell bent on a journey of self-destruction and that in my underestimating of Asato that night in the basement of Tokyo University, was simply a means to serve my own ultimate desire to demolish my pitiful life. This, my dear friend, is not incorrect either. It is simply a differing take on the same subject matter, neither of which I feel is wrong.

It is true that those many months ago, I saw no future beyond taking revenge against Saki, so there seemed no devastation for Asato to not exist beyond that point. That was the paramount madness of my mind, of course. And if you were to review my progress in those months leading up to that climatic point in Kyoto, there is certainly a great deal of evidence to support Oriya's take on the matter. It seems to me at least, that the disease of my sickened mind had affected my spirit; if such a thing can be said to exist. I'd lost all control over my bouts of cruelty, had regressed into the habits of drinking… even my appearance had been affected, my skin becoming waxy, my remaining eye constantly bloodshot, lips dry and weight shedding from my bones from the constant missing of meals, teeth starting to yellow from too much smoking. I imagine to anyone else, there was no obvious change but then I suppose only the birds nesting in the tree are able to see the termites festering in the trunk and the branches becoming brittle from disease, the leaves turning brown.

I don't think that I had realized it at the time but when Asato had stabbed me in Kyoto, my mind – as dear Tayori would have put it – began to be troubled by doubt. And I only then started to see the world as a very different place from that which I have always understood it. The burning fires of Kyoto had been a nightmare from the foulest pits of Hell but somehow, I had woken from those flames renewed.

You mentioned previously, dear Asato, that your life as you know it, greatly reminded you of Shakespeare's historical work of Hamlet. I, in contrast, feel that the efforts of my existence can best be summarized in the writings of his equally provocative work; The Tempest. Prospero's concluding words in the stories epilogue… well… even if you cannot bring yourselves to understand, I must humbly confess that I do indeed appreciate the similarity. And yes, I suppose, the great irony of it all.

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.


The sheets needed to be changed and I wished to do it as soon as possible, so that we might dwell in comfort throughout the remainder of the night. Asato grumbled but eventually marched himself over to the couch and curled up by the fire as I set about depositing the soiled sheeting in the laundry chute, paying visit to the hall closet to receive fresh bedding and with Asato's reluctant help, set the bed to rights. It had been a long day for us both and we were venerably exhausted and not only on account of what I can honestly say had been the most satisfying act of lovemaking in my life. Inexperienced though Asato was, I had never felt more comforted, more certain that it was he whom I would grant my existence carelessly. He, whom I had long ago locked my heart away for, in reverence to an ill-gotten hope that I might someday stumble across this angelic man, who by all logic would be either greatly aged or most likely deceased.

But I had found him; he whom my heart loves. That I, who had forsaken such emotion and resigned myself to never experiencing such intangible desires, could love with such sincerity… can this not be called a kind of happiness?

Can this not be called hope?

He slept soundly against the pillows, hands resting with fingers slightly curled upon the pillow beside his elegantly reclined features. I on the other hand found myself unable to slide directly into unconsciousness, despite being exhausted both physically and metaphysically from my altercation with Mr. Tatsumi. Instead, I rested in quiet respite, his delicately masculine hands clutched between my own, my lips touching gently upon them when the urge took me, though not disruptive lest I disturb his slumber. I will not soon forget those moments, feeling the most purely contented I had ever been in my entire life. I felt a kind of peace at last, as a man only can feel when they have found their life partner and secured their love.

My mind and body seemed to swell with this contentment and it was with this gentle feeling, I finally succumbed to sleep. I would have thought, owing to my distinguished level of relaxation, that I might have even enjoyed a dreamless nights rest. However, it would seem that regardless of my beautiful time spent with Asato, there were other issues at hand, which weighed greatly upon my mind.

I dreamt of that encounter, when Saki had confronted our father about sleeping around… It was through this unconscious recollection that his words returned to me… what father had called Saki, when he thought no one was around to hear him.


Sent by Zeus to punish mankind for the theft of fire by Prometheus… Our father saw Saki as being that self-same physical manifestation sent into his life to punish him for his past transgressions. How very clever of him, to put such thought into his accusations… I truly had forgotten this non-de plume and possibly for good reason. Much of that period of my life I had repressed, lest it drive me to a point of insanity, far beyond my capabilities to return from.

But how could I not have clicked when I'd first heard that name? When the boy had introduced himself to us in the theatre two weeks ago?

Could Pandora truly have been Saki Shidou? … No… I didn't want to allow myself to believe it. Not any of it. If his words had been true, then my entire vendetta, all those that had suffered so that I might obtain my goal of revenge, all this… had been in vain.

If I were to admit to that… if I were to believe it… then I would have no choice but to condemn myself, admit that I was not justified at all… and more than that… it would be to admit something from which I had abjectly assured myself could not be true since that terrible incident all those years ago.

It would mean that I was mad. That I had fabricated the rape, Saki's attack on me, his responsibility for my mother's death, our father's death…

It would mean to question my own place in each of those instances and to finally beg the question: Just how long had I been a murderer? Had I killed the innocent long before I was intentionally aware of it?

No… I didn't wish to think of such things on that most glorious night. I forced myself awake from these tortured images with a start, as though moved out of my unconscious state by a potent shunting to the backs of my knees. The digital clock on the bedside table indicated that it was a little after six in the morning. My first shift started at eight, so I had a little over two hours to kill.

I hadn't moved whilst my memories had serenaded the depths of my sleep, so I was a little startled to find my fingers clutched by nothing but the warm air of the heated room. Concerned that Asato had come to his senses and fled from my presence, I sat up straight and gazed down the long line of the bed, hoping to find that he had simply rolled away to the farthest point and only need to be reeled back beneath the sheets. My efforts returned naught for the effort and it was only when I was to the abrupt point of panicking that I noticed the light shining from beneath the ensuite door. I smiled, feeling rather abashed at my almost hysterical reaction. It was only natural that Asato would wish to clean himself up. It had been his first instance of sexual intercourse after all, so he was hardly familiar with the aftermath, not all of which was entirely pleasant, I must confess. Though I was far too tired to wish to instigate anything provocative, I hardly felt a could pass up the opportunity of viewing that exemplary body fresh from the cleansing heat of the shower and so coaxed myself out of bed, pulling on the long since abandoned yukata in which I had begun the evening and making my unobtrusive way over to the bathroom.

As I slid open the door I was immediately greeted by the sight of my adorable lovers naked body, poised with an expression of great introspection, before the bathroom cabinet. He seemed to be examining his back, shoulders and the side of his neck by the light of the mirror and appeared to be, in my opinion, more disturbed than he ought to have been. I wondered what might possibly be the cause for concern. And it didn't seem apparent to me that he'd gone in there with the intention of showering, as I had originally thought.

I cleared my throat gently, so as not to startle him when I spoke. "Are you all right?"

He looked over toward me with his lovely olive shaped eyes and flushed red, still not accustomed to being observed in such an uninhibited condition.

"Oh… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you." He amended, reaching out towards the shower stand to retrieve his robe. I gently swayed my head from side to side as I crossed the room to assist him. Despite how beautiful he was naked, to encourage him to remain so would only cause further embarrassment and I wasn't feeling quite vigorous as of yet to tease him so.

"It's quite alright." I assured, helping him to slide both arms into the sleeves of the plain yukata, before tying the cord about his waist. He smiled upon me with gratitude and I found myself quite helpless to resist the urge to stroke my fingers about the curve of his chin, my thoughts drifting back to earlier that evening when I had cupped that divine curvature between my lips and laid my tongue into the sensuous nook beneath his lips. "I couldn't blame you for wanting to see yourself… You're so beautiful." I kissed the curve of his chin with purely chaste intent, bringing one arm around to cup his shoulders and bring him to my chest. Asato softly groaned, though not discouraging, cupping his hands about my deltoids, face resting against the crook of my neck.

"That's not why I'm in here." I felt his fingers gently clench the material of my yukata. "I was sleeping… and I had this weird dream."

It would seem that I was not the only one whose rest had been unproductive. "What happened in this 'weird dream?'"

Asato's body rose momentarily as he drew deeply upon the air and his lips made a curious smacking sound, as though he had brought them apart altogether too quickly. "… I was in a dark place… and I saw all these people wandering through the darkness, covered in those red markings." I myself momentarily felt my body stiffen at these words. "You were there… and Watari was there too. …So many people, just wandering in the darkness, branded by their suffering." His fingers wrought ever more tightly into my back. "And she was there too…"


I felt foolish, having realized the answer a split second before the name had left his mouth. "Ruka. In the middle of you all, her bones pressed in tight against her flesh. Someone was standing behind her… they lifted her arm up and pointed her finger at me. And…" He held tighter to me and when I lowered my chin to see into his face, his eyes sat wide and glaring, still entangled by those tormented images cruelly forced upon him whence unconsciousness bond him erstwhile. "Everyone turned and looked at me. Right at me! As though they could see me in the waking world! And they all mouthed at me, 'Now you. Now you.' Over and over again, until it became a loud chorus. They all smiled in the darkness… And then this burning pain stabbed through me, sharper than a knife. Right here." He tapped the side of his neck, a direct line down from his left ear. "It hurt so bad I woke up. But the pain was still there. That's why I was looking in the mirror just now, to see whether or not it was just the mark from when you… well, when you bit me or if was something else… but… I don't know. Can you see anything, Muraki?"

Though I dearly wanted to dismiss Asato's dreams as being nothing more tangible than the result of a deeply troubled mind, I found myself run aground by Pandora's words to me that day. How Ukyou had been targeted because I had unintentionally given part of the Shukusatsu to her in the act of sexual intercourse, such as the Aids virus might pass from one person to the other.

Unable to shake this niggling thought, I paid credence to both our concerns and released Asato in order to remove a small torch with a magnifier attachment from the storage cabinet below the sink. Such an instrument was especially useful for removing thorns, as I had discovered many a time throughout my life among the roses of Muraki manor.

I asked that Asato remove the robe, which he did, though not without blushing enough to heat the skin of my own face and raise his arms so that I might check not only his neck but also any part of his body through which the curse markings might have begun their begrudged assimilation.

"Stand very still…" I instructed. I looked over Asato's body, noting only scratch and bite marks from our lovemaking. I checked every possible point from which the marking might be spreading but to my immense relief found nothing to suggest that he had been infected. I voiced this with a deep sigh, placing the magnifier back before once again assisting Asato in the task of redressing.

"Well… I can't see anything." I informed him as I seated himself down upon the closed toilet, gesturing for Asato to perch on my lap, which he did to my great pleasure. "Darling… you're tired." I observed, brushing back his ever-unruly hair. "And you've had an emotionally wearing day. It's only natural that your mind would be acting out. It's a… stress mechanism. Your mind's way of dealing with things. Does your neck still hurt?"

"A little…" He confessed, rubbing his fingers over the accused spot, even as he said it.

My tired mind searched for the most appropriate means of conveying myself to him. "Sometimes… if we sleep on a part of our body at an odd angle, we'll dream up a scenario that might explain what has caused the pain. Then again, there's a good chance the… unfortunate wound I inflicted upon you earlier this day has not healed completely." Just to be absolutely sure, I once more checked the side of Asato's neck, to no avail. "As far as I can tell, there's no marking… you've probably just slept on it wrong."

Asato implored me with his innocently wide eyes, sliding his arms about my neck as he looked down into my no doubt lethargic features. "You think?"

I nodded drowsily, bringing my own arms about Asato's nubile waist. "Yes Asato. I also think that instead of worrying about this, you should be getting some rest." I kissed the hallow of his neck before resting my head against his chest with a deep sigh. "We both should. I have work in a few hours. Unlike you. I assume you're not going back to the Ministry?"

Asato smiled in something of a sheepish manner, eyes momentarily straying to the side as if he were hiding some great secret at bay. "Well…"

I prevented him from going any further forward with his explanation by curtly raising my hand. "Come to think of it, there are quite a number of things which we should discuss before I leave for work. What say I run the bath? That way we can get cleaned up and comfortable all in the one gesture." I gently coaxed him up from my lap and made my way over to run the bath. Asato dithered nervously at my back all the while.

"I'd rather shower!" He eventually declared from somewhere over my shoulder.

"Too late. Water's running." I did not spare the effort required to mask the glee in my voice. I added an aromatic blend I was fond off and then switched the water off at the controls once the tub was full. My immediate task completed, I turned back to the precious creature who was now looking ever so concerned as I made my approach. His hands pressed up against my chest again as I wrapped my fingers into his yukata cord and pulled him close, licking my lips at the vulnerable expression on his eternally youthful face.

"But…" He said, cutting off as I started to hastily untie the cord from about his waist, reaching inside to touch the finely tuned curves of his abdomen. I could have wept at such unintentional perfection. My thumb traced up through the formed muscle, my hand unfolding to stroke a vertical line up his chest and between the mounds of his pectorals. He moaned softly, fingers clenching against the pale skin of my chest. "Muraki… just… just let me bathe. I don't want to do… anything with you right now."

My hand ceased its movements. "You don't want to touch me?"

Asato lowered his head, seemingly unable to make eye contact with me. His own hand came up to touch my fingers as they protruded through the cut of his yukata.

"So bad…" He whispered more to himself then to me. I suppose he was referring to the desire to touch me. "I… really don't mind… really. … But, I don't want to…" His cheeks flushed at his boldness. "… make love right now."

"Who said anything about making love?" I exclaimed, feigning surprise. "You can draw a line between touching and making love you know. Come now, why are we standing around here getting dirtier by the second? Help me undress you, you fool and we can be warm and comfortable together very soon."

He still appeared uncertain but he too couldn't see the harm in bathing together now that I had insinuated that I would not attempt sexual intercourse with him again. "All right…" He said in a very mistrustful manner, relaxing his fingers against mine but fastening a rather disconcerting pout on his face. "But no funny business, you hear?"

No funny business… "Why Asato, you certainly have some strange ideas in your head tonight." I chirped, soothing the halves of his yukata apart, allowing the smooth fabric to slide down off of his shoulders and collapse about his feet. He blushed, this time in frustration and went to scold me when I placed a kiss against his enticing mouth, smothering whatever invective he'd been prepared to hurl at me. His eyes widened as I moved my lips softly against his, releasing him after I'd run my tongue tantalizingly slowly across his own, plucking at the very tip of the pink, wet muscle with the tip.

I kissed him again, as his hands went to work removing my own constricting garment. His face was as red as a beet, fingers fluttering hesitantly at my upper arms like physically impaired butterflies as he pulled the yukata down, baring my chest to the cold night air. I couldn't read his thoughts but I could read his body language. It sang out to me loud and clear.

I tried to entice him to relax, placing fluttery velvet kisses against his cheek and coursing them down the length of his neck, pausing at his evident collarbone. I closed my eyes and breathed into his honeyed skin.

"I was foolish to think I wouldn't long for you once I'd had you," I told him, sucking the muscular arch of his neck until I'd left a mark. Asato's breathing escalated as he released his hold on my yukata, dropping it to the floor where it rested cool against the backs of my heels. My arms free, I was now able to course my hand down the long arches of his upper body, finally coming to a recess over his perfectly cut navel. "I've dreamed of this place, this moment with you since the day I found your picture as a little boy. Everything I did," I roved my hand up along his neck, inhaling the scent of his hair, caressing his scalp with my cheek, unable to sate myself as much as I desired. "Every step I took, since that day, was to bring you to me."

Asato's entire body was trembling as I cupped my mouth around his jugular and sucked firmly. I could feel the blood coursing underneath his darkened skin. One of his hands slapped against my back, nails drawing harsh scratches along my roaring flesh like fishhooks as my fingers traced the line of his spine. His face flared and I admit that I was finding it ever increasingly more difficult to reign in my hormones when this divine creature was standing before me with that innocent look in his eyes and so delightfully naked. I reluctantly separated my lips from his flesh, managing to smile as I distributed a gentle swat to his backside. This of course, only caused him to blush perceptively darker. "Go on. Climb into the water. I shall join you shortly."

Asato nodded clumsily and made his way over to the spa, trying to do so as modestly as possible. The sight of his round, smooth buttocks drove me feverish but I had little choice then to forcefully reign myself in. I returned to the bedroom, bringing in Asato's pajamas and a box of matches so that I could light the candles and incense sticks I always burned whilst taking a bath. Asato had his back to me, as I conducted this task, one leg gingerly slung over the porcelain side of the tub, tentatively toeing the surface of the water. I turned off the harsh overhead lights and placed the matches on the mantel, allowing myself a brief reprieve to enjoy the endearing view presented to me before resigning myself to proceeding further. Asato jumped when I came up behind him and tucked my arm down under his thighs and bottom.

"Allow me," I amended, ignoring his slight squeak of protest as I raised him over the edge of the tub and lowered him gently beneath the surface of the hot water. I didn't bother with the traditional scrubbing of my body before entering the bath and simply immersed myself alongside the body of my beloved. He eyed me cautiously but there was a longing in his expression that I had seen many times that night. A longing that he had never before permitted me to witness. A desire… and love. Whatever love might be, it was there in his eyes and his eyes were locked on me.

I plucked the sponge out of the side carriage and lowered it into the water, squeezing out the excess liquid that accumulated within the pores.

"Shall I wash you?" I asked. His fingers grasped about my own, squeezing the sponge beneath my grip.

"No…" He whispered, his voice breathless. "Give me the sponge…"

I could have slid myself against him and pushed inside of his body, so inviting was that tone. But instead, I simply nodded and turned about, trusting this man enough to do so and leaned my head against my crossed arms, resting on the tubs porcelain border. I moaned softly when I felt the soap and sponge come into contact with my aching flesh, Asato's delicately tremulous hands soothing the deep musculature aches I'd acquired during the day, tenderly cleaning the scratches. We remained this way for some time, the somnolent pattern eventually terminated by the touch of Asato's hand making its' hesitant way about my body, gliding betrayingly down towards my abdomen. I felt my internal temperature momentarily pitch but his fingers fell short of where I would have preferred them, instead caressing the ragged scar tissue that he himself had inflicted upon me.

"I'm sorry I hurt you so badly…" He whispered to my ear. To hear such a thing from him, you must understand that it was so utterly wrong and entirely in his character. Nothing that had occurred had been his fault but he still felt accountable for what he had done to prevent my plan of insanity going forward.

I smiled, shaking my head a little as I lowered my own fingers into the warm water, pressing his palm tighter against that beloved wound.

"You don't need to apologize to me. You don't need to apologize to anyone. Truly… your act of retaliation against me in Kyoto was the best thing that could have happened. If I believed in God, I would convey my gratitude to him every day on account of this thing having occurred. If it had not, I would not have known this happiness here with you now."

His chin slid up over my shoulders, his lips lightly touching the corner of my mouth. "Mura-" He uncomfortably cleared his throat. "Kazutaka… I know you probably don't wish to talk of such matters… in fact, I'm sure you feel that it is rather a mood killer… but I'm sincerely concerned."

I turned about in the water, gently clasping his hand in my own, caressing my thumb along the bridge between his index finger and thumb. "Ask and we shall see then, shan't we?"

His features flushed slightly and I saw a corner of his bottom lip caught between his teeth in an anxious gesture. "Please, don't be angry with me."

This time I couldn't help but smile. "Since when have you ever been concerned with making me angry?" Then I thought of my violent attack upon him that day and understood all too well that his apprehension was well founded. "Darling, I promise not to be angry with you. What is troubling you?"

He hesitated, fingers stroking down the lines of my throat as though attempting to calm me before ever even voicing the possible offence. "Today when you were speaking with Tatsumi and Hisoka…" I scoffed a little because to say that we had been 'speaking' made our confrontation seem lighter than it actually was. "… you said that you'd depended on me… then you mentioned your mother and you got this look on your face… you should have seen it! As though something had occurred to you, long forgotten." He went very red and lowered his eyes, as if to offer me some show of remorse. "I'm sorry to bring it up! It's so selfish of me! But I can't just ignore it! I care about you… it wouldn't be right for me to say that I love you and just ignore those things that obviously hurt you. You understand?"

I nodded, secretly touched by his thoughtfulness. "Yes of course. And it's a fine thing of you to ask." But difficult to answer as I myself had not fully come to terms with it. I caressed the curve of my chin, contemplating how best to adequately phrase myself. "My mother… was a foreign woman, the daughter of an esteemed Romanian family."

Asato's eyes seemed to light up. "Ah! So that's why your hair and complexion are so fair! You are a halfie, after all!"

I nodded good-naturedly and chuckled. "Yes, Asato. I thought that it was fairly safe to assume my heritage was not entirely Japanese." I gave his hair a little ruffle, expressing my fondness of him. "But my mother's family had a great many secrets. A curse inherited along the direct family line, for one." I rested my cheek upon my curled fist, eye line directed to the side. "Many millennia ago, they formed a bond with the Harvest Moon, that they would be granted great prosperity and long-lasting life in return for blood sacrifice. Whenever the moon would turn to blood, it would mean the Spirits of the Moon were calling for the sacrifice and those whom had established that bond were forever required to obey. As time went on however, my mothers ancestors believed they no longer needed to be held accountable to the promises made by those before them and rescinded on their vow. That is when the spirits cursed them and all their bloodline. They became the Moroi or Moroaică; vampires whom can only exist by drawing metaphysical energy from the living, bound perpetually in their bloodthirsty acts to the moon."

"This is the first time I've heard of such a thing," Asato mused, not seeming entirely convinced. I shrugged, not needing him to believe my words if he had already found it in his means to forgive me my despicable acts.

"It should explain to you why the moon turns red whenever I have acted 'unfavorably' towards someone. This pledge happened centuries ago, of course. In Romania, so I doubt you would have knowledge of such things. If you like, there are books on the subject I could show you. But that is hardly my point. It is simply a means to allow you to understand. Now, Saki… my elder brother… he despised my mother. He never led me to believe anything other. And my mother she… she was ill, to say the least. According to my father's notes, she had developed into the advanced stages of terminal brain cancer by the time I was in my adolescence. Whether this was in fact the truth, I cannot be sure. Being a Moroaică perhaps it is feasible that her sense was decaying… as is often the case with vampires whose DNA is predominately human. If a Moroaică does not obey the blood summons, it cannot live." I pressed the tip of my finger down into my lower lip, depressing it towards the dip of my chin. "A brain tumor would have been more convenient… what else could my father possibly tell the concerned public? Not that his wife was a supernatural being, no… Whatever the case, whether it was a brain tumor or the decay of her remaining human senses, my mother gradually became something less then that she had been in all the time I'd known her. She acted in ways she otherwise may not have. She was like… a samurai, whom had lost sight of who her enemies were and drew her sword simply to slash at random, without thought to the consequence. I was the only one whom she wished to see… all the time. She would plead my father to bring me to her side. But…" I could feel my true eye well slightly, for these were confronting memories that I had not truly begun to process, having repressed them for so long. "She never saw me… as a human being. I was nothing to her… but a possession. One of her many dolls… a doll she favored true but my eyes may very well have both been glass, so far as she was concerned…"


Come to me… Kazutaka…

Good boy… you're so adorable…

Mother… …Where's Veronica?

Your silver hair, like moonlight on the frost…

Your eyes… like moonlit pools…

And your skin, white and delicate as a china doll. Ah…

Where's Veronica, Nutcracker? Where did you put her, Mother? … You didn't…

Throw Veronica away, did you?

You're the prize of my collection… Kazutaka…


I managed to continue speaking, even as those nightmarish images continued to flood through my mind, more powerful then my ability to restrain them.

"Because I was a doll… if I became damaged in some way, it was her responsibility to… repair me. I remember once falling down from the stairway here in the manor and cutting open my arm. I tried to get to Father before Mother saw… but she heard it from one of the servants and came to get me. She became hysterical whenever my 'perfection' as she saw it, was marred in some way. So she always did anything to put me to rights… She took a thread and a sewing needle… and stitched the cut together. The pain was terrible… no pain killers, no anesthetic… I was a doll, you understand? A doll feels no pain…"

Asato's eyes shimmered with the full extremity of his emotions. "Oh Kazutaka…" His fingers gently cupped my cheek, to provide sympathy but I instinctively shrugged them off by turning my face away. This was one matter for which compassion was not appropriate.

"Those memories I could live with… for the most part. It was what she did that no one ever knew about. Her mind had completely dissolved by the time Saki came to stay with us but Father refused to acknowledge just how sick she was and would not see her institutionalized. I too defended her, despite how cruel she was to me. Father's denial was so great, that he wouldn't allow for a stronger prescribed medication and instead brought in outside medicines, made on the side I suppose. But Saki…" I lowered my head, admittedly feeling rather ashamed for having reacted as I had that day on the Cliffside, the argument that saw to Oriya's terrible accident. "He was worried about me… he knew what Mother was doing to me. Not just in how she saw me, the repairing but…" My sight fractured, I felt I might actually cry and ashamedly not for the first time that day. I forced the tears back but Asato had been watching me carefully and seen them before I'd had the chance to deny their existence. His arms came up around my neck and he whispered soothing words to me, making it all the more difficult to not feel sorry for myself. For this dreaded, personal thing that had been done to me, within that very house in which I continued to live. "But… she…"

His finger fell against my lips and he looked upon me with such fierce adoration I felt my fragile emotions tremble to the point I was very nearly overcome. "Was it that she… abused you? Her own child…?"

Her hands sliding into secretive places…

I could no longer prevent that tear from stealing down my face and Asato held me in a protective embrace as I thoroughly bit my lip in an effort to hold my emotions at bay. "My mind must have been so sick, even then… I knew very well that the 'secret games' she played with me weren't natural, that they made me feel awful and ache inside but I still somehow wanted to protect her."

Asato shook his head. "That's not so strange. She was your mother after all. But it wasn't your job to protect her. She should have been protecting you! She was your Mother, for gods sake!" He looked fiercely into my eyes. "Your father should have protected you both! Why did he go on, allowing such a thing to happen?!"

I felt suddenly exhausted and brought my hand up to caress my forehead, feeling the lines indicative of my age dig against my fingertips. "You're right, of course. But my father was far too busy protecting his own image and pretending such things were not happening to see what was going on under his very nose. Saki was… the only one who seemed to care about me. In fact, I thought perhaps he killed them not because of what they had done to him but for what they'd done to me. He worked a part-time job and used his money to continue renewing a stronger prescription for Mother in secret, hoping it would still her moods against me. But I was so deeply entrenched in denial, I couldn't even admit to myself or to anyone that what he was doing was so thoughtful… so kind. I just hated that he knew… he got between my Mother and I once and took me away, redressed me, told me that just because Muraki manor was closed off from the world didn't mean what was happening to me was normal. Just because she was my Mother… it didn't mean I should tolerate this abominable thing. From then on, he always took care of me… but I…" I knew my face was now wet from tears and Asato was tenderly kissing them away but I could barely acknowledge anything but this sudden apparent truth I'd locked away from myself for so long. "… I resented him for it. For being so much stronger than I… for… having such morals… I was so envious of him. I wanted to be him. But… if I couldn't be like him… I wanted a reason not to be so jealous of him." I brought my hand to my mouth, feeling greatly terrified by what thoughts I'd just put into consideration. I was more than frightened to imagine just how much I was capable of. "Even if that meant to turn him into an enemy… someone I could somehow be better than. Rise above… Everyone liked him. He was so popular… he was Oriya's best friend, you know… I was second choice… even Ukyou was with Saki long before she considered me as a lover. I was just his replacement… but still, I was the good brother… he was the one who went bad and cold-bloodedly slaughtered my family."

Asato looked up at me, beseeching. "You don't believe Saki murdered them at all, do you?"

I shook my head, feeling a tremendous grudge that had long sustained me rise from my shoulders as gratifying and terrifying as any personal revelation can be. "I don't know. I believe he despised them but only on account of me. He never seemed to hold any personal grudge for himself… he was such a soft and tender spirit. Someone I loved and hated in equal measure. But he only ever felt compassion towards me. If he did kill them, I believe he did because he believed that in doing so, I would be free from them. My mother especially, whom not even my father could love. I was born simply from her desire to have his child. That she loved him, I don't doubt… but he could not love the woman she became. A monstrous thing…"


"Why do you keep Kazutaka from me?! I hate you! Give him back to me! Don't you dare pretend he means something to you, when I had to beg you for him in the first place! He's mine! He is the only one who loves me! The only one!"

My mother stormed from the room and I remained hidden behind the partition, as my father had instructed. But when I heard his quiet sobbing, I couldn't keep myself from leaning around the door to see whatever was the matter. My composed father, a stately man in all respects knelt on the floor, fingers massaging his bruised neck, no doubt where my mother's hands had been viciously clenched only moments earlier. Tears streamed down his face, his lips drawn back from his bared teeth.

"Oh God Terumi!" He howled, for this had been my mother's name. "You really are dead! What will I do?!" He went face first onto the carpet, sobbing hysterically into his arms. "My darling Terumi…"


Asato placed his arms about me, using his hand to bring my face into the crook of his shoulder. He hushed soothing words into my ear, fingers stroking through my hair as a means to placate these unfamiliar emotions stirring inside of me.

"Thankyou for telling me. I'm sorry to have brought up such bad memories."

I wrapped my arms about him, pushing my lips against his collarbone, eyes closing. "You have only done so out of concern and compassion for me, which is more than I have ever done for you. Besides… it is time that I come to terms with my memories, or I shall never be able to move on with my life."

When I opened my eyes to look upon this generous man to whom I was eternally endeared, I was astonished to see the miserable little drawl into which his lips had formed. Though I hadn't though it possible, the admission of my past seemed to have caused him more pain than it had me.

"I'm so sorry…" He whispered, clenching even tighter a hold of me. "You must have been so afraid… and alone. And to be contracted to this terrible curse… and this is completely separate from the Shukusatsu, which only makes it worse!" Tears rolled down from his eyes and onto the skin of my chest. "I know you hate it… but I feel so sorry for you. I wish I could have done something to save you."

"You don't need to say that." I said, running my fingers through his hair, knowing full well that he had already saved me, though he may not have known it. "Let's speak of other things before the dawn takes hold and neither of us have slept."

Asato nodded, slowly turning around so that he could rest back into my arms. He took my hands in his and proceeded to play with my fingers, sliding his own between the gaps and touching the tips together.

"How did you lose your eye?!" He suddenly blurted out and I groaned, having set my hopes on a topic removed from those matters I considered rather uncomfortable. Asato noticed my disapproval and quickly backpedaled. "I'm sorry! You don't need to answer that! It was just… the first thing I thought of saying and-"

"No, it's all right." I said, pressing my fingers over his mouth as a means to cease his babbling. "I'd rather answer it now and sate your curiosity. I lost it when I was twenty-three, shortly after I'd claimed my first intentional victim." I looked away as I spoke of this, feeling unusually ashamed. "She had been one of Oriya's women… a geiko I mean. Oriya was… unappreciative, as you can imagine. He hadn't yet learned of my transgressions, though I do know he suspected such things might have come of me… Anyway; he took out my right eye without even touching it."

Asato blinked at me curiously, his fingers reaching up to gently caress the scar tissue surrounding my eye socket. "What do you mean… 'without touching it?'" He made a conjecture. "You mean he used a sword or some other weapon?"

I shook my head. "No, not exactly. Oriya has… a rather unusual constitution. His mothers' side of the family is what you would call… exceptional. A strong spiritual sense, phenomenally acute reflexes… Oriya's abilities are, to my knowledge, the most attune of all his siblings and stronger even than his mothers. He seems to… how can I best explain this…?" I directed my eyes towards the ceiling, lips pursed thoughtfully. "The world, as he puts it, is composed entirely from filaments or 'strings' that pass through everything. Millions of minute threads that cannot be seen or touched by anyone other than those with his 'perception'. When Oriya desired to take my eye for having robbed his geisha of her life, he-" I raised my hand to demonstrate, curling my fingers in towards my palm to form a loose fist. "- clasped the strings that connected to my eye and simply yanked them." I jerked my fist in against my chest, as though pulling an object to me. "The scarring about my eye, if you notice, is formed into a series of lines. This is where, of course, the threads cut through me as the eye was yanked from my socket." I dropped my hand back atop Asato's hair, applying gentle pressure to his scalp. "As you might understand, I no longer blight Oriya if I can help it. He protects me because of our long history but I am not foolish enough to believe that I can get away with offending him again. Oriya doesn't take kindly to those that harm the people he cares for. Then again… he had more than one reason to be angry with me."

Asato's eyes lingered gently on mine. "Yes. You did mention he had come to expect such things of you… What did you mean?"

I stroked my fingers down the side of Asato's beautiful face, lingering about his firm lower lip. "Asato… did you ever pause to wonder how I came across my trans-material powers?"

He blinked long lashes, gazing about as though the answer might have been scrawled about the lip of the bathtub. "Well… you did mention you were able to acquire mana from your victims and convert it to your own."

I nodded. "Very true. A Moroi you understand possesses no natural magical abilities of its' own. As most living things have a stomach, a Moroi has two; that which absorbs material food of course and the other, which is of the… immaterial persuasion. Are you following me?"

Asato murmured an indication. "Mmm-hmm. Right. So one stomach needs to be fed with mana is what you're saying. And if you don't feed it…"

"You would see the same sort of thing that happened to my mother… a slow starvation and eventual deterioration of the senses. This immaterial stomach is of course not of the physical persuasion… it wouldn't show up on an x-ray. It's rather like a vacant imperceptible compartment. By the time a Moroi hits puberty, this receptacle requires nourishing in order to maintain the bodies constitution. My mother… was unable to explain this to me in her condition and my father, well, what business of his was it anyway? All I knew was how awful I felt… how helpless and miserable. I had a craving for something… something I couldn't determine. But I longed for it, like an addict longs for a needle! What a cruel thing… It continued for so long… long after my Mother and Father had both left this world for the next.

When I was fifteen and he was sixteen, Oriya had a terrible accident. Saki and I were both involved… you might even say we were inadvertently responsible. Saki, Oriya and I had been on a mountain path in the Amakusa region, on the way to visit a certain shrine. Saki and I got into a fight and Oriya… Oriya he tried to stop us." I lowered my face again, feeling great remorse sweep over me, unavoidable, unstoppable. "We were so angry… we had no idea how close we'd gotten to the side of the cliff. How reckless we were being… we… both of us, tried to push Oriya away, lashing out you see… no idea who were hitting. But we did push him. We were so close… he fell… He fell down the cliff Asato."

Asato's eyes shimmered in the sparse candlelight but he didn't look on me with contempt or condemnation but continue to listen quietly and respectfully without comment. God, how I adored him for that undeserved sensitivity.

"It didn't seem real and yet nothing else I have ever encountered has ever seemed so real. He rolled most of the way but his leg and hip broke and his back as well when he finally hit the bottom. He was so far down, neither of us could get to him and when we finally got help it took them four hours to reach him. He was paralyzed and in such pain. He couldn't move." Something occurred to me and I met Asato's eyes briefly and fiercely. "Oriya… I always make fun… everyone makes fun because he's a strong, grown man but he's phobic when it comes to insects. Spiders especially. I always took it to be a sanitary factor, managing a restaurant… but down on that cliff floor, being unable to move… they went about their business and he was already in such trauma, such fear and pain… When the paramedics eventually retrieved him, all I can really recall is Saki and I pulling bugs off of him, out of his hair, his ears, his mouth and nose… I never considered how that must have affected him."

"How awful for him… I can understand completely. Bugs are gross even when they're not touching you." Asato massaged the side of my neck thoughtfully. "Still, I'm not sure I understand quite where you're going with this, Kazutaka."

"You will in a moment. I realize I am straying from the point but… these things… I have never spoken of them to anyone other than Ukyou. But then, Oriya is her cousin so…"

Asato jerked upward, his eyes awning deliberately wide. "Whoa, wait just a minute! I didn't know your fiancée was Oriya's cousin!"

"Former fiancée and she still is Oriya's cousin. On his mother's side. Her particular constitution… it hasn't exactly manifested itself in a beneficial manner, such as Oriya's has. Rather, she seems always to have been rather weak and ill of health… I've tried various medicines and methods but… I apologize. I'm straying again."

"It's all right. I don't mind listening to you talk. This way, I get to learn something about you."

I smiled, gently placing my lips to Asato's temple. "Thankyou, my darling. Now as I mentioned, Oriya was incapacitated and whilst he was in hospital, my entire family was killed and I was orphaned. He suffered greatly on his part because he was Saki's best friend and my very good friend also. He was torn up and despised being unable to move, having to depend on everyone around him for assistance and help. I went to visit him in the hospital shortly after all the funeral rights concluded, feeling worse than I had ever been. Emotions were high… we talked for hours but he was on such a number of painkillers, he would just sort of doze off in the middle of conversations. It was while he slept that I found myself catching a scent in the air… the scent of blood and the inexplicable faculty that came with it. Oriya's was particularly poignant. In fact, next to yours, I would have to say Oriya has the most satisfying taste…" Asato gazed at me, unable to hide the quavering expression on his features this time. "I was not and still am not proud of what I did that one day. I used to go to the hospital as much as I could, just to get the scent off of him. It was a sort of peace for a little while, just being in the presence of all that power. But like most men, eventually I could no longer stand for observing. Having his flesh stand as the barrier between that power and I… I soon grew resentful of him, as though he were teasing me intentionally. I ached for a means through which I might bridge that fissure. And that is when my teeth first lowered and I became fully aware of what I was. I'd seen my own mothers eye teeth run out when she came to me in the dark… but I'd never understood why. Now I did. Lust… energy hunger. They are the means through which acquisition of that essential energy can be achieved. Oriya was sleeping and that scent coming off of him was so strong… I was starving and I wanted to eat… my body was in pain from that insatiable thirst. His own pain became inconsequential when compared to how desperately my body screamed for him… I looked at Oriya as though he were no longer human."

"What you did to me today… in Ukyou's home…" Asato whispered, his lips trembling slightly. "You did that to Oriya. When he was paralyzed and couldn't move. You crawled on top of him like one of those awful bugs and drank from him and he couldn't do a thing to stop you."

I gave him a long, hard look, refusing to let him hate me for this thing I had done so long ago, when I'd been a child and hadn't known better. "Do not forget Asato, that I was only a confused adolescent. This thing I did tore me apart for the longest time. Oriya almost didn't recover. I very nearly drained him, my hunger was so great. His blood… tasted so good. So unbelievably good. Like that first gulp of water when for so long you've gone thirsty. And from him, I realized how then I might utilize this power for my own means. Not only could it sustain my life but it made me stronger. A part of Oriya came with that… it always does. I was able to grow into a strong man because I'd learnt how to sup off of others." I brought my hand against my face, chuckling bitterly at how foolish a man I had been. "Oriya… when I attempted to explain myself to him, he, gentle soul he can be, held no ill-will. Just as he held no ill will towards Saki and I for our part in his terrible accident. But oh, I believe there was some measure of contempt there, burrowing away inside of him as a pearl forms in the belly of an oyster. That irritation becomes hard and cold and heavy… I do suspect that when Oriya took my eye, it was not just a means to avenge the death of his girl but an excuse to avenge himself as well. 'An eye for an eye.'"

I felt my hand being slowly pulled from my face and then Asato's own beautiful eyes were coming closer, his lips softly touching to my own. I deepened the kiss as much as I was permitted, cupping the side of his face to further engage the intimacy between us.

"Thankyou, for telling me these sad, terrible things." He said, after we'd broken the kiss and settled comfortably down against one another. "When I meet Oriya for myself, I'll be sure not to piss him off." He gazed sidelong, chewing the corner of his mouth endearingly. "Gawd… bet Watari's got his work cut out for him."

I laughed appreciatively, running my hands down Asato's water speckled shoulder, watching goosebumps break out across his flesh. "What else, if anything, would you like to know about, my darling? Now that we have started, why not lay the cards upon the table?"

He considered this for a moment, mouth set in a wry smile at my cards reference.

"… How long can I stay here with you?" He finally asked and I sighed, grateful that we had been able to move past those troublesome topics.

"As long as you need to, darling. It is of no consequence to me."

He glanced up at me, seeming to be surprised. "You don't mind me being here?"

"Mind?" I chuckled. "I feel as though something so fortunate couldn't possibly have happened to me." I kissed the side of his head; only wishing there was a better means to express just how much his presence here meant to me. "You can stay for as long as you like. However… I get the distinct impression that the Ministry isn't as pleased about this arrangement as I am. Just what should we be expecting?"

"I'm glad you said 'we'." Asato confessed with a guilty smile. He gripped one of my hands between his own and rubbed his thumbs into the center of my palm. It was such a loving gesture… I felt very at peace within myself. "A Guardian of Death… is contracted to the Summons section until such time as they are granted reprieve. And this can mean anything really… I never actually said out loud that I didn't plan to return to the Ministry. So far, my only real offence is that I… interfered with the course of justice, aided in the escape of a convicted criminal… and broke a window." He chuckled softly as I reached over to the wall compartment and retrieved one of the few cigarettes I kept on hand there, lighting it with one of the neighboring candles. I'd been craving a smoke since the conclusion of our love making a few hours earlier. "When I don't turn up for work tomorrow, Enma will question the other Shinigami in my section. He might send them here, where they know I'll be. I'll be questioned, reprimanded… given a warning. If I refuse to comply with this precaution, then I'll receive a Court summons."

"And what does that entail?" I asked, drawing the smoke back into my lungs and feeling my entire body relax on account of it. I tugged one of my many ashtrays closer and set it in easy arms reach. Asato started twirling it about with his spare hand, eyes focused on the curlicue pattern of the glass.

"… It would require that I front up in the Hades Court and present my case." He explained in response to my previous question.

"What if you refuse to attend?"

He pressed a finger to his chin as a means to be thoughtful, I suppose. "Then the reanimation seal upon my body will be revoked and I'll revert to a corpse."

I admit to having choked on my nicotine intake at this juncture. "And… this can be done from a distance?"

"No." He established, reaching up to extract the cigarette from between my fingers. I thought he meant to extinguish it but this did not seem to be his intent. "We have to be in direct contact with Enma, who reanimates our bodies in the first place. I've heard he just sets his hand upon the individual and draws out the sustenance." He shrugged, waving his hand and my cigarette about listlessly. "Enma would employ the Security Division to come get me and they're a pretty uncompromising bunch. To say the least! I'd be better off just presenting my case and hope that my long service and loyalty to his majesty is taken into account and works in my favor." He gazed at the cigarette thoughtfully before then bringing it to his lips and drawing back deeply. A second later, he violently regurgitated the offending smoke in a violently spasmodic coughing fit and I could do little more than laugh, remembering all too well my very first attempts made at smoking.

"It's not a good idea to draw it right back unless you're used to it, darling." I advised, taking the cigarette back off of him before he hurt himself.

"Those things are gonna turn me green." Asato chided, coughing and slapping his chest in an effort to dispel the offending tar. I for one could not see what he was complaining about. He was dead after all, so to turn green should be by all rights considered normal!

"I hate to say, Asato, that I don't feel confident in your reaching a positive outcome. Regardless of your loyalty and the duration of 'time spent served'." I smiled at this small pun, taking another deep breath from the cigarette before resting my temple against the bridge of that hand, gazing down upon Asato in thoughtful reflection.

"Well, what other choice do I have? My only other option is going on the run. And that would mean uprooting your entire life here." He seemed to realized how presumptuous this might have sounded and predictably blushed. "I mean… if you meant to stay with me, that is…"

I waved my cigarette-laden hand about, as if to suggest his words were nonsense, which of course they were. "After all this trouble, you think I would have it any other way?"

"Then it's imperative that I don't uproot you, especially now when you have to stay close to Ukyou." He gave pause, looking briefly downward before making eye contact again with such startling acuity I found myself reeling momentarily. "That reminds me… did you check the guest wing for Okiko Haruhi?" He suddenly glanced about the bathroom with such trepidation I suppose he was expecting the dark gentleman to come sashaying out from the shower stall at any moment.

I smiled, rubbing the small of his back as some means to placate his not unfounded fears. "He wasn't even on the ledger, so he was obviously lying about being a lodger in the first place." I paused, giving consideration to the state in which the manor had been when I'd arrived back during the evening. "On an unrelated note; you Shinigami certainly have no qualms about making yourselves at home. You left quite a mess for the servants to clean up."

Asato laughed in that endearing fashion of the abashed, one hand slung behind his head and brows creased slightly. "Sorry about that." He amended, taking back the cigarette as though determined to become a fully-fledged smoker before the evening was out. I certainly had no desire to stop him, should this be his wish. I was no ones parent thank goodness. "So you couldn't find him?"

"Wherever he is right now, I feel confident that it's not in the manor." I assured him, combing my fingers distractedly through Asato's damp black hair, allowing the strands to course across my fingers. He nodded thoughtfully having not yet brought the cigarette to his lips, so preoccupied were his thoughts.

"I'll put up an additional barrier tomorrow. That should let us know if anyone we don't like enters the compound from any direction."

"I already have one in place." I said, smiling at his suddenly blank features.

" … Oh…" He said, puffing on the cigarette and then handing it back to me with a rather put upon expression, as though I was not living up to my side of this conversation. I chuckled as I took the burning cylinder back off of him.

"I'm sorry. Did I burst your bubble?"

He grumbled, chin thrust out in much the manner of a sulking child but eventually laughed to show that he wasn't at all serious. "A little." He continued to smile as I pressed my mouth softly against his, unable to resist that adorable display. "Anyway, I don't want to worry about the consequences right now. I just want to be with you."

I hadn't thought it possible for my smile to extend any further than it already had but if anything, I could feel the warmth flood into my features at his charming words. "I never thought I would see the day." I kissed him again, momentarily losing myself in the sensation and reverting back to my old habits. "Mr. Tsuzuki…"

He laughed, swatting me gently on the side of the face. "You've got to get out of the habit of calling me that."

I swatted him back, enjoying the playful nature of it. "Only if you get out of the habit of calling me Muraki."

"But Kazutaka is so long!" He whined, sinking his face against my chest and pretending to pound it with his fists as though throwing a childish temper tantrum. "Can I just call you Kazu for short?"

I pulled a face. "Kazu sounds so childish…"

Asato flashed me a look that suggested I was being anything but helpful. "Well, what am I supposed to call you for short? I can't very well call you 'Aki'… that was my exes name!"

I admit I felt rather confronted by this, though I'm not sure why. Being ninety-seven it was of course only natural for Asato to have had other partners besides me. Still, I do have a tendency to be possessive… in putting it lightly. "You had an ex?" I queried, almost too casually.

"Give me some credit!" He snapped, slapping the back of his palm against my pectoral. "I'm almost a century old! I've got more than one. But as you can tell, I didn't sleep with any of them." He must have translated the expression on my face because with a smile he turned over and pressed his hands and chest against my upper torso. "So there's no need to be jealous." He chuckled as he kissed me again, I in turn gripping his upper arms to pull him a little more securely against me. When our lips had parted and he was reclining comfortably against me once more, it came to mind the old nickname that Saki had once referred to me by.

"Well… I suppose you could call me 'Zuta." I said, curling my lip to demonstrate my distaste for this honorific also. Still, it was worlds better than 'Kazu', which sounded to me rather feminine.

"'Zuta?" Asato murmured, his left hand brow rising momentarily.

"That was the name Saki used to call me in High school. It caught on because of that…" I confess that it was a relief Oriya never got into the habit, though he never had been much for nicknames.

Asato smiled as he rested his cheek against my chest. "Thanks. But I think I'm still gonna call you Kazu whether you like it or not. If I pronounce it the Osakan way it doesn't sound quite so childlike."

"The 'Osakan' way?" I asked skeptically.

He gazed upward, waving his finger about as though it would better aid in his explanation. "Kah-zu, rather than Ka-zu. Kah-zu… Kah – zu… Kama-Kah-zu… pilot." He twisted his hand about so that it was vertical and then whooshed it around in the air before then making a crashing sound and sending his hand splashing down spectacularly into the water. "KA-BOOM!" He exclaimed, saluting as he hummed a bouncy funeral march. I could only smile and quirk my brow to indicate that he was perhaps behaving just a little strangely.

" … Sorry." He amended, with an endearingly sheepish smile.

I brought my cigarette to my lips again and inhaled steadily before handing it back to him. "… Just… call me what you like. I don't mind." Something had ensnared my attention as Asato appropriated the cigarette and I brought my hair out of my eyes so that I might better confirm my thoughts. "I don't know if you've noticed when you were looking in the mirror, darling. But… your eyes…"

"Mmm…? What about them?" He mumbled from around the cigarette.

I retrieved a small handheld vanity from the soap rack and held it out so that he might see for himself. Asato held the cigarette steady between his teeth, as he flipped the compacts lid and examined his eyes to find, just as I had, that his once spherical pupils were now horizontally slanted, much as my remaining eye was.

"Oh my… I wonder what that means?" He said, seeming contrarily calm. I had expected his reaction to be more severe somehow.

"Who can say?" I muttered, reaching out to bring Asato close to my body again. "Listen… uh… I'll probably already have left for work by the time you wake up. You can do whatever you wish. This is your home now. Sakaki will be here and he'll attend to whatever you need whenever I'm not around. You'll not be left wanting while you're here."

"Perhaps it's because I've awakened my true nature…" Asato whispered as he closed the compacts window, eyes straying to the far wall.

"Excuse me?" I said, having not quite heard him in that instance.

"I mean… um…" He obviously didn't consider it worth repeating and so didn't bother to do so. He placed the mirror aside, before drawing back on the cigarette and then returning it to between my own lips. "You'll make me feel like a kept man."

I smiled. "That was my intention."

"Any rules of the house?"

I gave this some thought, taking my beloveds particular unruly constitution into account. They would not for example have been the same ground rules I would lay down for Oriya or Ukyou. "… Don't trash the place. Any wine you want to drink please don't go further back then the year 1999. Clean up after yourself if you do not make a mess. No wild parties while I'm not here. Be comfortable. That's all."

He considered this for a moment before nodding deeply in a thoroughly serious and contemplative manner. "Sounds fair." He grinned to show that he was agreeable before resting back against me and blushing a little. I did not need to read minds to realize we were finally broaching that topic of which I had most been eagerly anticipating discussing. "Um… about… before…"

I didn't tease him, figuring this would be uncomfortable enough to discuss without my adding to it. "Mmm-hmm…?"

His fingers laced through mine again but he didn't make eye contact, still remaining perpetually shy despite our passionate exchange having obliterated all barriers between us, so far as I was concerned. "I know I'm… not very experienced. But I'll… I'll get better with some… practice."

I could have moaned at the thought but rather I chuckled at his charming concern, for he seemed to feel that he had displeased me in some way, which was far from the truth. "Darling, you can gain more skills through practice but you couldn't get any better then you already are." I extinguished the cigarette before then lifting his chin in order to kiss those divine lips, though I'm certain this only increased his bashfulness. "You're wonderful. And the fact that you are inexperienced in these matters only makes you all the more beautiful." I momentarily brushed my mouth against his forehead, overcome by my extreme feelings of fondness towards him, an emotion I have spared for precious few in my life.

"You could tell I don't know much." Asato whispered, still blushing without fail.

I smiled, running my knuckles down his arm to the effect that goosebumps soon begun to spread up and down his flesh.

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"… A little sore… I don't think my healing ability is quite on par at the moment." He ran his fingers across the healing wound on my cheek, and then traced his nail down the one upon my brow. "Will I be sore for long?"

"… Possibly for the next twenty-four hours… at the most, two or three days." I pressed my thumb into his palm, gently massaging the pressure point there. "I know you'll find it strange but it has been so long since I myself have been submissive in a sexual relationship, I have no way of recalling just how long it might take before you start to feel comfortable. I do apologize for that."

Asato was silent for a while, playing with my hands but looking away, seeming to be distracted. "It's a shame you've got work tomorrow…"

I looked down at him, understanding his intentions but questioning them all the same. "You want to do it again?"

His response was to blush of course.

"Even when you're feeling sore?"

He pressed a kiss experimentally against the wall of my chest. "Yeah… I wanna try something different. But you need your sleep."

I was already climbing out of the tub.

"I can sleep when I'm dead." I declared, pulling him out behind me so quickly I believe the water was perhaps shucked free of his body. We set about rubbing ourselves dry, before heading back into the bedroom. It was last moment but I remembered Asato's pajamas and brought them back in as well, in case he should feel the cold during the night, though I did doubt this for some reason. "I know a little something we could try."

Asato looked at me anticipatory and I coaxed him towards the bed, pushing his shoulders back gently against the sheets and gently settling atop him, so that we might warm into this gradually.

"You're… so much more gentle then I ever imagined you'd be…" Asato murmured, his eyes twining shut as I moved my lips about his neck and collarbone.

I couldn't resist teasing him, so adorable that he was. "Oh… so you imagined this often, is what you mean to say?"

"Muraki…" He growled though clenched teeth and I laughed to see it. Conscious of the fact that his body still ached, I weaved my lips down across his chest, raising his leg by the knee so that I might languish my mouth and tongue upon the delicate curvature.

"You're so beautiful…" I whispered, continuing to kiss that one spot, allowing my spare hand to caress the center of his palm as he rested it by his side along the sheets. I traced my fingers gently across those scars, eyes closed as a means to fully appreciate the taste and scent of him. Asato's breathing came shallow and gentle, I don't think he expected for me to take any sort of decisive action anytime soon. Feeling in the mood to shock him a little, I trailed my fingers down along the length of his sculptured thigh, keeping my lips focused on that one delectable spot upon his knee and slyly touched my fingernail to his swollen rectum, tracing the ring muscle only lightly so as to create a mild tickling sensation. He gasped, predictably and his body arched a little before settling back down, though he squirmed as though to suggest he didn't much like my teasing him.

"This is different from what you've already done?" He said, his voice a breathy susurration I found undeniably sensuous. I wove my finger in gently to further engage his attention and sure enough a small moan slid out from between his lips as I plucked the sensitive flesh, pinching the folds between my index finger and thumb.

"Part your thighs for me, darling."

Though his hue did indeed darken from a fresh attack of embarrassment, Asato obeyed with a small nod and gradually separated his legs until I was able to get an unobstructed view of his entrance, still red and engorged. I thought about this next act, something I had often dreamed about performing on this innocent man and could only wet my lips in anticipation. As I lowered my face to nuzzle into place between his svelte thighs, Asato seemed to then click to my attentions and he sat up so suddenly I had very little choice but to bring myself up in order to meet him.

"W-wait a minute!" He bumbled; clenching the bedsheets between knuckles bleached white from his anxiety. "Are… are you… really gonna… … you know…?"

I smiled as means of response.

Asato's eyes widened to the point they might nearly have burst from their sockets. "But… but that… it… it's not sanitary, is it?!"

Still bearing that unshakeable smile, I moved closer to him, allowing our noses to touch and our lips to brush from my every spoken word.

"After that brazen display you put on tonight, you mean to tell me that something of this nature interests you not?"

His blush had spread down onto his neck and up towards his temples. He bit his lip, eyes averted from my own. "Mura… Kazutaka… you must understand… though I don't seem like an old man to you, the truth is that I was born almost a century ago. Times were different back then… to even think of being with a man was to invite scorn and ridicule!" He bowed his head, suggesting he was ashamed of himself for speaking so candidly. "It's not that I don't enjoy being with you… but you gotta understand that I still have my reservations because of the time in which I was born. I apologize…" He opened his eyes and I could see them shimmering in the darkness, though he wouldn't meet my gaze. "To say such things to you, a man who has done everything he desires without any qualms whatsoever."

Soured by his self-condemnation, I nonetheless persisted, sliding the lines of my fingers beneath his chin and raising his eyes, insisting that he look at me. Even then his eye line rested somewhere on the vicinity of my collarbone, which I didn't much care for.

"Forgive me, Asato. I foolishly believed you were here because you sincerely wished to cast aside such reservations and place your trust in me." This shocked him, as I'd hoped and his jade colored eyes flashed furiously upward to meet my own. I chuckled, satisfied and ran my hand down along the side of his face, in order to cup his neck. "Now, now… I only meant to chide you a little, so that you might grant me the courtesy of your full attention. Now that I have it, what I truly wish to say is that you will no longer pay credence to such old-fashioned drivel whilst you are in my bed."

His brows axed down furiously, to the result that his entire face was creased from anger. "Let's get something straight; being with you the once doesn't give you rights to my body!"

I feathered my eyes shut, leaning about so that my mouth was aligned with his ear. "Asato… there is no reason to be angry with me in this instance. I only mean for you to enjoy yourself. And believe me, you will enjoy this."

He continued to look skeptical but rather than try and convince him with my words, I chose instead to show him. He whimpered a little, as I eased him back into the comforting arch of the pillows, clutching at my shoulders as if he meant to secure himself to reality.


"Shhh…" I soothed him, resting the pad of my index finger upon his lips before then sliding it across and between the pale pink arches. "Trust me once more, Asato. I will not hurt you."

I lowered my head and caught one of his erect copper nipples between my teeth, rolling the tip of my tongue across the peaked surface before laboriously sucking and kissing it. Asato's spine arched dramatically, his fingers tangling through my hair in order to encourage my continued attentions. I started to lick my way down his body, planting a lingering kiss on the trail of hair above his stiffening penis before sliding my tongue along that delicious length, marveling at the salty tang that lingered upon my tongue.

"Kazuta…" He moaned again, seeming to have settled upon this middle bridge for his nickname of me. Asato's knees arched, his hands urging me to dip my head even further and partake of the delectable main course, secreted between velvety globes of flesh. "I want… I want…"

I brought my eye line up, in order to gaze into his tortured features and smiled mischievously, knowing that I was well teasing him and greatly enjoying it. "What do you want, Asato? Tell me… and I will bring everything that you desire to you on bended knee."

He bit his lip as he gazed upon me sidelong, unable to ask but desperately seeking. And though he could not insist upon it, I nonetheless waited for the spoken permission, my desire urgently requiring this verbal validation.

Asato briefly squeezed his eyes shut, swallowed deeply and with a shiver managed to refocus on me. I cannot imagine for the life of me why such mental fortitude was required to approve of this pleasurable act forthwith but it would seem as though it was!

"I want to feel it…" He whispered and though I would have preferred for him to be more direct, it would do for the time being. He was still rather inexperienced and so I desired to take things with him at a slower rate than perhaps I would a more worldly person. If luck continued to favor us, perhaps we would have years in which to work on such matters.

I captured Asato's hips and held him still, urging his thighs apart by my voice alone and favored his beautifully swollen aperture with rapt attentions. His eyes eased shut as I lowered my face between the divine arches of his upper legs. I stopped my lips just a hairs breadth from his pucker, allowing him pause in order to reconsider, should that be his wish.

No words did he speak.

"This shall not be one of those matters of which you will regret," I assured him, before then sliding my saliva slickened tongue deeply inside of that luscious orifice, dabbing gently at his inner sanctum. Asato hissed lightly from between his teeth and then, almost immediately eased back, hands clutching the pillow behind his head as his hips began to lackadaisically move in time with my lapping tongue.

"Muraki…" He groaned, slipping back into his old patterns as his former inhibitions were shattered. A shudder raced through his body and he curled his spine in order to follow it, seemingly all the way down to his toes. "Oh god… it feels so good…"

I was far too preoccupied to say, 'I told you so' but I'm fairly certain he knows what I would have said anyway. By gently curling the tip of my tongue I was better able to manipulate the nerve endings within, drawing out almost completely in order to trace the outside ring before thrusting it back within. I instigated a pattern replicating a coital act, moving in and out, using my lips when able, to the result that Asato was soon reduced to a desperate panting mess, toes curling almost entirely in on themselves.

"Ha… ah…It… God…" I glanced up to see his head arch back, eyes squeezed shut with a single teardrop leaking from the corners of each. "It shouldn't… feel this… good…"

This sensual sight made my own erect penis ache and leak with need, so I dropped my hand down to momentarily appease it as my tongue continued its teasing, languid work. By this time, daylight was not far away and I would soon need to consider getting to work. Loath though I was to rush through any act of this nature with my beloved, it seemed in this instance I did not have much choice.

Asato's sweet whimper as I drew my tongue from his delicious slit was heavenly, though I did not allow myself to fall victim to it. I drew myself up my innocent lovers body, planting a short kiss upon those slightly parted lips before moving to lie beside him, taking his left hand between my right, urging him to roll over. He however did not appear to catch my meaning and stared back at me, clearly confused.

I chuckled, gently tugging his fingers again. "Daft fool that you are. Climb on top of me."

Asato blushed and I got the impression he was embarrassed to perform such an act, as it would place him fully in display with no sheet to cover his nakedness. For a moment, I expected him to shake his head and violently protest, so I was surprised when he instead obeyed, turning over to perch upon his knees and gazing down at me, assessing how best to go about it, I suppose.

"Just… put my leg over your waist?" He asked, brushing his bangs aside as they swayed distractedly into his eyes. I smiled gently, pushing aside the sheet so that it would not obstruct his movements.

"That's right. Place your left knee here," I patted the sheets beside my right hip. "Keep your right on the other side."

He looked sideways and swallowed so deeply I could see his Adams apple rise and fall even in the darkness. "Won't it… hurt terribly to do this with my… being sore and everything?"

I was confused. "Asato… I am only asking for you to seat yourself upon my pelvis. Why should that hurt?" And then of course it clicked. He had assumed that I intended for him to slide down directly onto my erection. I shook my head quickly, to assure him that this was not the case. "Oh no, I didn't mean for us to progress so quickly! No, just place your bottom here and relax. That sort of thing might come much later, when you have had more experience."

Smiling, seeming to feel embarrassed about his misconception, Asato gingerly placed his hands upon my abdomen and used this as leverage to bring his leg over my waist, resting his buttocks atop my pelvis. I moaned softly, my erection pushed down at the base by Asato's weight, rubbing against his perineum as I shifted in order to improve my own comfort.

"Is… this all right?" Asato asked, his tongue squeezed from the corner of his mouth in much the manner a stem pokes from the top of a pumpkin. I smiled at him, lowering my hand to pinch the dark head of his erection between my thumb and index finger, knowing that his eyes followed my movements and his penis thickened even more on account of it.

"You tell me…" I purred, dabbing the tip of my finger into the wet slit before then nursing it between my thumb as I continuously caressed that sweet spot, first in circles and then up and down. Asato released a heated breath from deep within his lungs, fragmented like bullets from an automatic weapon.

"Mnnhhnnn…" He hissed, having pinched his tongue tightly between his teeth to keep from screaming aloud. This irritated me, for I did not wish for him to impede his passion on account of who else might witness it and speculate. All the live in staff were in the guest wing of the mansion, far removed from the Main house. No one was about to hear. I released Asato's erection and slid my hands along his lower back, encouraging him to lean over, our chests symmetrically aligned as his lower arms sunk into the sheets on either side of my head, supporting his weight. I raised my lips to nip that sliver of pink tongue protruding so enticingly outwards and Asato gasped, withdrawing it so quickly it seemed to possess a life of its' own.

"Don't be afraid to voice your desires, Asato." I said, gently stroking my fingers up and down the length of his lean back. "You and I are the only ones within this entire house, my love. There is no one to hear you but I. And I most assuredly, long to sample the palatable sonnet of your passions."

Asato's breathing came rapid, hot and heavy as he dipped his head to indicate that he understood. He pressed his dainty lips to the carotid artery in my neck, tongue gliding out to trace that vulnerable rise of flesh.

"The things you do to me…" He groaned, gasping in such a way that caused chills to wrack my spine as I nibbled and sucked the lobe of his ear, fingers toying at one of his nipples until it puckered into a hard pebble. "Kazutaka…"

With the hand that still remained upon his back, I trailed my fingers slowly down, teasingly downward, to eventually clutch the lowest curve of Asato's pert backside; that delicious swelling between thigh and buttock. He cried out, almost deliberately loudly in order to appease me I should think, as the joints of my fingers caressed this arch of muscle, head tilting back so at the same time I could sup and devour the flesh of his neck with my lips and tongue.

"Yes…" He moaned heatedly, raising his backside upward in order to encourage my attentions down towards his scrotum. But I had no intention of progressing any further, instead sliding my fingers between the crack of his buttocks to thumb and probe that still wet fissure. "Mmmm… mmm…" Asato's nose and mouth nuzzled against my shoulder, his hands moving inward to rest entirely upon my torso, which I had no objections to, of course. "Fill me up… stretch me…"

Though I had already sufficiently oiled him with my tongue, I felt it probably wasn't going to be enough what with his rectum still swollen from our initial session. I raised my fingers back to my face and then, thinking better of it, slid my middle and index finger against Asato's lips, gently requesting entry. I murmured approvingly as he parted his teeth to allow them inside, tongue hungrily slurping and sucking, without my even needing to ask. When I thought that he was handling this well, I then added the third finger, which he accepted just as easily and soon all three digits were more than prepared for penetration. I lowered them again to press between his buttocks and kissed Asato to distract him as I pushed that first finger inside of him, probing deep to rub against the mass of nerves from the prostate gland. A jilting 'Ha-AH!' told me that my aim had been right on the money and my middle finger soon joined its companion. Asato started to rhythmically move his hips, greedy in his desire for all things that afforded him pleasure. I used my spare hand to steady him by clutching his backside, slipping in my third finger and thrusting harder and faster, in so hoping to attenuate him. My beautiful lover was sitting pushing back against my hold, his perineum continuing to graze across my heated penis, driving splintering desire into my senses. This torture surely could not last another moment!

"Kazutaka… Hah…!" Asato's eyes achingly slid open, revealing a tear soaked streak of purple between passion-laden lids. "F-fuh-fuck me…"

I gently removed my fingers, diving them into the bedside drawer to retrieve the lubricant, using it to hastily prepare myself, pushing aside Asato's fingers as he lowered them to assist. No… after those provocative words I had no time to waste. I wanted to be inside of him with greater haste than I possessed!

When I was more than adequately oiled enough to enter him, I pushed Asato backward so that he was once again sitting vertically from my pelvis, gazing down at me expectantly. He started to raise himself, positioned so that he might lower his anus directly onto the head of my erection but I kept him from doing so by pressing gently down upon his shoulder.

"You wished to try something different, did you not?" I smiled at him, feeling my fangs run out to their full length and penetrate into my lower lip. A single drop of blood rolled down my chin and snapped free to fall through space. "Bring your right knee over so that you are kneeling beside me."

He was confused but again to my surprise simply did as was told, moving off of me in order to sit by my side, quietly awaiting my next order. I smiled, patting my abdomen to direct his attentions.

"Now, I ask that you mount my waist once more. Only do so with your back facing towards me, once you are settled."

He blinked, seeming to not have absorbed a word of this. "You… want me to…"

"Kneel as before, only this time you will face the opposite direction." I explained again, raising my hand to gently caress the curve of his chin. "It is called the 'reverse cowboy' position. And I hear that it is supposed to be outstanding for both parties."

Asato sighed, pressing a kiss into the palm of my hand before releasing it and proceeding then to sling his left leg over my abdomen. This, I'll admit, afforded me an outstanding view and my lower arms started to shake as I reached out to clutch either side of Asato's narrow hips, holding him in position. I waited until he was settled, seeming somewhat perplexed in my having instigated such a position.

"I'm to stare at the fireplace as we do this…?" He conjectured and though I smiled at his comment, I didn't bother to answer. Soon there would be no need for words. I shifted about, raising my knees and spreading them apart just enough for Asato to be able to rest his chest against. His hands clasped my knees, fingernails slightly digging in.

"Are you ready?" I softly asked and the tensing of his various muscles informed me before his murmured verification that he was indeed awaiting me. Anxious with my portent desire to encase myself in him, I grasped my erection firmly and urged Asato to raise himself just enough for me to insert my penis into his tenderly tight orifice. We moaned in sensuous symphony, Asato visibly wincing as I penetrated deeper and deeper into his wet warmth, stretching out muscles that had only just started to relax, pushing in far enough to stir anticipatory nerves, filling that exquisite nadir to breaking point and feeling his sumptuous tightness all about me in return.

"Are you all right?" I murmured, holding myself steady so as not to cause him further discomfort. Asato whimpered softly and I reached out both hands on either side of his body, urging him to slip his fingers through mine and use the pressure of our palms to keep his balance.

"A-aching…" He finally said, sounding as though he were ashamed to be experiencing pain. His fingers clenched about my hands so tightly they left red marks against my skin. "Feels… good though. With… you underneath me…" He smiled shyly over his shoulder, cheeks characteristically red. I could only find myself further aroused by this charming display and had to force myself to remain stationary for the time being.

"Let me know when you are ready and then I will move again."

Asato softly murmured, his fingers squeezing my hand. "I'm okay… you can move."

I smiled as I raised my hips, pushing up and deeper into the sweltering passage of his body.

"Kazuta…aahhh…" Asato cried, head tilting back and his spine arching sharply to accommodate for me. "Yes… aahhh…"

"Move with me," I told him, distributing a second thrust to the curves of his buttocks, coaxing Asato to drop himself down to meet my thrusts. The pleasure of his body… how stalwartly that sweltering fissure gripped the hank of my desire! The aching tip of my erection stroked across that sweet place, causing Asato to cry out and tip his head back, raising his body to drop aggressively down upon me, engorging himself repeatedly. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears, all my inhibitions shattered in bearing witness to my lovers' enthusiasm. To actually see him hunger for this sexual rapture… to hear him moan like a whore… there was no possible means for me to continue holding myself back.

And so, I increased the pace of my hips, drastically thrashing up into that taut little puncture to the effect that Asato was raised high into the air, before responding by shunting his hips down hard enough to drive my backside forcefully into the sheets. He was whimpering intermittently between the odd bursts of passionate exclaim, so I can't imagine the experience was entirely pain free. This would come later, when his body had grown more accustomed to the process of sexual intercourse. From my angle, I was able to observe his pert backside tightening with every movement of his hips, a sight I found to be extremely erotic. Even the way his petite toes curled upward, in coordination with the movements of my penis inside of him. The palms of our hands were sticky and slick with sweat and Asato almost lost his balance more than once because we were unable to effectively keep a hold of one another. There must have been quite a great deal of blood because the air had taken on that familiar coppery scent, which only stroked the fever inside of me to greater intensity. Poor Asato… the lining of his rectum had been torn.

I released his hands momentarily in order to pull myself upright. Asato gasped as my erection pressed even deeper inside of him, his hands reaching back to desperately stroke across my waist, fingers clasping at the loose folds of flesh above my hips.

"So good…" He panted, trembling lips searching for my own and fixing sloppily against them. "Hah… keep… keep going…"

"Darling, you're bleeding…" I said, wrapping my arms about his chest, rubbing his navel with my thumb, soothing the curves of his abdomen. "We went too fast… forgive me…"

Asato seemed confused, lust congested eyes blinking torpidly at me. "I don't… please… keep going… don't stop now… so good…"

His tongue dipped down over his lower lip and then moved across to lightly trace the outline of my own. I caught the delicious pink morsel between my teeth and brought it into my own mouth, sucking on it vigorously before renewing my onslaught against Asato's seeping slit.

"Harder…" He moaned into my mouth. I dropped my hands from about his body, tucking them beneath his knees and using this leverage to briefly relieve his body of my invading presence. Asato whined pleasingly when he registered just how empty he suddenly was and glared at me over his shoulder, as if to reprimand me for having such cheek. I ran a soothing hand down his neck, feeling my eye teeth scrape against my raw lower lip as I smiled at him.

"Turn around…" I said, helping him to adjust himself until he was able to perch in my lap, both arms cupped about my shoulders and face resting against the side of my neck. His legs curled up on either side of my chest, feet dangling across my lower back. As I pushed myself back inside of him, the entire weight of his body aided in bearing him downward. Asato softly gasped, with such charming dissonance and lightly kissed the side of my face, fingers reaching up to tangle in the sweat tangled strands of hair running down the back of my neck.

"Kazutaka…" He whispered and as he moved, I felt the whole world dissolve in this primitive dance of passion conducted between our bodies, chests heaving, sweet pooling in the gap between our abdomens and mouths darting here and there, quashing against skin, lips, tongues, teeth, noses, necks, eyes… anywhere. Everywhere. What did it matter? I could feel Asato's body start to tremble as I fished one lithe hand down between us and proceeded to stroke and tease his twitching erection. The Shinigami panted, tongue feverishly licking at my neck as he moved in perfect coordination with the rough, uninhibited pace I set, surrendering to the richness of it. And when he came, his left leg stretched up so high and straight that for a brief moment it actually perched atop my shoulder. I kissed his ankle lovingly, continuing to milk the remaining semen from my beautiful lovers progressively softening penis, licking my fingers once I was sure there was nothing further to attain. Asato looked upon me with sleep deprived eyes, hair a tousled mess and then to my greatest pleasure, squeezed the muscles in his anus as tightly as I supposed he could, bouncing himself up, down and around to bring my own belayed orgasm ripping through my lower extremeties, seeing from the corner of my eye Asato bare his neck to me, fingers stroking down the blue conduits of veins to urge me forward. Lights danced before my eyes, the scent of blood permeating the air increasing my desire twofold, so that I thought it difficult to resist even should Asato have not offered himself to me. Still, touched and deeply flattered by his selflessness, I placed my mouth upon his slender neck as gently as I could whilst still experiencing the deep throes of orgasm, easing my distended eye teeth down through the skin and filling my mouth with the slightly bitter but even more appetizing flavor of my lovers life juices. I wouldn't risk taking too much from him, on account of how great an amount he'd already lost that day. But it was so difficult… especially when he tasted so incontestably piquant.

"Kazutaka…" He moaned and I could feel him quite literally pushing his buttocks down hard against my lap, filling himself to the brim with those juices I offered in place of the delectable crimson liquid that dribbled down into my throat, stirring each and every nerve within my body. The angry beast that had so long dwelt in the cavernous hole of my chest retreated deeper still, just as the deformed beast Caliban, sought sanctuary in the darkest refuge, taking with it those blackened thoughts and long expired ambitions of a life lived otherwise.

Having effectively tired one another out, Asato and I lowered our heaving bodies gently to the sheets, having been careful not to make a mess of them this time. I held the smaller frame of my lover scooped in against the line of my chest as we both calmed down, stroking his damp hair and waistline tenderly. I glanced towards the bedside table, so that I could see what time it was.

"I'll have to start getting ready soon," I informed him, pleased by the small moan of disappointment Asato emitted at having to hear this.

"Oh God… it's still so early… why you gotta go so early? Stay with me and… hold me…"

"I have to go…" I whispered. And yet, it was so hard to do. I tried to find a reason to remain a little longer, my hand caressing down the damp line of Asato's spine as I weighed up my options. "Asato… it may seem trivial but… I would like for you to start taking vitamins of a morning. Would you mind?"

Asato's eyes slowly fluttered open and he raised his brow, to express just how odd and ill timed my question had been.

"That's your idea of pillow talk?" He said, swatting playfully at my upper arm. "God, it's no wonder you're thirty-one and still single."

I tapped the back of my hand against his forehead, far more gently than he had struck me and crinkled my nose just enough to indicate that I wasn't impressed by his comment.

"Remarks like that will get you a bed on a soggy mattress under a railroad bridge," I threatened, unable to mask a smile as Asato exclaimed in exaggerated horror and shielded himself beneath the sheets. I ducked my own head under in order to continue our conversation. "The reason I bring it up, is because if our transactions during love-making are to become a regular occurrence, you may find yourself feeling rather anemic. Your healing ability is not coping as efficiently as it may once have. Vitamins will help nourish your body in the meantime."

Asato gazed at me with wide eyes beneath the blankets, looking much like a drowsy animal peeping out from a warm, winters nook. "Can you not just bite me at the end? Or isn't it as good without the biting?"

I considered this earnestly because with the majority of my previous lovers, I had never resorted to biting, on account that it would have created more problems than it was worth.

"Making love with you my darling is exemplary, with or without the biting." This seemed to me the safest road to travel and I could tell from the expression on Asato's face that it had been the right thing to say. "Piercing your flesh… it is part and parcel with the climax for me. Refraining from it does not by any means take away what you are I share."

Asato considered this for a moment before shuffling closer, resting his hand upon my arm and tenderly caressing it. "But… it's more enjoyable for you if you do bite me." He pressed a finger against my lips as I quickly raced to protest. "It's okay! I don't need you to flatter me by being dishonest. Just tell me the truth. I want to make you happy as much as I'm sure you want to see me satisfied. It's only fair."

I found this to be a very considerate, not to mention generous proffer and I expressed this by bringing his palm into my own and massaging my thumb into the sensitive pressure points of his hand.

"If I am to be honest … Yes, yes it does increase the pleasure for me. But this shouldn't by any means suggest that it is a fundamental concern, Asato. Truly… that I, above so many more deserving, have been granted this great honor in being with you, for your first time…" I smiled, bringing the backs of his fingers to my lips. "Would I be so greedy as to possibly desire more?"

These were sincere words, spoken with a wholehearted clemency I was not accustomed to casually exhibiting. In lieu of this naked honesty, I had at the very least expected some sort of response, even if it was only my lovers' characteristic cheek flushing. In so admitting, naturally it came as something of a surprise when after the expiration of a good half minute, there came nothing, not even the slightest granule of acknowledgment. I opened my eyes and drew them down, fully intending to berate Asato for his blatant lassitude, when I found myself confronted with the very vocal cause to his indolence.

After such a day, in which battles had been fought, blood had been spilt, friendships had been fractured and passionate love had been made, could I really have blamed him for finally succumbing to exhaustion? I was in fact, surprised that he had lasted so long.

I wasn't offended at this timing. On the contrary; the fact that he felt secure enough to fall asleep in my presence, said worlds about how far we had come in such a short space of time. I could only chuckle softly to myself, running my fingers up through his hair and gently pressing a kiss against his forehead.

"I'll see you tonight." I murmured, placing one final touch of my lips to either cheek before reluctantly forcing my weary, sleep deprived body out of bed and away from my lovers warm, accommodating arms. He mumbled slightly in complaint, clenching his hand atop the blankets I had only just occupied, before rolling over with a groggy utterance, tugging the sheets in tight around him and settling in for a good kip. I went quietly about my business, sponging myself clean, applying deodorant, shaving my face and getting dressed, all the while marveling at this, the most fortuitous turn of circumstances.

He's mine now… I have the end of his Lead. Now, he'll be safe from others, no one will pursue him with such vigor as once they may have.

He loves me… that much is certain. I finally have that power I so desperately crave. He came to me of his own free will. He gave himself to me. And he knows me… more than anyone. I have told him things about my past that no one has before heard, not even myself.

Now, at long last, my life can begin anew.

Let your indulgence set me free…

I left the bathroom, dressed for the days events and gathered together the assortment of files and paperwork I would need, packing them neatly into my briefcase before appropriating my keys from the hook beside the door. I glanced back towards the bed one last time, taking in Asato's slumbering features so that I might reflect on our time spent together during the day and with a small smile caressing my features, turned to make my way into the early dawn.


I turned slowly back towards Asato's reclining figure. His eyes were closed and for all intents and purposes, he still appeared to be asleep, though I was certain he had called for me.

"What is it, my darling?"

His eyes seemed to drag open, as though great weights were bearing down upon them. I could see only the smallest sliver of those beloved amethyst pearls gazing out at me but this minute crescent spoke a thousand words in a silence too profound for speech.

"I'll take care of you." He whispered, eyelashes fluttering tellingly from exhaustion. "I'll be your ally, even if I can never be forgiven for it." He smiled sweetly at me, one hand reaching up to sleepily rub his eyes. "Just the two of us, against the world if that's what it comes down to."

I could only stare for what felt like hours, questioning as to whether or not these words had actually been intended for me, undeserving whelp as I was. Still, there was no deceit in Asato's eyes. There never was. He had not a fraudulent bone in his entire beautiful body.

I placed my briefcase down beside the door and made my way back over to the bed, leaning over to brush Asato's unruly hair out of the way, so that I could kiss his forehead, nose and lips, one after the other. His eyes fell shut again, his voice distending the softest of utterances at my attentions.

"Thankyou." I whispered, resting my chin against his hair for just long enough to sate my adoration. "I love you."

"I love you too." It pleased me to no end that he was able to say it without even thinking about it. It meant so much more, when it came naturally. "I promise I'll have a vitamin with my breakfast."

I smiled, gently pinching his cheek so that I wouldn't disturb him too greatly but just hard enough to let him know I hadn't missed his provocation. "Well forgive me for caring."

He giggled as I returned to my briefcase, picking it up and hovering in the doorway, still hesitant about leaving. In the past twenty-four hours, so much had happened… I felt I could have used another day off. Still, the fact remained that Ukyou required my attentions and though we were no longer engaged; it was quite true that I still loved her. These thoughts, most of all, cemented my resolve to continue forward and so I pushed onward, casting one last loving expression to my favored Shinigami before stepping out into the darkened hall, ushering Sakaki away, who had been steamrolling purposefully towards the bedroom with a laden breakfast tray in his hands.

"I realize my schedule is a little off this morning, Sakaki." I avowed, issuing him back towards the kitchen so that he would not proceed into the bedroom and disturb Asato. "I'll pick something up on my way to work. The gentleman I was with last night requires some time to rest up. I'm afraid he's not feeling one hundred percent at the moment. When he does eventually emerge, would you be so kind as to tend to him? I think it would be best if we uh… avoid allowing him any lenience's in the kitchen."

Sakaki smiled indulgently, his light luxuriant moustache tilting upward expressively at each corner. They hadn't long been acquainted but I could tell that Sakaki had a rather high opinion of Asato, simply perhaps for the fact that I was far more contented than I had been in a long time. "Very well, young Master, I'll see to it that he is well looked after. You have a fine day at work."

A fine day indeed. No day could have started on a more positive note! I found myself thinking, as, with an indulgent smile, I left Muraki manor with a light feeling in my chest as Caliban himself must have felt when stepping from the dark recess of his hovel, into the light of a profitable and more evocative world.

Who would have ever thought, that that little boy, rummaging through his Grandfather's belongings, would find himself drenched in the warmth and love of the very first person he had ever loved. A person he never would have imagined could have still existed. But who indeed had demonstrated not only how truly alive he was but just how alive he could make that boy too.


On a grand ecru sofa, in a stone room lit by the warm glow of candlelight, a diminutive boy in his early teens cupped a hand to his mouth, stifling the lion like yawn that followed shortly thereafter. The nerve of these guys, traipsing up in the early hours of the morning, uninvited! The audacity of it that they simply expected him to be awake and willing to accommodate. He had of course, already been up at this most untimely hour but he could hardly imagine any normal human being would be. Just what kind of timetable were these idiots running to, anyway?

"As you can imagine, your contribution would be invaluable, to say the least." The dark haired gentleman cheerfully exposited, seeming to pay not the slightest attention to the boys deliberately complacent expression. Then again, I suppose that shouldn't surprise me, the boy dryly thought. Why should I have expected him to pick up on the more subtle of nuances, when he'd failed to adhere to the fact that I was still dressed in my pajama's and nightcap, was carrying a stuffed bear, a hot water bottle and a cup of cocoa and that I keep casting furtive, longing glances towards the stairs? One thing's for certain; their wives married them for the money and not their considerate, sensitive nature.

The boy sighed, raking a hand back through his chin length, bleach blond hair, attempting to calm himself with positive thoughts. There was no more a liberating consideration than to remind oneself that his patience was not for naught. Such fortitude was due to be rewarded. He need only endure such irritation until that time came. And when the changes started to unfurl the world would be a far different place. He would be free from this benighted game and his responsibility to acting out this wretched role, simply as a means to gain the immaterial acceptance of those insipid wastrels to whom the earth currently belonged. Why, by then it would hardly matter that he had been passed over… perhaps.

But in the meantime… "Eh…? I'm sorry, I get what you're saying but I'm more than happy in my current department. I don't have any real interest in the field of forensic research." He twiddled his little finger about in his ear, shifting on the couch as a means to keep his attention focused. "I'm only fourteen you know… I'd much rather be at school than bottled up in one of those musty laboratories."

The older gentleman, who had a bad habit of continuously rubbing his fingers across his bald patch, seemed affronted by the very idea of a teenage boy choosing school over forensic research. "But… but with all due respect; a prodigy such as yourself could be making much more beneficial use of his time. I mean to say with your intellect as it is, I can hardly imagine that you would need to spend another day in a classroom!"

"And with Mitsuki Amamura currently on unspecified sick leave, we couldn't imagine anyone better qualified to fill his shoes. If it is a matter that concerns your parents, I'm sure we could convince them to come around." The dark haired man offered, glancing towards the stairs as though fully intending to stride directly up them and onward into the aforementioned parents room.

"Now, just hold on a minute. My parents have got nothing to do with this. This is my decision. We don't need to go waking them up to help them decide my future for me." The boy said, linking his fingers daintily together and shunting his half sheathed eyes to the side. Of course his parents were not truly upstairs. They had been absent from his life for more than six thousand years. Who knew where they were sleeping or whether that sleep was not permanent? "There are plenty of people, far more better qualified than I, who are more than capable of filling in for Amamura-san. I think I've made myself abundantly clear. So, if you don't mind, could you go away now? I'm expecting company soon."

This seemed an untruthful thing to say (owing to his current demeanor and attire) but it was in fact, anything but. There was indeed company on the way and he could hardly allow these ignorant men to bear witness to it. Suffice to say it would not have been unsatisfying to stand back and simply savor the end results but then there was always the inevitable clean up period… Which wouldn't have been a problem ordinarily but his refrigerator was currently chock full, with not an inch of space to spare. Not room enough for a toe, let alone and entire arm or leg.

Both men jolted to their feet, as though needles had been viciously pushed up into the soft skin of their buttocks. "W-what?!" The balding one exclaimed, pushing his round glasses closer to his eyes. "But… Etsuko-san-!"

The boy groaned, more loudly than he had intended and dipped his head down between his knees, to better express his weariness. "It's too early for this! We can talk about it later, after work if you wanna… but I'm tired and if I've still got another guest to see before I can shuffle off back to bed. Now if you don't mind, please, be on your way! I don't want to have to ask again!"

The two men exchanged uncertain glances, each seeming to question whether or not it was worth remaining and to continue pushing their concept but one look at the boys increasingly deepening expression of irritation seemed to convince them that now wasn't the best time. With a curt bow and hastened apology, they showed themselves out into the dawn's early light, permitting in their departure, the gradual easing of all the muscles within the boys face. He grumbled nonsensically to himself, climbing to his feet and stretching his arms over his head to pop all the bones out of a relaxed position.

"Damn… what unbelievably bad timing! And to think, humans call us the evil ones." The Prince of the Infernal regions smiled to himself as he slowly climbed the stairs and entered into the first bedroom on the right, his now cheerful features thrown into shadow by the candles stationed on the wall behind him. "Oi, did you hear Devuputra-Maya-Mara? They were trying to give me your job!"

The enormous red-haired angel groaned from the corner futon as he lifted away the damp cloth covering his face. "They sure don't waste any time. I only let them know I'd be away late last night. Guys are even more cutthroat than you, your Highness."

The demon Eurynomous smiled as he stuck out his tongue. "And to think I ever doubted such a thing was possible. How are you feeling this morning?"

Mara considered from beneath the white shroud of his facecloth. "Humiliated… seems to sum it up quite adequately."

"Now, now, there's no need to take such a down and out attitude." The petite demon scolded, waving his finger curtly to and fro. "Will out; Hephaestus was bound to win in the end. His cause was greater than your own, considering what was at stake. Be sure to keep your fluids up. I have to speak with his nibs now, so you play quietly while the grown ups talk."

Mara mumbled something that might well have been a curse as he dropped backwards onto the futon, laying the folded cloth over his eyes in order to keep his mana-depleted fever at bay. Eurynomous smiled approvingly at this endearing childlike image as he closed the door, sealing the room in darkness. As he descended down into the lounge area again, he was hardly surprised to find the Master awaiting his presence.

"Do you expect that Mara shall make a full recovery?" His guest asked, bypassing pleasantries entirely. Eurynomous descended the final rung of stairs; crossing the room to seat himself opposite his glamorous sires languishing form.

"I have restored his body. The only residual damage I imagine is his pride."

The Master nodded thoughtfully, one slender leg slung casually over the knee of the other, his bare foot dabbing at the air without purpose. "That Hephaestus… has certainly proven itself to be a veritable hindrance to our progress."

Eurynomous inclined his head; momentarily dislodging the pom-pom adorning his sleeping cap and causing it to sway before his vivid yellow eyes. "Indeed." He took a moment in which to better articulate himself before continuing with his train of thought. "I do hate to quibble with you concerning such matters my Lord but Hephaestus could easily be disposed of, should you choose to ignore the presence of the unborn child growing within his belly." This was an obvious means of phrasing matters, of course but the Cutthroat had hardly earned his reputation by beating about the bush. No, his honorific was bestowed as a means of best demonstrating his forward swinging approach to everything. Why beat about the bush when you could go straight for the throat?

The Master's eyes moved slowly to intercept the Cutthroat's questioning gaze and he left precious little to be misconstrued in as much his expression, as the words that followed. "The innocent is not to be punished for the act of the parent. Have you learnt nothing of my ways by now, Eurynomous? We only act against those whose hands are already steeped in sin. It would be unjust to take Hephaestus' life whilst the infant resides within." He rested back, hands together and languorously settled in his lap. "No, my means through which this unsightly matter shall be resolved is far preferable. You will see for yourself."

There was a sharp dissonance to his words that assured Eurynomous he had no place in further questioning his motives. He had best now agree to it and permit his own concerns to squander. "I have faith in you, my Lord."

The Master respectfully inclined his head. "And I most humbly thank you for your patience. Now, inform me; where does Barron dwell in this tiding?"

"He is currently belayed in the preparing of his hovel, my Lord." Eurynomous conveyed, sipping at his cooling cup of cocoa, simply as a means to occupy himself in this anxious commune. Beneath this deceptively calm veneer however, the Cutthroats blood veritably boiled at hearing that accursed half-breeds name. "According to Mara's words he appears most anxious in receiving his reward."

"Barron…" The Master seemed to muse on his name for some time before deciding what to do with it. "-is easy to understand. As is the insipid Okiko Haruhi, whom he cohabits. They are both driven by predominately carnal vestiges, obsessed with blood and seed." He held out both hands, as if to convey that there was little point in questioning, or even resisting such aberrant infatuations. "I suppose I could ask for no greater envoy, now that my beloved general is lost to me forever."

Eurynomous fervently restrained the wave of jealousy that was threatening to ensconce his senses, instead distracting himself in observing the expressions wrought by his masters' usually serene disposition. "Does it rest so easy with you, my Lord? To grant him capital with that which he desires?"

The farthest right hand corner of the Lord's lip lilted ever so slightly upward, indicative of flagrant emotions stirring erstwhile within. "That detestable Shinigami continues to flout me… I spare no concern as to what Haruhi might wish to exact upon him; so long as the Shukusatsu is firstly removed from his refuse-ridden carcass. Let Barron and Haruhi then do as they wish with what remains."

The Cutthroat demon offered no such indication to suggest he possessed a strong feeling regarding this matter but continued stirring his drink without inclination.

"As you wish. For he is a sinner, is he not?"

"Oh, yes." The Master assured, delicately pressing the pads of his fingers together so that a space was formed between his palms, representative of the dwelling where sin itself forms and fosters. "I would not allow such actions to commence forthwith if it were any other way." Expressionistic lips drew back into a knowing smile as the Lord surveyed the adolescent body and its' ancient host with shrewd eyes. "Does it not please you? To think he will be removed from your path?"

Eurynomous could not meet the Master's eyes without seeming disrespectful and so, he directed his line of sight towards his ankles, hoping the indignant expression he wore was not lost in this. "I'm not certain that I follow your meaning, my Lord."

"Well… correct me if I should speak false but with the Shinigami subtracted from the equation Michael would then be yours for the taking, correct? I do admit…" The Lord's smile extended back to reveal teeth so white they possessed no earthly comparison and his lean fingers caressed a smooth, yet delicately masculine chin. "He looks to be a delicious morsel."

"I'll be sure to leave you a bite." The Cutthroat replied, considering as he did the profound beauty of Michaels vessel, the delectable tenor almost blatantly evident in those dark eyes and perfectly tuned muscles. How ripe his blood must be, so tempting as the fruit of knowledge must have been, when sashayed before the inquisitive eyes of Eve, the Mother of Mankind. So too, did Eurynomous wish to partake of this forbidden nectar, consequences be damned.

The Lord of the Apostles laughed to bear witness to such distraction in the eyes of his most erstwhile advocate. "Be sure that you do! Now, I weary of sitting. Shall we take a walk about your fine residence?"

There was no means with which the Infernal Prince could refuse his Master's request and so, having set down his cup and removed the almost comical sleeping cap, placed himself at the disposal of his Lord. Side by side, they graced the manors long halls and shadowed galleries, her awning rooftops and sweet, unfamiliar scents. They walked in silence for some time and Eurynomous soon came to wonder whether there was anymore to be said, certain, as he was that those matters most essential had not yet been brought to light. It came as almost a relief when, having spent an idle five minutes examining the painting of a blonde haired angelic upon the wall(1), the Lord seemed to find his voice again.

"Oh and Eurynomous? Do commend Devuputra Maya-Mara most highly on his efforts within Muraki manor the night past." The Master's eyes were veiled in shadow and appeared to sink forever awning into endless pools of darkness. "Regardless of how the affair terminated, I would not wish for him to feel that he has disappointed me."

Eurynomous dipped his head in a succinct bow. "I do believe he will be most relieved to hear you say that."

The Lord turned to continue making his way down the darkened hall. "I should hope so. And am I to understand that Asato Tsuzuki had no idea that it was he himself responsible for the conception of those creatures with which he was confronted?"

"If I am to trust what Mara relayed, then I would confirm as much, my Lord." The Cutthroat expressed, having not failed to notice the Master's larger hand sinking into the valley of his spine, where it moved across his cloaked skin in vagrant patterns. "The Shinigami appears to have no idea that it was his own mind from which the Delusions sprang."

An approving murmur fell forth from his Lord's smiling lips and he seemed well satisfied with that which he had heard. "Born from the residue of darkness, lingering from whence he was drawn into the Otherworld… shards falling free and taking those shapes most wondrous and strange… Ah, what a delightful medley! How tortured your mind must be, Tsuzuki!"

"Indeed." Eurynomous said, nodding politely, albeit curtly. He was hoping to continue speaking of such matters, if it would belay the course of other, more unsavory business. "The Hopping Corpse… indicative of restraint and confined suffering, presumably."

They passed by another painting, showing the ravaged impression of a man beneath a tree formed from the split ribcage of a large, herd animal. (2) The depiction had a more than vaguely menacing air about it. The Lord offered it a passing, approving smile before continuing forward with his current train of thought.

"The Hopping Corpse is reminiscent of his time spent institutionalized; confined body and soul to the hospital bed of Muraki manor. But perhaps also… a lingering memory of his sister; confined also by her sickness, unable to care for and protect him. What bitter feelings must have arisen from this memory!"

"And the Bowel Thorn…" Eurynomous continued. "It is true that Mara guided its' actions through nekromantia but even Hephaestus must have understood that its' physical form would disappear just as soon as Asato Tsuzuki was removed from its' presence. What do you suppose would have invoked such a revoltingly beautiful form?"

The Master laughed softly as they emerged once more into the grand profligacy of the living area, caressing dimly by the dawns rose hinted light. "Asato Tsuzuki… spent a great deal of his youth in the rose garden surrounding his home in Tokyo. The trimming of the rose bushes is an ever present theme within his mind, as is the symbol of the female body, that of which he is unfamiliar with." The Underdwellers seated themselves upon the sofa, side by side as deliberately prompted by his Lordship. Eurynomous lingered quietly, expression undetermined and body weight shifted in order to favor the farthest curve of the furniture's bolstering. "The lingering memory of his mother… a woman who obeyed her husband and allowed herself to be taken away, abandoning her children to a life of uncertainty and persecution. Tsuzuki might not recall her… hence the reason the Bowel Thorn's face was concealed but deep down, he understands only that she was a weak, cowering presence… and oh… how he resents her for that. No wonder he visualized her in such a suffering, tortured visage." The Lord momentarily freed his arm from about Eurynomous' side, in order to convey his opened palms towards the ceiling. "Already this is such a glorious manifestation of the minds delusions… I can only imagine what shall arise from the minds of the similarly affected. All so tortured and hateful themselves…"

Further stipulation of the subject was delayed in the admittance of what appeared to be a dark shroud, pushing through the doors at the far end of the hall. This unfathomable black tinted fog swept upwards and then spiraled towards the floor, forming into the visage of an eleven year old girl, with flowing blood red hair, solemn eyes and a pinstriped dress with knee high stockings. A wide mouth, suggestive perhaps of a forthright nature, was bowed downward, her eyes directed towards the floor as she curtsied.

"- Begging your forgiveness, master but your honored guest has arrived –"

"Ah, Balban, my love." The Lord's simpering croon sounding all too much like a doting father, coddling his daughter after a hard day at school. "How are your injuries fairing?"

"- Thankyou most kindly for your undeserved concern, my Lord-" Balban said, conveying her meaning in words that came not from those delicately poised lips but rather from behind her placid, doe like eyes, shining with an intelligence far exceeding her physical years. " - I am pleased to report that I am almost fully recovered. Unfortunately, I have not yet gained sufficient strength to maintain intangible form for any length of time –"

The Master smiled patiently. "My darling, that is quite all right. My heart only weeps for the dreadful injury done unto my beautiful new apostle. You be sure to rest and regain your strength. The time of the encroaching darkness is soon upon us and you'll want to be prepared now, won't you?"

The Daemon of Delusion allowed a fleeting smile to caress her youthful features as she again curtsied. "- You are very kind, my Lord. I'll be sure to recover as soon as I am able, so that I may be of use to you again –"

"Very good." His Lordship purred, reseating himself upon the sofa, returning his arm about Eurynomous' slender waist. "Please, show my guest in."

Balban turned upon her toes to call out to someone apparently waiting in the hall just beyond. Having assured herself beyond doubt that she'd gained their attention, she offered one final, fleeting curtsy to her master before stepping out through the doorway, allowing the waiting presence to enter. The Lord rested his index finger and thumb against his temple, unable to suppress the satisfied smile taking persuasive hold of his features when he witnessed first hand the recognizable expression of self-assurance on the face of this, his honored guest.

"Ah, Isaac O'bana. You are a rather difficult undead to get a hold of, don't you know?"

The red haired man smiled plaintively. "I do apologize. If I had known right away that the messenger you sent was in fact seeking me out on your behalf, I might not have been behaved so forcefully. I do hope the poor fellows recovery is speeding right along."

"Indeed." The Lord mused, running a finger thoughtfully across his lower lip. "I see you are as unremittingly cheerful as ever."

"And you, my Lord are ever just as observant. How might I be of assistance to you?"

As far as servitile undead went, his Lordship had to admit that Isaac O'bana was by far the most insolent and unmanageable of the lot. Still, it could hardly be helped in these bleak circumstances. The job for which he was required was, quite literally, one that only he could complete.

"I am in need of your particular skills to deal with what has become a rather disorderly impediment to the brigade's advancement."

"My particular skills?" The Germanic gentleman raised his left hand brow, offering a crooked smile in the same beat. "Why do I get the feeling you're not referring to my proficiency in the spagyric art's (3) when you say that?"

The Lord sighed, praying for patience as he actively distracted himself from rising aggravation in the continued stroking of Eurynomous' svelte waist. "Isaac, you hold the other end of Hephaestus' lead, which means that right now, you are the only one who commands any means of authority over him."

This time, the expression of Isaac's face was purely sardonic. "I imagine that his Majesty Ashitirote would have better luck than I, having been his patron for several such centuries, no?"

The Lord looked to Isaac with an expression that suggested he best not be so flippant with matters of such gravity. "His Majesties feelings towards Hephaestus remain tinged with affection, dare one might suggest… love even. I understand well that you Isaac, would have no such qualms in dealing a firm hand with it."

"None whatsoever."

"You always were a methodical man, Isaac." The Master established, smiling favorably. "I have always liked that about you."

"Yeah, yeah." Isaac muttered, strolling casually across the room to deposit his behind in the neighboring armchair, legs hanging casually over the armrest. But tell me, what have I to gain from forging this contract?"

Eurynomous shifted slightly to accommodate for his Lords' changing movements, not failing to notice the look of barely disguised humor in the distinguished Underdwellers eyes as he leaned forward to commune with the impertinent Once-Human.

"Straight to the point I see. Very well; what is it that you desire?"

Isaac continued to smile, unwavering in his good cheer. "Well, to be honest I can't say for sure what it is that I want." He picked nonchalantly at a loose thread upon the armchairs expensive thread. "I'm sure I'll think of something as we go along… my needs are simple. If you promise that they will be eventually met, well then, that's good enough for me."

The Lord chuckled in such low countenance that it sent a vibration through the chests of those in his presence. "Well that I can do. Shall we forge the contract then?"

"Yes." The Undead concurred, nodding thoughtfully. "Those terms sound quite agreeable to me."

And so, they drew up a contract:

"I, Isaac O'bana, as the obtainer of the mizuage (4)of Hephaestus the Forger, pledge to restrain the erstwhile actions of the aforementioned former Apostle, in means as such that no mortal harm befalls the aforementioned or harm to the unborn child of which the aforementioned carries. Furthermore, I, Isaac O'bana, shall henceforth act as an agent of Mitkiel and aid his legion in all its' endeavors, as an Apostle of the Spirit Brigade."

- EC -

1. This painting is called 'Angelic Love'. It is by a young girl named Akiane, who is a child prodigy. At 13 years of age she is a phenomenal artistic talent, with a steadfast and devoted belief and love of God. My portrayal of Saki in Dark Adaptation is very similar to how Akiane speaks of her belief and faith and so I very much wanted to make an allusion between them. Akiane painted this particular piece when she was eleven years of age. I like it, essentially because I imagine this is how Seki might look; with golden hair and light brown eyes and a gentle, wholesome expression. I believe this painting is hanging in the home of Eurynomous because of Saki/Pandora.

2: In direct contrast to 'Angelic Love' is this unnamed painting by the artist Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon's artwork inspired a number of events in Dark Adaptation, in particular the warehouse scene, where Tsuzuki and Watari encounter a number of skinned corpses hanging from the ceiling. This picture is suggestive of where Eurynomous' may have gotten the idea to construct a room as such. It was painted in 1946 and is recognized as one of Bacon's masterpieces. For those interested, this piece and many others of the same ire can be found be found simply be doing a name search on google.

3: Spagyric art's From the Greek words meaning to separate and join together. If I were to stop being a smart-ass for a second, I could just tell you that it refers to the science of alchemy and its' various processes. But this may not be precisely what Isaac means!

4: Mizuage: Surely you guys know what this means! Mizu – the Japanese word for 'water' and 'age' to 'rise up on'. It is mostly used in reference to geiko and means of course 'virginity', or the act of sexual intercourse with a virgin. There are various interpretations but I think you guys have got the gist of it!


Watari: Hey! How much more screen time do Tsuzuki and Mad-Eye get anyway? Come on! I wanna see what's happening between 'Ri and I!

Hickok: (Still bubbling unintelligibly from sofa) That's the next chapter. It just needs a little more fine-tuning. Be patient.

Watari: It'll be another five months before you get finished with it!

Hickok: Right, that's it. (Sits up angrily) You just lost the possible lemon scene I was going to give you.

Watari: What? Waaaaaaaaaaaah, no Hickok! I take it back, I didn't mean it! I wanna have more lemon time with Ri!

Muraki: I think you've had more than enough hanky-panky time with Oriya, Mr. Watari.

Watari: Like I care what you think! You got to have two chapters of lemon with Tsuzuki!

Muraki: So did you and Oriya.

Watari: It was in the same update. It didn't count!

Count: In so saying, I can hardly imagine why the two of you are complaining. I for one have had no lemon scene at all!

All: (Ignores him)

Count: Hey! Don't treat me like Tatsumi!


Hickok: (Scratches head unintelligibly) Now, there were a few other things I was going to mention here but damned if I can remember what they are… Oh yes, now I recall! Credit must go to a book I just read recently called 'Bring me Children', in which the antagonist character was a psychotic doctor with glass eyes. The way he spoke and interacted with people reminded me so much of Muraki! This wonderful characterization influenced much of the way in which I now write Muraki, so kudos there!

Muraki: I object! That doctor was utterly despicable! He carved people's eyes out with a spoon and brutally tortured them to death!


Muraki: … Why are you all staring at me like that?

Hickok: (Clears throat) Any who… what else…? Ah yes, this is incredibly important, so I do hope that all my readers are paying attention!

Oriya: Most of them have already hit the back button now they reached the end of the chapter.

Tsuzuki: I would have done it before then!

Hickok: SHUT-UP BASTARDS! (Throws used tissues at aforementioned bishounen)

Tsuzuki: (Screams, falling on his ass in an attempt to get away from the snotty tissues) OMG that is SO gross! Get em away, get em awaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Oriya: (Holds Watari in front of himself as a shield)

Watari: (Happy) I'll be a meat-shield for you, any day, 'Ri! (Takes a hit of dirty tissues square in the face) Although… this might really be testing the bonds of our relationship…

Hisoka: What's the important announcement, Hickok? You might wanna put it in bold if it's really that significant.

Hickok: Right you are, Hisoka! That's why you're the brains of this outfit! (Switches to bold) As of some months ago, all the earlier chapters of Dark Adaptation have undergone an extreme facelift!

Saki: (Reading from a prompter in a very stiff, totally fake voice) Why, whatever do you mean, Hickok?

Hickok: Why I'm so glad you asked, Saki! What I mean is that all the earlier chapters have been rewritten in order to suit my current standards.

Watari: Wait! Does this mean the storyline has changed?

Hickok: … Only very slightly. However, the chapters are now more in-depth and new scenes have been added that before did not exist! Oh and Watari; you and Oriya now don't kiss until the night after you almost get raped by the guys in the alley.

Watari: WHAT?! That's such a long time to wait for Oriya's lips!

Oriya: Actually, I do believe I prefer it this way. It adds more depth to my character and seems more realistic.

Muraki: You just like it because it makes you seem less cheap and perverted.

Oriya: So sue me for wanting to preserve my refined image.


Hickok: Ah shut-up! There's heaps more material to read, so it's all good! It just means readers might have to go back and read over the earlier chapters.

Tatsumi: Is this why it has taken you so long to update these newer chapters, Hickok? Because you were working on the earlier additions also?

Hickok: (Nods) Mmm-hmm. That's right. Anyway, the new additions are not up yet because I'm still finishing up as I go along but I'll keep you updated on my progress on my Bio page. I'll tell you when the chapter has been re-posted and what additional scenes, if any, have been added to it.

Tsuzuki: Sounds like a lot of work!

Hickok: It's mostly just to satisfy myself, sweetness. I want it to be the best possible story I can write! (Claps hands together) With that all being said, thankyou as always for joining me on this, the update, dear readers! If you enjoyed, please leave a review, if you did not enjoy, please leave me alone. Next time we return to Kokakuro! What secrets has Ichibana been hiding? Why is there a cop hanging around? And what's going to happen to Watari now he's disobeyed a direct order from Enma? I hope I'll see you all there! Until then; take care crossing the road, don't swallow chewing gum and call your mother; she worries. Adios, sayonara, fare the well and tallyho! (Crawls back into bed with a hot water bottle and a cauldron of chicken soup)

Watari: (Looking suspiciously at Ichibana) What secrets exactly have you been hiding from me, Ichibana?

Ichibana: (Eating sardine flavored cookies) Not until the update, blondie!