Looking completely defeated, Ryo rested his head against the doorframe. “Say it.”
“Looks exactly like the one used to strike Kamenashi’s horse on the way here.”
“WHAT?!?! Why the bloody hell is this new to me?!?!” Tegoshi fumed.
Waving over a soldier, Kame feigned distress, “Go to my room and look everywhere, especially the drawers. Find a shuriken at all costs.”
“We wanted to keep quiet,” Ryo closed his eyes, “but before we even had time to start any investigation, this,” hepointed at the carnage, “happened.”
“That’s not the point,” Maru had his book open. “The point is who did this? The culprits behind the horse case or,” he stared at Kame, “the secret service themselves.”
“Woah Nakamaru-sama, you’re getting ahead of yourself,” Kame stepped back, “I’m not the only secret serviceman here. And besides, I’m on hiatus for now.”
“I don’t care who did this,” Junno suddenly looked up from Tatsuya, “I want this scene completely open to the population of this resort.”
“Excuse me Your Majesty,” Ryo cut in, “but are you floozy in the head?”
“I’m betting they have accomplices here,” Junno carried on, “if they did it, what’s the point of hiding what they already know? If the secret service did it, then we best let the assassinators see what we are capable of. I want to call their bluff, catch one, and extort some antidote before time runs out. NOW DO IT!!” Junno lost his cool again, much to Maru’s chagrin.
Koki cleared up a bit, “I’ll organize it now, as well as background checks.” He stumbled off, brushing shoulders with the guard who went to search Kame’s room.
“Reporting, no shuriken was found in Kamenashi-dono’s room”
“Looks like someone went through my room,” he shrugged, before getting dragged into a corner by Ryo.
“What in the damn world were you thinking?” Ryo hissed quietly, “how many people here could pull something like this and not leave a trace?!? You’re asking to be suspected baka!”
“Do I care?” Kame adjusted his collar coolly, “I get orders, I carry them out nicely. I’m responsible like that. And besides, I sent the package off so they can’t say much now can they?”
“Jin,” Tegoshi pulled him to one side, “What’s going on between those two?”
“Beats me,” Jin answered, “bear in mind it was Ryo who gave the missing shuriken to Kame in the first place….”
“……No way.” Ryo… what are you getting yourself tangled in? What are you doing without me?
Having decided that standing at the scene of a bloody murder wasn’t doing Tatsuya any good, Junno carried him back to their room. Laying the empress carefully on a futon, Junno tucked him in and sat silently, observing every Tatsuya’s every precious breath. Now gasping in short, desperate hicks, Tatsuya’s condition was deteriorating fast and Maru didn’t know what to do about either of the two. Junno’s eyes told him that if anything should happen to the empress, there would be hell to pay.
“Isn’t it time to get a proper doctor Junno?” Maru tread on safe ground, “I can’t do much without even knowing which poison I’m dealing with. Random prescriptions might do her worse than good.”
“I can’t,” Junno held Tatsuya’s hand tightly, “if anyone else finds out about her condition, she’ll get killed for sure. And the chastity….” He looked back at Maru with tearful eyes, “Am I that of a useless ruler?” A drop of liquid fell from Junno’s doe eyes.
“Was.. I… a bit.. harsh?” Tatsuya struggled to keep himself awake, “Sorry.. for.. yell..ing..at you.. before..”
Junno wiped his eyes, “It’s ok Tat-chan, just keep quiet for now.” A well of emotions rose in Junno’s heart, and he couldn’t help but start sobbing again, “You’ll be ok, I promise.”
“I’m tired Your Majesty,” Tatsuya spoke with lidded eyes, “permission to sleep?” he smiled weakly.
“It’s Junno to you from now on. Permanently.”
“Thank you,” Tatsuya closed his eyes completely.
Maru stood up quietly and took his leave to outside the door.
Junno muttered incomprehensible words to himself – they broke down after a while into loud, messy sobs and crying. Blinded by his own tears, Junno sensed a fear he’d never known – Tatsuya was still alive and hanging on by a thread, and he was powerless to reel his own wife in from death’s door. Suddenly growing cold, he huddled himself, never letting go of Tatsuya’s hand, as if it were a dream that could be snatched away at any moment.
In that moment, Jin, Tegoshi and Koki burst through the door with a tightly bound man in shackles.
“Junno!” Koki called out, “I think we have a lead! How’s the empress? You look in bad shape Junno….”
Junno stared back blankly.
“We ran background checks on all the staff and the only one that didn’t make sense was him,” Jin explained, “and when we tried to question him, he tried to kill me.”
“Tried to kill you?” Kame and Ryo stepped in.
“Looks like they got him first Kame,” Ryo sighed, “we thought he got away.”
Ungagging the man, Kame squatted down to his height, “According to my information, you are from Hokkaido. Am I correct in assuming you came here to kill the emperor on the orders of your king?”
Junno’s eyes met with him. Glowing embers in Junno’s eyes lit up as he was pulled from a daze. Pouncing on the man, Junno straddled him in seconds and had his hands on the man’s throat, poised to strangle. Through gritted teeth, Junno demanded, “Antidote.”
“Or what?” the man sneered.
“Or I will have you fed into a furnace from feet end,” Kame replied casually, but with closed fists.
“Please,” Junno’s eyes hadn’t dried, “it’s me you want… she’s innocent.”
“No can do.”
Junno’s pupils dilated and his grip weakened.
“I’m immune to the poison so why would I carry antidote with me?”
“Oh really?” Kame crooned, “So you wouldn’t mind taking this?” He produced a pack of white powder.
“Not at all.”
“You really are immune?” Junno got off the man slowly.
“Do your worst.”
Kame acted on the challenge. In a flash, he drew his katana and slashed a neat line across the front of the man’s throat. A thin line emerged, spitting a slightly off white spray into Kame’s face. The man’s surprised face remained as he stopped breathing. Wiping his sword off with a hanky, Kame sheathed it.
“This way it’s cleaner,” he shrugs, while the entire room looked on in horror.
“KAMENASHI KAZUYA THIS IS PREPOSTEROUS!!” Maru yelped, “WE HAVEN’T EVEN QUESTIONED HIM PROPERLY!!!”
“To save a life,” Kame picked up the body and set it beside the futon.
“What are you trying to do?” Junno staggered towards the same place.
Blankly, Kame held up the dead man’s wrist and produced a small dagger. “Regardless of whether he was lying or not, what’s the harm in trying? And one body will only last a day anyway, I prefer him healthy and not drugged.” The dangerous flash returning to his eyes, Kame simply slit open the wrist and rested Tatsuya’s head on his lap, dribbling a steady stream of red juice into the empress’ mouth.
Jin slammed the door and made a furious exit.
Looking up from his job, Kame reported, “None of you have to watch if you don’t want to.”
Speechless to the sheer bloodthirstiness, Koki, Maru and Ryo bowed out.
“Tatsuya would rather die than have someone do this,” Tegoshi spat. He stood up and walked in Kame’s direction to push him away but was tugged back by Junno.
“Let him do it.”
An hour later, a drained-looking Kame emerged from the room, carrying an equally drained corpse. Throwing it to a couple of guards, Kame let out a yawn and stretched his arms with a stiff expression. “It’s the best I can do for now Your Majesty,” he said to Junno, who was sitting miserably at the door, “Everything else is dependent on her luck.”
Jin stepped out from the bushes where he and the other men were having tea. He roughly grabbed Kame’s arm, “Excuse us Junno.” Leading (more like harassing) Kame around the nearest corner, Jin broke into a run. There was an unsettling nausea in his stomach that something wasn’t right about this seemingly naïve but bloodthirsty boy next to him. Stopping at the resort gardens, Jin didn’t let go of Kame’s wrist.
“Let go Akanishi-san.”
“Did you kill those two?”
“Hah?” Kame feigned ignorance.
“ANSWER ME!!!” Jin hollered. He needed to know badly.
“What if I did? What if I didn’t?” Kame freed his wrist forcefully, “Will your view of me change if I deny it? Why are you sure that I even did it?”
“It’s your eyes. Your eyes are different. They draw me in and I drown in them,” Jin sank down, “sometimes they are pleasant ripples but other times, they turn into red turbulence and they scare me. Who are you?”
“Why do you need to know?” Kame whispered.
“I don’t want to care so much about a cold blooded killer!”
Kame swallowed. “Care about me?!?!” he lashed around at Jin, “Nobody apart from Tatsuya even trusts me!! I’ll tell you right now, she never asked for more than I was willing to say. She let me do whatever I wanted; she trusted me with her most dangerous secret AND she doesn’t mind that I’ve seen some blood in my life. YOU,” he pointed, “are a bloody hypocrite.”
“Then why do you pay so much attention to what I think of you?” Jin poked Kame’s flustered cheek with his index finger. He smiled cheekily at the tantrum throwing secret service agent.
“W-w-whatever,” Kame stuttered, “don’t get too up yourself just because you have a nice face.” He brushed Jin’s hand away.
“S-S-SURE!” Jin mimicked Kame’s stutter dramatically, “one of these days though, you’ll grow to like me.”
Blushing, Kame flounced away with as much poise as he could muster, cursing.
In the royal room, Tatsuya lay sweating like mad on his futon. Junno took the responsibility of tucking him in every time he so much as moved - and with the heat, Tatsuya had two choices: to either keep lying in the futon and roast, or flip open the blankets to get cool and have Junno panic then start crying again. He chose number one.
The poor emperor was on edge with his emotions. On one hand, he couldn’t bring himself to quite trust the empress who gladly took a poisoning for him, but one the other, seeing her in pain made him want to die. She’s beautiful, but then, I’ve seen so many beautiful people in my life… like in the mirror. Heh, bad joke…… Why do I feel so stupid right now-
Junno was disturbed from his thoughts when Tatsuya moved slightly, causing a corner of his blanket to flick up. In a flash, Junno had tucked it in tightly and was frantically smoothing out every crease he could see on the blanket. In pain but still very much amused, Tatsuya gave out a small chuckle.
See? Why do I feel so giddy when she does that!? Junno yelled at himself. Maybe because she looks like a fairy when she smiles… AAARGGHH!!! You’re not actually married to her!! Ganbatte ore!! Junno ruffled his own hair in frustration.
“You look like you are in more pain than I am,” Tatsuya tried to liven up the atmosphere (and hopefully get Junno to forget about the darn blanket tucking), “please do remember that we’re not actually, you know?”
Another fresh wave of panic spread through Junno’s chest without explanation. “Shh,” he hushed, “nothing’s really been decided yet so don’t worry about it. Just get better okay?”
Nothing’s been decided? What does he mean? He should know we’re not actually married. Tatsuya was getting confused. “Did you find the antidote?” he asked, trying to give himself some time to contemplate his own situation.
Junno stayed silent. What do I tell him? Yes, because Kame just drained someone’s blood to save you? And that I allowed that? Because no matter what, I didn’t want to see you hurt for even a second? That the antidote could probably been found but I didn’t wait? That I was such a selfish bastard that I allowed Kame to be so atrocious? And disgust you? Hell no.