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Forever SK (08)

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Oct. 25th, 2014 | 03:18 pm

Previous: chap07

* * EIGHT * *

[ Core, the Palace ]

The Mages surrounding the Palace paused as one cohesive body. A single thought was shared among them. Although dispersed around the Courts of Core, they turned to look at the comrade who was closest to them.

One among them, the Holder of Heat and Wrath, called one name, "His Essence."

The Mage of Steel who stood closest to him closed his eyes in relief and his stiff shoulders relaxed at last. "Our duty here is done," he said.

They had never laid eyes on the intruder and if the man even existed, most of them would never know, but their Guardian had called on them and dismissed them and they did not have the means to question him.

Outside the gates of the Palace, near the very walls where Nakamura Kenji had climbed in, the Mage of Sleep and Dreams tilted her head back to stare up at the central star in the sky.

"Will the Star rise tomorrow?" she asked quietly to no one.

I was selfish.

Will my people ever forgive me?

Kazunari, I lied. One day, I'll have to let you go.

Will you forgive me?

[ Earth ]

In the darkness where he had run to in order to forget the pain, Kazunari then struggled to leave. He didn't want to be here, alone. He wanted to see Jun.

Even though the memory of pain and promises of agony awaited him, and his limbs were weighed down with fatigue, he crawled out, trying to leave behind the darkness because out there was where Jun was.

[ Tokyo ]

After two hours, the voices around Jun were beginning to fade in and out of his hearing. He couldn't concentrate and having the same thing repeated over and over made listening even more difficult.

"...serial killer..."

"...the first attack..."

"...tracked to your hotel...."

"...murdered the staff of La Vie Cafe...."

"...broke into your room..."

"...chased to the alley..."

"...your cousin and an unidentifiable lump of charred remains..."

"Matsumoto, are you certain he's the serial killer?"

The clear question cut through the fog in Jun's mind. He'd been slumped forward in his chair for the last half hour and reluctantly straightened to address it. The Idol rubbed his face, exhausted from his ordeal, and answered for the fifth and final time, "Yes, I'm certain he's the man that broke into our room."

The detective who had been questioning him sat back with a sigh. Under his breath, he muttered, "But where did that flash of lightning come from? Is this the Gods' punishment?" His eyes flickered to Jun and registered the exhaustion on the Idol's face. He sighed again, as fed up with the mystery as Jun was tired. "Right. I'm sorry. We're done here. You can leave."

Jun stood, trying not to stumble in his weariness, and bowed to the detective. He stepped out from the office and made his way through the police station. His manager who'd been waiting against a wall fell into step beside him and slowed their pace down.

"There are reporters outside," she whispered. "Don't say anything."

Jun closed his swollen eyes and nodded.

"I've cleared your schedule," she told him. "You're on that break that you wanted. Since we don't even know where Sakurai-san is, Storm will officially be on an indefinite hiatus."

"Thanks," Jun said to his manager and tried to smile at her. "You're a life saver."

She looked him over in concern, knew him enough to understand the effort that it cost him to smile. "I'm sorry I'm not of much help, Matsumoto-san."

"You've done enough," Jun assured her as they reached the exit.

At the glass doors, they stopped as flashes blinded them. Reporters with microphones and cameras crowded the front steps outside the station. The two of them observed the crowd, unprepared to dive into the chaos, but knew they didn't have much choice. Jun pulled on the hood of his jacket and dark sunglasses.

At his side, his manager quietly told him, "I overheard snippets of conversation while I waited for you. I think it's in your best interest to know what I learned."

The Idol touched the handle of the door, readying himself to push it open and jump into the fray. "Is it that important?" he asked, weary of everything. He just wanted to head straight to the hospital and see Kazunari.

His manager nodded. She whispered even lower than before, "It's about your cousin."

On the other side of the city, Fuji Tohru reread a particular article from the daily newspaper twice. Under the glaring headlines of a dead serial killer (miraculously struck dead and burned to a crisp by godly lightning) his enemy had been mentioned: Matsumoto Jun from the duo idol group, Storm, had been among the serial killer's list of victims and had been attacked in his hotel. His cousin (to be unnamed), who had been staying with him, suffered from severe injuries and was currently in intensive care while due to the shock of his attack, Matsumoto would go on hiatus until further notice.

Tohru threw away the paper. As much as he was horrified and a little glad to have the idol out of his way, he was unhappy to revise the plans he had made meticulously. He couldn't meet with that country bumpkin now. He wasn't even sure if Jun's cousin would make it through. Tohru was not evil enough to wish death on him, but at the same time he angrily leaned back in his chair to think over the new situation. Would he let this unfortunate event affect his plans for Matsumoto?

I'll sit back and wait, he decided. Matsumoto's on indefinite hiatus. Mine will forget about him if I just wait.

Mine happened to pass by in that moment and picked up the paper he'd flung away from him in his frustration. She glanced down at the newspaper. "What're you so angry about, Tohru?"

[ Core ]

Masaki rested curled up on his side on top of the dead grass in his garden, his one arm tucked underneath his head. He stirred from his exhaustion induced sleep and kept his swollen eyes closed. He didn't want to look, didn't want to see anything that would remind him of his failure. He knew it was impossible to escape from reality, but just for a moment longer he wanted to rest.

Unbidden, the thoughts came to him anyway. He wondered how the other Mages were doing, if they had come across the intruder yet, if they had managed to secure the Palace from invasion. He wondered where Sho was; the person who had run from him and he chased while holding on to these feelings that had woken in him. He wondered about Satoshi; his beloved Guardian and the one that mattered the most to the land. Then he thought about Kazunari, his best friend, the one who understood him most. He wondered where Kazunari was and if his friend had really gone to Sho's world, Earth.

A droplet of water fell on his cheek. His eyelids felt heavy from his prolonged explosion of tears, but he opened them anyway. He gasped at what he saw and struggled to stand. Crouched down beside him, Satoshi watched him fumble until the Caretaker finally settled down on his knees and leaned to take a closer look at him. Then Masaki burst into tears again. The Guardian was awake.

"I'm sorry," Masaki cried, everything he'd done overwhelming him once more. He impulsively embraced Satoshi and when he felt his Guardian hold him back, his heart clenched and he cried harder knowing his own failures. Everyone in Core had been right. He did not deserve to be here by their Greatest Overseer's side.

Satoshi held him until the worst of Masaki's sobs subsided. "I'm glad you're my Caretaker, Masaki," the Guardian said, his voice shaking from his own unshed tears. "Because you're my friend. You took a little bit of the loneliness away."

Masaki nodded against his shoulder, unable to speak through his sobs.

"I'm really glad Kazunari and I had you," His Essence continued. "You remind us of why we love Core."

Gathering his breath to speak, Masaki loosened his hold of the Guardian and pulled back to look into Satoshi's face. "But the intruder," he started.

The Guardian nodded his understanding of the unspoken question. "All wandering souls have returned to the Land."

Masaki did not comprehend his words, but Satoshi's assurance was enough. "I lost Sho," he confessed. He clutched at his chest with a hand, his heart heaving from just having mentioned the Idol's name.

Satoshi released the Caretaker and they finally pulled apart. As he moved back, the Guardian frowned, his lower lip pursed with a troubled expression on his face. "I'll tell you where you can find him, but I want you to help me first."

Concerned by the frown on Satoshi's face, Masaki's own brows creased in worry and he asked, "What's wrong?"

Satoshi placed his own hand over his heart. "I don't know what happened. Last time Kazunari might have been in trouble and he took life from me. This time... this time, he did not call for me. Masaki, I can't feel him."

The Caretaker had always understood the unique Bond between the twins and to hear Satoshi mention such a loss alarmed him, but the first part of the Guardian's explanation confused him even more.

"What do you mean he took life from you?" Masaki asked.

The Guardian shook his head, refusing to say more. "I don't know what happened to Kazunari, Masaki. What am I going to do?"

The Caretaker sat back on his heels and his thoughts raced for an answer he already knew, an answer that Satoshi also knew but had waited for him to say, to agree to. He took a shuddering breath, felt his gut wrench from the pain of having to speak the truth. Each word that escaped from Masaki's mouth pierced him.

"Kazunari went to Sho's world, didn't he?" he asked. "You're going to bring Kazunari back?" He struggled to breathe, to speak, and the words that he said crushed him. "You have to send Sho back to his world."

[ the Blue Lake ]

First, the Mage of Air and Breath left and then the Mage of Creation left him also after turning to look at him with sorrowful eyes, but not daring to speak.

Unlike them, Sho could not think of leaving. He had nowhere to go anyway, unless he wanted to find his way to the Palace again from the Blue Lake, but he had run out of Masaki's food pills and while the days of travel had made him stronger, the weariness was also catching up to him.

For a while, Sho sat by the edge of the Blue Lake and thought about many things. He wondered about Jun and how his partner was taking his sudden disappearance. He wondered if his parents had been notified and if they had worn themselves out with worry. He thought about the assistant who had confessed to him, and how in his frustration Sho had laughed back at him instead of handling the situation calmly like an adult.

He remembered learning about what Kenji had done, destroying an entire village, and wondered how he had naively believed he'd be able to find and amicably confront someone like that. Sho had made too many rash decisions during his time here and before, and he wished the last of it would be his selfish desire to run away from Masaki. Whether the Caretaker would hate him or not, it was Sho's responsibility to bear it.

The Idol peered into the water and saw his own blue reflection stare back at him, as had been since Satoshi's power left the Lake. His fingers skimmed the surface of the water and the temperature was cool; aside from the color, it was like any normal lake on Earth. The last time he'd had a bath had been at the village Masaki took him to.

For the first time since he'd arrived in Core, Sho thought rationally and clearly. He needed sleep and sustenance. He wanted to be clean. He did not have food, but the others he could do. He decided he'd take a bath then find a place to rest. If by the time he woke up Satoshi did not speak to him, he'd try to call the Guardian. He'd try to figure out how to reach Masaki.

The plans determined, Sho stripped off the tunic and pants the villagers had given him. Completely naked, he waded slowly into the Blue Lake. The crisp coolness of the water caused him to shudder, but he did not stop moving deeper into the Lake until the waters reached his chest. He did not move to wash himself. Instead, the Idol tipped his body back until the back of his head and shoulders touched the water and he stared blankly up at the dark sky with its stars and no moon. Only the stars lit the dark night, sparking so intensely their glow would've outshone the Earth's moon.

Masaki said they have both day and night here, he thought. Will the day ever come? Remembering the Caretaker caused Sho's gut to wrench and he also remembered, all too vividly, the taller man's pain that Satoshi had shown to him.

Sho's determination wavered. Should I call Satoshi before I go to sleep? Maybe Sho didn't deserve to be forgiven. Maybe he deserved to be suffering. But he missed the Caretaker too much to contemplate never seeing him again. Even if it was just for one last time, he wanted to see Masaki.


For one moment, the Idol thought his mind was playing tricks on him. The Caretaker's voice calling his name must be his imagination, created by his mind from the intensity of his longing. It couldn't be real.

Then he heard a splash in the water and in shock he stood upright and clumsily turned around, the water dragging against his body making his movements seem excruciatingly slow. He turned just in time to face Masaki as he was pulled into an embrace, to feel strong arms wrap around him and feel Masaki's fingers touch his bare skin. Sho's head fit snugly under Masaki's chin and he inhaled deeply as he heard through the taller man's shirt his racing heart similar to Sho's very own.

The Idol couldn't speak, couldn't explain himself or ask for forgiveness. He clung to the Caretaker's warmth, the way their bodies touched and came together, separated by only Masaki's thin shirt. He did not want this moment when he finally understood the preciousness of holding on to this one person, the person that had touched his heart, to be ruined by words that could not convey how he felt.

This is your heart as well, Satoshi had told him. The Idol knew with absolute certainty in that moment.

Masaki pulled back and the thoughts weaving through Sho's head faded into obscurity. He watched, enchanted, as Masaki craned his beautiful head framed by the dark sky and glittering stars, Masaki leaned down. Slowly, their breaths came together, ghosted against each other's lips. Then their lips locked and for the prolonged moment afterwards their heated touches and beating hearts were all that mattered.

Masaki moved them towards the shore and Sho did not feel confused or revulsion, not like the times when he had felt trapped in the room as a young adult or trapped in his apartment with Kenji. After all the time he'd spent running away, he finally knew.

Their bodies overlapped and aligned. They spoke no words, understood without saying anything how important this was to the both of them. As one they reached fulfillment.

Masaki pressed his face along Sho's nape against his damp skin and remained there, his weight pressing down on the Idol. "I don't want to let you go," he whispered.

Sho embraced the Caretaker, reassured by the pressure on top of him, and although he did not know the significance behind what Masaki said, the sadness in the other man's voice melted against the happiness he'd just found. He turned his head and pressed his lips to Masaki's temple, staying close and afraid to move, to lose what he realized he wanted to hold on to forever.

[ Earth, Tokyo ]

Jun and his manager had plowed through the reporters and made it to her car in one piece. While she drove them to the hospital, he refused to snatch a bit of sleep in the car, concerned over the information she had promised him before they left the police station. But his manager had refused to relay the information until she had safely parked.

They reached the parking lot of the hospital a while later and sat in her car as she prepared, with a bit of hesitation, to tell her talent what she had overheard concerning his cousin.

"You know that the staff of La Vie had been murdered by the serial killer," she started and Jun was too tired to nod, but he listened and she continued. "The detectives speculated that the killer had most likely been led there by your cousin. Your cousin visited the cafe in the afternoon."

"It's not true," Jun weakly protested, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the window pane. "He wouldn't leave the room."

"He left, Matsumoto. It was caught on tape. The security footage from La Vie had your cousin entering and sitting with Fuji Tohru. They were confirmed to have been in discussion for a while."

Jun's expression remained passive, smooth, as she revealed the truth behind her concern, but unknown to anyone but him his gut had clenched and in that second he swallowed painfully. His eyes remained close and his head still pressed against the glass.

"Kazunari with Fuji," he repeated as if entranced.

"Matsumoto, did you not guess or suspect their relationship?" his manager asked him.

I did not know, Jun thought and couldn't say because feelings of doubt mixed with the concern he had for Kazunari and clogged his throat. He took a deep breath and then another. His mind worked over the information. Kazunari knew Tohru, his enemy, and had even met with him when Jun was absent. The truth and its implications sent his mind reeling.

He was tired. He shouldn't think. He should seek out Kazunari first and at least check if the smaller man would be recovering. First, he should do just that.

Jun fumbled for the latch and opened the car door. He stumbled out.

"Matsumoto!" his manager called after him.

Jun ignored her and staggered into the hospital lobby. As if all of his ill conclusions were coming together, he saw Mine and Tohru approach in his direction. The immediate coincidence shocked him and Jun barely managed to hide behind a wall before they looked up. He leaned wearily against the wall as the couple moved closer to his spot unaware of his presence.

"Why are we leaving?" Mine pestered her boyfriend.

"Stop it, Mine!" Tohru commanded under his breath. "Your Kaze's on his way here. We've stayed long enough."

"I want to see, Jun-kun!" Mine protested. "Let's wait."

Tohru scowled at her. "We won't! I'm not going to get caught trying to speak to the country bumpkin."

"Eh? You said you knew Jun-kun's cousin and just wanted to check in on him. Why do you want to speak to him, Tohru?" Mine demanded, latching on to his arm. "That's not fair when you won't let me even see Kaze."

"It's between him and me. It's none of your concern," Tohru snapped at her in his frustration.

"You're not being fair," Mine pouted as they passed Jun and out the hospital doors.

Alone, the Idol swayed on his feet and crouched down to stabilize himself. It's not true. This isn't right. But despite his denials, feelings of betrayal crushed him. It was too much for him; everything. He grasped his chest and concentrated on breathing, on remaining sane.

[ Core ]

In the Chamber of Souls, Satoshi knelt in the center. His right hand stayed over his heart. He touched his head to the ground again and again.

"Forgive me. I did wrong, Father. Forgive me. Please, forgive me," he murmured. He repeated the words over, quietly begging for forgiveness, his knees aching.

At last, the chamber darkened and closed him in absolutely; the darkness bottomless and endless. The specter Counsel surrounded him, unhappy and frustrated; merciless.

"Forgive me," Satoshi repeated. "I did wrong."

(( Impossible! )) the souls screamed.

(( You will not use the Key! ))

"I'm sorry," the Guardian said.

(( Your duty is to Core! ))

(( You must protect Core! ))

Satoshi continued to press his hand to his heart. "I do not know where Kazunari is. He does not call me. I need to bring him back. I did wrong."

(( You MUST NOT! ))

The command echoed in Satoshi's ears. He flinched, but bowed his head again and again, his own frustration and pain overwhelming him, burdening him along with the words of the previous Guardians of Core.

(( You MUST NOT turn the Key! ))

Above the relentless onslaught of commands, the passionless voice of his dead Father rose. Satoshi recognized it and the heartlessness of his Father's next command destroyed the willpower he had held on tightly to confront them.

(( Kill him! Let him DIE! ))

The voices of the specter Counsel filled in. (( Restore your full power, Guardian! ))

Satoshi bowed his head, still clutching his heart, and wept. I cannot. Father, I cannot do it. I want Kazunari to be happy. Even without me, I need Kazunari to be happy.

(( Guardian, your duty is to Core! ))

(( Guardian! )) the specters bellowed, calling him, pressuring him.

The Guardian cried into his hands and then when he could no longer withstand their merciless commands, he covered his ears and clenched shut his eyes. "Begone," he whispered. "Leave me."

The angry souls of the previous Overseers faded away. The darkness flowed into one and the Chamber of Souls lightened; defined, leaving him alone in the center once more.

"I know I'll have to let him go," he murmured to them and more to himself. "But not like this. Not until I know he's ready to leave me."

[ the Blue Lake ]

They held each other for a while longer and enjoyed the dark sky and the ripples of the Blue Lake washing over their legs. Tired by his travels and their time together, Sho dosed in Masaki's arms until he could not stand the other man's weight on him anymore. Then he roused himself, still tired but not wanting to sleep when he'd just met Masaki again.

They washed and dressed. Sho tried to speak, tried to explain why he had run away and ask about Nakamura Kenji, but Masaki stopped him.

"It doesn't matter anymore," the Caretaker told him. "I don't want to waste time on that. I want to show you something." He pulled Sho along by their entwined hands, but to his surprise the Idol stalled him.

Embarrassed, Sho looked at their hands and tried to not sound so weak. "I can't walk anymore," he confessed. He squared his shoulders and straightened his back as he caught Masaki's eyes. "I've been walking for days and then I sat on a monster that was as hard as a rock. And then--and then you and I, we..."

They blushed together, remembering, but Masaki smiled and Sho's eyes lit up when he saw it. He had believed he'd never see it again and to be the one that smile was directed to pleased him and caused his heart to skip a beat.

"I like your smile," Sho confessed, feeling a little stupid for saying it so openly.

"Thanks," Masaki said, blushing harder but also smiling more broadly and Sho did not regret stating his true feelings at all. "Can I carry you?" the Caretaker finally asked. "I really want to show you something."

Sho frowned. Ever since his arrival in Core, he'd been carried so much, first by Masaki and then by beastly creatures, he'd never wished to be carried again. But it was the other man's wish and he decided he'd do anything as long as it made the latter happy.

Having made up his mind, he conceded, "Okay."

Masaki crouched down in front of him and Sho clumsily climbed onto his back, feeling like a unbending stick and a big oaf at the same time. He wrapped his arms around Masaki's shoulders, glad to be hugging the taller man again, and looked around them at the Blue Lake and the plains.

"Where are we going?" Sho asked.

Masaki hitched him up higher on his back. "Hold on tight," he said. Without answering Sho's question, he walked away from the Blue Lake and towards the forests in the far distance.

Sho leaned against him, surprised that he felt comfortable and relaxed, knew that along the way during his travels with Masaki he had long become used to the Caretaker's dependable back. He laid his head against Masaki's shoulders and his exhaustion caught up to him again. He slept, assured that Masaki was with him.

[ Earth ]

Jun took some time to recollect himself and by the time he was ready, he had allowed coldness to overwhelm all emotions. By distancing himself, he found a way to balance the mix of emotions that had clamored into his heart.

The coldness of his expression did not leave his face when he stepped into Kazunari's room moments later, but he could not hide his surprise to see the smaller man awake and blinking straight at him. Kazunari lay immobile on his hospital bed, a sorry sight. From his chest to his waist, he was entirely wrapped in bandages and hooked to an array of machines. The doctor had even warned Jun about amputating Kazunari's left arm in case. He had not even considered that the patient would wake.

Jun saw that the anesthetic was wearing off and that pain was starting to cloud the smaller man's eyes. He realized that the knowledge pained him as well, despite the iciness of his exterior.

"Why are you awake?" the Idol snapped, feeling self-disgust at his own harsh tone of voice. "Last time you slept in a coma for a few days."

Kazunari frowned at him, wondering why he was angry, and struggled through the fog in his mind to speak. "For Jun," he managed to croak out between chapped lips, from beyond the drowsiness that clung to him.

The memory of Jun with him, of his nearness, his presence, had forced through even the darkness in Kazunari's mind and he had fought through exhaustion and pain to consciousness. He wanted to see Jun. Even if Satoshi was not here, Jun was. That was all that had mattered to him in his moments of hopelessness in the alley.

But the Prince saw Jun's brows draw together and he recognized something in the Idol's eyes he had thought, had previously confirmed, was not true. It was not right because Jun did not hate him.

"You lie," Jun grounded out between clenched teeth. "Maybe you were waiting for someone else."

Kazunari's breath hitched, felt his heart clench and pain spread through his body. The beat of the cardiac monitor registering his pulse jumped at an abnormal pace. He was too tired to move, to think, to even become angry and yell at the Idol for accusing him, but the conscious part of his brain registered Jun's anger at him and confused him deeply. He could not understand why the taller man refused his honest answer.

Jun steeled himself and spoke, refusing to surrender to this person again, zoning out the unsteady beats of Kazunari's heart rate in the background. Never again, even if he had to fight against his natural instinct to protect him. Even then, his own words stung him.

"We made a bargain, Kazunari. I taught you about this world. You have killed your Mutant. I want Sho back. I don't need you here."

Kazunari's anguished cries rang through his head, unspoken. He couldn't voice it, bitterness and heartbreak threading in him and drawing even closer the physical pain of his broken body. "Liar," the Prince murmured, choking back the sobs that wracked him. You said you didn't hate me. I accepted you.

Jun felt his resolve waver as he saw tears cloud and streak down the other man's face. He sucked in air and struggled to breathe out. He wanted to run forward and wipe those tears away. He couldn't, was rooted to the spot, horrified at what he had done and said; feeling the coldness that he had embraced in order to sustain himself melt away. He wasn't wrong, he tried to convince himself. The Prince had been the one to betray him first.

But Jun no longer understood why he was doing this to the other man and to himself.

"I hate you," Kazunari gasped, his lungs constricted, his heart already shattered. He saw Jun flinch, but it no longer mattered. He wanted to hurt the Idol as much as he was hurting. Because he had believed Jun, had believed everything would be okay, because Jun was here with him. He was wrong. He'd been a fool for allowing Jun to become important.

Kazunari reached inside himself, reached for the one constant in his life. SATOSHI, WHERE ARE YOU?

For the first time since his arrival on Earth, Kazunari felt his brother reach for him. He grasped on to it. Satoshi, please take me home. I don't want to be here anymore. I want to return home.

The familiar embrace of the Guardian touched his mind and reassured him.

The fog in Kazunari's mind completely wore off and through the pain that rushed to fill in, he concentrated and glared at Jun. Through the tears that fell from his eyes, and the final sob that escaped his lips, he spoke his words that were meant to be his last to the Idol.

"I never want to see you again."

[ Core ]

"Sho, wake up, we're here."

Sho woke due to Masaki's prodding and rubbed the drowsiness from his eyes as he was set on his feet. They were inside the forest, but as the sleepiness faded away he realized that this part of the forest was not dead. Excited, he glanced at Masaki standing close beside him and saw the lines of concentration on the Caretaker's face, saw his lips move as he sung his song full of magic.

Masaki's reviving it, he realized, pride rising in his chest.

Sho watched in wonder as the the Mage of Nature and Life brought their immediate surroundings to life. Trees, shrubs, ferns, flowers; everything stirred as if waking from a deep, enchanted sleep. The sight was so beautiful, Sho held his breath. Everything around them shimmered in green.

At last, Masaki took a deep breath and relaxed.

"This was where I was found," Masaki confessed. "It's a beautiful place. This was where I learned my magic."

He's an orphan, Sho remembered and along with sadness he was proud of who Masaki had become. He reached for Masaki's hand at his side and felt the taller man grasp it, felt their fingers weave. He never knew a happier moment in time.

"Sho, please don't forget me," Masaki said.

Sho looked at him, alarmed by his plea, and finally saw the lines of tears that streaked down the Caretaker's face.

As he realized what it could mean, Sho felt an outside force knock into him. He tried to gather his bearings, struggled to steady himself.

"I love you, Sho. But you have to erase these words from your memory."

Sho tried to keep his hold of Masaki's hand. Then he was thrown into complete darkness.

[ Earth ]

Jun was struck dumb by that oath. He couldn't never see Kazunari again. Just the thought was impossible. He stepped towards the Prince in denial. The space between them distorted and by the time he arrived beside the bed, the smaller man was gone. He reached for air, but no one was there. It couldn't be true.

Jun looked around him desperately. He was alone. Kazunari was gone.

No, it couldn't happen. It was not true. He stumbled against the bed and his knees buckled. He fell to the floor. Too shocked to move, Jun listened to the constant wail of the cardiac monitor that had become detached. He knew he had committed a fatal mistake.

[ the streets of Tokyo ]

The manager drove back to the agency. Without both Sho and Jun, she was out of work until Storm came back. She was currently jobless. She had to find work within the agency, no matter what it was.

As she turned into the parking lot, a man dropped down in front of her car. Her foot slammed down on the breaks and her car screeched to a stop. Her forehead bumped against the steering wheel and she groaned. Rubbing her head and cursing her luck, she popped out of her car. She hoped she hadn't hit the person.

The manager peered out at the front and gasped. "Sakurai!"

Sho crouched in front of her car, the bumper barely a meter away from him, and appeared to be lost by the way he looked about and held himself aloof.

His manager rushed to his side, relieved and concerned at once. She grasped his shoulders and turned him around to check his condition. He was fine. Then she looked into his face, glad that he was back even though he had popped up out of nowhere, and the smile was immediately wiped from her when she saw his expression.

Sho stared blankly up at her. His eyes were red rimmed and she held her breath when silent tears trickled down his face. She had only managed Storm for a few years, but throughout that time neither had shown her their most vulnerable side. At that moment, not heeding where they were, the Idol wrapped his arms around his head and sobbed brokenly without uttering a single word, as if he had lost everything.

* *

Next: chap09

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