Promised Prompt Post

Here be prompts! Leave a prompt in the comments! Fill a prompt! Leave as many as you like, fill as many as you like, even if someone’s already filled one.

You can prompt original, any fandom, or a specific fandom I know. Format examples are:

  • any, any, alone again
  • Bungou Stray Dogs, Kyouka+/Atsushi, falling asleep on each other
  • original, any/any, we were happy, right?

You can also throw in image, lyric, other format type prompts. Whatever works.

Post stays open until it slows down. If I don’t fill any right away, I’m working on an exchange fic due, but I’ll be in and out I promise.

You can also prompt poetry.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0

654 thoughts on “Promised Prompt Post”

  1. any. any. “Could you forgive yourself if you’d been a part of something terrible but you didn’t know it?” ~Charlotte Gray
  2. any, any/any, There’s nothing to be gained, ’cause I can never change and you can never understand, my sickness.
    (I’ll never understand my sickness).
    Save yourself, from a life, full of lies and a heart full of pain and sorrow!
    Save yourself, from the choices, I make, ’cause nothing but failure follows me.
    Save yourself, save yourself!
    — Save Yourself, My Darkest Days

  3. any, any+/any, One step deep as you fall to me
    Heart clap, we skip a beat
    Count one, two, three
    And don’t you stop the music
    Get into it
    Won’t you dance with me?
    — Lose It, Oh Wonder

    1. Still testing this one. I don’t have much aside from a few vague ideas about location and also some unpleasant backstory again, but this was so cute I had to…

      You seem… oddly enamored of that thing.”

      She smiled, glad that she hadn’t tensed up this time when he came up behind her. The manager was worse with how quietly he moved, but the cook could be just as quiet. He’d scared her at first, but not anymore. She actually looked forward to working with him now, and not just because he made the most sinfully amazing food she’d ever eaten.

      Jukeboxes are nostalgic, I guess,” she said, leaning over it as she considered which song to play. “Back before things went bad, we used to go out to the local restaurant once a week. I would get one quarter from my parents and could play a song. I picked one that used to make them happy. Well, before the divorce and all that nightmare that came with it.”

      Nightmare?”

      She sighed. Her father’s affairs coming to light hadn’t just been hard on her mother. He’d hurt all of them, even her baby brother, with what he’d done. He broke trust with all of them, and he’d walked away, left not just her mom but all of them. They hadn’t been enough for him. He had a whole other family with them and hadn’t bothered to see them.

      And then her mother’s new boyfriend…

      She shook that off and gave him a bright smile. “You know what? I want to hear this song again.”

      She pushed the button, watching the little record pull up and get to the spindle. She liked these kinds of jukeboxes over the more modern ones that just pretend shuffled on a screen with a few lights. This was the real thing.

      She wrapped her arms around herself and swayed to the music, remembering better times of laughter and happiness instead. Her next door neighbor teaching her to dance—and being an absolute butt about it the whole time.

      She felt eyes on her and stopped. “Oh. Sorry. I guess I got carried away.”

      He frowned. “This song… was popular in your childhood?”

      She giggled. “No. I’m not that old. It’s just a fun song. Gets you in the mood to dance, you know?”

      No.”

      She was the one to frown now. “You really dislike it that much? Or… do you not dance at all?”

      I have had no occasion to dance.”

      No occasion?” She shook her head. “Dancing does not need an occasion. I can’t believe you never learned. Your mom never made you slow dance with her? You… never took a girl to a dance? Or just… went to a dance? No sisters… no cousins… no one ever danced with you before?”

      No.”

      Really?”

      He sighed. “My mother died when I was quiet young. I was adopted by a friend of the family, and he was not… I was an only child, to my knowledge, I have no cousins, and honestly—what woman would want to dance with me?”

      I would think there’d be plenty.”

      He snorted. “Now you are being delusional. I’m not well-liked by anyone, aside perhaps from our manager, who appreciates my skill as a cook, and while I do have someone who calls himself my friend, we have not met in person in years. That friend is a man.”

      Well, there’s no rule saying you couldn’t have danced with a man, though you do seem—”

      No. I would not. We do not need to discuss this further. We are supposed to be closing up for the night, not discussing ridiculous things.”

      She balled a fist and tried to stay calm. She already knew he had a habit of calling something ridiculous when he didn’t like it or understand it, and he clearly wasn’t comfortable with the idea of dancing or her fumbling way of asking him why he never learned. She went to the jukebox again and picked a much slower song.

      Turning towards him, she held out a hand. “Dance with me.”

      What? No. I just got done saying that we are supposed to close, and I am going to—”

      Dance with me,” she repeated, stepping close to him and taking his hand. She put one on her back and held onto the other as he stared at her in disbelief. “Just start shuffling your feet. It’s pretty simple. Easy, even. Rock a little, like this… slow and steady…”

      Why are you doing this? I am going to trip or step on you or—”

      You are doing just fine.” She smiled up at him, trying to reassure him. “Stop being so nervous. All I want is for you to enjoy the music. You can’t understand how dancing makes someone feel until you do it, so… just feel.”

      That… is extremely awkward when we are touching.”

      She felt herself flush. “It doesn’t have to be. I dance with my younger brother all the time. A neighbor taught me to dance. It’s fine.”

      This is not the song you picked before.”

      No. That’s faster, and you’re just starting out, so you need a slow song to get the feel of things. Faster songs are fun, too, though few things are as nice as a slow dance with someone you care about. You get to hold on and stay close to them.”

      That… is what you’re doing now?”

      She shook her head, wanting to giggle with hysteria. Oh, she couldn’t lie and say this didn’t feel good because it did. He might be a lot taller than her and hesitant, but he was warm and strong and surprisingly gentle. Still, this might seem more romantic than it should be. They were still strangers, after all.

      I am teaching a good friend to dance.” There. That worked, right?

      I… Is that a yes? You… are staying close to someone you care about?”

      He asked it with such a tone as nearly broke her heart, and his confusion seemed genuine. She’d overlooked it before, but he had only said that person called himself his friend, not that he actually considered that man one. Did he have anyone else in his life? Anyone at all who cared about him? This poor, awkward man was all alone? He was a sweetheart underneath it all, and he deserved so much better than that.

      Yes,” she said. “How about another dance?”

      He hesitated. “We should—”

      And then we close. Promise.”

      Very well.”

        1. Yes, poor guy. He hasn’t really known much kindness or understanding in his life, and he has no idea why she’d like him at all even if he did sort of put her under his protection to keep her safe from the other servers who bully her because she’s nice and cute and the customers who don’t want to accept that she’s not flirting back. He sees that as practical because she’s a diligent worker, and they actually can run the diner by themselves, but he doesn’t think she sees him as anything since so few did before.

          So, yes, he needs all the hugs. Poor guy.

    2. Possibly fun fact: this song is actually over six minutes long in the film.

      ******

      Amara put the record on, smiling as she heard the big band start to play. She felt like she hadn’t heard music in ages, though she knew that wasn’t exactly true. She hadn’t used the player while her grandmother was really sick because it was easier for Grandma if she could sleep through most of the day, which lead to a lot of quiet hours or her on the balcony where she could be noisier without disturbing her grandmother.

      Now, though, the house was almost empty, and she wanted music.

      There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance, let’s face the music and dance…”

      She swayed to the music. She’d seen Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dance to this in the theater when she was younger, and she’d loved it. She wanted all of Ginger’s dresses and to be able to dance like that. She wanted to be that girl just as much as the one who got muddy and messy playing with her big brother.

      For a film where he was supposedly in military service, he does a lot of singing and dancing in that one.”

      She stopped, looking back at Judas, who was frowning again. “You do know the point of any movie with Fred Astaire is the dancing, right?”

      Yes, now, though not when I was obliged to watch it,” he said, and she giggled at his reaction. She could just picture his look of dismay when he realized he was in for a film all about love and romance, music and song. He must have hated it.

      She turned back, lifting the needle and bringing it back to the edge of the record before setting it down. Letting the song start over, she crossed over to him, taking hold of Judas’ hands. “Dance with me.”

      I am very much not Mr. Astaire.”

      I am not looking for him or Mr. Kelly.”

      Who?”

      It doesn’t matter,” she said, since she doubted Judas had seen any films with that newer dancer, Gene Kelly. She’d liked him in For Me and My Gal and also in Cover Girl, but she doubted Judas had seen the first and had to have been overseas for the second. “I just want you to dance with me.”

      Me? That’s—”

      Yes, you,” she insisted, tugging him along. The song was simple enough, so she wasn’t worried that he couldn’t do it. Fred Astaire set a high standard, but she didn’t want that. She just wanted to dance with someone. “I used to make Benny do this with me all the time when he was home.”

      Let us hope he returns soon,” Judas said, stumbling as he watched his feet. She shook her head, reaching up and standing on her toes to touch his cheeks.

      Look at me. Not the floor. Moving to the music comes naturally when you’re not thinking about it but about how it makes you feel,” she said, knowing they weren’t going to do any of the more complicated spinning and jumping from the film, like Benny would have, but they could still dance. “That’s better. Just keep moving with me.”

      You… enjoy this?”

      Yes, very much,” she said, closing her eyes and letting herself feel the music. And Judas. His hands weren’t like Benny’s, larger for one, and his touch was more hesitant, to where she thought he might let go if she didn’t hold them in place, so she did. He was warm, and she felt herself heat up a bit, too. She swallowed and started singing along to take her mind off of things. Soon we’ll be without the moon, humming a different tune…”

      You are, in fact, singing.”

      She laughed. “Yes, but that’s not the point.”

      The point is… this dance?”

      Yes.” She was glad this was a longer song. She didn’t want to stop. She didn’t want him to let go. She wanted to hold onto this forever. She even thought she might like something more than a dance. Maybe even a kiss.

      Wait. Had she really just thought that about Judas?

      Is something wrong? I didn’t think I stepped on your foot, but if I did—”

      No. That’s not it. That’s not it at all.” She looked up at him, knowing she was red and didn’t dare explain. Not now. Maybe not ever.

    3. So… I made a mess of a lot of things.

      And I don’t even know why I felt like this scene was worth doing, but that part where she “lectures” him and Kasunagi says she’s worried about him make me crave more interaction between the two of them.

      *******

      I regret to inform you I will not be as good at this as your former partners.”

      Anna smiled faintly, not lowering her hands. She waited, and Munakata stepped forward to take them, slowly moving with her to the music. He had no reason to doubt himself, though she did not think his hesitation was moved by his lack of skill.

      The past hung on them all. She felt it. She couldn’t say she felt it more than he did. She had not held the sword that day. He had.

      Still, they were her friends to miss. Her loss to grieve. Her warmth that had felt cold until it renewed itself in her.

      She could not thank him, would not thank him.

      Are you certain you do not want Kusanagi to do this?” Munakata asked, still turning through the music, never missing a step.

      She shook her head. “You.”

      If you insist.”

      This is different,” she said, and he looked down at her. “Red and blue are always in opposition.”

      It is difficult for it to be otherwise, though I assure you, that is how I would prefer it. I have no wish to be your enemy.”

      She wanted only to protect those she cared about. She nodded. “We do not have to be enemies.”

      You do not have to say it.”

      She looked up at him, frowning.

      I know we also cannot be friends.”

      1. He probably knows better than Kusanagi how to dance, and Kusanagi is really her remaining “parent” but Munakata at some point post-canon goes on paper as her legal guardian, according to a one-shot. (Not that this made any sense at all to me, but it was mentioned.)

        But, ahem, he’ll be so much better at dancing with a girl than anyone at all available in Homra, except maybe Chitose. Doesn’t he realize she’s the one lady running a band of goodhearted hooligans?

        1. He does, I’d think, but to him her suitable partner is a friend/trusted ally, not her traditional enemy and the man who killed her friend/guardian.

          I did read a one-shot that had Munakata as her guardian, but it was definitely AU. So there’s another one that is really canon, albeit post-canon? I suppose the only explanation I’d have that makes much sense is Kusanagi having some kind of legal issue where he can’t adopt her officially so Munakata does it, but it seems weird they’d do that since… well, it’s wrong she’s not independent as a king or tied to someone in her clan.

            1. Yeah, that’s the one I read. I really liked it. It’s very cute. And I think I’d like to see more of that universe if they were ever to dive into it again. Or maybe I will sometime. I actually have a fascination with Anna and Munakata interacting. I don’t know how exactly to describe their relationship since it’s not the same as with other kings and he’s not a guardian or a mentor to her, either. They are equals in the sense of being kings, and he certainly respects her as she does him, but what exactly to call their dynamic eludes me. I just find it fascinating. It may even be my favorite dynamic from K, to be honest… I feel like there should be regular dance sessions like this and other quiet moments of solidarity and it’s just… well, it’s odd, I guess.

              I have only barely just started on that list of side stories and stuff. I started with anything labeled Munakata, did the stuff that’s Scepter 4 and also Seri’s bits, a few of Anna’s bits, and am currently in the Blue Case File, having skipped side blue after Blaze because I didn’t like side blue as much (not a fan of when a character is introduced, people get attached, and then they die… though I was interested to see how long green had been working in the shadows and their attempts to kill Munakata before starting the war through the Colorless King.)

              Blaze, for all the translations that were skipped, also explained a lot the anime left out, so I was glad I read that. And I finally found a nice, full Munakata gen fic to enjoy, which does make me wish the LN were available in English here to read.

    1. This kind of strayed away from the point it was trying to make at times, but… I tried.

      I think she’ll fit in nicely around here,” Oz said as he shut the door behind Marshall’s new helper. “Why are you all staring at me? I can’t be the only one who thinks so. She’s got to be crazy to want to work as a lawyer in the first place, and since Hart so helpfully pointed out that she’s known in his circle for vandalizing that pervert’s car, she’s perfect. Just what stodgy Marshall over there needs. Someone insane enough to put up with us and work as a lawyer.”

      There is nothing crazy in wanting to be a lawyer.”

      Caton shook his head as he removed his glasses. “I favor logic and rational thinking. I find little of it in the law you love so much.”

      Marshall frowned. “That’s not true. The law is rational. It is designed to—”

      Confuse the hell out of everyone?” Oz finished, grinning as he went to the bookshelf, pulling back the one that hid the liquor cabinet. Marshall still wasn’t sure which of the others had insisted on putting that in for him—Oz was the obvious choice, but he somehow managed to seem innocent any time he was questioned about it, even if he did insist that all lawyers needed a hidden drink cabinet.

      He poured a glass for Warner, who gave him a look at how full he’d filled it, same with the one he passed to Marshall. The one he gave Caton was only half-full, which earned him another glare.

      What? You have a headache, and alcohol will only make it worse.”

      You are the reason I have a headache,” Caton muttered, rising and going to pour himself a proper drink. “You need not get overly excited about the prospect of having another woman around. She clearly doesn’t think much of you.”

      Oz sat down with his drink, shaking his head. “Why do you all assume all I see in her is a woman? If she’s going to date anyone around here, my money’s on Marshall. Warner’s too scary, you’re already taken, and as charming as I’d like to believe she is, she’s a lawyer. No way. I already learned that lesson the hard way.”

      Marshall grimaced. “Yes, I suppose you did. That was—I wasn’t even sure I could keep you from jail on that one.”

      I didn’t do any of what she said I did. Quit acting like I’m a criminal. That woman didn’t want to take no for an answer and I nearly got prosecuted for it.” Oz downed his entire drink and went back for another. “It is not my fault, either. It was just dinner, damn it. That’s all it was supposed to be. How can one know if they’re compatible if they don’t spend any time together? So what if I knew by the end of the salad course she was not the one? That doesn’t make what I did a crime.”

      Your reputation does you no favors,” Caton said, “however exaggerated it may be.”

      Looking for love shouldn’t make me a monster, either. You all could use more of it in your lives.”

      Some of us have fulfillment in our choice of occupation and our family,” Marshall said. “We don’t need more than that.”

      Oz snorted into his drink. “Sure you don’t. All of you are so uptight another man would say you need to get laid. Badly.”

      While there is some truth to the idea that releasing certain endorphins during sex can be beneficial, it is not the only way to improve matters, nor is it as necessary as modern media would have the world believe. That is propaganda that keeps the commercial system working, as it is well documented that ‘sex sells.’” Caton studied his drink. “The over-stimulation of that ‘need’ is what causes many problems in this world, leading to violence and mental health issues as well as physical diseases and other crimes.”

      Sex as the root of all evil.” Oz leaned forward and into Caton’s face. “Are you certain this isn’t because you’re unwilling to admit you’re attracted to Careen? When one is frustrated—”

      Even if I were—and I am not—it is no concern of yours and you are only proving my point with this nonsense about ‘frustration.’ If one cannot control one’s behavior because of sex, he clearly lacks the emotional maturity to be having it.”

      Oz gaped at him. “Are you saying—”

      I believe we all agree you are not actually ready to be dating, no matter what your physical age might be,” Warner said. “In many ways, you remain a child.”

      Just because I’m not a grumpy bastard like you or Cat or as stodgy as Marshall does not make me a child. And don’t say it’s because I’m the youngest, either. I am perfectly capable of dating. I do just fine most of the time. There are a few outliers who didn’t take the end of our relationship well, but that doesn’t mean I can’t date.” Oz shook his head as he rose. “You always do this—gang up on me when you think you’re right and I can’t possibly have a say, but I am not wrong to want love or to think I can find it even if you three have given up on it already.”

      I am not ruling it out,” Marshall said. “I am simply content with the way things are now. I have a good job I like and my brothers of choice. What more do I actually need?”

      The actual adoption decree?”

      Marshall grimaced. “That’s not… It’s never been necessary. You all know that. Maybe my biological family was never willing to let me go, but that has never changed that the family I wanted—the one I chose—is right here. Well, I suppose our parents aren’t, they rarely are anymore with all the traveling they do, but the rest of you are all in this room.”

      Aw,” Oz said, and Marshall soon found himself in his youngest brother’s embrace. “Big brother is so sweet.”

      You are going to make him regret such sentiments,” Caton said as he went to the door. “Physical demonstration of such affection is entirely unnecessary.”

      I will find the research that proves otherwise, you know.” Oz sighed, though he didn’t follow Caton as he left the room. Warner did, without a word, though that surprised none of them since he was still watching over Caton as he always did.

      You can let go, you know.”

      Oz shook his head. “Nope. Never. Not letting go of a single one of you. That’s not what family does, and you chose us, remember?”

      Marshall had, and he didn’t regret it, nor would he. As difficult as it ever was between the four of them, he knew none of them—not even Caton—wanted to go back to the family they’d been born into. This one that they made was what they all needed, as strange as it was.

        1. Thanks. These four seemed like a good choice for this, and Marshall especially since he was the one who didn’t get formally adopted, though that kind of went off track from how it was going to go.

          They do enjoy teasing each other, though.

    2. Okay, it’s crappy, but… I made good on at least one idea… my other is longer, more convoluted, and definitely not a good idea.

      ********

      Shiro, if people get married, do they become clan?”

      Shiro almost dropped his chopsticks just as his rice was about to reach his mouth. He coughed. “Um, Neko…”

      Oh, I didn’t mean you,” she said, shaking her head and bouncing as she did, much to his relief. He saw the same relief on Kuroh’s face. “I mean if Kuroh marries Kukori, does that make her part of our clan?”

      Shiro laughed as Kuroh fumed. “You know, Neko, if you want her to be a part of our clan, there are other ways of making her a member.”

      Really? Yay!” She hugged him, holding on tight enough to choke him. “I’m so happy. Kukori can be family, too! Just like I always wanted.”

      1. Awwww! Neko’s cute here. I do love how she loves family and that’s all she wanted. (Her reason for becoming a cat is actually pretty heartbreaking from the side materials, but basically, I’m so happy she gets her family.)

        1. Well, I couldn’t resist the idea of her wanting to marry off Kuroh so she can make Kukori family. It was a bit of the Kuroh/Kukori ship and also just fun to picture the others’ reactions to her words.

          Plus, like you said, Kukori is so silver clan.

          1. I know, right?! Kukuri/Kuroh is just hard for me to write without prompts. I’ll poke this pile later for something appropos. There was never a lot of point because no one wanted it and I was writing gifts mainly, but now… 😀

            The one time someone prompted me for them (I was so excited until I read it), it was basically, he walks her home then sudden smut. And I’m like out of character much? I did my best, but yeah. Oooh, I do have a couple pieces that aren’t that one. I’ll hunt them up and toss them at you sometime today or tomorrow (or this weekend, but probably the former).

            I finally have a reason to write more White Rice Party!

            1. The Sound of Contentment:

              Kuroh’s heartbeat was warm under her head. Kukuri hummed softly under her breath in time with the feeling. It was the first time they’d gone beyond kissing, and the first time she’d ever woken in the warmth of another’s arms. She felt it when he woke, slight tension, but not immediately speaking.

              “What are you humming?” he finally asked.

              “Nothing.” It was nothing, no particular melody or tune. She sat up just enough to slide up and kiss him properly awake, enjoying the freedom and feeling of doing it.

              It was nothing, really, but the quiet sound of her contentment.


              The Warmth of His Voice:

              Kukuri woke in Kuroh’s arms, groggy and lightheaded and wondering what had happened to her, if everyone else was okay. Except she couldn’t remember and for a moment, she tried to panic. Had she hit her head, gotten amnesia, but there was Kuroh’s warm smile as he reassured her, “Just rest.”

              She listened to the warmth of his voice, the sound of his heartbeat as he carried her away. She looked back, something in her heart disquieted enough to realize something was still wrong.

              But Kuroh would make it better, she thought. She would believe the sound of his voice.

              1. These are adorable. I like the nice quiet moments, the affection that is there…. such sweetness. The trust, the happiness, just nice peaceful times… very sweet.

                They are just… adorable.

                (And wow, vocabulary fails me, sorry.)

            2. Yeah, I definitely understand that. I like them, but unlike other characters or ideas, nothing jumped out at me and said “write me.”

              And it’s hard when someone asks for something that you feel is out of character. I am never good at those kinds of requests, even when I like the characters and want to make someone happy with fic.

               

    1. I realize this is the original way this goes, and I know what it’s supposed to mean, but… I still find it highly disturbing and am so not touching it. Ever.
        1. Sorry. I think we talked about it before when we were making lists for those bingo cards… and it still bothers me. I know it’s irrational, but it does, so… yeah, not going to write for it.
            1. I feel bad when I can’t fill a prompt… and in this case, I know I’m being irrational, so it’s worse. that, and I really don’t feel good and I can’t seem to manage my usual escape from the dark thoughts and the day because I’m incapable of focusing to write and also hurting a lot thanks to my ears.
        2. Also, the weather appears to have shifted again, so I’m in pain and nauseous, so not coping well and extra grumpy because of the day it is and being sick. Sorry, again. I will go find some nice cute prompts now that I have eaten all my crackers to calm my stomach.
    1. I went with an outsider perspective on this. And that makes it a little less platonic. I was trying for a bit of a different way of writing the forced snuggling that always happens to the one of them.

      So, how is married life treating you two?”

      Her husband frowned. “You have already asked that of us three times this evening. If you are expecting either of us to disclose more details than we already have, you will be disappointed, though I sadly suspect that you are only drunk.”

      She giggled, since she’d been sure he was a long time ago, about the same time as he’d done a “mock” sob on her shoulder since she’d “stolen” his best friend by marrying him. That wasn’t true at all. She knew she would never be to her husband what his friend was, even if they were married now. Friends had different but still important places in a person’s heart, and that was never going to change. He would always be her husband’s best friend, and nothing—no one—would change that.

      I’m not drunk. You haven’t started the movie, so I’m bored.”

      I’m sorry. I just wanted to wash up the dishes before I sat down again. The food is wonderful, my husband’s such a good cook, but if it has a chance to dry on the plates, it’s a nightmare to get off the next day. So I always wash up right away. Normally he helps and it goes faster, but you two were talking, so I was on my own with all of them.”

      You should not apologize.” Her husband shook his head. “Though you should have said something. I would not have left you alone with them.”

      I know, but you two were having fun and besides, you cooked. This is fair. We agreed to share household chores.”

      That’s adorable,” his friend said. “Damned if you two aren’t relationship goals.”

      She smiled as she finished drying the last dish. “We try, at least. That’s the most important part. Sharing and talking and working things out—”

      Speaking of sharing, I claim the best pillow,” he said, grabbing hold of her husband, whose expression about made her double over. “Not sharing. Being the best friend has different rules, you know.”

      Stop laughing,” her husband told her. “This isn’t funny.”

      You’re adorable,” she said, because they were. Her husband continued to frown at her, but she went over and whispered in his ear. “He’s going to pass out during the first part of the movie, and I will make it up to you.”

      You shouldn’t have to clean up for his mistakes. Nevertheless… that does sound agreeable.”

      She smiled again, kissing his cheek before going around to join him on the other side of the couch. She thought his friend was already snoring, and maybe it would be better to let him sleep through the movie. She didn’t mind. Her husband was actually large enough that he could be shared as a pillow, even if she was only leaning against his arm.

      His friend was family, too, being her husband’s best friend, and she didn’t mind that at all.

      Though judging from the way her husband was fidgeting and trying to get out from under him, he just might.

        1. 🙂 These characters can be just so cute sometimes.  I like to think they’d create a giant extended family, with his friend eventually winning over her best friend and them having a bunch of kids that all see the other adults as aunts and uncles and it’s just big and warm and squishy full of family and romantic feels.
        2. any. any+/any. “You lose your way, just take my hand
          You’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me again
          Don’t look too far, right where you are, that’s where I am.”

          ~Lana Del Ray, “Mariners Apartment Complex”

    2. I’m not sure why this scene said it needed to be written. I have no idea.

      *****

      Hmm. My favorite pillow,” Benny said, snuggling up against her as he laid his head down in her lap, and Amara sighed as she looked at him. He gave her his best pleading look, pouting a little. “Admit it—you missed me.”

      She fought a sob, tempted to hit him. “Of course I did, you idiot. Don’t you dare think it was easy for me being left behind or while Grandma was sick. I know I wasn’t in the middle of a battlefield, and my life wasn’t in danger every second. I wasn’t watching a lot of people die—just one—and I didn’t have to take lives, but I… I needed you. And you weren’t here. And it’s not your fault. I know that. I even know that you’re lucky. You took a bullet and you’re lucky. Still… it’s hard. I…”

      I know. Why do you think I asked Jude to come help you? I didn’t want you to be alone. I’d have come back sooner if I could have, but the best I could do was send you him.” Benny reached up to touch her hair, brushing it back from her wet cheek. “He did good, though, didn’t he?”

      She sighed. “Benny…”

      Don’t judge him too harshly. He never had what we did. Stuffy as Grandfather was, we knew he cared about us. And Grandma softened him up as much as she could. Jude… He got that name because he was abandoned as a baby and the nuns running the orphanage figured he was some bastard child, the product of sin. He can say it and make it sound like nothing, but you and I both know that everyone after that punished him for something they assume is true. Who knows what really happened and why he was left there? Maybe his mom was widowed in the first war and couldn’t care for him. Maybe he has a bunch of brothers and sisters, and he was another mouth they couldn’t afford. Maybe his father was a mean one, beating on her, and she gave up the baby to save him. Maybe his father was worse than that. They don’t know. None of those reasons are Jude’s fault, though.”

      She nodded. She hadn’t known everything, of course, but she’d figured a few things out by his discomfort when she asked about adopting a child to fulfill the terms of Grandma’s will.

      War’s a funny thing,” Benny said, closing his eyes as he settled in on her lap. “It shows you what’s really important. People think these things matter, that where someone came from—where they were born or who their parents were—they think that’s the measure of a person. My best friend may not know where he came from, but he took a bullet for me, so the rest of that? It doesn’t mean a damned thing. Jude was named for betrayal, but he’s the loyalest man I’ve ever known. And I will always be grateful to him for looking after you like he has.”

      She winced. “I messed it up, Benny. I ruined everything.”

      He took her hand and wrapped both of hers around that. “No. I’m sure that there’s a way to fix it. And big brother will help you… just as soon as I finish sleeping for days.”

      She managed a strangled laugh. He gave her a weak smile and closed his eyes. She knew he needed his rest, but none would be coming for her. She had no idea how to fix the mess she’d made, and while Benny was always optimistic, she couldn’t help thinking that this time he was very, very wrong about there being any hope.

        1. I really like the sibling moments between these two. They’re very sweet together. He adores her, and he wants only the best for her, which to his mind is his best friend, who he also loves like a brother, but even more than that, they’re close because of the orphan thing and because he doesn’t care much of what others think and goes his own way, taking the ones he cares about with him. (That’s why he befriended someone as standoffish and damaged as Judas is, Bennett didn’t care what the others said about him and formed his own opinions.) He’s good for both of them, since Judas needs the light they both bring to his life and they need his practicality, and Amara wouldn’t be half as bold as she is if she hadn’t grown up with Bennett’s support. He’s been the one to show her that she can be more while still being the caring, warm-hearted person she is. He does confuse a lot of people, though, because he doesn’t seem like more than a carefree idiot who goes from one good time to another and they think that’s all he cares about when really he’s all about his family (Judas being pretty much family to him from the day they met.)

          Hmm… Probably said too much again…

  4. any, any,

    Even if the sky is falling
    Even if the waters rise
    Even if the world is ending
    I will make it out alive
    I will be the one to survive
    — The One to Survive, Hidden Citizens

    1. I’m still trying things out to find one that sticks, so…

      Who took the last tea bag?”

      The new waitress’ nearly horrified wail had everyone looking her way, and as soon as she realized they were staring at her, she flushed red. He supposed it couldn’t be helped. She had only just started, and it wasn’t like she had gotten any of the easy tables, not from the orders she’d passed along his way.

      He was also aware that the others were likely to have passed along some of the more difficult tables to her on purpose, a part of something like hazing but also because this girl had the misfortune of being “cute,” a fact that had instantly garnered her the ire of her fellow workers. In a business where an attractive appearance could mean more money each day, someone who was obviously inferior to her in that respect was bound to dislike her for that alone.

      He avoided most of these interpersonal conflicts by being the main line cook. He’d been asked to work up front once—and just that once. Supposedly he made children cry as much as he did waitresses, though he had little tolerance for the ones who did not do their jobs.

      You could at least tell me where the other boxes of tea are instead of staring at me like I’m insane. This is for a customer. He was very specific about how he wanted his tea. And he’s… kind of scary.”

      Look, you want cutesy tables and everyone to eat up your goody-goody act, you go get yourself a job at a kid’s restaurant. This is a real diner. We don’t do hand-holding, touchy feely crap. If you’re not a big enough girl to find your own tea bags, you can quit.”

      She swallowed, blinking in confusion. “I just…”

      If you are looking to create problems and think you have a pass because the manager is out today and you can blame them all on the new girl, I should remind you I’ve never liked you and have several sharp knives within easy reach of my current position,” he said, making the older waitress turn to gape at him. “Furthermore, since the tea is in his locked office, she’d have no way of getting it, now would she? The very fact that a customer requested tea makes it all the more likely it is that same manager testing the new waitress and he deliberately left the box of tea here empty to see what would happen.”

      So? She couldn’t handle a simple request. And since when do you care about what I do to the other servers?”

      I care that someone will complain that the food I cooked was improperly done because it has been waiting for your lazy, inept person to take it to them for far longer than it should have. You are standing there gloating over this child instead of doing your job, which reflects poorly on me. That I have always objected to, and if it does not cease soon, you will not have to fear the manager’s ire but mine.”

      She snorted, grabbing the plates and walking out of the kitchen with no more haste than before. He grimaced.

      Is it really a test?” The new waitress asked, her worry plain on her face as she leaned over the counter to get a good look at him. “I thought I met the manager yesterday when he hired me.”

      You met the owner, who very likely did not look past your face in hiring you.”

      I…” She winced. “I really don’t need that to be the reason why I was hired. Not again. I just need to work, not be harassed. I don’t… I realize I look younger than I am. It’s genetic. We all do. My brother who is twelve looks eight. That doesn’t mean I deserve this. I’m nineteen, I may not be in college, but that doesn’t make me a failure, and I can’t properly do my job if people are hiding tea boxes and being jerks like that.”

      I don’t care about any of that,” he told her. She started to protest, but he shook his head. “I have the key you need to get into the office.”

      I… You’re giving that to me?”

      With the implicit understanding that you will give it back when you are done.”

      I don’t understand.”

      He didn’t explain, either. She had only passed one part of the test, after all. Most of them were either too stubborn or too stupid to ask for help, and those that weren’t often folded long before knowing that he, of all the people working, had the key. A few more got past that point but weren’t willing to ask him for it or made some kind of mess in the office. If she failed that last part of the test, the manager would see to it she did not work again.

      As it was, he could only pass along the key to her and see if she truly was as good at her job as she wanted to be.

        1. Yes, I have a weakness for them, too. I currently have a weakness for the tall, intimidating version who allows people to think he’s scarier than he is because he doesn’t like to deal with them and while still very socially awkward, uses their assumptions against them to have peace and be left alone like he thinks he prefers.
    1. “This calls for a hot drink,” Yoshikawa said suddenly, as if that was all a gaggle of little girls in the living room called for.

      Accelerator looked like he was torn between throwing them all out into the street and immediately hiding away in the safety of his room. Of course, he was prevented from doing either by the barnacle on his leg that went by the name of Last Order who was loudly insisting he attend her birthday party. (She didn’t even have a proper birthday, but that didn’t stop the Sisters from using multiple theories of the time of a clone’s birth to acquire multiple birthdays to celebrate.)

      Yomikawa shushed her friend admonishingly. “Not around the children.”

      “Not a strong drink, a hot one.” Yoshikawa went into the kitchen and made hot chocolate, which she proceeded to drink as if it indeed were a strong drink. In the background was the soothing sound of Accelerator barely hanging onto his cool as he grumped and growled his way through futilely attempting to fend off that herd of giggling, playful children.

      “He brought this on himself,” Yomikawa said with a smile. Accelerator had insisted on enrolling the cheerful, friendly Last Order in school, where it was only natural she gather more friends to invite over, and only Yomikawa actually had the right to kick them out. She pulled the birthday cake out of the rice cooker.

      Yoshikawa gave her an admonishing look. “You made the cake.”

      Yomikawa beamed. “I told you a rice cooker will make anything.”

      A loud growl from the living room and a triumphant crow from Last Order—”I win! I win!”—and the two women exchanged looks.

      “Accelerator!” Yomikawa called, by way of rescuing him. “Come, help me ice the birthday cake.”

      Somehow, the top ranked esper in all of Academy City, rumored to sit as the Board Chairman despite his youth, and the grumpiest, least cooperative teenager she’d ever had to teach, materialized in the kitchen almost instantly and became the most helpful version of himself she’d ever seen. Which is to say, helpful at all, without a word of complaint.

      “We should have her friends over more often,” Yoshikawa murmured to herself.

        1. Oh, it totally should be funny. This overpowered, tsundere teenage, former living weapon that can still be one whenever he feels like (which is whenever his precious Last Order is threatened) that basically shrugs off any danger or attack as at most a very temporary defeat is totally conquered by a bunch of little girls. I think that should be funny. 😀

          1. Well, that part is funny. It’s the being bullied into submission that’s a little tricky, since bullying is usually bad, but a big grumpy person made mush by a small one is just… adorable?

             

    1. “Cold feet?” Yomikawa asked, that gentle affection lingering in her tone where no gentle affection belonged.

      She had asked Accelerator for help carrying her purchases when she went out for Christmas shopping, but she’d had another thing in mind, and Accelerator didn’t acknowledge whether he’d picked up on it. He was here now, standing in front of a Gekota merchandise display, either deciding which item Last Order would love best or whether he wanted to show his feelings enough to give something at all.

      “Screw it,” he finally muttered and snatched up a set of bedding and then a matching set of pajamas.

      Yomikawa blinked. Not quite what she’d been expecting, but then, Last Order did already have an even larger version of the stuffed toy.

      Accelerator just huffed at her as he started toward the register without her. “Let’s go already.” As if she was the reason they’d lingered.

      Yomikawa chuckled to herself. They’d soften him up yet.

      1. “You got this Misaka a children’s blanket?” Misaka Worst demanded with wide eyes. She’d justifiably assumed he wouldn’t get her anything at all.

        Accelerator just huffed. “You are a child.”

        The youngest of all the clones, for all her body appeared the oldest.

        Misaka Worst just stared at him, then the bedding. The very much designed for children bedding.

        “I love it! Misaka Misaka crows at the top of her lungs and hugs the one who got this for her,” Last Order announced at high volume, then launched at Accelerator to strangle him around the neck in an overly tight embrace. “I’m going to put it on, Misaka Misaka says, hurrying off to get changed.” Last Order zoomed into her bedroom at high speed and slammed the door shut, pajamas under her arm.

        Misaka Worst smirked. She always enjoyed watching Accelerator discomfited. “This Misaka is not hugging you,” she said.

        “Tch.” Accelerator shuddered. “Good.”

        1. Lol. I like that she’s so offended over a children’s blanket, though Last Order is adorable and steals the show. Him not wanting a hug is funny, too.
          1. I love Last Order so much.

            I suspect Misaka Worst would love the gift, while never, ever letting on. It goes on her bed because it’s a functional blanket of course, not because she likes it.

    1. “Aren’t you ever going to apologize?” Misaka Worst asked while Accelerator opened a can of coffee and drank it.

      They’d picked up the groceries, then paused to feel out whether the neighborhood was still ordinary and peaceful or had loitering old or new enemies lurking about. Because living normally hadn’t cured either of them of that yet.

      Accelerator didn’t ask what Worst was talking about. There were a million minor annoyances Worst or Last Order or one of the other Sisters could get huffy about at any given time, but there was only one thing he’d never apologized for and absolutely should have.

      Except he wasn’t asking for forgiveness. That was far too much to ask.

      “Apologies are a sign of weakness,” he commented dryly.

      Worst laughed outright, scoffing, in that way she had that none of the other clones did, seeing as she’d been designed to hold all the worst of their feelings and thoughts. “You apologized to me that first time, remember?”

      For nearly killing her when she’d tried to kill Last Order.

      But then, that was forgivable.

      “You apologized to me just the other day, even, looking sheepish and all softy.” Worst waggled her fingers at him, clearly teasing. Even so. The question didn’t actually go away.

      “You know what I did to you,” he finally said. “All of you.” He looked into her curious expression and thought that even after everything else, this wasn’t something that could be redeemed. “Just keep holding it against me.”

      Her eyes widened in surprise.

      He turned and started walking back toward Yomikawa’s. Eventually, Worst followed him.

      1. This is very interesting. I like the idea of him not asking for forgiveness for things he can’t be forgiven for. It makes sense, in a way… even if it’s those unforgivable things that should be asked for all the same.
        1. True, not that I think he would ever, ever ask for it. It’s just not how he is. He really owns everything he does, good and bad, and that’s one of his good traits I think.

    1. “‘I lost my mittens,’ Misaka Misaka says, looking up plaintively.” Last Order’s big pitiful puppy dog eyes were quite plaintive indeed.

      Accelerator sighed deeply in exasperation, but stopped in the path. “Where did you last have them?”

      She looked very thoughtful, then swung her arm back toward the underground mall they’d come from. “‘The store,’ Misaka Misaka answers, somewhat dubious on whether or not that is correct.”

      Accelerator looked up at the sky, as if patience would somehow fall down as a shooting star and strike him. A small hand tucked itself into his, and he looked back down into Last Order’s eyes.

      “Come on then.” He wasn’t going to ignore her plaintive request for help again or leave her for even a minute to find them himself. They went back together to look.

    1. Last Order absolutely loved her coat that Accelerator had gotten her when they went to Russia. She loved the fluffy brown fur and the plush comfort and the fact that it was Accelerator that had gotten it for her.

      She wasn’t wearing that coat when she went bounding out into the light snow. She was wearing Accelerator’s.

      “Come back here, brat!” a decidedly irate, low voice shouted out of the apartment.

      “Hee! Misaka Misaka races away. Come catch me!” The little girl’s peals of laughter rang out behind her.

      Accelerator glared out the door at the falling snow. It’s not like he could wear her coat to go out in it. He flipped the switch on his choker to esper mode and controlled the vectors around his legs to shoot after her at jet speed.

      “‘No fair! No fair!’ cries Misaka Misaka, still racing away.”

      A sharp squeal and he had her around the waist. He switched off his choker. “Seriously, you brat.” He took back his coat and put hers around her shoulders, tugging her arms gently through the sleeves.

      She’d rather wear his coat, Last Order thought, but she beamed at him anyway, happy to have him fussing over bundling her up.

  5. any. any. “Catch a wave and take in the sweetness
    Think about it, the darkness, the deepness
    All the things that make me who I am.”

    ~ Lana Del Rey, “Mariners Apartment Complex”

    1. Kusanagi waited in the cold night air, letting the cries of his clan surround him, setting Anna down when she wanted to look at the lights rising and dancing in the air above.

      They needed him, and there was a part of him that recognized this numbness from when he’d lost his uncle; his friend Totsuka, the reckless smile that kept them going when things were hardest and everything seemed lost; and now this. Mikoto too.

      He was the only one left.

      A small warm hand suddenly found his, and he took a breath before anything inside him could shatter.

      Anna, looking up at him with warm, knowing eyes. “Don’t go,” she said.

      Kusanagi smiled at her, gripped her hand back tightly. He wasn’t entirely, wholly alone. “I won’t.”

      1. Aw. So nice.

        If only Anna could have held him there… I’m still mad at him for abandoning her. They were so good for each other, even in just a few small scenes.

        It’s good to have these moments, though… they are… special.

        1. I thought about spontaneous hugging, but it felt out of character. Anna is a warm, loving little kid, but she was seriously traumatized before Homura saved and adopted her and she’s just not that demonstrative.

          1. Yeah, she seems more for the quiet gestures like taking his hand and nestling in beside him over a big hug like Last Order. It is still sweet, if a bit bittersweet since she is so hurt.

            I really do like all of Anna and Mikoto’s moments in the anime. It’s just a shame he had to die… even if I do think she’s great at being the new king.

            1. True on all counts. There’s a lot of bittersweet and frustration with K, which is part of what makes it so ficcable. I really do need to hunt you up the one-shots though.

  6. any. any+/any. “There’s a song we sing together
    The song of me and you
    And I was hoping that we could fix it
    At least just fiddle around with the tune.”

    ~Catherine Feeny, Hush Now

  7. any. any+/any. “But you go right, I go left
    You go forward, I go back
    And we’re dancing this waltz alone
    You go up, I go down, lost our grip
    And now we’ve found ourselves
    Dancing this waltz alone.”

    ~Catherine Feeny, Hush Now

  8. any. any. “We were peaceful when we were sleeping
    Or after we had a fight
    We were civil when people were watching
    We were worst when we were right.”

    ~Catherine Feeny, Hush Now

  9. any. any+/any. “I watch you grow away from me in photographs
    And memories like spies
    And salt betrays my eyes again
    I started losing sleep and gaining weight
    And wishing I was was ten again
    So I could be your friend again.”

    ~Brandi Carlile, Turpentine

  10. any. any+/any. “Say something loving
    I just don’t remember the thrill of affection
    I just don’t remember
    Say something loving
    I need a reminder, the feeling’s escaped me.”

    ~The xx, Something Loving

  11. any. any+/any. “You say something loving
    It’s so overwhelming, the thrill of affection
    Feels so unfamiliar
    You say something loving
    Without hesitation it hits me, hits me
    It feels so unfamiliar.”

    ~The xx,  Say Something Loving

    1. It wasn’t any wonder the two were best friends, though Fushimi never let a word of his feelings out of his mouth, ever. He remembered still being that little child, excited and eager, before he found out that everything he ever loved would one day be destroyed by that guy, and his mother would always coolly ignore it.

      His house was cold, his parents cold, and he’d never really understood what anybody meant about the importance of family until Yata Misaki blew into his life with all the warmth and caring and love he’d never known before.

      An arm slung over his shoulder, a smile too bright for this world. “What are we doing after school?” Misaki asked, as if it was a given, they were doing it together.

      There was never any hesitation in Misaki’s easy affection. It was still a shock every time.

      Fushimi showed Misaki the app he was working on and took a moment to bask in the warmth of someone else.

      1. It’s nice to see some moments from when they were still friends and get a better sense of why their bond is so deep despite the antagonism that’s in the anime. With a friendship like theirs, one gets curious about why it falls apart and how it started.

        It is good Fushimi had someone to show him friendship and affection that he wasn’t getting before.

        1. Lost Small World shows their backstory, but the episode in 7 Stories is rather truncated. I’ll have to dig up the manga link for you at some point. The anime really was a bit of a disappointment for that side story.

          1. I will have to see the full version. Reading the manga might be easier, since as I do seem to be unable to sit still and focus long enough for subtitles right now.
            1. Right, I’ll dig you up Blaze (R:B) translated bits of the LN, the manga of Memory of Red, and the manga of Lost Small World. I don’t know about the others that went into Seven Stories, but Circle Vision was probably original to anime, so not sure about that one. Those will come probably this weekend.

              1. Okay, sounds good. I will keep trying to watch, too. I just… lack patience and can’t sit still well enough to watch stuff, sadly. If I’m looking at a book/reading, I’m less likely to get distracted and start writing, but part of my trouble is I read faster than they speak, so then I get bored waiting for them to change scenes, look down and write, and next thing I know, I’ve lost ten minutes to writing or games and have no idea what’s going on in what I was watching.
  12. any. any. “Things have gotten closer to the sun
    And I’ve done things in small doses
    So don’t think that I’m pushing you away
    When you’re the one that I’ve kept closest.”

    ~The xx, Crystalized

    1. It was like flying toward the sun with wax wings. Deven couldn’t quite resist the pull.

      He brushed fingers over the tips of Naira’s hair as she went by, caught the vague question in her eyes at her responsive glance, but never answered it. He kept looking for ways to make her smile, unable to ignore the warmth it lit in his chest when she did, because that was spiraling closer to the brilliant light that would burn them both. He didn’t ignore it. He quieted it the way Keket taught him when he was still small.

      Naira may have been disappointed with the all the ways he held her at a distance, thinking perhaps that he was pushing her away. She had no idea how close he wanted to pull her, how much it was to admit his lack of preferences, his lack of liking things, doing things, that it was actually him opening up to let her see how boring and dull his life had become by his choice.

      She took him by the hand, dragged him out to the Festival of Lights, wonder lighting her eyes as the sparklers went off and the glow lights came on throughout the city, regular lamps damped to better see the fire in the sky. Anyone else would have watched the show. Not Deven. He watched Naira, holding on until he finally had to let go of her hand before he burned her.

      1. Aw, all the angst and longing even as he wants to be close to her and can’t be…

        And how he holds her hand… oh… so sweet…

          1. Sounds nice. I have a new appreciation for people enjoying festivals together. (Kent’s fault, though his festival gets cut short mostly.)
  13. any. any+any. “Sitting here now beneath them stars
    Makes me wanna take them wings to my arms
    She’s got this way, she’s got this way
    Of wrapping her little heart around mine.”

    ~Angus and Julia Stone, Grizzly Bear

    1. Mikoto was sitting up on the roof and really, what were the other two thinking letting Anna climb up here beside him? She sat down next to him and snuggled into his side like she belonged there.

      She did of course.

      Stars twinkled overhead and he blew out smoke, watching the faint light of wonder in her eyes as she peered through one of her marbles to see the color. He wasn’t like Totsuka. He couldn’t make something as delicate and detailed as a fiery butterfly for her. Even so.

      He let his aura spread out and warm her, fed from the fire that made him King.

      Anna looked up at him and smiled. Once he’d thought her just a brat. Now, she was his little princess.

    1. It was Yomikawa that told him he couldn’t only allow himself to receive kindness from Last Order, he had to give it too. There was only one person that ever taught Accelerator how to be kind.

      The first time she looked at him and told him why she didn’t hate him, he couldn’t stand it. He left her because he didn’t know what to do—with it or her. Every time he left her, bad things happened. Her smile brought him back to himself. Her hand in his, her warm hugs and small gifts, they all meant more than he could ever find words to say.

      “Hey!” He tugged at the little girl dancing in front of the television.

      She dropped to the couch beside him with an oof.

      But instead of protesting, she just collapsed against his side and watched the next scene quietly.

      Kindness. He’d only ever learned it from her. He put one arm around her and let her snuggle into his side with a smile, just as she’d always held onto him.

      A/N: And apparently, I just left this comment open without posting. Oops.

    2. Her arms ached to hold her baby. He’d been a fussy child, never liked anyone but her or his father to hold him, but even so, he’d been beautiful and perfect and hers, a warm sweet bundle of curious, wide-eyed trouble, finding the most unlikely things to taste and pull on but wanting only his parents to snuggle.

      And now, he was gone. Because Sheyleth was not enough to take care of him. She didn’t have the power to soothe another’s troubled emotions, and that’s what her child needed.

      Sheyleth had always been the most cheerful, among the lightest of foot and heart among the Hollis powerful. Now, she found herself standing to the side as she watched another woman carefully guide a small child in his first steps.

      The empath beamed at his success.

      “He isn’t yours,” she said before she could stop herself. He’s mine, she wanted to say, ached to say.

      Deven’s head turned her direction, but she stayed back out of view. One time, she’d made that mistake, let him see her, only to be unable to comfort his cries to be held by his mother.

      The empath gave her a small, pained smile of understanding.

      Sheyleth didn’t want to see it. She left the way she came before she could hear her child wondering where she’d gone.

      1. Ouch. This is the first time we got to see that Deven’s mom didn’t actually want to leave him, and that’s hard. That poor family.

        Maybe they can fix some of that now that he’s older?

        Hmm… probably not.

    1. So… there was meant to be more of the warmth, but it’s sort of implied in the slightly shippy bits?

      ***************

      I appreciate you doing this with me, Kuroh,” Kukuri said, and he smiled slightly, nodding to her. Though it was Neko who had volunteered to go shopping with her—almost immediately forcing Kuroh to go along with them unless he wanted to let that cat cause endless disaster in a store—he found he did not mind the company, and it gave him time to think.

      Shiro’s reappearance was welcome, there was no denying that, but to say that it was all simple and easily accepted was another matter. After their coffee table alliance was formed, the Blue King had made it clear he did not trust Shiro in the most important matter of all.

      Neko loves shopping! Are we getting food?”

      Kuroh nodded. He intended to gather some more supplies while they were out. They were low on several things, most importantly white rice.

      I have a list,” Kukuri said, holding up her PDA. “Since I’ve been working when I’m not in school, I haven’t gone shopping for a while, and it got long.”

      Neko made a face. “I still don’t know why you want to go to that place with the big meanie guy and the jerk guy with glasses.”

      Kukuri smiled. “Well, it may be hard to see when you’ve only been there the once, but it’s a very nice place even if it’s a bit weird. It’s a really calming place. The customers all say that. Waka can be intimidating, but he treats us all like family, and I’ve made good friends there, too. You only got a chance to meet Kokoa, but if you’d seen Sawa, you’d love her. She’s great… if a bit scatterbrained. And Mine’s cute. Kent’s a great cook and completely brilliant. Ikki’s smart, too, though I don’t work with him as much. I rarely see Shin, and he can be kind of grumpy, but he’s nice, too. Toma’s very nice to everyone. It’s hard to believe what Shin says about him. All of us part-timers are pretty close. We’ve been talking about taking a group trip to Shinano for that meteor shower. It was Kokoa’s idea, but everyone loved it.”

      But Kukuri is our clan. Our family. You can’t belong to them.”

      Kukuri shook her head. “A work family isn’t the same as my family at home or even my family at school. There’s a place for lots of people in anyone’s life.”

      Really? Then I want a work family, too! I’ll go work with Kukuri!”

      Kuroh knew that would be a terrible idea, and Shiro had given his word that none of them would set foot in that man’s restaurant again. “Neko, we are your work family.”

      She frowned. “But… you are my home family.”

      We’re both,” Kuroh said, and she shook her head, balling her fists as she started to make a scene.

      I want a work family, too. I want lots and lots of happy family. I want—there’s my family!” She took off running, forcing Kuroh and Kukuri to chase after her. She came to a stop, throwing herself at the other girl and knocking her over. “Kokoa! I can claim you now!”

      Kuroh reached her and pulled her off, making her glare at him as Kokoa’s companion helped her back to her feet.

      Oh, Kokoa, I’m so sorry. Neko’s just very enthusiastic.”

      That’s not how I’d describe it,” Kent said, and Kuroh tensed at his words. They had not yet confirmed whether or not he was connected to green, and his presence here could mean trouble.

      Ah, meanie!” Neko hissed at him, and he blinked, slowly shaking his head. “Meanie, meanie. I should send you far away from—”

      Kent isn’t mean. He’s actually a sweetheart,” Kokoa said, looking up at him and getting a frown in response. “He gave up his first day off in weeks to help me today. I’m very grateful.”

      Oh,” Kukuri said brightly. “Are you shopping today, too, Kokoa? I haven’t had a chance in a while, and Kuroh came along to help me and Neko with it.”

      She nodded. “Kent’s doing the same for me. I’m glad you have such a nice friend to help you. I know I feel fortunate to have Kent. He’s been such a big help lately.”

      Neko can help! Neko’s the best at helping.”

      Oh. I… I don’t know about that.”

      Yes, I can. Neko can find you pretty dresses. Neko doesn’t like clothes, but Anna dresses pretty, and you two should dress pretty. Come on, let’s find nice clothes.” She took hold of them and dragged them away toward another shop.

      Kuroh grimaced. “Completely irresponsible.”

      Agreed.”

      Kuroh turned to Kent. “She means no harm. She simply acts often without thinking.”

      I am aware of that. Excuse me. I need to get Kokoa.”

      You object to them shopping for fashion?”

      No.”

      Neko is so enthusiastic.”

      Kokoa glanced at her coworker, biting her lip. Was Kukuri actually comfortable wearing what Neko had picked out? She’d decided the shiny colors were best, and while Kokoa did not believe either of them were fat or anything, it was clear she’d picked out something at least two sizes too small for either of them.

      Enthusiastic is one way of putting it.”

      Kokoa tried not to flinch, nodding at Orion’s words. She didn’t want to react to them again. No one else could hear Orion, and she had thought she was going crazy until Kent confronted her about it. His theory was both a relief and trouble, since she still couldn’t talk about the boy only she could see.

      She didn’t want to be locked away. Her parents would do that if they knew, same with Toma, and Shin wasn’t even willing to talk to her about it. If Kent hadn’t figured it out on his own, she’d still be trapped with no way out. Even though her last medication hadn’t had any affect on her, her doctor insisted on keeping her on anti-psychotics and told her the hallucinations would fade.

      They hadn’t. Orion was still with her now.

      You can think of a way to make them leave so we can get back to Kent’s experiment, right?” Orion asked. “If he’s right and we’re both Strains… maybe there’s a way to get my body back or stabilized or something so I can be seen by everyone again. So I can touch things and help you, not just scare you and make you think you’re crazy.”

      She nodded. She wanted to know that, too, though she didn’t know how Kent thought he could prove it. She trusted him, though. He wasn’t always the easiest to deal with, he could be rude and was often blunt, but he was smart and not the sort to lie to her. He didn’t believe she was only hallucinating, and he thought he had a way to help, though he hadn’t explained what that was.

      Kukuri and her friend were sweet, but Kokoa couldn’t shop for clothes with something this important hanging over her.

      Are you okay? You seem a bit… off today.”

      I’m fine,” Kokoa lied, though she hadn’t been for years, not since she first started being able to see Orion. “Oh, there’s Kent.”

      Kukuri smiled. “I’ll look at this rack while Neko tries on her shinies.”

      I’m sorry, Kent. I didn’t expect to see anyone we knew today.”

      He shook his head. “It is not your fault. I did believe that a more public venue would be a better test ground, but it seems I was mistaken.”

      Test us now,” Orion said. “I want people to see me. I want Kokoa to know she’s not crazy.”

      Orion…”

      He’s speaking again?”

      She nodded. “He’s hovering behind my shoulder. Right here. He wants to try it now. Can we? Or should we go somewhere else?”

      Somewhere a bit less crowded might be best. If it did work, he’d likely knock over the clothing racks. That would not be wise.”

      Then we can go outside,” Orion said, already moving toward the door. He passed right through it, and she sighed. If he was an illusion and not a Strain, this wouldn’t work at all. She’d have to go on the medication and get locked up until she stopped seeing anything.

      Kent nudged her forward, though as soon as he touched her, he withdrew his hand. “It… Come. We can see to this quickly enough. It should not take long if my hypothesis is right.”

      She nodded, walking with him to the door. He held it open for her, and she went out with him to the courtyard. People were coming and going, but none of them paid any attention to them despite how tall Kent was.

      Try it!” Orion said, almost bouncing next to her. “Please, Kent. Please.”

      She started to tell Kent what Orion said, but he held up a hand. “Describe the child for me again, please. I need as much information as you can give me. Age, height, what his weight might be if he was not incorporeal… I need as best you can estimate of any of those figures. I will need it as precise as possible for my calculations.”

      She frowned but did as he asked. Orion stood next to her to make it easier, and she showed Kent where the top of his head was, where his feet were, everything she could think of, and Kent nodded, entering all of it into his phone as she spoke.

      That’s all I can think of. Is that enough?”

      I believe so. I will attempt it now. This should not hurt, and it may have no effect at all. Though I must ask that he put his hand as near to on top of yours as he can and that you allow me to touch you as well.”

      She blinked. “Um… Okay.”

      Orion quickly took her hand, though his fingers wanted to pass through it. Kent put his hand on hers, and she stared at his green glove for a moment before he lifted it away. Strange. She still felt the weight of someone’s hand. And the warmth of it. Was she just being foolish? She’d never really held hands before, not with anyone aside from her parents, so maybe she was just feeling the effects of her foolishness. And Kent.

      Wait,” Orion said, and suddenly she was yanked down as he fell onto the concrete. “Ow.”

      She grimaced, not sure how she’d managed to trip over nothing. “That couldn’t have hurt, Orion. You just go through walls and floors.”

      I know, but…”

      I admit, you look even stranger than I anticipated from her description,” Kent said, adjusting his glasses and tilting his head. “Is that how he always looks to you, Kokoa, or did something go… horribly wrong?”

      Her eyes widened, and she looked over at Orion. He heard Kent’s words and threw himself at her, clinging on tight.

      I can touch you now. This is amazing. Kent’s the best ever. I don’t even know what he did, but he made it work. This is soooo good. Look. I can feel you. And not because we’re connected emotionally, but because I can actually touch you. And see you. And… Kent can see me.”

      Orion was on his feet a second later, jumping up and rushing to Kent this time, who stiffened and grimaced as if he’d been coated in something gross from the stove again. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

      Where did Kokoa go? I wanted her to stay with us and be family. Meow. And she didn’t even try on the shiny I found for her.”

      Kukuri smiled, putting a hand on Neko’s shoulder. “Actually, I think we may have interrupted them on a date.”

      A date? What’s a date? Like today is a Tuesday, right? Okay, but why is that important?”

      Kukuri laughed. Neko was so innocent sometimes. She was sweet, and she didn’t understand at all. Kukuri hadn’t wanted to assume that it was like that for Kokoa and Kent since she knew what trouble it was when people thought everything people their age did was about dating, but Kokoa’s disappearance as soon as Kent showed up again kind of said it was.

      You know how people choose the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with?”

      You mean like me and Shiro and you and Kuroh?”

      Kukuri flushed. “Um, I mean… That’s…”

      No! Meanie with the glasses can’t claim Kokoa. She’s mine!” Neko cried, rushing out of the shop and into the courtyard. Kukuri winced and hurried after her. Poor Neko. She didn’t understand at all. She saw it perhaps too black and white, that family was all or nothing, and that wasn’t how it was. Kokoa could still be a friend to her, as close as family, even if she chose to date Kent.

      Kukuri reached the others. Before she said anything, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked back to see Kuroh and smiled at him, glad he was here as well.

      Mine!” Neko cried, taking hold of Kokoa. “You can’t have her, meanie.”

      Kent frowned. “Excuse me?”

      Get off of her. You’re scaring her,” a boy said, going over to shove himself in between Kokoa and Neko. Kukuri frowned. She didn’t think she knew him.

      Neko hissed like a cat, and Kuroh pulled her back. “Hey!”

      “’The wise man listens before he acts,’” Kuroh’s little speaker said, and Kukuri had to smile as she heard it. “Wait and listen.”

      But Kuroh—”

      Who his this child?”

      I’m… I’m her brother,” the boy said, and Kukuri frowned. She’d never heard Kokoa mention a brother before, not besides Shin or Toma. “I’m Orion.”

      Then again, Kukuri had heard Kokoa mention an Orion before. That she did remember. “Oh. Orion. She’s talked about you before. It’s good to finally meet you.”

      Is it?” Kuroh asked. His hand was on his sword and he seemed tense. “Exactly what is the origin of this child?”

      Kukuri frowned. Why would Kuroh talk like that? Could he really think that Kokoa would lie about her brother or that innocent boy was some kind of troublemaker or threat?

      Is that truly something you wish to discuss?” Kent asked, giving Kukuri a pointed look. She frowned. “It did seem clear your… group has no interest in disclosing that sort of information to a certain party currently present. This is not a choice I agree with personally—ignorance benefits no one, even if on the whole humans are too foolish to act rationally when confronted with these truths. As she is one of your chosen, it seems wrong. Still, your leader and Waka have a non-interference agreement. I will not be the one to violate it.”

      Big meanie,” Neko grumbled, hissing at Kent.

      I don’t understand. Why is everyone so mad? Shouldn’t we be welcoming Kokoa’s brother?” Kukuri looked around, but no one offered her and explanation. “Kuroh, Kent, both of you are good cooks. Why don’t we make a dinner for him?”

      That’s okay. I just want to go home,” Orion said, taking his sister’s hand and tugging on it. “Maybe next time, though.”

      Kukuri smiled. “I’d like that.”

      I like food,” Neko said. “That fish was yummy. Maybe we could have more of that.”

      Kokoa forced a smile. “Well, you’d have a better chance of getting some if you weren’t hissing and calling Kent a meanie with glasses.”

      What? Meanie with glasses made the yummy fish? No. Impossible. Kuroh, that was your fish, right? Right, Kuroh?”

      He shook his head. “I have not made fish in a week since Shiro came back with that gift of beef.”

      Oh, that was yummy, too. Are you sure you don’t want any? Yummy food makes everything better.”

      Kokoa shook her head. “We’re all tired and it’s been a long day. Another time, though, would be quite nice. Thank you for offering, Kukuri.”

      Of course. I’ll see you at work on Saturday. See you, soon, too, hopefully, Orion.”

      Kent said nothing as he started walking away, checking his phone again the way he always did. Kokoa and her brother had to run to match his walking pace. Neko started to pout, grumbling to herself. Kukuri watched the others leave before turning back to Kuroh. He still seemed tense.

      What’s wrong?”

      I do not entirely know.”

      Oh. Is this more you can’t tell me about?” Kukuri asked, and he stared at her. “It’s okay if you can’t. I trust you. I just… I’d like to help if I could.”

      Of course you would. You’re nice, and you’re family, and you’d always help,” Neko said. She smiled. “Meanie with the glasses is still mean, but that doesn’t matter. We’re going shopping!”

      Kuroh sighed, and Kukuri found herself smiling, tempted to take his hand and reassure him for a change.

        1. The part where he asks where Orion comes from?

          I forgot scene change markers, but since that part is in Kukuri’s point of view, it’s not clear that Kuroh saw him appear out of nowhere, which no matter how one looks at it is kind of suspicious. And since at this point Kuroh still has some doubts Kent’s not attached to Jungle, it may have seemed like something worse than the actual nice thing it was, with Kent using his ability to get Orion back to a solid state again.

          Neko is a cat, and cats like shiny things, so it felt fitting. That, and she’d probably like the feel of the fabric, too.

          1. Ah, okay, that makes a lot more sense.

            I still love when Neko makes him faceplant in a wall. I’m sure he remembers that and doesn’t love it at all. <3

            1. I will make it clearer on edit. I’ve got a lot of things to do that with. I forgot to include why Kent chose a public place versus her home and a few other bits, too. Well, I mean, I had dropped Kokoa’s entire subplot, so there is that… 🙁

              That part when she does that is hilarious. I can’t help laughing. He’s so frustrated then, and it’s adorable. He did learn a healthy respect for her abilities, though.

    1. So I kind of took the cold part as being part of the tension and suspicion here, thought it likely is a poor stretch at best.

      *******

      Do we have some kind of problem?”

      Kuroh kept his hand on his sword as he faced the other man. He had been waiting for an opportunity like this since they last met. That shopping trip had only made him more suspicious. He had not been present for the incident that had somehow earned this Strain and his employer a place at this strategy meeting.

      Though my king Shiro has given us the plan and placed everyone in their best positions, there are many unanswered questions.”

      Kent adjusted his glasses. “I see. The explanation of my Strain ability to manipulate the world through math—most commonly by changing an object’s mass in some way—is not enough for you.”

      Not entirely, though it may explain what I witnessed the other day,” Kuroh said. He did not want any harm to come to Kukuri. “That girl and her ‘brother,’ the child who appeared from nowhere.”

      What about them?”

      They’re Strains.”

      Kent drew in a breath and let it out, while Waka tensed. Kuroh would face both of them if this conversation did not go well, but he would not back down now. They were going to fight alongside these men, and they needed to know who they were truly dealing with. Kuroh found it very suspicious—or at least convenient—that Waka’s employees had also joined the two larger clans, one in red and one in blue, both of whom had vouched for the man they’d all thought was Jungle at first.

      As the head of Scepter Four and the blue king, I, Reisi Munakata, give my word that these Strains will remain under the supervision of the former Usagi Waka unless they prove a threat.”

      Kent shook his head. “They won’t. They don’t meet your criteria for Beta level.”

      You’re certain of this? That child was invisible or the next thing to it.”

      That is inaccurate. Orion’s Strain ability had caused him to become incorporeal. He could not be seen or heard by anyone besides Kokoa, not even with Waka’s trained senses or the Strain abilities of myself or Ikkyu or the latent ones that may reside in Shin.”

      Shin, since that seemed to be the name of the angry red clansman, folded his arms over his chest. “The hell. Why would you—Wait. Since when is Kokoa a damned Strain?”

      Kent shrugged. “All her life, most likely, though it was only after she came into contact with Orion that it was apparent. I cannot be certain, since I have only known her since we have been employed at the same location.”

      And that kid is a Strain, too? The hell did he do to her?”

      Nothing. Not physically, anyway. It is not that he made her a Strain. That, as I said, likely existed before she ever met Orion. However, the two of them share some kind of… empathic bond, forged by her ability to see and hear him. He sensed her feelings and emotions, or so he claims. That is not something I can verify.”

      The Strain among the blue grimaced. “Our poor princess. To think that Kokoa has been suffering with this all alone… I could have comforted her.”

      Shut up, Ikki.”

      The other man grinned, playing with the spade on the chain hanging off his suit. “Careful, Shin. Let’s not start a clan war because you won’t admit you care about your ‘little sister.’”

      I’d gladly kick his ass,” Yata said, lifting up his skateboard. “Just give me another reason.”

      As pathetic as you are, even this Strain would wipe the floor with you, Misaki.”

      Fushimi, enough,” Awashima said. “Keep order. This is not going to turn into another battle between clans. We need to remain allied if we are going to fight Jungle.”

      Exactly, boys,” Kusanagi said, though his lighter was in his hand. “We can save this for another time. We can even get proof of everything our new ally has told us today.”

      Ally? That guy? Please.”

      Could be worse,” Shin muttered, shaking his head and giving the table in front of him a kick. “Could be Toma.”

      Damn, you’re right. Does Toma know about this, Ken?”

      Ikkyu, since when have I ever been that stupid?”

      Excellent point.”

      Kuroh shook his head, his attention still on Kent and Waka. “You swear that these Strains are no threat to anyone?”

      If you are worried about the other girl and her friendship with Kokoa, you should not be.”

      And this Toma?”

      He won’t harm Kukuri, if that’s what you’re asking,” the blue Strain said. “Still, the guy is kind of… well, overprotective is one way of putting it.”

      More like psycho. He and Shin did a good job of trying to kill each other.”

      Toma is only a threat if those he cares about are threatened,” Waka said. “If that’s the case, there is honestly no way to be certain where he would draw the line—or indeed, if he has one at all. That makes him possibly dangerous and somewhat unpredictable. If your next words are suggesting he joins the fight, rest assured it will not happen. I will not allow it.”

      Toma would charge the green king and get himself killed. Idiot.”

      He would be doing it for you, Shin.”

      Doesn’t change a damned thing. He’d be an idiot to take on that guy even if he had had a clan, and he doesn’t.”

      Toma will not fight. My decision on that is final. Do not attempt to argue it. I’ve already given you more concessions than I care for.”

      Kent nodded. “I agree. The threat of Jungle to everyone can’t be ignored, but if I had any choice in this matter…”

      You’d be a coward.”

      Don’t even start,” the blue Strain rose. “Ken’s pacifism is not a weakness. He’s a good guy. Better than most of us here.”

      Yes,” Kuroh agreed. “Master Ichigen trained us for battle, but he always said the greatest ones were the ones resolved without using any force at all.”

      Your former king was a wise man, Kuroh Yatogami,” Waka said, nodding to him. “Until we meet again.”

      He walked out of the room, Kent following after him, and no one made a move to stop him. Kuroh watched him, unable to shake the perception settling over him. “That man acts like a king.”

      1. I love when Kuroh quotes Ichigen. He’s so cute. And Ikki and his “I could have comforted her!” “Shut up, Ikki.” Love it. :snickers:

        1. Kuroh quoting Ichigen is adorable. I know it’s a running joke that it’s creepy, but I think it’s kind of sweet.

          I think a lot of conversations end with “Shut up, Ikki/Ikkyu.” He’s just a lot of fun, such a troll. He would have sincerely wanted to help her, though. He is a flirt, but he has a good heart.

  14. And… another… because apparently… I can’t only do one?

    ***********

    I claim you as brother, you know.”

    Very well, if you insist. I claim you as idiot.”

    Bennett stared at him, and Judas folded his arms over his chest, not sure what the other man thought he was going to accomplish with this conversation.

    Did you honestly believe I’d be happy with your attempts to matchmake me to your sister?” Judas demanded. “Why would you think that? You are always going on and on about making your own choices and finding your own path. If someone had chosen this for you, you’d be furious and refuse to have any part of it. And yet you trapped me with a promise you knew I couldn’t back out of and attempted to force something that should not be forced.”

    Please. We both know the most I could ever have done with what I did is open your eyes.” Bennett put a hand over the wound in his side. “Look, Amara is… so special. She’s wonderful. The light of a dreary existence. She made that stuffy house worth it. And she gave up so much for our grandmother. She doesn’t even see how generous she was to a woman who didn’t deserve it half as much as Amara still believes she does. Even after that damned will, she still loves that woman past sense.”

    Agreed, but that does not mean—”

    I couldn’t force you to marry her. I wasn’t trying to. I just knew that there were people out there who’d use what my grandmother did against her, and if I couldn’t be there to help her, then I damn sure wanted someone I could trust there instead.” Bennett closed his eyes. “Sure, I had my hopes up. I wouldn’t have minded if I’d come back to find you two had gone ahead and eloped. Because you are family to me, both of you, and I want you both to be happy. And that’s the other reason I made you give me that promise. You don’t know how to be happy, but if there was anyone in the world that could teach you—it’s her. She’s special that way. She really is. So I… forced you to meet. Anything after that was your choice.”

    Judas did not consider these unwanted emotions a choice. If he could have chosen them, he would not have, even if it did seem practical to marry given the state of her grandmother’s will.

    Tell me she at least hugged you.”

    What?”

    You need hugs. Us men, we think we don’t. We think that’s all for the women, that’s what the world teaches us, but it’s a lie. A giant, evil lie worse than any the Nazis spread. It’s comfort. It’s love. It’s care. It’s things everyone needs. You more than anyone else because you didn’t get it from your parents or anyone in that orphanage. That man they let adopt you—”

    Don’t.”

    Bennett came over to him and wrapped his arms around him. “I’m sorry. I know you want to hate me, and she says she made a mess of things, but if you saw her and how desperate she is to talk to you, maybe you could… soften a bit and listen. She’s worth hearing out.”

    Judas shook his head. “No. I am not some pawn to be used by you or your sister for this inheritance.”

    Damn it, I don’t want their house or their money. And if she could see past the way my grandparents manipulated her and what society expects of her, she wouldn’t, either. She’d throw it all away for you. You are worth more than any house or fortune. You are worth everything. I know they never let you believe that, but they were wrong. We’re human, we make mistakes, but if she loves you, she’ll love you with all she has.”

    She doesn’t. She attempted to seduce me, but that is not the same thing, and I—get off me. I don’t want this. I don’t want to be used. I’m tired of it.”

    I’m not using you. I don’t want you to walk away from something you really want, but… if it’s what you think you have to do… I can’t stop you, either.”

    Good. Now get off.”

    1. Well, Bennett is cute and Judas is being stubborn. He’s made up his mind and refuses to see or hear evidence. Someone knock some sense into him.

      1. Bennett is a sweetie. It’s not exactly a knock, though I do have a scene in mind for where Judas has to listen to her. I even wrote part of it before I was like… “if you do this, you won’t write the rest of the story,” which is true and bad, so I had to hold it back…

         

          1. Yes. I’ve been trying to keep it as incentive to fill in a few more missing pieces… though I did let my sequel to Forgotten Legacy and now K get in the way. A lot. :/
  15. So… this picture exists. And… it makes me want to see him as a dad… Can’t seem to put picture, but it is here. There’s lots of pretty K artwork there, too. I saw a very pretty Mikoto & Anna picture.

     

      1. Yeah, mostly I just save stuff I like to a folder, so brace myself for whatever’s in there, go trawling, then when I want to enjoy, browse my stash of pretties. (There’s a lot of smutty art in there if you go trawling a lot, so yeah.) But there’s also a lot of official art and one shots which are all basically gen, so yeah, I’ll root around probably this weekend. Again, not as much Munakata in my stashes unless it’s Fushimi adjacent, but I’ll see what I can do.)

        1. Same here. I learned to do that with my characters from my visual novels. It’s really hard to go looking for stuff for Jumin Han from Mystic Messenger, for example, because his S/M yandere bad end is the most popular (and completely out of character) and if it’s not geared toward that, it’s slash of him and Zen or 707.  It’s very hard to find content for him that I like.

          Even Kent… since so many people ship him with his best friend Ikki… it’s hard to find things for him, so I save what I can find and don’t go looking often, mostly just enjoying what I already have unless I think I’m missing a CG or something from one of the later games that still haven’t been localized or some other specific moment I don’t have for whatever reason.

    1. Munakata is a total adorable dork and his dad jokes would be legendary. (His ninja thing with Fushimi is one of his elements of dorky dadness coming out in the anime.)

      1. I love adorable dorks. Now I think I need a dad joke fic. Hmm. Not sure how I’d do that.

        Especially as brain is like, “no, we have this idea for crossover, remember? Come back to the dark side and write more.”

          1. Well, it does fuse mostly into the K universe with my take on both sides… I have the basic premise, I was going to write just a bit to get it out of my system, and then I thought I was filling a prompt but wasn’t, and now it’s a mess. Hmm.

            I had a lot of ideas of where the other characters could fill roles and change things up some, but… yeah… mess?

            1. It’s a crossover. Change what needs to change. Sounds intriguing. And if a prompt gets you going, it’s a fill, even if it doesn’t end up hewing close at all.

              1. Well, to that end… this is the sort of beginning, minus the intro that relates to stuff that might not actually work… And I don’t know that I can actually write Fushimi, but… it was kind of funny in parts and set up for much more as well…

                ********************

                Does this mean you’re not going to lock me away forever because of my eyes?” Ikki asked, looking up at the soldiers in blue. He gave them his best winning smile, wishing they hadn’t barred the woman from coming in. That would have made this a lot easier. “I mean, we should all be friends, right? We’ve got the same taste in clothes.”

                He lifted up his hand, showing off his blue glove to prove his point, still smiling.

                Are we really going to use this idiot? How can he possibly be any use to us?”

                Excuse me,” Ikki said, rising. “I may not have any of your fancy swords or lightning powers, and I don’t really care to admit I need glasses, but I am no idiot. I’ll have you know I have degrees in economics and accounting, and I have—had—a job with a very prestigious firm until you all labeled me a ‘Strain’ and took me into custody.”

                You lack control over this power of manipulation you possess.”

                Ikki knew in part that was true, so there was no use denying it. “Well, I can limit it with sunglasses and by avoiding direct eye contact. It only works on women, and it doesn’t last forever, especially if they’re not in close proximity to me. I even know a former coworker who is immune. If you ask her, she’ll tell you overcame it by sheer will.”

                The shorter one huffed. “He’s a jerk that uses his power to seduce women. Why are we wasting time on him?”

                I never made them do anything they didn’t want to do. Many of them still jumped at the chance for a purely sexual relationship.” Ikki shrugged. “If you really need proof, my best friend has it. He did research on it, trying to determine the actual cause. He never believed me when I told him I made a wish and got hypnotic eyes.”

                This ability manifested itself fifteen years ago. At the time of the Katsugu Crater.”

                Ikki nodded. That was also true. He’d been normal before then, near as he could tell. “That mean maybe you believe I’m not a threat? I mean, it won’t lie—Ken swears my fan club is dangerous, but they’re just a bit affectionate, right?”

                The taller one seemed amused. “You have no idea how far those women are willing to go, do you?”

                What?”

                It is no matter. I have need of you. Until I say otherwise, you are mine to use as I see fit.”

                ************

                Are you sure you want to do this?” Fushimi asked, not sure what the hell his captain was thinking. That wasn’t that unusual—Munakata rarely explained his reasoning, and if he did, he only gave part of it, just enough to piss them off. Following his orders was never the wrong choice, but it wasn’t often that they knew all the reasons behind the orders.

                Would you truly wish for us to deny ourselves an advantage in our war with green?”

                Fushimi shook his head. “Of course not, but I’m still not sure why you think this guy is an advantage. Or why you want to make him part of our clan. You really think this random Strain is going to follow your orders?”

                Munakata nodded. “His Strain is a burden. If he believes we can end it, he will do what I ask.”

                And can you?”

                There is much we do not know about the Dresden Slate. Much more may be possible than we ever dreamed.”

                If he finds out you’ve been using him—”

                I will use our resources to assist him. That is no lie. His ability may be quite useful for obtaining information, but only if it can be controlled. Plus there is something about him. While it was the Colorless King who had the power of premonition, not myself, I still sense that Ikki has a part to play in what is to come.”

                I don’t trust him.”

                Nor do I expect you to. You would do well to watch him. In fact, consider that your assignment for the next few weeks.”

                ******************

                Fushimi wondered sometimes if these assignments were tests of loyalty or just Munakata’s warped sense of humor. He also figured he didn’t want to know. In the end, it didn’t matter. He trailed the captain’s new pet Strain as ordered, careful to stay out of sight as the man set an ambush of his own for a restaurant worker.

                Your guard was down, and I have you at my mercy,” the Strain said. “Surrender now, and I may be merciful if you tell me what I want to know.”

                Fushimi reached into his jacket, withdrawing a dagger as he watched.

                Very well,” the restaurant worker said. “I concede your victory. I will tell you the secret ingredient in my miso soup.”

                Fushimi stared in disbelief.

                Excellent,” the Strain said. “My sister will be in town tomorrow, and I want to make it for her. Now take this.”

                With a flourish, he took out a piece of paper, brandishing almost like a weapon but not giving it any of blue’s power.

                The other man smiled, taking it and reading it over. “Congratulations, Ikkyu. Your answer is correct.”

                Another victory is mine.”

                And yet you will only get one concession. Now accept my counterattack.” The other man gave the same kind of flourish to his paper as he handed it over.

                Damn. This is brutal, Ken. Thank you.”

                Fushimi shook his head. What was with these idiots?

                You will not thank me when you actually attempt it. And were you truly grateful, you would not be late for your shift.”

                Sorry. The side gig is keeping me pretty busy these days.”

                This is your ‘side gig.’ You should not have more than one. It is impractical. You should probably give notice to Waka if you are going to keep working elsewhere.”

                And miss working with my best friend? No way.”

                The other man sighed and went inside, followed by the Strain. Fushimi was about to find a new place to watch from when he sensed someone behind him. He turned and found himself almost face-to-face with another man.

                The hell.

                “What do you want?”

                Should I not ask you that?” The other man’s smile reminded Fushimi of Munakata at his most dangerous. “I assume Scepter Four has a good reason for its interest in my people.”

                Fushimi studied him. He didn’t have any obvious affiliation, though they already knew from their investigation into the Strain that there was little information available on his employer. He had the resources to cover his tracks, whatever they were—possibly even green, for all that he didn’t wear its colors and was more than a mindless slave to a point system—and barely existed as far as the government knew.

                Yet he recognized Fushimi as Scepter Four without his uniform.

                You already had Ikki. If his Strain was so dangerous, you would not have released him. So, again, what do you want with my people?”

                Damned if Fushimi knew what Munakata was up to, not that he’d say that, either. “Your people? This isn’t clan territory.”

                That got him another smile, this one derisive. “What you fail to understand is that family does not have to be clan, not any more than family makes a clan. Bonds can cross all sorts of lines and divisions. My people are mine because I say they are, and if your king intends harm to one of mine, he will answer to me.”

                I think it is the other way around.”

                Is it?” That dangerous look came over the man’s face again, and his smile was a threat. “Go check your computer again, child. If, after that, you still wish to pursue this fight, then we will meet again, and I will not hold back.”

                You don’t scare me.”

                Wise men never underestimate their foes. I assure you, there will be no mercy for someone who forces me out of my retirement.”

                1. I’m afraid you’ve encountered someone that has been frightened by exactly two people in his life, his father and his first king, and he’s quite right that Kings are invulnerable to any but another king.

                  That said, Fushimi also isn’t about to underestimate anyone. He got over that as a middle schooler the first time he tangled with Nagare.

                  ETA: That said, fascinating start. And I love the comment on warped sense of humor or test, because yes, that is Munakata for you.

                  1. Well, that’s partially me not having seen enough of his backstory and part the dialogue falling apart.

                    And… there is a reason for this seeming overconfidence?

                    but it’s probably dumb and should be scrapped.

                    1. I don’t think either seem overconfident. One seems appropriately wary and one seems appropriately threatening considering Scepter 4 is about rules and order, not right and wrong.

                      ETA: No, at this point, it all works for me. I’m just aware of why his threatening Fushimi isn’t drawing the reaction he was probably going for. Fushimi is literally a genius and won’t engage when it’s stupid without a good reason, but he’s not easily intimidated.

                    2. So not dumb, I like it, and am not deleting this comment, but since you expressed the backstory need, I went ahead and hunted up Lost Small World right away, and linked you a couple things in the email that I went through along the way to find it.

  16. Any, any+/any, Change the hands on my watch and hold you close
    This misery is weightless as a stone — Hearts Without Chains, Ellie Goulding

  17. any, any+/any, Have you lost the same things I have lost?
    Do you know that panic I know?
    Would I see the terror in your face?
    Do you know that fever I know? — Hearts Without Chains – Ellie Goulding

    1. Well… this is part of the red side… I need to hunt down a picture to send you for reference on the guys with their colors and suits. Shin is red. That’s what matters here.

      ********

      Anna knew that they all wanted her to remain safe inside the bar.

      She didn’t often leave it before, not if she was not at Mikoto’s side.

      Though she liked the security of their shelter, she did not want to be waited on hand and foot, and she had taken on Mikoto’s red to protect everyone. She could not be the one always given protection. She must do things for herself, too, not just let someone else care for them.

      She left quietly, and though she knew that if she was gone for very long, someone would find her. Izumo, most likely, but it could be any of them. She knew they would not leave her alone for long.

      She wrapped her arms around herself. Her red was warm, like Mikoto’s, but different. Not the same as being with him, as holding his hand or resting against him. The others had wrapped her in blankets. Izumo would hold her hand.

      It helped, but it did not bring Mikoto back.

      She thought she heard someone humming, and for a moment, she could believe that Totsuka was was there. She looked for him despite knowing better. No, this boy looked nothing like her favorite singer, though when he looked up from his guitar and his eyes met hers, she saw red.

      What are you looking at?”

      Red,” she said, and he shrugged, his mouth set in a thin line. He went back to his task, practicing the placement of his fingers on the strings, not making any attempt to produce sound. His eyes closed and he ignored her as he continued to practice the melody in his head.

      Abruptly, he stopped and got to his feet. “What is your problem? You don’t need to watch.”

      She nodded. She knew that. She missed Totsuka, missed Mikoto, and she saw red here, but that didn’t mean she should stay.

      Why are you staring at me?”

      Because you are red,” she said, giving him the honest answer, though she knew he would not understand. He was not her clan, not bonded to them.

      It’s just my eyes. Well, and part of my hair. Whatever. A shirt. That’s not—if I were Toma, you’d have a reason to stare. Guy looks like damn bumblebee and thinks there’s nothing wrong with it. He makes Ikki seem normal. You don’t need to stare at me.”

      She took out a marble and lifted it up to study him. His anger masked his pain, as Mikoto had done, as others still did. She lowered the marble and took a step forward, taking his hand. “I am red, too.”

      He frowned down at her, and she did not need a marble to understand his conflict, the war between wanting to feel less alone and not wanting to be hurt again, to take the kindness without fear.

      You are red,” she said, seeing him wince again. “And you are mine.”

      ********

      There you are,” Izumo said as she came back in, still holding onto the hand of the one she’d claimed. “Was starting to get a bit worried about you.”

      She nodded. She knew as much. He would not have been far, but he also knew her and trusted her enough to let her do what she needed to do. She was grateful. Looking around, she saw the members of her clan, of Mikoto’s clan, and she gave the hand of her new friend a squeeze.

      He gave her a sideways glance before turning back to Izumo. “She belong to you?”

      Izumo smiled. “More like we belong to her. Every last one of us.”

      He did not add the including you, but Anna knew he understood what she’d done and why she had brought the boy here.

      She tugged his hand, leading him toward the bar. “Melon soda.”

      Izumo reached into the refrigerator and took out a can, setting in front of the boy. She climbed up on the stool next to him, letting go of his hand as she took hold of the drink Izumo made for her. She held it up for the boy to see.

      This is home.”

      Gathered that much. Not a complete idiot, even if I am a sucker.” He picked up the melon soda and started drinking it.

      Damned lucky sucker,” Yata said, leaning against the bar next to the new boy. “You don’t have any idea where you are, do you? You don’t know who she is. You don’t know anything. Bet you think you’re real cool wearing our color in our territory, but you aren’t one of us. That’s not how it works. We’re HOMRA. You’re just a wannabe with colored contacts.”

      He is red,” Anna said, and Yata looked at her. “The eyes are real, Yata.”

      So? That doesn’t make him one of us. He didn’t recognize the name. He doesn’t know HOMRA. He doesn’t know what a clan is. He’s just a guy with bad fashion sense trying to pass himself off as cool.”

      That would be the idiot who calls himself my older brother. Toma actually thinks he looks good like a walking insect.” He finished his soda and rose. “I just made sure she got back safely. I’m done.”

      He stared to leave, no one stopping him until she spoke.

      Shin.”

      He turned back to her, and she knew he didn’t understand how she knew that name. He did not like it, she knew that, too. He had so much love, but he did not know how to share it, not even with those closest to him.

      You are red. This is your home.”

      Look, I have a mom. Even have a little sister. Sort of. I mean, she’s a year older than me, but Toma calls her a younger sister. And she’s such a naive idiot sometimes it’s easy to think of her as younger.” Shin shook his head. “I’m going, okay? I have to work, and you don’t want to see my boss when you’re late, so whatever. You’re home. If you want me to pay for the soda—”

      You are home here, too,” Anna told him, knowing it would take some time for him to understand that. She had needed it, too, and she would give him as much time as he needed.

      ***********

      What the hell, Anna?” Yata demanded after the doors closed. “Why are you inviting some jerk into our home? Come on, Mr. Kasunagi. You don’t really want him here, do you? Do any of you actually want him here?”

      You’ve never been good at accepting change,” Kasunagi said, and Yata glared at him. “Losing Totsuka. Losing Mikoto. Things changed. We can’t be what we were. That doesn’t mean we give up on what we have, but we have to allow it to grow.”

      Grow? Are you insane? Just because that guy has red eyes—and I don’t know, Anna, I still think they’re fake. He’d only have red eyes if he was one of us, and he’s not. He’s not red clan. Not even if he was part of the one before Mikoto.”

      Yata,” she said, and he winced, not like himself much. He shouldn’t doubt her. He shouldn’t yell around her. Still, it was hard not to. “I chose him. He is mine.”

      The room went silent. No one even seemed to breathe for a moment. Her words hit hard. Up until now, they were all just going forward from what Mikoto left behind. Even Anna was that, someone he found, and he’d made her clan. Now she was king, carrying on for him.

      That she’d gone and chosen someone else to join them…

      She came to Yata’s side and took his hands in hers even as he tried to find words for this kind of betrayal. How could she go and change what Mikoto left behind? They were all his, and now…

      You are mine, too,” she said, “but I chose him.”

      Anna…”

      He needs us more than he knows. This is home, though he does not understand that yet. He will. He cannot reach out even to those he loves. His ‘brother.’ His ‘sister.’ His mother. He will not let them share his burdens or see his pain. He needs us, and I chose him.”

      You heard the lady,” Izumo said. “From now on, Shin is a member of HOMRA. Treat him like one. That goes for all of you.”

      Yes, Mr. Kusanagi.”

      1. If this is post-ROK, Yata has matured a bit more than that. If it’s not, then him being standoffish to new members who don’t respect Homra or Anna is so in character, poor dear. :pats his head:

        But if they still have aura, he’s technically not Homra until she gives him aura and he becomes a clansman. I’m personally super curious how she’s going to mark her clansman because all the kings do it differently, and canon didn’t show her taking any. She kept Mikoto’s clansmen, which doesn’t always happen either. Munakata got rid of almost all of Hibari Jin’s (his predecessor) except Zenjou because he needed a stopper just as much as Mikoto did.

        ETA: Come to think of it, most of this is backstory, so to take blue aura, they have a sword and knighting and vows ceremony, then you get marked by the Blue King. To take red when it was Mikoto, you had to take his hand while it was wreathed in flames. If you were compatible, you got a mark. If you weren’t, you got burnt. To take red when it was Kagutsu, you had to burn off a body part, though it didn’t go into more detail than that. Green is given/received via the app. The only one we saw claiming clansmen in the anime was Shiro.

        1. We’re in early days of ROK, actually. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer. This is… well, Shiro is back, but the coffee table alliance hasn’t happened yet. I actually think where all my ideas comes together is the big battle when green comes to steal the Dresden Slate. I have… so, so many ideas about how that diverges there… So at this point, it’s all moving towards that, but with a few extra players involved to set things down slightly different paths.

          So Yata I thought would still be a bit brash/harsh against someone who disrespected HOMRA, like they showed when green tried to ambush everyone by baiting them with the video of Mikoto and Totsuka.

          I knew Anna keeping everyone was special after hearing what Munakata did to the former blue clan. I thought it would be interesting to explore the possibility of her adopting a new member and Shin is… His color in Amnesia is red, his symbol is heart, but it’s not just that. Shin’s father accidentally killed someone in a bar fight when he was drunk, and he grew up the son of a “murderer,” bullied and disliked by everyone except Toma who is overprotective of him and the heroine, who used to stand up for him. He’s an only child who became the second parent in their house and grew up too fast, doesn’t get along with kids his age and relates better to adults. He didn’t want to pursue school because he didn’t think he was good enough. He hates Toma as much as he craves his respect and ends up following his path into law school in later canon. They have a real love/hate relationship that gets worse if the heroine is in the middle of it (though some believe there’s basis for a threesome between them in canon. She does say as a kid she wants to marry them both in Shin’s route.) Shin goes to great lengths to protect the heroine (without letting her know about it) and secretly learns the guitar since she’s in a band. So… I see quite a bit of where his personality seems to suit the red clan, though I could admittedly be wrong about that.

          I need to read some more of Anna to see what she might do to mark a clansman of her choice. Shin hasn’t reached that point yet, at least not officially. I have thoughts but I don’t know if they suit her. I don’t think she’d do anything that hurt anyone, though. She’s about using red to protect her people, so she doesn’t seem like someone who’d make the people she chooses burn a body part like the one guy.

          1. So yup, violent and destructive aura and lives on the outside of society. Blue and Red are in opposition literally. Blue represents order and society and Red represents those who don’t fit in society or those rules. Thus, most of their antagonism. He’s a good fit for red.

            No, Anna is even more protective than Mikoto, but she would probably touch him and give him aura and/or a mark without having her hand aflame is my guess. She’s just as much Totsuka’s legacy as Mikoto’s. That said, most clansmen become clansmen at the start of their relationship with a clan, but Silver and Green do it differently. Colorless was the only one that truly was a family. Red was found family. Blue was work (much more up Fushimi’s alley of needs personal space and emotional distance). So I think there’s got to be the offer to become a member of the clan.

            The person the Colorless King took over then Shiro got stuck in, he gets an invite after ROK to three of the Clans—Blue, Silver, and Red, and there’s very much this warm, we have this to offer, would you like our clan vibe, but no pressure that they all apparently use in recruiting. Except Neko is uh… more grabby, claimy than no pressure.

            I’m interested in all of it.

            1. Yes, Shin felt very red.

              Ikki is probably not that suited to blue. He’s more chaos. Kent is order. Kent isn’t really green as it was characterized on the show, either. Still, there are thoughts bouncing around my brain for all of that anyway… I haven’t finished the research I need and the full set up that led me this far…

              I think she’d touch them. I’m not sure if it would involve her marbles or just be a simple touch. A part of me was actually thinking of something she probably wouldn’t do, so that’s why I said research into Anna. I picture it being a very gentle marking even if it is red aura.

  18. any, any+/any, You left everything behind except yourself
    All I see is question marks and nothing else — Hearts Without Chains, Ellie Goulding

    1. Well, this started to fill this, with the conversation between Shiro and Waka, but… it didn’t quite get the right sense of the words in my head and came out different and slightly jumbled on paper.

      ****************

      What do you mean, you have to work?” Neko wailed, throwing herself at Kukuri. “You can’t leave us now. No, no, no.”

      Shiro laughed. Kuroh did not understand why he always seemed to think this was so amusing. Kukuri had responsibilities, and she should not be forced to remain here when she had other places to be. Neko had been quite unreasonable since learning Kukuri had taken a job in the city during the summer break. She felt it some kind of betrayal, even if Kukuri assured her that she would not be gone for long, and not even summer’s end reassured her when Kukuri did not quit but instead reduced her hours to weekends only.

      It’ll be fine. I always came back before, remember, Neko?”

      No! You need to stay here.”

      Neko, you know that Kukuri’s work at the restaurant is very important to her—”

      A restaurant? We should go there. We can eat lots and lots of yummy food, right? Right, Kukuri?”

      The other girl hesitated, but she saw those pleading eyes of Neko’s and ended up nodding. “Yes, Neko. Actually, Kent and Shin just revised the menu, so there’s even more good stuff on it, and everyone says Kent makes better coffee than Shin, so… today’s a better day to visit than most. Kent’s in charge of the kitchen.”

      This Kent,” Kuroh began, and Kukuri looked over at him, smiling in that way of hers as soon as he began.

      Oh, he’s not a better cook than you, Kuroh. No one is, but.. he is the better one of the two at work, I think. Kent’s very… methodical. And with Waka’s recipes, you kind of have to be. Still, it should be good. Very good.”

      ****************

      I’m sorry,” Kukuri said, dashing away from them toward the building. She rushed up to another girl in a maid’s uniform, and the two of them went inside together without so much as a glance back at them, much to Neko’s dismay. She opened her mouth to wail and Kuroh covered it, not wanting to attract attention to them just now.

      This is where Kukuri works?” Kuroh eyed the sign by the stairs, not sure what to think of this place. Japan was known for maximizing space in every way, so it should not surprise anyone that the restaurant was in the basement of the building, but he still did not care for it. This location was strategically bad.

      Unless, of course, you are establishing a defensible position, in which case the downsides you are currently assessing are actually assets,” a voice said from behind him, and Kuroh tensed, looking behind him to find a man standing there, one he had not heard approach. Few could manage such a feat. Kuroh’s former king was one, but he had trained hard to ensure there would be no others.

      I don’t—”

      You do not have to enter here. In fact, you should not. This entrance is for employees only.”

      I don’t like you,” Neko said, sticking her nose out forward. “You’re not nice. You’re just as bad as the boss with the glasses. And the jerk with the glasses. You’re a jerk with the glasses.”

      The man pushed his glasses up and gave her a small smile. “I suppose you are correct in that much, cat. And while the alley might be suitable for one such as you when you were a stray, it is not your place now.”

      Kuroh put his hand on his sword. This man knew too much. He knew he faced someone dangerous, but he did not sense in him the same threat that he’d seen in the others from green. If this man was not green, what was he?

      Relax, Kuroh,” Shiro said in his same careless way. “We are just here to eat, after all. Let’s go around front like we should.”

      Shiro—”

      Perhaps this conversation would be better over a cup of tea?” Shiro shrugged, giving them his usual smile. “I certainly would like one.”

      If you are to enter as paying customers, I am in no place to refuse you, but I will not take tea with you, Silver King.”

      You recognized me even now, even after so much has changed. I am both pleased and saddened.” Shiro’s words were tinged with regret, though whether that was because of this man or the loss of his friend the gold king, Kuroh could not say. “Of course I remember you, though it has been many years now. You came with your father and the lieutenant to see me aboard my airship.”

      Oh, Shiro.” Neko was excited again, but Kuroh could not see why. She even bounced, clapping her hands together. “You knew his father?”

      Wait, did that fool think that meant this man was clan? She’d claimed Kukuri, and that Kuroh understood, but this man was dangerous. He did not act like an ally.

      Shiro nodded. “Yes. I did. He was a member of the Usagi, a trusted friend of the lieutenant. He valued him highly.”

      He was perhaps the only one that did.” The man said, turning and walking away from them.

      Shiro sighed. “You were far less hostile as a child, Waka.”

      That is where you are mistaken, you arrogant fool. I was never a child.” Waka spoke with extreme coldness. Kuroh’s grip tightened on his sword. Waka’s eyes flicked to it and back to Kuroh’s face. “I am never easy on those who try and make me come out of retirement. Draw that sword, and I will make certain you regret it.”

      Shiro put his hand on Kuroh’s arm, trying to calm him. “That is not necessary.”

      He insulted you, Shiro. He’s a big meanie, and meanies to my Shiro must be punished.” Neko moved to attack before anyone could stop her, but she found no opponent within her grasp. Moving with a speed so impressive Kuroh could barely recognize the Usagi training in his movement, Waka evaded her. “Hey, no fair!”

      You are a Strain. Your attempt to mess with my mind is equally ‘unfair.’”

      We were invited here by Kukuri. She is a friend of ours. We are only here to eat, I assure you of that,” Shiro said. “Please. Let’s not fight.”

      As I said before, I will not refuse paying customers. However, I will make this much clear—this is not clan territory. It does not belong to red or blue. Green is unwelcome here. Do not make me add silver to that list.”

      I promise you, we will not.”

      I do not think it wise to eat here,” Kuroh said, aware of Waka’s eyes on them from the back of the restaurant. He was going to watch them for their entire meal, and Kuroh knew Neko’s eating habits would please no one. She had no concept of manners or sticking to her own plate. “We have enough enemies without you antagonizing one for no reason.”

      Aw, are you scared, Kuroh?” Neko teased, wiggling like she still had a tail. “I’m not. There’s nothing our Shiro can’t defeat.”

      Shiro smiled, though it was not a genuine one. “I know you believe that, and I am grateful for your belief in me.”

      Kuroh wasn’t as pacified by that as Neko was. No, that just added to his unease about this situation. “He clearly hates you. Why are you doing this? What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”

      No one should hate my Shiro.” Neko paused. “Wait, why is it all the ones with glasses hate my Shiro? Maybe I should get rid of all the glasses—”

      Don’t,” Kuroh said, yanking her down by her dress. “Shiro, this isn’t a game. I know that in a normal battle, only a king is a threat to a king—”

      Yeah, like you getting your butt kicked by the boss with the glasses!”

      “—but he moves like Usagi. You said his father was the gold king’s vassal.”

      He was. And it is true he must have Usagi training.”

      And that he hates you.”

      That, too.”

      Sometimes Kuroh really regretted not killing Shiro when he first found him. This man was absolutely infuriating. Why did he always seem to act without sense?

      Forgive me for not greeting you at the door, Master,” Kukuri, now dressed in her uniform, had come up to the table and bowed to them. “What can I bring for you?”

      Kukuri,” Neko said, frowning. “Why are you talking all funny like that? Shiro is my Shiro, not your master.”

      Mistress, the cook has prepared a special fish dish today. Would you like to try some?”

      Yes. I want fish.” Neko clapped her hands together, and Kukuri smiled, bowing to her before turning back to Shiro.

      Anything for you, Master?”

      Hey! I told you—that’s my Shiro.”

      Kukuri sighed. “Neko, I explained this to you before—it’s a maid and butler cafe. I greet all customers like they’re my master or mistress coming home for dinner. Please don’t make another scene. Waka is already mad, and I don’t want to get fired. This is… Okay, it’s a weird job, but I like it here.”

      Kuroh did have the sense that no ordinary job would have suited anyone in the silver clan, and while Kukuri’s involvement wasn’t official, she was still a valued friend to them all.

      Is there some kind of problem here?” Waka had moved close without sound, not even a blur of motion to distinguish him before he was simply… there.

      No, sir. The mistress wanted fish. I will go get it.”

      She bowed to him and left. Waka folded his arms over his chest. “I did say that I allowed paying customers. Perhaps I should have been more specific—I allow paying customers who do not disturb the peace of my restaurant. If you continue to distress my other customers, I will force you to leave.”

      We can go,” Shiro said, and Neko started to pout about her fish. “If you will answer one question of mine.”

      Waka tensed. “I suppose there is no avoiding it. Very well. Yes, my father did try and make me the gold king’s successor.”

      Kuroh frowned. The Slate chose successors. Sometimes it took years for that, like the gap between Jin Hibari’s death and the rise of the blue king Munakata. Even Suoh, the red king, had not appeared for years after Kugutsu.

      I can only imagine that what he felt would be a worthy vessel of such power was—”

      Nothing a normal human is capable of, let alone a child.” Waka adjusted his glasses again. “Now go. I am retired. I want nothing to do with your clans. This is my territory. These are my people. And your clans are not welcome here.”

      1. Of all the clans he feels are there to cause trouble, it’s kind of adorable because the Silver King had to be forcibly yanked out of his changelessness and apathetic indifference to anything anyone else did. Neko is uncontainable though no matter what, but hardly in a way likely to cause him to “unretire”, just in the way any childlike innocent like her is.

        They’re all cute. And come on, dude, Kukuri is theirs too and first. Overdefensive a bit.

        Ouch on the backstory. That never goes well.

        1. Yeah, the Silver Clan isn’t really a threat in the way others are. Green right now is the biggest threat to the existing order, with gray’s help.

          Still… Waka met the silver king when he was in the middle of enduring his father’s attempts to make him strong enough to hold the gold king’s power, and a part of Waka hates him for that indifference. He’s also aware through his residual ties to the gold clan that the king has died (since Fushimi felt Mikoto’s, it seemed like Waka, were he to have been in that position, would have experienced something similar.)  If his father was still alive, he’d have tried to drag him in and bond him to the Slate by now. So between that, blue’s interest in Ikki, green’s sudden rise in power, and red noticing Shin, Waka’s on fairly high alert.

          I’m not sure if Waka sees Kukuri as his the way that he sees Ikki, Kent, Shin, Toma, Sawa, Mine, and the heroine as his, and if she chose silver clan as hers, he wouldn’t fight them over that choice. Without a clan, she has his protection. She might even still have it if her clan didn’t step in, since he doesn’t want anyone to be in the position he was in, where his clan’s indifference/ignorance (willful or not) of what was happening to him allowed him to suffer.

          Though, admittedly, they were supposed to get through more of the meal when I first sat down to write this. It was going to come to head over another customer being… trouble to Kukuri. I could redo it and see if that makes it better…

          1. Definitely no need to redo, though you always can if you want to. I engage with characters and sometimes they’re meant to be annoying or overdefensive, etc. It’s not something wrong with the story when a character acts out of proportion.

            1. Well, I did go ahead and do it anyway since I was feeling insecure and wanting to make it better and more inline with what I originally had planned plus carry through some of the subplots.

              Eh… it’s still a mess, though.

    2. Okay, so this is a much, much longer and possibly worse/more convoluted version of it, but also maybe not?

      I don’t know.

      Though I do have to add a bit of a note… so in Amnesia, the heroine has no default name. In writing fics for her and Kent, I chose Kokoa for that. The kanji for it means “heart’s love.” It also is pronounced like the Japanese word for cocoa, which can be a problem for her… like here.

      ************

      What do you mean, you have to work?” Neko wailed, throwing herself at Kukuri. “You can’t leave us now. No, no, no.”

      Shiro laughed. Kuroh did not understand why he always seemed to think this was so amusing. Kukuri had responsibilities, and she should not be forced to remain here when she had other places to be. Neko had been quite unreasonable since learning Kukuri had taken a job in the city during the summer break. She felt it some kind of betrayal, even if Kukuri assured her that she would not be gone for long, and not even summer’s end reassured her when Kukuri did not quit but instead reduced her hours to weekends only.

      It’ll be fine. I always came back before, remember, Neko?”

      No! You need to stay here.”

      Neko, you know that Kukuri’s work at the restaurant is very important to her—”

      A restaurant? We should go there. We can eat lots and lots of yummy food, right? Right, Kukuri?”

      The other girl hesitated, but she saw those pleading eyes of Neko’s and ended up nodding. “Yes, Neko. Actually, Kent and Shin just revised the menu, so there’s even more good stuff on it, and everyone says Kent makes better coffee than Shin, so… today’s a better day to visit than most. Kent’s in charge of the kitchen.”

      This Kent,” Kuroh began, and Kukuri looked over at him, smiling in that way of hers as soon as he began.

      Oh, he’s not a better cook than you, Kuroh. No one is, but.. he is the better one of the two at work, I think. Kent’s very… methodical. And with Waka’s recipes, you kind of have to be. Still, it should be good. Very good.”

      **************

      I’m sorry,” Kukuri said, dashing away from them toward the building. She rushed up to another girl in a maid’s uniform, Neko trailing after her as usual. Kuroh made sure he was within distance to intervene should it be necessary, though he did not want any part of it. “I know I’m late. I missed the first train and then… then I don’t remember how I got here.”

      Neko’s doing, of course. When Shiro intervened to get Kukuri across town, Neko made sure Kukuri didn’t remember the details of it.

      It’s fine,” the other girl told her. “It’s pretty quiet so far today, and Waka didn’t assign us any extra cleaning, either.”

      Your dress is kind of pretty,” Neko said, tugging on the girl’s sleeve. “It reminds me of Anna’s dress. Anna is very nice. Anna is my friend. Are you Kukori’s friend?”

      That got her a smile. “Well, I like to think I’m friends with everyone I work with here, and Kukuri’s such a sweetheart everyone wants to be her friend.”

      Really? That’s so nice. You’re nice, too.”

      Yes,” Kukuri said, smiling as well. “I don’t know why Kokoa is calling me a sweetheart when that’s what she is. Everyone here loves her.”

      Kokoa blushed. “That’s not—”

      Is there a particular reason you are talking over a trashcan? One would not think this a hospitable location for any sort of conversation, and you are blocking my path.”

      Neko jumped back a little. “Oooh. Another meanie with glasses.”

      Kukori laughed as Kokoa pulled her out of the way so the man could dispose of his trashbag.

      You didn’t answer me. Do you have any good reason to be conversing out here? I know you came out here to dispose of what that customer left on your table, Kokoa, but if it was truly your wish for Waka not to see it, you should not have lingered. As for you, you are late and not yet in uniform.”

      Kukuri winced. “Sorry, Kent. There was this thing with the train—”

      I truly do not want to know. Nor do I need to.”

      Meanie,” Neko said, sticking her tongue out at him.

      He grimaced. “If Waka has hired another idiot, I quit.”

      Hey, what are you—you big—” Kuroh moved to intercept her, covering her mouth before she could say more, needing to keep her from using some kind of illusion and drawing attention to them.

      Please don’t quit,” Kukuri begged. “You’re the best cook we have, and my friends came here to eat, and you can’t leave us, Kent.”

      He won’t leave,” Kokoa said, looking up at the much taller man with a smile. “He’s just frustrated, right, Kent? After all, today was supposed to be that day you did research but you took this shift from Shin, so… you’re just extra sensitive to what you see as wasting time.”

      Perhaps.”

      I’ll just go change,” Kukuri said, hurrying inside. She stopped in the doorway to wave back at them. “See you in a bit, guys!”

      Neko waved back, bouncing up and down. “Bye, Kukuri! See you soon!”

      Another man walked up, in time to get bumped by her enthusiasm, and she stopped, frowning at him as he glared at her. “What are you doing?”

      Meanie.”

      Whatever,” he muttered, stopping again in front of Kent. “You gonna move or what?”

      Kent reached into his pocket and took out his phone. The screen showed a bright green before he closed it and put it away again. “It does seem you forgot our arrangement for today. I have verified it in my calendar. You switched this shift with me so that you could be present for your mother.”

      Damn it.”

      I would also observe that this distraction is unlike you and you’re showing visible signs of fatigue. You need to rest.”

      Shin snorted. “Fat lot of good that did me today. It doesn’t matter. I’m fine.”

      No, you’re not,” Kokoa said, her worry showing on her face. “Shin, if there is anything we can do—just tell us. Please. I know you’re worried about your mom, but we can help. I’ll go with you to see her tomorrow, and we can—”

      You don’t have to. I can handle it. And even if I didn’t, Toma’s already stuck his nose in. I don’t need yours in it, too.”

      She flinched, and Kent put a hand on her shoulder. She leaned her cheek against it as Shin walked away from them.

      Neko put her hands on her hips. “Meanie.”

      Kokoa shook her head. “He’s not. He’s just worried about his mom.”

      That is inaccurate. Shin’s statements are frequently abrasive and meant to keep others at a distance,” Kent said. “Come. You still have tables, and I may have burned the rice by now.”

      She nodded, following him inside.

      ************

      I don’t know why Kukuri works here,” Neko said with a pout. “It’s full of meanies. Well, except for Kokoa. She’s nice. Maybe we should adopt Kokoa, too. You think so, Shiro? She could be silver clan, too.”

      Shiro smiled, amused. Kuroh wasn’t.

      You could have done something back there.”

      Shiro shook his head. “Why would I? It was not necessary. I enjoyed watching.”

      Yes, and that was part of the problem. Few would forgive him for his tendency to slide back into inaction. Seventy years worth of it would make for considerable resentment, and even Kuroh had some lingering feelings about how Shiro had knowingly left them to fight without so much as telling them he was alive, choosing to work from the shadows until green forced his hand.

      His screen was green.”

      Neko’s eyes went wide. “Like that Jungle app?”

      Kuroh nodded, looking back at the building. Though Kent had not shown any signs of the same mindlessness of the other green members they’d interacted with so far, Kuroh did not know that he liked the idea of leaving Kukuri here. He eyed the sign by the stairs, not sure what to think of this place. Japan was known for maximizing space in every way, so it should not surprise anyone that the restaurant was in the basement of the building, but he still did not care for it. This location was strategically bad.

      Unless, of course, you are establishing a defensible position, in which case the downsides you are currently assessing are actually assets,” a voice said from behind him, and Kuroh tensed, looking behind him to find a man standing there, one he had not heard approach. Few could manage such a feat. Kuroh’s former king was one, but he had trained hard to ensure there would be no others.

      I don’t—”

      You do not have to enter here. In fact, you should not. This entrance is for employees only.”

      I don’t like you,” Neko said, sticking her nose out forward. “You’re not nice. You’re just as bad as the boss with the glasses. And the jerk with the glasses. The meanie with the glasses. You’re another one. A jerk with the glasses.”

      The man pushed his glasses up and gave her a small smile. “I suppose you are correct in that much, cat. And while the alley might be suitable for one such as you when you were a stray, it is not your place now.”

      Kuroh put his hand on his sword. This man knew too much. He knew he faced someone dangerous, but he did not sense in him the same threat that he’d seen in the others from green. His employee carried a phone with a green screen. Did that mean they were both green? And if they were not… what was they?

      Relax, Kuroh,” Shiro said in his same careless way. “We are just here to eat, after all. Let’s go around front like we should.”

      Shiro—”

      Perhaps this conversation would be better over a cup of tea?” Shiro shrugged, giving them his usual smile. “I certainly would like one.”

      If you are to enter as paying customers, I am in no place to refuse you, but I will not take tea with you, Silver King.”

      You recognized me even now, even after so much has changed. I am both pleased and saddened.” Shiro’s words were tinged with regret, though whether that was because of this man or the loss of his friend the gold king, Kuroh could not say. “Of course I remember you, though it has been many years now. You came with your father and the lieutenant to see me aboard my airship.”

      Oh, Shiro.” Neko was excited again, but Kuroh could not see why. She even bounced, clapping her hands together. “You knew his father?”

      Wait, did that fool think that meant this man was clan? She’d claimed Kukuri, and that Kuroh understood, but this man was dangerous. He did not act like an ally. He could well be part of their enemy in green.

      Shiro nodded. “Yes. I did. He was a member of the Usagi, a trusted friend of the lieutenant. He valued him highly.”

      He was perhaps the only one that did.” The man said, turning and walking away from them.

      Shiro sighed. “You were far less hostile as a child, Waka.”

      That is where you are mistaken, you arrogant fool. I was never a child.” Waka spoke with extreme coldness. Kuroh’s grip tightened on his sword. Waka’s eyes flicked to it and back to his face. “I am never easy on those who try and make me come out of retirement. Draw that sword, and I will make certain you regret it.”

      Shiro put his hand on Kuroh’s arm, trying to calm him. “That is not necessary.”

      He insulted you, Shiro. He’s a big meanie, and meanies to my Shiro must be punished.” Neko moved to attack before anyone could stop her, but she found no opponent within her grasp. Moving with a speed so impressive Kuroh could barely recognize the Usagi training in his movement, Waka evaded her. “Hey, no fair!”

      You are a Strain. Your attempt to mess with my mind is equally ‘unfair.’”

      We were invited here by Kukuri. She is a friend of ours. We are only here to eat, I assure you of that,” Shiro said. “Please. Let’s not fight.”

      As I said before, I will not refuse paying customers. However, I will make this much clear—this is not clan territory. It does not belong to red or blue. Green is unwelcome here. Do not make me add silver to that list.”

      I promise you, we will not.”

      *************

      I do not think it wise to eat here,” Kuroh said, aware of Waka’s eyes on them from the back of the restaurant. He was going to watch them for their entire meal, and Kuroh knew Neko’s eating habits would please no one. She had no concept of manners or sticking to her own plate. “We have enough enemies without you antagonizing one for no reason.”

      Aw, are you scared, Kuroh?” Neko teased, wiggling like she still had a tail. “I’m not. There’s nothing our Shiro can’t defeat.”

      Shiro smiled, though it was not a genuine one. “I know you believe that, and I am grateful for your belief in me.”

      Kuroh wasn’t as pacified by that as Neko was. No, that just added to his unease about this situation. “He clearly hates you. Why are you doing this? What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”

      No one should hate my Shiro.” Neko paused. “Wait, why is it all the ones with glasses hate my Shiro? Maybe I should get rid of all the glasses—”

      Don’t,” Kuroh said, yanking her down by her dress. “Shiro, this isn’t a game. I know that in a normal battle, only a king is a threat to a king—”

      Yeah, like you getting your butt kicked by the boss with the glasses!”

      “—but he moves like Usagi. You said his father was the gold king’s vassal.”

      He was. And it is true he must have Usagi training.”

      And that he hates you.”

      That, too.”

      Sometimes Kuroh really regretted not killing Shiro when he first found him. This man was absolutely infuriating. Why did he always seem to act without sense?

      Forgive me for not greeting you at the door, Master,” Kukuri, now dressed in her uniform, had come up to the table and bowed to them. “What can I bring for you?”

      Kukuri,” Neko said, frowning. “Why are you talking all funny like that? Shiro is my Shiro, not your master.”

      Mistress, the cook has prepared a special fish dish today. Would you like to try some?”

      Yes. I want fish.” Neko clapped her hands together, and Kukuri smiled, bowing to her before turning back to Shiro.

      Anything for you, Master?”

      Hey! I told you—that’s my Shiro.”

      Kukuri sighed. “Neko, I explained this to you before—it’s a maid and butler cafe. I greet all customers like they’re my master or mistress coming home for dinner. Please don’t make another scene. Waka is already mad, and I don’t want to get fired. This is… Okay, it’s a weird job, but I like it here.”

      Kuroh did have the sense that no ordinary job would have suited anyone in the silver clan, and while Kukuri’s involvement wasn’t official, she was still a valued friend to them all.

      A commotion from the other table caught everyone’s attention then, Kuroh’s hand going to his sword as soon as he saw the man’s hand on Kokoa’s arm.

      I said you didn’t bring me what I ordered.”

      She tried to pull herself free. “And I told you—I brought you the only kind of cocoa that’s on the menu. Now let go.”

      Is there some kind of problem here?” Waka had moved close without sound, not even a blur of motion to distinguish him before he was simply… there. He radiated menace, ready for an attack, and Kuroh knew it would not be a long one.

      The waitress managed to free herself. “Waka, it’s fine. It’s—”

      It is not,” he said. He didn’t even look behind him. “Help her back into the kitchen, Kent.”

      He did so without a word, having made a similar silent appearance behind her. Kuroh had not seen any signs of green’s ability to manipulate space, and yet both men had traveled the space and distance without sound but with incredible speed.

      I don’t understand,” she said, the trembling in her voice clear. “Why does everyone have to do that with my name?”

      I do not know. I’ve never seen the humor in it.”

      That’s why I like you.”

      Kuroh turned his attention back to Waka, whose glare toward the man who’d touched the girl was murderous. He stood to intervene, but before he could, the man got up from his chair and ran out of the restaurant.

      Waka turned back to them. “More problems?”

      Kukuri shook her head quickly. “No, sir. The mistress wanted fish. I will go get it.”

      She bowed to him and left, the rest of their order forgotten in the shadow of the manager’s ire.

      Waka folded his arms over his chest. “I did say that I allowed paying customers. Perhaps I should have been more specific—I allow paying customers who do not disturb the peace of my restaurant. He is not welcome. If you had held that illusion for one second longer, you would already be answering to me. I may yet force you to leave.”

      He was being a scary meanie. I wanted to help.”

      Perhaps so, but your choice of assistance caused my other customers to lose their appetite,” Waka said, glancing over at the couple rushing to get their things, dropping yen notes on the table. “I had it well in hand and had no need of either of you.”

      Kuroh knew that Waka would have called on Kent over any of them, even aware of what Shiro could do. “It is not my way to see any lady harmed, and this one is a friend to one of ours.”

      Waka’s lips thinned into a line. “You claim Kukuri?”

      I do,” Neko said brightly, not even aware of what she was doing in making such a claim.

      Waka pushed up his glasses, facing Shiro. “Nevertheless, when she is here, she has no need of you or your protection.”

      We can go,” Shiro said, and Neko started to pout about her fish. Kuroh did not expect her to understand the boundaries of territory. She didn’t understand boundaries at all. “We’d like Neko’s fish, of course, and to be sure that both girls are okay, but if you would rather us go… we can.”

      Your stipulation for such an agreement?”

      I will not ask more, nor will I encroach in any way on your territory if you will answer one question of mine.”

      Kuroh shook his head. That was a dangerous promise to make when they were not certain of this man’s allegiance. He may have said green wasn’t welcome, but that phone screen had certainly looked like Jungle’s. Also, the way they moved still troubled him.

      Waka tensed. “I suppose there is no avoiding it. Very well. Yes, my father did try and make me the gold king’s successor.”

      Kuroh frowned. The Slate chose successors. Sometimes it took years for that, like the gap between Jin Hibari’s death and the rise of the blue king Munakata. Even Suoh, the red king, had not appeared for years after Kugutsu.

      I can only imagine that what he felt would be a worthy vessel of such power was—”

      Nothing a normal human is capable of, let alone a child.”

      Kuroh’s training under his former king had started in his childhood, but he had known a kind master, one he still respected even now after swearing his oath to another.

      A slight creak on the wood floor made Kuroh look over. Kent passed a takeout container to Waka. “I believe it may bruise slightly, but she is more shaken than harmed. The other girl is with her now.”

      Waka nodded. “Make the usual preparations, then. We will close early.”

      Kent left as quietly as he’d come, not even the squeak of a floorboard to note him walking away.

      Waka held the container out to Neko, who took it with glee. “Fish!”

      You need not worry about Kukuri’s wages. She will be compensated as if she were able to work her full shift,” Waka said. “Now go. I am retired. I want nothing to do with your clans. This is my territory. These are my people. And your clans are not welcome here.”

      1. It is interesting where it got fleshed out. I think it works well, though I totally missed whatever illusion Neko did, and it would be rather odd for her illusions to make anyone lose their appetite. (On a sidenote, it irritated me immensely how much they didn’t let Neko use her power in season 2 and sidelined that aspect of her. She’s a force to be reckoned with in season 1 and they really didn’t show that. :sigh:)

        If he really thinks an alleyway isn’t a place for Neko though, he hasn’t been paying as much attention as he thinks. I love her devotion to getting fish. So in character there.

        I also really love the parallel that’s probably on accident to Mikoto’s first job as a bouncer and the way all the clans tend to be protective. One of the trouble with Jungle is that unless you’re J rank, you don’t really know anything about the clan’s plans, haven’t met the King, and might be using the app for completely nonmalicious monetary reasons, so you can’t just treat them all as a menace without knowing something about them first.

        All intriguing.

        1. I’m glad the fleshed out parts work, mostly. I didn’t really describe the illusion. Not entirely sure how to. I was thinking in part of the Amnesia OVA where they put on a staged dinner play and end up scaring off their customers. Twice, actually. It’s in part funny and in part torture to watch. I kind of figure if that could scare off Meido No Hitsuji’s regular patrons, then a giant cat like Neko has used would definitely frighten them, even if they didn’t see it for long.

          I think she’d want something that would scare off the guy trying to hurt her new friend, so… giant cat? Still working out exactly what she’d use because she was more subtle in season one (and more effective… they did kind of sideline her more into fanservice/comic relief in the second season, sadly.)

          Waka is referring to her now having a home with a clan that he doesn’t really want in his territory. She is a cat, after all, but his alley is his alley, and quite special to the staff of Meido No Hitsuji.

          I didn’t know that Mikoto’s first job was as a bouncer (haven’t read that backstory yet, still working on that, but I was sucked in by everything blue and then had to sleep and work, so still not there yet.) Parallel there unintentional. The parallel of all clans being protective… not the least bit unintentional.

          I do have things in mind to explain more of the things that Kuroh noticed and the green screen, but for all that Kent really is my favorite, he’s had nearly no screen time yet. The one scene with revelations I was thinking of is after the coffee table alliance is formed and after Shin is officially red. The scenes that deal with Shin joining red were what I was working on when I panicked and thought I should delete it all. *sigh*

          1. I’m pretty sure she’d make the girl disappear. Battle cat is for battle. Her biggest thing in get away is the make it seem like people are gone, depth perception, remove or add walls, etc.

            1. Hmm. If she altered the walls, that might be enough depending on how it looked to the other customers.

              And maybe Waka won’t say they lost their appetite but stress that his customers have been disturbed (he does take that rather personally.)

            2. Okay. One more revision… with an illusion and a bit more expansion in parts, some changed dialogue… and yet over all the same, oops.

              ***************

              I do not think it wise to eat here,” Kuroh said, aware of Waka’s eyes on them from the back of the restaurant. He was going to watch them for their entire meal, and Kuroh knew Neko’s eating habits would please no one. She had no concept of manners or sticking to her own plate. “We have enough enemies without you antagonizing one for no reason.”

              Aw, are you scared, Kuroh?” Neko teased, wiggling like she still had a tail. “I’m not. There’s nothing our Shiro can’t defeat.”

              Shiro smiled, though it was not a genuine one. “I know you believe that, and I am grateful for your belief in me.”

              Kuroh wasn’t as pacified by that as Neko was. No, that just added to his unease about this situation. “He clearly hates you. Why are you doing this? What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”

              No one should hate my Shiro.” Neko paused. “Wait, why is it all the ones with glasses hate my Shiro? Maybe I should get rid of all the glasses—”

              Don’t,” Kuroh said, yanking her down by her dress. “Shiro, this isn’t a game. I know that in a normal battle, only a king is a threat to a king—”

              Yeah, like you getting your butt kicked by the boss with the glasses!”

              “—but he moves like Usagi. You said his father was the gold king’s vassal.”

              He was. And it is true he must have Usagi training.”

              And that he hates you.”

              That, too.”

              Sometimes Kuroh really regretted not killing Shiro when he first found him. This man was absolutely infuriating. Why did he always seem to act without sense?

              Forgive me for not greeting you at the door, Master,” Kukuri, now dressed in her uniform, had come up to the table and bowed to them. “What can I bring for you?”

              Kukuri,” Neko said, frowning. “Why are you talking all funny like that? Shiro is my Shiro, not your master.”

              Mistress, the cook has prepared a special fish dish today. Would you like to try some?”

              Yes. I want fish.” Neko clapped her hands together, and Kukuri smiled, bowing to her before turning back to Shiro.

              Anything for you, Master?”

              Hey! I told you—that’s my Shiro.”

              Kukuri sighed. “Neko, I explained this to you before—it’s a maid and butler cafe. I greet all customers like they’re my master or mistress coming home for dinner. Please don’t make another scene. Waka is already mad, and I don’t want to get fired. This is… Okay, it’s a weird job, but I like it here.”

              Kuroh did have the sense that no ordinary job would have suited anyone in the silver clan, and while Kukuri’s involvement wasn’t official, she was still a valued friend to them all.

              A commotion from the other table caught everyone’s attention then, Kuroh’s hand going to his sword as soon as he saw the man’s hand on Kokoa’s arm.

              I said you didn’t bring me what I ordered.”

              She tried to pull herself free. “And I told you—I brought you the only kind of cocoa that’s on the menu. Now let go.”

              Is there some kind of problem here?” Waka had moved close without sound, not even a blur of motion to distinguish him before he was simply… there. He radiated menace, ready for an attack, and Kuroh knew it would not be a long one, though Neko seemed unwilling to let him have the chance to do so.

              The walls blurred, shifting to block the girl from view. Her eyes widened, and she backed away from the wall, shaking her head as she ran her hands over her arms, pressing her eyes shut. “Waka, it’s fine. It’s—”

              It is not,” he said. Gold light arced through the room, seemingly coming from the light above them, and the walls returned to normal. Waka did not look behind him. “Help her back into the kitchen, Kent.”

              He did so without a word, having made a similar silent appearance behind her. Kuroh had not seen any signs of green’s ability to manipulate space, and yet both men had traveled the space and distance without sound but with incredible speed. Yet that golden light—could one of them have been gold clan? Why were they here, then?

              I don’t understand,” she said, the trembling in her voice clear. “That… No. I don’t want to think about that. I don’t. I… Why does everyone have to do that with my name?”

              I do not know. I’ve never seen the humor in it.”

              That’s why I like you.” She sounded weak enough to falter, and Kuroh would not be surprised if the other man ended up having to carry her.

              Kuroh turned his attention back to Waka, whose glare toward the man who’d touched the girl was murderous. Kuroh stood to intervene, but before he could, the man got up from his chair and ran out of the restaurant.

              Waka turned back to them. “More problems?”

              Kukuri shook her head quickly. “No, sir. The mistress wanted fish. I will go get it.”

              She bowed to him and left, the rest of their order forgotten in the shadow of the manager’s ire. As usual, Neko had blocked her from remembering her illusions.

              Waka folded his arms over his chest. “I did say that I allowed paying customers. Perhaps I should have been more specific—I allow paying customers who do not disturb the peace of my restaurant. He is not welcome.”

              Of course not. He’s a big meanie. I’ll chase hundreds of them away if it means keeping Kukuri and my friends safe.”

              I do not doubt it, but even if you intended to alter their memories so that they did not remember that illusion, it is not welcome here. As it is, you are fortunate you are not already answering to me. I may yet force you to leave.”

              He was being a scary meanie. I wanted to help.”

              Perhaps so, but your choice of assistance still disturbed my customers,” Waka said, glancing over at the couple rushing to get their things, dropping yen notes on the table before turning his attention back to Neko. “I had it well in hand and had no need of either of you.”

              Kuroh knew that Waka would have called on Kent over any of them, even aware of what Shiro could do. “It is not my way to see any lady harmed, and this one is a friend to one of ours.”

              Waka’s lips thinned into a line. “You claim Kukuri?”

              I do,” Neko said brightly, not even aware of what she was doing in making such a claim.

              Waka pushed up his glasses, facing Shiro. “Nevertheless, when she is here, she has no need of you or your protection.”

              We can go,” Shiro said, and Neko started to pout about her fish. Kuroh did not expect her to understand the boundaries of territory. She didn’t understand boundaries at all. “We’d like Neko’s fish, of course, and to be sure that both girls are okay, but if you would rather us go… we can.”

              Your stipulation for such an agreement?”

              I will not ask more, nor will I encroach in any way on your territory if you will answer one question of mine.”

              Kuroh shook his head. That was a dangerous promise to make when they were not certain of this man’s allegiance.

              Waka tensed. “I suppose there is no avoiding it. Very well. Yes, my father did try and make me the gold king’s successor.”

              Kuroh frowned. The Slate chose successors. Sometimes it took years for that, like the gap between Jin Hibari’s death and the rise of the blue king Munakata. Even Suoh, the red king, had not appeared for years after Kugutsu.

              I can only imagine that what he felt would be a worthy vessel of such power was—”

              Nothing a normal human is capable of, let alone a child.”

              Kuroh’s training under his former king had started in his childhood, but he had known a kind master, one he still respected even now after swearing his oath to another.

              A slight creak on the wood floor made Kuroh look over. Kent passed a takeout container to Waka. “I believe it may bruise slightly, but she is more shaken than harmed. Perhaps more so because of the illusion. The other girl is with her now.”

              Waka nodded. “Make the usual preparations, then. We will close early.”

              Kent left as quietly as he’d come, not even the squeak of a floorboard to note him walking away.

              Waka held the container out to Neko, who took it with glee. “Fish!”

              You need not worry about Kukuri’s wages. She will be compensated as if she were able to work her full shift,” Waka said. “Now go. I am retired. I want nothing to do with your clans. This is my territory. These are my people. And your clans are not welcome here.”

  19. any, any, Life’s a game but it’s not fair
    I break the rules so I don’t care
    So I keep doin’ my own thing — Run This Town, Jay-Z

  20. I don’t think either seem overconfident. One seems appropriately wary and one seems appropriately threatening considering Scepter 4 is about rules and order, not right and wrong.

    ETA: No, at this point, it all works for me. I’m just aware of why his threatening Fushimi isn’t drawing the reaction he was probably going for. Fushimi is literally a genius and won’t engage when it’s stupid without a good reason, but he’s not easily intimidated.

    So not dumb, I like it, and am not deleting this comment, but since you expressed the backstory need, I went ahead and hunted up Lost Small World right away, and linked you a couple things in the email that I went through along the way to find it.

    Well, I guess I kind of thought Waka might seem overconfident in his threatening of the king, and I do have reasons for that, not just that Waka is very, very good at the glaring silently into submission (well, one form of Waka, he’s actually different in each world, but I favor his background as former military assassin which works best with this attempt to fuse worlds I’m doing, much more so than the one where he’s a dancer.) Since he’s retired (he’s twenty-eight, must have had a rough childhood,) he prefers to make the threats and get people to back off over using his training to hurt people, though he is willing to do that if someone harms his waitstaff.

    I didn’t think Fushimi would really be intimidated, even lacking proper background on him, but it wouldn’t be my Waka if he didn’t make the attempt.

    I will have to read over all of the manga so I can get a better sense of Fushimi.

    1. You see, that’s the exact vibe I got off him. He’s threatening because he’s protective and he’s making a point. I think you’re doing fine and the start is good and intriguing and pls continue.

      1. That’s him.

        Or at least the him I see.

        I wanted to share a screencap of Waka threatening people, but I can’t find one I like. I had one bookmarked before, but those are all gone, so, oops. Waka is very protective of his people. That’s mostly seen towards the heroine, but I have this unshakable conviction he extends it to all his staff and always seem to write him that way.

        I do have a teeny bit more (and I swear I have ideas for the Red Clan, too, I just haven’t actually gotten to them because Fushimi has the lead in with Ikki’s part as a Strain, his eyes adapt so well to other universes with powers of any kind.)

        **********

        Did you know?”

        Munakata looked up from his puzzle, piece in hand. “Did I know what, exactly?”

        This Waka. The manager at Meido No Hitsuji. Did you know he was former Usagi?”

        You were the one that did the research on our Strain,” Munakata said, placing the piece where it belonged. “You were responsible for the information on his known associates. Did you not include that in your report?”

        Is this one of your tests?” Fushimi was losing his patience. “Because I swear when I looked before, there was no record of this Waka anywhere, but now there is. Now it says he was Usagi and bound to the Gold King.”

        If that is what it says, then I fail to see why you did not report it before.”

        It wasn’t there before. We couldn’t find any records of him, not through our network or the gold king’s. Now he exists. Is this a joke? A test? The work of the greens?”

        Munakata tented his fingers together. “Any of those options are possible. It may well be impossible to pin down with our current limitations. You said he attempted to intimidate you?”

        Yes, but he didn’t.”

        Of course not.”

        Fushimi pushed his glasses up his nose. “He as much as threatened you, too.”

        Are you worried? Only a king can challenge a king, after all, and even if this man has the Usagi training he claims, that is nothing to fear.”

        Fushimi nodded, while a part of him couldn’t help disagreeing. None of them were blind. Munakata’s sword of Damocles was damaged. Any time he fought, any time he went to the tower with that damned Dresden Slate, it got worse. They were losing their king, and if this Waka attacked him, he could push him closer to a Damocles Down.

        I can speak to him,” Munakata went on as if nothing was wrong at all. “If this is merely his concern over those he considers his, he may well be relieved to know I intend Ikki no harm. I find him rather amusing, actually, even if his affect on the lieutenant is less than desirable.”

        You might want to do something about that.”

        Hmm?”

        Well, he’s not exactly out of harm’s way when she wants to kill him every time she comes back to herself, now is he?”

        Munakata just smiled.

        1. Manipulative scheming Munakata. Or else the Gold Clan decided to release the information, or Waka did to establish his credentials in their world. Hmm…

          Also, Awashima really would be dangerous after being not herself.

          1. All possible, right?

            Though I do actually think it works best (if it works at all) that Waka be former gold clan, as his father was before him. I have a scene in mind where Shiro recognizes him as someone who visited him with the lieutenant… Still not sure about that.

            Yes. She has yet to make an appearance… that’s going to be difficult to balance… so I keep putting it off as much as I like her and want her to be in fic.

              1. Yeah, I’m still in the process of setting everything up. People will have more to do once the introductory phase is over. That, and I need to do a bit more research into some stuff. Still, once everyone’s place is established, I can do more with characters that so far haven’t had a chance to appear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *