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A Beautiful Song for a Marionette

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Speak about the devil.

At first, we kept staring at each other, none of us saying a word, until my hand clenched on his wrist that was making me unable to move. Even though there was no need to worry about oxygen – for obvious reasons, of course – the part of me kept panicking over being raised up, with Nazuna’s piercing gaze as the cherry on top.

What should I tell him? How should I approach this talk so he’s not going to break, but can accept what he’s about to hear? Those questions circled around my head, loud enough for the other Observer to catch up, his grip getting even stronger.

“Come on, don’t give me that crap!” Nazuna hissed. “I’m tired of being treated like a doll you can tell everything and keep in the dark just because. You must know this feeling when you can’t even tell if you’re yourself, you’re a damned Observer just like I am, right?”

“I do!” I admitted openly, turning my head to the left. “But I also know how devastating it is when the fragments jump into your head and make all the pain come back twice as hard, and you have to deal not only with the pain of the past, but also with guilt of forgetting…”

Suffocating. Terrifying. Paralyzing. You feel like you’re dying all over again. Nobody deserved to go through this, and for Nazuna, that would be another time – and people he kept close were long gone.

“I can’t let you see this and let the Harbor abandon you for the crime you haven’t committed.”

Either one of these, but not both. Not when I knew – or at least suspected – who was the true mastermind. After all, there’s only one person I can think of that’s capable of turning into a cat, manipulating someone’s moves with a kiss, and would most likely play around Blessed while taking someone’s life for knights’ sake.

Sakuma Ritsu.

In the end, demons hadn’t changed much, despite their completely different approach… And only gods knew what exactly those brothers were doing, because it seemed like Rei wasn’t that much surprised about anything around. I could only hope there won’t be any Blessed war between Rei and Kanata…

“…They need a sacrifice, and I’m not letting Kaoru-chin take the blame,” Nazuna shook his head, and his grip weakened, enough to let me down on the ground. “This place is his home.”

“But it’s also yours, isn’t it?”

“I’ll manage! Like always.”

“No, like I said already, there’s no need for you to go through this!?” I scratched my head, trying to find an argument. “Okay, let’s do this the other way. I’ll give you some portion of your memories, and you’ll follow me for the time so we can get the facts straightened up before it gets worse. If lucky, we’ll find both the demon that laughs at you, Hakaze, and a reason for you to listen. Sounds like a deal?”

In his eyes, this discussion most likely was weird, after all I kept talking to him as if we knew each other for months if not years – which felt awkward and I had no idea how Wataru could deal with this for more than ten minutes – but there was no other way. I just… I couldn’t let Nazuna suffer this much again. He deserved peace in the place that accepted him, because without doubt Kanata would let him stay and bond should we manage to clean his guilt.

And wanting or not… I knew how painful being exiled was.

Nazuna didn’t say a word, instead his gaze going all around, fingers clenching and releasing, while his head filled with massive doubts that wouldn’t let him pick the better option. To listen, or to keep being persistent in hopes I give up? Run away, or stay and fight?

“Running away is the worst thing we can do, so if you ask me, I’d suggest to follow the idea~ You might get surprised what a good ending awaits you.”

This time, Wataru’s voice wasn’t from the inside of my head – instead, he showed up above us, jumping from the roof to join us. Hokuto followed right after him, panting heavily. He had a mask and hood, much different than the one he wore before, but just a moment was enough to smell the lirium energy around. An illusion made him look like a completely different person, but somehow I’ve managed to see through it immediately.

“I’m not- Uh,” Nazuna scratched his head. “What the hell am I supposed to do, then? If people see me, they’re gonna act.”

“Most of the civilians are in hiding, and besides, why would a shadow dancer worry about being spotted?” Wataru raised his eyebrow, taking another step towards Nazuna. “Oh no, no~ The stage is all yours, yet you’re trying to sneak out through the backstage, and that’s a big no. Push forwards, and you shall receive what you desire – whether it’s knowledge or acceptance.”

The marionette stared at the ground, clenching both his hands and teeth. Wataru was an annoying one, but wanting or not, he was speaking the truth – Nazuna had a chance to rush towards the future… If not the taste of despair that made him stand in the same spot, instead making him wish to move away.

In a way, just like in my case, Wataru was trying to change despair into anger, giving the push that could change your motivation. But why had he always done so the most round around way, letting people hate him just to make them fight for the new day? Wasn’t he just hurting himself during the process…

He’s so dumb, so naive…

“…So what about you thinking you might know who’s the true evil in here?”

Good thing my face was incapable of blushing, otherwise I would turn red the moment both Wataru and Nazuna looked at me, unsure if they heard me cursing the Joker with passion. Judging from a weird expression that was a mix of amusement and worry, at least one of them did.

“Right… What’s the situation?” Hokuto asked, the hint of worry hiding in his voice. Judging from his fatigue, their work in securing people turned out to be harsh work. “We’re still missing some people, but Northern aren’t making it easier at all-“

“Kagehira down. Shinkai and Tsukinaga are together now with others, the doctor bought us time to get away without raising suspicions,” I said, but then glared at Wataru as soon as I heard a little change in his core. “Don’t think about attacking them-“

“My, as much as the vision of the rat so close to my trap is tempting, I’m afraid my hands are tied with Kanata around,” Wataru shrugged. “I shall play along for a bit… But my time also is shrinking.”

“Then you’ll have to maximize it, because I’m not letting you kill him for now.”

Both Wataru and Hokuto stared at me with their eyes wide open, only Nazuna somewhat staying calm despite such a bold statement. The Joker let out a nervous chuckle, trying to find a proper wording. Just to make it worse, once he opened his mouth, an explosion got our attention, the magic missile coming from outside of the Harbor. Wataru clicked his tongue, shaking his head in disapproval.

‘That was a mistake, Eichi. Now I need to clean after them before I get back to you-‘

“I’ll explain in a minute,” I waved my hand. “Outside of someone I need to meet before Shinkai or Tsukinaga notice, you need to clean your Northern mess, because they are making this place twice as dangerous to everyone.”

“This is surely getting out of hand, so gladly I’ll follow,” Wataru nodded. “But it seems some of them look at you and I can’t help but smell a little bit of jealousy in that poor core of mine.”

“…In that case, you might find it useful.”

Remembering our meeting with Jun and Hiyori, I reached for the emblem I received from them, and gave it to Wataru. He tilted his head, but it seemed the recognized it immediately.

“Why do you…?”

“A little mess in the past, pretty questionable since somehow they knew my surname without meeting each other even once,” I shook my head. “But Sanazami said he’s going to pay me back for saving his head.”

Maybe in the end that weird meeting would get useful in the future, hopefully. Wataru tilted his head a few times, still surprised by the fact I had a chance to meet the Northern agents, but then he reached his hand towards the emblem. His fingers clenched on the smooth depiction of the flag in the middle of it.

“Let us truly hope this, together with some of my knowledge, will be enough to mess up their little plans a bit. I shall try my best to keep you up.”

“Appreciated! Finally learning you can talk and not surprise people around, huh?” I smiled at Wataru, who almost started laughing. “I might use the chance and go back to the library, though. Natsume needs my help as fast as possible.”

“Very well. Prince Hokke, I know you are itching to join your little princess to protect, but I’m about to steal you for a bit~”

The very moment Wataru turned to grab Hokuto’s hand, the knight took a step towards me with a grimace all over his face, while his head got filled with curses at Wataru.

“Oh hell no, I’ll pass.”

“But we are such a splendid team to work with!” Wataru whined, rubbing a nonexistent tear from his eye. “We’re going to deal with danger that doesn’t involve knights, do you remember? The same can’t be said about Tomoya, though.”

Hokuto clicked his tongue, knowing Wataru had a point. We couldn’t let him and the other knights meet, at least for now, so he had to follow this plan for now. I patted his shoulder, offering a reassuring smile.

“…I’ll move first to scout the surroundings,” Hokuto sighed and fixed the hood. “Don’t take too much time flirting around, you annoying idiot.”

“Such harsh words, how my poor heart missed those,” Wataru grinned. “Well, let us-“

“Actually, for a moment, there’s something that’s bothering me.”

Wataru was about to join Hokuto when he turned back, raising his eyebrows as our gazes met. Nazuna also seemed surprised, but it quickly changed into a sharp glare. Right after mentioning something that caught his attention, he moved towards one of the streets, leaving me and Wataru alone for a good moment.

“It’s been a while since I saw you in such a rush,” I said and crossed my arms. “…You don’t have much time left, do you?”

“I thought that’s obvious, my dear Tomoya. The king is so close to me, and the more time I waste, the Emperor-“

“I mean you. And Tsukinaga, probably.”

The more fragments I’ve been able to see, the more my fears about the differences between Blessed were turning true. The King, the Judge, the Joker – the only ones that were forced into the world, into people, changing their personalities unlike anything else. There’s no way there wasn’t a timer for this to get nasty, and as far as I noticed, Wataru’s sanity was dropping so fast he himself wasn’t even noticing it, when in the past, he was capable of keeping his emotions in check.

“My, that’s not what I expected you to say,” Wataru scratched his head. “But does it change anything?”

“A lot, if you ask me. Starting from the fact nobody knows what will happen to an Observer. I have no idea what that is… Mud in your mind, but it reminds me of the curse eating memories.”

Using the fact Wataru had his guard down, I got a peek right at his soul before cutting me off. At first, it was similar to the energy the curse used to eat the memories, but this… It was something worse. The Joker didn’t say a word, just staring at me with a blank stare.


“Tell me one thing,” Ignoring the silence, I moved closer, now standing right in front of him. “You know your chances to survive are almost none, don’t you?”

I had no idea what exactly Wataru was planning, but the more I was thinking about his desire to be killed, the more I believed it was simply his wish.

“My core has already been damaged by the Joker’s Authority. At best, I can only feed it just so it doesn’t take control over my entire existence. Even if we manage to win, we cannot kill an existence that the gods themselves created through someone’s soul - not without my death at least.”

Never in my life have I heard someone who gave up this badly. No games, no jokes, no happy tone to make the worst sound at least laughable. The voice of true Hibiki Wataru finally reached my ears, and it was someone who kept fighting, but not even for himself. Maybe not even for others. Only for death.

“For hell’s sake, there has to be something!?” I grabbed him by the collar. “Are we even sure this will end everything? This- Are you aware this will eat your core away and erase your existence?”

“That’s why I want to put it into work. Maybe if I manage to force the King’s Authority into my own core, it will break both souls. After all, the Overseers don’t seem willing to help, do they?”

“Maybe they do. There has to be a different way.”

What a stubborn idiot. I already said I would get him and drag around the entire world to repair what he’s done. It wasn’t even his burden exactly.

“I’m going to look for all possible answers, even if it means punching myself, because there is Mashiro Tomoya who knows something even both of us don’t… And you’re the only one who can help me achieve this.”

‘He’ had some sort of an idea, but his answer was backed with vast memories from even further than I could imagine. Wataru’s memories and the notebook within the library… I needed both. One wouldn’t work without the other.

“…Yet you two already sound so similar, so much I fear the young Tomoya is already gone.”

“Oh, don’t worry about this, I’m fine! Just annoyed at you, but I think that would never change anyway,” Trying to ease the atmosphere, I smiled at Wataru. “If you fear I might break under pressure, I won’t. I need all the puzzles, otherwise we’re screwed.”

“Nothing worse can happen to you-“

“If I lose my bet, I’m becoming a new Joker.”

‘I’ll kill you with my own hands without any regrets if this happens.’

The way his core skipped a beat upon hearing this gave me a good scare. I didn’t want to say it, not now especially – but the stakes were already so high I needed to. How I managed to stay still despite such a cold statement, I had no idea, but either Wataru didn’t notice or ignored it.  

“I don’t think you can clean the Joker’s Authority alone, because it might simply eat you alive before you manage to think of something. You can’t save entire world alone, because you should never be forced to do so – so stop playing a child that believes it and let me help, for fuck’s sake!”

Wataru stared at me in silence, his mind still processing what we were even talking about. With his guard down again, some of his thoughts reached my ears, showing the vast ocean of emotions, starting from panic and ending in pure despair. But somewhere inside, there was a little voice of relief, blocked by the negativity.

Wataru truly gave up on his life.

“Look. If you already believe in the worst, then how about we try at least?” I poked his cheek, trying to get his attention back at me. “To put it simply, we’re both fucked should we fail. So are everyone. The chances your idea will work is so low it’s almost laughable… And so is mine, but this I’ll be able to predict once I have all the knowledge. So, your memories, my past self ideas and the scripts Tsumugi and Natsume are working on. And time. We need to squeeze as much time as we can.”

It's dumb, I know. I was asking someone who spent hundreds of years planning to change his mind at the last minute, and to be fair, if it were me, I would slap the idiot for even suggesting it. But Wataru had to be aware that his plan wouldn’t work. Anzu’s promise had a lot of details one had to notice, and there was something that wasn’t adding up.

After all, she promised that we will be free, not everyone forever – the promise Eichi said the day we met only mentioned the Curse. Or maybe, just maybe, the anomalies and logic errors were getting so out of hand she herself was playing around and waiting for a day she could smash it all with a hammer—

Or let the world burn as the worst anomaly would come to life.

“You are insane.”

Wataru finally said something. Not surprising, as I allowed my thoughts to go around without even trying to keep him away.

“I don’t know your deal with the Overseer, so I can only imagine what will happen,” I slowly let go of his collar. “That’s why we need cooperation and knowledge exchange. Everything. The world might burn anyway, and something tells me even lord Rei knows something we don’t. That’s why I want you to slow down the knights hunt. I’ll slap the Emperor myself if it’s needed, even.”

“I’d rather not let you do so… But also, I cannot stop you.”


For the first time, I was relieved to see him smiling.

“You will have only one chance, Tomoya.”

“Better than nothing. My existence at this point is already an insane gambling anyway—”

Without a warning, his arms wrapped around my shoulders as he pulled me into a strong hug, not saying even a single word. I tried to escape it at first, but I stopped in the middle, noticing the atmosphere around Wataru was far from good, on the edge of panic, even.

“Oi, oooooi, Tomoyaa!”

And in perfect timing, Hinata’s voice reached my ears from the distance. Wataru let go of me and nodded his head, urging me to join them, while he himself ran towards the same direction as Hokuto. Even if we didn’t say anything at the end, I had a feeling we got to some sort of understanding… Or at least that’s what I hoped for.

“Woah, I finally could get in and find you!”

Hinata jumped at me as soon as we moved, his arms wrapped around my shoulders as he kept rubbing his cheek against mine. Nazuna, who was just behind him, couldn’t help but smile at the view of the demon, which really, it was a sweet moment and stuff, but with the current situation we were far from nice touches like this one.

“The barrier is down, that’s why,” I said, trying to escape Hinata’s grasp. “Hey, stop, you’ll rub the material off! What’s the situation outside?”

“We’ve found the lord and his tomato-haired princess, but that’s the tip of the iceberg, because the lost knight and Hakaze are there as well!”

“Y-you found them both at once?”

“Yep, they were staring daggers at each other even before we got closer, so now Yuuta’s trying to get lord Sakuma and calm them before they jump at each other! Go, go, let’s go!”

Not even willing to give us the second I promised for Nazuna, I couldn’t help but stop Hinata from pulling me with all his strength, focused on the marionette with a serious gaze. Wanting or not, I couldn’t just let the topic as it was if he desired to know in this particular moment about himself.

Nazuna closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Taking a step forward, he leaned closer.

“You’re gonna either follow this promise or I’ll drag you to hell, got it?” Nazuna asked, furrowing his eyebrows. “As much as I want to know now, I’m more worried about Kaoru-chin.”

“Last time we checked, he was alive, I can say as much!” Hinata saluted, his second arm still wrapped around mine. “Nor lord Ritsu seemed like going to do something, anyway.”

“Well that doesn’t say much, you know.”

“Yep, that’s why I want to go, gooo~!”

Nazuna shook his head and waved his hand, urging Hinata to let go of me and lead us towards the mentioned four. As we left the city and jumped into the woods, I was almost sure we would see the shrine where the barrier was at its finest not so long ago, but then Hinata changed the direction, leading us away from it, up until we reached an old post.



It didn’t take long to reach the spot.

Hinata kept watching his steps to not give up on our arrival too fast, we saw all four mentioned people against each other. Ritsu and Izumi stood facing each other, staring. Tsukasa was right next to the demon, his posture and glare stern, but seemed to keep a distance between the others. Kaoru, on the other side, seemed to be willing to move back, one of his legs behind the other. The fifth one was Yuuta, in between Ritsu and Izumi, his both hands up as if trying to push them away.

I took a deep breath and focused on the voices around, all so I could follow with the mood around them.

“Are you aware how much Shinkai wants your fucking head?” Izumi snarked at him. “Either yours or they will have to do something with either Nazunyan or Kao-kun.”

“Not my problem. I thought you forgot about the Harbor.”

“Well sucks to be you, it’s my problem,” Izumi hissed, grabbing Ritsu by the collar. “Even more for thinking this. Just because I don’t live here doesn’t mean I want to see my home burned, you idiot!”

“There, there…” Yuuta let out a sigh, waving his hands and trying to get the attention of the other two, but it seemed like Izumi and Ritsu were too focused on each other. Tsukasa approached him and patted his shoulder to reassure him, but the demon answered only with a deep sigh. “I hope Aniki can get them faster or we’ll never get anywhere…”

“I fail to see what that might change, it feels like every Saturday with those two,” Tsukasa smirked, though his face was betraying the signs of tiredness, not amusement. “It’s you who should get away before our king is back-”

“Then tell your damned lord to think twice before he starts killing people!”

Tsukasa only shrugged at Izumi interjecting their talk, evidently used to stuff like this.

“I told you so many times I was left with no choice…” Ritsu shook his head and grabbed Izumi’s hand that was holding him. “You’re acting all high now, but if you were to pick Nacchan, Suuchan and Tsukipi’s life or the ninja, you would act even faster than I.”

Seemed like Ritsu wasn’t even hiding anymore about what he had done. Izumi clicked his tongue at the demon and let him out, still more than annoyed by the entire situation. Just like the others, his mind was a mess, torn between protecting the knights and the Harbor. Ritsu himself also showed more regrets inside, even if outside he was trying to stay calm.

“That’s why we need to get out of the Harbor before he finds us,” Ritsu continued. “Nacchan and Tsukipi will get back in no time.”

“Wait, but lord!” Now Yuuta started panicking, waving his hands. “You still didn’t listen to me and Hinata, come on! We can’t-“

“Give me a good reason I can trust Anija. Taking one side wasn’t supposed to happen, and they are close to the Empire-“

“Your reason is right here.”

Ritsu and Izumi both jolted as my voice reached them. Seeing how both knights and a demon supporting them got ready to fight, I raised my arms. They didn’t seem convinced. Only Kaoru stared at Nazuna with a glimpse of hope in his eyes, and as much as the marionette wanted to join him, he knew there was something else to deal with first. 

“No, no, no fighting!” I shook my head. “There was enough in the Harbor, and I have no ill will towards any of you. In fact, I’m kinda shielding you from the Empire and Shinkai’s wrath for the time being, so you could at least pay me back with letting us talk.”

They still weren’t convinced. Izumi either lost his weapon or could summon it in thin air, because outside of the cold gaze, his fingers were urging to grab anything to defend himself. Ritsu at first seemed calm, but I could sense the energy gathering in his left hand. And there was also Tsukasa, whose weapon only from a distance seemed like a bow – upon closer inspection, I noticed it was only the riser and limbs, the string completely gone from the build. One had to focus harder to notice a slim violet energy that worked instead of it.

I clicked my tongue, trying to think fast enough to start the talk after rather cryptic first words. I knew Ritsu was working behind the scenes, and if not him, I would never keep a check on the knights after they get out… And we needed that for now. The Empire would keep hunting them, and if they hide well enough, it’s over.

“Your head is so loud you don’t even have to think,” Ritsu turned towards us with a grimace all over his face. “I’m not interested in helping Imperials.”

“It’s not helping them, it’s helping me. And probably your brother, and the people you’re trying to cover so dearly. That’s why you got rid of Shinobu, didn’t you?”

Ritsu shrugged, even when Tsukasa gave him a stare. “News gets fast around. For Anija mention, you’re losing points again. So, once again? What’s the deal with that entire hunt on me?”

“Because I need you to buy me time so I can at least attempt finding a way to resolve this conflict. Consider this as a ‘thank you’ for helping you get away from Shinkai’s wrath.”

Finally, I got everyone's stares. Good, but also not really, because it meant I had to pick my words perfectly. Explaining things was harder than I imagined it earlier, and we didn’t even have a chance to talk with Rei himself, because both Natsume’s and Ritsu’s reactions were enough to make me think the old demon changed his plan significantly.

“You want to keep knights safe, I want to keep an eye on them without letting them die,” I started and took one step closer. “Also, none of us wants you to die thanks to Shinkai, because he is more than willing to get your head, but that's an additional thing to worry about. To put things simply, I guess you’re not as open to your knights friends as you try to make it look like-“

“You’d be surprised,” Ritsu shrugged, not really interested. “I have no reasons to trust you.”

“And vice versa technically. Didn’t you say my head is loud enough that you hear a lot? You could already find out I don’t have ulterior motives.”

Tsukasa’s face was screaming ‘can you please elaborate and explain, all of you?’ so badly I couldn’t help but sigh. Izumi crossed his arms, giving Ritsu a fierce stare, visibly annoyed by everything.

“I don’t have much, but you don’t have too much of a choice either. You want to protect those guys, don’t you? And I want to deal with this conflict. I can’t promise your king will be back, but I might attempt it. Your other choice is to run and hope you won’t get killed.”

Ritsu stared at me in silence, biting his lower lip. As much as he whined at my head being loud, his own wasn’t any much better, the lack of trust and doubt taking over. The longer I kept focusing on the demon’s mind, the more I could get in, the screams of a lost man hitting from left and right. The memories of a sweet past, now bathed in blood and fear, made him unsure of anything, of anyone, as if Ritsu was completely alone in the dark, with nobody worth trust outside of Tsukasa… No, even the archer wasn’t enough, just because he was a knight.

‘A knight can get manipulated by Leo. I can’t trust them, even Suuchan is a danger if he knows too much.’

‘Tsukipi can lose his mind and kill everyone. I can’t trust him.’

‘Anija keeps saying he wants to stop the worst timeline from happening, but still… I don’t know if I can trust him.’

‘This Observer has no need to get into a conflict that isn’t his. There’s no way I can trust him.’

“This entire conflict is my problem from the very start. That’s why I’m trying to stop you from suffering just because of one mistake.”

Those words came out without even me realizing it, my tone colder than usual. As if something from the inside of my soul, filled with regrets, wondering if giving up wasn’t a better idea, awoken from seemingly nowhere. Ritsu raised his eyebrow.

“That’s not saying much.”

“Ignore the whining. The key point is, I would need to keep a track on both sides. I have someone that will keep the Empire side under check… And that is why I ask you, lord Ritsu, to offer me the same here.” 

I wasn’t dumb, I knew even with sweet words, Ritsu could still decline. The fact Izumi and Tsukasa were here, staring at Ritsu’s back and demanding at least some explanations was putting even more stress on him, but we had no time to play around. I wished I had a chance to meet Rei beforehand, but I couldn’t just drop out from the Harbor and leave things half-done… From Yuuta’s and Hinata’s mind I read he would join us as soon as they contacted him, so all I had to do was to pray we manage to let the brothers talk before Leo would come back. Was it stupid and beyond risky? Yes, it was.

But nothing else would work in this god forsaken world anymore.

“A deal for a deal, lord Ritsu,” Reaching with my hand, I nodded. “I help you with Shinkai, you help me with knights. He will still know you were the villain, but I’m sure if we pick good words, he will demand you to stay away from his Harbor. It’s much better than sacrificing anyone’s future.”

‘Does this guy think life is a fairytale or something?’ Izumi’s annoyed thoughts reached my head. ‘Of course we’d like it to go easy just as he tries to make them look, but it’s impossible-‘

Couldn’t blame him. I was walking on a tightrope.

“It is risky, but you can simply leave the talking to Blessed. The rest shall be a much harder thing, though.”

Never in my life I was this relieved to hear a demon’s voice coming out of nowhere. Nazuna used the chance to get Kaoru closer to himself, now being with him and Izumi, while Ritsu moved back to Tsukasa the very second Rei approached all of us. Unusual for him, there was not even a sign of a smirk he had.

“It wasn’t the wisest idea to strike here, but we can work on it,” Rei stepped in front of Ritsu. “Forgive me for taking this much time, but I tried my best to offer the magicians some help in finishing the scripts, as well as keeping them sane. The rest, I leave in your hands, Observer.”

“I will. But as you can see, the situation here is far from perfect,” I let out a nervous giggle. “Wait, does it mean-“

“The last script has been finished, indeed – and it was enough to reassure me about some theories I had myself, not to say about the magicians,” Only now Rei smiled, his posture showing even more confidence than ever. “If we let things go as now, both Hibiki and Tsukinaga shall die, and in future two people around us shall taste the tragedy that is known to us as the war between a Joker and a King. However, if we can work with some ideas, we might be able to reach a much better end.”

The way he glared not only at me, but also at Tsukasa – at which Ritsu immediately moved in between his brother and the knight – gave me a chill I didn’t think I would feel in this body. What in the world did he know? My deal with Anzu? Timelines that even not the Joker was aware of?

But that wasn’t my biggest concern. At least not now. I knew already Wataru wasn’t above sacrificing his own being for the sake of this. It was the best thing to do, and now we were getting closer to achieving, yet I couldn’t help but disagree. That’s why I need to know more, to learn fast, to get my memories back-

Especially if I also want to secure the king’s demise without sacrificing Leo as well.

“Ritsu. At this point of time, I can even give you the word of a Demon Lord that you have nothing to lose by following this plan. Do you remember the nightmare that made you change your opinion in a mere minute? This is what we try to avert.”

This one question shattered all remaining confidence hiding within Ritsu’s mind. The fragments pulsed aggressively, almost blinding me.

‘No more. Not that nightmare. I was sure he was simply scaring me of something that has never happened, but, but-‘

Taking a step back, Ritsu turned his head towards Izumi, his hand shaking. The silver-haired gave him a confused look in exchange, not at all following why the demon changed his firm posture.

“Tch. How about you finally let us understand in what deal we’re about to jump with you, Kuma-kun?” Izumi shrugged, but from the core of his heart, I could sense a wish to follow his friend, especially after learning there was a chance to save Leo. “Because for now all I get is you hid a lot. Which isn’t new and fits the fact you’re a damned devil, but it’s soo~ annoying.”

Just as he said it, Ritsu turned again, crimson meeting the purple of Tsukasa’s eyes.

“Indeed, I’m slowly growing tired of those ‘I shall tell you later’ games.” Tsukasa admitted openly, wrapping his arms around Ritsu’s shoulders, whispering something to the demon’s ear. While I didn’t hear what, it moved Ritsu enough to stay in silence a bit longer, even making Rei chuckle softly.

“…I’m sorry, but-“

“No buts, Kuma-kun. Either you explain shit or you can say goodbye to us cooperating, because I’m still this close to slap that face of yours for putting Kao-kun into danger.”

“I would be more concerned about the fact he used my hands to kill someone…” Kaoru mumbled under his nose.

“Oh, right. I’m definitely slapping him, thanks for a reminder.”

“If you could not, he might stop talking out of pettiness,” Tsukasa sighed, still keeping Ritsu close to himself, more a gesture of ‘you won’t escape me now’ than anything else. “So, if you could, Ritsu. If Leo’s safety can be guaranteed, we can at least listen.”

“If you don’t mind, I’m more than willing to help in it,” Rei nodded, pleased with how fast he’s managed to get their interest. “After all, more plans are in place that need to be explained. That goes to you as well, Observer.”

“Mm. Sure, I’d like to know what you’ve managed to find out. How much time do we have?”

Talking is nice, but it’s hard to focus when you’re playing on such a risky scene.

“Enough to take a moment now, before we jump right into the action, I assure.”

As the demons started explaining their little game – but not in detail, as Rei avoided certain mentions of their true thoughts, only focusing on the part where both brothers stayed neutral observers of the entire fight, how they pushed the conflict… But I couldn’t listen to it and focus as the fragments filled my head. Soon enough, I would see what they did from the front seat—

Thanks to a lonely demon who opened his heart to the knights thanks to the love they offered him.