Yamato sighed loudly as he let body flop onto a lab chair. His neck rested on the back of the chair. Energy was only leaving his body. Iori put his head on his palm at the lab table. The two scientists had been researching about Mitsuki’s whereabouts and ‘Majabah’ and unsuprisingly found nothing. All other researches were halted as this one took priority.
“Nii-san...” Iori felt like he was losing all hope. Yamato was trying his best to console the younger boy but he himself was also discouraged. They just needed a single small clue and they would be able to begin their search properly.
“Welcome home, Izumi” When Tenn saw Iori’s sad expression, the magic user knew it was another day of failure. Tenn set the cups of warm milk with honey down on the table before going to grab Iori’s arm. “Come with me”
Tenn led Iori into his room and sat on the bed. He signalled for Iori to sit down next to him. “Nanase-san?” As soon as Iori sat down, Tenn reached his hand up and patted Iori’s head gently. “Fwah what ar-“ Iori was taken by surprise at first. A few seconds later he stopped flustering and welcomed the contact.
It was a mutual benefit. Tenn wished he could do this to Riku, telling the boy that he loves him no matter the circumstances. Back in Majabah, touching Riku’s head would mean death sentence to Tenn. As for Iori, he missed the times Mitsuki gave him head pats whenever he was proud of his perfect little brother.
They both lost their brothers and that tied them together.
Tenn had started earning money by performing in pubs. Since then he had been spoiling Iori. When he saw Iori’s eyes glimmering while staring at the cat cafe, Tenn pulled the boy’s arm and dragged him in. “N-nanase-san, I don’t-“
“Oh you do” Tenn spoke teasingly and told the staff they needed a table for two. “You’re just one big Tsundere, Izumi” Iori went totally red. Even his poisonous tongue could not find words to counter Tenn. That day, Iori’s cool and sharp image was destroyed by the fluffy cats inside the cafe. Those furry critters also warmed Tenn’s heart. If Mitsuki was there, he would keep snapping pictures of Iori trying to lure cats with toys. Seeing as Iori was distracted, Tenn went to the counter to buy a cat treat, which was a yellow thick liquid loaded in a stick. He went behind Iori, tore open the treat and shoved it in Iori's hand. Within 10 seconds, Iori was surrounded by 14 cafe cats crying and cuddling his body. Tenn smirked before stealing Iori's phone and snapped pictures of the 'golden moment'.
Iori thought Tenn’s kindness was unnecessary and even said it to the magic user. Then again, the scientist accepted any offers and opportunities presented before him. In return, Iori showed his gratefulness passively. The other day Tenn saw an amusement park advertisement on TV and he was clearly intrigued. Iori acted disinterested but he silently went on his phone to buy tickets online. The next morning, the two rode the train out of the city to that amusement park. "Isn't today is my day off according to your plan, Izumi?" Tenn asked, not having any idea where the manager was taking him. "It is, Nanase-san" Iori said no more.
Tenn acted composed upon arriving at the massive park. “Why did you take me here, Izumi? I have no interes-“
“Oh you do” Iori cut Tenn off the same way Tenn did to him. “You’re not very honest, Nanase-san”
Tenn’s cheek was flushed pink before he argued “You of all people have no right to tell me that” He huffed. “Well...can we go in now?”
Tenn grabbed Iori’s arm and dragged him here and there inside the park. As mentioned before, the park was huge. It was a good idea that Iori and Tenn got here in the morning. Tenn was fascinated by the attractions especially the extreme ones like roller coasters. Iori found himself looking at the adorable Tenn more than his surroundings. Tenn laughed when Iori freaked out and screamed loudly when they went on a ‘tower drop’ ride. (Actually, Tenn was so tense he could not make a sound.) Iori had to sit on the table with his head facing down on it after going on a roller coaster right after getting off the 'pirate ship' ride. The boy was starting to regret taking Tenn here. At this point, Tenn was too thrilled to feel the tension from the rides.
“Aren’t you a little kid?” Iori turned around to tease Tenn when they were on a haunted house ride and Tenn screamed when a massive obviously fake spider dropped from the ceiling. As soon as Iori turned back to look forward though, he let out a super loud ‘AHHHHHHH’ because a ghost suddenly appeared out of no where. “Who is a little kid now?” Tenn giggled.
The two took a break from all the thrilling rides and got on the slow Ferris wheel, the biggest one in Silica. The two sat opposite to each other. They did not say anything until their carriage got about half way up in the sky. “Izumi Iori”
“What is it Nanase-san?” They boys were staring at each other with their neutral faces. Something felt different though. Iori felt slightly uneasy. Tenn probably did not know but Ferris wheel was said to be one of the most popular spots for 'confessions'. Wait, what was he thinking?
“Thank you” Tenn looked away. He said the words so quietly they almost went unheard. Iori sighed a little before smiling. “It’s fine”
“You know” Tenn went back to staring at Iori again. Iori thought it was too early to feel relieved. “I used to think of you as my brother’s replacement.” Iori’s eyes widened. It should have hurt but somehow it didn’t really. Tenn continued. “Back in Majabah, I was separated from Riku most of the time. He was such a sweet kid. I wanted to take him to places, buy him things. I wasn’t allowed to do any of that. Riku was the next lord. I was an unwanted servant.”
Tenn closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “So when I see you being lonely, I couldn’t help it. I wanted to act like a big brother. I didn’t do it for you. I did it for my own selfish reasons.” Tenn bowed his head to Iori lightly. “I’m sorry”
Iori reaches his hands to grab Tenn’s shoulders, making the older boy look at his face. “If you are guilty, then I am too. When you appeared, true it was shocking, but I couldn’t help thinking that I won’t be alone. You can’t replace my Nii-san, but at least I won’t be lonely. If you think you were using me, then I was using you too.”
Tenn looked away. “How is teaching me things and coming up with my practice routines using me?”
“Then how is dragging me to a cat cafe, making me the best desserts and putting on spectacular shows using me?” Iori returned a question with another. He smiled lightly.
Tenn finally gave in. “Fine” He looked away and smiled. “Let’s go to dinner after this”
“Heading to the forest again, Izumi?” Gaku thought he was always the first one to wake up in the morning, but ever since Riku gave Mitsuki the book about Beast Mastery two weeks ago, the butler always woke up to find Mitsuki already geared up and ready to head out. The doctor had been visiting the forest nearby, in the opposite direction of the town. There were a lot of animals in that forest full of large evergreen trees.
Mitsuki was armed with throwing knives. His skill with it improved very little even though he was trained by Gaku every evening. The butler was baffled by how bad Mitsuki could be at handling weapons (need I remind you that he was a surgeon in Silica??). He hoped for the boy to never have to face anything dangerous during his Beastmaster practice or he would have to deal with his lord crying.
10 minutes after Mitsuki set off, Gaku heard a rush of footsteps while he was getting ready. His room door was suddenly slid open without any notice, which annoyed Gaku. “Oi! Mind-“ The butler choked back his words when he saw the one who opened the door was the familiar redhead. “N-Nanase-sama?” He quickly went down on one knee. “My apologies-”
“Save those words, Gaku! There is trouble.” Riku spoke while panting. “Lightning struck the village by the sea. There were over a hundred casualties.” Gaku’s eyes widened in shock. Riku was just as shocked when Yaotome Sousuke’s messenger rushed to the mansion and requested an urgent audience with him. “How is that possible!? How could a simple lightning hit the whole village?” Gaku questioned.
Riku put his hand on his chin, making a thinking pose. “It was not a natural occurrence for sure. Then again no magic users should be capable of causing a tragedy of this scale” He then shook his head. “This can wait. Gaku, prepare a carriage at once!”
Tsumugi was in charge of looking after the mansion. The lord and his personal butler got on the carriage in order to get to the village. Gaku cast time magic on the two horses that pulled the carriage to speed them up. The journey took them 20 minutes.
“...! This is terrible!”
Riku was stopped by Gaku when he was about to step out of the carriage. The whole area was full of ashes and smoke as the lightning burnt every single thing in it. It would be bad for Riku’s asthma. Corpses were everywhere on the ground, completely burnt. There was no sign of survivors. The village that was once full of life and beautiful sceneries was wiped out in an instant. “I cannot...believe it. Everything was destroyed...” Gaku pushed the devastated Riku’s shoulders and sat him back down in the carriage. He had to. The lord was on the verge of tears. “All of my people...”
“My lord please stay inside. I shall check the area.” Gaku spoke.
“No I am coming!” Stubborn Riku spoke with his shaky voice. “But my lord” Gaku thought it was a bad idea. “Let me, Gaku” Riku demanded.
“I understand” Gaku bit his lip and bowed his head. “Please at least cover your face with this towel” Riku grabbed a towel from Gaku’s hand, covered his nose and mouth then stepped down from the carriage.
Gaku almost vomited seeing several corpses which were people burnt alive around him. The butler was surprised his lord was still holding up. Soon, an old man with short silver hair and 6 people behind him approached the two and all went on one knee. “Nanase-sama, I am afraid there are no survivors.” The old man reported after having his men checked the area.
It took everything in the young lord to not have a breakdown in front of those people. “...Understood. Thank you, Sousuke and the healers. All of you may leave. Gaku and I shall survey the area for a while longer.” Sousuke and his men simply bowed again and left as the lord commanded.
Riku and Gaku walked quietly on the dry ground. Riku wanted to hold onto hope and believed there were some people who had perhaps managed to flee. The lord could have left as soon as Sousuke made the report, but he felt the need to take responsibility. His people went through pain and lost their lives. He must shoulder some of it: the despair of the dead and the grief of the relatives of the dead. “My people. Rest In Peace”
Most wooden houses were simply piles of burnt wood on the ground. “Damn it!” Gaku kicked a pile of black wood in frustration. After a few more minutes of raging on, he went back to Riku’s side. “My lord, we should leave and plan out the village restoration.”
All of a sudden Riku’s mouth dropped. He cast time magic on himself and took off running. “Nanase-sama!!” Gaku panicked. He quickly took off after his lord.
“*ha ha huff*” Riku came to a stop at a certain spot a few metres away from where he was. He crouched down in front of a large pile of burnt wood and dirt. He started frantically digging the pile with his bare hands, throwing woods to the side. His breaths were laboured but he kept on digging.
“My lord wha-“ Gaku caught up. He would have pulled Riku back up if he didn’t see what seemed to be a finger poking out from under the pile of dirt Riku was digging. That finger still showed colour of flesh. Seeing as a person could be buried under the pile, Gaku also crouched down and dug. Using object manipulation magic would be to dangerous as they did not know what to aim at. Riku and Gaku’s hands were being burnt from touching hot wood but they both persevered in hope of rescuing a sole survivor.
What was strange was, after the two cleared away the burnt woods, underneath was pure dirt and dried soil. Under the soil buried a body of a gravely injured man. It was as if he was being protected by the ground. He was unconscious but at least he was definitely not burnt. “*huff* Ga-Gaku!” Riku cast magic to move the boy out from underneath and placed him properly on the ground. “He may..be alive”
Several green orbs surrounded Gaku’s body as he cast the most powerful healing magic he could muster. The cuts and wounds on the man started to heal, meaning he was alive, otherwise the magic would not have worked. Riku felt so relived even though he was exhausted. “That is good...*ha* take him to the carriage at once”
Seeing Riku sitting on the ground with his chest heaving, Gaku gave him a worried look. “I am alright, Gaku. Take him” Gaku nodded and carried the man on his back while walking back alongside Riku.