“I can’t accept that”
It was the first time for Tenn to give Iori a scary looking face - a big frown and sharp eyes showing his strong disapproval on the discussion.
After the discovery of Majabah, further research was needed to pinpoint the exact location and to find out how to form a connection between the two worlds.
Tenn seemed reluctant on whether he should remain in Silica, or go back to his hometown. Majabah was his home. He was a magic-user so returning there would be the right thing to do.
Because Tenn had a hard time making his decision, Iori proposed his idea. If Yamato, Ryuu and he were to find a way to travel to Majabah, it was likely they would have a plan on how to get back to Silica. Iori wanted Tenn to return to Majabah, so the magic-user could decide where he wanted to be. That was not all. The condition was that Tenn let Iori go with him. Iori claimed that he wanted to find Mitsuki which was partly true. The real reason was he wanted more time to spend with Tenn even if it was in a completely foreign place.
Iori told Tenn that his decision would depend on whatever his Nii-san wanted to do if he found the guy. However, Tenn was not having any of it. The magic-user refused to let Iori be exposed to a cruel world full of discrimination like Majabah.
The two were discussing the matter at home. Tenn stood in front of Iori who was sitting on the couch, reaching his arms out to press the younger boy's shoulders downwards. The high school student felt intimidated, scared even. Was Tenn always this protective?
"You are NOT going to Majabah, Izumi Iori. Not when no one knows if your brother is really there. Definitely not when you don't know how to cast magic or hold a blade." Tenn sounded like he was scolding a kid. "I will not let you expose yourself to danger"
"Bu-but Nanase-san" Iori stuttered. "Am I wrong...?" He stopped to swallow mid-sentence. When Iori was about to look away, Tenn directed his gaze to force Iori to retain eye contact with him.
"What are you trying to say?" Tenn demanded.
"Am I wrong...to think you will protect me while I'm there?"
Tears started to well up in Tenn's eyes. "I can't protect anyone, Izumi..." He let his hands flop and drop from Iori's shoulders. The scientist was shocked to see Tenn so hurt, so fragile he would break by a single touch.
"I tried to save my little brother's life" Tenn spoke with tears running down his cheek. "which ended up taking his one and only trusted personal butler's life"
Tenn did not know about his Dispel magic power. After he regained his consciousness and found he was not executed, he was convinced Gaku's body was torn into shreds by Sousuke's whirlwind. He assumed Riku would be told both him and Gaku were dead. He could imagine the boy mourning their deaths day and night. Tenn did not want to lose anyone dear to him ever again. He would protect Izumi Iori at all costs even if it meant he had to be far apart from the boy.
"I trust you, Tenn-san"
Iori's words woke Tenn up from his haunting nightmare. "I don't know what you've been through, but during our time here in Silica, you've always been looking after me, so I trust you."
"Please let me go with you"
"Lazu, try freezing this block of wood"
It would be strange to keep calling a baby dragon who can communicate with humans 'dragon', so Mitsuki gave the beast a nickname at least for the time being. Since Mitsuki was a Beastmaster, Lazu was pretty much fully in his care.
Too bad Lazu was not so easily tamed, nor it could control its power very well. Mitsuki and Lazu had had to apologise to several people for accidentally freezing their houses or gardens. It was a relief they were travelling with Gaku and Riku who could melt the ice with fire magic.
Lazu got irritated easily and would always ask for sweet flavoured food way too often. Mitsuki's songs did work on the dragon though not so effectively. The beast and the master had a long way to go to achieve perfect harmony.
Other than dealing with the trouble maker dragon, the trip had been going well. No one had gotten ill even though Riku had attacks every now and then. The lord and the butler had several opportunities to connect with the townspeople and villagers of different places, learning of their problems and listening to their life stories. Riku paid his full attention to every single person who spoke to him. Every few nights, he wrote down what he had learned about his people and made a report to Sousuke and Otoharu for them to send people to solve problems from each town. Tsumugi and Momose mentioned they had been getting thank you letters and gifts from the nobles who were in charge of governing the towns the lord had visited. Because of this, there were rumours flying around in Majabah about the lord disguised as a noble checking on the states of the towns.
“My lord, we need to be on our guard” Gaku warned Riku about the rumour.
No one would dare question the identity of the lord Nanase. The same could not be said for the butler Yaotome though. The people of Majabah knew a lord would always be accompanied by at least one personal butler. If you think about it, it would not be so difficult to point them out. Especially, when the Yaotomes would be the ones to show up during important public events.
The only thing Gaku was worried about was his lord’s safety. He knew his lord would always be on his best behaviour at all times. “Keep a close eye on Nanase-sama, Izumi.”
“I know, Yaotome” Mitsuki nodded. He did not sign up to be Riku’s butler without knowing the consequences. He knew, if anything were to happen to Riku, he would face punishment or even execution. Well, he was not about to let anything happen to his lord.
That day, they travelled to another medium-sized town which had a huge dormant volcano situated on the edge of it. Because of it, the town's temperature was always high. Houses there were made of stones to keep cool as the temperature pretty much stayed the same throughout the whole year.
The strong heat seemed to be affecting the high lord the most. Good thing Lazu was there to cast an icy cool mist around Riku occasionally. Wondering why people were not shocked to see a dragon? Thanks to Mitsuki, Lazu had learned how to shapeshift by taking the energy from Mitsuki through his song. Right now, he took a form of a white cat with gem-like blue eyes. He was happy as a cat because he could hitch a ride on Mitsuki's shoulder.
"I heard there is an old museum here" After getting themselves a room in an inn, Riku had an idea. "Can we go there before exploring the town?" The lord beamed.
"Of course, Riku" Gaku nodded. He would never refuse his lord's request. The butler was sure he had visited the said museum before when he was around 10 years old. Sousuke took him there to force him to learn about the glory of the Nanase whom he was groomed to serve. That museum was about the history of Majabah and the discovery of magic.
When Gaku was little, he could not understand why he had to serve a family who acted all high and mighty. He hated the previous high lord and his wife with a burning passion because of how Tenn was treated. He hated how he got smacked or tortured with magic by Sousuke when he did not behave properly as a butler. The little Gaku just wanted to play like any other normal kids out there.
He was not assigned to serve Riku until he turned 12. The young butler used to hate the kid and only did his duty so he would not get in trouble. However, by spending most of their time together, Gaku could see how Riku had the same eyes as him. He also was suffering. He could not play. Plus his illness was making things much more difficult.
"Ne, Gaku, I am sorry" The 8-year-old Riku spoke to him. "You must be bored having to accompany me all the time."
Those teary eyes shook young Gaku's heart. The kid did nothing wrong yet he had to feel guilty. Gaku also did nothing wrong by wanting to live a kid's life but had to receive harsh punishments.
That day, Gaku lied. He lied so Riku would stop those tears. He bowed to his lord and said: "I am happy to be serving you, Nanase-sama."
It was a lie no longer. Now that Gaku had lived his life seeing Riku's purity and kindness. Hatred turned into care, loyalty and perhaps even love. That was a story for another day.
When the four entered the museum, Gaku noticed it had been renovated completely. It used to be very quiet and gave off an eerie aura. Now it was much more welcoming with more people visiting. They were greeted by a receptionist, probably in his late 50s. Gaku approached him to get some tickets. Riku, Mitsuki and Lazu waited a distance away from Gaku. Lazu was a 'cat' so he had to wait for them by taking a peaceful nap in the reception area.
"Young man, you look familiar" The receptionist said while inspecting Gaku's face carefully. Soon, he let out a gasp. "Are you perhaps the young Yaotome-sama?!?"
"No, no" Gaku denied. "I am not as handsome as him." The lord and the butler would normally come clean when asked about their identities, but they wanted to avoid causing a commotion at a public place.
The displays in the museum was very well thought out. Paintings were not still. They were made to tell a story with wind magic controlling the colours on them. "Whoooa" Mitsuki was fascinated by a large beautiful painting showing a man casting fire magic on one hand and lightning magic on another.
Gaku looked at that painting with eyes full of hatred. Riku was clearly bothered by it. He looked sad.
"Ho ho caught your interest, did it not?" An old lady guide came over to the three of them. "This is the painting of the previous high lord Nanase-sama, doublecasting his powerful magic."
Mitsuki took a quick glance at his friends, which confirmed his thought. That was the painting of Riku's father, the cruel lord. When Riku took the high lord position, he chose not to announce it so only very few people knew about him. Riku wished to live peacefully with his people while his father had lived the opposite way. Everyone knew the previous high lord. The people of the whole town would be bowing before his presence the instant he stepped his foot outside the mansion.
The previous high lord had executed many lives for ridiculous reasons to show his power and authority, so the people feared him. From what Riku knew, his ancestors were no different. It was how they reigned the world for so long. It hurt Riku to think he was part of this bloodline.
His father loved doublecasting magic, meaning casting two types of magic at the same time. It was a skill only the Nanase was able to perform.
The lady kept going on about how impressive and glorious the previous high lord was. Lies. Riku thought. These poor townspeople were brainwashed. Father did not do anything to help make the towns prosper. Why then would the mansion be receiving letters of gratitude now after never having any before?
Riku clenched his fist. He wanted to cover his ears and run away. Gaku squeezed his lord's wrist to remind him he was there with him.
The old lady's speech was cut short by loud screams from the outside. The travellers looked at each other before rushing out of the museum. Lazu came running to them, shouting "The volcano, it's about to erupt!".
"What?" Gaku could not believe what he was hearing. "It's supposed to be inactive"
"Well, it wakes up now!" Lazu argued. "We need to get outta here"
"Mitsuki and Lazu, can you help people with the evacuation?" Riku turned to ask. "And Gaku, cast a barrier just outside of town to protect the people"
"My lord, what about you?" Gaku raised his concern.
"I will stop the volcano" Riku spoke with a voice full of determination. It did not matter to Gaku and Mitsuki. "That's crazy, Riku!" The doctor thought it was absurd.
"I will be fine. You have my word" Riku turned his back to his servants and started to walk away, in the opposite direction to where the townspeople were heading to.
Gaku placed his hand firmly on Mitsuki's shoulder. "Carry out your duty, Izumi"
Gaku cut any objections off. "Nanase-sama can handle it. We must do our part" The faithful butler chose to trust his lord the same way his lord was trusting them with their duties. With that Gaku dashed off and started putting up a barrier for the people.
"Damn it!" Mitsuki cursed before running off, knocking on people's doors and yelling for them to head for the barrier.
Riku, you have to be okay.
Stay safe, my lord.