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Body in Abyss, Heart in Paradise

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Body in Abyss, Heart in Paradise.

How prosaic. Unromantic. Ages upon ages ago that was the word they had used about him. Unromantic. Pragmatic. Logical. Kenjiro slid a finger along the bone of his throne, a single claw making a soft rasping noise. A bone throne. Even worse. He was cursed to be both boringly unidealistic and terribly clichéd. At least being practical down here did something for him. He tapped on the carved feathers that finished the intricate armrest. And being practical meant doing actual work. He stood up and smoothed down his vest, checking his silver pocket watch. It was time for another meeting.

Down cold caves and by burning forest green torches he went, barely noticing corpses and demons that stopped to bow, carefully avoiding his eyes. No time for them. He knew his general and advisor would be there when he arrived and right now those other individuals who kneeled and curtsied out of fear, and had no real respect for him, were mere distractions. His reflection in one of the smooth, mirrored walls showed exactly what every spirit and ghoul saw – a contradiction that led to grumbling. He stepped around a loose tile he knew ended in a hole with some pretty nice and sharp spikes, slid behind an enchanted curtain and finally closed a heavy wooden door behind his back. He was in the Den.

The Den, as everyone not so lovingly called it, was something Kenjiro took great pride in and also took great care of. No matter what everyone said, he ran a tight ship and made sure the locals who actually worked for him knew their jobs. He couldn’t really control who entered and left when it came to visitors but he’d put the closest thing he had to trusted individuals on the highest positions and let them do their magic. The Den, though. That was his own. Which was why he also did his official meetings there. He wouldn’t actually invite strangers in his personal quarters, after all but he still needed to feel on his own ground.

And talking about meetings, his next one was, he flicked the watch open again, in…

- My lord ! – In “probably going to end up with him being late” considering the young demon trying to take a breath in front of him. One of the very few who were actually shorter than him, since he knew the word behind his back was that without his antlers he was like a child around his subordinates, but also one of the rare good ones. The kid was quiet, used his brain and wasn’t afraid of hard work. He had big plans for him. Right now, though, he really wasn’t in the mood.

- How urgent ? – Because Kenjiro really, really had to get to that meeting on time. No need to give even more ammo to the sorceres who would come to talk about him like he was lower than the dirt below their feet. He had done everything on his own and risen all because of his own hard work, so they could go and gossip. But he wouldn’t allow something he had control over to fail him. Hence his tone.

There was no real need for it, he was sure, because the demon in front of him was smart and knew when it was okay to interrupt and when it was better to find someone else. But the boy was almost vibrating with tension and he had the unpleasant suspicion that the visitors would add “disrespectful, didn’t even show up” to his endless list of vices. Not that it mattered that much but still. They were supposed to be the fair ones.

- Three corpses. – He blinked, waiting for the kid to tell him what the whole fuss was about. Corpses came and went, nothing weird about that. – They were alive when they came in.

Damn. He rubbed his eyes, trying not to scream. Not enough time, absolutely not enough time for a breakdown.

- That makes how many ? – Because Shibayama was always around, usually unseen, and just sneaked around. Oh, Kenjiro knew it wasn’t on purpose, if the kid wasn’t one of the purest blooded demons around, he was sure they would have found a way to make him a minor god or something, but some traces couldn’t be ignored. Like the split pupils and the claws. Which was more than good for him since the boy was loyal all the way, clever and quiet. He wished he had more like him around.

- Seventeen in the last two months, my lord. – Seventeen. Seventeen dead in his establishments, seventeen souls who hadn’t been dead when they had entered and had had to be carried out. This was going to ruin his reputation.

- Show me. – Shibayama nodded and took off in the direction of one of the secret tunnels. Kenjiro had a moment to regret missing the meeting because who knew what was going to happen after that, and then ran to chase the other demon. Priorities. The sorcerers could wait and their words about him couldn’t get any worse. While here, he had an obligation. And he had never been one to run from it, no matter what the rumours claimed.

 

- Happy ? – Eita very carefully didn’t react. He crossed one leg over the other and kept his eyes ahead. He wasn’t going to give the other man the satisfaction of showing that the current events were affecting him. He wasn’t. – Half an hour now. We’ve been waiting for half an hour and it’s obvious he’s not coming. Let’s go.

And the entire group moved as one. Eita just rolled the ankle of the leg he had propped on one knee.

- Semi ? We’re going. – He looked up. Ushijima, in all his divine glory, was frowning at him like he wasn’t getting why their little procession was getting split up.

- Sure, go ahead. I will wait. – He didn’t have to turn to see the others’ faces. He knew their expression would be frozen in polite smiles, trying to hide intense confusion or, well, something worse. Just because he’d spent the last decades meditating his doubts away, that didn’t mean he didn’t know the rumours. About all the things he’d done and all the demons he’d done them with. High sorcerers really had too much time on their hands.

- Semi-semi. – He grit his teeth. – You aren’t going to sit here waiting for a demon, are you ?

- It took us forever to arrange a meeting. – He uncrossed his legs and crossed his arms, leaning back. – I am not going to waste it just because someone had something urgent come up and I was impatient.

That hit close to home, he saw it. The rest of the party all looked different levels of uncomfortable but he refused to drop his eyes. Let them be uncomfortable.

- Well, we are going to go. The portal should…

- I will stay ! – He blinked. Kawanishi’s twitchy manner of fixing his hair almost hid his facepalm. Washijou was getting redder and redder in the face. And Tendou…Tendou’s grin looked like it was about to split his face in two. Youths. Did they ever learn ?

- Goshiki, there is no need…

- I insist ! – Of course he did. He probably considered it his duty or something.

- I understand. But what I insist on is for you to go and keep practicing. You still have a lot to learn and sitting here for hours is not going to do anything for you.

- Are you going to be here for hours, Semi-Semi ? – He inhaled through his nose.

- Someone has to.

- You know, they should really give you a halo this time. Have you ascend to a higher level. – Whatever was coming wasn’t going to be good, he knew it. – For you to be willing to take one for the side of good and wait to talk one on one with the demon responsible for half the palace burning down and you almost dying…Tch, truly a great sacrifice.
He opened his mouth to argue but the damage was done. Goshiki had gone as white as his jacket and Kawanishi was looking at the ground. Ushijima, as stoic as ever, just nodded like Eita was really committing the ultimate sacrifice and then turned to leave. Good. Go. Just, go. Brand him a martyr, call him stupid. Just go.

- I am staying. – Damn it, Goshiki ! He sighed, trying not to show his irritation, but it was difficult. – I refuse to leave you alone with such evil.

- We are just going to talk. That’s all. – Judging by Tendou’s smirk, though, he wasn’t getting out of the babysitting.

- But Semi, what if he turns on you again ? He lied once, and did his best to try to kill you. What if he does it again, on his turf, with no one here to protect you ? – Goshiki was almost in tears and looked ready to clutch Eita’s sleeve and never let go.

- He never turned on anyone and he never tried to kill anyone. And everyone in this room knows it.

Washijou was outright glaring at him now and Tendou had lost the smirk. Now, lips tight and chest heaving, he raised his chin, looking down at Eita.

- This demon’s very existence is condemned and you know it. And if you keep going, so will yours. You’re on thin ice. – Ushijima had chosen the exact worse moment to start talking. But Eita was in too deep and he wasn’t going to just give up. He’d said too much already, no space to back out. Not that he wanted to.

- If the heavens have eyes, they would not convict me of anything. Not about what I did all the times in the past, not about what I am doing now. – Ushijima frowned again, obviously not sure if he’d heard right. Tendou looked ready to speak again but Washijou was faster. Eita had been expecting that, if he had to be honest with himself. It was surprising it had taken that long.

- Then, Semi, let me ask you. If the heavens really did convict you? Will you apologize then? – That was all that was about, wasn’t it ? About them not losing the gods’ favour. Because who cared about right and wrong when one’s political and social power all depended on some beings’ disposition for the day ? It wasn’t even about raw energy, it wasn’t about battle form and destructive capabilities. No, it was all politics. The gods withdrawing their support meant the end of a man’s social status.

It was sad, he thought. How it had all come down to this. Definitely not what he’d expected when he’d applied to be a student and then apprentice. He hadn’t been aiming for invitations or profitable relationships, he’d been greedy for power and all the ways one could harness the pure energy. What he was seeing now was really ruining any ambitions he might have had left. Keyword, might. Anyway, he’d made his decision when it came to the gods long time ago, when he’d been in solitude.

- If that should happen, then, the heavens are in the wrong. I am right. I will stand against the heavens and defy until the end. – That made them all go silent. Even Goshiki stopped sniffling.

- Let’s go. – And with that, Washijou headed for the door, the rest of their little group following slowly. Kawanishi nodded at him before leaving and Goshiki looked like a kicked puppy for a few more seconds before Eita waved to the backs of the rest. It was okay to go. With one more look and sniff, their youngest patted lightly after Kawanishi, pulling the door closed behind them. Blessed quiet.

 

He wasn’t sure much time had passed, but the door of the conference room they had been invited to opened to revel…a surprisingly familiar face. Eita raised his eyebrows but the half demon just glared for a moment before dropping the tower of folders he’d been carrying on the table with a sound that shook the floor. Eita crossed his arms. Last time he’d seen the other man, he’d been looking straight ahead, chin up, draped in white and teal, and not smiling. At least one of those things hadn’t changed. The fussy haircut was definitely a positive change, especially with the shiny black horns curling back. He almost sighed. Their clans weren’t so different after all. As long as one looked human and didn’t do anything that would label them differently, everyone was fine. The moment something odd showed up, it was like a coin being flipped.

Eita didn’t know if Seijoh had kicked the other man out or if he had left by himself, but it was still disappointing. He’d hoped the issue was in Shiratorizawa only and the rest of the clans were better people. That his own clan wasn’t the odd one when it came to treating their members should have brought him comfort but it only put more weight on his heart. Humans really couldn’t do anything right, could they?

On the other hand, the half demon hadn’t really reacted to him specifically, more like to a Shiratorizawa member, so maybe he didn’t remember seeing him. Not that there was anything personal, he only knew the other man because he’d gone deep into research before coming. The sentiment didn’t appear shared. Still. Aoba Johsai members tended to act like they were better than anyone, which, to be fair, every clan did, and he felt like poking at him a little. He’d been in that empty room alone for way too long. Boredom was, indeed, a dangerous thing.

- Yahaba, right ? – He smiled in a way he hoped was friendly. The other man curled his lip in distaste, but didn’t respond, choosing to drop in one of the chairs across from him instead, settling his face in something too close to a pout to be fake. Eita kept the smile friendly and didn’t allow it to turn into a grin. It was like watching Oikawa all over again. He guessed that if one taught them young, no matter how much time passed, disciples would keep their teachers’ habits to the very end.

This also proved he’d been wrong in his assumption. Yahaba either knew very well who he was or just generally disliked Shiratorizawa. Or both. From what he knew about Aoba Johsai’s clan leader, he wouldn’t be surprised if they had daily lessons on how best to spit on anyone wearing a certain specific shade of purple. The Oikawa he remembered had definitely been petty enough for that.

A few seconds of silent not-glaring later, the door opened again and a stranger came in, sitting one spot away from Yahaba, leaving the middle seat right across from Eita empty. Eita had no idea who that was, since he was sure that even if he forgot faces, the sheer amount of metal on the man’s face would ring a bell. Or the golden scales around his right eye and cheekbone that disappeared under his long blond fringe. The smile looked friendly enough, and genuine, so there was hope. He was there to get work done, after all, not to argue with demons. Although, knowing the one he was waiting for…

The door opened again.

Talking about old acquaintances.

His breath stopped, just for a second, and as he breathed out, he felt his chest go tight. And release. He leaned back in his chair, grounding himself and going back to the loose stance from before. There was no need to worry about anything.

For whatever it was worth, Shirabu was the same. Same caramel hair, same caramel eyes. A little paler but, he guessed, that was what happened when one spent their time away from the sun. The differences…

All he could focus in the first few heartbeats were the antlers. Up and back, spreading to the sides and behind like a crown of thorns, dark mossy green in colour and, unless he was mistaken, covered in actual moss on a few spots. The colour clashed oddly with his warm hair and, whoa.

Eita snorted. Three pairs of eyes narrowed at him, Yahaba almost showing his fangs based on his expression, the stranger tapping the table and Shirabu…Shirabu took a deep breath and looked down his nose. Some things really never changed. But he still did his best not to burst laughing. Because under the strange array of antlers his haircut was somehow more ridiculous than the ponytails he had used to wear who knew how many years ago. This lopsided straight fringe…It had to be on purpose, a man as vain as Shirabu would never allow himself to go out with something that weird unless he specifically wanted it. But still.

- Are we entertaining you ? – He completely ignored Yahaba’s bark. Shirabu’s glare had cooled down in seconds. The other man walked slowly to the empty chair across from him and slid in it with the kind of grace he didn’t remember the boy he’d been arguing with back in the days possessing. Draped in evergreen and black silk, and moving like a dancer, Shirabu Kenjiro had definitely changed. All Eita could do was hide what exactly the sight did to him.

- I am here on business, are you trying to entertain me ? – Yahaba leaned back and kept glaring. That was good, he was there to speak to the Lord of the Land and not whatever the half demon’s role was supposed to be.

- Semi. – Cold, Shirabu was cold, acting like he didn’t know him and that hurt. Just a little, but he calmed himself. There was time now, all he had to do was be patient. – To what do we owe the honour ?

- Four dead from Shiratorizawa. – Shirabu cocked his head to his right, fringe losing its straight edge. He was listening. – The investigation showed… Whatever they took, it wasn’t clean and it wasn’t meant to be taken the way they did.

- Accusing me of selling dirty opium ? – He crossed his legs. - Quite daring. I have a reputation.

And while he definitely looked and acted older, his basic traits, well, those were set in stone.

- If you stop putting words in my mouth, I might be able to finish. – The blond beside Shirabu casually dropped his arm. Knife or a sword, Eita guessed. A mild threat, nothing too much. But the man’s unblinking stare let him know he was happy his message had been received. – This is what the clan’s labs showed. I’m sure the results are forged but there will be action taken. – He shrugged. – Thought I’d warn you.

- Warn me. – The antlers were distracting. Was that actual moss on them ? And…grass ? What was… - Do your…clansmen know you’re here ?

- Yes. – Eita turned to the blond. The man tapped a claw on the table, the golden scales on his face glittering in the shifting light. – They came with him and left twenty minutes ago.

Shirabu turned back to him, saying nothing. Waiting. Eita sighed.

- Look, if they were here, we’d be having a different conversation. Since they aren’t…Yeah.

- Why should I believe you ?

- I waited for an hour to talk to you. – Shirabu frowned.

- You refused to talk to me. – Eita blinked.

- What. – Oh, no. With the fringe and the graceful demon lord look, for some reason the other man pouting was even more powerful than when they’d been teenagers.

- I wanted to apologise. You refused to let me do that. So, sorry if I am bit suspicious.

- Kenjiro, when have I refused you anything ? – Well, shit.

- Oi, watch your mouth…

- Careful when addressing his Lordship, you…

- Leave us. – The two of them turned to Shirabu, faces confused. – Don’t make me repeat myself.

- My lord… - He didn’t even say a word. Just turned, slowly, and stared at Yahaba. The blond whose name Eita never really got stood up, an actual sabre on his hip, pet the handle while looking at Eita, turned on his heels and left. Yahaba stood there for a heartbeat more before sidestepping around the chairs and closing the door behind himself. Leaving them alone.

- Quite spirited. Who’s the water demon ? – The other man shook his head.

- Jozenji. Their lord, to be precise. My General. Are you saying Siratorizawa wants to frame me for their high practitioners dying ?

- You know what really happened ? – Shirabu crossed his arms. With nobody else there he seemed to almost relax. Interesting.

- Oh, I know, trust me. Terushima’s got his entire pack of bloodhounds working on the “who” bit. He’s efficient, it won’t take long. So you haven’t refused to see me ?

Eita focused everything he was not to smile. So it was like that, then ?

- Told you. Even at your brattiest, I never said “no”.

- I was never a…

- You did it on purpose. – A smile, just with the corner of his lips. Rude.

- Obviously. Thank you for the warning, I guess. – Disagreeing to the very last breath. Why was he doing this to himself again ? – How are you going back to the clan ?

Eita shrugged again, settling back in the chair. Those were nice chairs. Huh.

- Walking. I know where the nearest portal is, should be fine. I came out of the final stage of my meditation a couple of weeks ago and am still not feeling like myself. – He rolled his shoulders back. – Feeling old.

- Well…

- Don’t. – He went silent for a moment. What was he going to do ? The clan was rotting from the inside, with the old advisors poisoning the sorcerers’ minds. The other clans were mostly hostile to each other, though he’d heard of a new small one coming up. The Crows, they called them. He’d grown powerful enough through his recovery and his search for the truth after, he could live anywhere. Probably immortal. All he had to do was leave. Whatever his clan had been when he’d joined with bright eyes and hope in his heart, that wasn’t it. Not anymore. He’d tell the leader about the advice and the forgeries he was receiving but in the end the decision wouldn’t be his. He was responsible for himself only.

Decades in isolation, with only his own mind for company really did wonders for one’s view of the world. What was the worst that could happen ?

- You look like a wood sprite, you know. You’re beautiful. – This time he got a sigh.

- Can you just not ? – Odd. The Shirabu he’d known in the past would be preening under the praise. He was a vain creature, after all.

- You don’t like compliments ? – The other man’s cold eyes met his.

- I know how I look, Eita. I look small and delicate and pretty compared to the demons here. Guess what ? You’re not the first one to take notice. – The last was spat out, venom dripping from his lips and Eita felt his blood run cold.

- Who.

- Do you honestly think I would let them live after gaining any kind of power ? Seriously… - Shirabu shook his head. – Just don’t.

- Noted.

- It better be. Wasn’t it a sacrilege to leave a clan ? Not that I would know, for obvious reasons. – The nerve to change topics like that… Also, how had he guessed ?

- I will be judged when the time comes. And since I am sure in what I do and the decisions I make, the gods can argue when it’s their turn.

- Confident. – He smiled. – And risqué.

- Always.

Another longer pause. He knew it wouldn’t be long now…

- So you don’t blame me for almost killing you ? – Ah, that old thing.

- It was self defense. Stop wallowing in guilt, you’re the Demon Lord of this side of Hell, it’s unseemly. And, let me ask you something. Yahaba Shigeru ? Working for you ? – Because Aoba Johsai hated them all. The feeling was mutual, of course, but Oikawa’s heir stooping so low ?

- It’s a long story. – Eita smiled.

- We have time.

- Well. It happened a decade or so ago…

Chapter Text

  Chewing pencils was definitely worse when one did not file their fangs. Kenjiro frowned at the mess in his hand. And it had been one of the nicer blue ones, too. Now he had to dig through his desk for another one. Not that the letters he was going through were worth the effort.

  Could the clans stop dumping every little complaint on him ? He was only one out of four demon kings. The North Abyss wasn’t even that close to the portals and open fields that linked the actual normal world to the Realm. Meaning, anyone who wanted to get to his domain would have to get through The East Abyss and Anabara, with his infamous subordinates covered in golden scales, were known well enough to discourage most people from even trying. Shiratorizawa had a portal right on the border, he knew, because he’d been stupid and sentimental enough to leave it there back when he’d arrived first only with the clothes on his back. And they abused that privilege way too much. Maybe he had to close the damned thing. Hmm…

  And talking about Anabara’s fledglings, Kenjiro checked his phone again. Terushima had sent a text, well, a mass of texts, most of them about some fluffy white creature with fangs and talons long enough to reach a grown man’s brain through his nostril. Why did he have the thing on his head ? Nobody knew but since he kept texting, Kenjiro considered he was well enough. Or at least alive and still in possession of his fine motor skills.

  All the way to the bottom of the messages was a single “I got the one who did it. They got a man to pretend to work in the den and advice on heavy doses. That’s what killed them all.”

  Overdose ? From someone dressed as a waiter ? Kenjiro pressed on his eyes. He longed for the sweet oblivion of a morphine haze or at least for fifteen hours of sleep. Sadly, after the first five years in the Realm, he hadn’t gotten even close to either. Or maybe it was for the best. Either way, he had someone to interrogate. He stretched up high, feeling his spine pop. This was going to be good.

  A knock on his door made him pause. Only one demon really knocked as a request for permission. Both Yahaba and Terushima tended to slam their and on the door and then just barge in, not caring about anything. Which was why he did all his private entertaining away from his office. Some things were not meant for his sentinels’ eyes. But back on the problem at hand.

 - Come in, Shibayama. – The door opened and he realised, after a moment of shuffling, that the kid had managed to open it with his elbow and push at it with his shoulder. All that because his hands were occupied by a big box wrapped in postage tape.

  Postage tape ? Who…mailed stuff ? And why was he getting it like that ? He just blinked while Shibayama carefully placed the huge parcel on his desk and bowed lightly.

 - What…is that ?

 - It came for you, my lord. – Well, obviously it had but…

 - Why are you bringing it in ? Shouldn’t it be with the regular post ? Skies know I get enough of that. – And he glared at the pile on his desk for good measure. Just in case it got the hint and sorted itself out.

 - It is addressed to you, my lord. And it was checked for electronics, spells, curses, amulets, poisons, live meat, dead meat, traps, obscure rituals, batteries, tea, coffee and liquids. Nothing.

  That was…a lot. Kenjiro frowned.

 - Is all my mail tested for all those ? – Shibayama cocked his head like the cat he was, like the question did not make sense.

 - Of course, my lord. Your safety is of utmost importance.

 - So why did this arrive separately ? – Because it didn’t make much sense. He had already gotten his mail for the day and unless it was something urgent, there was no point in it coming straight to his office.

 - It is addressed to… - Shibayama turned the box to squint at the label. – Kenjiro. From Eita.

  The…audacity.

 - Thought you would want it without anyone else lurking around. My lord. – And then the demon left, leaving him with the box on his desk. Obviously, it was beneath him to be excited like a child with a shiny box in front of them…

  But Shibayama had confirmed it was safe.

  Maybe Shibayama was on it with whoever it was from.

  Because he refused to believe that Semi Eita had come out of centuries-long meditation and the first thing he’d done was send him a gift. That simply didn’t make sense. He poked at the brown box, looking for…a giveaway sound, maybe ? Who knew. Shibayama had slipped away, of course, because he was smart like that, and he lasted another second before unsheathing his claws and going at it. He box didn’t last long. Inside was…

  He could tell it was made from the finest material. The dark olive green was the colour of an evergreen forest at midnight with the full moons bathing world in otherworldly shine. He pulled the fabric out of the box. Shook it. Twirled it. And finally put it on, almost running to the huge ornate bathroom he had in his office to find the biggest mirror he had.

  The coat fit like it was custom made. With its military style two columns of buttons and, he turned, hem that reached to his ankles, the garment was both light, gorgeous and it made him feel like an old fashioned demon. Like the ones with the curling horns, scars, long flowing trenchcoats and many, many chains. He buttoned it up, burying his nose in the collar. It was just so…soft. So soft. He checked himself out from every side in the mirror, admiring at how the belt-like element on the small of his back accented his narrow frame and heeled boots. It was gorgeous. And…

  He clicked his tongue and all the lights came to life.

  It was the exact same midnight green as his antlers.

  Damn you, Eita. Just…Damn you.

  The thing had coattails ! Layered ! How was he supposed to resist that ?

 - Nice jacket. – He looked to his left, eyes meeting Yahaba’s in the mirror.

 - Right ? Very pretty.

 - You see him once and he starts sending gifts ? – His advisor crossed his arms. – Romantic. It will go with all your clothes, too.

   Kenjiro turned to the left, checking out his profile and the way the fabric fell down, somehow not making him to appear too short but just being an accent of every feature.

 - It would, wouldn’t it ? – He took it off, raising it to look at it again. Silver buttons, too.

  And then he threw it up to his left, not even blinking when it burst into black flames, fine ash specking his marble floor.

  - Let’s go.

  Yahaba marched to his left and a step back, keeping in stride and Kenjiro just knew every few metres he was turning to look back at the almost invisible remains of the fine, fine coat.

 - I thought you liked him.

 - How observant. You ever thought about going into politics ? – After so many years along his side, Kenjiro didn’t need to turn to know what expression the half demon would be making.

 - Why did you reject his gift ? – Apparently, even high ranking Realm Officials were not immune to sappy romance.

 - He’ll have to try harder than that. – Yahaba made a choked sound which could have been a laugh. Or a snort. He didn’t care.

  - Never thought I’d see the day you would play hard to get.

  - You haven’t been locked in the dungeons recently, have you ? – Yahaba raised his eyebrows.

  - In a matter of fact, I have. Why, you into watching ?

  Kenjiro blinked at the other man, took a half step back and almost ran ahead, his advisor’s laughter following him down the hallway.

 

  Five hours later he stood in the exact same spot, only instead of adding clothes, he was removing them. Vest, shirt, belt, pants. He took everything off, dropping the pieces in a heap on the floor, uncaring of the mess the body fluids made on the almost black marble. He felt disgusting.

  Dozens more, the rat had said before dying with a smile. Dozens.

  He turned to the side to check himself in the mirror. The ridges of scar that ran parallel from the middle of his hips up to his ribs stood out sharp in the bright light in the bathroom. Deep gouges around his ankles, one healed so badly he could see the shine of white in the scratched off skin. Nothing hurt anymore, but he would be carrying those forever. Especially considering how long demons lived. Nothing he could do about those, or the many more smaller ones. It had been way too late when he’d reached a position where he could ask for a doctor. Years too late. And even then, some things wouldn’t be healed. Missing pieces of bone in one shoulder couldn’t be fixed by stitching or rubbing a salve.

  The pool behind him was already steaming and he made a mental note to find some higher position for Shibayama. Maybe he could get him a badge for a Personal Assistant or something, get the kid some recognition and actual power to get his way. He would mention it to Yahaba, the half demon was much better versed in the bureaucracy, making stuff up and passing it for real, and bulshitting one’s way through everything. It was more of a talent than skill and Kenjiro knew his patience was too thin to even consider learning it.

  But the bath was waiting for him and he couldn’t wait. He needed to think, and one couldn’t do that while covered in blood, mucus, saliva and…He didn’t want to think what else. The demon had done a lot while chained and Kenjiro had snapped at one point. All he could remember was the screeching glee of the man while he’d been…He didn’t know, probably pulling teeth out with his bare hands. The condition of his fingers definitely pointed in that direction. He sighed.

  Sitting on the edge, he dipped his toes. Scalding. The room was humid, the air sticky and heavy, and the water was boiling. He pulled his foot back and squatted on his toes, gathering courage. There went nothing. And then he slipped, hands first, in the pool.

 

  Coming alone and unarmed that deep into the North Abyss probably wasn’t the smartest thing he’d done in his life but Eita had a reason. A mission. And he couldn’t imagine dragging anyone with him to witness it.

 

Three days earlier

 - Semi-semi, to quote the great and vast Internet, you done fucked up, my man. – Eita looked up from the glossy The Cranes Today Magazine he had in his hand. Tendou was grinning ear to ear and it was honestly a bit disturbing to observe, especially since he was obviously trying his best for a crazy eye. And succeeding.

 - You’ll have to explain better than that. – He flipped the page.

 - You sent a gift to our dear little demonic disciple, the sweet and pure boy who has never done anything wrong in his life, the one who burnt half the campus and broke almost all the bones in your body, the cute and…The hell are you reading ?

  Eita rolled the magazine and, without even looking, flicked it up in the air and back. Judging by the smooth thud that followed, he’d gotten it right where he had wanted – on top of all the other strange magazines he’d managed to find on his walks around. The current world was way too interesting. Not that it was any of Tendou’s business, of course.

 - You were saying ? – Tendou narrowed his eyes but didn’t comment.

 - Word on the street is that our cute little demon was seen burning a lovely green coat only a minute after putting it on for the first time. And, and those are just rumours, don’t quote me, but right after that he went on a rampage, killing three demons in the process in the most gruesome was possible. There are photos if you want to see. Personally, I’d call them fake simply because I can’t imagine someone as fussy as him allowing so much sticky stuff in his hair, but my source was adamant.

  Since when did Tendou use words like “adamant” in a conversation anyway ? But…Kenjiro had burnt the coat ? He had…Eita’s brain screeched to a halt. Or course he had. He wanted to smack himself in the face because, honestly, while decades of meditation had cleared his energy and mind, they had obviously dulled his wordly senses. Because it would make exactly zero sense for Kenjiro to accept the gift and if he had thought for half a minute, he would have realised it. Oh, well.

  Maybe he could go and apologise in person ? Yeah, that sounded like a valid reason to approach the Demon Lord of the North. He stood up, stepping around Tendou who had apparently kept talking after that, and went to dig though his wardrobe. What did one wear when apologizing a demon lord anyway ?

 

  So there he was, in front of a huge mansion with sprawling gardens and no fence. So there would be some other trick. Eita looked around but there were no obvious mechanisms to act as doorbells. Oh, well. He stepped on the pebbled path, ready to jump back. Nothing. Another step. Still nothing. Maybe he would get to keep all his limbs.

  Tall, tall, tall trees surrounded him and he realised the exterior of the mansion had been an illusion but one so smoothly with the reality it was hiding it took him way too long to notice. But the picture from outside had been of a big house, three floors high, on even ground. Unlike right now, when he was standing at the bottom of wide stone stairs, no end in sight, with sharp bare rocks around and trees so tall he was sure he could see clouds inbetween their branches. So, up ?

  He had no idea how long after that it was but he reached the top. It was still a house, but it appeared made of black stone. And it was, again, too small. He still knocked and stepped back. It was probably one of the entrances but that’s what he’d been pointed at when he’d asked around so here he was.

  Surprisingly, the door opened and it didn’t end with him stuck on a Naginata shaft like a shish or in a pit of vipers. No, the one who blinked at him was a young man, shorter than him, pale and, judging by the split pupils, a demon.

 - Yes ?

 - My name is Semi Eita and I would like to request audience with his Lordship. – The demon looked back, glanced at Eita, then back again.

 - If you excuse me for a moment, I will check his Lordship’s schedule. – Eita nodded.

  Oh, he knew there would be no schedule checking. The demon would probably run to the nearest guard and have the sentinels drag him out by the neck and feed him to something feral that probably roamed the hills. Not his smoothest transition but he wasn’t exactly prepared. He wondered if…

 - He will see you now. – And then the demon opened the door wider. He would what ?

 

    Kenjiro was not in the mood for many things but seeing Semi Eita soon after having a meltdown in a pool of water hot enough to boil an egg in seconds was definitely in Top 3. Still. He might as well get it over with.

  Unlike the formal attire from last time, Eita was in a striped hoodie and stonewashed jeans. Was he on his way to the local grocery store or something ? It didn’t matter either way. Kenjiro was in his comfiest home t-shirt, dressed for no other to see and he couldn’t let some uninvited visitors force him in formal clothes. Nope.

  Eita turned when he heard the door and opened his mouth to say something. And froze. Closed his mouth. Cocked his head to the side, blinking.

  Kenjiro pressed down on the hem of the t-shirt, looking for creases or stains or something. What was with the staring ? The…staring…

  He was only in his pajama shorts and a ratty old shirt. His entire legs were bare, everything within full view. He knew that if he’d been human he’d be red from head to toe. And usually, it wouldn’t matter. He wasn’t ashamed of…Of…Of those…He wasn’t ashamed. They were just marks of his past and everyone had a past, right ?

  Yeah, right.

 - Sorry… - He would slap himself later, when he wasn’t on his knees on his bedroom floor looking for sweatpants in one of the drawers. Where were they, where were…

 

  Eita had a problem. Well, he had many problems though a few of them could all be explained with what had just happened. And what had happened was that he’d been a horny teenager for exactly twenty seconds and apparently his leering had been so gross that Kenjiro had ran away to put sweatpants. Because how much more gross could he become ?

   But now. The apology. He could do it.

 - I can’t believe you went up the stairs. – Or maybe it would wait. He leaned back in the deep couch.

 - I asked for directions. – Kenjiro snorted.

 - Or course they would send you up there, that’s the longest way around. Seriously, why didn’t you text or something ? The number on which I could maybe be reached is everywhere and Shibayama is good at detecting what’s important.

 - Shibayama ? – Kenjiro stretched a little. Eita tried even harder not to stare. With his luck, next time Kenjiro would show up in a winter parka or something.

 - He let you in ?

 - Oh, the little cat demon. Is he your assistant or something ? – Kenjiro shrugged. Eita didn’t think he’d ever get used to the antlers and how comfortable the demon was with them. He was too gorgeous to be of this world, indeed.

 - Or something. I’m working on it.

 - Yeah… - Well. Enough of that, he guessed. Time to get to the good bit. – Look, I came to apologise.

  Kenjiro paused in the middle of whatever he was about to say. After a few seconds of absolutely not-tense silence, he raised a finger. Damn, he still had the slimmest, longest fingers. Eita had had dreams about those fingers back when he’d been sixteen. Only, this time there was something wrong with it, aside from the black talons. Actually, it wasn’t just that finger, there was something odd about the entire hand but he before he could focus on it, Kenjiro shook his head,

 - What for ?

 - The gift. It was…Yeah, I didn’t think it through. I’m sorry. – He had to say it before he got his foot in his mouth. Again.

 - Shouldn’t you be upset ? – About what ? About his present being burnt and everyone knowing about it ? He was honest with himself to admit it had been a stupid move and he’d deserved it.

 - I’m only upset at myself, for not taking stuff into consideration. You’re a demon lord, obviously you can’t just accept stuff. There was one way it could have gone right and, I don’t know, a thousand it could have been a disaster ? Anyway, there was nothing wrong with it, just for the record.

  Kenjiro sighed.

 - I know. – Oh.

 - And yet you destroyed it. – A light shrug that had the huge thin t-shirt slide off one shoulder. Eita tried kept his eyes on Kenjro’s. This was a serious conversation and he didn’t need to distract himself with the graceful line starting from the demon’s jaw, running down his neck and curving over his shoulder. Or his collarbone. Damn, a few decades in his own mind and it was like puberty all over again. He really needed to get a hold of himself, hopefully in his bedroom with a bottle of lotion, because this was getting ridiculous. It absolutely didn’t help that the object of his attentions was the same as in his teen years. It was bad.

 - It would be bad for my reputation. Eita, what were you trying to achieve by sending me a gift ? – Oh, that was easy and a good distraction.

 - To win your favour, of course. – Kenjiro…didn’t seem to like that.

 - Yes, but what was your end goal ?

 - Told you. Your favour.

 - Why ? – Wasn’t he talking clearly ?

 - So you’d agree to spend some more time around me. Eat together sometime, maybe go see a film or go hiking. You still like hiking, right ? – Because it was only logical. They couldn’t pick from where they’d left before but maybe they could start again and just move in a different direction.

 - Why ?

 - Why ? I enjoy being around you ? – Kenjiro sat a little straighter. Wrong answer.

 - No, you used to enjoy spending time with who I was before. He’s not here anymore, Eita.

 - So ? – He shrugged. He’d heard all about the Demon Lord of the North Abyss back in Shiratorizawa. Much more than he could have hoped to read in books or newspapers or social media. It didn’t make that much of a difference. None of them was that pure and innocent anyway, why not see for himself ?

  - I just don’t get…

  - I am not asking for your hand in marriage. – Yet. – Just for your company once in a while.

  Kenjiro seemed to think about it and since he hadn’t been kicked out yet, he thought there might be a chance.

 - Sure. – Wow, enthusiastic much ?

 - Contain your excitement, please. – Warm dark eyes narrowed at him and he laughed. – You got a private number or something ?

  Kenjiro smiled just a little, one sided and teasing.

 - Sure. – Oh, the little.

 - Can I have it ?

 - Sur… - And then he looked at his phone. – Fuck, I have to go. See yourself out, bye ! – And then he literally ran from the room. Eita blinked. Almost. Oh, well. Still more progress than he’d expected. Now, time to make some plans. Where did one take a demon lord to lunch anyway ?

Chapter Text

Extra

 

 

  - So that’s how it is ? – Kenjiro looked up from the pile of magazines he was supposed to be packing. Tendou really hadn’t changed in all the centuries they hadn’t seen each other, had he ? True, the clothes were different, but the narrow eyes and the laser focus looking for a weak spot were the same, maybe even more intense. He refused to drop his eyes. Or stand up from the messy pile of glossy paper on the floor he was sorting through. Eita had gone to the Library to get everything he had loaned the place for all the years he’d been away and it was just him in the heart of Shiratorizawa, going through one of their highest ranked members’ things and more or less helping him become a traitor. Too bad Kenjiro had had any feeling of guilt clawed out of him long time ago.

  He kept the eye contact for another half a minute, quietly gloating in the way Tendou’s eye started to twitch. In the end, the sorcerer gave up first, instead taking the whole room in. The whole messy, messy, messy room, with all its emptied drawers, stacks of neatly stacked scrolls and folded clothes.

 - Not going to respond ? I guess it’s appropriate to kneel while you’re here, so good for you. Everyone would be glad to hear you grew a conscience. Or… - His eyes dipped and Kenjiro carefully placed the newest edition of Potato Review magazine ( seriously, Eita ?!?! ) on top of the pile. He didn’t appreciate being looked up and down like a piece of meat, and most definitely not by Tendou, who appeared to be looking for something…And judging by the grin dawning on his face, he’d just found it. – Have you finally had it planted and nurtured by someone else ? There are rumours that the Realm had places that would humble even the blackest of souls. If you’ve had a soul to begin with, of course. One can never know with demons.

  He…didn’t know what to say. For a quarter of a heartbeat, because no matter what everyone said, he had a beating heart, he sat on the messy floor, brakes in his mind screeching. Because he hadn’t just implied… Good thing he was used to the Realm and no matter what he said, Tendou couldn’t get even close to some demons’ level.

 - Do my actions really matter ? I would say you’re going to end up in the Realm anyway, because how could a man like you ascend ? But, we both know that with what the clans thrive on, you and all of your gang of vermin would fit right up there, wouldn’t you ? – He stood up. – The old gods would shake your hand for keeping the clan pure, the new gods will clap you on the back for banishing a demon… Don’t you think it would be a good way to exist ? Wouldn’t you like to experience it soon ? – The sorcerer stepped back. Good.

  Kenjiro slid his hand up and down his left hip where the spells working on the illusion of his scimitar started to drop one by one. Tendou frowned, obviously trying to make sense of the shape of the blade, and failing, and Kenjiro allowed the smile to remain on his lips for a moment before dropping it, and the spells back along with it, sliding in place.

 - You dare to threaten me ? In the middle of our clan’s palace ? – Kenjiro shrugged. He kind of was.

 - Obviously not. Now, if you don’t mind... – Tendou didn’t move, obviously trying to think of what to say while Kenjiro just looked around and, locating another stack of weirdly coloured magazines, he stepped over the pile on the floor to reach them.

 - You know, you could be more careful with…Oh. Hey, Tendou. – Eita blinked at the other sorcerer, barely keeping the pile of books in his hands from toppling over. – You need something ?

  Kenjiro just leaned back, sitting on one heel on the floor, and raised his eyebrows, challenging the human to say something. Just speak, one little word would be enough. Only half a sentence…

 - Came to see if you need help with packing. Apparently not. – And then he left, letting the door click closed behind him. Eita cocked his head in question but Kenjiro just shrugged. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over and done with. He had made his point so why keep discussing it ?

 - I swear, Kenjiro…One day, I will have you use actual words. – He hid his grin.

 - Is that your goal in life now ? – Eita sighed.

 - Might as well be. Now move, those should be sorted by cover colour and not by date.

 

    He was officially moved in. They were going to live together. Actually live together. In close quarters. And judging by the few kisses they’d exchanged, they were supposed to sleep in the same bed, too. True, his bed was huge but… So Kenjiro did the only sensible thing for a demon kind – locked himself in the bathroom to think.

  It wasn’t such a big deal. He still had his duties and Eita had declared he would go and hound the Head Librarian of the North Realm to let him help, so they wouldn’t even spend that much time together. And the Realm was naturally dark, which meant when they were close to each other, it would be dark outside. And inside, if he had any saying in it.

  Also, Eita had only recently come out of meditation. He was probably oversensitive to touch. He wouldn’t want to do…that. Maybe in the future. Maybe, just maybe, if the whole thing worked out, Kenjiro could…He sat on the marble floor, back to the hard wall and tried to force his muscles to relax. Maybe he could allow him to… Take his pleasure from his body. He’d done it dozens of times before, of course he would be able to do it when it really counted. When it was with someone who would…Who would not stop him from seeing a healer before it got too late for the scarring. Maybe. Probably.

  He didn’t know how much time had passed before he got up and toweled his hair. No more time for staring at the foggy ceiling. He had offered and, well, he really wanted the sorcerer here. To be able to see he was fine, to be able to check on him every time he wanted. To make sure nobody hurt him the way he had once.

  The lock flipped and he raised his chin. He was a Demon King. It was about time he acted like one.

 

  Eita was sure whatever the conversation back at Shiratorizawa had been, it hadn’t been pretty. Or as tame as both sides had claimed it had been. He pushed one book end and stepped back to admire his work. He was surrounded by stubborn people and while it was annoying, he knew Tendou would spill sooner or later. He just couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

 Perfect.

  Kenjiro had locked himself in the bathroom which he honestly wasn’t surprised by. Even when they’d been young, the other man had kept his personal space and time separate and personal with the kind of feverish dedication he just accepted. It didn’t bother him, not really. They were adults and they were about to intrude on each other before they learnt to coexist. No matter what his feelings were, it would take some getting used to. And it was completely normal.

  Now, to leave the empty boxes somewhere they wouldn’t get in the way…

 - Hey. – He looked up. Oh. The loose t-shirt and the shorts were back. Kenjiro’s eyes were black in the soft low light and his antlers threw a story of shadows on the wall behind him. And Eita was entranced. He was so easy it was ridiculous.

 - Hey. – And, because he had the self control of a teenager, he had to ask. – Are the antlers sensitive ?

  The silence echoed. A heartbeat. Two. Eita stood rooted to the soft carpet by the huge bed, wondering if this Realm was one where the floor could open randomly and maybe zombies could crawl out and bury him with them ? Because that was what he wanted to do now.

  Kenjiro blinked once. Coughed in his hand. Blinked a few more times. Coughed, choked, wheezed, whatever the sound was, it sounded almost painful. And then…then he just dropped to sit on the floor wheezing with laughter, face buried in his hands and nit even trying to speak.

 - Oi. Oi, Kenjiro. – The other man just shook his head, breathing calming a little. Eita crossed his arms. Let him laugh it out before he gave him a piece of his mind. Let him…

  Kenjiro quieted down, coughing a couple more times before wiping his face. Oh, great. Tears. He’d laughed so heard he’d been crying. Warm eyes met his and then the other man exploded in giggles again, this time laying on his back on the floor.

 - Stop it. – He poked at his ribs with his bare toes. All Kenjiro did was curl to one side and keep laughing. Great.

  At least he’d fixed whatever had been going on with his mood since they’d brought all the boxes to the mansion. His mirth was too cute even if it was all on his back. He tsked.

 - Kenjiro…

 - Okay, that’s it. Tomorrow, we’re going through all of your vampire, werewolf, demon, whatever romance you have on that library. And we are making a list of every stereotype you think might be correct. Because honestly…What, do you think vampire fangs are their second G spot or something ?

  His silence must have been enough because Kenjiro peeked through his fingers, flush high on his cheekbones and fringe messy, and snorted.

 - This is gold. Amazing. Incredible. Oh, that’s too good…

 - Can you stop laughing ? – The other man finally stopped giggling, choosing to sit on the floor instead.

 - Yep. But why should I ?

 - Because… - Kenjiro raised his eyebrows and Eita realised he didn’t have enough evidence to back his case. – Whatever. Come here.

  And he came. Kenjiro just reached up and Eita pulled him by the wrist, walking back and sitting on the tall bed.

  Long slim fingers, calloused and taloned, scratched through his hair and lips met his. He allowed his hands to fall on Kenjiro’s waist, over the soft t-shirt, and just drank him in.

  It was still so soft, so innocent. Sitting in his lap, Kenjiro had his arms loose around his neck and was peppering his lips with short kisses, there and gone in a moment. His mouth was cool but his skin felt feverish, and Eita couldn’t get enough.

  Everything he’d ever wanted, everything he’d dreamed of as a teenager, all those dreams that always ended with him waking up sticky and kind of ashamed, all the fantasies that had started innocent, with small dry kisses, and had gone south when he’d been sixteen, all those were represented by the body in his hands. Only, the reality was better than he’d imagined.

  Kenjiro kissed softly, barely tasting him, hands on his shoulders, and Eita let his palms slid down his sides. Would he object, he wondered through the haze over his mind, if he reached under the t-shirt ? There was something there he should have remembered, but he couldn’t…He couldn’t. Not when the room was getting hotter, Kenjiro was getting bolder and he could feel sweat sticking his own shirt to his back.

  This was them, he thought as he leaned slightly back, baring his neck and feeling talons on his shoulders. This was theirs and nobody would interrupt… His fingers slid beneath loose fabric and…

 - Stop…Eita, wait… - He opened his eyes and it took him a second to recognise Kenjiro’s expression. Distress. He almost got up and ran to the other side of the room, but the other man held tightly on his shoulders, face serious.

 - Did I hurt you ? Tell me… - Kenjiro shook head but his eyes were hidden under his hair. Eita couldn’t see his face. And panic was settling in, burning like acid on his tongue and making him feel lightheaded. – Tell me. Whatever you want, I will do. If you want me to never touch you again, I will…

 - Eita. Stop. – And Kenjiro got up from his lap. – I have something to… - He carded a hand through over his face and hair. – To ask, I guess.

 - Anything. – Kenjiro shook his head.

 - Don’t say that…

 - I said it before and I will say it again. – Eita waited a moment. When it became clear Kenjiro wouldn’t look at him, he stretched his neck to the side. – I have never refused you anything. I am not going to start now. Anything you want. I am already yours.

  It was a stupid statement, but he was being honest. He had waited and read and listened after he’d come out of meditation. And made his choice. If the demon in front of him said he never wanted another physical contact, he would accept it and deal with it. He wouldn’t be the one to bring more pain to the one who had been a constant through almost his entire conscious life. His lifeline. He looked at him straight, not hiding his face, not backing down. Letting him see it all. He had nothing to hide.

 - I gave you my heart long time ago, even if you didn’t believe me. – That made him look up.

 - We were children... – He shrugged.

 - Doesn’t matter. I gave you my soul when I forsake my clan for you. On a silver platter. Close your mouth, I am not trying to make you feel guilty. – Kenjiro blinked. – I am telling you. Everything I am is yours, have always been yours. So if you choose to never speak to me again because I overstepped, I would accept it.

   Kenjiro cocked his head to the side, a little frown marring his features. A few more blinks later, he sighed, shaking his head.

 - When did you become such a drama queen ? Seriously, Eita, “Everything I am” ? What are you, some paranormal romance novel heroine hopelessly in love with a vampire about to sacrifice herself ?

 - You’ve read a lot of those ? – Kenjiro…Actually hissed. Like a cat whose paw someone stepped on, he actually hissed. – And I was being sincere but you, of course, had to go and be a smartass. Sorry for baring my soul, I guess. – Now he was almost shouting. Weren’t they supposed to be making out or something ? 

 - Well, you should’ve chosen to leave at least some of the clichés out of it. It sounded like you were reading a gross sappy poetry book.  – Eita knew his jaw was hanging open.

 - You want me to apologise for that, too ? Sorry, then, for my feelings. Promise to never speak about them again !

 - Yeah, keep talking. You’re absolutely not digging yourself a deeper grave.

 - You, little… - Kenjiro…pouted. Eita knew his scowl showed his deep disgust but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He was so weak for that expression that Kenjiro already had him in the palm of his hand. He was so whipped and they had just moved in together.

  After a minute of silence, Kenjiro sighed and shook off the rigid tension in his muscles.

 - I just need you to know…I would appreciate it if… - Eita looked up but the other man refused to meet his eyes. – If you…

  He let him breathe through it. Whatever it was, it was serious. And not matter how much they bickered, he’d been honest earlier. Whatever Kenjiro was comfortable with, that was all that would happen. Nothing more.

 - Look, just don’t touch my ass, okay ? – Strangely tame but he nodded, slowly. He had the feeling there was more. – And my…front.

  And then Kenjiro stared back, obviously challenging him to comment. Eita spared a moment to be mad that whoever had done…whatever had hurt Kenjiro so much was dead and he couldn’t rip them piece by piece, and then actually thought about the statement.

 - The side of your hips ? – Kenjiro looked up for a moment and then shook his head. – How about… - How to say it in the least vulgar way… - Oral ?

  Kenjiro shook his head so fast his teeth rattled. So. Eita wouldn’t ask about handjobs. No need. For now, he would agree and later, he would find names, clans, graves, and then find a way to hurt some demons or ghosts in their afterlife. Oh, yes, he would.

 - Understood. – Another thing he would not even mention was penetration, at least not with him topping. He was not… - Would you be comfortable with me touching you on another part of your body ?

  Kenjiro looked at him through his hair, took a deep breath, and stepped back forward, arms going slowly around his neck.

 - Just… - Eita hugged him about the waist, letting him choose what to do and where to go. Apparently, it was on top of him, with those slim calloused fingers pushing him until he was on his back and Kenjiro standing on his knees across his hips, eyes glittering in the soft almost-darkness. He’d never seen anything as beautiful as this. – Just let me.

 - Anything you want.

 

    This was…different. Kenjiro let a talon slide down Eita’s sternum. How easy it would be to wrap his fingers around the bone and, he scratched lightly, enjoying the almost invisible red lines that rose on the pale skin under his hand, just pull. He knew his nails were sharp enough and that he was strong enough. One move, and he could have the other man’s beating heart in his hand.

  This, though ? This was more fun. If Eita was telling the truth, he already had his beating heart in his hand. Now, what to do with it ? He spread one hand on Eita’s warm shoulder and leaned forward to breathe him in. Ah, his scent had changed with the years. He wasn’t a boy anymore, neither of them was. He was so tempted to just…So he did. Letting his tongue touch the other’s skin, he tested the waters. Only a little bit. Yes…

  Pressing with his lips, he felt the warmth of the flesh beneath his body and had to take in more of it.

  His hands slid down the planes of Eita’s chest, pure and unmarred by him having broken almost every bone in his body all those years ago, and then lingered around his hipbones, feeling up bone and muscle and tendon. And he still kept pressing small openmouthed kisses on his neck. The salt on his skin was making him drunk and he could barely keep still. The fact that his own pants were still on while Eita was fully naked only went to his head even more.

  Like that.

  One hand spread over his stomach while the other moved even more south. He retracted his talons, just in case, and nipped right under Eita’s collarbone, feeling his entire body twitch under him. Even better.

  His hand pet slowly and carefully, navigating without sight since he’ closed his eyes long time ago and was orienting himself by touch only. The flesh was getting hotter and hotter, and he kept kissing downwards, stopping when he reached Eita’s ribs. Time to shift his focus a little.

  One finger slid along Eita’s cock and the shudder beneath him had him bite a little harder. Eita stilled. Good. Two fingers. So hot. His other hand found Eita’s hip and he clung for balance, still not opening his eyes.

  - You’re killing me, Kenjiro. – He breathed out a laugh, feeling fingers lightly run through his hair, avoiding his antlers or putting any pressure. Just a butterfly soft touch, barely enough to mess his fringe. – You’ll be the death of me.

 - As long as we’re clear on that. – The chest under his lips shook in response and Kenjiro couldn’t have that. Laughter under him the first time they were both naked ? Or, as naked as they could be right now ? Not allowed. So he did the only thing he could think of – he curled his fingers around Eita’s length and stroked. Slowly.

  The laughter died and he felt more than heard a long, drawn out groan.

  Again. He spread the slickness on the tip and allowed his touch to be just a little tighter, a breath tighter.

 - Not going to last if you keep doing that. – It was probably supposed to be a warning but he just grinned. Too bad.

  Leaving wet kisses all over Eita’s stomach, he kept his rhythm, holding on his other hip.

 - Keniro, I am serious…

 - When did I say I woudn’t like that ? – A muffled curse above him and he twisted his wrist, moving a little faster, his teeth digging in a little deeper. – You mind marks ?

  A hiss was the closest he got to an answer. Wrong. He allowed the tips of his talons to poke in the hip he was holding for balance. A warning.

 - I don’t know, Kenjiro, fucking guess ? – Another gasp. He sucked again.

 - Why are you fighting me, then ? – And then he pressed one final kiss on Eita’s hipbone and whispered, with the sweetest voice he could manage,- I thought you would give me anything ? I want to see you come for me, Eita.

  And that’s all it took. He was faster and got to Eita’s free hand before he could cover his own mouth and pinned in to the mattress. The choked out gasp was quitter than the others before, softer, and he sounded like he almost choked on in, but the sudden slickness all over his hand and the way Eita’s back arched, showing off his bare throat and all the light marks that littered it were almost enough to get him to touch himself and finish himself off. Almost. He wouldn’t ruin the moment by doing that, though, so he just stroked his loved through the edge and then some, stroking his palm with a finger and trying to memorise every twitch on his face. Because that was what true beauty was – a powerful man who had giver himself to him completely. Heart, body and soul. He pressed one last kiss to his chest. And all that beauty was freely given.

  Kenjiro licked his finger. His and his only. He was a demon, though and through. Pure blooded and having proven himself again and again. There would be no going back from this. Eita opened his eyes, mind seemingly hazy. He wouldn’t allow it.