"Heads up cousin, you look so bleak on this wonderful evening."
Daichi scoffs into his drink. "Hello to you, too, Ennoshita. You were invited?" He jabs good-heartedly, staring at his drink with a frown. He swirls the amber liquid in the glass, grimacing when he kicks it in - too warm, too tasteless without the ice.
"Oddly enough, yes. You know, friends in high places." Ennoshita replies, smiling when Daichi quirks an eyebrow at him. Ennoshita tilts his head to the right with amusement. Daichi follows the direction with his eyes, searching for the hinted person. He doesn't need to look too long.
"Him? You're kidding." Daichi squints in disbelief, unable to tear his eyes from the slaver lord with a black veil draped over his face. Their eyes meet and Daichi feels chills run down his spine.
Ennoshita hums in disagreement, taking a sip from his glass. "I told him about your pact and he seemed rather interested." He elaborates with a small nod.
Daichi tears his eyes away from the veiled man in black to look at his cousin. "You go around, telling Slavers about my intentions?" He barely keeps his voice even. Does Ennoshita not realize that both their lives are at stake? "And how did you meet, pray tell? He is not exactly--" he trails off, making a vague hand gesture. While Daichi's family is rich and influential enough amongst the slaver nobility, Ennoshita's branch is not that fortunate - and he doesn't mean to rub that in his face.
Ennoshita shrugs, brushing off the implication. "Lord Sugawara - he's not what he seems. Try talking to him - you'll be surprised."
Daichi looks at the Slaver again, this time with a more judging eye. He's laughing behind his hand, surrounded by men whose faces Daichi recognizes from the many auctions he's attended. Even from afar, he can tell that they are desperately fighting for Sugawara's attention - which he's already given to the rather ugly looking Slaver Lord whose fat arm rests around his slim waist. The corner of Daichi's mouth quirks in disgust.
Sugawara shuffles - a movement that tickles Daichi's curiosity - and then steps closer to his very disturbing interest. He leans his head against the man's thick arm, secretly taking a peek at Daichi, covering the movement with an affectionate nuzzle. When their eyes meet again, his smile falters, and even though it was only for a heartbeat, Daichi feels like the time stopped. The moment's gone and Sugawara is back at humouring his needy company, leaving Daichi to stare at his bare, toned back adorned by glistening chains.
The evening drags on forever, and the warm, poorly made drinks don't make it any better, but when a tall man with long hair tied back in a small bun approaches him, mutely offering him a piece of paper with a curt bow, Daichi suspects that the evening might just get a little more interesting. He nods at the slave in dismissal, taking a peek at the note.
'At midnight in the western wing' is all it says.
Tanaka shuffles at his right, adjusting his collar - a sign of 'I don't like this.' Daichi doesn't acknowledge his worries.
"Keep an eye out on him," Daichi murmurs, crumpling the note and sipping from the glass at the same time. Tanaka gives him a curt nod and disappears into the crowd.
He knows immediately that something's not going according to plan when Ennoshita bumps into him when they roll in the buffet.
"A problem," the man murmurs urgently, trying to look nonchalant. Daichi's hand pauses over the bowl with olives. "I've lost sight of him."
Daichi glances at the clock - shortly after eleven - and sighs. "How do you lose sight over the most wanted and flattered person on this party? "
Ennoshita purses his lips,wordlessly accepting the half-filled plate Daichi thrusts into his hands. Maybe the evening is going to be a little too interesting. He marches towards the door, looking out for Tanaka. He spots the slave by the northern door, and when he meets his nervous stare, Tanaka immediately points at the gate that leads into the maze of hallways of the western wing.
Daichi picks up his pace, throwing tight apologetic smiles and murmurs at the lords and ladies he passes, maintaining a moderately relaxed face.
The curses keep rolling off his tongue with every wrong turn he makes, but he knows he's close by the very unsettling grunts and gasps that bounce off the bare walls. The next turn he makes leads him to the long, brightly lit hallway lined with kitschy antique vases that poorly imitate their original Roman counterparts.
He stops and takes an immediate step back to hide behind the corner, closing his eyes in attempt to unsee the scene he just witnessed. He takes a breath and peeks around the corner.
The ugly Slaver Lord has Sugawara pressed against the wall, shamelessly grinding against him, trying to hold him in place as the man makes half-assed protests, fighting the slaver off with forced politeness.
"Come on, I know you want it, you've been so nice to me all evening!" Daichi hears the slaver grunt, his words muffled as he's trying to kiss every inch of the skin of Sugawara's neck that's exposed every time he tries to keep his mouth away from the ugly mug.
"I don't think this is a good idea - anyone can walk in on us. What would your wife say?" Sugawara argues airliy, trying to get the slaver's hands off his ass. "What would people say?" His tone is getting more clipped.
Daichi quietly steps from behind the corner, glad that the floors are covered in carpet. He creeps closer, gradually picking up his pace. Sugawara spots him just as he reaches into the folds of his sleeves, taking out a dagger. His eyes widen, and he shakes his head, his voice catching in a little stutter.
"O-or maybe, we could." Sugawara moans breathily, hands shooting up to the Slaver's hair, pressing his face against his neck to keep his attention away from the approaching Daichi. He makes a very indecent sound as his body arches into the man's touch, and then Daichi swings his arm and hits the slaver's head with the pommel, making him stumble away from Sugawara, who doesn't let the man recover. He pushes himself from the wall, kicks the slaver's stomach, and backhands him so hard, it actually makes him trip and fall on the ground.
Daichi expects a comeback, readjusting the hold on the dagger, but the man doesn't get up again.
"Woah," he breathes out, eyebrows arching, "he's actually out."
"Of course," Sugawara answers evenly, rubbing his hand before putting it on his hip. "Did you think I was a damsel in distress?" He asks, readjusting his veil.
Daichi's smiles. "It very much looked like it from where I was standing. Are you alright?"
Sugawara's face lights up with a grin. He makes a mocking lady-like bow, using the long, wavy sleeves of his jacket as a substitute for skirt. "Oh, my knight in shining armor," he laughs merrily, and Daichi feels his face heat up. He knows Sugawara is known for flirty behaviour but he never got to witness it firsthand. "However will I repay you for saving my fragile life?"
Daichi makes an unimpressed face. "How about telling me what you had in plan at midnight?"
Sugawara's face straightens up, the coy facade falling off, revealing a man with purpose. "Not here," he says, voice void of any teasing inflections. He leads the way to a smaller, simple door at the end of the hallway. Daichi follows him inside, and before he closes the door, he catches a glimpse of that long haired slave entering the corridor.
Sugawara waits for him in the middle of the room, not bothering to turn on the lights. Daichi notices the difference of his pose - there is nothing submissive about it, no sway in his hips, or downcast eyes. He stands firmly on the ground, shoulders wide, and head held high. A complete opposite of the persona he's seen in the ballroom.
"It came to my attention that your interests lie in favour of... providing better conditions for slaves."
That is one way to put it, Daichi thinks, inclining his head. "That may be right."
Sugawara raises his head higher, standing a bit straighter. "I might have a way to help with that. I want to join your pact." He means it as a request, but it comes out as demand.
Daichi takes a second to think about that - Sugawara is known as one of the biggest and richest Slave Lords in the country, and his popularity amongst the highest rings is as great as his hate for him amongst the slaves. "How do I know this is not a trick to expose me." - after all, he's trying to undermine the slave-trading without any of the Slavers knowing. Ennoshita really took a leap of faith with this one.
"Isn't it a little bit late for that?" Sugawara smiles, shoulders relaxing. He takes off the veil, stepping closer, actually hesitating. Daichi swallows, eyes darting from his saddened eyes, to the soft, bitter smile that plays on his lips.
"If I wanted to expose you, I would have done that in front of everyone, not here."
He has a point.
Daichi clears his throat, willing himself to look away from the beauty mark under Sugawara's eye. "So, what do you have to offer?"
Sugawara's smile disappears, and Daichi swallows for a completely different reason. He feels something tug in his chest.
"A plan to solve everything."