Chapter 20


Renge was... Shocked, to say the least. Ayame fluttered about his head and tried to get him to listen to her, but he just... Couldn't. All he could do was stare at Kurei, who stood before him, smirking, as always. The absolute last person he had ever wanted to see again was Kurei, but there he was, barely containing his mirth about having found Renge yet again...

Renge closed his mouth, which he had opened to say much the same thing; Wasurenagusa had gotten there first, and, much to Renge's --if momentary-- relief, Kurei turned to address him. You can't expect to get away with this any more than I can, stopping us like this. Kanakuri at least knows me, and Renge would defend me, I'm sure, were we ever caught, but I can't imagine he'd do the same for you, you-- Kurei scoffed, his hands finding their way to his hips and resting there indignantly. What ever do you mean, dearest old friend of mine? he asked, his tone mockingly sincere. Why, I'm simply trying to return our lovely little slave boy to his rightful owner, who I'm sure would miss him terribly, as he made such a hard, hard effort to get him from me, he said, the latter of his words turning spiteful and cruel.

He turned on Renge, his garnet eyes set in a glare, before that eerily charming smile he always managed returned to his pale lips, full force. And I'm sure you'd miss your charming prince, too, hmm? Kurei asked, extending his hand to Renge, who, to bewildered to have good judgment, took it. Kurei pulled Renge forwards and out of the caravan he'd been taken away in, and Wasurenagusa took a tentative step forwards, prepared to protect Renge if Kurei meant to harm him, but the golden-haired young man simply let him go once his feet touched the ground, though his smirk lingered on the boy.

And as for you, Kurei said, turning once more to the tallest of the three, though he kept close to Renge. I'd most certainly suggest that you try making a run for it, as I can't see how your valiant efforts would be rewarded or even much appreciated, unlike mine. If you go now, I wont be forced to punish you, and if you're lucky, maybe I'll convince the young prince of your simpleminded innocence--I most certainly will not leave Renge in the hands of the likes of you-- Renge interrupted softly, putting his hand's on the young merchant's arm. He's actually... Right, you know..? You should go, because you're the last person I'd want to get in trouble over me... He said softly, and, defeated, Wasurenagusa cast his pale eyes to the ground. Thank you, though, Renge said, a faint, questioning tone to his words as he wondered if they would make Wasurenagusa feel any better.

He paused for a long moment, Renge's hands on his arm, and Kurei shifting his wait impatiently and uncomfortably behind them. Finally, he said, Thank you, and he drew Renge into an embrace much the same as the one he had the day before, when they had first been reunited. I promise, he whispered softly, his words audible only to the boy he held tighter in his arms, that I wont rest until you're back home again, where you belong. I'll think of something.

When he let Renge go and stepped back, he didn't look at him, in stead kept staring down at the ground, a far look for someone his height. Renge said softly with a faint, sad smile, and Wasurenagusa only nodded solemnly back, casting a cold glance at Kurei before he busied himself with re-latching the carriage and securing the doors shut.

With a faint noise of distaste, Kurei gave a slight toss of his glimmering golden hand, and then rested his hand possessively on Renge's shoulder as Wasurenagusa once again mounted the front seat of the small caravan, and signaled the two horses to leave. He still didn't say anything, but held up a hand in parting, and as the carriage rode off Renge saw him remove his glasses and wipe his eyes, before replacing them and directing the carriage to a faster speed.

Kurei said darkly, practically in his ear, having leaned down to scare the boy who nearly jumped. Glaring, Renge turned on him to accost him in the most annoying of ways he could think of, but the other simply hushed him with a finger to his mouth. I wouldn't yell at me, if I were you. After all, I just saved you, Renge. If anything, you should be showing me your gratitude...Gratitude my left freaking foot, Kurei! Renge yelled, wrenching his hand from his mouth. I know exactly what you want, and I swear if you try anything I'll... And if you don't defend Nagusa like you said you would, I'll never, ever forgive you ever, you bastard. Kanakuri's going to come find me and when he does--Now, now, Renge, Kurei said with a wry grin, waving his finger in front of the boy's face. You don't have to be rude, and insults will get you no where, especially since I was just about to take you back to your wonderful prince... Renge's expression changed almost immediately from anger to a look of surprise, and Kurei laughed. he asked, amused. Did you think I'd keep you? My, my, such wishful thinking, Renge...Shove it, Kurei! Renge shot, his glare returning. I don't believe you, and you can take your stupid take you back to your wonderful prince' crap and shove that too! I don't believe you of all people would do something unless you got something out of it, and I sure as hell am not giving you anything.

Kurei gave a slight, mock pout. But I'm only trying to do what abides by the law, and by law you are a slave of the crown prince of Shippou, and you do belong to him. I'm only trying to do what's right! Renge rolled his eyes, thoroughly unconvinced. Kurei said, grabbing Renge's wrist and pulling him forwards so that their faces were mere centimeters apart. I don't suppose you really want to walk all that way back to Kanakuri's castle, hm? Especially with those short legs of yours... he said, a devilish grin on his lips.

Renge pulled away, but Kurei held him fast, so he just turned his head, once again noticing Ayame fluttering about nervously. Kurei was right, though. He probably couldn't make it very far by foot, and worse, he had no idea where he was going. Surely if he waited long enough Kanakuri would come to find him but... How long would that take, and what could happen to him in the mean time..? My legs are not short, Renge said finally, refusing to look at Kurei, his words harsh.

A wicked smile that Renge utterly detested spread across Kurei's lips, and he led the boy to a horse that had been simply grazing aimlessly on the hilly grasslands that were Shippou. he said triumphantly. I'm delighted we agree.

br br br


Even besides the fact that it was a horse ride, it was probably one of the most uncomfortable rides Renge had experienced in his entire life. Kurei hat sat him in front, one arm possessively around his waist while the other guided the horse, his face just behind Renge's neck, giving the boy shivers every time he felt hot breath against his skin. As a result, Kurei had asked him if he was cold, and upon being told to shove it, simply pulled Renge closer, pressing their bodies as close together as was humanly possible. The only thing that kept him reassured enough to keep riding with Kurei was Ayame's constant verification that they were, in fact, heading in the correct direction.

I bet you're wondering what I'm doing here, aren't you, love? Kurei asked after a while, breaking the long silence. Renge just snorted indifferently, to which Kurei gave a laugh. he began, with the air of someone who would have told his story with or without anyone listening who actually wanted to. I knew Wasurenagusa was due to come to Shippou at this time of year, and I knew he'd try to pull some stupid, simpleminded stunt like this. He's such a spineless fool...

Kurei felt Renge shift uncomfortably before him, no doubt suppressing the urge to reply with words just as harsh, and his smile broadened. But, I actually have my own, political obligations for coming to Shippou's annual new years festival. Besides which, I had so wanted to see you again, he said, leaning forwards to bury his face at the base of Renge's neck, inhaling deeply. I do miss you, my little Renge, and every day my heart aches when I think of the things we could be doing had I been allowed to keep you...Well, it can't possibly be your heart, seeing as how you haven't actually got one, Renge said, finally replying. He'd been about to go off on that particular tangent, when Ayame finally caught his attention, fluttering about them frantically as they rode.

Look! she said, fluttering just near Renge's head. No, not at me, stupid! In the sky! Something's there.

Renge did look, and there was, in fact, something there. Kurei's horse seemed to have noticed it to, because, with a series of surprised whinnies it came to a ragged stop, and it was all Kurei could do to keep his horse from bolting in the other direction. Cursing, Kurei, who, presumably either hadn't noticed anything or was pretending not to care, got off of the horse to scold it, pulling Renge down after him.

The young slave only stared, Ayame landing on his shoulder to do much the same, his heart suddenly racing. He didn't know whether to be elated, terrified... Or something entirely else, but Kurei, who had finally, suddenly stopped yelling at his horse had thoroughly covered surprised. With a flutter of large, white feathers alongside a pair of shimmering, red wings much like Ayame's own, both Kanakuri and Kingyosuo landed just in front of the dumbstruck pair, on a winged horse and a small carrier dragon, respectively.

Renge simply stared at them, just as surprised Kanakuri was there as he was Kingyosuo was. Kanakuri's expression was... Impossible for Renge to place, especially when Kanakuri wouldn't even look directly at him, and Kingyosou, as always, looked angry and annoyed, especially when, with much interest, Ayame took off from her perch on Renge's shoulder to flutter around the actual --if still small-- dragon.

Ah, your highness, Kurei said finally, with a regal bow, the first to break the uncomfortable silence. I hope you don't mind, but I was actually on my way of returning your slave to you already, though it's so selfless of you to come all this way to get someone so... Insignificant, he said, humbly as he could, though his words seemed only to please Kingyosuo.

Kanakuri said absently, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully at Kurei. That is to say... he said, suddenly seeming to realize that his tone had been slightly rude. You, the one from the market place who... he glanced at Renge, and his words trailed off, leaving Renge to feel as guilty as if his escape by Wasurenagusa's hands had been entirely of his own design. Ah, it's um... I'm sorry, I'm just surprised to see you again, is all, he said absently.

Kurei said with a charming smile, bowing his head again. I hadn't expected to run into such an... Affair, if you will, taking place. I'd only come to Shippou to celebrate your festivals with you, but I never thought I would actually have the pleasure of seeing my dear friend or yourself again, he said with a whimsical laugh, at which Renge cringed. So I thought it would only be best if I personally returned your slave to you, as fate made so sure someone like me was here to intervene at a time such as this...Yes, thank you, Kanakuri said, sincerely but absently, as he stepped forwards and put a hand on Renge's back, leading leading the boy towards him and his white horse. Really I'm... Grateful that you saved me a lot of trouble, he said, still not looking at Renge despite their close proximity. And I'm terribly sorry because it was probably troublesome for you--

Kurei had opened his mouth with his charming grin to interject, but Kingyosuo spoke first, his words harsh and shrill. Well now that you've found the boy, I don't see any reason for us to stand around here all day, he said, gesturing rather dismissively to the outdoors that surrounded them, his expression and tone finally turning sweet afterwards. You and I could share my dragon, if you'd like, Kanakuri, and we can leave your slave on that horse because I so doubt he'd try to run away for a second time in the same day.No, that's fine, thank you, Kanakuri replied softly, much to Renge's profound relief, and Kingyosuo's smile faltered. Actually, I'd like to get back with Renge as soon as possible, and... Deal with some things, he said, to which Kingyosuo's smile flourished again and Renge's relief died off.

But if you could be so kind as to wait here with this man until the rest of the search party gets here, and let them know that Renge was found... And thank them for their time and, if you could, escort him back to the castle with you, he said, gesturing to Kurei. I really appreciate it, Kingyosuo, Kanakuri said with a tired smile.

Of course, Kingyosuo said with a forced smile, though it turned swiftly into a glare directed in Renge's direction when Kanakuri turned to his horse. I'd be more than happy to, as I'm sure you have some... Things you'd like to take care of. I can't understand how you would want this... Transgression... To be dealt with immediately.Thank you, he replied, pulling Renge forwards to help him onto the horse. And, ah... He paused, as though searching to remember Kurei's name. he said finally, mounting the horse himself. I do hope you will forgive me for both arriving and leaving in such an impromptu fashion, but... Well, I hope you would join us at the palace for the festivals this year, and I would really like to speak with you later.Of course, Renge heard Kurei say as they took off, sounding only half put off. Renge himself, however, was entirely.

br br br


The entire ride had gone in silence, without even the distraction of Ayame flitting to and fro, as she had decided to stay and follow her larger counterpart. It was dark by the time he could make out the lights of the kingdom surrounding Kanakuri's castle, and until then Renge hadn't known the extent of the time he'd been gone or the amount he'd actually traveled.

He also hadn't known that Kanakuri would send out an entire search party just to look for him. The worst feeling, even more so than the flying sickness or the still irrepressible feeling of being on a horse, wings or not, was the feeling that Kanakuri was immensely disappointed in him. There was no way he could no for sure, just yet, that Renge had been entirely opposed to Wasurenagusa taking him, though he couldn't blame Kanakuri for assuming.

But... He was still grateful that he was riding with Kanakuri now, and not Kurei, whose fault this entire thing was anyway. It was much, much nicer now that it was Kanakuri whose body his was pressed into, and whose breath and hair tickled the back of his neck from time to time. And he actually had gotten cold, being up so high and going so fast, but the fact that it was Kanakuri who pulled him closer when he shivered and held him tighter to warm him again and not Kurei made it the most fulfilling cold he'd ever felt.

But Kanakuri was still silent when the horse finally landed in the same lotus-covered courtyard that he'd slept in his first night in Shippou, coming to a halt once again with a fluttering of snowy white wings. He still didn't say anything as he got down off of the horse, and still as he helped Renge down, and, with the light only coming faintly from the sky and at odd angles from windows to the inside of the palace, Renge couldn't make out his exact expression. he said finally, reaching out to the prince. Listen, I--

He was thoroughly cut off by Kanakuri suddenly embracing him, holding him so tight that he thought he wouldn't be able to breath if it went on for much longer, though he found himself really not minding too much at all. Kanakuri's face was buried in Renge's hair, and his arms pulling Renge so desperately close to him that the young slave was unsure of what to think. Had he really caused Kanakuri so much trouble..?

Kanakuri said finally, holding him back away from himself though he still refused to let the boy go. Renge, Renge, Renge, he said again, repeating the boys name over and over as though it were the most beautiful word in existence, before pulling Renge into his arms yet again. I really, really thought maybe I'd lost you and... I suppose I acted rather rashly, but... I didn't know what to do without you. I don't know what I would have done without you.Kanakuri, I... And though he didn't know why, Renge thought, at that moment, he might actually begin to cry. When had he become wanted by one person so much that his short absence could hurt them that much..? K-Kanakuri, I didn't, I... he tried, desperately trying to convey his innocence. All he wanted at that moment was for Kanakuri to know that nothing about leaving him had been his idea... Wasurenagusa, he-I know, Kanakuri said into his hair, sounding himself as if he might cry as well. I know, I know. Lady Sakura's mischievous little dragon saw him carrying you out, but it took us a while to believe that Wasurenagusa would actually... I mean, I never thought he would... Kanakuri laughed, the laugh of someone relieved to the point of exhaustion. But I...

Neither of them said anything for a long, long time, until, finally, Kanakuri let all of Renge but his hand's go, each of which he held in one of his own. He was smiling, and he looked truly, truly happy. None of them will be back for a while, he said quietly, still smiling as he led Renge backwards and up towards the gazebo steps. So would you... Stay with me tonight? Here, like on the first night you stayed with me..? he asked, his words sincere almost to the point of timidity.

For a moment, as he was led by the handsome prince up the steps and stopped at the center of the gazebo, he bit his bottom lip contemplatively before replying. It seemed, to him, and probably to Kanakuri too, that his agreement would mean something far more than just staying in the gazebo with him. he said, finally, a small, timid smile on his lips. I'll stay here with you, he managed quietly, his face completely flushed, and too embarrassed to look Kanakuri in the eyes as he said so.

With a happy, happy smile, Kanakuri once more drew Renge into his embrace...

br br br


. omg an update for the first time since... I dunno, forever! (DX 7 months!) D: Hahaha, please feel free to scold me in numerous, numerous reviews! ..; lol

-; Nyah, I'm sorry, I don't know where the time goes these days... D: But Actually I think where I stopped was a good place to pause the story because it's like a halfway point... Or the point were different kinds of things start happening. :D; I dunno

; Wasurenagusa was such a short lived character. D: Like... 3 or 4 chapters. :D; And I think mostly people don't like him. ..;;; I do. ; Ah well, Mizuki or whatever (that little girl!) was only in like two or something, so... D:

..; Oh well. :D Everyone go read Wildflower's cause it's also about Lotus 3