If the angle of sunlight streaming through the slit in the curtains was any indication, it was the hour of the morning that was too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. Hokuto knew that if she put her mind to it she could make it anytime she wanted to, but she decided to leave it. The spirit was drained, tired of running up against glass walls and it showed in the more subdued blacks and blues of her clothes. So much of her energy lately had been devoted to this with seemingly little results. Not only that, she had been chastised for breaking the rules by using her powers on a mortal. Kami being the forgiving deity He was had let Hokuto off this time on the condition she returned the Sumeragi and the Sakurazukamori to the mortal plane in the very near future. And at the rate things were going, it was going to take another three months before her brother and his other had reached a settlement. But Hokuto wasn’t one to admit defeat and she retained her usual flair in the frills around the skirt, knee-high boots, gloves and ever-present hat, this time a sky-blue beret with a black flower.
Such was her frame of mind as she prepared for another day trying to bludgeon Seishirou and Subaru into some kind of resolution. She had left the two of them long enough. It was more than high time that she looked in on them.
It was mostly dark inside and Hokuto ‘squinted’ trying to scout out the situation. She was surprised that no one was awake at such a late hour of the morning. Seishirou, at least, was always up by now. What was the time anyway? Should she bring breakfast in? Or was it too late to bother and she should just let them wait until lunch? Maybe brunch would be appropriate.
It then dawned on her that she couldn’t even hear anything. Surely nothing could have happened, thought Hokuto worriedly. She was willing to bet that the Final Day would have come and gone before Seishirou managed to free himself, if was able to at all. Those ribbons were specifically created so that Seishirou couldn’t undo them, though anyone else could. And Hokuto was pretty sure that after his dunking, Subaru wouldn’t be in a hurry to assist the Sakurazukamori, no matter how thoughtful he was.
Where were those two?
With a wide sweep of her arm, Hokuto waved the heavy curtains aside. The shaft of sunlight turned into a flood, lighting up the room and chasing away the shadows. Face set into a stern expression, she prowled the room with her eyes looking for any sign of life.
Hokuto got round to the bed and froze. Her green eyes went very wide.
Seishirou gazed unblinkingly at the spirit from where he lay in amongst the rumpled bed sheets. There was a half-smile on his face, the expression of someone caught in a slightly embarrassing situation but didn’t care. There was a very good reason for that smile too. Like a little bird under the mantle of an eagle’s wing, Subaru was curled up in the crook of Seishirou’s arm, eyes closed, face peaceful.
Their clothes were on the floor. Hokuto brought a gloved hand up to cover her mouth, eyes wide as green saucers. Before she could say anything, Seishirou raised one finger to his lips to stop her, but that was the only movement he made.
"He’s still asleep," he said just audibly enough for Hokuto to hear.
"No, I’m not," corrected Subaru without opening his eyes.
If he had looked up, Subaru would have seen his sister doing a credible imitation of a landed fish.
"Oh?" Seishirou twisted slightly to look down at Subaru. "Why didn’t you say so? We could have gotten dressed before Hokuto-chan got here."
At that, Subaru opened his eyes immediately. Fully awake, he raised his head from Seishirou’s shoulder and fixed his gaze on his dead sister levitating only a couple of meters from the bed. Seeing how openly Hokuto was staring at them, he yelped and hurriedly pulled the crimson sheets around himself.
At the sight of her little brother pointlessly trying to hide, Hokuto burst into a fit of maniacal giggles that did nothing to ease Subaru’s embarrassment. "Ne, it’s a good thing I didn’t wait any longer!" she gasped out. "I leave you two alone and look what happens!"
Seishirou chuckled and reached forward. "She’s found out," he sighed theatrically, gently but firmly bringing the flustered younger man to rest against himself. With a gleam in his good eye, Seishirou draped an arm around the slim shoulders and bent down to whisper into the more than slightly pink ear. "Since there’s no point in hiding, shall we pretend Hokuto-chan isn’t here?"
Subaru turned even redder. "Seishirou-san!"
The spirit collapsed into even more helpless laughter. "Wah, Sei-chan, you’re shameless!"
"We know," muttered Subaru wryly.
"And you love it, don’t you," quipped Seishirou.
Subaru gave in and snuggled up against him. "I suppose it’s better than you trying to kill me all the time."
"Ah, this is just sooooooooo sweet!" swooned Hokuto. "Now I can die happy!"
"You’re already dead," said Subaru.
"Figuratively speaking of course. Are you two lovebirds going to stay in bed the whole day?" the ghost demanded.
Seishirou rather slyly trailed the backs of his fingers up Subaru’s neck. "I don’t see why not."
"Are you going to let him do that to you, Subaru?"
Hokuto twirled her finger and spun a handkerchief out of thin air. "This is just wonderful! I’m so happy!" she sobbed tearfully, dramatically wiping at her eyes. Then she placed her hand on her hips and gave the assassin a stern look. "Now, Sei-chan you’re supposed to marry my brother and make an honest bride of him. I mean, you’ve already had him hanging for eight or nine years and . . ."
Seishirou looked thoughtful as the exuberant spirit ranted on. "That’s an idea. Subaru-kun." The younger man looked up at him with large, guileless eyes. "Will you marry me?"
". . . plus your idea of ‘courtship’ is really . . ."
Subaru blinked. "Are you serious?"
". . . trying to kill each other is kinky, but . . ."
The Sakurazukamori tried to look innocent. "I’ll probably kill you whenever we have a fight but, yes, I suppose I am. After all," he added. "You are mine."
". . . I could rest in peace if you and Sei-chan . . ."
The emerald eyes went very wide. Then a serene smile lit up Subaru’s face.
Seishirou grinned, and stopped him before Subaru could say anything else.
". . . I’m not around anymore so I’m expecting you to take care of my little brother and get him to wear something better than those boring monochrome clothes he seems to like and . . ." Hokuto trailed off as she realised she had been ranting to the room for the last few minutes without noticing what had been going on behind her.
"Are you even listening to me?!" she demanded, turning around. "You two lovebirds – oh my."
Hokuto blinked at the sight of Seishirou passionately kissing her twin brother.
"Did I miss something?"
A pink glow emanated from the spirit as Subaru’s hand began to run down Seishirou’s bare back.
"Uh, guys . . ."
The two of them didn’t take any notice of her. Hokuto turned red to her ears.
"Um . . ." Awkwardly she turned towards the door. "I think I’ll go get breakfast now."
Quickly she floated over to the exit and opened the door. Then almost against her will, Hokuto glanced back over her shoulder. One look at the two of them together was more than enough to send her flying out the room cheeks flaming.
All the faces in the room looked up hopefully as the sound of quick footsteps was heard outside. The hope immediately died with one look at Sorata’s glum expression.
"No luck?" asked Arashi.
The monk sighed and dragged a chair over towards the table to sit between the Ise priestess and Yuzuriha, giving the girl’s inugami an absent scratch between the ears. "Not a whisper," he said. "Subaru-san seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth."
"Maybe he’s just gone off somewhere by himself?" suggested Seiichiro as he wiped his glasses with the corner of his jacket. "I mean, he is a rather solitary young man."
Karen, her work-clothes covered in a long coat, sniffed. "If he has, he’s going to hear it from me for making us worry."
A slammed hand on the table grabbed everyone’s attention. "Subaru would never go off without telling us!" snapped Kamui. "Something’s happened to him!"
"I hope the Angels haven’t got him," said Yuzuriha. Beside her, Inuki whimpered and laid his head reassuringly on her knee.
Sorata slumped forward tiredly and rested his head on the table. "Only Fuu- I mean, the other ‘Kamui’ and the Sakurazukamori are strong enough to take Subaru-san. And we haven’t heard anything from the other ‘Kamui’ for ages." He sighed. "We’ve been looking all over Tokyo and I’m pooped. This table isn’t too comfy either. Can I move to your lap?" he asked Arashi hopefully.
The cool beauty didn’t even look at him. "The last time we saw Sumeragi-san was when he and the Sakurazukamori were fighting," Arashi said, ignoring Sorata’s tragic ‘you’re heartless’ expression. "For some reason in the middle of the battle he vanished."
"Not just Subaru-san, but the Sakurazukamori as well," Seiichiro added.
"M-maybe they killed each other?" stammered Yuzuriha in a small voice, eyes wide.
Karen quickly jumped in at the despairing look in Kamui’s violet eyes. "No, definitely not. Subaru-san’s kekkai went down without any damage to the surroundings, so he’s not dead, or even hurt badly."
"So where the hell is he!" shouted Kamui. "He’s been missing for days! Even Hinoto doesn’t have a clue where he’s gone!"
The Kansai monk sat up, any trace of lethargy suddenly gone. "What if he and the Sakurazukamori both went off somewhere?" he suggested.
Everyone gave him a strange look.
"I mean, there is some history between them," Sorata plowed on. He really didn’t like the expression Arashi was giving him. "Maybe they decided to go talk it over together?"
The looks got even stranger.
"It’s entirely possible!" Sorata protested. He looked at Arashi. "You support me, don’t you, Miss?"
The look the priestess gave him was the strangest of the lot. Sorata smiled weakly. As one, the other Seals turned their attentions back to more plausible discussions.
"Maybe he just wants some time to himself."
"Maybe he’s got a job that’s taking up a lot of his attention at the moment."
"Inuki, stop chewing Sora-chan’s shoe."
"Without telling us? He’s not even answering his beeper!"
"Hey, get off! Aw, now look what you’ve done!"
"Perhaps his grandmother has called him back to Kyoto for something?"
"I’m sorry, Sora-chan. He’s just bored of sitting around doing nothing."
"Even the CLAMP Campus computer can’t find any sign of him."
"Miss, I don’t suppose you’d fix your boyfriend’s shoelace – ow!"
"Subaru-san does tend to be a rather aloof person."
"What if he’s been captured and is being held prisoner somewhere?"
"What if –"
Kamui held his hands over his ears, trying to block out the crescendo of babbling round him. It didn’t help. With an angry cry, he stood up, yelling, "SHUT UP!"
Everyone paused and stared at him. Kamui took several deep breaths to calm himself. He drew himself up and was about to speak when a glowing white bird suddenly flew through the door.
Their reactions were immediate. Sorata instinctively grabbed Arashi and encircled her protectively while Yuzuriha dashed under the table. The rest of the already tense Seals automatically gathered their defenses, Seiichiro ducking as the bird swooped over his head. It circled the room once, and dropped a card on the table before disappearing into thin air.
Kamui forgot what he was going to say as everyone stared at the innocent card lying in the middle of the circle as if it was a snake. Yuzuriha hesitantly peeked over the edge of the table, and seeing that everything was alright, went back to her seat. For some reason Sorata hadn't yet let go of Arashi, but he promptly did so when she gave him a pointed look.
Karen glanced around the table to see if anyone would make the first move. "I suppose we’d might as well read it," she said, shrugging her shoulders. With all the grace that came with being a Soapland Girl, she reached out and picked it up, holding it gingerly as if it were about to explode. When nothing happened, she lifted the flap and read what was inside. And frowned.
"What?" demanded the other five Seals in one voice.
Karen frowned even more. "‘To the Dragons of Heaven and friends’," she read aloud. "‘Your presence is requested at the wedding of’ . . ." She trailed off. "The names are left out."
Seiichiro blinked. "Wedding? What on earth-?"
Karen coughed politely and continued. "‘Come to the second observation deck of Tokyo Tower at five o’clock tomorrow evening. No fighting, please’." She lowered the card. "That’s it."
"That’s it?" asked Yuzuriha incredulously.
"See for yourself."
Wordlessly the invitation was passed from hand to hand as everyone read the invitation for themselves. Kamui waited impatiently for his turn, almost snatching it from Seiichiro and then staring at it for several long moments. It seemed nice enough, made of light beige card with gold trimming. The words themselves were gold-embossed, and the only decoration on it was a sprig of sakura blossoms in the top left-hand corner with a little white dove perched on a branch in the other. It was actually quite pretty, but the invitation’s strange arrival and the general suspicion that came with being defenders of humanity was making the Seals paranoid.
Seiichiro looked very puzzled. "Why are we invited to a wedding?"
"Do you think it has something to do with Subaru?" asked Kamui excitedly.
"Maybe it’s a trap," suggested Arashi calmly.
There was a funny look on the young inugami mistress’ face. "It’s a weird idea for a trap," Yuzuriha said slowly. "I mean, a wedding of all things."
Beside her, Sorata cracked his knuckles. "If that’s the case," he said, standing up. "Let’s go spring it." He flashed his comrades a wide grin. "A trap’s only a trap if you don’t know it’s coming. So let’s give the Dragons of Earth a little surprise, eh?"
In the cold dark underground of the Government building a group of six gathered around a monstrosity of a computer. A few of them looked impatient, others just bored as they stared at the nucleus of the Beast.
"I don’t know why you bother, Kanoe," drawled ‘Kamui’ from his position sitting at the foot of Kakyou’s bed. "If the Dreamwalker can’t find him, then there’s no way Cybergirl can."
The stately woman turned to face him. Despite the low temperatures and her rather low cut and high-slit dress, she wasn’t cold. "We must use all resources at hand," Kanoe chided. "The Sakurazukamori is one of the greatest among us and it would do no good to lose him."
‘Kamui’, formerly known as Fuuma, jumped off the bed and walked up to the Beast. "Seishirou can take care of himself." He looked up at the girl half-hidden among the wires. "I wonder what would happen if I were to short-circuit this thing."
"Don’t you dare," cut in Yuuto before he could stop himself. He shrank back under the dark ‘Kamui’s’ glare.
Standing by the door, Kusanagi rubbed at his arms. "How much longer do we have to stay here?" he asked. The soldier seemed very uncomfortable among his fellow Angels.
Before anyone could answer, there was a hiss from the computer. The wires seemed to come alive as they almost reluctantly withdrew themselves from the girl’s body. Flipping the last of them away, Satsuki lightly leapt down from the seat of the Beast into Yuuto’s arms.
"Well?" demanded Kanoe as the blond public servant handed the girl her glasses.
Satsuki looked thoroughly put out. "I can’t find him," she muttered.
There was a mocking laugh from ‘Kamui’ that echoed hollowly about the cavernous room. "Told you so."
"Great. Can we go now?" asked Kusanagi.
The heavily built soldier fell silent as ‘Kamui’ and Kanoe gave him identical glares. "What reasons did you come up with for his disappearance?" Kanoe asked Satsuki, ignoring the man entirely.
"Due to insufficient data I couldn’t come up with any," the girl answered, her black look growing darker by the second.
:Maybe he has gone to fulfil his ‘wish’.:
At the voice in their mind, ‘Kamui’ cast a glance at the motionless form lying on the bed. "Wishes are my forte, Kakyou," he said. "Don’t go meddling with it, otherwise I might not fulfil yours."
:I am sorry.:
Nataku, who had so far remained silent having no imagination to offer an opinion, finally spoke. "What is a wish?" it asked.
‘Kamui’ sighed. "I am not going to go through another pointless conversation with that bioroid."
"But it likes you," said Kanoe.
"And it makes a wonderful plaything, but I don’t feel like playing now." The teenager pouted. "Where has that assassin gone? We were supposed to go out for ice-cream."
Kanoe frowned as she thought. "Yuuto, tell me what happened."
"Again?" the man complained. "I’ve already told you twice!"
The Dreamgazer shot him an icy glare. "Let’s make it lucky number three."
Yuuto sighed. "Fine. As I said, I saw the Sakurazukamori fighting with the Sumeragi inside the kekkai. I didn’t want to get too close cause buildings were falling everywhere and Sakurazuka-san was doing fine without me. So I decided to just stay where I was and enjoy the show."
"Get on with it."
"You’re the one who wanted me to tell the story. Anyway, all of a sudden the kekkai comes down, leaving no damage to the area and both Sakurazuka-san and the Sumeragi are gone. I looked around for both of them but couldn’t find anything. They seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth."
"Who cares where he’s gone," Satsuki said snippily. "I’m bored, I want to get back to my computer." Immediately several wires began to reach out for her. Satsuki reached lovingly towards them, then let out a cry of rage as ‘Kamui’ stepped in and tied a couple of the wires into knots.
"Seishirou’s probably gone off with the Sumeragi," said ‘Kamui’, ignoring the way Satsuki began to talk soothingly to Beast as she untied the wires. He gave a perverted smile. "If that’s so, he won’t be back for a while."
"That is highly unlikely," said Satsuki. "Beast determines the probability of such a scenario as being zero point seven four eight percent."
Yuuto sighed impatiently. "Look, maybe he’s just gone off to kill someone or feed that tree of his. Who cares. He’s always going off by himself anyway. I certainly don’t find myself . . . um, missing . . . him . . ."
His complaints trailed off into silence as the dark ‘Kamui’ turned on him looking evil.
"I want to know where he is," the younger Dragon of Earth whispered in a deadly voice. "And you are going to go out there and look for that damned assassin otherwise I will–"
Yuuto was saved from hearing what unpleasantness his ‘Kamui’ had thought up for him when a glowing white bird melted through the door. Kusanagi yelped and ducked as Nataku reached for its scarf. There was a startled screech from Kanoe as she tried to run in her high-heeled shoes around the computer, the bird circling after her.
"Get that thing!" ordered "Kamui’. Immediately a dozen wires snaked through the air while Yuuto fumbled for his own weapon. The bird agilely dodged them all and swooped over to Kakyou’s bed where it dropped a card onto the covers. Then without warning it faded into nothingness.
"What was that?" demanded Kanoe. Her skirt had ridden up even further but she wasn’t in a hurry to pull it down.
‘Kamui’ let the bolt of power he had in his hand die away before relaxing and walking over to the bed. Suspiciously he picked up the card, inspecting it closely without opening it.
"Well?" asked Kanoe.
‘Kamui’ ignored her as he opened it up. It was a very pretty card, beige with gold trimming and embossed writing in a delicate feminine style. A branch of sakura decorated one corner, several petals floating down and caught behind the letters. A white dove perched on another branch in the bottom right-hand corner, a dreamy look on its face. The Dragon frowned.
Yuuto looked at him impatiently. "What does it say?"
Despite her high heels, Kanoe made very little sound as she strode up to ‘Kamui’ and snatched the card from him. She used her long painted fingernails to open it and read aloud to the room.
"’To the Dragons of Earth and friends. Your presence is requested at the wedding of’ . . ." She stopped. "The names are left out."
"Wedding?" repeated Satsuki with a frown. "I don’t get it."
Kanoe and continued. "’Come to the second observation deck of Tokyo Tower at five o’clock tomorrow evening. No fighting, please’." Expressionless, she lowered the invitation, waiting for a response. The Dragons of Earth were looking at her strangely – some of them anyway. Kakyou of course was still in a coma, while Nataku just looked confused.
"What is a wedding?" it asked.
Yuuto rolled his eyes. Awkwardly, Kusanagi tried to explain. "You see, a wedding is when, um, two people decide to stay together forever because um, they love each other very much. There’s lacy white dresses and um, flowers and um, rings and um, lots of cake and um . . ." He trailed off. "Someone help me out here?" the soldier pleaded plaintively.
Nataku was looking even more confused.
"What is love?"
Kusanagi face-faulted. Oblivious to the two of them, the others were discussing what to do.
"Do you think the Seals sent it?"
"Maybe they’re trying to lead us into a trap."
"I doubt the Seals would take so much trouble with a declaration of war."
"Maybe it’s something to do with Sakurazuka-san?"
"Um, there’s a ceremony where the bride and groom vow to love and keep each other forever, um later there’s a honeymoon . . ."
"A wedding? I don’t think so. Who would marry an assassin."
"What kind of person holds a wedding at the Tower anyway?"
"What is a honeymoon?"
"Should we accept it?"
"I have better things to do than see a couple of people kiss and make lovey-dovey faces at each other."
"Um, a honeymoon comes after the wedding. It’s when the bride and groom take a holiday together . . ."
:Do I have to go?:
"Course you do. We’ll shove you in a wheelchair."
"What is a holiday?"
Finally ‘Kamui’ got tired of the babbling. "SHUT UP!"
Everyone did. It wasn’t a good idea to defy someone with the power to destroy the world. The leader of the Dragons of Earth smirked.
"We’ll accept," he said in a tone that left no room for argument – not that anyone was willing to anyway. "We’ll see what the Seals are up to. Besides," he added off-handedly. "It’ll be a nice chance to get rid of the Tower kekkai."
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