Chapter Fourteen

Kogure looked at the man in front of him. No, it was barely a man, a youth, this new king was. A remarkably collected one, but young nevertheless. He was attractive in a somber way, his features evenly aligned but darkened with the weight of his responsibilities. Now, his posture was apparently frozen in shock, because when Kogure stepped closer, he didn't flinch.

"What did you come here for?" the king repeated.

"You've been watching me."

He said it matter-of-factly, straight out and with a certainty that there was no room for denial. The first night, even when he had left the thinnest of scars on that smooth pale neck, he had sensed the gaze on him. Then, at the forest, when they had just barely rescued Sendoh, and he had watched them alone from the shadows, he had felt it again, but this time he could see it too. A slim figure detached from the rest of the darkness, barely a stone's throw away, looking at him.

He watched the king's expression carefully for any changes, but other than a flare of an emotion that passed so quickly he couldn't begin to define it, there was no alteration at all.

"Please leave. I would like to rest."

Kogure blinked, and then his eyes narrowed.


He gaped, if only in the mere shock, as a small smile played out on tired, tired features.

"Captain." The soft whisper penetrated Maki's consciousness as he shut his mouth with a snap and flinched so slightly that only the most trained of watchers could see it. Unfortunately for him this time, the one before him could, in fact, witness every tiny movement he made, because the smile dropped, and turned into a grimace.

"Are you in pain?" his rushed question was blurted out almost ungracefully as he leaned forward and pressed a palm to the forehead of the other man to check for temperature. An infection would mean a fever, and that meant serious trouble…but the assassin suddenly stopped thrashing. He quieted, but his breathing will still raspy and heavy, and his gaze suddenly flickered to the touch on his brow.


When Maki noticed where his hand was placed, a rush of uncomfortably feigned disinterest set in, and he snatched his hand away as if it were burned.

"No, I'm all right."

So much for confirmation, then. His voice, low and tinged with pain, was still distinctly the same voice of the peasant woman. And his smile…

"It was me."

There then, at least, was an admission. Odd how it seemed the man could read his thoughts. He looked away for a moment as the wounded assassin continued to look at him with those startling eyes, dark blue and clouded with uncertainty, medication and raw steel. This one then, was his adversary, his challenge and his attraction. He reached forward and, hesitating, dropped his palm down on the pale hand that twitched in surprise.

"I know," he answered.

Slowly, fingers closed over his own.