Chapter Nineteen

As the force hit his body, Rukawa was flung back, against the body of the Haka assassin. He felt hot liquid coursing down his back, his chest, his arms, and every single part of his body felt as though it was on fire. The pain was unbearable, splitting him apart.

He threw back his head and screamed.


This time, it was Sendoh who broke the kiss, gasping a little for breath as he turned slightly away. He gently tugged Maki down, and the captain carefully sat on the side of the bed, wary not to jostle the recovering man.

A comfortable silence stretched between them as Maki sat there, one arm tentatively, protectively, around the younger man who laid his head on the broad shoulder that encompassed him in a warm embrace.

That was when then they heard the scream.

The king! Maki reacted unthinkingly. He rose and was about to break into a run when an iron grip circled his wrist. He looked down, at dark blue eyes that were suddenly blank, a deliberate mask that slipped only too easily over the warmth of a moment before. He said one word.


Maki nodded as Sendoh released him. He raced out of the room, flying towards the courtyard, as the people below began to swirl about in confusion. By the time his feet landed on the grass, the palace servants were a general mass of whispered questions and mild chaos.

Where did it come from, where did it come from—

Kogure. Sendoh had said Kogure. Why?

Where had he last seen Kogure? He had seen him…he had seen him at the side court, outside of the kitchens.

Maki took off at a run.


Sendoh’s knuckles were white as he rose and dressed as quickly as his injuries allowed. Snarling inwardly, he kept the pain and ache away as he moved silently to the door, opening it and slipping out.


The others—those monsters—which the Archduke had sent, would not have given up so easily. He had only a small inkling of what this had to do with the king, but he was not going to sit back like an invalid. He snapped the chain close about his waist as he headed for the steps.

Kiminobu…hold on. Wait for me.


Something soft and warm pushed against his body, and a bloodcurdling, inhuman scream of anguish and pain filled his ears with a roaring sound. Kogure forced open his eyes, his hand clenching the chain so hard that it left an imprint on his palm. And then he saw him.

The king…it’s the king.

His mind refused to make sense of it.

Dark red blood was spilling from the side of delicate lips that gasped for breath, limbs had slackened and weakened. Mechanically, he supported the weight, letting it softly to the ground.

He could feel his mind beginning to break under that continuous pressure, feel the wind of the creature as it leapt up and prepared to sink its claws and teeth into his flesh to tear him apart.

Kogure staggered as he willed his mental shields to hold on, pulling them together and blocking the intense torture that crushed his head. Any moment now…any moment now…

He spun and let the chain loose. It sang out across the air, a flash of steel that spun and swept eerily through the air, almost as if in slow motion, into the direct path of the oncoming creature that, too late, tried to twist aside.

Cold metal buried itself into soft, unprotected flesh, and with pure coldness, Kogure twisted it expertly, and with a shift in his wrist, yanked it back. Just as the mental thrust surged savagely, triumphantly into his mind like a dagger.

He could hear the creature roar in pain, blinded as it thrashed on the ground, but it grew more distant, muffled and then suddenly all was quiet.

The chain slipped from Kogure’s fingers as he fell.