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[personal profile] je_levy
Title: Dux Bellorum: Machinae Part I
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: NTT
Warning: AU steampunk, war, some violence, other Johnny’s cameos (*cough* Yasu *cough* Ueda *hack*),
Summary: A year after The Day of Black Rain, Koki, State Minister to the Emperor’s hand-selected Parliament, fights for the few things he can’t afford to change.

A/N: This is TWO things, a three-chapter sequel to the five-chaptered Dux Bellorum: Triumvirate a (late) birthday present to both [ profile] yue_akuma and [ profile] ayame_hadouken who were paramount to the first instalment’s completion. As we all know, I was swamped with DOAs and real life but after a swift and ridiculously fun two weeks, I give you the promised sequel to the long adventure from back in January.

But seriously, you’re both such fantastic people; I’m so grateful to have you guys around and I’ll always be more than honoured to write for you.

So, in summary, Happy Belated Birthday and thank you so much for waiting <3<3

Special thank you to [ profile] sekky_chan for never toning down her awesome.

Chapter One

Koki’s ears burned as the messenger completed his enunciated recital of the telegram’s contents impassively. He passed Koki both the telegram and a small square photograph.

“The photo was enclosed, Minister. And here’s your copy of the telegram.”

Koki grimaced. He hated being called Minister. Hearing the word ‘Minister’ brought up associations of his father who had moved his projects and failing skills with the machine to another city. And at the moment, in just his nightshirt, slippers and robe at what was obviously five in the morning, Koki didn’t feel remotely Ministerial. “You know, I could have read it myself. If you’re just going to deliver it to me, you didn’t have to... recite it.”

The young man regarded him a bit coolly. “Yes, Minister, I did.”

Koki grumbled. He began to dig in his pocketbook for a bill to tip the messenger boy, but the young man held up his hand.

“Oh no, that’s all right, Minister.”

“Ok, fine.” Koki said a bit shortly. He was quite eager to be out of the morning air and back in bed so he nodded, clutching his robe closed as he stepped back to shut the door.

“If it’s all right with you, Minister...”

Koki, hand on the door, eyed the messenger warily. “What?”

“...If it’s not too forward, Minister. I’ve heard your machines are the best and that steamheater sounds like something I’d like to get a good look at--”

The door almost crashed on its hinges with the force that Koki slammed it.

Koki stood in his entrance hall and as he heard the sound of the messenger’s bike’s wheels skate off his pebbly driveway, he looked down at the photograph in his hand. It was a blurry photo of Junno, bright eyes, deep black hair wild as ever and smiling just the same, standing beside a large iron-cast thing with moss growing over it. Scrawled in messy block letters at the bottom corner were the words ‘Wish you were here’.

“Why would I want to be there?!” he snapped to no one as his tone cast an echo through the large, high-ceiling entrance hall.

Koki felt an abrupt lap of a warm tongue at his fingertips as a wet muzzle nudged at his palm. He looked down into a big pair of wide puppy eyes contrasted with the large grey frame of a German Mastiff. He was a blue breed and came up to Koki’s waist, large paws beating eagerly on the marble floor, wanting to jump up.

“Another telegram, Guchi,” Koki murmured and scratched its ears distractedly. “Steamheater, he’s saying. Makes the one when he said he missed how I rode his ‘motorbike’ seem subtle!”

He headed up the stairs, his dog Guchi following closely, occassionally bumping his legs with his large middle. As cumbersome as it was to get around with a large animal panting, slobbering and trying to get in under his legs, the unconditionally loving presence was soothing.

Six months of being pretty much alone in that huge, silent house, Koki had had very little choice but to find someone to keep him company or as Yucchi had put dryly, Someone you might roar at who’ll have very little to reply on the matter.

“Hate you,” Koki muttered bitterly at his little thought of Yucchi.

It was Yucchi who’d sent Junno away.

Something about Junno’s lively, manic nature and his alleged inability to blend into common life with his heavily-weaponed arm fixture, oddly inhuman strength and abrupt psychopathic outbursts.

Koki had given it some thought over the past six months. It may have had something to do with that one time Koki had gone to a tavern for the first time, Junno in tow, and had been eager to experience the dark world of gambling (he’d read such stories!) and poker. The confident knowledge that Junno wouldn’t let him get hurt may have contributed to his fearless bravado and very witty-- a kind witness would say ‘fucking hilarious’-- remarks about winning against the low-rank officers.

Needless to say, he didn’t ask Junno to snap a table in half or to capsize four kegs of liquor in the effort at setting the small place on fire.

Overall, it simply wasn’t Koki’s fault.

“There is an outpost expedition to locate one of the Empire’s former abandoned cities; rumours from the East say there is an army of anarchist rebels setting their command there. Taguchi is equipped for war, Koki. He cannot remain here.”

Koki of course had protested at the time. “He doesn’t mean to hurt anyone!” He’d felt a bit like a kid begging to be able to keep a Rottweiler (peacable and sweet as they are). “He’s mine! I’m taking care of him!

Yucchi, glaring out of his one eye, was firm as always. “He is not a pet! The city will drive him mad...der. The safety of the Empire and its cities is my jurisdiction and for his sake and the sake of the people, he must be given the freedom to roam outside the Imperial gates!”

Of course it hadn’t taken from the ferocity in Yucchi’s tone that they’d been in bed at the time. Not even when Junno had slipped out from under the covers and bit Yucchi’s arm did Koki ever see a waver in him.

And Junno, calling it an adventure, was ready and quite literally fuelled to go.

“I’m going with him then,” Koki had sworn-- feeling mulish and unwilling to say what really bothered him about this.

Yucchi had looked at him, same way he’d gazed in that sweet way he could be when he was neither General nor warrior. “I don’t believe you’ll have the time,” he’d said solemnly.

“You can have my bike, Koki,” is all Junno had had to say on the matter.

In hindsight, Yucchi had been quite right. When Koki had taken on his father’s position of Imperial Mechanic and Minister of Industrial Development, that had been nearly a year ago, only weeks after The Day of Black Rain.

Nothing much had been asked of him except to continue to ‘supervise’ the workmen in the garage below and facilitate new industry projects toward bettering the quality of life in Edo and attend the occassional ceremonial event at the Palace.

These were all simple (and possibly things he had already been doing; some perhaps more than the others) but after the third month, the then old Emperor abdicated his throne to his son, young Crown Prince Ueda Tatsuya.

The thing about the newly instated Emperor Ueda was that he wanted his Parliament to be a population of his peers. To much controversy, he called for the older statesmen to step down and appoint successors promptly. He declared he would not submit to the service of the Parliament if they weren’t of people who stood on equal footing with him.

As a result Koki, along with fourteen other men and women around his age, were called into Parliament as a more permanent fixture with only a few of the older Ministers still in office. Koki’s responsibilities were widened. Yucchi had been more than right: Koki had time for little else but work.

Hence his complete lack of surprise when he clambered into bed and there followed an almost instantaneous and sharp knock at his bedroom door.

He pulled his pillows closer. “Ahh, what is it?” he wailed.

“Minister, the Parliament will be meeting in an hour. Would you like me to fetch your fancy robes or your ‘equally as fancy, but as of yet tastefully understated’ ministerial suit?”

Koki sprawled on his back, wanting to pull the covers over his head. “Mm. Ministerial suit,” he muttered. “And I wanna wear a top hat. Bring me a top hat.”

“Understood, sir.”

Guchi was tangled in his blankets, staring at him, panting loudly, tongue lolled out and mouth stretched in a weird doggy-like grin.

“I’m too awesome for sleep anyway,” Koki said at him a little vehemently.

The palace city itself was gated in by high-reaching palissades, wrought in gold and flying the Emperor’s deep royal blue and flagrant gold colours all embroidered with the Imperial seal. Stretching between the main city and the palace city was a wide bridge over the River Sumida.

Riding his bike (or rather, Junno’s) up that bridge was much like being on a large ramp except where the cobblestone brick and subsequent marble was littered with lily petals from the current Imperial flower, the golden-rayed lily. Each morning the palace vases were refilled with new lilies, and the ones from the day before would be cast off the rooves and littered over the palace grounds.

Koki swerved, literally being rained on with white and yellow, his wheels crushing over bright flowers before he sped over toward the vast front steps.

Koki had long since gotten into the habit of counting the steps as he climbed them, thinking it might make the trip easier. He always had to stop at fifty, puffing and leaning against the gold painted stone banisters as servants passed him, looking wary.

There were one hundred and fifteen steps and it wasn’t getting easier.

A lift. He’d create a lift that’d scoop a person in a bench-like seat and cart them toward the doors. Productivity and all. When he’d first begun attending Parliament, there had been a gatekeeper he’d convinced to, in a word, piggyback him up at his convenience. However, it was after the first few times, Koki had returned one morning to find the gatekeepr had vanished.

Koki dropped to his hands and knees when he got to the top, almost crying. The palace servants gave him a wide berth and Koki glared fiercely at them. Junno would’ve carried him up without a thought...

Of course, thoughts of Junno just made his jaw hurt.

Prime Minister Matsumoto Hitoshi was definitely playing favourites. Koki initially didn’t care much, he spent majority of parliament sitting in his large chair, trying to keep his sleeves above his wrists as he filled out ballots and reported developments and dreary listings.

It was well-known to everyone that the Minister of Textile Import and Manufacture had a lot of the most quality fabric in some of the best quality colours. Koki thought it was ridiculous that even out of the corner of his eye he could see Yasuda Shota enter and that he always received compliments on his new robes or the cut of his suit. It seemed the Prime Minister was a fan of gaudy colours.

Yasu shuffled to his seat, grinning ear to ear in bright peach robes and a hat that looked like a large knitted mitten. Koki frowned.

“Lovely hat, Yasuda-san,” the Prime Minister said with deep approval.

Koki was wearing a top hat!

“Thank you, Prime Minister. I made it myself,” was Yasu’s cheery reply, sitting neatly, huge mitten hat bobbling on his head. Koki’s jaw was hurting again.

The Parliament was constructed on an inverted pyramid structure with the Prime Minister’s pulpit at the center. Behind him was a pavilion with gold trimmed curtains shaded under the roof of a gazebo-like surface. Koki was on the second row of the raised seats for the ministers and he was pretty sure that the Emperor sat there though he’d never seen him.

The hall was always full to capacity, papers and notes being passed around with the Prime Minister reading out the bills to be discussed.

For Koki-- after a gruelling and dull year of this exact same thing-- it seemed like days and days of a dwindling hell of the mundane, same repeating patterns. Even the rough texture and pointy edges of the telegrams stuffed in his pocket seemed so lifeless and so not-Junno. Yucchi was on the other side of the city at his post, was always busy, and his visits had dwindled from rare to never.

Koki was barely breathing anymore. It wasn’t just the thought that nothing at all was better than it had been before his life had changed, but that it had become this.

So in hindsight-- the way Koki saw it-- what happened next was more a subject of an accumulative trigger than just one isolated incident. To put it simply, he hadn’t realised he’d fitfully thrown a legislative book across the middle of Parliament until after it struck the floor.

The hall was silent, every eye fixed on him. The book fell on its spine, pages split like wings and arms falling flat on brick, sounding quite final and flat. Koki stared at it.

“Tanaka-san!” Matsumoto-san roared incredulously. “We are men charged with the duty to guard and mold the nature of our laws to the best interest of the people; we do not throw books!”

Koki sank into his seat as the whispers and mutters around him broke out. “Sorry,” he muttered.

It was just then that Yasuda gathered up his robes and stepped out of his seat, shuffling to the middle to pick up the book. He offered Koki a sympathetic smile as he stepped forward and placed the book back on his table. Koki felt a little bad for planning to tell him that pink wasn’t his colour.

“There then,” Prime Minister said warmly. “See, Tanaka-san? Yasuda-san is only one year older than you but surely you’d be able to hold yourself with the same type of comportment.”

Yasu looked a bit embarrassed, smiling brightly though. Koki twitched.

“Yasuda-san, you will switch seats. I think as we go through this important time, it will serve Tanaka-san well to observe how a proper state Minister is meant to behave.”

And so Yasu, hat still bobbling on his head, collected his things and slipped into the seat next to Koki’s. It was possible that Yasu muttered something at him, but Koki was too angry to hear a word. It might have turned out fine. Everything could have been really OK, but the Prime Minister Matsumoto had to go and mutter

Like a bloody schoolhouse. Why can’t they all just be like Yasuda-san...

The legislative book flew across the parliament floor once more, Yasu made a sound quite akin to grief as Koki jumped to his feet. “Because no one else wants to come out in public with an oven mitt on their HEAD!” he shouted.

Koki’s voice echoed over the high arches of the far ceiling. The Prime Minister looked so outraged, he appeared to lose words for a still and foreboding moment and over a hundred heads swivelled over at him again as what he’d just said sunk in.

Koki’s head hurt.

It seemed Prime Minister Matsumoto was going to address him, lips white and trembling, but he paused as if having heard something. He turned as the thick curtains around the Imperial pavilion swayed faintly and the rest of Parliament went practically still, bated breath.

“I understand,” Prime Minister said solemnly. His gaze flickered back up to Koki. “You are to have audience with the Emperor,” he said gruffly, nodding toward the passage hall to the Emperor’s quarters.

Koki pointed at the pavilion. “But isn’t he just right there?”

Prime Minister got a fierce look on him; the power of which had Koki scooting off his chair and trotting off down his row to the passage hall.

The palace walls outside Parliament were always decorated with deeply saturated tones, golds and burning royal blues vivid like stains. The rugs were deep black, encasing the interior in an all-encompassing sharp note.

Koki slowly removed his top hat as he approached the red doors of the Imperial rooms. As he drew closer, two manservants stepped forward and held the door handles, sweeping them back when he came near enough.

The Minister of Industrial Development! Mechanic to the Imperial crown!

Koki nearly jumped out his skin as a booming voice had begun to cry out a list of titles he didn’t even know he had just as his foot touched the black rug-covered threshold.

State Servant to the Empire! Tanaka Koki-san humbly enters before the eyes of Our Ruler, His Majesty, Son of the Dragon Star, the One amongst the most Holy and Excellent, He Who Is Forever Blessed, The Royal Voice, Manly One For Various Reasons, his most glorious and merciful Emperor!”

Koki felt he should try to look more humble for that one. The last time he’d come anywhere near the Emperor was before the old one had abdicated, the Day of Black Rain. However, he’d never laid eyes on Emperor Ueda Tatsuya in his life.

More curtains parted and the scent of lilies grew stronger. Koki was under the deep impression he was on the threshold of a godly encounter rather than just government.

Koki stepped into the room and may have sucked in an audible breath.

Koki would later remember initially thinking that the Emperor was doll-like. Something in the way he was lounging in a rather still and upright fashion on an upright and wide chair, large pillows tucked all around him. He appeared a bit small, wrapped up in embroidered deep blue and gold silk robes; his high golden crown was settled over a deep black fringe of hair. His eyes were dark and soft, unreadable and black-rimmed while he simply didn’t blink as Koki drew near.

“Um,” Koki said articulately, then he bowed. To his silence, Koki raised his head again and stared back at that narrow, vaguely blasé stare.

“Leave us,” the Emperor said softly, eyes flickering to the servants lining the walls and bent near his chair.

Koki stood frozen as the servants withdrew, leaving him quite alone with this strangely ethereal being.

When the decorated vermillion curtains were closed behind him, the Emperor finally blinked and it was as if his eyes pooled with an abrupt life as he smiled.

“Sit,” he ordered succinctly as he sprawled back on his chair, uncrossing bare legs and kicking off his gold slippers.

Koki looked around. There weren’t any chairs. It was then that the Emperor pulled out one of his large pillows and tossed it a bit dismissively at Koki so it landed with a faint ‘poof’ on the rug. Koki stared.

“Sit!” the Emperor said, a bit more insistently this time.

Koki dropped into the pillow quickly, tucking his legs under him.

“Ok, so you know why I called for you, right?” he was saying, leaning on one armrest with a rather sharp gaze, mouth curled up.

Koki was thinking about beheadings and whether that sort of thing still happened. “No, your majesty” His voice sounded small coming out of him. Koki cleared his throat, lowering his voice. “I mean, no, your majesty.”

“Oh no no.” The Emperor waved his hand. “Please, call me ‘Your Greatness’. Sounds more...great.”

“O-OK...” Koki didn’t even know what to think. The last time he’d gone outright and spoken freely around the Emperor, he’d nearly been arrested. “No, Your Greatness, I don’t know why I’ve been summoned.”

The Emperor’s lips quirked up, all sorts of mocking. He tilted his head, resting his head on his hand while his crown appeared to slide a little over his head, looking like an intentional shift.

“I’m guessing you know that the Ueda Dynasty’s Diamond jubilee is going to be this month, don’t you?”

Koki had heard about it. Some big festival and a large ball at the palace with dancing in the street. He wasn’t sure. “Yes, in three weeks, right?”

“Of course,” The Emperor went on. “All the state ministers are invited. It’ll be the biggest party of the year. Tribute, presents, performances, ceremony, and gifts.”

Koki could swear he’d just listed three different words for presents. He nodded and smiled, though, shifting back on his pillow. The Emperor leaned forward over his chair and seemed suddenly a towering thing.

“Ah and since we’re on the subject of gifts...” he murmured, not bothering much with transition as he surveyed Koki a little slyly.

The underlying meaning struck him a little left field. Koki unconsciously hugged his suit jacket closer. “I-I’m very flattered, Your Greatness, but--”

The Emperor drew back, half-appalled and half-laughing. “Oh, ew, no,” he said a bit incredulously. “No” he repeated. “God, what’s wrong with you? I meant that you’re the Imperial Mechanic, aren’t you? I just want to know what you’re bringing me for my jubilee!”

Koki’s mouth was an ‘o’ of disquiet. “Wait, you summoned me to find out what your present for this thing is? Why now?!”

The Emperor shrugged. “I told them to send you when you were in the Palace and you only ever come to disrupt Parliament-- funny stuff, by the way, oven mitt hats! Ha!-- and I’m free tomorrow but tomorrow’s M Day.”

“M Day?”

The Emperor got a very funny smile, adopting a look that could have been amused but took on a decided devilish edge. “Oh, M Day is fun. The Palace subjects are forbidden from using words that begin with the letter ‘M’.”

“Wha...” Koki casted about to see if anyone else was witnessing this. He was quite alone.

Emperor Ueda regarded the ceiling thoughtfully, squinting, tapping his lip with an index finger. “Yes, I’ve been considering it and I think I’m going to extend it to two days.”

“And your subjects are OK with that?!” Koki cried, forgetting himself.

The Emperor smiled serenely, eyes shining. “They don’t know it’s coming.”

Koki didn’t have words.

“Perhaps I’ll make the second day the day where every word spoken must start with the letter M,” The Emperor went on in Koki’s silence. “It’d be so funny.”

“You’re insane,” Koki stated delicately.

He received an eye-roll. “No, I’m just in charge and I order you to tell me what my present is.”

Koki, fed up, scrambled out of his pillow and stood up. “It’s a surprise!” he snapped

The Emperor made a face, and it looked odd on his regal features. “I thought you’d be more cooperative. Fine, let it be a surprise, then! For that, it better be really good. Like, blow my mind, good!”

“Fine!” Koki retorted, straightening his clothes. “I’m leaving.”

“Rude,” the Emperor remarked. “I was about to request that you tell me how Yuu is.”

Koki paused. Yuu? “You mean... Yucchi?”

The Emperor smiled, huddling a bit in his royal robes, eyes soft. “Yes. Since he went to his post, he rarely visits.”

“Don’t I know it,” Koki muttered bitterly.

“Tell him I’m near to ordering a summons for him at gunpoint,” said the Emperor calmly, even distractedly. “Perhaps have him brought in a cage.”

Koki squinted. “So... about your big party, Your Greatness.”

“Call me ‘Supreme Ruler’.” The Emperor muttered absently, slipping back into his shoes, looking unruffled and regal again. “Info should be on your invitation. Oh, and please send the RSVP immediately with number of guests you’re bringing. God, I’m not even supposed to be in charge of this nonsense-- “ he reached behind him and struck a bell with a short metal wand.

It clanged and footsteps could be heard rushing up the hall behind Koki. “Number of guests?” Koki asked tonelessly as the Chamberlain entered.

“Yeah, state ministers usually bring family or a date. Some bring several, dates that is.” The Emperor supplied, addressing the Chamberlain vaguely. “Make sure Tanaka-san gets his invitation. I know you say you sent them through post but I think it’s best if the state ministers get theirs before the end of Parliament today.”

“Very good, Oh Well-Meaning and Gracious One,” replied the Chamberlain, bowing low.

“Ah, call me ‘Your Fiercely Excellent, but Ineffable Sweetness’ today.”

Koki really couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Imperial madness notwithstanding, Koki was troubled. The gift for the Emperor would be easy enough. He had several projects on the go currently and all of them were pretty damn excellent, if Koki could say so himself.

The problem, Koki thought, as he stepped into his entrance hall that afternoon was that asking Koki to bring a guest shouldn’t have been a problem. He found it silly enough that it got to him because he had become accustomed to being alone and gods-help-him, it was only just enough that he had to deal with all this, just-- being alone should be enough.

This little tiny thing, like all the accumulative triggers making him so damn angry these days, was what pushed the balance.

He wandered up to his study, emptying out his pockets, scratching Guchi’s ears as he lingered close. The pile of telegram cards, all a strange and offputting collection of Junno’s messages and Koki had not once sent a reply.

There would be just something so raw and real about the words on the brown card. And what would he even say?


That was it. Koki needed to go see Yucchi, convince him, against all reason, to let Junno come back.

The base was tucked between the hills behind a long field built especially for war games, weapons and training. Yucchi, during his infrequent visits, had mentioned he had a range of over a hundred soldiers under him with various officers at a mix of ranks working to help him train them.

Of course Yucchi could have been boasting in the effort to remind Koki of how god-awful important his service to the Emperor was. Either way, Koki wasn’t about to let that deter him. This was a business visit.

Sort of.

His bike wheels stopped short of the tall army base gates and Koki pushed his goggles up as a guard, young as most soldiers in Edo were, with a baby face and a glare, clutched a bayonet in hand as he marched toward Koki.

Koki smiled, sitting back on his bike. “Hey, I’m here to--”

“What is your business here, civillian!” he barked loudly.

Koki paused. “...I’m here to see General Nakamaru.”

The soldier regarded him a bit impatiently, obviously taking in Koki’s shorts with some suspicion. “Is he expecting you?”

Koki returned the look. “Well, no he isn’t. That’s beside the point. I’m here on ...military... business...state affairs.”

He got a scoff for that one. “Sounds official. Well, the General is committed to important work today. I am under orders not to allow any interruptions or visitations.”

Koki glared. “Well, I’m the exception.”

“Sir, unless you have prior greenlighted access to this base, I cannot allow you to pass.”

Koki sighed. “Right, right, gotcha.” He hated having to sneak into Yucchi’s army base. It took up a great deal of time, he was wearing shorts and it would be the third time.

It was Junno who had spotted the weakness in the security months and months ago when Yucchi had first moved onto the base to focus on rebuilding. Junno always did have a weird eye for things like that. He’d once informed Koki quite blithely that before they’d met he liked to shimmy down chimneys because it delighted him that people left such an open entrance unguarded like that.

Koki halted thoughts of Junno quickly as he leaned his bike in the look out’s blindspot; he removed his jacket and pressed it to the chickenwire of the metal gate, pulling them up so he could slide his legs under.

The base itself was littered with a series of camouflaged vehicles and Koki immediately spotted his family insignia on it, which only made him wonder why it was so difficult for him to get in. He was practically their main mechanisms supplier.

Koki dusted off his knees as he crossed the main yard in a bit of a speed-walk.

He’d long since memorised the way to get to Yucchi’s office and it was all a matter of staying in alcoves between moves. The base was surrounding a squarish building designed like a strange brass dome in front of a cliff close to the sea. If Koki walked far enough closer to the edge of the cliff, he’d see Yucchi’s Destroyer; the craft always brought such fond memories for him.

He’d remember the first day Yucchi and Junno kidnapped him, how utterly entranced he’d been by Junno and his inhuman strength and violent humour, how blown away by the way Yucchi was so deeply convicted, a man of equal violence as Junno but constructed in control.

Koki felt his memories a bit tainted by the fact that nothing remained the way it had those fleeting three days.

Yucchi’s office was at the back behind the Command Center and Koki quite expected to slip in, face Yucchi and shut the door behind him, refusing to leave until he got a yes.

The office was empty though.

Koki sighed, shutting the door and leaning against it, taking in the unfamiliar set up. Yucchi still decorated with Imperial colours and his coat of arms was embroidered into the drapes even.

It was an office as stern as he was, straight-backed wooden chairs opposite his claw-footed desk.

Koki saw a scattering of papers on the desk, a quill laid aside. It seemed he had only just stepped out. His large cushioned chair was pushed back as if he’d gotten up quickly and left. Koki plopped down in the chair, leaning over the desk, head on his arms.

He heard the door knob twist and Koki saw it when he raised his head. He slid off the chair in a graceless heap to his hands and knees, scooting hurriedly beneath the desk. It was an instinctive thing, perhaps a remaining fear that he’d be caught and sent away with never a chance to speak to Yucchi until he visited again (whenever that would ever be).

“Right, well, if we’re going to begin recruiting then we’ll need some morale around here.”

“Yes, General.”

“There’ll be no drills this afternoon. Tell the soldiers they may go into the city tonight.”

Yucchi sounded at ease, happy even, smooth tones always on the verge of sultry were it not for how matter-of-factly he spoke. Koki couldn’t see from beneath the desk. He shifted so he was tucked right underneath, wondering why on earth he’d hid. He felt silly.

“Inspections will still go as scheduled, though. I want them happy but I don’t want slackers in my outfit.”

“Understood, General. Anything else?”

Koki hadn’t heard Yucchi’s footsteps anywhere near the desk so he practically jumped out of his skin when the chair scraped back on the rug. Koki whipped around to look up at him. Still eye-patched, one sharp dark eye unblinking. Koki noticed that Yucchi’s cinnamon brown hair had gotten longer in the front, combed off to the side out of his eye in a rather proper and precise way and it fell a bit lazily over his eye-patch from Koki’s angle. Still striking the way he was dressed in his pressed military uniform, badges shining, gun grip visible at his hip..

Yucchi paused, hand on the back of his chair as he simply looked at Koki curled up under his desk.

Koki smiled and waved with his fingers.

“Ah,” Yucchi said.

“Is... everything all right, sir?”

Yucchi gave Koki a frown as he slid into his chair, hands on his knees and he glanced up at the man addressing him, face impassive. “Yes, Corporal. Just...please retrieve the recruiting list for me. I need to go over those before tomorrow afternoon.”

“I see, sir. Did you want me to retrieve the recruiting list for just this month?”

Koki’s foot was falling asleep; he was sitting on it weirdly. He tried to shift without moving too much. Naturally, trying to dislodge his foot resulted in him falling face-first against Yucchi’s knee. His cheekbone exploded with instant pain on impact and it rattled Yucchi right in his chair as he pulled his hands back.

“Yes!” Yucchi barked quickly. “Just those! That’ll be all, Corporal!”

Koki buried his face in Yucchi’s trouser leg to keep from whimpering and he saw Yucchi’s knuckles go white on his armrest. There was the sharp click sound of the Corporal standing rigid, heels together and saluting.

Koki rubbed his cheek and swallowed the smattering of curses he wanted to hiss. Yucchi returned the salute a bit shakily.

There was a pause as Yucchi didn’t move in his chair, and Koki listened to the marching footsteps withdraw.

“Ow~” he moaned.

Yucchi sat back sharply. “What the devil do you think you’re doing?!” he hissed.

“I came to see you, of course!” Koki snapped, making to crawl out but Yucchi’s palm descended on his head pushed him back under the desk.

“No,” he ordered.

“Yucchi, what the hell!” Koki caterwauled, batting at him.

“Be quiet, goddammit! He’ll be back and I’m not about to have to explain to my most decorated corporal how you got past him!” was Yucchi’s low quick reply.

Sulking, Koki retreated back under the desk, but his back was stiff. “Can I at least lean on your lap?” he asked petulantly.

Yucchi rested his hands back on the armrest and regarded Koki in that odd enigma of expression. His lips quirked up in a sideways and ironic grin. “Very well; this won’t take long.”

Koki nodded and draped his arms on Yucchi’s starched trouser lap, resting his head on them with a sigh. He still smelled the same. Tobacco, gunpowder, something earthy and soothing like soaps, musk and spirits. Koki drunk in the scent, missing him while he was right there.

He couldn’t see Yucchi’s face but he felt fingers touch at the curls at the back of his head, knotting fingertips against it in a methodical stroke, tender if not a little placating.

It felt nice being this close to him again. For all the mean decisions Yucchi had made for ‘their benefit’ and for all that Koki resented him a little for belonging so rigidly to the Empire first before he belonged to him, he still found an element of ease in the control and reliability he exuded.

“Missed you,” Koki murmured into his trouser leg softly enough.

“Not now,” Yucchi muttered back just as the footsteps before returned.

“Here you go, sir. Half the names on recruit are from the outskirts of Edo, the southern prefecture.”

Yucchi’s hand fell away from Koki’s hair as he accepted whatever he was being handed. Koki heard the chair on the other side of the desk scrape over the rug and realised with some horror that the corporal was taking a seat.

“So the southern prefecture, you say?” Yucchi murmured.

“Yes, sir. If we send out the notice to have them come in for training by next week, we’ll have a total count of fifty more soldiers by the time we’re ready for outposting.”

As the corporal began to drone, Koki tuned out, but as he shifted, he felt Yucchi’s fingers come to knit into his hair again. Contact like this, something he hadn’t had in close to six months now struck something in him, much more deep in his gut than it ever had been.

He hadn’t realised he did it until Yucchi stiffened in his chair. It must’ve been the brush of his trousers and the heat of his thighs, Koki pressed his cheek to it and breathed contently. Yucchi’s fingers stilled and Koki got a very wicked idea.

Unfolding his arms, he pressed his fingers into Yucchi’s knees and he watched the whole expanse of his chest tighten, and his Adam’s Apple bob up in a thick swallow. It just seemed an easy thing to do, pushing Yucchi’s legs apart and nuzzling against the inside of his thigh. Koki could feel Yucchi’s fingers curl on his collar like he meant to stop him without moving too obviously. Koki ventured further, biting his smile back as he looked up and saw Yucchi’s jaw start to work.

The corporal talked on and Koki dropped a little kiss on Yucchi’s right upper thigh. Yucchi reached down slowly, like he was trying not to let the movement be seen and batted at Koki, catching his lip with his index finger and Koki, feeling every bit of contrary, nipped at it.

Yucchi cursed under his breath and Koki had to bite his own sleeve to keep from laughing.

“So the sectors you pointed out to me here can have a division of-- are you quite all right, sir?”

Koki paused, fingers circling Yucchi’s knees in a rash caress. He could hear Yucchi take a slow, careful breath.

“...What?” Yucchi said after too long a pause. “I mean yes, continue.”

Koki eyed him carefully as he scraped his fingernails slowly and purposefully higher, feeling the heat of his skin under his trousers. Exciting as anything.

“No! Wait, wait,” Yucchi broke out, sounding gruffer than usual. “Don’t continue. I just-- I remembered something I was meant to do this evening. We’ll go over this tomorrow, Corporal.”

“A-all right, sir. Bright and early tomorrow?”

Koki, practically dying, gave a daring reach upward poking Yucchi sharply in the lower belly and Yucchi made an uncharacteristic sound of alarm. “I mean YES! Tomorrow! Go now!”

The sound of the corporal standing at attention was weaker as if uncertain and Yucchi’s fist was clenched to the armrest as he lifted his other hand to salute back.
As the footsteps of the Corporal marched off, Yucchi slid his chair back and gave Koki an utterly livid stare.

“You wicked thing,” Yucchi snapped with enough conviction like it was an oath. Koki sat back on the heels of his hands, laughing.

Yucchi uttered a curse and got up, eye narrowed and saying nothing else as he withdrew from the desk. Koki’s laughter died and he crawled out only a little ways, the tiniest bit worried that Yucchi had walked out on him abruptly.

Then he heard the office door snap shut, a lock click into place, and Yucchi’s boots against the rug-covered floorboards approaching. He came back around the desk and surveyed Koki, one eye narrow and mouth turned down in a firm line as he tucked a key into his pocket.

“You didn’t think you’d have to pay for an act like that, did you?”

Koki shrugged a shoulder, squinting up at him, thrills shivering through his whole body at Yucchi’s hot look. “Actually I was betting on it.”

Yucchi smiled, amused as Koki got to his feet. Almost methodically, Yucchi began to gather the pages, books and quills on his desk, stacking them neatly before slipping it in a drawer. He didn’t look up as he dropped into his chair and settled in, one leg folded over the other.

“Come here,” he ordered.

Koki drew closer to the armrest, leaning against the desk, one hip cocked out. He pretended to be indifferent and rather casual even when Yucchi’s rough fingers brushed just over the dip of his hip bone. Yucchi closed his long palm over the thin fabric of his shirt and squeezed.

Koki didn’t move though his body was protesting, feeling old and heavy senses trill right into his pores. It had been way too long and by the time, Yucchi hooked a finger in his waistband and yanked him closer, Koki was already out of breath.

“Let’s see,” Yucchi murmured, as if thoughtfully considering a roster.

His finger ran from the right side of Koki’s hip to the front buttons of his shorts. Koki tried not to lean into the contact, especially when he looked up and met Yucchi’s intent gaze. Two fingers and all he had to do was pull against the strain of Koki’s shorts and thumb the buttons until they came undone.

“That’s better,” he said.

He unfolded his legs and pulled Koki between them, unbuttoning his shirt from the bottom up and pushing it open. Koki made to shake it off his shoulders but Yucchi grabbed his arm.

“Leave it,” he said in a careful tone, lips curving up.

Koki made a noise of assent and leaned back against the desk, letting Yucchi do as he liked, not quite able to keep a twitch of anticipation from running up his middle when Yucchi’s hands cupped his lower back. He dug deep and parted and pulled the muscles of his ass so he felt nothing but slipping, hard contact of cotton to the sensitive skin in his crease.

Koki’s breath stopped as he swallowed and he spread his legs, arching his hips forward into Yucchi’s hands. Yucchi barely moved, tracing over the naked skin of his chest lovingly with his gaze alone.

“You’ve gotten... broader,” Yucchi remarked dryly, visibly liking what he saw.

“Nice, huh?” Koki couldn’t contain his smug grin. “I had some ministerial robes to fill out.”

Yucchi’s shoulders shook with his faint laughter. “Did you come here in these clothes deliberately?”

Koki worried his lower lip, still smiling. “Maybe.”

Yucchi cocked his head back, bringing his palms up so they cradled Koki’s tailbone and Koki was marveling a little at how deeply sensitive he felt today; every touch like a hellfire mark in arousal.

“I thought you’d notice,” Koki offered in a would-be bland tone were it not on the tail-end of an almost-moan.

Yucchi slipped the heel of his right hand, like he was merely examining him, in slow edges towards Koki’s front. Koki arched again, leaning all his weight on his own hands behind him.

“Do you mean to persuade me of something?” Yucchi queried, tone business like.

All Koki could think was, Later because Yucchi pulled the button openings of his shorts apart and massaged down his lower stomach, slipping right over the top of his dick.

Koki shuddered a little. “P-perhaps?”

It was as though Yucchi were abruptly frisking him, patting his pockets until he made contact with something. His eyebrow quirked as he reached in and pulled out a small triangular bottle, capped with a silver fastening and full of oil. He held it out in his palm.

“I detect some presumption here,” he said.

Koki grabbed it from him. “It’s your fault I even carry this stuff around with me!” he snapped.

“Good, let’s put it to use then,” Yucchi returned, not missing a beat. He folded the tops of Koki’s shorts off and pulled them down so Koki had to wriggle out of them. Yucchi’s subsequent slow caress shook down his thighs and relayed to Koki just how much he’d missed this too.

He rose from his chair, deadly grace in that single movement and cupped the soft underside of Koki’s ass, crushing his fingers in like he wanted to memorise by the handful and Koki was forced up against him, all heat and the immediate glancing friction of Yucchi’s own erection.

It felt like a tipping point when Yucchi grabbed ahold of his jaw, rough like he could be sometimes, not quite knowing how startling he was when he really wanted Koki.

He opened his mouth over Koki’s, sweeping his tongue past his, exploring him in hard nips of his lips, breathing through his nose when Koki got a hold of his tie, unknotting it with deft fingers. The hot taste of Yucchi was like a fresh relapse into something addictive; how it ached up Koki’s throat and burned him from his lower stomach up. Koki couldn’t be satisfied until he could peel away the brass buttons, shove the stiff uniform off his shoulders and feel him; taut cords of muscle and slender frame pressed to him.

He must have muttered something painfully begging because Yucchi whispered a faint. “Yes.”

Yucchi pressed him back on the desk like that, the edge of it digging into Koki’s spine and Yucchi drew back and held himself just far enough from him that Koki was already whining for more, legs splayed.

Yucchi hummed deep laughter into his mouth and released Koki’s jaw just long enough to haul him right up on the desk so he was only just perching, balanced on his toes and clinging to Yucchi’s shoulders. Koki practically licked him in his hurry to have him close, murmuring faint, hungry things when Yucchi kissed down his jaw, dragging wet full lips down his throat, blistering brand of his tongue scraping his collarbone.

“Hush,” Yucchi breathed over his chest, pushing his legs wider. “The walls are thin.”

He was quick, oiling his fingers, mouthing hungrily up Koki’s stomach, biting little teasing bites that made Koki curl in. He grabbed for Yucchi’s hair, palm sliding down and grasping his collar when Yucchi wrapped a fully slick hand around Koki’s dick.

Koki gripped the edge of the desk with one hand, the other in Yucchi’s hair as Yucchi dropped wet kisses over his hips and his warm, now slippery fingers squeezed, massaging hotly. Those same fingers traced the inside of his thigh, rushing down his pereneum and Koki’s knees bent, heels digging into the desk with Yucchi’s hot, burning breath feathering over his thighs.

He felt the cool tingle of the oil being spilt just over his scrotum and Yucchi smearing it, kissing the inside of his knee as Koki drew it up. He pressed one finger, making a crescent over Koki’s rim, stretching, more oil pooled before Koki felt it slipping inside him. Yucchi twisted his finger so Koki felt his knuckle graze sensitive edges and he arched back on the desk, whole body stretched and scraped thin as if with a butterknife.

“Beautiful,” Yucchi murmured, voice sounding low and rich in the ticking silence of the office.

It was painful in so many other ways than just the physical. Yucchi was tender and practically as worshipful in his touches as he had always been, but Koki felt this world-shaking urgency. Yuchi pushed another two fingers in quickly, dollop of oil, coating his rim, wet slick fingers scissoring, running a hard stripe through his core. Koki choked on a throaty moan, shoved out of him from Yucchi’s fingertips.

It was Yucchi’s kisses turning to harsher bites, and the way he curled his other hand over Koki’s hip, nails digging something like he was branding him on the inside and outside. He pulled him to the edge of the desk, and he practically fell, fucked on Yucchi’s fingers, tips going deep running a fire glance right on his prostate. Koki moaned and coiled like electric wire around him.

Yucchi caught him, one arm around his middle. Yucchi made a very vulnerable sound, nuzzling up Koki’s neck as the head of Koki’s dick rutted over the hard front of Yucchi’s trousers, scraping a wet stain, oil and pre-ejaculate..

The abrupt friction made Koki utter a soft, hungry sound. Yucchi went for his mouth again, tongue and lips devouring him. Yucchi kept at his rhythm, three fingers curved as he pulled Koki down on them until Koki wasn’t breathing correctly, letting out faint, ‘Ah’s every time he rocked his hips with it.

Yucchi hooked his fingers in him and Koki had to cover his mouth with his hand, fist curled as a moan carried out of him. His body shuddered in waves at every contact and Yucchi spread his fingers, stretching him until Koki felt split in half, legs curling around Yucchi’s hips. He whispered a soft, “Ride into it, Koki,” under his ear. “I know you’re close.”

The words had Koki convulsing, rocking himself onto Yucchi’s hips with Yucchi balancing him on the edge of the desk, one hand over the small of Koki’s back. “I’m going to come,” Koki said, trying to keep his voice quiet, but it came out in a high, desperate whimper. He practically climbed Yucchi, ankles hooked to his spine.

Yucchi pulled his fingers out, sliding out abruptly so Koki felt his whole body scream for it again. He clutched the back of Yucchi’s neck as he pulled him down off the desk. He dived into Yucchi’s mouth, kissing with little begging moans as Yucchi reached between them, undoing his trousers, belt buckle slapping back in his hurry.

“Lift your leg,” Yucchi ordered, pushing his own trousers down and scooping Koki over him with the other. He practically collapsed back on his winged desk chair and pulled Koki down on him. Koki’s upraised leg hooked over the back of it and Yucchi grabbed his hips, lifting him. Then finally in one single, electric second, he slammed right up into Koki with a low, delicious groan.

The angle was immediately painful and Koki had to curve up around him and kept falling into his mouth, tastes mingling and forgotten as his head went light from his desperate gasps. Yucchi sucked Koki’s lower lip for a brief moment, grabbing two handfuls of Koki’s ass before rocking Koki’s hips on him, the head of his dick glancing over what Koki felt was the very end of him.

“Yucchi,” was all he could manage, trembling, fingers curled around the back of the chair.

“Hold on to me,” Yucchi warned, narrow brown eye fully dark, his lips dark and kissed out.

Koki only had enough time to get a grasp on Yucchi’s shirt because Yucchi was soon jacking him up and down, and Koki could only curl in and gasp every time Yucchi’s cock filled him. He began to rock, feeling the heat climb him as his dick pressed to Yucchi’s stomach.

Yucchi pushed his hips up faster as Koki gripped a more sturdy hold and writhed over him, shaking as the friction stole right through his veins. Yucchi growled soft encouragement against him and Koki felt like he was waiting in breathless seconds between thrusts, feeling it crash at his prostate, running a drooling spike sensation up his dick.

His own orgasm shocked him, collided right through his middle, startling him rigid as he went blind for moments. Yucchi rolling his hips upward and pulling him down in the same rhythm. He must have clenched in that moment because Yucchi bent his head, rocking him faster in a delirious frenzy, pushing him past sensitivity.

“Koki,” he hissed like he swore, gripping him like he wasn’t ever going to let go, bruising grasp on the nape of his neck as he rammed Koki down twice more, going stiff for trembling seconds as Koki made aching sounds and mouthed over his jaw, still panting.

Moments later, Yucchi kissed softly, exhaustedly along Koki’s throat, gripping him around the waist. His thumbs ran massaging circles over his spine and Koki leaned into him.

“I’m surprised you visited. I thought you were angry with me,” he murmured, his voice a low, content growl.

Koki grimaced, remembering himself. “Right, yes, I am.”

Yucchi chuckled, leaning back in his chair, fingers still tracing over Koki’s skin, igniting him in leftover arousal. “Fine,” he said quietly. “One allowance. What do you want from me?”

Koki hesitated, leaning back so he rested just so against the desk, ankles hooked around the sides of Yucchi’s chair. He looked at Yucchi, properly looked at him. His arch features, symmetry and the stern curve of his nose, one eye so deadly brown. “I want... Junno,” Koki said, sounding more sure than anything. “I want you to send his dismissal from that expedition so he can come home.”

Yucchi’s gaze searched his face, watching whatever it is he saw when he looked at Koki, mouth downturned again. “Koki...”

Koki curled his fists in. “You asked me what I wanted!”

“I believe we’ve revisited this conversation many times,” Yucchi returned patiently, looking sympathetic and that was worse.

Koki’s throat hurt. “You have your army, your base, your honour! Your whole life is the way you wanted it to be since you were young. Everything you love is at an arm’s reach. The Empire is your life, I get that, and the Empire loves you and needs you just as equally as you need it, but I’ve never wanted a thing from you!”

“Koki, listen to me--”

“No!” Koki scrambled off him. He grabbed his shorts from the floor, stepping into them, burning and angry. “I know you never promised me anything, happiness, r-roses or whatever. You took me out of my old life, and opened every d-door--” He was tripping on his own words.

Yucchi rose up so he could pull and button up his trousers. He watched Koki unreadably, simply listening.

“I owe you,“ Koki pressed on, his throat burning, eyes stinging at the edges. “I get it, but did you have to take him away from me? Out of everything you could’ve taken back, did you have to take him?”

His voice broke; he was choking on his own vitriol and shame because gods help him, he’d never cried for a single thing if he could help it.

He wanted to burn things down the way Junno would have, show passion like that in a graceful fury, punctuate how upset he was before he dissolved into a silly sobbing mess. With a sound of frustration, he kicked the side of Yucchi’s desk so it rattled and the plaque on the edge of it clattered over, facedown. An unhappy anticlimax to everything boiling inside.

There was silence as Koki turned away, buttoning up his suit top and rubbing his sleeve over his eyes quickly, swallowing the fucking lump in his throat.

“I think you know,” Yucchi began softly, and Koki heard him get out of his chair. “You know his leading me to your bedroom that day wasn’t really in error, right?”

Koki didn’t look at him. “Of course.” Junno wasn’t what anyone could ever call subtle. The enigma of Junno’s madness was really only a book with a twist ending, really. “Of course I knew.”

“He’d watched you for weeks on end, memorised the house detail for detail, could have gone in himself and taken the blueprints if I could have trusted him.” Yucchi’s tone was a different sort of sad, reminscent, even fond. “Taguchi was inconsolable as he spoke of you, of the things he wanted to show you and I knew he would lead me there first before your father’s study. I simply knew it. I thought if I reminded him of the importance of our mission, of the vengeance he craved. Yet, no, it was you he wanted. I couldn’t begin to understand it and didn’t at all care for it. I thought he wanted a plaything of sorts and I was so focused on the mission, so deeply did I need justice that I’d go to any lengths for it.”

Koki twisted around to watch him, still carefully glaring. “Y-you gave in. You let him have... me?”

“No, that’s just it,” Yucchi sighed, folding his arms in a gesture more relaxed than ever uncertain. “You remember my orders to him. I didn’t like it. I thought I’d let him play with you for those brief moments before he’d realise it wasn’t at all worth it. I thought you were a child, you must understand, Koki; I thought he’d see that and be rid of you... yes, for all I knew you were nothing but a child...”

Koki remembered that first moment. He could see Yucchi’s sympathetic stare that first evening standing frightening and dangerous in Koki’s bedroom doorway, dark eye so humane even as he’d uttered the words, “Do it swiftly”.

Koki remembered Junno’s hungry eyes, his sharp, violent smile and the crush of his fingers at Koki’s throat. He remembered first thinking that a man called General who would point a gun at him while sleeping and defenceless must be callous, but this seemed so unlike the Yucchi he knew now. “That’s....”

“That was war,” Yucchi supplied darkly. “And Taguchi was my weapon. And yet, amidst all that, there was you, ever this distraction. And Taguchi, mad as he is, prattling off to me in the dead of night, watching you sleep like even just that act amazed him, he’d tell me of how simply perfect he felt life had become.”

Junno’s words. How he’d smiled and Koki had been awed by his odd-looking face, wide eyes and fingers as they tightened rope around his wrists, dutifully strapping him to a chair.

“But you’re here, though. Everything... is perfect now”

“This was long before we’d finished the mission as if he really could find contentment in that,” Yucchi went on. “No more than six hours after meeting him and I could see how at ease you were with him, how much he’d enveloped you, how you didn’t see the killer in either of us. My only choice had been to involve you somehow until I could be sure I could still trust Taguchi not to drop everything and keep to the mission.”

Koki felt like someone had removed his stomach and replaced it with a nice, big rock. He wasn’t sure but he might have been trembling. He remembered the starlight gratitude in Junno’s eyes when Koki shook him out of an episode, memories reeling him, blood on his hands and Koki saying with a ferocity he’d never used before that he didn’t care who had to die, who had to be destroyed...

Just not you. You stay, you got me?

Yucchi looked very grave. “The fact is, Koki, after all that, after everything I witnessed between the both of you and how intensely you seem to need him as well. I’d never have separated the two of you willingly.”

Koki stared back at him, eyes blurred. Yucchi stood tall, chest rigid and every muscle on him tense. He had integrity and Koki trusted him wholeheartedly and what he was saying to him in these soft tones made a lot of sense; a scary amount of sense.

“So why did you?” Koki asked in a small voice; something almost unlike his usual self.

Yucchi stepped closer to him, bowing his head thoughtfully. Koki couldn’t tell if he didn’t have the answer or if he just didn’t want to tell him. “I didn’t,” he said simply, slowly.

“What?” Koki didn’t move as Yucchi moved closer, stepping forward slowly enough that he could be pacing the room alone.

“What you must understand first and foremost, Koki, is that Junno was a weapon trained and designed by enemies of the Empire; dangerous, selfish and cruel men ,” Yucchi explained very succinctly. “Junno may have been in the mental capacity to tell you about the deaths of his comrades, how he was conscious during it, watched the lot of them be scalded to death. What he may not even remember or even consider, for all its cruelty and all his youth, was how his triggers work, that they’d initially trained him and his comrades to be artists of massacre. Too dangerous.”

Koki swallowed. Yucchi was no more than a few centimetres from him, unfolding his arms to reach out with his stare unblinking as if he were approaching a wild animal.

Something was ticking in the room. Koki could hear a clock and it made Yucchi’s steps toward him seem all the more eerie as his long-fingered hands came up to his shoulders, gripping a foreboding comfort that Koki didn’t understand.


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August 2012

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