Fandom: Yami no Matsuei
Pairing: Hisoka/Tsuzuki/Muraki (implied)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Kyoto Arc, Kamakura Arc
Notes: Thank you to my beta blue_cage who helped rehash my entire story and stayed up with me to talk about characterizations, and whose helpful advise to me was: go back to the original. A very big thank you to lady_ganesh. I have to admit I was intimidated by your original work because it's so thoughtful and chilling, but it grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I hope I didn't mangle your ideas. Thank you for the amazing ride.
Summary: Like all good stories, it starts with a hero.
Title, Author and URL of original story: We Never Had a Paradise to Lose by lady_ganesh
(The Three Sparks Waltz Remix)
"You'll learn so much," the book promises, and Hisoka is quickly intrigued.
He unrolls the brittle and almost translucent scroll, mindful of the damp spots on the floor. He lays it out on his makeshift bed, an inch at a time so he won't accidentally see what would happen next, lets the moonlight pour through the barred windows so he can read.
Like all good stories, it starts with a hero, a boy born from a lowly family. In time, he is recognized for his hard work, is eventually educated, and favored by the emperor. The boy faces many adventures and becomes a young man hungry for change.
But his greatest achievement is when he returns home to his beloved Kamakura. The woman he loved has married another man, but she has a daughter now, a girl of twelve who loves him. For the sake of their friendship and their past love, the woman offers her daughter to him if the man slew a monster terrorizing their land. He looks at his land, the land he has left and returned to, the woman he used to love, her daughter whom he can learn to love. He agrees.
But the man has been hardened by age, and his ideals have changed. He slays the beast, pronounces the village safe, and is given land and retainers by the emperor.
And in return, the only sacrifice the man has to make is to offer his body as the monster's haven, dying every night so others may live, so he lived his life as a...
The final part is ripped at an awkward angle, as if in haste. It is many weeks later when Hisoka finally reaches the end of the scroll.
That night, he makes a face at the paper, rolls it up, unrolls, it, then rolls it again to be packed for the last time. He touches the ivory case that holds the brittle papers together, tracing the gold characters embedded on the ivory.
Ren Kurosaki Family History, it says, but Hisoka doesn't know what that means. He's never had a family, and this man is certainly not his family, not even his ancestor. Not this adventurous man who traveled the world, who abandoned love for revenge, who willingly let the beast Yatonogami take over his body to save his people. Hisoka wouldn't do that. He's seen what it's done to this household.
He'll never willingly let himself become a monster.
Tsuzuki says, "I'm thinking I should cook tonight," and Hisoka quickly shuts down the program he's been looking at. "Unagi roll? We can buy it on our way home and have enough time to prepare it for dinner."
"No," Hisoka says quickly, trying not to think about the many ways the kitchen can burn. "Anyway, the eels won't be fresh when we leave. We have to buy them early tomorrow."
"Yeah," Tsuzuki says mournfully, but he quickly brightens. "Maybe can eat at Kuchi-san's stall—"
"Okay, good." Hisoka begins to arrange his desk. He always finishes his work an hour ahead, and he keeps his desk neat so he won't take forever when he's about to leave, unlike Tsuzuki.
The night is clear and they walk for the most part of their journey to the stall. Hisoka doesn't talk much, lets Tsuzuki's excited voice soothe him, about how sad Saaya is while Yuma is recovering in the infirmary, that she bought twelve new dresses to cheer herself up.
Hisoka's mind is on O-ine's notes. They may have been burnt, but she wasn't the only one in the hospital. Being the first woman physician in Japan meant that people might want to refute her work, might even have jealously tried to take over. That meant going through their notes as well, but Hisoka doesn't have that access.
Or maybe he's just looking for an excuse to—
"So what do you think about Watari's case?" Tsuzuki interrupts as he shoves a roll of dumpling into his mouth. "He still doesn't know why children's souls are getting snuffed out and disappearing, and he definitely needs help. He's thinking about getting Kira to partner with him while Tatsumi works on the budget thing, but I know Kira still has that big undercover—"
"You should go," Hisoka tells him.
Tsuzuki stares at him.
Hisoka looks him in the eye and lies, "You'll be great at it. You know the division, you've worked there before, and you know how Watari works."
"I..." Tsuzuki falters and he actually looks hurt. "It's a field assignment, Hisoka, and I don't want to be away for a long period of time."
"You won't be," Hisoka tells him, waving his hand. Then he slips out, "You've been doing this for a long time now. You can finish some field assignment with Watari. It'll be easy."
Tsuzuki pauses and they stare at each other for a long time. Hisoka forces himself to continue eating, to make this normal as possible. He can feel the hint of confusion coming from Tsuzuki, but the other man is trying not to project, trying to keep it in. Good, he thinks.
"You're sure?" Tsuzuki asks finally.
"Yeah," Hisoka breathes. He knows it's already decided. And because he doesn't want to make it a punishment, he reaches out and touches Tsuzuki's hand, squeezing it. His partner looks thrilled that Hisoka's initiating a physical contact. "You're good, Tsuzuki. You know that."
"Yeah," Tsuzuki says after a while, brightening. "Yeah, you're right."
Hisoka feels sick.
O-ine's notes may have been burnt, but she wasn't the only one in that hospital. Being the first woman physician in Japan meant that people might want to refute her work, might even have jealously tried to take over. That meant going through their notes as well—as much as Hisoka could get from the burnt remains in their cluttered office.
The best notes about Ruka still ended at 1927.
Hisoka doesn't know why he needs to find out more about Ruka Tsuzuki. It's not like he doesn't have his own secrets; everyone in Enma Cho has them. Hisoka respects that, and he expects the same to be given to his privacy.
It's just...Ruka is a big part of who Tsuzuki is today, and she's the reason why Tsuzuki still agrees to let himself...let himself fall apart, to look for someone else...
...and that man has taunted Hisoka already, since he was thirteen years old. It's only natural to want to understand, Hisoka tells himself. This isn't just Tsuzuki's privacy anymore; Hisoka is tangled up in this mess since the beginning. He never wanted to, and he never meant to, but no one has ever meant to do anything. Coincidences are hardly at fault.
And he wants to know more about this girl, the woman Tsuzuki put on the highest pedestal. If Hisoka knows more about Ruka, he'll know how to fix Tsuzuki, he'll know how to end the suffering his partner had. Hisoka will...he'll help.
The next day, Tsuzuki gets a debriefing with Watari, and they leave for Chijou right after lunch. Tsuzuki waves at them right up until they disappear, and Hisoka feels a strange weight removed from him, making him dizzy.
He calls in sick the next day and goes to Kyoto University's extensive library, then goes to the local government facility to get more notes. Some doors won't open to him, but in the realm of the living, he still has the upper hand. And he leaves the building with an armful of papers to read.
He gets the call that afternoon.
"Tsuzuki walked right into the trap," Tatsumi tells him tersely. "Watari tried to manipulate the trap but he only had crude devices..."
"Where is he?" Hisoka asks sharply, already stuffing his papers into his bag. "I'm in Chijou, Kyoto. I can find him—"
"Kyoto's a big place..." Tatsumi begins.
The other man is silent for a while, but he finally says grudgingly, "Call Watari and set up a meeting. I'll try to be there as soon as I can."
"Don't," Hisoka says harshly, and he hears Tatsumi take a sharp breath at the other line. "Let me talk to Watari. We'll keep you updated."
There's another long pause, Tatsumi weighing it out in his mind. Then, he replies shortly, "Don't get killed."
They end the call. Hisoka bursts out into the streets just as his phone beeps and receives the coordinates from Watari. He lightens his aura, fades, mingles with the people, then transports to the appointed meeting place.
"I should have called you first," Watari starts out, his voice terse. He keeps tugging at his long hair, his movements nervous and quick. "But I thought about protocol—"
"You did what's best," Hisoka says. They're standing on Pontochou, with people milling around and not looking at them. It's better to stay hidden in plain sight. "What have you got for me?"
Watari clears his throat and looks around. "There was this," he says, then hands Hisoka a torn envelope. "I ran it through all forensic analysis I had in my makeshift lab in our hotel room." He holds up something and, for a moment, Hisoka doesn't understand. When he does, he feels his blood boil.
It's a strand of platinum blond hair.
"It might not mean anything," Watari starts again, "but if you look at the envelope..."
Hisoka's eyes catch the crest etched on the upper right hand of the envelope, the now familiar mark of von Siebold. It shouldn't mean anything, but it does now. With trembling fingers, Hisoka pulls out the content of the envelope. The paper is old, yellowing, and suddenly Hisoka remembers holding brittle paper in his hands, his family history.
But this is not a family history, nor is it a story.
The time of winter, the first month on the 12th year of our God Emperor.
I care not for the color of your eyes, only that your blood is mine. Perhaps it is fate that makes us close, that we may be together always, even when we are apart. There have been many times I need not be strong, but I think of you, and then I am.
Love, you must be strong as well. We will have forever, if we want it. We only need ask.
With all my love.
The handwriting is fluid and practiced, but also strangely delicate. Hisoka sucks in his breath.
"I didn't tell Kanoe-kachou or Tatsumi," Watari's voice breaks through his thoughts. Hisoka looks up and realizes that the other man looks apologetic. "I thought you might want to know more first—"
"No, it's fine," Hisoka interrupts, putting the note and the envelope into his bag. "This is good. Anyway, the message was for me." He smiles grimly, already feeling the marks flare in his blood. "And I know how to respond."
It's hard to find an empty and clean space in the district, and it would have been better to do this back in Meifu, but Hisoka doesn't want to leave Tsuzuki alone in Chijou, not unless he has to. He'd sent Watari back to the room, although the man looked doubtful when Hisoka had asked him of it. But Hisoka had reminded him there was still the hair to analyze, the note to look at, the mysterious soul fluctuation they were called in to investigate in the first place.
There are no sakura trees in the area, but there's an empty park, trees and an abandoned shrine. Some other time, it may have been where lovers' trysts occurred, or where children ran to play. But now, it's devoid of any human occupants.
Hisoka barely minds his trembling fingers while he finishes the ritual. It's imperfect and careless, with many things missing because he hadn't the time to look for them, but the essence of the ritual is still present. In time, Hisoka thinks, he won't even need a ritual to get what he wants.
Blood and pain is all the connection Hisoka needs to reign him in. In moments, Muraki is there.
Hisoka lays a fuda on the man as soon as he appears, doesn't even care where it lands. Muraki simply flicks the paper off his shoulders and laughs. "You know this won't help."
Hisoka knows, but it's the only thing he can do besides punching the man. He concentrates on breathing, in and out, steady. "I got your note," he says, and he's angry that he can't control the tremble in his voice. "I'm here now. Let him go."
Muraki cocks his head. "Ah, boy," he clucks, looking disappointed, "you're too easy. I thought, when Tsuzuki arrived here with that Kansai friend of yours, that I would have to work harder. I'm disappointed." He pats his pockets, taking out a carton of cigarettes.
Hisoka clenches his fists. It will not do to lose his temper now. Tsuzuki still needs him. "I'm the one getting bored," he counters. "I never thought you'll pull off that half-baked plan. Kidnapping someone, using him as a lure. Shouldn't you be thinking of new ways to call us?"
"It got you here, didn't it?" Muraki sounds amused.
Hisoka nudges his power, feels the lack presence and finally bites out, "So where is he?"
"Patience," Muraki replies, puffing out smoke. "I wanted to talk. I saw you in the university, digging up information, and I couldn't resist. The old man capturing the souls of children was just a bonus. He offered them to me so nicely..."
Hisoka doesn't know how he does it, but then he's suddenly in front of Muraki, his arm and fists hitting what he can. He can hear the man laughing, but it's a faint sound at the torrent rushing in his ears. God, no, goddamit, he keeps thinking, and he wants to scream, but he hits instead. Again and again and again.
"Too weak, boy," he hears Muraki say, and Hisoka sees red.
A small scream emits from his throat and he pushes with both arms and his mind, releasing a sharp grunt from Muraki. It makes him laugh, seeing how the man kneels before him before he raises a knee and slams it into Muraki's jaw.
"That's more like it," Muraki pants, spitting blood on the ground. He doesn't even look fazed. "But remember, I've been feeding on children's blood for days now. I have the necessary strength."
"What did he want?" Hisoka spits out, and he nudges again, takes hold of Muraki's throat with his mind. Muraki chokes, but it sounds more like laughter. "Those children, what did you give in return?"
"The usual, power and information," Muraki gasps, giggles. "A love letter, passed down through generations. I found it...owned it...but he wanted it. He's dead now, you should be grateful. Now the letter is in your hands, AH." He chokes again.
Hisoka keeps his hold tight for another minute before he lets go. He can feel the anger coursing through his veins, throbbing with the flare of marks painted on his body, connecting him to this monster. "Why would you want me to have it?" he asks dangerously, letting his mental grasp loosen until he stops. "Why does that man want it?"
"He was a collector of old letters with power," Muraki says with a grin. "You've read it. The letter is laced with promises and energy. 'My Love.' It's addressed to someone, but the note isn't for you, and it's certainly not from me."
"Why did you take Tsuzuki, then?" Hisoka clenches his fists, thinking about Tsuzuki. "If all you wanted was for me to come, you could have sent me."
"But where's the fun in that?" Muraki taunts. He pauses, as if flexing his mental muscles, but Hisoka is still ready, tense, while the man walks up to him carefully. "Maybe you should ask if he doesn't really seek me out—"
It's closer to the truth than Hisoka wants to hear, so he says, "Stop," too quickly.
Muraki, of course, doesn't listen. "I'll release him now," he tells Hisoka, still smiling. "And as a bonus, I'll even send him to you. I won't ask for anything else."
"I won't offer anything in exchange, anyway," Hisoka replies, gritting his teeth.
Muraki is close enough that he can place a hand on Hisoka's neck, tracing a finger down from his throat, to the vulnerable point between his collar bones, and to the edge of his shirt, where the invisible marks are throbbing. He smiles as if he knows it. "You're well on your way," he breathes, his eyes like slits as he watches Hisoka. "You weren't even a notable conquest then, just a boy living in an unfortunate household, with an unfortunate family. But now you've returned again and again. One day, you won't even need Tsuzuki as an excuse. I can see your potential, boy." He leans forward, touches his lips to Hisoka's ear, "I can't wait."
Hisoka raises an arm to grab him, but Muraki is too quick. The marks on Hisoka's body blaze again, glowing and drops him to his knees with a strangled cry. He catches the expression on Muraki's face, twisted as if he is also suffering pain, before he disappears.
His phone rings just in time. He takes a deep breath, flips it open and answers with a sharp, "Yeah?"
"Hey," Tsuzuki's voice comes through the line, soft and worried. "I'm in the motel. I'm fine. Come back."
Hisoka squeezes his eyes shut and forces himself to keep breathing. One, two. He can do this. "Yes. Yes, of course."
He bursts into the room, not caring that his eyes still have a crazed tinge. "Tsuzuki!" he cries out.
Tsuzuki is sitting on one of the beds, and he only looks up when Hisoka enters. "Hey," he says wearily.
"Boy," Watari greets, looking troubled. He's at the table by the window, but he's looking at Tsuzuki and Hisoka warily. "How did it go?"
But Hisoka ignores him, goes straight to Tsuzuki and touches his cheek, brushing away the dust at the corner of his cheekbone. "Are you alright?" he asks.
Tsuzuki smiles. It's probably the right question to ask. "I'm fine." He hesitates. "He...he didn't hurt me."
But he wouldn't meet Hisoka's eyes, and it makes Hisoka want to scream, to kick. It makes him feel like a child, someone who has never had anything and now doesn't want to let go of that one toy. He wants to cry. He swallows this feeling. "Good," he says quietly, then with more resolve, "Don't let yourself get caught next time okay?'
Behind them, Watari takes a sharp breath and Tsuzuki's smile falters.
"About that." Tsuzuki clears his throat. "I...knew it would be him, Hisoka."
Hisoka's heart stops for a moment, but he doesn't let go of Tsuzuki. "It doesn't matter," he insists. "As long as you're safe."
"You're not listening," Tsuzuki whines, and Hisoka doesn't want to hear this, not now, not while Watari is here and they're not even in Meifu. "As soon as we talked to the man, I knew it was him, and I still went. I wanted to find those children..."
Lies, Hisoka wants to say viciously, but he doesn't. He doesn't say, You wanted to be punished, even though he wants to. He risks a quick glance at Watari, then pulls back, pressing a silencing hand on Tsuzuki's mouth. "We'll talk later," he says seriously. He doesn't meet Tsuzuki's eyes. "The man is dead. Watari, I made a sweep earlier, but I couldn't find the children's souls. Can you check the database?"
Watari shakes his head. "Still gone."
"Damn," Hisoka mutters.
Waves of guilt radiate from Tsuzuki and Hisoka wants to comfort him, but he's exhausted. The curse marks under his skin is still throbbing. "Can you keep working on locating them, Watari?" he asks softly. "I think Tsuzuki and I—"
"I can still work," Tsuzuki argues.
Hisoka rolls his eyes. "You need sleep," he snaps back. "We're all exhausted and Watari—"
"Watari's in this with us!"
"Watari can hear everything you two are saying," Watari interrupts in a sing-song as he types on the keyboard. "Are you two going to argue all night? I've managed to track down the paper used for this note, and you won't believe how much energy it contains." He waves the letter at their direction.
Tsuzuki asks, "What letter?"
Hisoka asks, "What does it mean?" He recalls what Muraki said, that the letter is dripping with promise, probably tied to a ritual.
Watari shrugs. "It's almost like fuda. If we isolate some characters used for the note..." He turns the laptop to them, the monitor zoomed in on several words. "...you'll see it's almost like a spell."
Beside him, Hisoka hears Tsuzuki draw in a sharp breath and he moves slowly to the direction of the note where Watari has placed the letter on the table. Hisoka asks, "So the receiver is getting enough power? Is there anything else?"
"Nothing much," Watari admits, "but it might interest you that the paper's really old. It was probably written...well, give or take, almost a century—"
"It was written on January 8th 1923," Tsuzuki croaks out. He looks at them, his expression stunned, and Hisoka can feel vague confusion from Watari, anger and despair from Tsuzuki. He's looking at Hisoka, his purple eyes wide and devoid of hope. "How did you get this?"
"Muraki sent it," Watari starts, but Hisoka only utters, "Tsuzuki..."
"She wrote it," Tsuzuki whispers, his expression harsh and anguished under the faint fluorescent room. "My sister...she was the one who sent this letter. To me."
Watari volunteers to pack up and bring the rest of the equipment back to Meifu the next morning, while Hisoka hauls Tsuzuki out of the wretched place. They stumble through the doorway, shoes and socks haphazardly left in the foyer, coats cast on the floor as they arrange the futon on the floor. Then Hisoka gabs Tsuzuki, lets the other man curl into his arms as he shivers violently.
"She didn't send a lot of letters," Tsuzuki whispers to him. "I memorized all of them, including the date. There were so little, and so many months in between." He pauses, makes a small sound as if swallowing a sob before he goes on, "I didn't know about the power she put on the letters. I didn't even think about it, but it sounds just like her. She would have done that, to keep me alive."
Hisoka shifts closer, doesn't say a word.
"I wasn't strong," his partner confesses, burying his face on Hisoka's neck. "It was all she asked of me, but I was never strong enough to wait. I couldn't. And I began to wonder if she was..." He pauses. "If she still loved me. Like I did her."
Hisoka stills for a moment, lets the words wash over him until he understands. 'My Love,' the letter began. Oh.
It is not his right to judge.
"My biggest sin wasn't loving her too much," Tsuzuki tells him. "It was that I didn't love her enough to wait. Now, she's lost, she could still be alive, unable to die, but she's lost now. And I can't find her."
He seems to be waiting for something, but Hisoka doesn't know what to say. It can be condemnation, or even of understanding, but he knows if he opens his mouth, he'll only say the wrong words. He'll probably end up unintentionally pushing Tsuzuki away, and Tsuzuki will think this is all his fault again.
Instead, Hisoka basks in the darkness with Tsuzuki in his arms, knowing that, in the 80 years Tsuzuki has been a shinigami, this is the closest anyone has ever been to hearing his secret.
Hisoka is afraid, if he says anything, it will be the words, You're mine now. He's afraid Tsuzuki will see him smile.
When Tsuzuki falls asleep, exhausted, Hisoka sits beside him and brushes his fingers through Tsuzuki's hair thoughtfully. Now that his partner is asleep, he can murmur, "I won't let anyone hurt you. There's no one I'll protect more than you."
He remembers asking Muraki, What do you get out of this?
Muraki had responded, If you could see how you looked right now, you wouldn't even ask the question, then had bared his throat to Hisoka's teeth. He'd said, One day, you won't even need Tsuzuki as an excuse. He'd whispered, I can't wait.
Muraki is wrong, Hisoka decides, watching his partner breathe easier, deeper. He's never wanted to hurt Muraki, never wanted the man to feel the pain he felt. Having Muraki in his grasp is only part of Hisoka's strength, a way to show him that Hisoka can still have power over him.
But, Hisoka thinks as he rests his head on his knees, but. Muraki should have also known that, ultimately, it is Tsuzuki who gets to choose. Muraki can force the secret out of him and try to use it to his advantage, but Hisoka is the one who holds Tsuzuki in his arms, the one whom Tsuzuki trusts, the one who pulls secrets out of Tsuzuki without even trying.
Hisoka traces Tsuzuki's cheeks, knows that his partner doesn't have to stop being broken, he just needs someone to turn to when he breaks yet again.
In the long run, Hisoka decides that he's the real hero of this story.
The Ren Kurosaki Family History is sitting in Hisoka's box of private things, retrieved by Tatsumi when he and Watari worked on the Kamakura case almost a decade ago. Hisoka hasn't opened it since he was eleven years old, since he was alive.
He doesn't recall the story of how his ancestor willingly lets his body house the Yatonogami to save the small village that he loved. He certainly doesn't let himself think about how his father himself had reached out through the bars of Hisoka's cell and pressed it between his small, thin hands with an admonishment, "Never forget your past."
Hisoka barely even glances at it while he places Ruka Tsuzuki's letter next to the ivory container, then pushes the box back into the dark and musky closet. He barely remembers at all.