Rating: R; language, description of rape (this chapter is NOT rated PG-13. At all.)
Genre: Case fic
Comments: Spoilers for the entire anime, particularly the Kyoto arc.
Hisoka groaned, struggling to open his eyes. Tsuzuki’s face came into focus, and Hisoka couldn’t tell whose relief he was feeling. For the moment, he was shaken enough not to care, just to bask in it. “Thank goodness,” Tsuzuki said. “Are you all right?”
Hisoka nodded and tried to sit up. Tsuzuki was holding him, but let go as soon as he realized it. The mountainside was back to normal, though they seemed to be in a different part. “Asano-san?”
“She’s right there,” Tsuzuki said. “And still out.” Hisoka looked over to see her on the ground a few feet from him. She was whimpering, her eyes open. “I had to take down your shield to get to you,” Tsuzuki said. “I’m sorry.”
“That was you?” He should have known the devil couldn’t have had that kind of power, but Hisoka could still feel the betrayal as his shield failed him.
Tsuzuki nodded. “You were acting possessed,” he said. “You almost teleported into a tree when you jumped.”
Hisoka glanced to the left. The tree was wide and strong, probably hundreds of years old. There had been no sign of it in the temple fire. “She’s still there,” he said. He was shivering, he realized-- practice didn’t seem to make dying any easier. This death had hurt so much more than his first.
“I know,” Tsuzuki said, worried. “I couldn’t see what was attacking you two, so I couldn’t fight it. Is it possession?”
“I’m not sure,” Hisoka said. “It looked like we'd jumped back in time. But our bodies stayed here?”
“But you weren’t hearing me,” Tsuzuki said. “Or seeing anything around you.” Keiko shrieked. Tsuzuki leapt to her side, then sat there, helpless. “Damn it!”
“Ajari-san,” Keiko said. “I won’t forgive you for this.” She shook, breath going out of her in a long death rattle.
Tsuzuki put a hand to her shoulder. “Keiko-chan!”
She blinked, and Hisoka could see her eyes focus on the here and now. “You--” she said, teeth chattering. “You just told me your name, I--”
”It’s Tsuzuki,” Hisoka said, coming into her line of sight. “You’re back?”
She nodded. “You were there!” Tears, never quite dry since he’d seen her at the devil’s feet, started to flow again. “He killed you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“It wasn’t real,” Hisoka said firmly. “We’re here now, aren’t we?”
She nodded shakily. “But if it were real, it would be over,” she said. “But this will keep happening, again and again and again. You sh--” She sobbed, but kept trying to get the words out. “You should--”
”We’re not leaving,” Tsuzuki said. “There’s no way that we’re leaving you here with that thing by yourself. Don’t bother asking.” She shook her head. “Keiko-chan-- you won’t leave with us?”
“I can’t,” she said.
“All right,” Tsuzuki said. “Then come sit here in the sun, and have some tea.” His voice was still kind, Hisoka thought, but there was no softness to it now. “And tell us everything about what’s going on.”
Keiko hesitated, then nodded.
The tea Tsuzuki had poured into Hisoka’s thermos that morning was still hot. From Keiko's startled expression at the first sip, Hisoka guessed the taste hadn't changed much. “I’m sorry to put you to all this trouble,” she said. “I feel really bad about it.”
”It’s our job,” Tsuzuki said. “It’s what we’re here for. Don’t worry about it.”
“You’re onmyouji?” she asked.
“Something like that,” Tsuzuki said with a smile. He was sitting on a stone next to her, face open and ready to listen. Hisoka leaned against a tree, wondering how long it would take for the sense-memory of his ribs bending in like that to fade. “So tell us the facts of the case.”
“Well...” Keiko started slowly. “I live in Takurazuka. And I-- my life was pretty normal, you know? But I started having these dreams.” Her voice almost stayed steady, but it was an effort. “I must have had the first one a few years ago, but it was just the once. But then it happened again the next year and then a few months after that, and so on. Geometrically. It-- I dream it every night, now. I can’t sleep; it just comes.”
“What do you dream?” Tsuzuki asked. She shook her head. “Keiko-chan,” Tsuzuki said, “we can’t help unless we know what’s going on.”
Keiko lowered her face, speaking to the tea-cup in her hands. “It’s the Kamakura period, I think. And I’m in this village, on this mountain-- this one, here. And there’s a temple, and there’s a priest in the temple. And I dream that he--” The tea-cup shook, splashing hot tea on her hands. She put it down with an exclamation. Tsuzuki handed her a handkerchief, but said nothing. She dried her hands and went on, twisting the cloth between them. “He attacks me.”
There was ambiguity in her phrasing. There was none in her emotions. Hisoka knew that feeling, dirty and violated and scared and furiously helpless. “That sounds awful,” Tsuzuki said.
“It’s just a dream,” Keiko said. “But it made me angry, you know? There was nothing in my life that should have made me dream that. I don’t even know any priests.” She sounded very young, mostly because she was trying so hard to sound matter-of-fact. “I didn’t want to worry my parents by going to a psychiatrist, and, besides, I’m not crazy; I was just having this dream. So I went to see a psychic.”
Tsuzuki nodded. “What did she say?” Keiko hesitated, unsure. “It was a good idea,” he added.
Keiko went on. “She said that it was because of a past life,” she said. “That I was remembering something that happened that I was holding on to. That I had to learn how to let go of it, or I wouldn’t be able to move on.”
“That makes sense,” Tsuzuki said.
She smiled, relieved. She probably hasn’t told anyone else, Hisoka thought. I wouldn’t have. “So why did you come here?” Hisoka asked.
“Because this is where it happened,” Keiko said. “The dream was clear enough that I knew the name of the mountain. I could recognize the spot. The dreams feel... really real.” She tossed her head, flipping her hair back. “I figured I’d come here and try to relive it like it would have happened if I had been there, not my past self. I mean, she was Kamakura period. She was supposed to be modest, you know? Any guy who tried that on me wouldn’t know what hit him. One good knee to the groin, and--” She blushed, but went on, defiantly. “he wouldn’t think about touching a girl again, that’s for sure.”
Oh, Hisoka thought fiercely, it’s that easy, huh? He would have said something, but Tsuzuki felt so suddenly sad that he lost the thought. “What happened next?” Tsuzuki asked.
“Oh--” The defiance left Keiko’s face. “I took the bullet train and the commuter rail and the bus and then hiked here, um, three days ago?” Her eyes flicked to their faces, but they didn’t mention that she’d just admitted lying to them. “And I tried to, like, meditate on it. But as soon as I sat down, I was-- that other place. Where we were. Back then. And the devil was attacking me. It felt just like the dream, but I didn’t see the priest anywhere. And he keeps killing me.” She tried for a laugh. “I always thought death was a one-time thing, but no.”
Tsuzuki wasn’t laughing with her. “We’re going to stop this.” He glanced at Hisoka, checking that his partner was ready to back him up.
Hisoka wasn’t, yet. “Asano-san,” he said, “Why didn’t you just leave?”
Keiko shook her head. “The dreams would still be there,” she said. “I haven’t resolved anything. And besides, I’m not gonna let him win.” She crossed her arms. “He can’t do this to me. I won’t let him.”
There was a long pause. “Good,” Tsuzuki said, finally. “Good for you.”
Stupid, Hisoka thought. He already did it. Hisoka understood, though, better than he wanted to. “We were wrong,” he said. “It wasn’t just a ghost. It was a psychic impression.”
Tsuzuki nodded. “What happened back then was so horrible for so many people that it left their feelings in the air,” he explained to Keiko. “We stumbled onto them, and you got stuck in one.”
“But,” Keiko said, “it felt real. It felt like me.”
”It doesn’t add up,” Hisoka said. “That wouldn’t explain why Keiko felt drawn here or the skeleton I saw.” Something about that tugged at his memory, but disappeared when he tried to track it down. “There’s no connection between Keiko’s dreams and the devil. There must be more to it.”
“You’re right,” Tsuzuki said. “But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it in the meantime.” He took Keiko’s hand, looking seriously into her eyes. “Keiko-chan, I can cast a spell on you to protect you from the impression. It will keep you from ending up back there again while we figure out what’s going on.”
“But,” Keiko said, “what about the dreams?”
Tsuzuki nodded. “If you go to sleep,” he said, “we can watch over you and see where they come from. If they’re not just memories, if they’re coming from somewhere else, then we can see where and stop it.”
She shook her head. “I can’t sleep,” she said. “I can’t-- I can’t relax enough to sleep any more.”
“Try it,” Tsuzuki coaxed. “We’ve got a sleeping bag and a bed-roll with us. Just lie down and close your eyes for a while.”
Keiko opened her mouth. “You have to lie still while we shield you against the impression, anyway,” Hisoka said.
“So why not do it somewhere comfortable?” Tsuzuki finished smoothly.
Keiko bit her lip. “If I start looking like I’m dreaming, you have to wake me up right away.”
“Of course,” Tsuzuki said. “Don’t worry about it.”
You’d think, Hisoka thought, laying a tarp out on the ground and unrolling the bedroll and sleeping bag on top of it, that he’d learn to quit saying that. Keiko knelt gracelessly on the bed, feeling ill-at-ease. The feeling eased off when Hisoka looked away and when Tsuzuki smiled at her again. “Take it easy,” he said softly. “We’re on guard, now.” A little of the constant, drumming fear Hisoka had been feeling from her ever since they met released. She sighed and pillowed her head on her arm. Tsuzuki sat back, tender and determined.
Then again, Hisoka thought, maybe this time he’ll be right. Stranger things had happened.
The spell was complicated enough to be worth taking their time over and quiet enough to be a soft background chant. By the time the pentacle faded, Keiko’s body had relaxed, and she was snoring softly. Tsuzuki sat down, watching her. “She’s asleep?” he whispered. Hisoka nodded. Tsuzuki sighed. “She must have been exhausted,” he said. “Poor thing.”
“I don’t feel anything trying to influence her now,” Hisoka said quietly. “If there is something attacking her, it’ll probably strike when she goes into a dream state.” Which might be a few hours. He wanted to suggest that one of them go back to the office to explain what was going on and get back-up, but that would leave the other here, with himself and the girl to look after if something happened. The clearing looked peaceful enough, the breeze gently shaking the needles of the trees, but he didn’t trust it to stay that way. He should have thought of this before she went to sleep, he thought, mentally kicking himself. How idiotic was it to let this thing with Tsuzuki distract him like this? How was he supposed to work? He shoved the thought aside. “We’ll need to follow it back.”
”And block it at the same time,” Tsuzuki said firmly. “She doesn’t need to feel that happen to her again.”
Hisoka shrugged. “That will make it more complicated,” he said. “If we cut it off from her, it may vanish. Then we won’t know anything.”
“So we’ll do both,” Tsuzuki said. “I’ll keep it off her while you follow it to the source.” He hesitated. “Are you all right with that?”
“Why not?” Hisoka said. “But if I synch with the sending, I’ll only dream her dream. That won’t help.”
“No, of course not,” Tsuzuki said. “I don’t mean you should do that.” He felt even more repulsed by the idea than Hisoka had. “Can you synch with the sender?”
“I should be able to,” Hisoka said. “I’ll have to go deep into it, though.” It would make it hard to keep track of himself and hard to come out of it if something unexpected happened. The whole thing seemed ridiculously complicated, and for a moment the thought flashed through his head: I’m on vacation. I don’t have to do any of this. Let someone else handle it.
“Not too deep,” Tsuzuki said. “Just enough to find out what’s doing this and come back. I’ll tether you.”
Hisoka frowned. “You’d have to be reading my mind.”
“Right,” Tsuzuki said, slightly confused. “I think we’re getting better at that.”
I don’t want you to get any better at that. Not right now. “I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ll just stay alert.”
“Stay alert?” Tsuzuki looked dubious. “That won’t be enough. You don’t know what kind of thing we’re dealing with or what kind of power it might have.” He looked down at Keiko’s sleeping face. “It was strong enough to find her all the way in Takurazuka. I don’t want to take any chances with it.”
“But,” Hisoka said. “You-- you’ll have a hard time shielding her from the dreams and keeping track of me at the same time.” Except that he wouldn’t. Neither task would take that much concentration, and both were very necessary. Hisoka, used to being the practical one in the partnership, squirmed. How am I supposed to work with him if I don’t trust him? Don’t I trust him?
Tsuzuki felt like he was wondering the same thing. “How will you protect yourself if I don’t? You won’t be able to synch if you’re shielded.”
“I won’t synch with it deeply,” Hisoka argued. “I’ll just go and come back. I won’t be gone long enough to run into trouble.”
“How long do you think trouble takes?” Tsuzuki asked, confused by Hisoka’s objections. “You know what kind of risks there are. Why won’t you--” He cut himself off, bitter realization seeping through him.
Hisoka looked away, hating the feelings in Tsuzuki, hating that Tsuzuki had shown up to put him in this position to begin with. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Asano-san’s the one who needs help, not me.”
“Fine,” Tsuzuki said. He felt bitterly confused, again, and was growing frustrated with it. “I’ll watch over her. But if it looks like you’re in trouble, I’m going to shake you out of it.” Hisoka nodded. “That is what I’m here for. To watch your back.”
“I know,” Hisoka said. I do know that. I just...
They said nothing else until the dreams started to come.
Hisoka noticed it first. “Tsuzuki-- now!”
Tsuzuki, who had been staring unhappily into the woods, snapped into action, an ofuda in hand. “I’ve got the shield. Go!”
Hisoka closed his eyes, concentrating. The dream came on a cloud of malevolence, pushing, ready to pour into Keiko and overflow. He could feel the shape of the mind behind it, though, and it didn’t seem far away. It seemed as close as the stones around them. Hisoka took a firm mental grasp of reality and plunged into the stream of consciousness flowing toward Keiko and crashing against Tsuzuki’s shield. There. Now. Go.
And he was gone. The space around him was dark, the dimness of a crescent-moon night, without the glow of cities on the horizon. He was in a well-swept courtyard with ornamental trees and stones arranged around him. The harmonies felt off, though. Possibly because of the man standing in front of him.
The priest was taller than Hisoka, but not actually that large-- shorter than Tsuzuki, certainly. His head was shaven, and he wore a priest’s robes but not a priest’s calm. He drew back when he saw Hisoka, his face dim in the shadows. “Where is she?” he demanded.
“What do you want with her?” Hisoka asked, ready to fight or fly. He’d used the rudest possible form of the word ‘you,’ he realized. It had felt right.
“None of your concern,” the priest said. “It has nothing to do with anyone but she and I. It’s between us.” He crossed his arms, looking official. “You can just get out of here.”
He felt... sweaty, Hisoka thought. And overpowering. Most people contain their emotions at least a little bit, keeping them to themselves. But this man was perfectly willing for his feelings to spill over, to let them overrun him, to let them overrun anyone who might be around him. Hisoka had felt this before, lust and power all mixed together, ready to strike out and seize. He shivered. He’d seen enough, he thought, he should leave now, but he couldn’t leave that feeling unchallenged. “She wants nothing to do with you,” he said. “Leave her alone.”
“She’s mine,” the priest said. “I’ve wanted her for so long, and now I have her. Every night, I have her.” He stepped forward, moonlight silvering his scowl. “I’ve been so patient. You have no business telling me now that I can’t have her.”
“She doesn’t want you,” Hisoka snapped. He was breathing fast, feeling the man coming toward him more strongly with every pulse of his blood.
“It doesn’t matter,” the man said. Hisoka could feel his lust, his gleeful anticipation. “I’ve had her, now. No-one else could want her. So I can have her. I can have her as often as I like. It’s my right.”
“No,” Hisoka said. His feelings were too strong, were all around them, echoing through the courtyard. Hisoka found himself fighting, feeling overwhelmed. I should have let Tsuzuki tether me, he thought. Damn. I need to find my way out, I need to feel something other than him, but it’s like he’s everywhere. “What the hell makes you think that that’s your right, asshole? What about her rights?”
“That doesn’t matter any more,” the man said. “Besides, she knows what she’s for. She must. She keeps coming back.” Hisoka was gasping now because he could feel the man, could feel the memories, and he couldn’t block them out. “Over and over,” the man said, and Hisoka could feel Keiko’s mouth under his own, bruising hard, the softness of her breasts, the way her thighs parted when he shoved his way between them. “Again and again. She’s mine.” Hisoka gagged, trapped in the sound of her voice when she sobbed and the feeling of pleasure when she shrieked at a particularly hard thrust, and he wanted to throw up, and he wanted to get away, and this was wrong, this was wrong, this was more wrong than anything he’d known because he was enjoying it. He was feeling the man’s enjoyment of her, her fear and her body, and he couldn’t tell where the man stopped and he started. He screamed. “NO!”
“Mine,” the man said, and Hisoka wanted, just as much as he did, to hold her down, to bury his hands in her hair and feel her struggling against him. “I never knew I could feel this strong, this virile. I never knew I could enjoy my body so much. I cut myself off from it; for years, for hundreds and hundreds of years, I denied it. For my whole life, I tried to pretend that it wasn’t there, that it didn’t call me.” He felt hard and urgent and alive in his lust, in his wanting. “Now I know. Now I understand.” He laughed. “Who could tell me to give this up? I gave it up once. Never again. No matter what they say, no matter what the gods do.” He laughed again. “I will feel this forever!”
Hisoka opened his eyes and did not see the man in front of him in the courtyard. He saw nothing at all. Of course-- the courtyard was the man, as much a projection of his mind as the image of him had been. But what Hisoka saw mattered much less than what he felt strumming through every cell of him. He wanted her again. Hard and rough and fast, until he’d had enough of her. She was all he wanted, and nothing else would satisfy.
Fortunately, he knew just where to find her.
Tsuzuki caught his partner as Hisoka slumped, going from trance right into dream. Keiko’s eyes twitched behind her eyelids in her own dreams, but her face was relaxed, at ease. Good, Tsuzuki thought. I’m sure she needs the sleep. It’s hard enough to be scared, but exhausted and scared at once is ten times worse.
He checked the shield over Keiko to make sure there were no cracks or weaknesses in it. Finding none, he carefully leaned Hisoka against his pack and took off his trenchcoat to lay it over him. There, he thought, and sat down to watch them both. Hisoka’s face was serious, focused, even when his consciousness wasn’t behind it. Tsuzuki smiled. Just like him, isn’t it? It seemed like he spent a lot of time watching Hisoka sleep. There was something about watching over him that eased the heart just in the simple actionless action. It felt almost peaceful.
Tsuzuki crouched between the two of them, rocking back on his heels. Too bad it can’t stay like that, he thought. I’m making him nervous, lately. I shouldn’t have asked so much of him. I should have known better than that. After Muraki, I’m surprised he lets people touch him at all. It’s amazing that he let me as close as he did. What’s wrong with me that I couldn’t just leave it at that? He sighed and checked the shield again, running a hand over the invisible boundary surrounding Keiko. Fine. Quiet. I should let it stay that way, Tsuzuki thought. Try to forget I ever said anything and hope he can do the same. I should have left it at friendship. That was more than enough. Just because I wanted to see something more from him doesn’t mean there was something there.
Except. Except that, despite everything they said, he couldn’t forget how Hisoka had held him in the fire. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had held him like that, like half Hisoka’s life was inside his chest, like the younger man was trying with all his strength to join the halves into a whole. Like he needed Tsuzuki to live. I can’t say I deserve for you to love me, he thought, or that I have any right to expect it. But then... what was that?
Nothing to do with right now, Tsuzuki thought firmly. For one thing, he couldn’t afford to be distracted while he had the two of them to watch over. For another, there was simply nothing he could do about it unless Hisoka decided to. He wouldn’t push, not if it would scare him. He didn’t have to be that much of a scum. Partners, he thought. And as his partner, I’m going to keep him from running into any trouble while he jaunts around the astral plane by himself because he doesn’t want me inside his mind any more. Tsuzuki sighed. Partners.
Keiko stirred, murmuring. “Oh...” she said, opening her eyes. She looked up at Tsuzuki.
“Better?” Tsuzuki asked. Some of the tension had left her face, and he was glad to see it go. She didn’t have that haggard bombing-victim look any more, and he could see the youth starting to shine again. Good, he thought.
She sat up. “No dreams,” she said wonderingly. She rubbed her eyes. “How long was I asleep?”
“A few hours,” Tsuzuki said. He gestured at his partner, who was still slumped against the pack. “Hisoka’s gone to find out what he can about whatever was sending them to you.” He checked his watch. “He should be about done. I’ll wake him up.”
“Nmm,” Keiko said.
Tsuzuki turned back to her, all attention. “Mm?”
Keiko brushed her hair back from her face. “I just... I feel bad about it. He keeps getting in the way for me, you know? Like, none of this is his fault. He shouldn’t have to, to suffer for it.”
”Keiko-chan,” Tsuzuki said seriously. “Neither should you.” He caught her eye and held it. “You never did anything to deserve it.”
”I know!” she said. “Well, I mean... I didn’t do anything.” She pushed the sleeping bag away from her legs, trying to smooth down a rip in her skirt. “But she... when I dream? I feel like I did.”
No, Tsuzuki thought. You’re too young to have to deal with that. “Why?”
“Because she did,” Keiko said. “My past self. In the dream. She’d known him a little bit, before he... attacked her. She used to smile at him when he passed. So when he, when he did that, I kept thinking I shouldn’t have been so forward. I shouldn’t have encouraged him, I knew what men are like.”
“Keiko-chan,” Tsuzuki said, “men aren’t.” He wanted to make her understand this. It mattered. “I would never do that. No matter how much I wanted someone. Just because I’d be able to, that doesn’t make it all right.” His hands were clasped in his lap so tightly they hurt. “Anyone who’d do that-- there’s something wrong with him. Not you.” Because I do not believe that you ever did anything in your life to hurt anyone, not really. And you must not go on feeling guilty about this.
“I know,” Keiko said. “It’s totally what she was thinking, you know? Not what I was. It’s hard to keep that separate sometimes, but... yeah. Obviously.” She smiled at him. “Don’t worry about it.”
Tsuzuki blinked. “Okay,” he said, not quite sure what to make of that confident assurance. Either a really good mask or not a mask at all, and he couldn’t quite make sense of either. He smiled back and went to shake Hisoka’s shoulder. “Hisoka. Come back. Wake up.”
Hisoka opened his eyes, and there was something odd about it. It’s that he didn’t flinch, Tsuzuki thought, wincing inside. When did that become normal for him again? “Tsuzuki,” Hisoka said, sitting up and handing Tsuzuki his trench-coat. “Did it work?”
Tsuzuki nodded. “She was fine.” Keiko smiled agreement. “What did you find?”
Hisoka rubbed his forehead. “A fairy-tale,” he said. “I had thought this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t remember the details.” He stretched out a crick in his neck. “Is there any of that tea left?”
“Sure.” Tsuzuki poured the last contents of the thermos into a cup and handed it over.
Hisoka inhaled the scent deeply, then drank. “I read this story a long time ago,” he said. “But I had to see it to know the truth.”
Tsuzuki sat forward. There was something odd here, and he wondered if Hisoka had really come back so easily. He seemed all right, but... “So?”
“So,” Hisoka said. “A very long time ago, there was a priest named Ajari Joan. He lived in a monastary built on this spot right here ever since he was a very small boy, and he wanted only to serve God and find enlightenment. But one day, he saw a beautiful girl. She was so beautiful that she was all he could think about.” Hisoka’s voice had taken on a story-teller’s cadence, and Tsuzuki listened, entranced. He hadn’t known his partner could do this. He sounded completely different than normal. That is-- Tsuzuki blinked, then tried to keep his face still and listen. “In prayer or at meals, at work or in bed at night, he could think of nothing but her. He was obsessed. Finally, there was nothing he could do but go to her one night, in the dark of the new moon.
“Now, the gods saw this, and they were angry that he broke his vows.” Keiko hissed under her breath. Hisoka went on, unnoticing. “So they punished him by turning him into a huge devil. The devil rampaged, roaring in fury. It set fire to the monastary, and it killed all the priests and all the villagers, and still its fury did not abate.
“But Ajari Joan saw what he had done, and he regretted that he had broken his vows to God. So he made a supreme act of will, and he repented. In that moment, he was transformed back into his normal body, and he sat down immediately to pray. He prayed as hard as he could, trying to subdue the lust that had made him act this way, doing nothing but pray. He prayed so hard and so long that he starved and wasted away, and still he went on praying so that he turned into a skeleton who can still be seen on this very mountain, chanting, with prayer beads in its bony hands.”
Tsuzuki whistled. “That explains it,” he said, watching Hisoka carefully. “But if this Ajari repented, then why is he still after Keiko-chan?”
Hisoka didn’t hesitate. “Because he hadn’t seen her again when he repented,” he said. “He hadn’t known she reincarnated until he felt her two years ago. Then he remembered what it was he’d been struggling to repent from all this time.” He shrugged, and there was something odd about his tone. “Looks like he changed his mind.”
Keiko muttered something that Tsuzuki wouldn’t have thought a schoolgirl would say in public. “And decided to drag me into it?”
“He didn’t see any difference,” Hisoka said easily. Keiko flushed.
Tsuzuki frowned. That’s not like him, he thought. It’s not that he wouldn’t say something like that, but he wouldn’t say it that way. Tsuzuki remembered black wings and shivered inside. Unless he didn’t. Unless it wasn’t him saying that at all. No... “Just like how Hijiri got dragged in,” he said thoughtfully, watching Hisoka’s face, “when Kazusa got his father’s eye.”
Hisoka blinked at him. “When Hijiri got her father’s eye, you mean?” he asked, sounding puzzled. “How is that anything like this?”
“Um,” Tsuzuki said, flustered but mostly relieved. “Well, it seemed like one of the more interesting reincarnation cases we’ve handled.”
”Reincarnation cases?” Hisoka was giving him that look, the one that said ‘I don’t know how you manage to find your way out of bed in the morning.’ It was utterly appalled that anyone could say something that stupid, and it was absolutely pure Hisoka.
All right, Tsuzuki thought. I was wrong. That is him. I’m being paranoid. He breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the business at hand. “Anyway, now we know. The first thing is to get Keiko-chan away.” He checked with her. “If we can block the dreams, will you be okay?”
”I guess,” Keiko said. “I mean, it’s not like I can change what happened back then. But... you’ll do something about him?”
Tsuzuki nodded. “The dead have no business bothering the living,” he said. “We’ll find a way to make Ajari Joan move on to whatever afterlife he belongs in. It would be a good idea to take Keiko-chan back to Meifu, though, until we’ve finished. It’s our headquarters-- you’ll be safer there,” he said. She stood up, ready to go. Tsuzuki rolled up the bed-roll and handed it to Hisoka. “Ready?”
“I’ll take Keiko,” Hisoka offered. He stood, the pack in one hand, looking perfectly at ease.
That... Tsuzuki thought. There's still something wrong with that. “Are you sure?”
“Of course,” Hisoka said. “Come on, we’re wasting time.” He took Keiko’s hand and disappeared.
That sounded natural enough. But... Uncertain, Tsuzuki also blinked out, heading Meifu-wards.
The clearing was still for a moment. Then Hisoka and Keiko reappeared. Hisoka dropped the pack, but kept hold of her hand. “Finally,” he said. “I thought he’d never leave.” He smiled at her, an expression that held nothing for her, just gloating for him. “Keiko-chan.”