Tugging the scarf from his neck and snapping his cell phone closed, Usami Akihiko stepped into the restaurant.
Drat that Aikawa for choosing the perfect moment to call about his deadlines and disrupt his date with Misaki! The boy had used the momentary distraction to flee the car (It’s cold, so I’ll wait inside, Usagi-san!) and had rejected both Akihiko’s hurried offer to keep the heater running (jeez, Usagi-san, just ‘cause you’re rich and can afford it doesn’t mean you should waste gas!) and as well as the subsequent offer to share body heat (n-no, really—get off me!— I’m good, s-see you inside!). Humph. Well, they’d both make up for it later.
Akihiko politely declined the frazzled-looking hostess’s offer to show him to a table, informing her he was meeting someone and that he could find the table by himself, thank you. She shot him a grateful look as she hurried off to seat the large family that had just walked in behind him, and Akihiko set off alone on a quest for his Misaki.
The restaurant was quite busy, and he found himself dodging waiters and waitresses as he checked each table. If Akihiko had had his way, he and his adorable little boyfriend would be dining in style at some five-star hotel somewhere (one that may or may not have required a plane to get to) and there would have been a veritable army of wait-staff available to assist him. But Misaki had insisted that if they were going to have a date, they were going to have a “normal” date, at a “normal” restaurant, and Akihiko hadn’t had the heart to overrule him.
He grumbled under his breath. Even though Misaki had come willingly, this date wouldn’t be worthwhile if he couldn’t even find the other person involved. Maybe he should go back and insist that the hostess—
“…and I really don’t think so. I mean, it’s only like that if—“
Akihiko’s head snapped up. There. He’d know that voice anywhere. His Misaki. He hurried off towards the source, a distant corner he hadn’t visited yet.
“…ah, that’s perfect! But what about the other ones? The yellow ones? What are they—?”
Akihiko quickened his pace. Who was Misaki talking to with such enthusiasm? Maybe some busty young waitress, all fluttering eyelashes and evil intentions? Or even worse, an equally young and pretty waiter, one that would take advantage of Misaki’s naiveté to commit unspeakable acts—?
Akihiko was walking fast enough to be almost running at this point, the tables and dining patrons flying past on either side of him. He had to get over there now. He dodged a waiter bearing a platter of food, stumbled over a chair leg, skidded around the corner and then…stopped dead.
His adorable Misaki was wearing a knit cap topped with bear ears.
All thoughts were driven from Akihiko’s head. He did not pause to wonder how Misaki, whose back was towards him, had acquired such a cap, or take notice that the boy’s gestures were somewhat different than those he normally used while speaking. Nor did he notice that the Misaki’s conversation partner was not the waiter he was expecting, but an effeminate blond boy who sat primly on the opposite side of the table.
His adorable Misaki was wearing a knit cap topped with bear ears. That was all that mattered.
In three quick strides Akihiko crossed the space that separated them. Wrapping Misaki’s slim body in his arms, he pressed his face against the side of his lover’s head, his lips a scant centimeter from the warm shell of an ear.
“You know, if you wanted to seduce me, Misaki, you couldn’t have chosen better.”
His Royal Majesty, Shibuya Yuuri, the twenty-seventh Maoh of Shin Makoku, froze in horror.
Some guy he’d never met before in his life was…was…
Yuuri was quite used to people trying to kill him. He knew what to do when that kind of thing happened (yell for Conrad, usually). But what is one supposed to do when a complete stranger mistakes you for his male lover? At least, Yuuri hoped it was a mistake. Though the endless bizarre customs of Shin Makoku and its neighboring kingdoms had make him kind of paranoid about that sort of thing, he was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything in the last few minutes that could be interpreted in Japan as flirting or a proposition or anything. He also was desperately hoping he was right about being mistaken for a male lover. It was embarrassing enough that his mother kept trying to persuade him to try on wedding dresses without random strangers thinking he was a girl too.
But the guy was still clinging to him like a hell-paradise goala to a tree branch and…Oh Shinou, the guy was nibbling on his ear now! Yuuri, still too stunned to speak, began to struggle frantically, twisting towards Wolfram for help—
And then he saw Wolfram’s face. Yuuri nearly fainted on the spot. He was doomed.
Something was wrong.
Misaki sometimes froze up when Akihiko attempted to demonstrate his affection in public (the poor boy, sadly enough, was still reluctant to be seen as being gay), but he usually unfroze a second later, either giving in or loudly protesting. But this time, Misaki stayed as stiff and silent as a statue. Akihiko, mildly confused, gently nipped the boy’s ear to try and get a reaction. His lover simply made a not-very-arousing choked sound and began to flop about in his arms like a dying fish.
Very much confused now, Akihiko opened his eyes, and for the first time, got a good look at exactly who it was he was molesting.
Two wide, dark eyes stared out from a rounded face a few years younger than Misaki’s, a face framed by some short strands of pitch-black hair that had escaped the bear-eared cap. Moreover, now that he thought of it, the body he was wrapped around had a little too much muscle on it to be…
The black-haired boy suddenly ceased his weak struggles, his eyes opening wider than Akihiko thought was possible, his face twisting into an expression of the utmost horror. Akihiko followed his gaze across the table to the other occupant, a blond foreigner with long-lashed green eyes.
A blond foreigner whose eyes gleamed like those of every angry, jealous boyfriend Akihiko had ever met. Every angry, jealous boyfriend combined.
It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion as the foreigner rose to his feet and melodramatically pointed at the two of them with a single slim finger. Then, the accusing digit dipped lower, coming to rest pointing squarely at the black-haired boy.
The foreigner took a deep breath.
“YUURI, YOU CHEATER!!”
How dare he! How dare that uncouth gorilla lay hands upon his Yuuri! Wolfram had known coming to Yuuri’s world had been an ill-advised idea, but he had not expected to encounter such an affront to his honor!
So this, this was why Yuuri had been so adverse to letting the royal court visit his home—he had, as Wolfram had dreaded, a secret lover on the side! And then wimp had had the gall to drag the object of his affair before his very eyes!
“Wo-Wolfram, I can explain! This is a mistake! I-I didn’t—“
“You bet it’s a mistake, you two-timing WIMP!” Wolfram snarled, jabbing his outstretched finger for emphasis. “And believe me, once I’m done with you, you shall never make a mistake again!” How many times had he reminded Yuuri that, as his fiancé, he belonged to Wolfram alone? How many times had he made it perfectly clear what he would he would do if Yuuri’s eye ever wandered?
“Please, Wolfram, really, I—“
“I assure you boys, it was an honest mistake,” interrupted the stranger, who seemed to be attempting to untangle himself from Yuuri. “A simple case of mistaken identity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off and save us from further embarrassment.”
Wolfram glared fiercely at the man, who somewhat resembled an off-colored, short-haired, human version of Gwendal (this actually caused Wolfram’s opinion of him to drop a few notches). To make matters worse, despite the stranger’s insistence on leaving, the man was still indecently wrapped around Yuuri.
Wolfram opinion fell a further few levels as his anger again blasted towards the atmospheric strata where even kohi fear to fly. “Excuse me! ‘Embarrassment’? That’s my fiancé you’re hanging all over! You should be apologizing on your knees, you mangy cur, for defiling him with your filthy hands! And who knows in what other ways you’ve touched him when I haven’t been watching? Have you—“
“Look, just shut up for a second,” the human stranger growled. “My tie’s stuck in your boyfriend’s—fiancé’s— damn jacket zipper, alright? I’ve never met either of you before, and I just want to get out of here and forget this ever happened. So, kid, if you’d just let me finish, I’ll—“
Kid? Kid? Wolfram’s free hand balled into a fist. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so insulted—he was at least thrice that human’s age! If he only had his sword…Damn this world and its stupid laws against the carrying of blades! But then again, a length of Mazoku-forged steel in the gut would be too good a death for the knave. A fiery demise might be more appropriate, but in this human-infested world, it was all but impossible to muster up enough Maryoku for a decent fireball…
Almost of its own accord, his hand began to grope across the tabletop, seeking, seeking—
(Why did the humans here require so many different types of utensil to eat, anyway? Sharp pronged things, flat curved things, long, stick-like things—weren’t sporks good enough for everyone?)
Ah, there it was. The handle of the dull, flat knife he had unwrapped from his napkin earlier felt cheap and flimsy in his hand, but it would make do. Even the meanest dagger or shiv could be deadly in the hands of a trained warrior, and after spending several decades in Shin Makoku’s army, Wolfram certainly was no amateur. It was enough to slash an eye or lip, something painful, something that would scar….
There was a flurry of movement and the sound of dishes crashing to the floor, and Wolfram suddenly found himself looking down into a pair of huge, dark eyes, his fiancé’s hands wrapped tightly around his knife-arm. With what must have taken a Maoh-mode-like burst of super-human strength, Yuuri had ripped himself free from the stranger’s grasp, completely knocking the much larger man onto the floor, and thrown himself across the table. To stop Wolfram.
“Wolfram, please. Remember where you are! Remember—“Yuuri’s tone was half pleading, half (Wolfram noted with a bit of pride) commanding. Wolfram stared down into his fiancé’s eyes, his anger slowly ebbing, and a sense of guilt creeping in to replace it. He hadn’t really been planning to hurt the stranger—threaten him, remind him of his place yes, but actually hurt him, no. The expression of Yuuri’s face, however, clearly showed that the young king had thought Wolfram’s threatening movements had indeed been made with the intent to commit violence.
Wolfram looked away from that accusing stare, his feelings of guilt increasing. This…this was Yuuri’s world. Yuuri’s world, which Yuuri himself had always insisted was unbelievably safe and peaceful (at least, in circumstances not involving dark and ancient Mazoku magic). What was Wolfram doing, bringing the bloody practices of his homeland to this place that Yuuri held so dear? And…and what kind of subject was he, immediately leaping to the most violent solution to the problem when his very king always chose the most pacifistic path? True, Wolfram often felt Yuuri’s policies were naïve and foolish, but even he had to admit that Shin Makoku and its neighboring kingdoms had changed for the better ever since the double-black had taken the throne.
Not that he would ever tell him that, of course.
Wolfram harrumphed loudly. “Of course I remember where we are, wimp. How could I not when we’re surrounded by all these humans?”
Yuuri blinked up at him in surprise.
“And it wasn’t like I was going to do anything you know,” Wolfram continued stiffly, crossing his arms. “Putting a commoner like that in his place would be an utter waste of time. There was no need to stop me.”
“Oh,” said Yuuri. “I thought you were—uh…well…”
“Well what?” Wolfram shot him his fiercest glare.
“Uh…never mind,” Yuuri muttered, sliding off the table. “Sorry.”
“Don’t call me a wimp!”
“Well, that’s what you are. Wimp.”
“Am not! Wolfram, you’re—“Yuuri paused, then took a deep breath. “Look, Wolfram, this whole thing, the weird guy, everything…you do realize I had nothing to do with it right? It was probably just what he said, an honest mistake—“
“Wolf-raaam! You know I would never—with a guy—I mean, another guy! I—“
“We’ll talk about this later,” Wolfram promised flatly. Now that his mind was unclouded by indignation, it was obvious that the whole situation was not Yuuri’s fault—the young king didn’t have a dishonest bone in his body, much less the nerve to have an illicit affair. And besides, if Yuuri felt uncomfortable having a romantic relationship with a boy as pretty as Wolfram himself, there was absolutely no way he’d have anything to do with a man as broad and brutish as that human. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to keep his fiancé on his toes, to let him sweat a bit. Give him a taste of what would happen if one day he did cheat. Yes.
Yuuri shivered. “O-okay. Um, I’m going to see if that guy is alright. I think I pulled on his tie kind of hard when I got up. I might have, er, strangled him…”
And with that, the twenty-seventh Demon King of Shin Makoku zipped away, to tend yet again to the well-being of a person who had wronged him.
Wolfram ground his teeth together. The human had only just now sat up, and from the looks of the way he was rubbing beneath that stupid strip of silk around his neck, he had indeed been nearly garroted when Yuuri had pulled free earlier. The gorilla-like barbarian didn’t seem to appreciate Yuuri’s enthusiastic attention, however; although Wolfram couldn’t pick out his individual words, the stranger’s tone was brusque and short.
Wolfram’s fist tightened around the dinner knife he still held in his hand. That human should be honored that a being as illustrious as the Mazoku king would even look in his direction, much less express concern over his welfare. What’s more, he should be apologizing on bended knee for laying hands on the royal personage! Of course, like the majority of species, the stranger probably lived in complete ignorance of the world around him, and had no idea of in whose august presence he now sat…
That was still no excuse. Honor still dictated that the situation be rectified somehow. Clearly Yuuri wasn’t going to take action, and the rest of the royal retinue had gone missing earlier that evening and had yet to reappear. That left everything up to Wolfram.
Without effort, he flipped his knife from his left hand to his right, then tossed it high into the air. The simple piece of cutlery soared upwards in a long arc, glittering beneath the steady, smokeless lights that he had found so strange when he had first come to this world.
Wolfram smirked. He had indirectly promised Yuuri that he would not use violence against the stranger, but if his time with his dark-eyed king had taught him anything at all, it was that not all conflicts had to be decided directly by the blade.
With a resounding ‘thunk,’ the knife landed, point-first, directly between the stranger’s knees.
Usami Akihiko was not having a pleasant evening. Hell, he wasn’t even having a normal unpleasant evening—that would’ve involved a frantic, in-person Aikawa screaming in his ear about his deadlines, a depleted cigarette supply, and Misaki spending the night out with that bastard Sumi.
No, Akihiko was having an exceptionally bad, once-in-a-decade bad evening, the sort he hadn’t experienced since his father had insisted on having a bath with his fourteen-year old self in order to discuss Akihiko’s emerging (read: firmly established) sexuality.
Then again, Akihiko might have preferred that excruciatingly awkward conversation and the flotilla of rubber duckies that accompanied it to his current predicament. His teddy bear obsession causing him to shamefully mistake an underage boy as his own lover, having to face down said underage boy’s enraged boyfriend (fiancé?), being knocked to the ground and getting half-choked by his own necktie—could anything make this situation worse?
Oh yes. Misaki was still missing.
“Hey, mister, are you sure you’re all right? Really sorry about that, yeah. Um, can I get you some ice? Does your neck hurt? Sorry I got up like that, but Wolfram’s been known to go crazy sometimes, so I had to stop him. Are you here with anyone? Would you like me to—“
Akihiko roughly brushed the black-haired boy’s hand off his shoulder and growled an indistinct reply. The kid, who had breathlessly introduced himself as Shibuya Yuuri—weird name, he must get made fun of all the time—had practically pounced on Akihiko while he’d been trying to regain his breath, and since then had been spouting a nonstop stream of apologies, explanations, and offers of aid. The kid probably thought he was being helpful, but in reality, he was just giving Akihiko a headache. And the fact the boy sounded exactly like Misaki just added another element of weirdness to the whole thing.
Akihiko rubbed his temples. Was it still too late to find Misaki, shove him onto a plane, enjoy a relaxing dinner in a distant city, and then have fluffy, post-date sex? Misaki would probably complain that he was making him miss class the next day, but that didn’t really matter. Akihiko was going to need a healthy dose of Misaki’s body in order to forget this ever happened.
Of course, the plan was dependant on getting away from these two strange boys and actually locating Misaki’s whereabouts. Once again brushing off the puppy-like attentions of the black-haired boy, Akihiko pressed a hand to the floor and began to push himself up—
He blinked for a moment at the sharp piece of metal buried in the patch of floor between his legs, his mind refusing to register what had happened. Then, suddenly, it hit him.
Someone had thrown a knife at him!
A fucking knife!
His head snapped up. The blond foreigner wasn’t even attempting to hide the fact that he had been the one to throw it. The kid’s arm was still extended, even, his wrist still bent. And across the brat’s face was one of the most evil smirks Akihiko had ever seen.
That was it. That was it! Akihiko had put up with that brat’s tantrum long enough. Bad publicity or no, that kid needed to be taught a lesson. Akihiko was going to get up off this floor right now and—
Akihiko clapped his hands against the sides of his head. The black-haired boy, Yuuri, or whatever his name was, had just shrieked directly into his ears.
“Wolfram, you said you wouldn’t!” the boy screeched again, leaping up and dashing towards his friend. “You said you wouldn’t do anything to him! I told you that he had nothing to do with—“
The blond brat crossed his arms and stuck his pointed nose in the air. “Humph. I promised no such thing,” he said prissily. “I only said that I had no intentions of harming that villain at moment.”
“You are too forgiving of such an affront to your person, Yuuri. I, however, am not.” The foreign boy turned towards Akihiko, his eyes glowing with a demonic light. “And I swear, to you, as your fiancé, that I shall not rest until this blackguard’s presumption is dearly paid for.”
From the floor, Akihiko could only gape. Was the boy mad? Normal people don’t—don’t threaten anyone like that. Normal people don’t take an innocent, though embarrassing, mistake as reason to promise bodily harm.
Normal people don’t throw knives with deadly accuracy, either.
Maybe, just maybe he should just swallow his pride, find Misaki, and beat the hell out of this establishment. Fucking hell. There had to be plenty of good restaurants on the other side of town that didn’t allow freaks and crazies into ‘em. And since the two boys were wrapped up in their argument, now would be the perfect time to slip away without the blond brat noticing and throwing another hissy fit…
Akihiko growled an oath under his breath. Somehow his entire encounter with the boys had taken place without any of the restaurant’s staff taking notice. Until now. The poor waiter who had decided to interfere in the fight looked positively terrified at having to intercede his minimum-wage self between the two sides.
“Uh…is there a problem here?” asked the trembling waiter, who sported a pair of bottle-cap glasses and a bad case of acne. “I-I’ve called the manager, so if you guys would p-please s-stop fighting…”
Dammit. If it were leaked that award-winning author Usami Akihiko had been thrown out of a popular restaurant, or worse, arrested, the press would have a field day. Not that would matter to him, of course, but Aikawa would be on his back for months, yelling, interfering with his time with Misaki, constantly waving lower-than-usual book sales figures in his face…
Akihiko took a long, deep breath before climbing to his feet. Dusting off the front of his slacks, he turned towards the waiter, his best book-promotion smile on his face. “I’m terribly sorry for the disruption,” he said smoothly. “This was just a minor argument, truly. I was just about to take my leave. No harm done.”
“O-okay. If you say so,” the waiter said dubiously. “You sure you don’t need to talk to the manager?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be going, then.” Before the waiter could object, Akihiko turned and walked off, leaving the unfortunate fellow to deal on his own with the two oddball, violent teenagers, both of whom were still animatedly shouting at each other. However, before he had gone more than a few steps, something caught Akihiko’s eye.
The knife the blond brat had flung at him earlier was still embedded in the floorboards of the restaurant. It would probably be best if he didn’t leave it there—it might cause unwanted attention, which might lead to unwanted questions, which might lead to the police (and perhaps the press, too) tracking him down. Certainly not something he wanted to deal with.
Nonchalantly, he sidled up to the knife. Perhaps if the rest of his date with Misaki went well, he might even keep the damn thing as a souvenir. Stooping swiftly, he plucked the blade from the floor and tucked it into his sleeve.
The shout rang from the rafters to the kitchens. Every head in the restaurant turned towards the sound, including Akihiko’s. Unsurprisingly, the shout had come from the foreign brat, blast him. The boy was dramatically pointing again, a triumphant grin splitting his features.
Akihiko glanced behind himself—no one was there. That meant the kid was pointing at him this time. Mentally groaning, he turned to face the foreigner, bracing himself for the ensuing dramatics.
He didn’t have to wait long. Apparently deciding that simply shouting wouldn’t cut it this time, the blond brat calmly stepped up onto the table and then proceeded to walk down the length of it, still grinning like a maniac.
“So. So,” the boy said gleefully, “I see you have decided to accept my challenge.” With each step, the few cups and plates that remained on the surface rattled and clanked, punctuating his words. “How do you wish for us to decide our contest, then? A competition of strength perhaps? Or of fleetness of foot? Considering your rough stature, human, such methods might suit you. However, I must warn you that my prowess in such things is not insignificant. ”
The foreigner stopped directly in front of Akihiko, staring down imperiously from the added height of the table, one hand resting on his cocked hip. “Or perhaps,” the boy continued, his voice suddenly stiff and angry, “you would rather us settle this duel in through contest of arms?
Off to one side, Akihiko could hear the other boy, Yuuri, spluttering in what sounded like panic. Akihiko, though, was too preoccupied with what the first had just said to pay much attention to it.
Accepting his challenge? A duel? A “contest of arms?” Was the kid offering to fight him? With weapons?
And had he just referred to him as “human?”
It was right then and there that Usami Akihiko came to the conclusion that he was dealing with someone who was completely and utterly delusional. No doubt about it. And had never had any desire to play along with anyone’s mad little games, much less those of a tantrum-throwing adolescent.
Without saying as much as a word, Akihiko spun on his heel and simply marched off. There really was no point in being polite at this point, and he had no inclination to do so anyway. Behind him he could hear the foreigner shouting angrily at him, but he refused to pay any heed.
Until, of course, said foreigner suddenly reappeared directly in front of him.
Akihiko jerked back with a startled oath. How had the kid gotten caught up to him so quickly? The boy must have moved preternaturally fast to do so. Inhumanly fast.
“What do you think you’re doing? Do you think you can just walk away from me like that?”
Akihiko, his composure regained, just coldly stared down at the boy for a moment. “Well,” he said flatly, “I thought I was leaving a noisy child whose lack of manners just pisses me off. So yes, I can just walk away if I want.”
The kid twitched, seemingly becoming even more livid than before. Akihiko was long past caring, though.
“Look, brat,” he growled. “I don’t know where you’re from or what little world you think you’re living in, but this is Japan. You don’t just—
“Fine, so we’ll do something from Japaaann then. Hurry up and choose the means of your defeat already, you perfidious pile of sandbear scat! You-you’re trying my patience!”
“Your patience? What about mine, you little—“
“Wolfram, please stop this! I’m really sorry, mister, he just gets like this sometimes—Wolf, come on— “
“Can it, Yuuri, this is between me and the gorilla-man—“
“Gorilla-man? Listen, princess, you’re hardly—
“Wolfram, please don’t—“
“Sumo! That’s Japanese right? I challenge you to a duel through sumo!”
“You-you’re challenging me at sumo wrestling? What, did your mother drop you on your head as a baby?”
“You leave my mother out of this, you—”
“Well, brat, if you’d—“
A feeling of relief swept over Akihiko. Misaki! Misaki was here. Suddenly all the plans he had about his date, the loudmouth foreigner and his now-hyperventilating friend, and everything else in the world seemed unimportant. Well, the foreigner had been too annoying to forget completely, but all that really mattered now was finding Misaki!
Roughly pushing past the one of the boys, Akihiko darted into the aisle between the rows of tables. And there was Misaki, his adorable Misaki, charging toward him, a panicked expression splashed across the boy’s face, the hem of the black high school uniform he was inexplicably wearing billowing out behind him—
And hot on his sneakered heels, three unknown, dangerous-looking men.
When Misaki rounded the corner and saw Usagi-san standing there, he was so happy that he could’ve kissed him. Not that he didn’t do that often. Or more like, Usagi-san was usually the one kissing him, since Misaki really wasn’t very good at initiating things. And it would’ve meant kissing in front of all these strangers in the restaurant, too, which gave Misaki the shivers just thinking about. And what would happen if Usagi-san got it into his head that that sort of thing was okay? He might want to start doing stuff in public all the time, like kissing and cuddling and hand-holding—or worse—and that would be a very bad thing, right?
Anyway, when Misaki saw Usagi-san standing there, he really could have kissed him. ‘Cause he was pretty sure Usagi-san could do something about the three weird guys chasing after him. Not that the three didn’t seem to be nice enough people, but Misaki was pretty sure that they had mistaken him for somebody else when they had suddenly sat down at the table where he’d been waiting for Usagi-san. And for some reason, Misaki hadn’t been able to convince any of them that he wasn’t the person they thought he was.
The three guys had all started acting oddly from the moment they had turned up, odd in a way that you would think they were rehearsing for a play or movie or something. Two of them, Ponytail and Cosplay-Wig (it had to be a wig—natural lavender hair like that just doesn’t exist) had even called him “Your Majesty” several times! And when he had told them he wasn’t whoever this “Majesty” person was, Ponytail’s eyebrows had drawn together menacingly and Cosplay-Wig had giggled at what he insisted was “His Majesty’s little joke.” The third guy, Eyebrow-Scar, had just continued to quietly read his menu, but Misaki somehow got the feeling he was laughing behind his poker face, and definitely not the same way Cosplay-Wig was.
After a few awkward minutes in which Cosplay-Wig complemented Misaki on his own wig and contacts several times (which was strange, since Misaki wasn’t wearing either), and during which Ponytail just glared at him suspiciously and Eyebrow-Scar continued to smirk (Misaki knew he was smirking, even if he couldn’t actually see it), he’d decided that he’d had enough of all the weirdness. Getting up from the table, he’d announced that he was heading off to the bathroom. Really, though, Misaki had been planning to go find Usagi-san, who he was pretty sure would be willing fend off anyone—especially men—that Misaki felt uncomfortable around.
His plan had backfired, though—the three absurdly good-looking guys had stood, too, and told Misaki that they were coming along for his own protection. Misaki had no idea what he’d need protecting from in the bathroom of a crowded, well-lit Tokyo restaurant, but he’d panicked a little. Then that panicking had turned into running, which had then turned into the three guys chasing after him. And since this had freaked Misaki out even more, he’d found himself yelling for Usagi-san.
Thankfully, though, Usagi-san had heard him, and had come to the rescue! From the relieved expression he could see on his boyfriend’s face, it was obvious that Usagi-san was as glad to see Misaki as Misaki was to see him.
It…It was like one of those scenes in those romantic movies—which Misaki definitely did not ever, ever, ever watch—where the hero and heroine, separated by tragic circumstances and now reunited just before the end credits, bound towards each other from opposite sides of a long, sandy beach at sunset. Even though they were in the middle of a restaurant and Misaki was well aware that he was no heroine, he could almost hear the cheesy, melodramatic score playing in the background, see the equally cheesy slow-motion effects, feel the audience of middle-aged housewives and wistful young ladies readying their hankies for the tearful reunion…
And then suddenly…suddenly Usagi-san’s waiting arms were snatched away. Misaki, despondent and despairing, crumpled to the floor, unable to live on in a world where the love of his life could no longer hold him in his arms and whisper in his ear words of—
Misaki blinked. The real reason Usagi-san wasn’t before him any longer was that a blonde, foreign-looking girl a third of his boyfriend’s size had seized said boyfriend by his jacket lapels and pulled him down to her eye level, yanking him away from Misaki.
“Did you think this was finished, you lily-livered drop of dragon dung? She shrieked directly in Usagi-san’s face, jabbing her finger into his chest. “Do you think I’m just going to let you—“
“Do us a favor and stick that finger of yours in an electrical socket, why don’t you?” Usagi-san snarled right back at her, batting her hand away and roughly pulling out of her grasp. “Come, Misaki, let’s—“
But before he could finish, the girl just latched back onto his lapels and continued her earsplitting tirade.
Misaki stared at the two of them, dumbfounded. What…what in the world had happened while he’d been away? Absently, he rubbed a finger beneath the collar of his jacket, part of the standard black gakuran uniform worn at many of the local high schools. He’d been wearing one on a daily basis as less than year ago, but he’d already forgotten the way the high collar always felt like it was choking him. Not for the first time he wished that the waitress who had accidentally spilled a bowl of soup (cold, thankfully) all over him while he’d been waiting had been able to find something else for him to wear while the restaurant sent his original coat to the cleaners. Well, they had found something else, but Misaki was too much of a man to stomach the pink, pom-pom covered monstrosity.
Weirdly enough, Misaki could’ve sworn the three men who had later sat at his table had totally passed him by without notice while he’d been wearing his normal clothes. And come to think of it, where were those guys? It seemed like they’d been right behind him just a minute ago….
Suddenly Misaki realized that he wasn’t the only person watching Usagi-san and the girl verbally tear into each other. Off to one side, a plain, ordinary-looking, black-haired teenage boy stood wringing his hands as he watched the fight (which had now degenerated into a shouting match about the merits of sumo wrestling, of all things). Like Misaki, the boy was wearing a high school uniform, though he at least looked the right age to be wearing it. His choice of clothing did seem kinda odd to Misaki—weren’t all the local schools on break right now? However, since the guy seemed to be, besides himself, the only person in the restaurant that seemed to know either of the combatants, Misaki figured he would be the best person to ask what was going on.
The kid jerked in surprise before turning to face Misaki. “Ah…can I help you?”
“Er…yeah,” mumbled Misaki, fidgeting with the hem of his jacket. “I-I was wondering if you knew what’s going on? Why they’re fighting, I mean…”
The teenager sighed and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “It’s a long story.” His voice sounded tired and a little exasperated.
“Oh. I see.” Misaki and the boy stood in awkward silence for a few seconds more before Misaki decided to break the ice. “I’m Takahashi, by the way. Takahashi Misaki.”
“I’m Shibuya, Shibuya Yuuri. Nice to meet you.”
Good grief, Shibuya had an awful name. He must get teased at school all the frigging time. Misaki had only known him for a couple seconds, and he was already tempted to call him ‘Shibuya Yuri Harajuki Furi’ or something like that…
But that would be mean, of course. And Shibuya hadn’t made fun of Misaki’s own androgynous—he refused to call it feminine—name.
He really should continue the round of introductions….
“Oh, and that’s my… my friend, Usagi -san. We came here together, but he got a phone call, so I went in to wait without him.” Misaki nodded at the blonde girl, who was now standing on a chair so she could scream at Usagi-san face to face. “Friend of yours, Shibuya-kun?”
The black-haired boy nodded slowly. “I guess you say that.” He then sighed. “We’re close, but sometimes I wish Wolfram was a little less…overprotective.”
Wolfram? That certainly seemed like odd name for a girl, but Misaki stopped himself from commenting. “I know what you mean,“ he said instead, shrugging. "Usagi-san’s more than a little clingy himself. Especially when he thinks I’m not paying enough attention to him.”
Shibuya bobbed his head in agreement. “Or when he thinks you’re paying attention to someone else, or they are paying too much attention to you—er, Wolf’s like that, at least. Gets all huffy and grouchy. It’s like—“
“—Like they don’t even trust you not to go running off with someone else! Even though you’ve told them that you never, ever will. But they still keep on being jealous.”
Shibuya grinned at him. “Exactly!”
Misaki found himself returning the grin. He was definitely warming up to this Shibuya Yuuri, weird name or no. It was like there was a sort of…connection between them. And there was something about the boy’s voice—Misaki could have sworn he’d heard it somewhere before….
But anyway, thanks to their connection, whatever it was, Misaki was finally feeling comfortable enough to admit something that he normally wouldn’t have—well, normally wouldn’t have without stuttering and yelling and many, many repeated denials.
“Actually, um, just so you know, Usagi-san’s my boyfriend.”
He had expected him to react more strongly than he did. However, Shibuya just blushed slightly and half-mumbled, “I-I kinda figured.” And then for some reason, the teen started rubbing the top part of one of his ears between two fingers. The skin there was rather red, almost as if something—or someone—had bitten it.
Noticing Misaki’s gaze, Shibuya snatched his hand away from his ear and shoved it back in his pocket. He then gave Misaki another smile, though it was a little weaker than before. “And, um, just so you know,” he said, “Wolfram’s my boyfriend, too.”
Well, that was nice. What were the odds that probably the only two homos in the entire restaurant would—
Misaki spun to stare at what he had thought moments ago was a fairly handsome girl. No way she was a boy! Softly curling golden hair, slender body, slim-fingered hands, completely flat chest, solid-looking shoulders, a voice that kept cracking with every other word—wait, what?
Okay. Just a really, really, really pretty boy. So pretty that Misaki could hardly imagine anyone having a relationship with—okay, his brain did not just go there. Ew. That pretty boy was nowhere near his type. His type was more like Usagi-san, big and broad and heavy except he didn’t even have a type. There was only Usagi-san because Misaki didn’t even like guys except he did ‘cause he liked Usagi-san but not in that way but yes he really did—
“Well, actually, if we’re being totally honest, Wolf’s my fiancé.”
Misaki whipped back around to stare at Shibuya. “What, really? I mean, er, you’re both guys, so how—“
Shibuya just gave him a wry smile. “It’s sort of a long story…”
“I’ve got time.”
“I mean, it’s a really, really long story, and you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. It’s like something straight out of an anime or light novel or something.”
“Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad—“
The sound of flesh striking flesh brought Misaki whirling around. It seemed that the argument between Usagi-san and the girly boy called Wolfram had finally come to blows, though it was a bit surprising that it had been Usagi-san who had struck first. Up until now, Misaki had thought his boyfriend was a fairly cool-headed person.
Just behind him, Misaki could hear Shibuya moaning a prayer. He sighed. Wasn’t his new friend (he hoped he could count Shibuya a friend—it would be nice to have one besides Sumi-sempai) overreacting a little? Not that violence was ever a good thing, and they’d all probably definitely get thrown out of the restaurant now, but at least Usagi-san had only slapped Wolfram across the face. It wasn’t like he’d punched him or anything. It was almost like Shibuya was expecting all hell to break loose as soon as Wolfram recovered from the shock of being hit.
And then, suddenly, all hell did indeed break loose.
And then, suddenly, all hell did indeed break loose.
With a scream that probably shattered the eardrums of everyone in a three-kilometer radius, Wolfram lunged, his fingers hooked into claws. His leap carried him straight into Usagi-san’s chest, and the ensuing collision sent them both crashing to the restaurant floor. A split second later, a tall man with long dark hair shoved his way past Misaki and dove into the brawl himself. He resurfaced a moment later with Wolfram, who was snarling like a wildcat, clutched in his arms.
“Put me down! Brother, put me down! If you think that I will stand idly by and have this misbegotten peasant trample my honor to pieces, than you are sorely mistaken! Put me down and bring me my sword! I demand—“
Misaki gaped. And here he thought Usagi-san was difficult sometimes. Poor Yuuri.
“Lord Voltaire, we cannot hold them back any longer! ‘Ware!”
And then, descending like a plague of locusts, a horde of managers and assistant managers and sub-assistant managers and even a few sub-sub-assistant managers suddenly converged upon the spot. Misaki found himself being pushed backwards and out of the way as the polo-shirted and nametag-sporting swarm converged upon the fight, each member seemingly intent on breaking it up and ending the disruption once and for all.
After trying several times to push his way through the crowd, Misaki realized it was useless. Was Usagi-san all right? He could barely even see the center of the mob (where the managers appeared to actually be dog piling) much less Usagi-san! He bounced up and down on his tip-toes, calling his boyfriend’s name, trying to spot a hand, a sleeve, a tuft of Usagi-san’s dark, silvery hair, anything—
It was one of the guys from earlier, the one he’d dubbed “Eyebrow-Scar.” Misaki groaned. Usagi-san was going to get smushed by the restaurant’s collective management if he didn’t do something soon! Dealing with these guys again was the last thing he needed.
“Quickly, Your Majesty! Come this way!”
“Look, I’ve told you already,” Misaki snapped back. “I’m not—“
“But Conrad, Wolfram’s in trouble! I can’t just leave him here!”
Wait—why had Shibuya just answered? Did he and Eyebrow-Scar know each other?
“Wolfram can take care of himself. It’s best if we leave here before the police arrive. Gwendal, Lord Günter and I barely held back the staff this long—we won’t be able to keep trouble away if we don’t get moving immediately!”
“Wait, wait just a minute!” Misaki interrupted, breaking off his hunt for some sign of Usagi-san to gawk at Shibuya. “Shibuya-kun, you—you were this ‘Majesty’ person they’ve been looking for all this time? Seriously?”
Shibuya looked decidedly uncomfortable. “Um, probably. It’s kind of a nickname of mine. Sorta…. Kinda….”
Misaki, however, had already turned his attention back to Eyebrow-Scar. “How could you mistake me for him?” he angrily squawked at the older man, gesturing towards Shibuya. “We look NOTHING alike. NOTHING. Are you all blind or something?”
“Conrad, what’s he talking about?” Shibuya sounded rather confused.
Conrad, as Eyebrow-Scar seemed to be called, coughed delicately into his hand. “Nothing you need to be concerned about at the moment, Your Majesty. Right now our priority should be your safety—“
But Misaki had seen his face for just a moment, and had been able to read perfectly the half-apologetic, half embarrassed, half-good-humored (wait, was that mathematically possible?) expression he had seen there.
“YOU KNEW! You knew I wasn’t him all along!” he screeched. “So what, did you all know? Were you all laughing at me the whole time? Did you have any idea how uncomfortable that was? Did you—“
“Did we know what, your Majesty?” asked another man, jogging up to them. Ah, it was Cosplay-Wig this time, his hair as fake-looking and lavender as before. And come to think of it, the guy who had pulled Wolfram off Usagi-San had been the one Misaki had been calling “Ponytail,” right? They were all having a regular reunion over here in this corner of the restaurant, weren’t they. A make-fun-of-Misaki reunion. Bleh.
“To make matters short, Lord Weller, it would be prudent for us to depart from this place as quickly as we are able. I just heard those infernal alarm devices the city guard here—er, the police—attach to their car-things outside. With your permission, Your Majesty, I would like to…“ The purple-haired man suddenly froze, his eyes panning back and forth between Shibuya and Misaki.
“Er… Günter, are you feeling okay? Your face is kind of red.”
“Oh, yes, perfectly fine. Your Majesty—Majesties. N-never better.” And with that, Cosplay-Wig keeled over backwards in what appeared to be a dead faint, blood streaming from his nose. However, Misaki could hear him mumbling faintly, “two of them. Oh Shinou, there are two of them.”
Misaki decided he really didn’t want to know.
Three tables away, His Eminence, the Double-Black Great Sage of Shin Makoku, currently reincarnated as Murata Ken, your average, everyday highschooler, calmly took a bite of his dinner.
“You owe me another three silver half-crowns, now. I told you Captain knew all along that the kid wasn’t Bocchan.”
Murata swallowed another piece of his tonkatsu and sighed. Over Yozak’s shoulder he could see Weller pulling Shibuya towards the doors, Gunter’s unconscious body slung over his shoulder. Behind them followed the green-eyed young man, who still appeared to be furious over something.
“I don’t know what possessed you bet against him. I mean, Captain probably could identify our little king by starlight alone from a thousand paces away. Two thousand. Maybe even three.”
“True. But it wouldn’t have been sporting, Sir Grier, to bet on the same outcome,” Murata replied crisply. “And, if I’m not mistaken, I don’t you a single copper. Unless Lord von Christ fainted with happiness after seeing the true Maoh again…?”
Yozak shrugged. “You got me there. I guess we’re about even then.” He twirled his fork between his thick fingers. “I guess it all comes down to Gwendal doesn’t it?”
“So it does.”
Speaking of Gwendal, wasn’t that him climbing out of that pile of managers? Wait, never mind, it was just that writer that had picked a fight with Wolfram. Murata recognized him from a photo on the dust jacket of a book he’d had to read while still attending high school. Ghastly, gloomy story it had been. It had been his Japanese teacher’s favorite work of literature, though, and so his class had spent literally months studying it.
“I still say that Gwendal knew the kid wasn’t Yuuri all along,” Yozak continued as the writer, Usami Akihiko, was dragged back under the pile. “He practically runs the country after all. I can’t believe he’d be that oblivious.”
Murata tapped his chopsticks dismissively against the table. “Oblivious, no. Half-blind, yes.”
“He’s not grumpy all the time—he’s just squinting. And if he could see properly, then why would all of his knit animals come out so species-confused?
There seemed to be some sort of commotion on one side of the pile. The managers there seemed to be attempting to get out of the way of something.
“Hmm…that would explain a lot. Maybe I should buy him some spectacles for his birthday.”
“You could try. I doubt he’d wear them though.”
The managers were most definitely scrambling away from something now. Moments later, the identity of that something was revealed: a very disheveled Wolfram von Bielefield, armed in one hand with a dinner knife, and in the other, a battered silver cigarette lighter.
Yozak shrugged. “Well, we won’t know for sure until we ask him. Until then…” He leaned forward, grinning. “A case of Maoh manjuu on our spoiled little prince there burning down half the restaurant.”
Wolfram ignited the lighter. A plume of golden flame burst into being, reaching merrily for the ceiling.
“Seems like a good bet to me. I’ll match it with four dresses from the stoutest temple priestess—they just might fit you, by the way—on Lord von Bielefield managing to burn the whole thing down.”
For Shibuya Yuuri and Takahashi Misaki, who bonded later that evening over soba and a spirited discussion about life with difficult, jealous boyfriends, the night marked the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. For Usami Akihiko, Wolfram von Bielefield, and, in part, his half-brother, Gwendal von Voltaire, that particular evening marked instead a long and bitter animosity. Thankfully, though, in part due to the timely influence of a certain sunglasses-wearing mobster-lookalike by the name of Bob, all the charges against them were dropped. To the present day, all three refuse to talk about the incident.
And as for Murata Ken and Yozak Grier….Well, both reached home empty handed. It seems that a certain uniquely human invention— the fire sprinkler—has quite the dampening effect when applied to fire-element Maryoku blasts.
Aaaand that's all, folks!
Any comments or criticism would be appreciated.