Shades of Eternity
'May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten.'
"You can go now. Go... Go to your new King's place."
The faint yellowish sunray greeted him as Ken tardily lifted his eyelids. The blue that was the colour of sky peeked through his window, green drapes hung heavily on its sides. Ken shifted, letting the fabric of his comforter slide down his lap, sitting with a hand threading through the dark fringes. His throat suddenly felt dry.
He fisted a hand before his mouth, letting out a string of coughs—but the sounds were immediately swallowed by the stillness his room presented. He clenched his eyes shut almost desperately, striving to clear away the pestering clouds inside his mind. It was hard, though. Gradually everything became harder day by day, ever since that time. The moment when Shinou's words pierced right through him like a knife.
Sighing, he shook his head; wavy, feathery black locks swung as he did. He turned on his heels, reaching for his much needed glasses, and waltzed straight to the drawer. A couple of black uniforms and other bare necessities were shoved into a waterproof beige postman bag, and he huffed in silence.
It was time to go to his place, but the weight on his chest made it difficult.
"We're not staying too long this time, Murata," Yuuri said, chin low and eyes narrowed. His hands were digging through his backpack, blindly groping the inside. He sighed in relief once he had made sure that everything was ready in his bag, before wrapping it inside a huge plastic sack. "I have remedial classes," he added with a scowl.
"The time's different, have you forgotten, Shibuya?" Ken replied absently, nodding with a grin towards Shibuya Miko, who was excitedly waving her hand from the kitchen as he walked towards the bathroom. Yuuri raised his face at Ken, seemingly perplexed for a second, but brightened immediately.
"Then, change of plan. We'll stay longer this time," he grinned.
"As you wish, Your Majesty," Ken shrugged nonchalantly, wiggling his eyebrows when Yuuri gave him a glare. As usual, the bathroom looked neat, and Ken noticed that Miko must have changed the wallpapers—they were the shades of golden now. Yuuri gave him one last glance, in which he replied with a nod. On the third count, they were through the bathtub, passing swirling bubbles, and swallowed into the gate of another world.
"Well. This is for the better." Taking a deep breath, Yuuri murmured once their heads emerged from the water in the royal bathroom, all drenched and dripping. An excited welcome from Wolfram was heard, making Yuuri laugh.
Ken merely plastered on his smile, climbing up with little ease and accepting the towel Gunter offered him. He did not have the chance to ask what exactly Yuuri was thinking about when he muttered those ominous lines, and when Yuuri didn't show any seriousness again, he decided to shrug it off, classifying it as those silly little things Yuuri would usually say that weren't really needed to be comprehended.
It all started when Gunter said it was that time of the year again. The time when he should re-arrange the Kingdom's treasures, deciding on which of them were useless—or in other words, rubbish—and which of them were more worthy to be cared about than the others.
Ken was doomed; he should have gone straight to the Great One's temple and met Ulrike, but he wasn't fast enough to avoid Yuuri's call of adventure. Meaning, he too, was dragged to check on the royal storage room.
Morgif was sound asleep, hung on his place with funny snores coming out of his mouth. In the background, Wolfram and Yuuri chattered—or bickered, to be precise, and Conrart's low chuckles accompanied them. Gunter led the way, a scroll in his hand. But Ken stopped.
He glanced up, settling his gaze on the various shapes Morgif's mouth formed as it let out waves of snores. Pieces of recollections showered his mind, glinting transparently like old movies inside shattered pieces of glass. Flying, flowing, showing him colourful images and various tones of sound. And the sword was in them; albeit it looked different from the current Morgif.
"Murata!" Yuuri called, and the picturesque collections dispersed.
"Look, this one looks just like…" Yuuri's nose wrinkled, "an empty soda can?" His thumb and forefinger held it high to Ken's face. Wolfram harrumphed behind him.
"Wimp! That's precious! The 15th Maou got that from a traveller and it could grant your wish!"
Yuuri squeaked. "You mean, if we rubbed it or something, a genie would appear and grant a wish?"
"Something like that, but it's probably been used already, so nothing would happen," Wolfram continued, and Ken laughed.
"Interesting, isn't it, Shibuya?" he added when Yuuri made a face. "Shin Makoku's treasures come from all over the place, even from another dimension." Yuuri examined Ken's face, his black pupils narrowed. Ken cleared his throat instantly, afraid he had let something slip past his expression.
"...So you were saying that it could have come from the other planets or something." Putting the soda can back onto the dusty shelf, Yuuri diverted his attention from Ken, in which the latter silently blew a long breath.
"Well, whatever, I guess nothing can make me surprised anymore," Yuuri added wearily as his eyes caught something familiar not far from where the can was seated. "Like this bowl."
"That's the Demon Mirror, Yuuri," Wolfram warned, but Yuuri laughed it off, taking it in his hands and moving backward. At that moment, however, he stepped on something slick, and swayed. The Demon Mirror flew loosely from his grip.
And so, because it was expected for Wolfram to protect his fiancé, sliding down to the floor to cup Yuuri's head before it smashed the ground, Ken's reflex made him chase the bowl instead, catching it just in time before the small of his back landed roughly down the floor and his head bumped against the shelf.
Conrart's and Gunter's howls were heard thereafter, immediately bolting towards the three. But Ken was more concerned with the pain on the back of his head. He cracked an eye open, painstakingly bringing a hand up to rub the bump. The Demon Mirror on his other hand was secured without a crack, Ken even could see his own reflection staring back at him—
—before it turned into a familiar image. Long dark hair, pale complexion and a kind smile; these were softly gazing at him as if to speak.
Both of Ken's eyes snapped open, and in the next second his consciousness was gone.
The air was heavy, humidity clinging onto his skin as Ken's eyes flickered blearily open; a soft, strangled moan choked out of his throat. Flashes of lightning shaded his features in silvery shadows, and roars of thunder rang in his ears. Ken shifted, the world spinning and he shut his eyes for a moment before he could sit properly. Once he regained his vision back, he found himself inside a tiny shed that reeked of alcohol. Barrels seemed forgotten and dusty, trapped forever inside four gray walls with merely one steel door and a rickety window.
Clearly it was not the royal storage; it wasn't even in Blood Pledge Castle.
Slowly he pushed himself to stand, making sure his glasses stayed correctly on the bridge of his nose. Outside, the storm sounded merciless; Ken readied himself before opening the heavy metal door. As expected, he was splattered by cold, dots of rain the moment he freed himself out of the warehouse. His glasses were useless under this circumstance.
He glanced around despite his blurred vision, struggling to see past circles of water that kept on attaching themselves to his spectacles. Not far from where he was standing, was a tent set under the stone ceiling of a house; it was holding on against the anger of the winds, but only just. Under it, two people were face to face, one standing with an arrogant stance, while the other sat behind a wooden table. Ken managed to restrain the gasp that was tickling his throat.
It was Shinou.
"Great diviner; you were summoned, and I grant you the opportunity to read my future." Bright and shiny Shinou was, despite being drenched under the rain. His voice was deep and commanding, even as sparks of darkness surrounded him. Ken inched closer, hiding behind cracked pillars that were oddly strong enough to sustain the building.
The one called diviner couldn't hide the interest glittering about his irises, lines of wrinkles growing firmer as he smiled in acceptance of Shinou's offer, despite the disdain it carried. Minutes of silence drifted by, until the diviner's eyes shone with amazement, tilting his head upward to face Shinou with a start.
"What a fate you have there, young sir. Meeting a beautiful woman you will be, at the end of your trip. Having children worth of Sunshine, and a whole land to lead," he spoke with much astonishment, vibrations of excitement audible in his voice. Masking his mouth, Ken held his breath upon the prophecy.
Could it be… Is it the Shinou from four thousand years ago?
Noises even louder than the storm slashed through the night, and Ken almost bit his tongue for trying to suppress his shock. Across the pillars, Shinou had caused a chaos; cards were scattered on the ground and the crystal ball rolled, finally falling off its place. In the middle of this havoc, the fortune teller was nervously eyeing the tip of a sword that was suddenly pointed at his face.
"You're a fake!" Shinou declared; his blue eyes shrouded in darkness, the corners of his mouth tugged into a smirk that screamed of blood-thirst. "You will not do your business ever again!"
Trembling and colourless, the diviner sprawled and begged.
"I swear under my ancestor's names, I did not lie, young sir!"
But Shinou only widened his smirk, the cold steel of his sword slowly trailing against the diviner's neck, full of threats.
"I shall release you, if you close this place for seven days," he said lowly, "and I'll be taking this with me as well." A bowl was lifted from the table; Ken shook his head in both disbelief and abasement.
The Demon Mirror. Now that his brain was working again, what else could bring him to the past like this if not that demonic bowl? And it was in fact Shinou's loot from the poor old man, a shameful revelation to unfold—yet it wasn't surprising at all.
Whimpers followed suit, but Shinou had already gone after getting weak nods from the diviner. Satisfaction was visible on his back as Ken glared from behind.
"…You are going to regret this in the future," he muttered under his breath, deciding to pursue Shinou's direction, for he had nowhere else to go.
"May I know where you have gone to last night? I was unable to find you at the usual bar, light one."
Shinou looked up; in sight was a slim, graceful man with eyes and hair as dark as the night, showered by bright morning sun.
"I spent my time in a nice place," he answered the question casually, and the future Daikenja's eyes narrowed sceptically. "You haven't had your breakfast yet. Where did you go, dark one? Were you scared of last night's storm?"
"Unfortunately, it isn't as you think," Daikenja replied as calmly as could be. "I was going to a fortune teller's house, he is said to be a great diviner who can read someone's past and future in surprising accuracy. But it seems that he is on a trip. No one was home."
Shinou hummed in response, busying himself with his sword. "Haven't you given up wanting to know about your past?"
"I need my memories."
"It's a waste of time, you won't ever get them back."
Blue eyes locked with ebony ones, and silence emerged in what felt like forever. Outside the inn, hiding secretly under the immense shadow of a tree, Ken sat with both of his knees wrapped inside his arms. His heart was torn in two, knowing what Shinou had done the night before—the one fact he was never able to know because it wasn't inside Daikenja's memory.
"Trying to block him from getting his memories back… You really are afraid of losing him, aren't you?" he whispered to himself, a little annoyed and yet also amused. Maybe even a little touched. And listening to their conversations like this, made him remember when he—as Murata Ken—met Shinou for the first time.
"You left me."
Truthfully, Ken couldn't take his eyes off of the man standing before him, with the bright colour of gold decorating his features, eyes blue as the sky. He resembled Wolfram too much, but the atmosphere he brought up was a complete opposite of the young Bielefeld's. This man he recalled from his past life's memories as Shinou, was heavily blood scented.
"You left me, hiding yourself with the boxes."
Ken swallowed, his jaw firm.
"He left you because he found it dangerous to have the keys and boxes in the same place, Great One."
"Didn't you trust me?" Shinou's eyes were deep, and hard to read.
"You're wrong," countered Ken. "Daikenja was thinking about other threats. Such as those from the other countries."
Shinou might have loved wars too much, and his arrogant nature that told him he had to be above others had made him want to keep all the boxes and keys to himself. He didn't want to use them, yet he didn't want to destroy them—let alone give them to other people. Thus, he had asked Daikenja to plant the keys inside his body—which Daikenja had declined to do. Instead, the sage put the keys inside the limbs of Shinou's loyal servants, and fled to Earth with two of the boxes.
Despite how hard it had been for him to do—to be far from Shinou.
"But you came back." Suddenly, Shinou's voice was low, meaningful. But Ken's eyes were passive at the remark.
"I'm not him. I won't help you collect the boxes," he stated, tinges of resentment audible in his tenor. "Even if I do find them, it is for Shibuya to decide, not you."
Shinou's eyes widened, seemingly perplexed at Ken's outburst. "My wish is the Demon King's wish, have you forgotten?"
Ken shook his head.
"It is not the same. You and Shibuya are different. I will do anything for him, but—" he fixed his glasses on his nose, "—I don't have any obligation to work for you."
It was silence that descended afterwards, before Shinou broke the stillness that had caused Ken's entire body to itch from deep anxiety.
"I gave you the past memories you wanted."
Upon Shinou's pointed words, Ken remained indifferent, merely shaking his head. Indeed he had traded memories with Shinou just now, but—
"Listen…. I'm not your right hand man," he paused, taking in the look on Shinou's face. "I have no reasons to be by your side."
The colour of Shinou's face was nearly translucent, and his gaze was littered with emotions.
"Then will you turn into my enemy?"
"If you become Yuuri's enemy, then I have no choice but to be the same," Ken declared decisively, purposefully saying Yuuri's first name to show how deep his existence was for him. When nothing but dull silence greeted him, Ken opted to continue, but Shinou beat him to it.
"But I need you to be by my side."
At that moment, something resembling sorrow washed over Ken.
If only… If only he were Daikenja. If only he still had even just tiny bits of Daikenja's feelings inside him, he might have been incredibly happy to hear that. But...
"It would have been better if you had told him that four thousand years ago."
It was almost hollow, Shinou's gaze. "…Is it too late now?"
"Yes, it is." Biting his lower lip, Ken's gaze disappeared behind the gleam of his glasses. "The person who was waiting for those words, whom you have always been looking for, or"—gradually his voice turned bitter, lower, softer—"or the one who was longing for his past memories, who was also your younger brother, has gone four thousand years ago."
Under the unforgiving silence that was embracing them again, Shinou lowered his head, outwardly tired and fragile, covering his eyes with a hand. And Ken was staring; hesitant at first, and then he felt the hatred he was supposed to have towards Shinou and his egoistic conducts, shattering into bits.
Then the raw, hurtful tone of baritone that came out of Shinou's mouth pierced his heart.
"You can go now. Go... Go to your new King's place. I'm sure you and my little brother hate me."
Ken hesitated, however, planting his attention towards the man before him, staying rooted to the floor. Tentatively he raised his hand, pointing at the cards on the table which they used to trade memories—Shinou gave him the past Daikenja wanted, and in return, Ken gave him...
"Look at that card I gave you," Ken said almost in a whisper.
When the sheer cold was the only answer he got, he left the place quietly.
"What are you doing here, young boy?"
Snapped back to reality, Ken jerked his face up to see the future Daikenja smiling at him through the window; the sounds of the afternoon breeze rustling the leaves had spread serenity all around him. For the first time in his life, Ken lost control over his own voice.
"I see you are from the Soukoku race?" Daikenja pointed out, an amused smile forming across his face. "And here I thought I was the only one left."
The Soukoku race—the tribe of high intelligence in the Far East from which Daikenja's mother had come from—had been extinct, according to the memories Ken had gotten from Shinou. But the Daikenja he was facing now didn't even know who he was, or where he came from, aside from the black hair and black eyes he knew belonged to those called Soukoku.
"Where's the... light one…" Ken mustered a strangled voice out of his throat, trying to peek inside the room despite his nerves. Daikenja tilted his head to the side with a graceful sway of the hand.
"Oh, he's gone to the city. We're preparing for another journey."
"The journey to get your memories back?"
Daikenja's eyes widened slightly; Ken almost scolded himself out loud for slipping up.
"I overheard you..."
Chuckling lightly, Daikenja lowered his chin, letting silky strands of dark hair spill over his shoulders. "Perhaps, yes. We are, however, searching for something... more. A purpose that the light one is looking for."
"Are you fine with this?" Ken's eyebrows curled in concern, and he fixed his eyes right into Daikenja's irises. Somehow, he almost didn't care anymore whether he was in the past or not—whether he was allowed to speak to his own past self or not. What he cared about was only this weighing feeling inside him and—
"Why, yes." Answering with much ease, to Ken's surprise, Daikenja leaned by the window frame. "He is the reason I am still here, despite my lack of memories."
—he is the reason for your anguish, Geneus', and... and mine.
Ken bit his lower lip, and although he didn't know when exactly, it appeared that he had stood now, hands balled up into fists. The Daikenja watched apprehensively, totally oblivious to what was going on in Ken's mind.
Yes, Ken understood that Daikenja didn't know. He had no idea that Shinou might be his big brother, and that he was in line for the throne in the far away Kingdom their father was leader of. He was oblivious that Morgif was in his hands when he tried to kill Shinou, just like their other half-siblings—fighting over the role of King. He had no clue, how Shinou tried hard to cover his past memories, afraid of having to kill him, scared of losing him, in case Daikenja found his identity back…
Daikenja didn't know that Shinou's prayer was a curse for him, and for all of his future selves.
"Then, I will pray for you. May you never lose any of your memories in the future."
And he also didn't know that everything Shinou did was out of selfishness, not caring about Daikenja's feelings one bit. Yes, Daikenja didn't know those things. But Ken knew. Ken knew about the people Shinou had sacrificed. About the lives and souls Shinou had involved in his little game. All of Ken's previous lives, all of his acquaintances, even Yuuri and his family, and—
"I'm sure you and my little brother hate me."
Ken's eyes jerked open, staring widely at practically nothing, as a shade of realization slowly creeping forth. His trembling body little by little soothed out, leaving only ghostly breathing as a sign of confusion.
Shinou, too, was suffering. Shinou, too, had regrets.
"Young one…" Cutting him from his train of thoughts, Daikenja's voice was tender and assuring. "I do not have the power to see what will happen in the future..." Ken's eyes dilated in surprise; knowingly, Daikenja smiled.
"However, I wish to protect him with my current life. He, whom I have chosen. And should I be reborn, I wish to have the freedom to choose for whom I will give my life again."
The wind blew Ken's fringe out of his forehead; his Adam's apple vibrated silently.
"Have you chosen yours, young one?"
Something struck Ken from the inside, urging the bubbles of tension from the pit of his stomach to lift the heavy, profound burden beyond his ribs. Against Daikenja's soft, lingering eyes, Ken clenched his jaw subsequently, the fists on his sides tightening to the determined look on his face.
"Yes," he answered, "I have."
Without waiting any longer, Ken turned around, marching away from the place and leaving the man of his past life still smiling at the window. His King, his friends, his current life. He wanted to go back to his time; discuss the little matters left by Gwendal or listen to Gunter's endless wails, hear Wolfram's bratty snorts or follow Yuuri's childish adventures. And... And return to the Great One's Temple where Ulrike had been waiting for him.
He stopped once he had reached the peak of a hill, sustaining himself by holding onto a huge tree's branch. His heart hammered excitedly, and his breathing whistled loudly along with the pumping of his chest. And there, at the foot of the hill, was someone whose hair was a good blend of the Sun, elegantly riding his equally mighty horse. When those blue eyes rose up to meet Ken's dark ones, the air seemed to stop moving, picturing everything in still, black and white motion, until Ken's lips twitched into a smile, and everything turned blurry.
He, too, was waiting for him.
Fluttering his eyes open, Ken hazily framed Yuuri's face inside his vision as the latter called him impatiently. Next, the figures of Wolfram, Conrart and Gunter followed; Ken blinked several times.
"Huh. I'm back," he mumbled, half-surprised. Gunter whined in his ears.
"Your Eminence! Are you alright? Does your head hurt? Or your back?"
Groaning lowly to the sudden buzzing inside his head, Ken quickly waved a hand. "No, no, I'm alright, Lord von Christ." Rubbing the back of his neck afterwards, he tried to stand, but stopped once he saw the thing on his lap. The Demon Mirror.
"It'd be better if Gisela could check on you, Your Eminence," Conrart said, bending over and taking the bowl from Ken's hand, while he helped him stand with his other hand.
"Really, it's all because Yuuri dropped the Demon Mirror! Wimp!"
"Not a wimp!" Countering Wolfram's scoff, Yuuri's lips turned into a pout, yet he smiled sheepishly nonetheless as he glanced back at Ken. "But yeah, my bad."
"I'm fine, really. No need to exaggerate things." Ken grinned in a reluctant manner, still having a slight difficulty in grasping the situation. "As you can see, I'm really fine." Upon that, the remaining party members reluctantly obeyed, even though traces of concern were still visible on their visages.
"If Murata said so, then shall be it," Yuuri sighed, but grinning wide in a split second. Conrart had no choice but to succumb in understanding.
"Right, let's get back to work! If it can be called work," Yuuri continued, clapping his hands to stop Gunter's sobs. "Come on, how about we start again from there?" He pointed to a corner, whilst Wolfram half-heartedly walked towards it with a low grunt that sounded very much like 'wimp'. Ken tilted his head to the side amusedly, and spoke.
"Sorry, Shibuya, but I need to go to the Great One's Temple."
Yuuri glanced over his shoulder, and to Ken's surprise, only stared back at him. After a short silence, Yuuri smiled, quite tenderly, placing a tap on Ken's shoulder.
"Sure you do," he stated before turning back and walking away from Ken."Glad to know you're better, though," he added with a thumbs up.
At that moment, a bit of comprehension hit Ken. The Demon Mirror. Of course, whose power did it use to bring him back to the past?
Tardily shutting his eyes closed, a smile bloomed on Ken's features.
"Thanks, Shibuya." And he meant it earnestly.
The dull atmosphere inside the non-existent dimension grew thicker when Ken had disappeared from Shinou's line of sight. He went back to his new King, just like Shinou had told him to. But the latter stayed, alone, unaffected by the sheer chill as he was no longer with a body. He glanced at the desk; cards scattered upon it.
'Look at that card I gave you.'
Shinou stirred, slowly approaching said card, and took it carefully. The ink-drawn queen of spade glowed; ethereal green light surrounded it in the form of bubbles, as one by one they were absorbed into Shinou.
Under the closed eyelids, Shinou didn't see darkness. In fact, the picture of something colourful, something that looked like a jewel, which Shinou recalled as Earth, flew in his sight.
Then, everything transformed into blue; the sky, the sea. And above the golden sand, someone with dark, long hair blown in the wind was standing besides the boxes. Shinou couldn't see his expression, clearly he couldn't; what he was seeing was the person's sight inside his memory. Yet from the voice alone, he knew who it was, and what emotions he conveyed. The voice that he had longed to hear for eternity.
"Look. Look at the sea. It's the colour of your eyes..."