He slashes downward, the arc of his blade little more than a quicksilver blur, but still Jinga sidesteps with ease, his infuriating smile never faltering.
This, Ryuga thinks, is beginning to feel like a futile effort.
How many times have they done this? He’s already losing count. And it always, always ends the same – neither of them the victor, neither with any real injuries to show for it, and yet somehow Ryuga is left feeling as though he’s lost. How is it possible, to face down an opponent of equal strength and still feel like he’s being toyed with?
It will end the same today, too. He’s sure of it – until he blinks and Jinga is suddenly behind him, close enough that Ryuga’s back is pressed against his chest, and there’s a cloth covering Ryuga’s mouth and nose, the fabric thick with a bitter scent. It’s only a moment, but it’s enough. Ryuga throws his elbow back, spinning out of Jinga’s reach, but winds up staggering, his head far too light and his limbs uncooperative.
“What… what did you do?” he demands, trying and failing to focus on Jinga as his vision begins to swim.
“No need to sound so concerned. I just want to have a little chat with you. And I knew you wouldn’t come along nicely otherwise.”
Ryuga tries to lift his sword, tries to tighten his grip around the hilt, but every ounce of strength seems to have gone from his arm. It slips straight through his fingers, landing on the asphalt with a resounding clang.
“Ryuga,” Rian shouts, from where Amily is keeping her preoccupied, but her voice sounds miles away.
He staggers; sways on his feet before tipping precariously forward, his eyelids heavy as lead, and though the last thing he feels before blackness overtakes him is an arm circling around his waist, no sensation has ever been less of a comfort.
When he comes to, he’s in an unfamiliar apartment – spacious, immaculately clean, a vase full of velvety pitch-black flowers on every table. Dark, heavy curtains are drawn across the windows, making it impossible to tell how long he’s been out.
Jinga is reclining in the seat opposite him, flipping disinterestedly through the pages of a book, but when he notices Ryuga waking he tosses it aside, his eyes brightening. (A good expression on most, but on him there’s that underlying hint of cruelty.)
“For a minute there I thought I might have given you too much,” he says. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find drugs that will work on Makai Knights?”
Whatever it was, it’s still affecting Ryuga badly. He can see the Garo Ken, leaning against the wall not five feet away, but no matter how he struggles his body refuses to move towards it. He stares down at his hand in his lap, willing it to work as it should, but only manages to curl his fingers a fraction. (Zaruba’s gone, too. Not that he’d be much help in this situation, but his presence would at least be reassuring.)
Across the table, Jinga strikes a match, the flame reflected eerily in his eyes, and leans forward to light something – incense, maybe? A curl of grey smoke drifts lazily upward, almost seeming to wrap itself around Jinga’s hand for a moment before dispersing.
“What is that?” Ryuga asks. At least he can speak, though the words take more effort than they normally would.
“So suspicious,” Jinga says, pressing a hand to his heart in mock offense. “Don’t worry. It’s just something to make you a little more… personable. If you catch my meaning.”
That, Ryuga doesn’t like the sound of. Immediately, his mind begins to cycle through the list of hazardous plants and herbs that Rian once forced him to memorize. The options he comes up with are worrying at best.
“What do you want?” he asks, and though he’s going for ‘defiant,’ through the haze of the drug his voice just comes out weak.
“Glad you asked!” Jinga gets to his feet with a catlike grace; circles around to the farthest table and pours himself a glass of wine – a deep, vivid red – from the bottle that’s sitting there. “You see, I really, truly love fighting you, Ryuga. And though I’m sure you’d never admit it, I know you enjoy our little encounters, too. But,” and here he walks back to stand over Ryuga, staring down at him thoughtfully, “I feel as if we aren’t quite achieving our true potential. I think we could be so much greater as allies. Don’t you agree?”
“Like hell,” Ryuga grits out. That incense – or whatever it might be – has a sickly sweet scent, heady and perfumed, and the more he breathes it in the stranger he feels, his heart beating faster than it should.
Jinga sighs. “I had a feeling you’d say that. You’re so very honorable, aren’t you? Such an upstanding Makai Knight. You know,” and here all the humor vanishes abruptly from his face, replaced by something cold and joyless, “I used to be like that, too, a long time ago.
“But,” he continues, that easy smile falling back into place, “luckily for me, I discovered a better way of living.” He takes a seat next to Ryuga, then, his arm draped across the back of the couch, hand coming dangerously close to touching Ryuga’s shoulder. “You see, they want you to think that as a Makai Knight, you are this incredibly powerful being, unrivaled by anyone or anything. When in fact, the strength of a Knight – which, let’s be honest, tends to stagnate after long – is nothing compared to the sheer potential of a Horror. You wouldn’t regret it, you know. Giving in to your… darker impulses. I never have.”
“I’ll never be like you,” Ryuga says, jaw clenched tight enough to hurt. The perfumed scent of the incense is laying like a fog over his thoughts, and his entire body feels suddenly, inexplicably hot, clothes pressing far too close against his skin. He shifts and the friction sends a jolt through him, a maddening kind of warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach.
“No?” A pause. “No, you’re probably right. It’s a nice thought, but I can’t really envision it, either. But you could still change, you know. You could be someone different.” He taps a fingernail against his wine glass thoughtfully. “I do wonder, Ryuga… Where has your honor and integrity gotten you? You’ve tried so hard and been so righteous, and for what? Can’t even protect the people you care about the most.” Jinga leans in a little closer, then, lowering his voice to a soft murmur. “It must have hurt. Killing your own mother like that.”
White-hot rage hits Ryuga like a slap in the face, and he’s gained back enough of his strength to reach out and grab Jinga by the collar.
“How do you know about that?” he demands, breathing uneven, each word taut with tension.
Jinga’s smile widens. “Let’s just say I’ve done some very thorough research. I have a bit of a vested interest in you, Ryuga.” He sets his glass on the table and reaches up to pry the hand from his shirt, and the places where his fingertips touch his skin seem to be electrified. He trails his hand lightly along his arm, then, and Ryuga wants to feel disgusted, wants to shove him away, but the touch feels so good and he needs it, he needs –
“Soon enough,” Jinga says, “Amily and I will be taking the throne of Ladan.” His thumb moves in lazy, maddening circles against Ryuga’s skin. “And what would a king and queen be without a loyal knight to serve them?”
Ryuga tries to laugh at the very idea, tries to put scorn into it, but the sound catches in his throat, coming out breathless and feeble. He’s hard, he realizes abruptly through the warmth and the haze – achingly so, straining against the tight leather. A fact which does not go unnoticed by Jinga, whose amusement is evident as he once again leans in close.
“Well, you certainly don’t seem entirely opposed,” he whispers. His lips are a hairsbreadth away from the shell of Ryuga’s ear, and his eyes flutter closed, bracing himself in anticipation of the touch –
But it never comes. Jinga moves away; gets up from his seat and retrieves his wine glass in a single fluid motion, leaving Ryuga still muddled and wanting for something he’d rather not think about.
“Give it some thought, will you?” Jinga says, as conversational as ever. “I know how you Makai Knights are. So very stubborn and set in your ways. But you’ll come around eventually. I have a certain sense for these things.”
He drains the last of his wine and tosses the glass to the floor with a jarring shatter, then gives Ryuga a wave and an uncanny smile as he steps into the long shadows in the corner of the room and promptly vanishes into nothing.
In the silence left behind, Ryuga lets out a shaky breath. He still can’t move his legs, and the incense (or whatever it might be) is still smoldering away, and so he can do nothing but sit there for the next few minutes with his cock painfully hard, sweat beading on his forehead and nails digging sharp into his palms. That pain seems to help some. Feeling returns to him in increments, and as soon as he’s able he stagger to his feet, grabbing the Garo Ken in unsteady hands and pushing through the door. Zaruba is sitting on a small table in the hall, his visor up.
“Ryuga,” he exclaims. “Are you alright? What did he do to you?”
“Nothing,” Ryuga says through gritted teeth.
“Really? You look a little strange, though. Are you sure you – ”
Ryuga snaps Zaruba’s visor shut and shoves him into his coat pocket. He’ll apologize later. As for now, all he can really think about is getting the hell out of here.
Easier said than done, as leaving the room does little to clear his senses. He pauses in the deserted hallway to lean his head against the wall, his breath still coming shallow and quick. Something beneath his skin feels like it’s on fire. The stretch of leather against his cock is torturous with every slight movement he makes. It’s a struggle to make it to the elevator, and he props himself up with the sheath of his sword as he jabs the button for the ground floor, hand trembling very slightly.
By the time the doors slide open he’s collected himself to some degree, and he steps out into the lobby of this empty building, which from here looks very much like an office instead of an apartment complex, the architecture completely changed from the upper level. Almost as if it were a different location entirely. Ryuga glances back at the elevator with a scowl. Pointless reality-bending Horror magic at work. He pushes the lobby doors open and stumbles out into the night air, cool and crisp enough to act like a much-needed slap in the face, clearing a bit more of the fog from his thoughts.
He’s never been more grateful for the glamours sewn into his clothes. There are still civilians on the streets despite the late (early?) hour, and he wonders what he would look like, if they were capable of truly seeing him. Flush-faced. Disheveled and glassy-eyed. A mental image that makes him grimace.
The trek back to D. Ringo’s feels longer than it ever has, but he finally pushes his way through the door, the bell chiming overhead. D. Ringo and Yukihime glance up and stare at him in wide-eyed astonishment from where they’re poring over what looks like an enchanted map of the city.
“Ryuga,” D. Ringo says, blinking. “You – where the hell’ve you been? Rian’s been out searching for you for hours, said you got taken captive by that Horror – ”
“I’m fine,” Ryuga says, too quick and too harsh. His own voice sounds like a stranger’s. “Nothing happened.” When D. Ringo levels him with a disbelieving look, he soldiers on: “I’m just – I’m tired. I’m turning in for the night.”
He can feel the both of them watching him as he makes his way back through the cluttered rows of the shop to the door that leads to the storerooms. He and Rian have converted them into makeshift living spaces, and it’s only once he’s closed and locked the door to his own room behind him that he exhales, slow and shuddering, leaning back against the solid wood and sinking down to the floor.
He’s still hard. The shame lying heavy in the back of his throat can’t seem to overwhelm the need as he lets his hand drift down to unbutton his pants, freeing his cock and palming himself, dragging a thumb across the head as his breath hitches. His palm is slick with sweat and it takes only a few strokes to spill into his hand, biting his lip to keep from making noise.
His breathing steadies. His heartbeat slows gradually. In the yawning silence left behind, he lets his head fall forward to rest against his knee; closes his eyes and tries not to think about how he can still feel the exact place on his wrist where Jinga touched him.
After a series of evasive answers, Rian quickly gives up on asking him about the outcome of his abduction, tossing her hands up with an irritated huff. It reminds him of being back in Vol City at the very beginning, of a time in which they didn’t yet understand each other. A time he’d hoped not to return to, but how can he tell her anything close to the truth?
(If he puts it far enough out of mind, it won’t have happened.
He throws himself into a new mission – orders from the Senate to investigate a string of disappearances in and around a seedy downtown nightclub. Whether it’s one rogue Horror acting alone or some sort of complex human baiting operation is unclear, and he and Rian spend the first few days simply observing the place and its clientele from a distance. They decide to infiltrate covertly on the fourth day, Rian magicking herself up a suitably stylish outfit with her usual precision. She takes longer to do the same for Ryuga, however, standing there frowning as the seconds tick past, her brush pointed at him in a way that seems almost accusing.
“You know, now that I think about it,” she muses, “you’re probably better off sticking with this look. With just a minor tweak.”
She flicks her brush, quick and decisive, and when he glances down he finds his armored vest gone and his usual long coat changed, a shorter jacket in its place, the leather far sturdier and more pristine than what he’s used to. He runs his hands over it appreciatively. It’s been months since he was last on the receiving end of one of Rian’s quick change glamors – she’s improved even more in the time since.
He feels astonishingly normal as they step inside the nightclub. He’ll uncover the identity of the Horrors lurking here. He’ll slay them. It will be straightforward, he thinks. Easily understandable. Black and white. Just like he wishes a Makai Knight’s existence always were.
The interior is dimly lit, cast in shades of dark purple, and somewhere within the rooms there is music with a thumping bass rhythm playing.
“Let’s split up,” he suggests, and Rian nods. “If you find anyone suspicious, don’t let them out of your sight.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” she says, giving him a knowing look. “Who’s the one who let that minor Horror slip away those few weeks ago because he got distracted?”
Distracted by Jinga, he almost protests, before the realization of that settles like an uncomfortable thorn in the pit of his stomach. Unease prickles beneath his skin.
Whatever good feelings he had towards this mission seem to have suddenly, troublingly dissipated.
“Meet back up here in twenty minutes?” Rian is saying, flashing him a small smile over her shoulder as she slips through the beaded curtain and vanishes from sight.
Shaking himself as if to clear his thoughts, Ryuga takes the opposite doorway, the sign overhead indicating that it leads to the bar. It’s crowded at this time of night, each table packed with civilians, their voices and laughter melding into a steady background clamor. The perfect kind of environment for someone to go missing and no one to think anything of it for minutes or even hours.
It’s as he stands in the midst of all this that he freezes, a shiver hitting him without warning and working its way down his spine, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He feels like – no, he knows that he’s being watched. With the kind of certainty that he rarely feels these days. He turns slowly, eyes drawn to the second floor of the bar, a loft-like area that’s shrouded in shadow from this angle. He could swear he sees the tall outline of a person there, looking down directly at him, and he takes a sharp breath; pushes his way through the crowd towards the staircase with his heart thudding against his ribs, taking the steps two at a time.
And yet there is no one there when he reaches the landing. No one out of the ordinary, at least – two people entwined suggestively in the corner and a group of women singing drunkenly as they raise their beer bottles in a toast. There is one conspicuously empty table, though, a single glass resting on it, the drink finished but the ice still unmelted, settling with a clink as Ryuga approaches. As if someone had been there just a moment before. The air in this spot is thick with a malevolent aura.
His hand curls into a fist at his side as he glances around, knowing full well he won’t find them unless they want him to. They’re toying with him, it seems. One of the Horrors that’s supposedly stalking this place? This seems too well-planned for a creature like that.
His mouth feels dry. He turns sharp on his heel and makes his way back down the stairs, back into the throng on the ground level, the noise washing over him like a wave. He’s of half a mind to order a drink, desperate for something to take the edge off his current mood, but he supposes he is technically on the job right now.
He scans the faces of the civilians around him. No one here seems out of place at first glance. There are no anxious expressions of someone who’s just realized their friend has been gone far too long. At least one person must have heard something about this string of disappearances, though, and his eyes land on a woman sitting alone at the bar, nursing a drink and occasionally sharing a word with the bartender.
Ryuga makes to move towards her, but gets cut off by a duo of loud, tipsy men that stumble into his path. It’s as he waits for them to collect themselves that he feels it again – that same sensation of being observed. It bores into him like so many needles.
This time, where it’s coming from is impossible to pinpoint. The sea of faces seem like they’re closing in as he cranes his neck in search of the presence, his hand straying for the hilt of his sword before remembering that it’s not there.
And then, abruptly, he can feel it right behind him. A hand curling around his waist, lips close to his ear, a familiar laugh trickling like oil down his back –
He spins around, pulse spiking, to once again find no one. Just a wide-eyed girl whose glass he just nearly knocked out of her hands.
He needs to get out of this place. That thought overwhelms him until he can think of nothing else.
Rian is surprisingly already waiting for him when he stumbles back into the entrance room. She’s tapping a finger against her forearm impatiently, and there’s a flower tucked behind her ear that wasn’t there before, its petals a deep, dark red, with intricate patterns of white along the edges.
“Where have you been?” she asks, frowning at him. “I said twenty minutes, didn’t I?”
Ryuga stops short in front of her. “That’s not – ” he begins, the words faltering in his throat. How could that time have already passed? It hadn’t even felt like ten minutes, much less longer. “What’s that flower?” he asks, as if he were trying to distract himself more than anything, his own voice sounding somewhat distant.
“Hm? Oh, this?” She lifts a hand to pluck it from behind her ear and twirls it between her fingers. “This really beautiful woman came up and gave it to me. It would’ve been rude not to accept it, y’know? It smells pretty nice, too.”
She holds it out for him to take, and it’s as he lifts it closer to examine the markings on the petals that it hits him. That same, heady, perfumed scent that he remembers so vividly.
Within seconds he can feel a flush working its way up the back of his neck. Heat curls dark and velvety beneath his skin, and he drops the flower as if it were searing to the touch, recoiling away from it.
“Hey,” Rian protests. “What’s with you?”
Ryuga presses a shaking hand to his mouth, his own breath hot against his palm. “The – the woman who gave you that. Did you actually see her face?”
“Of course I did. She… She had…” Rian’s brow furrows. “Actually, I. I don’t know? She was so beautiful, I thought, but… I can’t remember – ”
Ryuga is crushing the flower beneath his heel and pushing his way out the door and into the blessedly clear night air before she can so much as finish her thought, and when she calls after him her voice barely registers.
That night he dreams that he is home, standing in the fields outside his mother’s cabin with the long grass swaying around his ankles. Fireflies blink against the purple-ish evening. There is smoke rising from the chimney, and he feels his heart leap. He hasn’t been home in so very, very long. It will be nice, he thinks, to eat his mother’s cooking again. To listen to her stories from when she was young. To tell her that he has been working hard, just like she wanted.
But when he makes his way up the creaking porch and steps inside, she is not there. The interior looks strange – eerily sparse and clean – with black curtains hanging from the windows in place of the quaint florals he remembers. The fire crackling in the grate is a dark, unnatural shade.
The door slams shut behind him without warning, and it’s as he turns to glance over his shoulder that a hand closes like a vice around his throat. He is shoved back against the wall, head knocking against it and causing spots of white to dance across his vision, clearing a moment later to find Jinga smiling as he leans in close – close enough that Ryuga can see himself reflected in the black of his eyes.
“Nice of you to come visit me of your own volition,” he says, soft and silky, and that is when Ryuga wakes with a jolt, his fingers knotted in the bedsheets hard enough to hurt.
A Priest from the Senate has had a dangerous and vitally important artifact stolen from them. The culprit, a Knight named Ugetsu, has most likely fallen to darkness. That is all the knowledge Ryume had to impart on them during their briefing. The details, it seems, are being carefully obfuscated by those higher up the chain of command.
(It will be difficult to make the right call, knowing as little as he does. He wonders if he will he have to kill this man, this Ugetsu. Will it be deserved? Or is there something more at work here?
The shadow of this impending choice hangs over his own head like the blade of a guillotine.)
They’ve spread out across the city, each of them armed with a detector from D. Ringo’s collection of dusty, mostly-still-functional secondhand Makai instruments. Ryuga squints at the surface of his. The magical projections of the arrows are faded with age, difficult to see in the fading late afternoon light. He thinks he might be headed in the right direction.
He’s tapping the detector to try and re-orientate it when a car slides up silently alongside him. Not just a car, he realizes upon glancing up. A black stretch limousine, immaculately sleek and polished.
The window rolls down.
“My, my, what a coincidence,” Jinga says, peering up at him from within with amusement written across his face. “Just who I was hoping to see.”
Ryuga immediately takes a defensive step back, reaching for the hilt of the Garo Ken, but Jinga lifts a hand.
“I’m not here for that, Ryuga. Well. Not at the moment, at least. We can get to that later if you’re still so eager. But at the moment… I’d just like to have a quick chat again. If you’re amenable.”
The door swings open with a click to reveal an ominously dark interior, Jinga sliding over to make room for him and leveling him with an expectant look.
Ryuga stands frozen in place as the seconds tick past, a tense, fluttery feeling in his chest. What reason is there for him to get in? There is nothing being held against him, no threats or hostages or blackmail. He could walk away right now.
He should walk away right now.
The sound of the door closing behind him seems final and life-altering, somehow, as if he’d just signed a contract without reading the fine print.
He can physically feel Jinga’s pleased smile as he shifts against the cool leather of the seats, arranging the sheath of his sword so that he could still potentially draw it even in these tight quarters. Amily is lounging in the row of seats across from them, legs drawn up beneath her, watching him with keen interest.
“You know I had a feeling you would be more cooperative today,” Jinga muses. Ryuga glances over to find him suddenly, alarmingly closer than he’d been before, his arm once again draping across the back of Ryuga’s seat. “I wonder why that is?”
“You tell me,” Ryuga says shortly. His shoulders are already tensed enough to ache, fingers digging painfully into his thigh. This was a bad idea. He knows it instinctively.
Jinga laughs, baring his teeth. “Well, I don’t know if you’d much care for my theory. But that aside, I can only assume this means you have an answer for me? Regarding my… proposal?”
“Yeah, I do,” Ryuga grits out. “And it’s not happening. Ever. I’d rather die than ally myself with you.” The biting dismissal he was going for falls flat, somehow, the words fragile and hollow on his tongue.
Across the aisle, Amily’s lips curve into an amused smile. “Ally?” she echoes. “Is that what you told him, Jinga?”
Ryuga blinks. He glances from her back to Jinga, who looks faux-shamefaced to have been caught – one of his mockeries of human emotion that he puts on sometimes just for show.
“Well,” he says, “the terms and conditions may have been revised a little bit since I gave them to you. At the time it sounded enjoyable, but. What use do Amily and I really have for a knight? You know? We’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves. So the offer as it stands now is for a somewhat different role. More like… a pet, one might say? Someone to do tricks and keep us entertained.”
Anger hits Ryuga like a wave crashing over his head, along with something else that he can’t name, as if a not-entirely-unpleasant weight were suddenly sitting low in the pit of his stomach.
“…So, what?” he says through gritted teeth. “You think that’d make me more likely to accept? You’re not making any sense.”
Jinga tilts his head back to level him with a contemplative look, revealing the pale line of his throat. “Aren’t I?” he asks. He nods almost imperceptibly to Amily, who procures something from her sleeve – a stick of incense.
Panic slamming into him, Ryuga is up out of his seat and lunging for it an instant. But not fast enough, as Jinga’s fingers close around his collar and yank him back hard enough that his head hits the headrest with a thump. By the time he’s twisted away from Jinga’s grasp Amily has already magicked up a flame to light it, smoke smoldering from the tip, and Ryuga claps a hand over his mouth as he desperately searches for an exit. The door he came in through is securely locked. The window seems to be protected by some kind of dark charm, though perhaps he could still break it with enough force.
But already the effects are taking hold of him, heat blooming across his skin and his breath coming quicker. If he doesn’t get out of here right now –
He again makes a break for it, intending to try the set of doors closest to the driver, but doesn’t make it more than a few steps before Amily is shifting positions in order to snap a kick directly into his solar plexus, knocking the air from his lungs and bringing him thudding to his knees. His senses addled, he doesn’t have a chance to so much as react before she is turning him around, bringing her heel down on his leg and pinning him in place, so that he is kneeling there at Jinga’s feet.
And all the while the incense keeps burning, the scent lying thick in the back of his throat and the heat seeming to gather between his legs.
“You,” he manages to say, “can’t fight fair even once, can you? It’s always… dirty tricks.”
Jinga arches an eyebrow. “What, this?” He accepts the incense from Amily and considers it for a moment. “Y’know, it’s a funny thing, the minds of you humans. Very susceptible to suggestion. If you catch my meaning.” A slow smile spreads across his face. “Interesting the way just a few words can shape someone’s reality, isn’t it? Assuming the… circumstances are right.”
Ryuga stares at him. “That’s – ” he starts. “That’s not…”
“Oh, come on. You must have noticed how your little girlfriend wasn’t affected by the flower Amily so kindly gave her. Or more like… you tried not to notice. Tried not to think about the possibility that you were the only one.”
Ryuga takes a sharp breath; shakes his head.
“Maybe – maybe she’s immune,” he can hear himself say, and his voice sounds like it’s coming from very far away.
Jinga gives him a look that’s almost pitying. “I promise, Ryuga, that you could try it with any number of your other insipid companions and the result would be the same. It’s just a flower. Just a stick of incense. Anything else,” and here his gaze travels down to the obvious outline of Ryuga’s erection, “was all in your head.
“Which means my little experiment was an absolute success,” he continues, his expression brightening, a slightly manic gleam behind his eyes. “You’ve tried your hardest to convince yourself you weren’t interested in what I’ve been so charitably offering, but the time for pretense is up, I’m afraid. You might as well just accept it.”
Ryuga is having a hard time hearing himself think over the pounding of his pulse in his ears. This has to be some kind of trick. Some intricate Horror mind magic beyond what he’s ever encountered before. He repeats that thought over and over, and yet it sounds less and less true with each repetition.
His ankle aches from where Amily is still pinning him in place beneath her heel. He licks his chapped lips, wondering what being a “pet” would even entail in the minds of these creatures. Nothing good, he’s certain. The thought is utterly repulsive, a sickly lurch in the pit of his stomach as he considers it.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? So easy, compared to everything else that has been weighing on his mind as of late. Wouldn’t it be nice, to allow himself to forget being the perfect selfless hero, just for a little while? Just for a day, maybe, to let someone else make his every decision for him.
“I’m…” His voice trails off weakly into nothing.
“You’re what?” Jinga uncrosses his legs and leans forward, grabbing him by the chin with bruising force and tilting his head up, forcing him to meet his eyes. It’s just like his dream, he thinks. Seeing himself reflected in the pitch black of his iris. “If you want something, I want to hear you say it.”
Ryuga’s mind seems to be filled with a low, buzzing hum. He wants. What does he want? A minute ago it was to be anywhere but here, but now he’s not so sure. He opens his mouth and closes it again wordlessly, and finds himself making a needy sound as Jinga releases his hold on him, reclining back with a sigh of annoyance.
“Still not quite there yet, hm? That’s really too bad. You’re lucky you’re such a nice prize, or I might’ve gotten bored by now.”
The word ‘prize’ seems to scratch its way down Ryuga’s back like fingernails against his skin.
“But he’s a bit pathetic like this, isn’t he, Jinga?” Amily says. “You might as well give him something to tide him over.”
Jinga seems to ponder this. “You’re right,” he says finally. “Like always, my dear.”
As he nudges the toe of his boot against the outline of Ryuga’s cock.
Ryuga inhales sharply.
“What, is that really enough for you?” Jinga laughs. “That is rather pathetic.”
He grinds down without warning, and Ryuga makes a choked sound in the back of his throat. The pain is real, but it’s undercut by the pressure, the dizzying friction that he can’t help but press up against to get even more of. His hands curl into white-knuckled fists against his thighs as Jinga slides the sole of his boot along the length of him with a dragging, aching slowness, and the heat of it is too much, shame burning him as he comes with a gasp.
As it surges through him and fades, he feels as if someone has reached inside him and hollowed him out. His own come is sticky and hot between his thighs, his palms bleeding from where his fingers bit into them.
“Well he is rather entertaining, for a human,” Amily is saying, and her voice might as well be coming from underwater, as difficult as it is for him to understand.
“Isn’t he?” Ryuga lifts his eyes with some effort to find Jinga observing him, coldly calculating. “But we’re only getting started, of course. He’ll be more fun once he’s gotten a bit more honest with himself.”
He lifts a hand to rap on the window with his knuckles, and the limousine slides to a halt, the doors springing open automatically.
“Our guest will be leaving now,” he says, unconcerned as he examines his nails, and it’s like some great force has grabbed Ryuga by the shoulder, hauling him forward and tossing him through the open door, sprawling on to the pavement. He finds that he’s too tired to move. He lies there with his breath coming quick, gravel digging sharp into his cheek.
“You should think about things some more,” Jinga’s voice says from behind him. “It would be in your best interest.”
The sound of the door slamming, of the limousine’s engine purring to life again as it rolls away – all of that is background noise as a sick, nauseous feeling overwhelms him.
He closes his eyes and grits his teeth and wonders if it will ever pass.
Within the foggy, fear-stricken world of the mirror, he thinks for a moment that he hears Rian’s voice, calling to him from someplace far away.
But no, he realizes, as that distant whisper is drowned out by the sound of laughter in his ear, the shadows pressing closer and closer until they threaten to suffocate him.
There was never anything but this.
He slams into the expanse of black marble with jarring force, his shoulder taking the brunt of the fall, barely avoiding hitting his head against the smooth surface beneath him.
He feels dizzy from the whiplash even so. It takes a moment for the air to return to his lungs. For a time, he lays there taking small, shuddering breaths, panic still seizing his heart. A second ago he had been –
He had been about to be devoured. By some creature that he couldn’t see, that had moved through the mist just beyond the reach of his sword. Except now he is here. Here, which is –
“The mirror didn’t break you, did it?” a familiar voice asks. “That’d be a bit of a let-down, if I’m being honest.”
Relief floods Ryuga’s mind before he can think about it, and as it ebbs away disgust writhes in its place. He pushes himself up on shaking hands and turns to find Jinga seated on what looks like a throne, made of the same elegant black marble as the rest of the room. He’s reclining back, fingers drumming against the armrest, but when Ryuga meets his eyes he smiles brightly.
“Ah, there you are! Had a bit of a rough time of it in there, huh? But there’s no need to look so grim, y’know. All of that’s over now.”
An eerie sort of feeling ghosts across the back of Ryuga’s neck.
“…Over?” he echoes.
“O-ver,” Jinga repeats, enunciating the word in a way that feels exceptionally mocking. “You stayed in that mirror a little too long, Ryuga. Let the fear get the best of you. Kind of missed all the exciting parts. We’re inside Ladan right now, actually. Your little gang of pals tried their best without you, but. Well. There wasn’t much of a chance without the Golden Knight. It seems I’ve already won.”
Ryuga stares up at him. He tries to take a breath but finds it caught like something sharp and jagged in his throat. That’s not possible, he wants to say. That’s not –
“But! No need to feel down. I know this is what you really wanted, underneath that whole… honorable warrior shtick. No more having to fret about making those tough choices. No more grueling battles with your life on the line.” Jinga places a hand over his heart. “Isn’t that nice? You’ll be much happier this way, I think. As a pet.”
Ryuga’s whole body is trembling.
“Now,” Jinga says, lowering his voice, and here his expression shifts from amusement to something else, something callous and icy. “Come here.”
Surely you still have a choice, Ryuga tells himself, even as he’s already staggering to his feet and moving closer to the throne. His limbs leaden, he stumbles on the final step, knees hitting the marble hard and finding himself eye-level with the uncanny shine of Jinga’s shoes. Before he can so much as remember that last humiliating encounter there are long fingers twisting in his hair hard enough to hurt, nails pressing against his scalp, yanking him up to make eye contact. Ryuga wonders if this sort of touch should feel as good as it does. He hates it, too, hates himself for leaning into it, and he puts all of that anger into his glare as he stares back at him.
Jinga’s smile broadens, a spark of intrigue behind his eyes. “Well, look at that. Still so defiant. That’s what I was hoping to see. I knew I made the right choice, Ryuga. Keeping you.” His other hand moves to rest against the line of his throat, and Ryuga knows that he must be able to feel his pulse beating erratic beneath his palm. “We’re going to have a good time, you and me. As long as you don’t disappoint me.
“And aren’t you lucky?” he hums. “You get a front row seat to the downfall of humanity. Not many former Makai Knights can say the same.”