It was over.
Seishirou walked back to the house, hands stained red with blood.
Tatsumi waited for him, blocking the door.
“Here to avenge your lover?” Seishirou cocked his head at the man standing in his way.
“She loved you more than she ever loved me.” Tatsumi handed Seishirou a wet towel. “Clean yourself up.”
Seishirou accepted the offering. “Thank you, Father.”
“Don’t call me that.” Tatsumi dropped his gaze to the boy’s bloody hands. “Just because I got your mother pregnant with you doesn’t mean I’ve been any kind of father to you.”
“You might have been, if she hadn’t killed you.” Seishirou wiped his fingers with slow care. “I remember it well.”
Tatsumi closed his eyes. Perhaps he recalled the pain in his chest when Sakurazukamori Setsuka tore out his heart.
It would have been quick. His mother had been a professional.
“Do you hate her for that?” Seishirou hadn’t, but he was what he was. Similar to his mother.
His father, on the other hand, sometimes felt emotions Seishirou didn’t quite comprehend.
“No. She was only doing what the government ordered her to do.” A spark of something dangerous and predatory gleamed Tatsumi Seiichirou’s eye. “They’re the ones I hold responsible for my death.”
“I’m sure you’ll discover ways of making the government pay for that order, shinigami.” Seishirou raised the towel to his twitching lips. “I wonder if I don’t get some of my ruthlessness from you.”
“I wish. Too often I find myself yearning for your coldness.” Tatsumi straightened his glasses, trying to hide the hint of softness which touched his mouth. “Caring can be a crutch, a burden. It can make you careless.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Seishirou didn’t miss the flicker of pain in the darkness of his father’s pupils. It fascinated him, even if he couldn’t feel it. “Did you make Tsuzuki-san cry again?”
“Don’t push it, boy.” Something dark slithered around Tatsumi’s feet, rippling across his face.
“How am I pushing it?” Seishirou observed the shadows gathering around his father with interest. So this was Tatsumi Seiichirou’s power.
The darkness retreated as abruptly as it appeared.
Tatsumi sighed, giving his son a measuring glance. There was no fear in his appraisal of the new sakurazukamori, only weary sadness.
Seishirou guessed not all of his sorrow was directed at him.
“He’s so much like my mother. He feels everything. With every death, he doesn’t just die a little himself.” Tatsumi lifted his head toward the sakura, blooming with the life’s blood of others.
Sakura was a bit like shinigami in that way.
“He takes in their lives, their pain, allowing it all to bloom within him. This way, his victims can live on.” Tatsumi raised a hand toward one of the flowers. “He suffers in their place willingly, becoming their pain. Tsuzuki feels it’s his duty, his destiny.”
“Sounds fascinating.” Seishirou contemplated this enigma, a creature so different than himself. “I hope one day I meet someone like that. Someone who blooms with others' pain, becoming more and more beautiful.” What a sakurazukamori he would make. “Perhaps I’d fall in love with him.”
“Don’t be perverse.” Tatsumi shot his son a stern glance, dropping his hand. “Be grateful you don’t feel such things. It’s nothing but tragedy to get too close to someone who does.” He lowered his head, bangs slipping forward over his brow. “Believe me, son, I know.”
“But Father, I adore tragedy!” Seishirou offered Tatsumi a smile of pure sweetness. “Besides how can I ever know if I never experience it myself?”
Tatsumi didn’t answer. He kept his silence even after the Year of the Bet. Seishirou had been certain his father would say something.
“You were closer to the Sumeragi twins than you’ve ever gotten to anyone else.” Tatsumi gave him a measuring gaze, the closest thing to a look of fatherly concern he’d ever seen. “You even revealed yourself to that boy you were wooing.” Disapproval colored his words.
Was it because Seishirou had revealed himself to Subaru, without slaying him as he should have? Or was it the same tired censure the world showed for a man wooing a younger boy?
“No need to worry. It seems I can’t feel anything, not even for the most beautiful, pure-hearted creature whom I’ve ever met.” Seishirou smiled at his father, able to put a little more warmth into it. Yes, the Sumeragi twins had influenced him, even they hadn’t been able to truly touch him. “It just seems like a waste to kill him, after spending all this time on him. I want the moment I take Subaru-kun to be special.”
“Oh, Seishirou.” Tatsumi sighed. “I may not be much of a father, I’m still father enough to see you’ve changed. That boy has changed you.”
“I don’t love him,” Seishirou protested. “I won the bet.”
“Did you?” Tatsumi asked. “Did you really?”
This time, it was Seishirou’s turn to be silent.