Rokusho returned feeling a bit of warmth in his chest from the excursion. However, as he entered the room and closed the door, a sight awaited him that completely destroyed the feeling.
The leader of the Scissors warriors sat on his floor cross-legged. A low table was set up in front of them, with a small tea set on its surface and a pillow on the floor opposite from the leader. Rokusho immediately assumed a fighting stance and drew his sword, but the leader simply held up their hand.
“I didn’t come to harm you or the prince. See? I haven’t even brought my weapon with me. I just want to talk.” They accentuated their words with a gesture, showing that they were indeed unarmed. At least, so far as Rokusho could see...
Rokusho kept his stance up. “Why shouldn’t I call the guards, or slice you up myself? You are not only a trespasser but a murderer,” he asked coldly.
“Because I won’t cause you any trouble. As soon as we’re done, I will leave peacefully. I somewhat felt that last night wasn’t the best of introductions... Tea?” They gestured to the set in front of them. “I promise it’s perfectly safe,” they continued, taking a sip from their own cup. The faint but gentle scent of the tea somehow felt familiar.
Rokusho quickly analyzed the possibilities: the Scissors leader could be looking for some hidden detail that would slip and allow them to complete their mission, they could be genuine and want to talk, or they could be stalling for time as their followers slipped into the castle. Rokusho stayed where he was. Even given these possibilities, he asked, “How did you get in here? And more importantly, how did you and your friends leave battle so seamlessly and without a trace?”
After another sip, the leader replied, “My soldiers were once street rats like you, scraping by to survive. We banded together to make it easier to keep living. One day, we decided to visit the mass grave, dug for the bodies of the Scissors who’d died trying to protect our once great kingdom. It was on a misty night when ghostly figures came before us and pleaded with us to exact vengeance for them. In turn, they promised us power beyond mortal measure and a life in which we’d no longer need to claw by while those around us flourished. Of course, we took up this mission, and we became what we are right now… with other-worldly assistance, if you will.”
Rokusho narrowed his eyes, his common sense telling him that this story was obviously fabricated, but given the nature of the Scissors soldiers’ sudden appearance and disappearance, there were no better explanations.
“Seeing that you are also a Scissors, we extend our hand and ask you to join us in our mission to put our dead to rest.” The leader offered their open hand expectantly.
Rokusho shook his head. “I must decline. Even if our ancestors desire vengeance, they were not the ones who saved me. The Helms did.”
“Ah, so the rumors are true.” The leader retracted their hand and then stroked their chin in thought. “You and the young prince are as thick as thieves. Once a Scissors, always a Scissors, it seems. Loyal to the bone.” They allowed themselves a chuckle. “Do not worry. We will not harm your prince. He is innocent of the crimes of his father. What we want is to kill the king, the one who ground our once proud kingdom down into nothingness. What do you say? Shall you do this favor for your father and mother, who died for you?”
“This I cannot let stand. Even if the king is guilty, he is still my benefactor.” And Kabuto would be devastated , he added in thought.
“I see. So we are destined to clash again…”
“Perhaps there is a peaceful way. If you were to approach the king peacefully, then maybe he would‒”
The leader set down their teacup abruptly. “The souls are restless and call for nothing but bloodshed and vengeance. None of this peace!” They stood, and Rokusho tensed. “If you are so willing to give your life to the ones who brought us down, you will die a traitor.” At this, they turned and vanished, only a wisp of mist left behind.
Rokusho looked down at the table, the teapot still hot with steam rising out of its spout and two empty cups sitting on opposite sides of the table. Was there anything else he could have done? Would he tell anyone? What would he say?
The warm teapot continued steaming in silence, offering no answer to his onslaught of questions.
Rokusho set up the table and tea set that the leader had brought. He paused before turning to dispose of the tea, an earlier thought continuing to nag him. Why is this smell so… familiar? Finally, after much hesitation, he dumped the cup’s contents, quietly watching the liquid slowly seep into the dirt.
He shook his head. He didn’t need another mystery wracking his brain. Nonetheless, he lifted the opening of the emptied pot to his face, taking a deep whiff of the mysteriously nostalgic scent once more.
Rokusho turned, carrying the teapot in front of him, supposing he should probably wash it and put it away. A cool gust of wind blew past him, causing him to drop his horns slightly. He made his way to the lower level near the courtyard, where a small washbasin was placed. A few Medalorians watched as he filled it with water, scrubbed the inside gently with a rag, and then dumped the water out.
As he finished, he idly wondered what stopped the Scissors from simply popping in on the king to kill him. With their newfound “powers,” it would be a cinch.
Something else was amiss, something that the leader hadn’t told him. Rokusho set the teapot aside and resolved to start patrolling, despite his less-than-optimal condition. He was in no position to fight, but maybe he could answer some of his own questions. He also wanted to check in on Kabuto, just to make sure he was alright.
After a few minutes of half-hearted patrolling, Rokusho couldn’t take it anymore and walked back to his and Kabuto’s quarters. He made sure to put the teapot in his own room first‒on the off-chance that Kabuto asked, Rokusho didn't want to explain any of what had happened.
He first knocked on the prince’s door and found there was no response. Normally, this wouldn't be a concern: Prince Kabuto often slept in, and Rokusho would usually be the one to wake him. However, this time, the knight’s mind filled with nothing but worst-case scenarios. He hurriedly pushed open the door, not even bothering to stay quiet.
There, sprawled out on top of the bed, was Kabuto, sound asleep. Not even Rokusho barging in had been enough to rouse him, and he snored peacefully away. Rokusho closed his eyes with a quiet sigh, letting his shoulders droop in relief. He sat on a stool beside the bed and rested his head in his palm. Kabuto stirred a little‒evidently, the door being jarred open was enough, even if a little delayed. Rokusho felt a bit guilty for waking him.
“Heya, buddy...” Kabuto shifted over to face his friend as he opened his eyes. “What’cha wake me for? Thought we had a week off from trainin’...”
Rokusho shook his head. “N-nothing. Forgive my intrusion, my prince.” He bowed his head, internally relieved that Kabuto was so casual with him that this wasn’t considered too bad a transgression. “I wanted to… just be with you, if you’ll allow it.” It wasn’t a complete lie, more of a sentimental half-truth.
Kabuto smiled sleepily. “Sure, Ro.” He took a long peek at his friend and scooted over. “Why don’tcha sleep? Ya look awful.”
This gave Rokusho pause. It was true. Despite the mid-afternoon sun warming him through the window, he was exhausted. Since the night of the attack, he hadn’t had a good night of sleep. Yet, he still thought it impudent to sleep in such circumstances. He still had the weight of his conversation with the Scissors leader on his mind. “Kabuto…?”
“Hm?” came the half-asleep reply. Kabuto probably wasn’t awake enough to process what Rokusho had to say, but the knight still felt he needed to get something off his chest.
“I wanted you to know that… you’re the most important person in my life, and I’d do anything for you. To me, you’re worth ten thousand times more than my own life.”
“... I know.” There was a bit of sadness in Kabuto’s voice. “Why’re you sayin’ this, now?”
Rokusho closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays. “There may come a time when I’m no longer able to protect you, when I’m no longer with you. I just... wanted you to know before that happens…”
The next thing Rokusho felt was Kabuto’s hand against his cheek. He had to stop himself from turning his head to rest Kabuto’s hand on his muzzle, so he settled for a quiet sigh.
“I’ll call the elite castle guard for the day. Ya really should get some sleep,” said the prince softly.
Rokusho still wasn’t entirely sure, but it was becoming harder and harder to resist. The sun was so warm, and Kabuto’s voice was so soothing…
Before he could snap himself out of it, he was fast asleep, resting his chin on the bed. As the knight slept, Kabuto removed his hand from Rokusho’s cheek. Kabuto stopped himself from squeezing his knight’s hand, his breath catching at the thought of Rokusho realizing. Instead, Kabuto settled for gently brushing his fingers against Rokusho’s, gazing at his exhausted knight with shining emerald eyes.
“I wish I could tell you that you’re wrong. My life is no more important than yours… You mean so much more than you realize,” Kabuto murmured before slowly falling back asleep.