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The Day After

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The citadel was quiet that morning. Those awake moved silently, respectful to the handful of residents still asleep. A specific few spoke in hushed tones about the night before, laughter muffled behind hands and whispered promises of a clearer explanation when more arose from their slumber.  

Hachisuka Kotetsu did not wake up until the afternoon. 

He had never felt so ill before. This type of sickness was different from the cold or flu, as their master had put it, when one of the warriors suddenly turned fatigued and weak; sweat, phlegm and tears clouding their sight, blocking their airways, and causing them to shiver uncontrollably. There was no coughing or sneezing associated with this sickness Hachisuka felt. No, this was something else entirely. Hachisuka’s head ached as though a sharp knife had been driven through his skull. His throat was sore and dry, the roof of his mouth felt like the skin of a peach, and his tongue harbored an awful, acidic taste. Had he thrown up? Hachisuka groaned, moving an arm over his eyes to block the rays of sun shining into his room and piercing his skull.  

His body ached. His thighs and forearms felt sore, similar to when returning from a sortie, but he could not remember going on a mission or getting into a fight. Hachisuka’s thoughts stuttered as a slight pain shot through his hips as he attempted to readjust himself on his futon. He lowered himself back into his original position and let out a shaky breath, realizing that he couldn’t remember much of anything the night before. 

Hachisuka lay under his bedsheets for another half hour before convincing himself to get up. He needed to pee, and his stomach had rumbled incessantly since the moment he woke up. He needed to get some food and water into his system. Whatever sickness this was, he was certain his system would fare better in fighting it off with some nutrients.  

Hachisuka groaned. Sitting up was painful. He wrapped his yukata around himself tightly, and feebly attempted to tame his tangled hair. He eventually gave up and tied the frizzy nest into a bun that sat relatively neatly at the top of his head. He rubbed his eyes and gave himself a moment to breathe after feeling his stomach churn uncomfortably at the movement. 

I need to throw up, Hachisuka realized. He gritted his teeth and fought the wave of nausea, refusing to do something so inelegant. He refused to let this sickness prevail. Instead, Hachisuka gathered his toiletries and made a mental checklist of what he needed to do to feel better. Brush my teeth, comb my hair? Maybe I should just bathe first and deal with the tangles after. Eat breakfast and drink water...  

Hachisuka moved relatively quickly given his groggy demeanor. He relieved his bladder and tried to brush the heinous aftertaste out of his mouth. He brushed his tongue for good measure, fought against the sudden wave of nausea, and washed his mouth thoroughly with water. He cupped the cool water into his hands and splashed his face. He rubbed his eyes, washed his hands once more, and after looking both ways to make sure he was alone, cupped more water into his palms and brought it to his lips. He drank until the urge to breathe overpowered the need for water. He gasped for air, cleared his throat, and stood straighter, turning off the faucet.  

He already felt much better. 

Choosing to eat next, Hachisuka made his way to the kitchen, doing his best to avoid interacting with anyone on the way. He was not in the mood for pleasantries and small talk. He wanted food in his stomach as soon as possible.  

And was not granted with such a luxury. 

“Good morning Hachisuka.” 

Hachisuka groaned his response.  

“It’s quite late for breakfast, isn’t it?” 

Another groan. 

Nikkari Aoe chuckled, striding beside the tired Kotetsu as they made their way across the veranda towards the kitchen.  

“Did you sleep well?” 

“I suppose so,” Hachisuka answered. He must have if he didn’t wake up until noon. “I don’t remember when I went to bed.” 

“I think you retired relatively late last night.” 

“I did?” Hachisuka raised his brow at his friend. “Why do you know this?” 

“A few of us spent the evening together. Surely you remember up until that point...” 

Hachisuka hummed as they entered the kitchen. Sayo Samonji was perched on a stool, carefully chopping carrots. Kasen hovered nearby, but his attention was elsewhere. He and Shokudaikiri Mitsutada were speaking in a low voice, their serious tone concealed by the whispers. Hachisuka could only assume what they were discussing was serious given their expressions. Furrowed brows and a slight frown was not the face someone made when exchanging a joke. 

“I remember dinner...” Hachisuka frankly didn’t want to rack his brain at the moment. It ached unpleasantly, and attempting to hold a casual conversation with Nikkari wasn’t making it any better. “Alright, yes, I remember sitting with you and them.” Hachisuka nodded towards the two in deep conversation. “Izuminokami Kanesada was there too, along with some other Shinsengumi...” 

Hachisuka blanched, remembering sitting across from Nagasone during dinner. “Higekiri joined us too. Tsurumaru and Jiroutachi as well… what a strange group,” Hachisuka mulled out loud. Nikkari laughed at that, which caught Kasen, Sayo and Shokudaikiri’s attention. 

“Oh, you’re up!” Shokudaikiri greeted. 

“I was considering waking you just now,” Kasen sighed. “I kept some leftovers from breakfast for you. Are you in the mood to eat?” 

“Yes, very much so,” Hachisuka said while holding his stomach.  

“I’ll make some tea,” Nikkari smiled. He made his way to the stove and began preparing a teapot while Hachisuka grabbed a seat beside Sayo at the stainless-steel island.  

“You’re much better at that than I am,” Hachisuka commented, watching the young tantou continue chopping the vegetables. “As I’m sure Kasen has repeatedly informed you.” 

Sayo smiled at the compliment but said nothing. Hachisuka appreciated the silence. He watched the other work slowly and carefully, but with much precision. 

“Does your shoulder hurt?” 

Hachisuka froze, not realizing he had been rubbing the sore muscle until Kasen brought it up.  

“A little. It’s nothing,” Hachisuka mentioned curtly, holding back from wincing after accidentally brushing the tender skin.  

“Hold on a minute—” Nikkari said while spooning green leaves into the teapot. He set it aside and placed the water-filled kettle over the stove before approaching Hachisuka at the island. He grabbed a seat beside the other and rested his chin in his hands. “Alright, go on.” 

Kasen shook his head at the other, maintaining a neutral face. Nikkari made a hand motion at the other, prompting him to continue. 

Kasen sighed heavily and kindly asked Sayo to leave the rest of the chopping for him. He waited for the young boy to exit the kitchen and tossed the towel in his hand over his shoulder before turning his attention back to Hachisuka, who was handed a bento with leftovers from the morning by Shokudaikiri. 

“Honestly Hachisuka, how do I put this?” Kasen started. “That’s a uh... that’s a nasty bruise you’ve got there. Have you considered going in for repairs?”  

“Repairs?” Hachisuka squawked. “What on earth for?” 

For a bruise?  

“Have you looked in the mirror?” 

“Obviously not,” Hachisuka huffed irritably. He brushed his teeth while avoiding the communal bathhouse, meaning he had no mirror to look at when standing at the secluded sink away from the other residents.  He already dreaded the idea of bathing, despite knowing he desperately needed one. He felt incredibly sweaty when he woke up. Frankly, if he looked anything like he felt, he was quite glad to spare his eyes the torture that morning. “Are we gathering around to insult me?” 

“No! No, were not.” 

“Good. Now somebody explain to me what happened last night.” 

His hand reflexively flew up to his shoulder and rubbed the sore spot again. Kasen mentioned a nasty bruise, which was concerning given that he couldn’t recall how he had gotten it. 

“You and Nagasone got into a scuffle,” Nikkari explained, smile not once wavering. 

“What?” 

“What?” Kasen repeated vehemently.  

“It started off the same as it always did—” 

As it always did?  

“After we had dinner and a bit to drink, you complained about him looking at you funny.” 

“He should know by now that it’s rude to stare.” 

“That never stops either of you from doing it,” Shokudaikiri muttered. 

Hachisuka shot the other a furious glare, and Shokudaikiri suddenly found himself busy with the tea Nikkari had set in the far corner of the room. 

“You two are very competitive,” Nikkari noted. “Your staring contest became a drinking contest when the rest of us were just starting to wind down for the night.” 

Hachisuka blanched. He had a drinking competition with the counterfeit? Hachisuka took a bite of his food and thought back to the evening. Yes... he recalled the people sitting around him. The conversations were hazy but there was something Nagasone did or said that must have made him snap. 

Hachisuka rubbed his temple. Trying to recall a memory pained him the same way taking a knife to the temple did not too long ago. That, was not a fun trip to the repair room. 

“You’re telling me after drinking with everyone, I doubled down to drink more with Nagasone?” 

Kasen nodded. 

“And then I sparred with him?” He asked while turning to Nikkari. 

The other’s smile grew tenfold. Hachisuka didn’t like that grin. His stomach flipped unsteadily, prompting him to take another bite of his breakfast.  

“You did.” 

“Did anyone witness it? Who won? Oh god, how bad did I look?” Hachisuka groaned in mortification. He couldn’t imagine being graceful when drunk —black-out drunk, apparently. At least it sounded like his and Nagasone’s exchange wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. 

“We didn’t see it,” Kasen assured him. “I had no idea you two fought until just now, but that explains the bruise—” 

“Well, I heard it. And judging from that, you won.”  Nikkari claimed.

“Heard...?” 

“Finish your breakfast,” Kasen said instead. “Nikkari Aoe, not another word from you. Hachisuka, after you finish up here, I’ll bring you something that will hopefully help jog your memory.” 

“I’d like to bathe first,” Hachisuka croaked. 

Kasen gave him a look, and exchanged a glance with Shokudaikiri, who returned with a tray carrying empty cups and a steaming teapot.  

“That’s fine. If you see Nagasone on your way, can you please tell him to come talk to us?” 

Hachisuka scoffed and continued eating. He could no longer distinguish whether his nausea rooted from his excessive drinking the night before, or from the terrifying apprehension gnawing at his stomach that early afternoon. 

*** 

Hachisuka hadn’t seen Nagasone on his way back to their room. He swallowed hard, noticing the messy state of his futon for the first time since that morning, and rolled it up into a corner to deal with later. His head still ached, but the acidic taste in his throat was nearly gone with the help of some breakfast and herbal tea. His body continued to ache all over, and he groaned unceremoniously while picking out clean clothes and his bath toiletries. Hachisuka grabbed his comb and made his way to the bathhouse, praying to find it empty, knowing most of the residents were either out on their missions or busy with their chores for the day.  

Nagasone was nowhere to be found along the way to the communal baths. Thinking nothing of it, Hachisuka peeked into the open area of the bathhouse, stripped into a towel wrapped around his waist once confirming its total vacancy, and started with his hair. He sat on the miniscule stool and combed out the knots before beginning his normal routine of shampooing and conditioning his long locks. The mirrors fogged at his continued usage of hot water, but not before he eyed the bruise on his shoulder. Hachisuka shuddered, seeing several more bruises trailing down his torso over his abdomen. He sat in silence for a moment, letting the faucet water spill over the bucket that had long since reached its capacity.  

Did Nikkari know for certain that they sparred? Is that what he had told everyone as well? How many others had heard of this scuffle between himself and Nagasone?  

Hachisuka removed his towel from around his waist and scowled, holding his bar of soap.  

There were more bruises. 

His inner thighs were peppered with reddish-purple marks. 

*** 

Hachisuka didn’t soak too long in the bath, fearful someone else would walk in at any given moment and inquire about his bruises. He dressed quickly, and spent the better part of the afternoon getting over his hangover by sitting at a sunny part of the veranda and combing his hair. He was lucky with timing. Lunch had begun and everyone had crowded to the opposite end of the citadel where hot meals were being served. Knowing Kasen would be too busy to show him whatever it was he wanted to show him, Hachisuka took his time, mulling over his fuzzy memories and trying to recall what had happened before and after he and Nagasone started their silly contest. 

Nagasone had said something to me... I told him not to stare and he said...  

What the hell did he say? Hachisuka placed the ends of his hair over his thighs and combed it lazily, trying to rack his brain. He said... something, and then I said —Don’t pinch me with your disgusting toes!  

Hachisuka cursed under his breath, remembering. The sight of his current sitting position jogged his memory. Nagasone, seated cross legged directly across the table from Hachisuka, had brought his foot under the table and... pinched his shin? That didn’t sound right. But Hachisuka could clearly remember saying what he said.  

Did we really spar? Hachisuka wondered desperately. The bits and pieces of information he gathered since waking up the day after told him otherwise. They told him that something far more unheard of occurred. Hachisuka didn’t want to believe it. He clutched onto Nikkari’s words, praying an explanation would come that matched exactly with what the wakizashi had mentioned.  

“Hachisuka.” 

Hachisuka jolted at the familiar voice. He clutched his brush tightly, refusing to turn to face the other. 

“Kasen says to meet in our room in fifteen minutes.” 

Hachisuka nodded stiffly. 

“D-do you have any idea what happened last night?” Nagasone whispered. 

Hachisuka turned at this, needing to read the other’s expression. Nagasone looked relatively normal, but he had sounded truly confused. Hachisuka’s heart hammered against his ribs, scanning the other’s body. Nagasone wore his usual red track suit, but his low-hanging tank-top was replaced with a plain black t-shirt.  

“I don’t,” Hachisuka said just as softly. He stood from where he was seated, facing the other, and slowly pulled back his collar, revealing the tender skin. Nagasone sucked in his breath at the sight. His gaze lingered well after Hachisuka fixed his kimono, hiding the bruise once more. “They say we sparred.” 

“I...” Nagasone scratched the back of his head. “I don’t remember sparring. I remember drinking with everyone, and then just you. Higekiri had brought out the big saucers. They cheered us on —I remember that much.” 

The revelation helped trigger some of Hachisuka’s memories. That was right... the two were encouraged by their rowdier companions. Izuminokami, Tsurumaru and Jiroutachi instigated, with Nikkari’s calm words of encouragement following steadily behind. Kashuu, Higekiri and Shokudaikiri watched in earnest. Only Kasen said nothing, curled up on the tatami behind Shokudaiki, knocked out after a long day and a few drinks.  

“You won,” Hachisuka recalled. 

“That wasn’t what you said at the time,” Nagasone accused. “You kept saying I cheated since most of the sake spilled out of the saucer even though the same thing happened to you!” 

“I know!” Hachisuka hissed. “I’m a sore loser when it comes to losing to you. You know this.” 

Hachisuka clamped his mouth shut. He couldn’t believe he said that out loud. He let out a shaky breath and rubbed his aching temples. 

“But what happened after?” He asked in a calm voice he didn’t feel. 

“Maybe we fought.” 

“But you don’t think so.” It was a statement, not a question. Nagasone’s tired eyes met with Hachisuka’s for a moment before returning to the floor. 

“No,” he admitted. “We might get on each other’s nerves, but I’ve never felt the urge to violently lash out. Especially since… you know, way back when...” 

Hachisuka nodded, heat rising to his cheeks. He felt the same. He also knew Nagasone well enough, unfortunately, to acknowledge that the other would never let a petty argument diverge into something more. They were far too used to each other to feel any real animosity towards each other. 

“Nikkari said we sparred, which sounds like something we might do...” Hachisuka offered desperately.

Hachisuka, prone to staking his claim as the best Kotetsu between them, often found himself challenging or being challenged to a duel against Nagasone. Some days he won, others he didn’t. Like it or not, Hachisuka had always appreciated Nagasone’s skill and sturdiness. It miffed him to no end, but he acknowledged that the counterfeit was a great sword, and a greater swordsman. Although their sparring was usually initiated by a heated verbal debate, the two easily fell into a routine. Though neither would admit it, they enjoyed training with each other. 

“...right?” Hachisuka asked, feeling his face sear. Admitting he liked sparring with Nagasone was hard enough. If anything else happened —if things transpired differently that night, Hachisuka didn’t know what he’d do with himself.  

“Right,” Nagasone croaked. “Maybe.”  

The two stood awkwardly together for a moment, lost in their thoughts and mind buzzing with questions. 

“Do you have any other bruises?” Nagasone asked. Hachisuka stiffened. He looked around to make sure they were alone before revealing parts of his chest. Nagasone’s wide eyes followed the trail of purple skin down towards Hachisuka’s stomach. Hachisuka hastily fixed his clothing, disliking the other’s expression. 

“Don’t make that face.” 

Nothing like that happened.  

Rather than say anything, Nagasone tugged down his own collar. Right along the jutting collarbones rested several small reddened marks. Hachisuka’s mouth dropped open when the other turned and lifted his shirt and jacket together, revealing several bright red scratch marks along the smooth skin. Hachisuka’s panic must have been apparent on his features, because when Nagasone turned back to face him, he quickly fixed his shirt and cleared his throat, eyes wide with apprehension as he spoke. 

“We should see what Kasen wanted to show us. A-and then we forget this ever happened, alright?” 

Hachisuka nodded rapidly, and shouldered past the other, making a beeline for his room. 

*** 

When Hachisuka returned to their bedroom, he noticed the futon he rolled up missing. The door was wide open as well, and upon walking towards their short-legged table moved back to the center of the room, Hachisuka smelled the discreet scent of incense.  

“I cleaned a little... He should be here soon,” Nagasone said. He hovered by the door, arms crossed and foot tapping impatiently. He looked uncomfortable in his own skin.  

“Then get in here,” Hachisuka hissed. “And stop looking so guilty. Nothing happened.” 

“Hi,” Kasen said casually, appearing out of nowhere and strolling past Nagasone as though he had entered his own room. “Close the door behind you.” 

Hachisuka tensed, not expecting the other to power walk and sit closely beside him holding a... 

“This is a laptop. I borrowed it from Hakata, and this,” he said while holding up a USB drive “—is security footage.” 

Nagasone and Hachisuka shot each other a panicked look.  

“We don’t have cameras everywhere, obviously. And nobody reviews them, so don’t freak out. Master had them installed for safety precautions, so unless an emergency occurs, the footage is erased weekly to save space. Only communal areas such as the kitchen, the sparring room, and the stables have them. So do the halls, main walkways, and some communal rooms like the ones we eat in or groups gather in...” Kasen trailed off. He was speaking evenly, but his ears were beet red and stayed that shade after mentioning the kitchen. The sight made Hachisuka’s heart crawl up his throat. What things had the other seen or done that he planned to take with him to the grave? 

“I’m going to show you... the drinking contest to jog your memory... hopefully...” Kasen inserted the security footage and distractedly selected the program while speaking, his clicks breaking his sentence. Hachisuka had no idea the other knew anything about computers. He should be terrified such technologies existed, he knew, but he was glad whatever they were about to see was in trusted hands. 

The video started right away. It was in the morning, when the room was empty. Kasen fast forwarded the footage, and Nagasone finally joined the two on their side of the table. He sat on his knees behind Hachisuka and Kasen, his gaze over their shoulders to the laptop rested on the table between them. 

The scene changed for a moment as Nihongou stretched out his limbs unceremoniously in the open space and took a nap. His tossing and turning quickly zipped by until the scene changed once again. He got up and left, and in seconds, three wakizashi’s came to play cards. Some tantous hovered around to watch, and then they were gone in a matter of seconds. Shokudaikiri appeared and the sun set. The lights in the room were turned on, and tables were brought out and placed in the middle of the room at record speed. Pillows were put on the floor for comfortable seating, and food, snacks and drinks were brought out by Kasen, joined by Izuminokami and Kashuu. A few others joined, and the party soon became a drinking one.  

“You wiped out pretty early,” Nagasone tried to joke as Kasen’s apparent nodding off on the table turned into Shokudaikiri pulling out an extra pillow for him and guiding him to rest his eyes behind him.  

Cheeks searing, Kasen resumed normal time on the video only after his recorded-self had fallen asleep and his vice-grip had fallen from the hem of Shokudaikiri’s shirt.  

Hachisuka said nothing, too enthralled with watching himself and his friends on the small screen. They seemed to be having fun, surprisingly. Hachisuka felt a little embarrassed watching himself act less composed than usual, and was grateful there was no audio to support the video.  

“Do you have to watch with us?” Hachisuka croaked, watching himself watch Nagasone intently, and the other doing the same. 

“I’ve seen plenty worse.” 

“The hardships of being one of the first,” Nagasone commented. 

It was true. Hachisuka had been the first sword to join their master, with Kasen following closely behind. Overtime, the two found their rolls in the citadel, with Kasen taking over residential responsibilities and Hachisuka being in charge of the front lines and battles. As more and more sword warriors appeared, the more things they saw. Sometimes the two confined in each other, but more often than not, Hachisuka and Kasen respected the privacy of their fellow comrades.  

Hachisuka blinked and returned his attention to the screen. His recorded self was leaning close to the table, mouth forming into a frown and unheard words escaping his pouty lips.

This is when I scolded him for staring.  

The Nagasone in the video rested his chin heavily on his hand, a smirk apparent despite the grainy screen. His body twisted slightly. Anyone would miss it unless they were looking for it. After that very small movement, Hachisuka shot straight up. He brought his legs together and smacked the table before pointing vehemently at Nagasone, saying something. 

Hachisuka couldn’t tell if all the blood in his body rushed to his cheeks or as far away as humanly possible. Was he capable of paling and blushing at the same time? He could now recall what Nagasone did. As he suspected, the other didn’t pinch his leg with his toes. Rather, Nagasone had gently brought the heel of his foot between Hachisuka’s legs. He had discreetly rubbed Hachisuka’s... 

“I must have done a bad impression of you or something to get you that pissed,” Nagasone croaked after a prolonged minute of silence passed between the three. Hachisuka was too speechless to say anything back. He watched in astonishment as the drunken argument turned into a fun competition for their friends to watch. Hachisuka’s slowly covered his face as he watched himself chug alcohol like a brute, the left side of his yukata slipping down his shoulder going ignored as he tried to best Nagasone in their drinking game. 

“This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy,” Nagasone admitted. He had been steadily drinking the entire evening. And where their other friends had stopped, Nagasone had downed five times as much as what he had initially consumed before instigating Hachisuka. 

Hachisuka felt relieved when nothing else happened besides more intense staring. He swallowed nervously, realizing Nagasone had eyed his exposed shoulder a good portion of the night. Looking past the implications, Hachisuka observe him and his friends talking —about what, he had no idea— but they were laughing together, hands thrown over shoulders and cheering ensuing. Izuminokami started an arm-wrestling competition, which neither Nagasone nor Hachisuka took part in. Kasen woke up to the gentle prodding from Shokudaikiri, who had cleared up their table some time ago. He was the first to call it a night, and gave Kasen a piggyback ride to his room. Kashuu left a little later, followed by Tsurumaru and Izuminokami. Nikkari and Higekiri seemed to be deep in conversation, and Jiroutachi was discussing something with the Kotetsu’s.  

The sight sparked a memory. This was when Hachisuka brought an accusatory finger up to Nagasone. He was bringing up the fact that Nagasone’s win was falsified. Both Kotetsu’s leaned closer to each other, their conversation heated. Jiroutachi tapped out after that. He waved them a good night, leaving only four people in the room. Hachisuka in real time covered his face in embarrassment. How could he forget this? Nagasone resumed the very act that prompted the two to get in this very predicament in the first place. Thank goodness the camera angle didn’t reveal anything, but Nagasone had resumed rubbing Hachisuka’s crotch with the heel of his foot. To anyone looking, it looked like Hachisuka was furious and the other looked smug. To anyone who knew them, Hachisuka was reprimanding the other who continued to act unphased to his aggravation, only angering Hachisuka further. And to Hachisuka and Nagasone exclusively, they knew what was happening beneath the table. 

And then Hachisuka staggered to stand. He teetered to the side, but corrected his balance quickly. He circled the table, grabbed Nagasone by the arm, and yanked the other to follow him out of the room, leaving a curious Nikkari and Higekiri in their wake. 

I was the one to drag him back?!

Hachisuka refused to believe it.

He refused to admit that it was his self-control that wavered.

“That’s it. You two retire in your room after,” Kasen said awkwardly. Hachisuka shoulders drooped in relief, grateful his drunken self had at least waited until they were somewhere without cameras. “I don’t know if that helped but...” 

Hachisuka was peeking at the laptop between his fingers. He lowered his hands only when Nagasone cleared his throat and spoke first. 

“Yeah uh. Watching this jogged my memory a bit...” 

“Hachisuka?” 

“Yes. It helped me as well.” 

Kasen sighed. “Did you two fight?” 

The two said nothing. 

“I didn’t find any footage in the sparring room. I just want to make sure you two are okay.” 

“We...” 

How on earth could Hachisuka explain to his friend that he and Nagasone unintentionally had very heated, very passionate, drunken sex that night?  

Kasen turned to face Hachisuka fully. “You two have had an air of tension around you for a very long time. We’ve talked about this before Hachisuka, months ago. I was afraid you two were on the verge of exploding.” His expression showed no anger, judgement, nor demand for answers. Only concern. “You do realize hurting each other is a serious issue and if you—” 

“We’ve made up!” Nagasone interrupted. “Last night, right after our spar...” he insisted. “We apologized right away. Right Hachisuka?” 

“R-right,” Hachisuka fibbed.  

Kasen cocked an eyebrow at his friend. 

“I’ve been feeling tense waiting for Master to find Urashima,” Hachisuka admitted. It was easier to lie basing his feelings off what someone else would easily interpret as the truth. “The counterfeit is just a reminder that he’s still missing but...” Hachisuka turned slightly to Nagasone, face on fire as he continued. “I wrongly took my frustrations out on you over the months, and it led to this.” 

“Which we discussed during our spar,” Nagasone ad libbed.  

It was a lie. A total lie. Hachisuka was brazenly confident that Urashima was fine. He would show up when he showed up, just like everyone else in the citadel did. Not to mention that Hachisuka and Nagasone looked past each other’s differences over a year ago. Hachisuka’s cold demeanor to Nagasone was simply a coverup to a mistake they made around that same time months prior —a coverup, sure; but more accurately, a coping mechanism. What they did in the past was something the two never spoke about since. When Kasen approached Hachisuka about the whispers of apprehension revolving around Hachisuka’s harsh and dismissive behaviour towards Nagasone, Hachisuka decided right away to make amends. New and confused with their human bodies, and misguided by outside information, the two had made up —what the two discovered shortly after— incorrectly.  

“Fine. I believe you two. But I don’t want another situation where Nikkari struts around making sparring jokes in the same tone he makes all those other awful sexual innuendos of his. Instead of getting physical, just talk it out next time.” 

“We promise,” Hachisuka nodded. He could feel his headache throb and his thoughts spin. Wringing the information Nikkari knew out of him was an entirely other can of worms he refused to acknowledge at the moment.

With that, Kasen gave both of them a heavy pat on the back. Hachisuka clenched his jaw when Nagasone winced. Kasen removed the USB and closed his laptop.  

“We have resources to spare if you need any repairs,” Kasen motioned to Hachisuka’s shoulder.  

“Noted,” he croaked weakly, not knowing what else to say.  

The two watched guiltily as their friend stepped out of there room and slid their door shut with a soft click. 

Neither could believe it.  

After a year of abstinence, radio silence and involuntary sexual tension, the two had caved and done it again.