"I don't need to remind you not to tell anyone what I just told you, do I?"
Lifting his gaze from his drink, Haruki glanced over at the older man next to him and nodded his head silently. Admiral Yorimoto looked at him in the eyes, to engage his sincerity before sighing and looking away, taking a long sip of his own beverage.
Haruki couldn't verbally respond and turned his gaze to the square table in front of him. His heart was in his throat as the remnants of their conversation - uttered in a private corner of the Skylounge, the words whispered in haste - rumbled around in his head. He could barely believe what he heard, and yet he did believe it. Yorimoto had nothing to gain telling him lies like that.
"You'll treat him differently now, won't you?"
Haruki closed his eyes as he drew in a slow breath. To be honest, he was. Yuma, he...
He was half human, half machine. A man, whose name was unknown, who had died 12 years ago, but reborn as Yuma. A human weapon whose sole purpose was to hunt dragons. That was what Yorimoto had just explained to him. Top confidential information, but he told him anyway. With little prompting, as well.
Haruki understood why Yorimoto had told him, though. Him and no one else. He saw Yuma as a son. He wanted him to live a life that didn't revolve only around fighting dragons. He wanted more for him. And he asked Haruki to help him see beyond his worth as a weapon.
In all honesty, that was something Haruki wanted to do anyway. But after learning about how Yuma came to be he was more determined than ever for Yuma to create a life outside of dragon hunting missions and the ISDF. Especially away from the ISDF.
Yorimoto sighed loudly after he finished his drink. He placed the glass down and then grasped Haruki by the shoulder, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “I know it’s a lot to take in. But he’s Yuma now. And he’ll be Yuma in the future.”
That was very true.
“Continue to take care of him for me,” Yorimoto added before he removed his hand and took to his feet.
“He’ll be safe with me,” Haruki said. And he meant that.
Yorimoto granted him a rare smile before bidding him a goodnight and walking away, most likely heading back to ISDF headquarters for the night. Not before checking in on Mio, of course.
Sighing loudly, Haruki rested his chin in his hand as he turned to gaze out at the darkening skyline through the window. He couldn't help but wonder about that man, the one who had died so that Yuma could be created. Who was he? Did he have a family? Did they know what happened to him? Was anyone mourning him? What did he die of? ISDF didn’t have a part in it, did they?
He shouldn’t be thinking of such things, should he? The man that once was and the man that Yuma was now were two completely different people.
Still, learning the truth made him feel both sad and furious. How dare ISDF think they had the right to play god like that. How many times had they tried creating human weapons before? How many failed? How many succeeded? What would they do to Yuma if they believed he ‘failed’ in his missions? What have they done to Yuma to make him think of himself as nothing more than a weapon?
With his blood pressure rising, the buzzing of his phone thankfully pulled Haruki from his thoughts. Glancing down at the device, he noticed that he had a message. From Yuma. He was asking him to meet him out on the terrace. In the next ten minutes.
A sense of concerned washed over Haruki as he sent his reply, stating that he would be there as soon as possible. Yuma only ever asked him to visit the terrace with him when he was about to tell him something very important. And Haruki couldn’t help but worry what it could be this time.
Taking to his feet, Haruki paused for a moment to finish the rest of his drink. It was non-alcoholic, of course. Allie and Jack wouldn’t allow it. He was nineteen. Old enough to travel through time and space and hunt dragons, but heaven forbid he drank anything with alcohol in it.
Go figure, huh?
Using the elevator to descend to the rest floor, Haruki hurriedly moved in the direction of the terrace. As he opened the door and stepped outside, the scent of sea air was one of the first things he noticed.
The other was that Yuma was leaning on his elbows against the railing, looking out at the sea as the sun set far off in the distance. The twilight between dusk and night set everything in a warm, orange glow. Even so, even with the distance between them, Haruki could easily see the expression of contemplation on Yuma’s face.
“Yuma?” Haruki called out as he began his way over to him.
Pushing away from the railing, Yuma turned to face him and smiled a small smile. “Thank you for meeting me on such short notice,” he said.
Haruki, however, shook his head and moved to stand next to Yuma. He gazed out at the ocean for a moment, letting the sea air ruffle his hair in a reassuring manner before turning fully toward Yuma. He took a quick, silent moment to study the man in front of him, trying to push the conversation he had with Yoritomo to the very back of his mind. It was hard, though. He wanted to ask Yuma questions about himself, about whether he had memories or dreams to a time before ISDF. He wanted to tell Yuma that he was still in fact human even though he had parts of him that were made of metal and machine.
Yuma was a hunter, not a weapon. He had strengths and vulnerabilities. How could Haruki make him see that for himself?
Shaking his head to rid himself of his current thought pattern, Haruki focused his attention on Yuma once more.
“Is there something bothering you, Yuma?” Haruki asked, deciding to get straight to the point. It wasn’t that he didn’t like spending time with Yuma. He could just tell that he was troubled by something.
Yuma released a small chuckle. “Have I become that easy to read for you?” he returned.
A small smile appeared on Haruki’s lips. “To me, yes. And I guess that means that’s a yes from you as well?”
The look that Yuma gave him was nothing short of endearing. However, he sighed and a frown tugged at his lips. “I must confess I am feeling a little…perplexed about thoughts I have been experiencing lately.”
Haruki took a half step closer to him. “What kind of thoughts?”
“They centre mostly on you,” Yuma said bluntly as he turned to gaze out at the darking sky and gripped at the railing with one hand. “I’ve been finding myself thinking of you inside of missions as well. You are a dragon hunter and leader to Unit 13, and yet…I’ve found myself feeling a heavy, strange sense of…concern?” he paused before nodding confidently to himself. “Yes, that’s it. Concern when we’re a part. It’s illogical, really. You have comrades and teammates at your side. There is no reason for me to feel any concern, is there?”
It took Haruki a moment to register everything Yuma had said before nodding his head slowly, unable to stop himself from smiling softly. “You’re worried for my safety,” he pointed out. “There’s nothing illogical about that. It just means you care about me.”
Yuma turned to look at him, his brow furrowed slightly. “Of course I care about you,” he replied in his usually blunt manner. “I care about all my comrades and Admiral Yorimoto. And yet they aren’t the ones who are constantly in my thoughts.”
Haruki lifted his hand to toy with his scarf, feeling an acute sense of nervousness grow in his chest. “I see. W-well, is there anything else you feel when you think of me? I mean, do you only feel concern or is there…something else?”
Yuma looked off to the side to think. “Yes, there are many instances of other emotions,” he said after a moment of silence. “Relief when we meet up again and I see you are unharmed. Competitiveness whenever Eigur brags to you about his skill and strength. And a strange sense of annoyance whenever Sailas drags you around by the wrist is just some of the strange instances of overwhelming emotions.”
Haruki lifted his scarf to cover his smile and to hide the light blush on his cheeks. The last two examples sounded a bit like jealousy, but he’d keep that to himself for the moment.
“My body’s physical responses are also baffling,” Yuma carried on, his hand tightening around the metal railing. “My heart seems to flutter whenever I see you. I feel a strangely heated whenever I touch you. My jaw tightens when I watch you fight. My hands shake when I happen to glimpse you receiving the brunt of an attack. I feel white-hot fury whenever a dragon dares to attack you. And-”
“You care about me a lot, don’t you?” Haruki couldn’t help but state, unintentionally interrupting Yuma in his unconscious rambling.
“I feel as though this goes beyond simply caring, though,” Yuma said, looking somewhat irritated as he turned toward him. “And I want to know why.”
Haruki fell silent as he simply looked at the other man. Yuma was being serious. He was being sincere. He really didn’t understand what he was feeling. It was…ISDF tried to take away his emotions, but that could never have been possible. Human emotions, any emotions, could never be extinguished. No matter how hard anyone tried.
Yuma was still human, after all. Not a weapon. A man. A man with emotions.
Slowly, Haruki took a step forward and raised his hand to gently touch the side of Yuma’s face, ensuring that he was focusing entirely on him. “Yuma, I’m going to say something to you.” Something rather embarrassing. “And I want you to tell me honesty how it made you feel, ok?”
Yuma looked momentarily confused, his brow furrowing ever so slightly. However, he nodded his head once. “Understood.”
Haruki felt his face heat up in a blush but kept his eyes locked on Yuma’s. “If I could spend the rest of my life with you, I’d be perfectly okay with it.”
Just as the last word passed his lips, Haruki suddenly found Yuma’s arms around him. With one arm around his shoulders, the other against the small of his back, Yuma buried his face against the side of Haruki’s neck as he cradled him fiercely, but tenderly against his chest. Startled, and with his hands trapped against Yuma’s chest, all Haruki could do was rest his chin on Yuma’s shoulder. Due to the slight height difference, Haruki’s head was tilted back and all he could see was the night sky.
That wasn’t the reaction he had been expecting. It was better!
“S-sorry,” Yuma unexpectedly stuttered as he abruptly, but not at all harshly, pushed him away from him. “My body responded without thought. That…”
Haruki smiled up at him. His physical reaction spoke louder and said more than anything he could have said. “Impulse, Yuma. You acted on impulse driven by what I had said to you.”
“But why?” Yuma muttered, looking more confused than ever.
“How do you feel?” Haruki asked him instead as he grasped at the front of Yuma’s shirt and pushed himself against his chest. “What are you feeling right now? Please tell me.”
Yuma licked his lips nervously, uncharacteristic for a ‘weapon’. “I feel…alarmingly light-headed, and yet…excited?”
“…Happy?” Yuma repeated softly, sounding almost breathless before an expression of grand realisation appeared on his face. “I…yes. Yes, there’s a sense of warmth.”
“I’m happy, too,” Haruki said as hugged Yuma tightly and pressed his cheek against his shoulder.
Yuma’s arms were soon wrapped around him in turn, but there was still a great sense of confusion within him. “What does this all mean?”
“It means I’m in love with you, Yuma,” Haruki said in a resolute manner as he lifted his gaze toward Yuma’s eyes once more. “And you’re in love with me.”
“That…can’t be,” Yuma murmured as he shook his head. “I am a weapon, I am not-”
Haruki abruptly reached up to grab at the collar of Yuma’s jacket and tugged him down toward him. He then kissed Yuma on the lips, lingering there for a moment before pulling back.
Yuma looked surprised as Haruki gazed directly into his eyes. “Yes, weapons aren’t capable of such things. Which means you are not some mere weapon. You’re more than that. You’re better than that. You’re stronger than that.”
Yuma was completely silent as he stared at him, his eyes wide and unblinking. Slowly, though, a sense of peacefulness fell over him and his gaze softened. Tightening his arms around him, Yuma leaned forward, his eyes slipping close, and pressed his lips against Haruki’s. Uttering a soft sigh, Haruki tilted his head slightly and slipped his hands up along Yuma’s chest to wrap his arms around his neck, pushing forward into the kiss.
He knew that it was going to take more than one night to convince Yuma that he was more than a simple weapon. That he was a human who could love and be loved in return. But Haruki was both patient and stubborn. They’ll work it out somehow.
Even if it meant that Haruki had to reinvent the entire universe, then so be it.