Set in Stone

 

Chapter Four

 

Yata was in a foul mood by the time they reached the elevator. The insignificant weight of the stone in his pocket felt like it represented the unpleasant knot of this unwanted contract and the hassle he was going to have to go through to get it undone. His patience was already at its limit; he felt about ready to kick something.

Yeah, the train is definitely out. Fuck that noise.

Fushimi moved to stand beside him, the evidence of his matching irritation made obvious in his tense posture, scowl, and directionless glare. “How long am I supposed to put up with this?” he muttered as if to himself and reached up to dig two fingers into his temple beneath the band of his glasses, shutting his eyes. “What a pain...”

“How the hell d’you think I feel, huh?” Yata responded belligerently, slamming the stop button as the doors closed. He bent down to unzip the bottom pocket of his cargo shorts, scowling to himself. “Anyway, fuck it. You’re gonna find out sooner or later, so we're doing this the easy way.”

“The ‘easy way’?” Fushimi repeated. It was almost possible to hear the raised eyebrow in his voice without even looking at him. “Also, in case you’ve forgotten, I already know exactly how you feel.”

Yata ignored that, digging out the familiar cloth pouch and opening it to grab a pinch of the powder inside. “You still wanna fly, right?” He could feel the warmth of the magic still seeped in the herbs under his fingers, fueling his confidence. “I’ll make you invisible and you can do whatever.”

Fushimi eyed the bag for a moment, expression inscrutable, and then inclined his head just slightly in acknowledgement.

Good enough. Yata reached up to sprinkle that tiny bit of powder, brushing his fingers together over Fushimi’s head to ensure that it landed properly, and then dipped back into the pouch to do the same for himself.

“I can still see you,” Fushimi remarked after he’d finished.

“You already know I’m here, dumbass!” Yata stowed the pouch away, shooting him a dirty look. “It’s not perfect invisibility, like we just vanish or anything like that. People won’t notice us, that’s all.”

“Mm.”

That sounded like a dubious hum, but whatever. Yata shrugged off his hoodie, quickly securing it around his waist, and then reached back to tug his shirt over his head.

There was a stark pause from beside him – different from the neutral silence of before. He could feel Fushimi’s eyes on him as he freed his arms from the shirt, and a wave of sudden self-consciousness seemed to wash over him. “What?”

“Nothing.” The word was drawn out, low and throaty and promising. “I didn’t take you for an exhibitionist, that’s all.” When Yata turned to stare at him, momentarily confused, Fushimi lowered his eyelids, lashes veiling his gaze as his smirk widened. “Then again, we are invisible, so maybe that’s not the right word for it. Either way, if doing it in public is your thing…” He let that trail off, shutting his eyes and letting out a huff that sounded partly amused and partly smug. “I don’t know if I believe you’ll stay quiet enough, honestly – does the spell come with a ‘silence’ effect?”

Incomprehension gave way to sudden realization; Yata felt the blood rush to his face, hot and furious. “Wha – the hell? I don’t wanna do it in public, you weirdo! Especially not with you!” The last part was a useless lie – the warm twinge of involuntary interest at the suggestion and sultry look combination was going to give him away – but he had to maintain his dignity in some way. “Where the fuck did that come from?”

“You were taking off your clothing.” Fushimi shrugged, spreading his hands without any sign of remorse. He let his eyelids slide just far enough open to fix Yata with a heated gaze. “What was I supposed to think?”

There was a certain amount of promise in that look: an unspoken answer to the desire that Yata was trying very hard to ignore. Fushimi was taunting him, he was pretty damn sure of that – but there was an element of something half-serious behind it; a kind of ‘just kidding… unless you want to’. If he was being honest, he’d been getting flashes of that vibe from the start, and it was confusing as hell. It was directly contrary to the contempt Fushimi seemed to have for him, and he wasn’t sure what to make of that conflicting set of attitudes.

He thinks I’m a waste of space but he’d be okay with us fucking? I don’t get it.

Well, either way, Yata wasn’t so desperate for sex that he’d take it from someone he wasn’t even sure he liked that much, hormones be damned. Fushimi was interesting, yeah – clever and cool, mysterious in a way that was undeniably sexy – but he was also a dick and Yata had standards, damnit! Getting off wasn’t worth the lack of respect.

No matter how desperate for contact he was…

Shoving those thoughts aside, Yata scowled in response, deliberately turning to face the panel again and harshly slamming the lobby button to start the elevator moving. “You can keep those kinda thoughts to yourself, asshole,” he grumbled, tucking the shirt securely into the waistband of his shorts.

Fushimi made a soft, amused sound, almost lost in the hum of the elevator coming to life. “You still haven’t explained why you started undressing.”

That at least he was gonna get some satisfaction from. “Hah!” Yata shot him a sideways smirk, feeling marginally better. “You’ll see when we get outside.”

He got a raised eyebrow in response. “Is the secrecy really necessary?”

“Nah.” Yata shrugged, turning to face the doors again as the elevator came to a halt. “But why should I waste my breath when you’re gonna see it soon enough anyway.”

“‘It’, huh?” The words came out slow and mocking. “In that case, I hope it is worth the production.”

Yata shot him a scowl, moderately irritated. Fushimi was looking at him with lidded eyes, lips turned up in a lazy smirk and gaze somehow intent. It made him keenly aware of his exposed skin, and he felt a little self-conscious, uncomfortably reminded of his diminutive build. He had muscle, yeah, but despite his best efforts he was never gonna be really broad. And he was short, which didn’t help. Most of the guys who liked short, slender men liked a certain type, which he definitely was not. But it wasn’t like his problems with getting laid had ever been about finding people who liked how he looked – at least, based on how often he could pull initial interest, he didn’t think he was unattractive or anything… so…

Why’m I thinking about this shit now? Who cares what he thinks of me? Deepening his scowl at that defensive rush, Yata turned and deliberately stepped forward into the empty lobby, leaving Fushimi to trail after him.

Once they were outside the building, he stepped just off to the side of the staircase, not quite moving fully out onto the sidewalk. Right. I should have enough space here.

“What are you – ?” Fushimi’s words cut off in a sharp inhale.

Yata had already begun stretching out the lesser-used muscle – for lack of a better term – at the center point between his shoulder blades. He felt the initial rush of pain as Fushimi spoke, and gritted his teeth against it as those previously hidden appendages sprouted out through the flesh on his back. It was as if they’d been released from restraint once he’d consciously attempted to extend them. Once he started, they just… came out, muscle and bone and dark feathers, flaring out a good five feet to either side as they sprung free.

He experimentally flexed them one at a time, shaking each wing a little to work out any kinks, as the throbbing in his back faded and he consciously unclenched the fists that had balled up at his sides. As usual, they felt fine – no stiffness or anything. That was normal – the wings were magic, after all; they didn’t make sense otherwise – but otherwise, they had always felt just like any muscle in his body. Natural, controllable, easy.

Through the whole process, he could feel Fushimi’s eyes on him, almost burning his skin; when he turned to meet them, a challenging smirk forming on his lips, the gaze that met his was narrow and calculating. “So that’s the deal with that ‘Yatagarasu’ business.” One thin eyebrow arched. “You’re full of surprises, huh?”

“Told ya we could race.” Yata shrugged, folding his wings in just a little and reaching up to adjust his shoulder to alleviate some of the extra pressure. He deepened his smirk, gratified by the small, irritated frown that was returned. “How often do you fly, anyway? Are you even fast?

Fushimi clicked his tongue. “Annoying,” he muttered, but the answering fire to Yata’s challenge was present in his eyes. He slid them shut and a short second later, his own wings emerged from the center of his back – along with the smooth curved horns and thin forked tail that were a part of Yata’s vague memory from the previous night.

The transition was so seamless, it was almost like a special effect from a movie. Yata resisted the sudden impulse to reach out and touch, gaze shifting with fascination from the tail as it lashed sharply to the appendages on Fushimi’s back – which, despite the bat-like appearance, seemed to be a lot broader and more solidly built than he remembered from that hazy first impression – and then up to the simple inward curve of the horns.  “Hey… how’d you keep those hidden? More illusions?”

“I can’t use illusions on myself, remember?” Fushimi met his gaze with a raised eyebrow. “They’re probably exactly like yours – I can extend and retract them when I need to, that’s all.”

“Huh.” Yata accepted that – and then a thought occurred to him, and his eyes narrowed. “How’d you get them to go through your clothes so neatly?” When he leaned in for closer inspection, it almost looked like the wings and tail extended naturally from Fushimi’s shirt and pants. “I gotta take off my shirt if I don’t want it getting ripped up.”

“Do you not even think?” Fushimi met his scowl with an unimpressed frown. “The clothing is illusion, idiot. Or had you forgotten that already?”

He had, but the scornful response got on his nerves just the same. Yata deepened his scowl. “So what if I did? Your clothing’s not that exciting, y’know.”

Fushimi let out a small, amused huff, lips turning up in a tiny smirk. “I could change that if you really want me to.”

“I don’t.” Shooting him a final glare, Yata turned away with a frustrated huff. “Whatever. Just keep up – it’s not my fault if you fall behind and get lost.”

“I have to keep you company, remember?” Fushimi drawled back. “I can’t get lost.”

Yata snorted. “Can’t be that easy to get rid of you, huh?” He stepped forward without waiting for a response, stretching his wings out wide before heaving them down hard to lift himself off of the ground and gain momentum.

It wasn’t something he’d realized was magic until he’d joined Homra and Kusanagi had explained that he was too heavy for any non-magical rationalization to make sense. It had always felt natural to him to be able to do this, despite the fact that he’d learned at an early age that he couldn’t, at least not around other people. The first time he’d flexed that muscle and brought out his wings in front of his mother…

Yata grimaced, deliberately shoving that memory back. He didn’t like to dwell on his past – or his future, really. It was simpler to focus on the feeling of sudden weightlessness and speed as he caught the breeze and lifted, gliding forward and up lazily for a beat before pumping his wings again to rise above the buildings around them.

The air was thinner up there – cleaner, too – and as always when he did this, it felt like he was leaving his problems, past and future, behind on the ground, the rush of the wind a pleasant sting against his face and body as the city diminished and became the landscape for his air travel.

Well… there’s still that one really clingy problem…

He could feel Fushimi’s presence without turning his head but did so just the same. The bat-like wings flapped steadily, each powerful beat drawing him further through the air. As he rose up to Yata’s level, he shifted, catching the breeze to glide similarly for a beat. His arms were in close to his body and his legs behind him, a posture that spoke of at least minimal experience with flying.

It was the first time Yata had ever had anything similar to human company while he was in the air, which was a bit exciting. Despite everything, he couldn’t help but grin as Fushimi returned his gaze, a little surge of something like anticipation and pleasure rushing through his body when the corners of Fushimi’s mouth edged up with seeming reluctance. He pumped his wings several times more before gliding again, shifting direction subtly towards his target.

The ease of flying was something that had come with practice – a lot like his skateboarding, but later in life. There was a long period in his early life when he hadn’t brought out his wings even briefly, and once it had been safe to do it, he’d had to start from scratch learning how to fly without crashing. It was Homra who’d helped him – supported him – showered him with all kinds of advice (some of which was even helpful) as he was fumbling around with it. Homra who’d introduced him to magic and the ways he could make it a part of his natural habits and inclinations. Homra who’d taught him that he could be himself without restraint in the ways that it really mattered.

Homra who gave him a place he could always belong – a constant source of friendship and acceptance in a large, lonely, indifferent world.

That sentiment was still burning brightly within him as he angled down from the sky and came in for a practiced landing directly in front of Bar Homra – the place from which his coven took their name.

Fushimi landed beside him shortly after, folding his wings as he dropped gracefully to the ground. “So where is this, exactly?”

Yata spread his own wings again, flexing that inner muscle once more before drawing them back. The sensation always gave him the impression of a sinkhole – his external self seeming to collapse inward as the appendages were pulled in under his skin. “This is my coven’s headquarters.”

Fushimi followed his example, the wings, tail, and horns receding smoothly as he frowned critically at the old-fashioned building in front of them. Beneath the prominent sign bearing its name, Homra had a set of double doors framed by flat rosewood beams and walls lined with curtained windows on either side. Above it, the brick structure extended upward, the framed lining of its windows indicating apartments or personal rooms. The building was located close to the city’s entertainment district, where the roads were more cramped and the sidewalks made from stone rather than stark, neat concrete. It was built straight up against the establishments on either side, its prominent entrance sitting directly at the outward corner in a way that made it seem to pop out at a casual viewer. A folded sign sat at the base of the steps leading to the doors, displaying the bar’s daily specials. “What kind of coven do you belong to?”

There was a scornful note in the inquiry that had Yata’s hackles rising; he scowled back. “Not one you wanna trash talk if you know what’s good for you!” he snapped back, and then let out a short breath, reining in his temper. “Homra specializes in fae magic.”

“I see.” That considering gaze turned sideways towards him. “Well, I guess that makes sense, considering.”

Considering. Yata resisted the urge to rise to the bait, pulling out his shirt and sharply tugging it on over his head. “C’mon.” He started for the bar’s entrance, pausing only when he got close enough to reach for the door handle. “Right, so there’s a protection spell around this place.”

Fushimi snorted, looking unimpressed. “I’d question your leader’s competence if there wasn’t.”

It took more of an effort to clamp down an angry response to that. Settling for a glare, Yata went on. “It’ll remove any active spells you got on you – like my invisibility spell. If you got something else going on that needs to stay on, better say something now.”

“I don’t cast spells,” Fushimi responded, without batting an eye.

“Yeah, right.” Yata turned back to the door. “Let’s go then.” He swung it open without waiting for a response, stepping into the warm space and feeling something within him relax as the familiar jingle on the door went off. The grin he shot forward wasn’t even remotely faked. “Yo! What’s going on, Kusanagi-san?”

The bartender – and their coven’s second-in-command – looked up from the glass he was polishing with a smile. “Afternoon, Yata.” His gaze shifted. “And who’s – ?” The question cut off; he blinked twice, seeming taken aback. “Ah.”

Before there was a chance to process that weird reaction, the blond sitting in front of the counter let out a low whistle, smiling with what looked like innocent cheer. “Now that’s bold, even for this day and age.” He was directing a curious look past Yata. “Are you on your way to a club, maybe?”

“Huh?” Yata frowned, eyebrows furrowing, and turned to look behind him. “What are you – ?”

That question died on his lips, forgotten as he took in the sight in front of him. Fushimi was now dressed as he had been the previous night: tight black pants and sleek black boots, nearly reaching as high as his knees. His upper body was bare, pale skin and lightly muscled torso on open display in the warm, rich lighting of the bar. As Yata had pieced together from his dim memories and the clothed version he’d been exposed to up until then, Fushimi was thin but beautiful, slim and elegantly built but with a certain amount of power behind that deceptive frame.

Fucking totally my type. The thought slipped through Yata’s consciousness before he could recover from his shock and stop it. The sharp, sudden rush of attraction caught him momentarily off-guard – it was difficult to gather his scrambled wits.

The impact of Fushimi’s attire was spoiled slightly by the sour expression on his face. “That’s a powerful dispel you have,” he muttered, and clicked his tongue. “Can I change back, or is it bad manners to wear illusionary clothing in here?”

Kusanagi’s voice was something between amused and baffled when he responded. “Well, we’ll make an exception.” The barest hint of a warning crept into his tone when he added, “But I’d stick to clothing when it comes to illusions.”

“Mm.” Fushimi shot a sideways glance at Yata, eyes veiled by his lashes again. A tiny knowing smirk tugged at the corners of his lips. “Got it,” he drawled, shifting deliberately as the familiar shirt and jeans took shape on his body. “I’m a reluctant guest here anyway.”

“Reluctant, eh?” When Yata turned, Kusanagi was giving Fushimi a considering look. “That’s quite the talent you have.” His gaze shifted to Yata. “What kinda visitor did you bring here, Yata?”

“Demon,” a deeper voice answered; Yata jerked his gaze towards the side of the room in time to see his coven’s leader sit up slowly on the couch, studying Fushimi almost blandly through fierce gold eyes as he reached for the pack of cigarettes on the low coffee table in front of him. “High ranking too, huh?”

He napped there so often that Yata hadn’t quite taken note of him when he’d walked in, but he immediately brightened with that presence. Suoh Mikoto had been his hero for years – and kind of still was, even if Yata himself had settled a bit over time. “You can tell just by looking? That’s awesome, Mikoto-san!”

The blond at the counter chuckled. “King would know if anyone here would.” He stood up, making his way across the room toward them. “I guess I’ll open up the introductions, then.” The smile he offered was warm. “Hey there. I’m Totsuka Tatara.”

Fushimi’s gaze was wary as it shifted from Mikoto to Totsuka; the frown on his face deepened. “Fushimi Saruhiko.”

“Fushimi, is it?” Kusanagi held up a hand in casual acknowledgement. “Kusanagi Izumo.”

Mikoto was already lighting his cigarette, so Totsuka picked up the remaining thread without pause. “And our leader over there on the couch is Suoh Mikoto.” He held out his arms expansively. “Welcome to Homra!”

“Should that be your line?” Kusanagi commented with a certain amusement.

“It’s fine – someone had to say it, right?”

“Not so sure about that.” Kusanagi shook his head, and then turned to face Yata with an arch look. “Want to tell me why you’re bringing a high-ranking demon in here in the first place?”

“Uh… right.” Yata scratched at the back of his head, feeling sheepish. “Actually, I kinda… See, Munakata gave me this book, it had a bunch of summoning circles in it… and I mighta been kinda drunk, and, uh, well… ” He shrugged awkwardly. “Yeah, shit happened and now I got this guy stuck to me for a while.”

Kusanagi blinked at him, clearly startled. “You did a summoning on your own?”

“Yata, that’s dangerous, you know.” Even Totsuka’s expression seemed uncharacteristically somber.

The reminder had him ducking his head, sheepishness deepening into chagrin. “Right, yeah, I know…”

Fushimi clicked his tongue. “Considering who he is, how dangerous is it really?” he muttered.

Yata shot a startled look back at him, but Fushimi didn’t meet his gaze. He’s defending me? The realization surfaced in his brain all at once, an unexpected truth rising through layers of disbelief. But he’s the one who said I was stupid first… And he was right – it was Yata’s dumbass behavior that had led to their current predicament… Yata’s weakness in the face of his own loneliness that had him giving in to his impulses and making bad decisions. And it wasn’t like there’d been any hesitance to point that out before.

So this was yet another contradiction to the disdainful treatment he’d received so far. Yata furrowed his eyebrows, frowning as those blue-grey eyes turned to meet his stare impassively. Fushimi didn’t make any goddamn sense at all, really.

“I’m not doubting his ability.” When he looked up again, Kusanagi was holding out his hands in a kind of surrender, a rueful smile on his lips. “We all know what he’s capable of – ‘scuse me for talking about you like this, Yata – but summoning a high-ranking demon…”

Fushimi clicked his tongue again. “You’re making a big assumption there.”

“Oh? King was wrong?” Totsuka tilted his head, studying Fushimi with keen eyes. “Are you not a demon, or is it that you don’t rank that high?”

The expression on Fushimi’s face was somewhere between perplexed and irritated when he met Totsuka’s gaze. There was a stark second of silence and then he said, with clear reluctance, “That’s not what I meant.”

“Hm.” Totsuka’s eyes softened a little, some of that familiar knowing warmth infusing them. “So it’s the assumption that you’d be dangerous, then.”

Fushimi’s lip curled in response, expression going sour again. Yata didn’t wait for him to interject. “You got it wrong, Totsuka-san – this guy’s dangerous as hell.” He hooked a thumb in Fushimi’s direction with a bit of a scowl. “It’s only ’cause I’m a changeling that he can’t suck out all my energy and fuck off back to hell or wherever.” Reaching up to scratch awkwardly at the back of his head again, he added, “I was the one who didn’t put a time limit in there, and that’s why we’re stuck like this.”

“Hm.” Kusanagi sounded thoughtful. “No time limit, eh? Well, I guess that wouldn’t be more than just troublesome for you.” When Yata turned to face him again, he raised an eyebrow. “By the way… how’d you happen across a summoning circle for a high-ranking demon anyway?”

“Oh… yeah.” Right – that was something he’d wanted to bring up. “Got it from Munakata – a whole book of ’em, actually. Kusanagi-san, did you know that guy was – ?”

“A demon lord?” Kusanagi offered a rueful smile, reaching for one of his cigarettes. “More or less. Well… the details make for a bit of a long story…”

“It’s because King has the kind of aura that attracts power,” Totsuka chipped in, tilting his head to look over his shoulder with at Mikoto. “Right, King?”

Mikoto returned his gaze steadily for a beat, then let out a low grunt and looked away, reaching up to pull his cigarette from his lips and exhale.

“Let’s skip the story for now,” Kusanagi suggested smoothly, reaching for his lighter. “Sorry for keeping it from you, Yata – there’s a reason the three of us had to keep it quiet, even from the coven.” His eyes took on a bit of a flinty edge. “Though… seems to me there was a promise made when he propositioned you for that job…”

Fushimi made a small, amused sound, lips curling up with a slight sardonic tilt. “One thing the Captain’s always been good at is keeping to the literal terms of an agreement while still edging around it to get what he wants.” He reached up to push his glasses higher on his nose. “In this case, it seems to be the two of us working together.”

Yata scowled at the reminder. “Right, yeah, he said he’ll cancel the contract if we charge these stones.” He reached into his pocket to pull out the moonstone, holding it up on his palm. “In a really stupid way, too – sun for the moonstone and moon for the sunstone. What the hell sense does that make?”

Both of Kusanagi’s eyebrows went up at that. Ignoring Totsuka’s low whistle, he removed the cigarette from his mouth and spoke carefully. “That I can’t answer for you. Though… Fushimi, I’m guessing your affinity is with the moon?”

There was some soft shuffling from the stairs before he could answer that, and a soft feminine voice broke into the conversation. “The stones are a pair.” The teenaged girl it belonged to stepped into the room after it, her long white hair seeming to absorb the ambient colors of the lighting in the bar. Anna wore the usual Lolita-themed dress in red and black, striking against her pale skin, and her red eyes were calm as they met Yata’s. “Like the two of you.”

“Huh? A pair?” What’s that s’posed to mean? Even knowing it was useless to protest – whatever Anna saw when her other Sight activated, it was never wrong, even if she could only express it in vague terms – Yata couldn’t help but blurt, “No – you’re wrong – we’re just like this because – ”

“A contract,” she finished simply, and offered a tiny smile. “But not just the contract. Reisi would’ve known already.” She stepped forward to where he was still holding the moonstone on his palm, and reached out to brush a finger across the surface. “Don’t worry, Misaki.” When she raised her eyes again, her expression was serious. “Things won’t always be the way they are.”

Something about the combination of that look and those words had a lump rising at the back of his throat. It was like the loneliness that had driven him the previous night came rushing back sharply to the front of his thoughts, and he swallowed, almost unable to stand the soft understanding in her eyes. After a brief but awkward silence, Yata tried for a grin to play it off. “Uh – r-right. Yeah.” He cleared his throat, a little embarrassed, and reached up to rub at the back of his neck with his free hand. “Thanks, Anna! You saying that somehow cheers me up a little, y’know?”

It was always like that with Anna, though – she was a natural seer, though her powers didn’t always activate fully or give her visions she could understand, and she tended to be cryptic without meaning to. He’d known her since she was a little girl, and she’d always been overly quiet and serious, speaking very little and very simply. But somehow, he could feel the warmth behind the things she said. And it was comforting when she was around. Living at the bar and being known to every other member of the coven, she was like the beloved princess of Homra.

Well, maybe more like a priestess in a way… sorta.

Her gaze slid past him, hands dropping to clasp in front of her. “Nice to meet you,” she said simply, “Saruhiko. My name is Kushina Anna.”

Fushimi blinked at her, clearly taken aback by her immediate familiarity. “Yeah.” After a pause, he added, almost grudgingly, “You too.”

No one could be rude to Anna. Yata didn’t bother to suppress his grin – Fushimi could probably feel his amusement anyway. “I got a favor to ask, Anna. We gotta find some spots around the city for charging these stones. Can you help?”

She tilted her head at him for a moment of silent regard, and then shook it slightly. “This is a quest. There’s less power in it if I tell you everything.”

“Huh?” Yata blinked at her. “A quest? Why?”

Fushimi clicked his tongue. “That makes it even more annoying,” he muttered.

Yata shot him an irritated glare. “What’s that s’posed to mean?”

“But,” Anna continued, as if they hadn’t spoken, “there is one thing I can say. The first step is here.”

“Here?” Kusanagi repeated, sounding intrigued. “One of those charging points is the bar, you mean?”

She nodded. “Not inside. But…” Her gaze lifted to the ceiling, meaningfully. “Homra is blessed by the sun.” When she lowered her eyes again, it was to meet Yata’s confused stare with a small smile. “Misaki. This is the place you belong to more than anywhere else. It’s the right place for your quest to start.”

“Oh. Huh.” Yata reached up to scratch the back of his head. “That’s how it works?”

Fushimi let out a sharp sigh, as if exasperated. “It’s standard for quests. Probably the last one will be mine, if that’s the way we’re doing this. Or,” he added after a beat, “at least as close to mine as we’re likely to get.”

Yata frowned at him, confused, but Totsuka had already picked up the conversational thread. “So the bar is a sun charging place, then, right?” He smiled brightly at them both, raising a hand to point up. “In that case, wouldn’t the roof be the best place to do that?”

“Obviously.” Fushimi clicked his tongue, looking back towards the bar entrance. “Does that dispel effect work on people leaving this place as well?”

“No,” Kusanagi responded, “only when you come in.”

“Good.” Fushimi turned back towards Yata. “In that case, make us invisible again and let’s fly up.”

His tone was irritating. Yata scowled back. “Don’t order me around!”

Fushimi raised an eyebrow at him. “Do you have a better idea?”

He didn’t, but that wasn’t the point. “I said don’t give me orders, asshole – I didn’t say we wouldn’t fly up.” Yata let out a sharp ‘ch’, lips twisting down in a scowl, and turned back to face the others. “Sorry. I’ll probably be busy for a while with all this crap. And I still gotta work too; I need the money.”

“Don’t worry.” Totsuka offered him a warm smile. “We’ll still be here for you. Anyway, things will turn out fine! There’s always a reward waiting at the end of a quest, right?”

Yata grinned ruefully in response. “Yeah, that’d be getting rid of this jerk.” He hooked a thumb in Fushimi’s direction.

Fushimi clicked his tongue again. “That goes double for me. Can we go?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Grumbling, Yata reached down to the bottom pocket of his shorts again for the cloth packet. “I got it.”

The sooner they started, the sooner this would be over with, after all.

 

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