Summary: A small lord has something important stolen and his retainers seek the help of other lords in order to get it back.
Pairings: izmk? + szmk? + msan + ckao
Genre: Fantasy / Action
Story Type: Fantasy!AU.
Setting: Based on two pixiv images (IDnos 12347816 and 13579137), one of them is below the cut.
Warning: Use image as reference to how they’re dressed. Links added to disclaimer, however, the images have been eliminated from pixiv, so I’ll have to take a longer route to search for the artist. D:
There was a garden in the center of the mansion. The pond had clear blue water and the gazebo centered on it was surrounded by flowers. Inside was a young boy, his outfit clearly presenting his high status. He seemed to be gazing at the waters without a care in the world. Suddenly, a man in a strange traveler outfit appeared behind him with silent movements.
“Who are thou that can enter my domain so easily?” The boy asked coldly, without turning to face the unknown man.
“Just a simple traveler, my lord. I’ve come here for a small favor.” The man replied with a grin and took a step forward without feeling scared.
“Favors can only be heard if thou requests for an audience. And thou has not passed through the regulated path for this.” The boy turned to the man this time, his eyes staring coldly at the man.
“But I don’t actually expect you to willingly agree to my favor, my young lord.” The man grinned and moved swiftly, taking in his hands something precious to the boy that caused him to fall to the floor unconscious. “Thanks for the meal, little lord.” He murmured before taking a bite of the thing he stole.
… … …
In the middle of the road stood a small food shop with two customers who looked none too happy to be in each other’s company. One had blond hair while the other had a soft black colored hair. The blond had a comfortable fighter-type outfit while the black haired one wore formal clothes, like those of a court, yet they looked casual enough on him. Both were eating a couple of dango sticks they had ordered in silence, trying not to speak to each other more than necessary.
Suddenly, the blond sighed and the other looked at him curiously. “How much longer do we gotta walk to get to the mountain? It’s been two days already.”
“We’ve got two more mountains to climb before getting there, Kida Masaomi. Just cool your head. We’ll get there.” The black haired boy answered him as he finished his dango with a quick bite.
“Kuronuma, I dunno about you but I like being back in the shrine looking at Anri-chan’s face.” Masaomi pouted as he munched on another piece of his dango.
“And I would prefer to be in Mikado-sama’s company but this is important, considering it’s for Mikado-sama’s sake that we’re heading this way.” Kuronuma replied with a stern voice, clearly stating the same as Masaomi. He didn’t want to be next to this person.
With pouts in their faces, both decided to keep quiet and finish their dangos before moving on. The road wasn’t the most pleasant but it was very empty, enabling them to keep their pace stable. As night neared, they made camp and prepared for sleep to come. However, a sudden noise caught their attention and Masaomi moved to protect Kuronuma. After all, despite the dislike he had for the other, this one was necessary for their mission.
“Aobachin!” The voice was recognized by the two and Masaomi quickly moved away, shocking Kuronuma who was tackled by the man who wore a loose street outfit and bandages over his face. “It’s Aoba-kun! Long time no see, my lovely Aoba!”
“Let go, Rokujou Chikage!” Aoba growled and quickly kicked the other off of him with a murderous intent. “You damn perverted guardian! Have you no shame?!”
“None what-so-ever!” Chikage grinned and gave the boy a thumbs-up while ignoring the nosebleed he had.
“Bro, clean yourself up at least. Also, what are you doing here? Weren’t you looking into good candidates to help us?” Masaomi bent down to meet with Chikage’s gaze. He was frowning but the man simply smiled before accepting Masaomi’s hand to get up from the floor.
“Oh, that? Well, there’s good news and bad news.” Chikage grinned and wiped the blood with his sleeveless arm. “It seems that there are various candidates that are willing to help but none of them want to leave their homes and request that Mikado-sama be sent to them instead.”
“Over my dead body!” Masaomi and Aoba yelled in unison. If anything, they shared the same admiration for the one they set out to help.
“Yeah, I said the same and got kicked out.” Chikage chuckled and stretched a bit before continuing his report. “The mountain you’re heading to is one with a candidate with lots to spare but he wouldn’t grant me an audience and seriously beat the crud out of me.”
“So what’s the good news?” Aoba quickly asked and received a confused look.
“That was the good news.” Chikage replied but grinned before coming closer to Aoba. “But Aobachin has good luck whenever we’re together, so I think I’m your good news. I’m sure things will go well now that I’m here with you.” After saying those embarrassing words, Chikage fell to the floor in pain.
“You’re nothing but a useless mercenary pretending to be a guard, don’t get so full of yourself.” Aoba seemed serious and quickly went to sleep.
“G’luck bro. I’m sure you’ll make Kuronuma like you.” Masaomi joked with a smile and a thumbs-up before heading off to sleep as well.
With smiles all over his face, Chikage decided to stand guard while the two slept happily. When dawn broke, the other two woke up and met with a grinning Chikage who had gathered fruits for them. Masaomi quickly made fun of how reliable Chikage was and tried to get Aoba in a better mood before the other decided to leave them behind.
“I want Anri-chan… This mood is so tense!” Masaomi whined before giving a deep sigh. He looked behind him to see Aoba pissed at Chikage who kept pestering him to come closer.
The journey continued its way that way for the next day and a half. As they entered the final mountain’s base, all three instantly felt the sharpened atmosphere.
“You’re right, bro. He does have a lot to spare.” Masaomi grinned and felt something coming.
In a quick movement, Masaomi defended against something as Chikage moved to protect Aoba. Whatever attacked Masaomi didn’t seem to cease, rather it relentlessly attacked and Masaomi couldn’t see it. All he could do was feel where the attacks were coming from.
“Protect Aoba, Masaomi!” Chikage ordered and jumped into the fray by pulling Masaomi away from the fight. Without being able to protest, Masaomi was left behind with Aoba, who looked extremely pissed.
“Who the hell does he think he is?!” Aoba growled and Masaomi noticed the dark of his eyes splitting. “I’m perfectly able of taking care of myself! And stop being taken by such simple tricks!” Masaomi ducked as the air broke and Chikage found himself in front of the two.
“Huh?” Chikage looked around confused but saw Aoba angry and grinned again.
“As expected of Mikado-sama’s half brother.” Masaomi chuckled lightly and looked over to the man who seemed not at all surprised by the group or the fact that Aoba had seen through everything. “So why the super warm welcome? We’re going by the rules here and walking in instead of breaking through.”
“Brother doesn’t like guests. And we have already greeted you out.” The man pointed to Chikage and fixed his clothes a bit. His formal clothing didn’t seem to match with the outdoors but he came closer with a slow pace.
“Sorry, but I have a proper boss here with me to ask for an audience.” Chikage laughed and slightly hid behind Aoba with his hands on Aoba’s shoulders to support his words.
“Let go you useless guard.” Aoba smacked Chikage’s hands but the other simply stood behind him quietly. As he looked over to the man who had attacked them, he spoke formally. “My name is Kuronuma Aoba, head retainer to Lord Ryugamine Mikado.”
“Never heard of him.” The man quickly said after Aoba presented himself and saw all three glare at him.
“Mikado-sama may be a small lord but he still lives nearby!” Masaomi screamed and heard Chikage chuckle and Aoba sigh.
“Four mountains away isn’t near, Kida Masaomi.” Aoba told him with a glare.
“Only if you’re walking.” Masaomi replied with a pout and heard the sigh coming from the other side.
“Is this important?” The man asked and received three serious nods in reply. “Very well, brother wishes to know what you’re interested in so your audience has been granted. Follow me.”
With a silent cheer, all three began following the man through the woods. The slightly tense atmosphere bothered Masaomi but the fact remained that he and the others would possibly manage to fulfill their mission. That alone made him smile, despite how Aoba and Chikage fought behind him.
After a while, they reached a set of shrine gates and stairs. Masaomi seemed amazed by it while Aoba remained calm and Chikage simply focused on Aoba. Once they reached the top, there was a larger gate in front of the shrine behind it. The man nodded to them and walked through the middle of the large gate, disappearing in the process.
“As expected of a bigger lord. They’re so flashy.” Masaomi said and went in through the middle of the gate, much like the man did.
“Don’t lag behind, Rokujou Chikage.” Aoba warned Chikage and passed through as well.
“Of course, my lovely Aoba!” Chikage cheered and followed Aoba through finally reaching the true shrine they were headed to.
Once through, both Aoba and Masaomi nearly gaped at the large shrine in front of them. Chikage had already seen it once so he wasn’t impressed, but just slightly offended.
“By the way bro, how far did you get before the lord here kicked you out?” Masaomi asked curiously and followed the silent man past the path to the shrine and the stone lanterns.
“I got in and thrown out immediately. I did say he had a lot to spare, right?” Chikage joked and received a strong blow from Aoba but his comment was heard by the silent man, who stopped in his tracks.
“A lot to spare? You’re here to borrow mana?” His voice seemed slightly cold and Masaomi moved back with Chikage, just behind Aoba as if using him as a shield.
“Whether or not we get to borrow is up to your lord, is it not? Besides, we are following the rules here in order to ask for an audience. You do not have the proper authority to negate the rules.” Aoba defended their purpose with enough logic to cause the man to back down and continue leading them. Masaomi gave a deep sigh of relief as they could have been lost without a guide.
As they neared the main hall, Masaomi noticed the lack of guardians for this shrine, considering it was of a highly ranked lord. He tried to get an answer out of the silent man but the other refused to give him anything. Chikage simply smiled at Masaomi while Aoba completely ignored the situation. Once inside the shrine, Chikage couldn’t help himself from making mental comparisons and received a glare from Aoba. Masaomi also thought it was huge but preferred something smaller.
“This way. Brother is waiting for you.” The man spoke softly and opened the doors to the most important room in the shrine, the audience chamber. In the far back, a blond man sat on the floor, smoking a pipe. His features were very noble looking but his face seemed tough. The four tails behind him only served to remind the three that they were in the presence of a very powerful being.
“This them, Kasuka?” The blond asked, looking in their direction as they all came forward. Once close enough, the three sat down before him as politely as they could.
“Greeting, my lord. My name is Kuronuma Aoba, head retainer to Lord Ryugamine Mikado.” Aoba presented himself and expected the same reaction that the other gave them but it never came. It was as if the blond man didn’t care at all. “The two behind me are Kida Masaomi to my left and Rokujou Chikage to my right. They are the guardians to Mikado-sama.”
“So why’s the head retainer and two guardians here to see me? Given your response, I will decide how to discard you.” There was no malice in his words, just simple facts and that alone made them shiver slightly in fear. Plus the fact that the blond didn’t seem care enough to present either him or his retainer.
But Aoba gulped and stood his ground. “We have come here to request a favor from my lord.” Aoba hoped this would go well. He wanted to return home as quickly as possible.
“Favor? What kind of favor would require a head retainer and not his lord’s presence before me?” The blond seemed angry but had yet to stand up. He had yet to deem them worthy enough.
“We humbly request to borrow mana from my lord.” At these words, all three gave the blond a deep bow, failing to notice how angry the blond seemed to be.
“Why the fuck should I even listen? And what the fuck happened to your lord that he needs to ask for mana from another lord?” He sounded very serious and it was Masaomi who responded this time.
“Exactly four days ago, our shrine was broken into and as embarrassing as it is, neither I nor Chikage-san noticed the intruder. He penetrated the center of our lord’s domain and robbed Mikado-sama of nearly all his mana. This caused one of his souls to disappear, while the second remains asleep. For this reason, we are requesting a favor from my lord. Please help save Mikado-sama.” Masaomi fully bowed, hoping that the blond would take pity on them.
“I don’t gain anything from this, why should I help?” He asked them and waiting for an answer. Chikage provided one this time.
“The culprit is a man-made tengu. He’s been pilfering various lords in the vicinity and I suspect he will come here. I have heard my lord does not take kindly to strangers as you proved to me earlier but I feel I should warn that this one…”
“Silence.” With one word, Chikage shut up and kept quiet. “I’ve heard rumors about this so-called tengu. And I’m perfectly capable of handling my own affairs. I don’t need you warning me of anything.” His voice now sounded extremely menacing and all three could not help but hold their breaths.
However, the silence was broken by another voice. “Oh really, my lord? Then you’ve known me to be here this entire time?” They all looked up to the stranger, who simply smiled all the rest in the room.
“You accursed bastard! Hand over Mikado-sama’s mana!” Aoba screamed and nearly jumped towards the stranger if not for Chikage, who held him back.
“Calm down Aoba. This isn’t our domain and don’t look at me like that. I know how you feel.” His tight grip served to reinforce his words and Aoba calmed down a bit.
“What do you want intruder?” The blond asked, ignoring how Kasuka had stood up to guard him.
“I think your guest have made that pretty clear, my lord. I want your mana.” The intruder laughed to himself and dropped down to the floor, the feathers on his cape moving softly behind him.
“You may have stolen that small lord’s mana, but you’ll find me to be more difficult.” The blond stood up and continued to hold the pipe in his hand.
“I think not.” The intruder spoke from behind the blond with a wide grin on his face. However, before he could attack the blond, he found himself taking a blow from someone.
“I’m not letting you escape again. Now return Mikado-sama’s mana to us this instance.” Masaomi spoke from right next to the blond, having moved quickly to attack.
“Brat, did you try to defend me?” The blond looked insulted but Masaomi answered quickly and without hesitation.
“No way! This is for Mikado-sama’s sake!” With those words, Masaomi tried to attack the intruder but the other disappeared from his view and stood where he had originally appeared from. “What the…?” Masaomi was confused and looked up at the intruder.
“I see. I guess you’re pretty strong. I’ll have to rethink my strategy.” The intruder seemed to be in deep thought until he grinned once more. “I know! I’ll take the remaining mana from that little lord! He was pretty yummy! After all, there are very few purebred lords anymore.” With those words, the intruder disappeared.
“Kida Masaomi, Rokujou Chikage, we’re leaving!” Aoba took out a paper charm that aided him in leaving the area in order to arrive outside of the shrine.
“Then good day to you both.” Chikage bowed politely and disappeared from view as well, followed by Masaomi.
“Kasuka, we’re going as well.” The blond said and threw his pipe back with a glare in his place. “That intruder disrespected me greatly. I think it’s time to teach that brat some manners.”
“Of course brother.” Kasuka nodded and followed his brother out of the shrine, catching up to the three very easily. Not caring about the change in their appearances, Kasuka spoke to Masaomi. “Be pleased brother doesn’t like intruders. Looks like you might have your revenge on that tengu soon.”
Masaomi, who now had a pair of horns on his head, grinned widely to Kasuka, who now bore a pair of fox-like ears and two tails behind him. “Thanks. Now, I’d actually like to know your names. If you think it proper, anyways.”
“Shizuo.” Shizuo, whose ears and fours tails carefully avoided hitting anything, spoke with a serious gaze. “And that’s Kasuka, my younger brother and head retainer of my domain.”
“Thank you, my lord, for your good show of faith.” Chikage, who bore only one horn, much larger than Masaomi’s, in the middle of his forehead, smiled at the two and continued at Aoba’s pace.
“Don’t you idiots fall behind, I’m picking up the pace!” Aoba, whose pair of cat ears and two tails seemed completely normal on him, screamed to the two behind him, not yet realizing Shizuo and Kasuka were with them.
As they ran ever faster to meet their destination, the sun had begun to set when they finally arrived at a lake. Aoba jumped towards the steps in front of a shrine gate inside the lake. Passing through the gate, he never looked back to check whether the others followed him.
“So small.” Shizuo immediately said when he was on the other side. The road to the shrine was a boardwalk and the lanterns were part of the décor by coming from the water.
“We know it’s small!” Masaomi and Chikage yelled in unison with a heartbroken look before petting the guardian statues on the way to the incredibly small shrine.
“Shut up back there.” Aoba silenced the two and opened the door to the shrine, revealing a kotatsu and five cushion seats.
“When will we get to eat here with everyone again?” Masaomi sighed sadly and walked over to the other side of the room. Once he opened the door, there was a flight of stairs. “It’s this way. It looks like Anri-chan’s defenses are working like a charm.”
“Anri-chan’s the head of security here. Technically, she’s our boss.” Chikage explained with a grin and followed Aoba down the stairs after the other finally took a step to continue. The cat boy had been in thought while looking at the kotatsu.
As they descended, Shizuo looked around at the lamps on the walls with curiosity and Kasuka remained quiet as he had the whole time. Eventually, Masaomi opened the sliding door at the end to reveal a tower-ish structure that continued down. The hallway was small and the middle of the tower was empty with various wood planks that covered a direct fall to the bottom. All the walls looked like paper yet they emitted a picture of an underwater scene that seemed very unrealistic.
“Well, I’ll be heading down to see Anri-chan! You can lead everyone, right?” Masaomi grinned and jumped down from the edge, disappearing from their sights in a second.
“Useless bastard.” Aoba muttered and looked back. “Don’t get lost my lord. Please follow me closely.” He politely said to Shizuo and began walking hastily through doors, staircases and a series of hallways without checking to see if Shizuo or Kasuka were following him.
After what seemed to be a long road, they finally arrived at the bottom. Shizuo stared at the gazebo in the middle of a small garden. The garden stood in the clearing of the tower, beneath all the wooden planks that shielded the upward view. Without getting a word in, Aoba walked around the garden and entered another room. This one reminded both Shizuo and Kasuka of their shrine’s audience chamber, if not for the fact that there was nothing but a pool at the end of the long room.
“Anri-chan! Smile for me! Please! You’re scary when you’re angry!” Masaomi pleaded to the girl in the kimono with a pale look on his face. The girl held a sheathed katana in her grasp and was sitting down very formally on the floor while ignoring Masaomi’s pleas.
“We’re back Anri-chan.” Chikage smiled at the girl as soon as he was near enough. This also allowed Shizuo and Kasuka to notice the boy inside the pool. “That guy hasn’t penetrated your defenses it seems.”
“Correct.” Anri spoke coldly and both Masaomi and Chikage felt a shiver down their spine.
“Anri-chan, please don’t be mad at us anymore…” Masaomi pleaded but sat sadly next to her, hoping she would cheer up. However, that didn’t occur anytime soon and Aoba decided to ignore them all by walking closer, stopping just short of the edge.
“Now what the hell am I supposed to do? The only reason I came here was because of that flea. If he doesn’t breach your defenses, then I can’t punish him for disrespecting me.” Shizuo glared at them all, looking as though he would punish the ones in front of him instead of the intruder from last time.
“He’ll come. That guy has a disgusting aura on him. I could tell he truly wanted Mikado-sama.” Aoba spoke, not showing his deep hatred for the intruder to the rest.
“We’ll stop him this time Aoba.” Chikage tried to comfort the boy but quickly felt the dangerous aura coming from behind them and ducked his body with Aoba’s. “Anri-chan?!” He looked back to see the girl with her katana drawn out.
“Intruder confirmed. I will proceed to execute.” Anri spoke calmly and the air above the pool broke to reveal the intruder.
“Oh my. You have a really dangerous thing there.” The intruder grinned and jumped away from her range of attack. “I didn’t see you last time I was here. And you have a high quantity of mana too…”
“Don’t you dare touch Anri-chan either!” Masaomi stood in front of the girl and jumped to attack the intruder but he simply avoided the attack with a smile.
“How simplistic are your attacks. I wonder, why did you get chosen to protect this little lord anyways? That just makes him seem so pitiful, don’t you think? After all, he is a purebred.” The intruder grinned and was thrown back against the wall by something he had not seen or felt.
“Are you done yet, intruder? You owe me respect for coming into my domain without following the rules.” Shizuo let out a puff of smoke from his pipe while taking a step forward. His glare was serious and he had all the intentions of a murderer.
“Looks like I might have it harder this time. Time to retreat.” The intruder grinned and tried to escape, but felt a deep charge of electricity cursing through his body and causing him to fall again. “What the…?” He was confused but noticed Aoba and Kasuka reciting words that he realized were part of a binding spell.
“You will not escape a second time, intruder.” Shizuo growled and quickly punched through the intruder, seeing him disappear. What remained in his hands now was a small sphere of light. “Here. This is your master’s, right?” He spoke nonchalantly and threw the sphere to Aoba.
With a slightly pale look, Aoba growled at Shizuo after catching the sphere and walked over to the sleeping boy. Smiling, he placed the orb on top of the sleeping boy and watched it slip through the body. The other three came closer, watching with anticipation as the pool lit up with a soft light and the boy opened his eyes. A pair of cat ears and two tails appeared on his body as he sat up and allowed Aoba to help him get on his feet.
“Mikado-sama!” Masaomi yelled happily and tackled the boy, followed by the other two guardians who looked very relieved to see him awake.
“Hello everyone.” Mikado smiled towards all four and looked over to Shizuo and Kasuka with a surprised look. “Shizuo-niisan?”
“Eh?” All four looked from Mikado to Shizuo and back to Mikado again. “You know this one?! Heck, why didn’t he help you then from the start?! He said he didn’t know you!” Masaomi pouted and was silenced by Anri’s blade.
“You’re a purebred lord so start acting like it. I won’t save your hide next time.” Shizuo spoke and disappeared from their sights.
“Good day, young lord. We’ll see you in a few years then.” Kasuka bowed and followed after his brother.
“Hold on, what the hell?” Chikage was confused and looked over to Aoba for answers.
“Even I’m confused. What’s going on Mikado-sama?” Aoba asked the boy curiously and saw him chuckle ever so slightly.
“Um… This is something that happened way before you came to get me out of father’s place, Aoba-kun.” Mikado started explaining. “Back when only Anri-chan was by my side, Shizuo-niisan and Kasuka-niisan visited father a lot and I got to know them both. But I was still a kid so I wasn’t allowed to say my name to them.”
“Ah, that’s why that guy said he didn’t know you.” Chikage somehow understood and nodded to himself.
“So why did the other say they’ll see you in a few years?” Masaomi asked curiously now that Anri had retreated her blade and saw Mikado blush. “Eh? Don’t tell me… That’s who your father set you up with?! Man, that’s a seriously screwed up relationship!”
“Tch. Guess I can’t do anything about it.” Aoba grumbled and began to walk away.
“Aobachin is jealous. How cute… I’ll go cheer him up!” Chikage grinned and followed after Aoba without care of his future injuries.
“Masaomi, can you make sure Aoba-kun doesn’t kill Chikage-san? It wasn’t easy getting a second guardian for a remote shrine like ours.” Mikado asked nicely with a soft smile in place.
“Alright but I resent that ‘remote shrine’ comment! I grew up here, remember?” Masaomi pouted and went after the two that had left.
Once they were alone, Mikado turned to Anri with a worried look. “What did father say when you went to visit him last time?” He asked her softly.
“He allowed a second proposal by the man-made tengu. This was a test to see how well he matched you and if Shizuo-sama would be a better partner or not. I do not have the results of this test however.” Anri reported calmly and saw Mikado frown. “I will protect you no matter what Mikado-sama.”
“Thanks Anri-chan.” Mikado sighed and gave her a smile but quickly looked serious. “If this is a test from father then I’m sure that man will not have succumbed so easily to Shizuo-niisan. Father never liked Shizuo-niisan after all. We’d better make preparations.” With those words, Anri nodded and stepped out of the room with Mikado.
“Oh, man. Pairing up with you will be the most fun I’ve experienced in a while. I’ll have to thank that lord for this chance to see what you know, Mikado-kun.” The low voice of the intruder chuckled through the walls of the room until its voice disappeared. It would be some time before he was heard from again.