Happy Valentine's Day, Phoebe! Title: We never had a paradise to lose Author:lady_ganesh Recipient's Name:p_zeitgeist Pairing: Hisoka/Muraki/Tsuzuki Rating: Not Rated
We never had a paradise to lose
We never had a paradise to lose
You'll learn so much, the note in the envelope had said. Inside was a scrap of paper; a spell.
Down the rabbit hole Hisoka had followed, even though he'd known better. The first spell took him from the library in Meifu to a sumo stable in Ryogoku. It took time; it took money; it took not looking Tsuzuki in the eye. He found the files, finally, in a temple in Kyoto, a stack of materials a foot thick and protected by a spell it took all his concentration to break.
Hisoka read every word, as his fingers coated with dust and his eyes began to feel the strain.
The documents could have been fake.
Hisoka knew they weren't. They explained everything, everything, and Hisoka grew angrier with each word he read.
January 2, 1978: Tsuzuki Asato, request for release from service and the liberation of his sister Ruka. Request denied.
January 2, 1979: Tsuzuki Asato, request for release from service and the liberation of his sister Ruka. Request denied. Petitioner advised to desist from further petitions.
Hisoka went back further, through year after repetitive, frustrating year. A breakdown in 1981; another one, more serious, in 1947. Hisoka resisted the temptation to look for Tatsumi's name in connection with that one.
January 2, 1928: Tsuzuki Asato, request for release from service and the liberation of his sister Ruka. Request denied.
Hisoka was growing impatient. Where is she? Why--
The file was not at the bottom of the stack, but it was very close. The paper was cheap, and clearly hadn't been kept well; it felt ready to fall to pieces in his hands.
Tsuzuki Ruka. 1897 - 1925. Under the Emperor's direction....
The rest was unreadable.
"Under the Emperor's direction...."-- what did that even mean? Was she a criminal? A concubine? What?
There was no one he could ask.
Except, perhaps, the man who first sent him on the chase.
Muraki always had a taste for drama. At least the moon wasn't red, but it was full; huge, and white, its light reflecting on the surf. Hisoka was half-braced for a shower of sakura blossoms.
"You're looking well," Muraki said, and seemed to mean it. The moonlight caught his hair; a glowing halo in the night.
"I never change," Hisoka said, keeping his voice sharp. "Don't you remember?"
Muraki's smile was venomous as always. "You should learn to accept compliments," he suggested. "It would get you much further in life."
"And still, you breathe," Muraki rejoined. "You get paid, you have co-workers. As I said, you should learn to accept compliments."
There was no use arguing with him, at least not now. Hisoka sucked a breath in through his teeth and asked, "Why did you send me those things?"
"Didn't you want to know?"
Of course, Hisoka thought. But he was no longer sure. He had wanted to know until he knew. As stupid as he was when he was thirteen years old and drew closer to the couple just visible in the moonlight. Knowledge brought pain as often as power.
"I can give you what you want," Muraki continued.
"You couldn't possibly--"
"Peace," Muraki interrupted, "for that damaged shinigami of yours."
Hisoka swallowed. Muraki was right; the one thing that could stay Hisoka's drive for vengeance was his concern for Tsuzuki. "You're bluffing."
"Perhaps I am," Muraki bowed, deep and formal. "We'll discuss it further. But not now. Don't you realize they hold him in place for a reason?"
"You're not getting away from me that--" Hisoka was running, but the curse marks flared; the pain brought him to his knees as Muraki disappeared into the fog.
When he could get up again, he saw that Muraki had left something: a thick golden ring with a Western symbol.
"Is everything all right?" Tsuzuki asked when he came home.
"I'm fine," Hisoka said, which was not quite the same thing.
One night a month ago Tsuzuki had come home with bruises he couldn't explain and a scent on his body that was all too familiar. Hisoka had gotten the envelope the next morning, leading him to...everything. A payment, he supposed, or a trap. But it was a trap he was all too willing to fall into. Hisoka wanted, needed to know what had happened, why Tsuzuki was so shattered and broken, why even now, after everything, Muraki could still....
His head ached. Tsuzuki put an arm around his shoulders, and Hisoka could feel the worry and concern under the warm affection Tsuzuki was clearly trying to focus toward him. "I can make dinner," he offered.
"Why don't we go out?"
Tsuzuki squeezed him. "Okay."
There was a quiet place in Tsukiji they both liked; Tsuzuki ordered a dozen entrees, and Hisoka had soup. The soup was all right.
It felt like the ring was burning in his pocket.
Watari wasn't the safest person to confide in, but he had his own independent laboratory. "There doesn't seem to be any enchantment on it," he said, adjusting the jeweler's loupe held against his eye. "Have you opened it?"
"You didn't notice?" Watari straightened up and handed the loupe to Hisoka. "Hold the loupe close to the ring and then pull it away from you. You'll see the hinge."
There was a tiny hinge, and a tiny clasp. Hisoka slid his fingernail between the metal edges and opened it.
"The Borgias in Europe were quite fond of them," Watari continued. "You could slip something into your enemy's drink without them knowing it. I bet they gave more than one pretty girl a roofie, too...."
There was a scrap of paper folded inside.
"A secret message?" Watari noted. "What does it say?"
The paper crumbled away in Hisoka's fingers, but not before he made out the words: Look for Tsuzuki Ruka's records.
"Could you read--" Watari asked, and Hisoka shook his head no. "Does the crest look familiar to you?"
Watari took the ring back and squinted at it. He nodded. "The von Siebold family--Shiboruto-san. They were in the country before the Black Ships...he was expelled as a traitor in the eighteen-thirties."
"Huh," Hisoka said.
Shiboruto-san had lived for years near Nagasaki, on the island of Deshima. His garden, still preserved, was in bloom. Hisoka supposed it always must be, in one way or another, but the spring blossoms were particularly fine. Many a Western garden boasted of the flowers he'd brought back when he was expelled from Japan; Hisoka remembered their names from his studies.
The tutors and workbooks of his family estate seemed so long ago, now. Now his education took a very different form.
Hisoka traced a line in the dirt, mimicking the curve of a hosta leaf. There had to be something more here; what was it?
He closed his eyes. The ground was warm from the sunlight. Death, decay, renewal; those were the laws of a garden. His mother had helped the ladies in the flowerbeds sometimes. He remembered the slow, careful scraping of her spade outside the basement walls.
Death, decay, renewal.
But he had skipped that second stage, hadn't he? And Muraki was trying to avoid the first, and had, through a fire, through a stabbing, through Enma only knew what else. He looked no older than the last time Hisoka had seen him, though it'd been more than a decade since the fire in Kyoto.
What the hell did any of it mean?
Tsuzuki Ruka's records were an entirely different kind of dead end.
A few weeks later, when they'd had a good night, when Tsuzuki was lying soft and boneless in his arms and three whole days had gone by without a case, Hisoka asked, as gently as he could, "How...how much older was your sister?"
Tsuzuki's sorrow settled on them like another layer of blankets. He took Hisoka's fingers in his own, and Hisoka thought again about how light and thin his hands felt next to the solidity of Tsuzuki's. But it was Tsuzuki who was fragile; Tsuzuki who, some nights, felt like he would shatter like glass underneath him; Tsuzuki who could not, even a century later, think of his sister without descending into heartache.
"Two hours older," Tsuzuki said. "But she always took care of me."
She had no birth record. No death record. No marriage, no children. No sign of her existence beyond Tsuzuki's memories.
"Sometimes I wonder," Hisoka said. "What it would have been like."
"It was nice," Tsuzuki said. "I miss her."
Hisoka went back to the garden. There was something more there, he knew. He kneeled in the dust and dug through the earth with his fingers, until his cuticles tore and bled.
He reached deeper, deeper. "You're almost there," Muraki's voice said from behind him, and Hisoka turned, his wrists still deep within the ground.
Muraki's skin was as white as bone. His teeth were as as the scales of a carp. His hands--
Hisoka woke with a start.
Once he'd caught his breath, the thought formed in his mind: Shiboruto-san had a daughter; Japan's first female physician. Muraki was from a family of doctors....
The bed was empty; no warm spot, even, where Tsuzuki's body had been. Hisoka bit his lower lip and wondered if he even wanted to know where Tsuzuki was.
He got out of bed.
The kitchen floor was wet; Tsuzuki had made a cup of tea, more or less. Hisoka got a towel out and sopped up the mess. There was a crumb-stained note on the table; Gone for a walk.
Hisoka rolled his eyes and turned his computer on.
Tsuzuki came back at five, suit rumpled but otherwise none the worse for wear. He stood behind Hisoka at the computer. Hisoka felt his guilt, but it was nothing unusual; the relatively simple, uncluttered guilt of a man who'd gone out walking at two in the morning.
"I was going to feed the ducks," Tsuzuki said, "but they were all asleep."
"Of course they were, idiot," Hisoka said. "It's dark."
"It's getting lighter now."
"What were you going to feed them?"
"The cake we had left over was going stale, so I was going to feed them that." Hisoka turned in time to watch Tsuzuki pass a nervous hand over his hair. "But I ate it instead."
"Don't complain to me if you get a stomachache." Hisoka turned back to the screen. He'd found as much as he could on O-ine (she'd been a midwife, was it possible...?) and was now just looking at the web of doctors in the country, looking for a likely alias for Muraki; normal activity, really. It could be any night.
"Come back to bed?" Tsuzuki said, hopeful. "I'm tired."
"You should be, you've been up for hours." It was as close as Hisoka could allow himself to being genuinely angry. He'd kept too many secrets of his own lately to have a right to complain about a simple walk.
Tsuzuki leaned forward and put his arms around Hisoka. "I'm sorry," he said.
Sorry. Tsuzuki was always sorry, even when he didn't know why or what for. Hisoka reached down and wrapped his arms around himself, covering Tsuzuki's hands with his own. He tried not to think.
O-ine had been through two reincarnations since she was Japan's first female physicians, but her records still existed in a university in Kyoto.
If he could only find Muraki....
The thought of enlisting him was absurd.
Hisoka wondered why it kept coming to mind.
The next few days were busy, but the case went well-- as well as cases went-- and Tsuzuki insisted they treat themselves before returning to the world of the dead. Hisoka was still feeling guilty about Ruka, so he let Tsuzuki drag him into the village center to get something to eat.
"Look," Tsuzuki said, "a photo booth!"
A debate they'd had a thousand times. Hisoka sighed. "All right."
"Really?" Tsuzuki bounced with excitement. "Let's go!"
"One condition," Hisoka said. "I want some pictures just of you."
Tsuzuki looked so happy Hisoka thought he might be sick.
He let Tsuzuki go home early while he finished up the paperwork. By the time he finished, Tatsumi was the only one left in the office. Hisoka turned the scanner on and hated himself as he put the images of Tsuzuki into the computer.
It took him almost an hour to compose the right email message to the Earl.
The photos-- and the promise of additional shots as they became available-- bought him an hour in the Hall of Candles.
When Wadson left him alone, Hisoka closed his eyes and concentrated: Muraki. He tried to keep his breathing deep and even, but soon enough he was gasping for breath, feeling the deep pain of the curse.
As the curse marks flared to life, he looked around, desperate-- and there, one candle was burning more brightly than all the others. Muraki's. He dropped to his knees and caught his breath, making it slow and even again, and let the curse marks fade back deeper into his body.
He cursed his weak body and got up.
Even an amateur's glance could reveal that the candle was different from the others; it burned differently, with a strange, unnatural light. Hisoka thought of the curse again, and put his hand to the flame as the mark emerged from his skin.
He gasped from the pain, but more from the immediate, sharp sensation of connection; Muraki was there, under his skin, but for the first time he could feel where he was under Muraki's skin.
The curse was a conduit. Hisoka pulled his hand back sharply. As his skin steamed and the burn began to heal, his mind worked overtime; any connection can be reversed, or changed, or severed. And perhaps....
It was a mad impulse, but Hisoka grasped the bottom of the candlestick. He couldn't take anything; he'd given his word. But if a drop of wax just happened to fall upon his skin....
He winced again as the drops fell.
He left the Hall of Candles twenty minutes early, with a faint smile on his face and a tiny ball of wax hidden in his pocket.
Sixteen days later, as Tsuzuki was washing the dishes from supper, Hisoka left the apartment "for the library."
He had read about curses for years, but this magic had little to do with that knowledge; Hisoka was aware that he was operating purely on instinct this time, and the thought terrified and thrilled him.
It was too much to resist; the power, the control, the potential. If Muraki had drawn youth, drawn strength from him all this time, what could he draw from Muraki?
He caught a handful of cherry blossoms as he crossed the border into the human world. It was late summer now, and there would be none for him to use among the living.
The ocean tide was soothing, and the beach again deserted, far enough from the main pathways to be isolated. A simple spell, scored gently in the sand, was enough to keep anyone from interrupting.
He walked to the center of the protected space and began the spell.
Ofuda, to call back a spirit; the wax to call Muraki. The ring for power, the cherry blossoms for youth lost too soon.
Semen, for the night he lost his life.
And last of all, the knife, drawn through all of these things, and then-- Hisoka closed his eyes and focused--
The knife, plunged into his own stomach to seal the spell, at the point where he felt the curse most strongly.
For a moment Hisoka couldn't breathe.
What a fool he was, what an idiot; how could he have thought the spell would work, how could he have underestimated--
And then his breath rushed back, and he felt an angry, struggling presence before him.
Hisoka opened his eyes, and Muraki Katsuzaka lay before him, bound in red ribbons of Hisoka's own blood. Triumph throbbed through Hisoka's body, and the pain of the curse reversed to pleasure; a steady thrum of raw power.
"You could kill me." Muraki's voice was calm; the struggle against his bonds was in his emotions, not his body. Muraki was shirtless, his glasses half-off his face. The spell had called him instantly from wherever he'd been. "You'd destroy us both, especially now."
Hisoka walked forward and kneeled down, balancing his weight on his heels to keep out of the water. There was sweat on Muraki's brow. "Did you know the curse could do this?"
"Of course," Muraki said. Hisoka could sense no struggle at all now.
Hisoka struck Muraki in the face, and the glasses came off altogether, banging into one of the endless rocks half-buried in the surf. Hisoka noted the sound with a start. He realized he'd been holding the knife his knuckles had turned white, and he dropped it into the sand.
"If you weaken me," Muraki said, "you weaken yourself. Strengthen me, and you strengthen us both."
"You're mad," Hisoka said, for want of anything else to say. He stood up. The moon was red tonight; he'd chosen it that way. He hadn't needed to, he realized now. He'd needed, in the end, to do very little, and would need to do even less next time.
He was hard, and he'd been trying not to admit that to himself, but it was increasingly difficult. He walked to the rock and slowly, lovingly, ground Muraki's glasses to metal and dust under his shoe. If he sealed things with Muraki's own blood, it would be power like he'd barely allowed himself to dream of, power that could lead to more, much more. The magic of the human world with the spiritual abilities of a shinigami....
Muraki laughed. "You are not so different from me in the end, are you?"
"You're a sick, twisted son of a bitch," Hisoka spat.
"Perhaps," Muraki said, and twisted in his bonds to get a better look at Hisoka. "Does it matter?"
Hisoka sighed. "Tsuzuki Ruka. What do you know?"
"Very little," Muraki conceded. "O-ine's records from the year of Tsuzuki's birth are burnt beyond recognition. I would need more knowledge to go further. And more power."
"So you need me."
"So you need me. I can go where you cannot. Don't you realize that even now you're being watched?"
"Perhaps," Hisoka conceded, and pulled on the bonds. His heart was pounding in his chest, but it wouldn't do to show any of that. Muraki winced, his head tipping back against the strain, and Hisoka caught his breath.
"I can help you understand," Muraki said. "If you really want to end this."
Hisoka kneeled back down, this time letting his knees rest in the sand. "And what do you get out of this?"
Muraki's smile was slow and satisfied. "If you could see how you looked right now, you wouldn't even ask the question."
Hisoka closed his eyes for a moment and saw Tsuzuki's face, felt the heat Touda's flames against his skin.
"You're sickening," he said, and bent to Muraki's neck.
Muraki's blood was warm and metallic in his mouth, and Hisoka tried not to listen to Muraki's low, thick laughter.