Falling from the Moon

A "Please Save My Earth" fanfic

By Natalie Baan


Chapter 12



They'd almost reached the place they were going to. Above them ragged clouds drew out across the sky, pale between the dark brushes of the pine trees, casting patches of greater and lesser overcast on the winding forest path. He stopped, looked up to watch them trailing by, grey and serene and slow, carried by the wind. If he could float away with them, where would that take him? A current of air touched his face like a promise.

The rustling in the bushes had been getting louder, and the sound of running feet.

"K'pow! K'pow!"

Shion landed in front of him, jabbing out a finger as if it were a gun, teeth bared in a fierce and gleeful grin.


Shion laughed, spread his arms, and raced off down the path, as Haruhiko trembled, staring after him, trying not to show how badly he'd been startled.

"He does that on purpose, you know," Issei remarked, drawing even with Haruhiko again. "He just wants you rattled. And sometimes I think he likes pretending to be--"


Mokulen stepped out from the rhododendrons, pausing half-on, half-off the path to disentangle her hair from a twig. She looked up, saw them, and froze. Stirring slightly, the glossy, dark leaves brushed her face and upraised arm, as if whispering secrets. Maybe they were. Her eyes flickered from the two of them; she sketched a stiff bow and hurried after Shion, who was waiting impatiently at the next turning of the path.

"Pretending to be a kid," Issei finished softly. "I didn't think he'd actually get her to come. But if she /is/ starting to remember...."

She was, Haruhiko thought. She ought to be. He had reached out to her in that hope: that Mokulen was only sleeping in the high school girl, that he could call out to her across time, across space, and she would awaken. Awaken into the dream--


--the falling of cherry blossoms--the sigh of Keeches power--


<I'm sorry, Mokulen-san.>

"We'd better hurry a bit," Issei said. "They'll be waiting for us." And he went on ahead, walking lightly over the rough stepping-stones of the path without disturbing the pine needles that passing years had laid there. There was no certainty of why he'd gotten involved in all of this. But Enju had had a gentle heart, and Issei had pulled him back from death into life once already. Those were things he felt he could trust, so far as he could trust anything at all.

He was so tired of the shadow that was hanging over him.

Opening his hand slightly, he looked down at what he'd been carrying sheltered in his palm: a tiny, perfect maple leaf, deepest dark crimson against his skin. He spread his fingers a little wider, and a gust took the leaf, lifting it to fly through the greens and browns and grays of the pine wood. He hurried then, picking up his pace so as to catch up with Issei, while above a hint of sun came and went behind the streaming clouds.


* * * * *


They were all there, waiting, and the pang he felt had nothing to do with the exertion of the walk. It was too much emotion, the weight of too much history between them; it was the pressure of having to be Shion on top of that. But not for long. /No more deceptions, no more untruths,/ he'd said, and Shion had answered: /Yes. Soon it will be over, Shukaido./

/I promise./

Yes. Shion lied when it suited him, but Haruhiko thought this was the truth, and he was glad for it.

Soon it would be over.

But--not yet.

He thought of the narrow road still that lay before him, between his guilt and his salvation, and managed not to be sick.

"It's so cute!" Shusulan cried, clapping her hands together at the sight of him. "Shion-kun, how on earth did you find this place?"

"This place" was an old teahouse sheltering at the end of the path, in what had once been a half-circle clearing among the pines. The house had fallen into disuse many years ago, when the city had grown so close that the owner of this estate first built the wall that loomed up behind it, and then gave up the property entirely--selling it to the Matsudaira family, who were people without much time for these quiet pleasures. Haruhiko had visited the estate once when he was younger, during the very first project his father had worked on for Matsudaira-san, and the little woodland had drawn him, enough that he'd dared to sneak in later and explore. No one had caught him, and he'd come back often after that, whenever he had the opportunity, to walk for hours in the happy restfulness under the trees. On one of those walks he'd found the house, almost lost among the arching, unkempt magnolias and the tangle of high grass, the thatched roof thick with fallen pine needles and the windows shuttered like eyes closed in sadness. He had liked the place instantly. Its loneliness made him forget his own.

When Issei had worried about meeting at Hiragi's house, this had been the first place Haruhiko had thought of. It was secluded enough that no one would be able to see them, and he'd felt that the fragile, shabby nostalgia of the place would somehow speak to the longing in their dreams. /Don't worry about the "No Trespassing" signs,/ he'd said. /I know the people who own the place./ It had been a slight exaggeration. But what he did know was that Matsudaira-san was out of town for the next couple of weeks, and he didn't think the estate staff would be zealous in his absence--if the seven of them were even caught, which was unlikely in the extreme. The only ones who came past this spot at any time were groundskeepers checking the paths and the wall for damage, and those had enough to do near the main house in this season. They would be safe.

"It's locked," Shion said.

This was Haruhiko's most secret place that he was sharing with them. Obviously, Shion didn't appreciate that.

"It's not locked," Haruhiko answered. He came forward and laid his hand on the door, concentrated to look elsewhere, where the eyes could not see but the mind could go. He found the piece of wood he'd used to wedge the door shut from the inside and gave it a nudge. It fell, a brief clatter against the door frame and a soft thunk as it struck the floor.

Haruhiko had been here only a few days ago, one last visit before this one, and it had been good that he'd come: someone had, after all, been using the little house, though not as it had been intended. Students climbing the wall on a dare, someone homeless--he didn't know. They'd left traces of themselves behind, had stacked beer cans in the wall alcove, for goodness sake, and they'd left the door ajar so that the wind had blown in leaves and other debris. Haruhiko had cleaned the place as well as he could, and then, on leaving, had barricaded the door, so that they wouldn't be back to spoil it again. Though he knew it was only a gesture: the door wouldn't have held against someone who was determined.

Perhaps nothing could ever be truly safe.

He opened the door for the rest of them, and then went around to get the shutters that protected the paper window screens. He struggled with them; in the end, Gyokulan and Hiragi came out to help. Gyokulan didn't speak a word to him--only watched Haruhiko from the corner of his eye as they kicked their way through the weeds and the piles of leathery, brown leaves shed by the magnolia. They got the last shutter off the side of the house and went back around to the front. Haruhiko was pleased: despite the state of the house, everyone had taken off their shoes.

Inside, Shusulan was hopping from one stockinged foot to the other on the tatami. "It's a little cold," she laughed, not really seeming to mind. "Just as well I didn't bring ice." She had a shopping bag with her: she'd brought juice and soda and snacks. Mokulen, apparently, had brought cookies. Haruhiko remembered her cookies from the last meeting he'd been at--the only meeting. Shion had brought them then. He sucked at a finger where he'd gotten a splinter from the rough wood of the shutters, while Shusulan made herself busy, asking who wanted what, passing cups and bags hand-to-hand to the others, her easy sociability covering the awkward first moments of this meeting. He was grateful to her for that.

Mokulen had made a gesture toward helping, but Shusulan, determined to play hostess, had waved her off breezily. Mokulen sat on her heels now, her posture perfectly rigid and still, her hands knotted together in her lap as if only their grip on each other kept them from fluttering to her face in distress. The sad set of her mouth made even more clear her reluctance to be here, that and the shadows in her eyes--why had she come? Shion, cross-legged beside her, stared into his cup of juice, the direction of his gaze never wavering. In contrast, Gyokulan's eyes roamed the room uneasily. They flickered to Mokulen, lingered, then flinched away.

Mokulen. Somehow, even in her silence, she was the center of the room in a way that Shusulan was not. She was the focus of all their attraction and repulsion--well, except perhaps for Issei. Issei's eyes were closed, and he seemed oblivious to the rest of them, gathering himself for what was to come.

Hiragi, too, appeared unaffected. Somehow he'd always been immune to Mokulen. He was looking around the circle that they'd formed, his gaze touching briefly upon each one of them. "At last," he murmured. "At last. What an amazing moment." A smile so filled with happiness that it threatened to spill over touched his face. "I can hardly believe it."

Was he truly so blind? Didn't he see the lines of tension crossing the room, the bonds between them, whether of love or of hate, that were so much a burden? Haruhiko wondered: what kind of person had Hiragi really been, what memories called to him now, awakening him to their shared past, when he seemed so abstracted from the things that drove everyone else? But then, Hiragi had always been a cipher to the rest of them.

Rather than show so much emotion, Hiragi was changing the subject. "I'm curious," he said to Issei, "why you didn't want us to meet at my house. Perhaps we're a bit of a large group now, but that isn't a problem. Oh, you'd mentioned," his voice shifted in intensity, just slightly, "a experiment?"

"Yes." Issei took a sip of his soda before continuing. He appeared quite calm. "I was thinking, wouldn't it be interesting if we could see each other as we were?"

"/What?!/" That was Shusulan, her eyes wide with shock and interest. Gyokulan was nodding.

"Like you did in the club that time," he said, and Shusulan's gaze leaped from one to the other, a most unusual expression on her face.

"We had a little gorilla trouble." Issei smiled. If that clarified matters for Shusulan, it didn't for anyone else, and Issei added, by way of explanation, "Let's just say it was more convenient for me to be someone else at the time."

"Only," Gyokulan remarked, "you weren't really as you were. You were younger. About the age you are now."

"I did that on purpose." Issei shrugged. "It was a teen club, remember; it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to be an older woman. Unless that's the kind of reputation you want, Jinpachi." Gyokulan flushed; everyone else but Shion was looking bemused. There was a tendency to forget that Enju had changed gender. Shion was smiling quietly into his cup. "Anyway, I'd been practicing," Issei added casually. "I don't think we'll be able to get that fancy today. But I think it would be interesting, to try to see...."

"How--?" Hiragi stammered.

"It's a kind of illusion, a projection of who we were. We still carry our old memories, all of our experiences, and along with them, our previous self-image. Under the right kind of circumstances, with the right level of stress or desire, we can project that image to others."

Mokulen raised her eyes slowly, looked directly across the circle at Haruhiko, realization opening in her face like a flower--a place among the temples, a touch across time--he hadn't thought of this. <Don't say it,> he pleaded with her, silently, urgently. <Don't. It's not time.> She didn't speak, and Haruhiko started, realizing that Issei was also looking at him and that it was his turn.

"Y-yes," he said, "when I was--when I started to remember, it all came at once. It was overwhelming. A friend of mine walked in on me at that time, and because we were very close he was in synch with me, and he saw--someone else."

"So," Hiragi mused, "and your Sahches training would have had some part in that too, wouldn't it? But lacking that kind of urgent stimulus," he had returned his attention to Issei, "and considering that we're not all Sahches, how do you propose to call up that projection?"

"I do things a little differently--not being Sahches." Issei smiled. "My projection is based in telepathy; it's a little more controlled, perhaps, but it's also more reliant on my concentration. If I'm distracted, I lose it, and it won't come involuntarily. Most of the differences are minor, though. Anyway, whichever way it's done, it's still a case of bringing someone else to see you as you see yourself. I think we're all well enough in touch with our pasts that we can evoke that self-image in ourselves. My idea was put us all into a telepathic link, and sort of share that image around." The smile turned self-effacing; he added, with a shrug, "It was only a thought, of course."

"No--no, that would be great. I'd like to try it." Hiragi looked around the circle. "What does everyone else think?"

"No one should be forced into this," Issei put in quickly. "Being put into synch with someone isn't a casual thing, and it's not always easy. If you don't want to do it, just say so." No one moved to speak, and in the silence Issei asked, very deliberately, "You all want to try it?"

He already knew where four of them stood. The question was for the remaining three, and Haruhiko, watching, saw Shusulan nodding agreement, curiosity and speculation chasing each other across her face. "Yeah," Gyokulan shrugged easily, and then it was only Mokulen. He hadn't been able to guess what she would do, and when she nodded her head also, whispering a faint "yes," he breathed against the tension in his chest and thought a quick prayer: <Here we go. Sahjareem, watch over us.>


"What do we need to do?" Hiragi asked, and Issei responded, "Let's close up our circle. We'll have to clear away all the--okay, good. Thanks." He smiled at Shusulan, who was already moving to take the refreshments out of the center of the floor. "Would you switch with Hiragi?" Issei asked then, turning toward Haruhiko. "And Shusulan and Mokulen, please change places when you're done."

"Why?" That was Shion. It was the first thing he'd said since entering the house.

"Technical reasons," Issei answered lightly. "I'll explain them to you later, if you like." But as Haruhiko stood up he realized what Issei was doing. Had the circle drawn together as they'd been, Haruhiko would have been next to Shion, with Mokulen on Shion's other side. Issei was moving the two of them away, and isolating Shion between Hiragi and Shusulan. Shion undoubtedly was aware that he was the focus of the shifting; from the look of him he hadn't been expecting it and wasn't pleased. His eyes locked onto Haruhiko, who realized under the pressure of that gaze that he now was going to be next to Mokulen. His palms started to sweat.

"Actually...." Issei murmured, trailing off thoughtfully, and then he got up also, put himself between Haruhiko and Mokulen. "That should be right." Haruhiko wondered what Issei was anticipating. Maybe he was just being cautious.

Hiragi's face was touched with mild bafflement. Most likely he was looking for the logical reason behind the shuffling, perhaps some balancing of Sahches and non-Sahches, or an arrangement of gender polarity; he simply didn't have all the pieces to reach the right conclusion. But as everyone found their new places and the circle smoothed itself out, his expression changed to one of deep seriousness. "Let's stand," he suggested. "It seems more appropriate somehow, don't you think? More dignified. Unless it will interfere...."

"No," Issei said hesitantly. It might not interfere with the mind-link, but it would be inconvenient for Shion, who was so much smaller than the rest of them.

"I'd rather sit," Haruhiko found himself saying, in an effort to be considerate.

"Stand," said Shion. He really could be the most bloody-minded person.

Then, of course, Hiragi insisted that they vote on the point. Haruhiko bit the inside of his lip, tried not to look at anyone and particularly not Issei, who had closed his eyes half-meditatively in an effort to keep himself calm and centered through the distraction. He'd meant well, had been trying to make things go more smoothly. Now everyone would think he was being contrary for opening up the question.

Just what they would expect from Shion.

It was at that moment he felt the whisper of touch, barely perceptible, like the feeling of the air in a room when someone was entering, or the pressure of a new attention being turned toward him. Someone was looking for him from a long way away.


He hadn't told them exactly where he'd be--it was only an omission, not a lie. He hadn't expected Mikuro to check in on him, to track him down with distance sight. Had Tamura-san asked him to do that? Haruhiko closed his eyes in anguish.

He wasn't a child! and there were things they couldn't protect him from. But if Mikuro saw Shion, if he jumped in on them now.... Haruhiko's mouth went dry, thinking of consequences. Hide, he thought: hide, hide, hide. Be invisible. Nothing here to see.

The look touched him anyway, like a hand brushing lightly across the back of his shoulders, and he panicked.

<Go away!> he screamed across the distance at Mikuro. <Leave me alone!> He could feel the swirl of power around him, his own power, sweeping out in a barrier that rippled and blurred between them. A wall of rain and light--

Issei was leaning over him, concern in his dark blue eyes. Haruhiko blinked. Everyone else was already on their feet, and he scrambled up quickly to join them. Shion was watching him closely, he noticed, with a look of intrigued interest. As they all clasped hands around the circle, Issei, on his left, gave his fingers a quick, reassuring squeeze. On the other side, Gyokulan shuddered a little, rubbing his arms as if recovering from a slight chill, then took Haruhiko's hand as well. There was more than a bit of reluctance in his grasp.

The other presence was entirely gone.

"Now what?" Gyokulan asked.

"We need to put ourselves into synch," Issei said softly. "It shouldn't be too hard to do. Let's try humming."

"Humming?" Gyokulan sounded incredulous, and Haruhiko thought Issei's grip on his hand might have tightened marginally.

"It's a perfectly good method," Issei responded with outward coolness. "Don't you remember practicing entrainment?"

"Uh, yeah, but--"

Hiragi began to hum, the sound mildly startling as it cut off Gyokulan's words, and Haruhiko fell in with him in relief. One by one the other voices began to rise. Haruhiko felt his eyes begin to drift closed as he followed the seven disparate threads of sound twining through each other, changing as they built, the shift and interplay of resonances forming unbidden patterns, pieces drawing together into one whole slowly, slowly, and taking him there, to the place where the sounds merged into one and stopped, all at once, all on the same breath--

"Good," Issei said simply.

Haruhiko opened his eyes. Around the circle, everyone's eyes were open, a single, joined impulse. He could feel the tenuous current that linked them, the bright thread of purpose weaving their mental link. Issei held the power of that thread; it shone through him in a way that made the rest of the room seem darker. Sahches sensing, and through the link something of that was passed on to the rest of them, so that they could sense it too.

"When I call you," Issei whispered, "remember. Remember who you are. That's all you need to do." He had drawn himself up unconsciously; they all had. The charged air shifted around them. "I'll go first."

Haruhiko could feel the stillness of poised power.

"I am--"

Stillness, and then release.


She is. As she had been once, she is again, the face, the form, slender and graceful and sad. Even the voice is hers, though made complex and strangely resonant by the forces of mind and memory she needs to contain. Her brown eyes gaze at nothing; her hair sweeps out around her face on an intangible wind. The hand that holds Haruhiko's does not falter in its grip.

"Shusulan," she breathed.

The bright hair, the ready smile. Shusulan gasps, half-laughing, not able to see herself but feeling their changed perceptions through the link and realizing, realizing....


Tall and steady, like a rock, Hiragi bows his head, the blunt lines of his face composed in perfect concentration, doing what he can to support the link. The room around them is filled with night, a blackness shot through by stars, and against that darkness the edges of their seemings appear intensely sharp.

"Gyo- Gyokulan."

Gyokulan's eyes are cast to the floor in the center of their circle, fair hair falling across his face. The link begins to crackle with emotions too evanescent, too lightning quick to capture, a change in the tenor of their connection--some of the emotions are Gyokulan's, some are Haruhiko's, things he cannot hide, it is coming, coming now--


--and the shock of surprise hits through the link: they know. Lies, too many lies come apart at once, and they are angry, seeing how they have been fooled. But not all, </you/ knew--> Enju's hand is slick with sweat as she struggles to keep them together in the face of confusion and dismay, betrayal, outrage, the thought of who has not been called--

"Shion!" Enju cried.

Shion erupts into the circle like a raw blast of power, not as they had known him but as he knows himself, ragged, barefoot, and fierce--fierce the only word to ever describe him truly, especially now, his hair gone long and flying around him in a tangled black mane, his narrow eyes blazing. He doesn't remember their masquerade, doesn't remember Rin; knows only that they are here, and here is--

Enju doesn't have to call Mokulen. The Keeches-Sahjaliann is in the circle as if Shion's need had called her. Her wide blue eyes are fixed on him. She raises the hand that had been clasped in Enju's--defensive? welcoming? The mental link is fraying among the darkness and the stars, under the tension of too many forces. Shion reaches toward her, steps out in front of Shusulan as he breaks the circle.

What had happened on the moon base is not forgotten: Hiragi moves to block him.

For a moment, things seem to happen very slowly.

Seven minds pull in seven directions, hands come apart all around the circle--the circle collapsed abruptly, and Haruhiko staggered back a step. The illusion dispersed all around them, their seemings vanishing into the overcast daylight and the cold of the teahouse like mist. Next to him, Issei swayed backward, began to fall, eyes transfixed on nothing.

"Issei!" Gyokulan lunged for him, knocking Haruhiko out of the way.

Shusulan began to scream.

Shion had not reverted. Towering above Hiragi, he glared down, drawing back his arm, light flaring around his fingers.

"No!" Mokulen howled.

Power seared across the room, flinging Hiragi back and against the wall. He slumped to the floor, gasping. Haruhiko leaped between him and Shion, threw up his hands, calling forth his strength in a protective sweep because no one else had a chance against Shion, not lost as he was in fury and madness. Shion's rage beat against Haruhiko in counterpoint to his own heart as Shion drew energy into the palm of his hand, his hair a wild halo.

"Have you all gone /crazy?!/" Shusulan put her hands over her ears, her face scrunched up in terror. "Stop it, stop it, /stop it,/ for God's sake, /stop!/ Shion! Shukaido!"

"Rin-kun! Don't!"

"/WILL YOU STOP!/" Gyokulan roared, and the entire room went black without warning, an unexpected explosion of power ripping through it. Frantically, Haruhiko threw up a half-circle barrier in front of himself as the shockwave hit. For a moment, he was deaf and blind with the force of it and the effort of holding it back.

He came back to himself in a cloud of dust that made him cough. He was unhurt. Hiragi--no, Hiragi had been behind him relative to the blast, had been under his shield's protection. Hiragi was that dim shadow staggering to his feet, just visible in the dissipating dust. The wind was clearing the air, but it was cold, and Haruhiko shivered.


A cold wind?


The teahouse was gone.

Haruhiko's legs gave out, and he sank to his knees on the tatami. At least the floor was still there, but the walls had disappeared, blown outward by that last surge of energy. That had been the source of the dust. Haruhiko tipped his head back and looked at the grey clouds drifting past above where the roof should have been. The magnolia had lost a few of its branches; the rest were festooned with pieces of wood and thatch.

He would have to take responsibility for this destruction, he realized. How would he ever explain it?

"Idiot!" Haruhiko thanked the goddess and all the kami as well that it was Rin's high, childish voice, sharp with anger and annoyance but sounding no less sane than usual, and not Shion's deep snarl. Apparently he'd gotten control of himself once more. The rest of the dust vacated the area under the encouragement of a brief psychic windstorm, and everyone else began to appear. Shion was hovering in midair, eight years old again, hands clenched in his pockets as he glared into the last trails of dust. He'd been sharp enough to raise a globular shield around himself; none of the dust had touched him at all, or Mokulen. He'd covered her--and Shusulan as well, whether by intent or accident. Shusulan huddled next to Mokulen, head down on the floor and covered by her arms as if at earthquake drill; she was just beginning to peek out from behind her fingers. Mokulen...she was gazing up at Shion as he floated there, the psychic effect still stirring his hair slightly, tugging at the corners of his jacket. Haruhiko had seen Mokulen--the other Mokulen--look that way before: that terrible, flat look of fear, when a realization struck that you wanted so badly to deny but never could. She understood, now, that she had been lied to.

Shion truly /was/ insane, to treat her so lightly.

And then there was Gyokulan, who was sitting in the middle of a perfectly clean circle of floor. He blinked slowly, wearing the expression of someone who'd just been poleaxed. His arms were wrapped around Issei, who had crumpled up against him, one arm thrown around Gyokulan's neck and face buried in his chest, and who was only now starting to stir.

"That was brilliant, Gyokulan!" Shion shouted. "Thank you for almost getting us all killed!"

"What? Me?!" Gyokulan reacted as if hit with a bucket of water, snapping out of his glazed confusion and baring his teeth at Shion. "You're the one who went totally fucking crazy on us! You're the one who's been lying to everyone!" He whipped his head around to glare at Haruhiko. "And /you./" Anger and contempt seethed in his voice, and Haruhiko hunched his shoulders against it, drawing himself together like a turtle.

"Jinpachi...." Issei turned his face up toward Gyokulan's, his eyes dazed, anxious, and still a little unfocused.

"No way," Gyokulan muttered to himself. He jerked his head up and faced off with Shion again. "No way he forced you to break off the engagement. Has anything the two of you have said been true?"

"Pot," Shion remarked. "Kettle. I'll be happy to discuss integrity with you. Are you done snuggling with Enju-chan?"

Gyokulan went livid. Shoving Issei out of his lap, he struggled to his feet. Issei caught himself on his hands before he was dumped to the floor. As Gyokulan took an aggressive step toward Shion, Haruhiko crawled over to Issei. "That didn't go so well," Issei murmured, barely audible.

"What do you want?" Gyokulan growled. "Why were you doing this?"

"Fooled you," Shion sang in the silvery voice of a delighted child, his eyes sparkling with humor and malice, and he laughed. Thrown off balance, Gyokulan gaped at him in baffled fury. "I just didn't think you would buy it for so long." He leaned forward in midair, peered into Gyokulan's face. "What--were you expecting that I had some nefarious plan cooked up? Oh, please!"

Hiragi had come up to them, and quickly grabbed Gyokulan by the arms before he could take a swing at Shion. They exchanged heated words as Gyokulan fought to get free, but Haruhiko was watching Shion instead. Shion had turned from his old rival and was looking down at Mokulen, his face become profoundly still. And, if its expression could be believed, sad.

"Alice," he said.

Dark eyes fathomless, she gazed up at him. She lifted her hand slowly, and he drifted down to the floor, his feet touching the mat as lightly as a falling leaf, as lightly as their fingers were brushing together, all the gentleness pent up for those long years expressed in that one gesture, just as all the rage had flooded out earlier in a lash of Sahches power.

She smiled. She did believe. If love were light, it would have shone out from her like the brilliance of the moon itself, to be reflected back by Shion's wonder as if by a shining mirror of snow. Still, after so much time, after so much pain, she did love him.

Haruhiko fought back the sob that wanted to escape him. If the misery showed on his face, that didn't matter.

Nobody was looking at him any more.

Shion dragged his gaze away from Mokulen's to acknowledge Hiragi and Gyokulan standing over him. His eyes laughed up at them, cool and adult now, perfectly controlled. It was his greatest strength, that cold will that could hold to its course no matter what came before it.

"I think we should get moving, before someone comes to investigate. That was pretty noisy." He smiled. "And now that the fun's over, we can get down to the serious business of this meeting."

"How would you all like to go to the moon?"


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