Summary: Backlogged to before Marui meet Kiri-dragon. Yukimura is sent by King Atobe to make sure the virgin sacrifice
The hum of flies filled the hot midday air like the stifling heat that seemed trapped in the little kitchen despite the open window and the added ventilation that had been designed at Bunta's insistence. Pots bubbled, ovens baked, and the red, raw meat that surrounded him seemed to cook in the heat of the day combined with the heat of the stove and oven. It was quite disgusting. And people wondered why Bunta was vegetarian. His needle poked at the red masses, systematically removing tough nerve bits and excess fat with practiced expertise. Dropping the needle he'd used he traded it for a large knife and split the chunk into two very even pieces in one swing. The redhead's expression was mostly blank but just a little manic. Enough to make people think twice about talking to him. He hated his job even if it was just helping out at his family inn, he hated it even more now that he was going to die and still doing the same work as he did every day of his adult life.
Yukimura pulled his horse to a halt in front of a mid-sized family inn. From the map that they have provided him with, the blue-haired youth was sure that this was the correct place. Signaling to some soldiers that he was provided with for the trip, they rode to the back where the stables are customarily located at. Swing a leg across his steed, Yukimura made his way to the inn, avoiding the muddy grounds. This was one of the reason he did not like coming to a village. The guardians of the virgin sacrifice should be expecting them so the blue-haired youth did not bother to enter from the front entrance. Yukimura did not relish the idea of walking through a whole stretch of muddy path to get there. He would have to settle for the kitchen entrance.
A steady sound of chopping could be heard as they neared the kitchen door. Yukimura shrugged and pushed the door open and the smell of cooking wafted out. Stomping the extra mud out of his boots, the blue-haired youth took a step in, looking for the source of the chopping. He blinked in surprised as he watched someone in a turban, chopping a huge piece of meat into chunks. For some weird unexplainable reason, Yukimura felt as though the turbaned youth is trying his best to kill the already dead chunk of meat. Was the other upset about something?
Marui looked up at the invasion of his work space. He hated his job but people were not supposed to invade his work space without permission. And this man, all shiny boots and hair, was definitely not someone that was supposed to be there. Scooping the chunks of meat into a ceramic dish he passed it to the actual cook as he addressed the invader. "Customers should enter from the front of the inn," he intoned in a bland voice, expecting the man to excuse himself while he continued to take out his frustration on the next order of meat. People really didn't realize that things other than flesh were edible it seemed. The smell of cooking flesh made him sick.
It wasn’t as if Yukimura did not want to escape from the stuffy kitchen as fast as he could, but before he can, the earlier turbaned youth stopped him. He seemed to be done with the piece of meat, the blue-haired youth thought gladly. He was getting a little worried about the safety of the others in the kitchen. “I am sorry to intrude, but could you tell me where I could find proprietors of this establishment?”
The redhead brought his butcher's knife down hard enough to imbed it into the copping board, standing there a little freakishly. "You see if you had gone in through the front entrance you would have passed by them at the front desk," he said in a sickly sweet voice. The cook inched away from him while still trying to work from the stove; Marui had been understandably edgy for the past little while. Having the fact of his virginity practically announced was annoying enough, to add injury to insult he was going to die because he hadn't bothered to get laid.
Keeping an eye on the large knife, Yukimura raised his hand slightly; making sure that the soldiers behind him does not spring into action. It would not be good for the country’s image if they attacked a weaponless cook. “I would appreciate it very much if you would deign to show us the way.”
Marui seemed like he was going to give them some lip for not knowing how to get to the front desk when the door was basically right there but he didn't. Chasing away business wasn't his job… No that was reserved for the two younger Maruis. And it wasn't as if he wanted to stay in the kitchen. He eyed the waiting orders before nodding and waving over someone else to take over his job. Ignoring the blue haired man for a bit he washed his hands clean and wiped them off on someone else's apron before removing his own and yanking his hair free of the thick cloth. Shaking his head briefly to refresh himself a little he shrugged and showed the man through the kitchen, small as it was, and opened the door to the restaurant of the inn. Weaving around the tables and chairs they made it out of the dining room and into the main desk of the inn. His mother was working away at the books and his father no where in sight.
Waiting patiently for the youth, Yukimura took the chance to look around the kitchen. It looks chaotic, with cooks and kitchen boys running around the place attending to spits and pots. The soldiers stood awkwardly behind the young man, awaiting further instructions. He caught a glimpse of the turbaned youth just as he took off the long swatch of cloth from his head. It was a bright and lively color and reminded the blue-haired youth of fire. At the small signal, Yukimura and the troops followed the red-head out to the reception area and waited for the proprietors of the inn to appear.
The redhead leaned against the counter waiting for the soldiers, as it was now clear that they were soldiers of sorts, to do their business. What business they had with his parents he wasn't sure. He arched an eyebrow in a show of impatience and waved the leader over once again, "You asked for Mr. and Mrs. Marui, right?" His mother finally looked up and smiled at him and the guests. The small bright eyed woman stood up, bowing slightly at the guests, "I beg your pardon, I was just preoccupied with some work. If you're looking for my husband I'm afraid he's unavailable at the moment," she trailed off a little. That was enough to tell Bunta that his father had in fact finally passed out from 'grieving' over his eldest son. Sometimes the redhead couldn't help but to think that his father was a disgrace. His mother smile beguilingly at the soldiers, "Is there anything I can do for you instead."
Giving the petite woman a sweet smile, Yukimura sympathized with the family, but he was not here for this. “Thank you very much ma’am for your hospitality, but I am here on official business,” the blue-haired youth said. “…But we would wait for Mr. Marui. I need to speak personally with the both of you.”
"It's fine, my husband will not be available for the rest of the day I believe, speaking with me should suffice," she answered with full confidence, taking charge in stead of her husband. Despite her stature she was a formidable woman, wore the pants in the family actually, though she was careful to keep it subtle so as to not embarrass her husband. She turned to look at her eldest son, smiling sweetly at the redhead, "Bunta will you watch the desk for a second." It wasn't a question more of a firm request, just bordering on command. He was used to it though and moved to sit behind the counter while the middle-aged woman went to talk to the soldiers. Strong woman there, so her son was going to be a virgin sacrifice, life moved on.
“As you wish, ma’am,” Yukimura said impersonally. It was never good to feel anything for anyone, especially not sympathy. But watching the woman act so strong and cheerful made the youth’s heart wrench. Taking out a roll of parchment, with the royal insignia of Hyoutei in it, the blue-haired youth passed it to the proprietress. Before she could open it however… “I think that you should call your son… he will need to read the contents as well.”
"Oh, is this about the sacrifice," she asked absently even as she turned to wave Bunta over again, "Honey, it's for you." Turning back to Yukimura she handed the roll of parchment back, smile still in place. "I'll have Bunta talk to you directly, he's an adult and fully capable of handling his own matters," as if having dismissed the matters she returned to her post, smiling and cheerfully greeting customers. The woman made it seem like it was a business transaction.
Bunta grumbled faintly in ill temper as he moved once again to talk to Yukimura. He wiped the sour expression off his face, as if knowing his mother was watching, to politely greet the soldier once more. It was unclear whether they took things really well or if they were still in denial.
Yukimura raised an eyebrow at the seemingly casual dismissal about their son’s life; the blue-haired youth took back the roll of parchment. Watching the red-head that showed them here walking grouchily towards him, the young bodyguard regained his composure. “Pleased to meet you, my name is Yukimura Seiichi, personal bodyguard to King Atobe and you are…?”
Bunta bowed politely and precisely as his mother had always taught him, she was prepared for every situation it seemed. Forcing a semi-pleasant expression onto his face he smiled a little as he returned the introduction, "Marui Bunta, I'm the eldest son of the family. I was informed you have business with me," he trailed off politely to give Yukimura a chance to reply. He wasn't overly cheerful about seeing this guy, probably had to do with the whole virgin sacrifice deal, and no matter how nonchalant he acted he really didn't want to die.
The blue-haired youth nodded as he handed the parchment to Marui. He did not know the specifics but he knew that it has to do with some boring and meaningless word, well, meaningless to the chosen one, about doing a great duty to the country and how it was an honor and so forth. He stood aside as he left some privacy for the red-head to read the letter.
There was little Bunta could do to keep the irate expression off his face as he read the long and pointless letter. Honor his ass. His ass was going to be honored now of course as the ass that filled the dragon for another month. He really had no idea what the difference between virgin human flesh and non-virgin human flesh. The dragon must have had one hell of a specific palette was the only conclusion he could come up with after days of wondering. He skimmed the rest of the letter after a paragraph of dying for the country. He would have felt sorry for the poor loser who had to write this for the king if he wasn't the poor loser who was going to be the virgin sacrifice.
He began to twitch as his eyes skimmed over the final section of the letter. He looked up from the parchment and at Yukimura, "So you're to be at my disposal until I'm outfitted in virgin white and you'll be taking me to the dragon?" Well misery loved company. Bunta was pretty determined to be as difficult as possible if simply for that. And the fact it was pretty hard to not be difficult in his situation.
“That is what the letter says, but mind you, I am not to be used for doing your chores and I have a choice on whether to comply or not,” Yukimura said tersely. He did not like what the last paragraph indicated, but it was Atobe-sama’s wish after all.
"Yes , of course, because the first thing on my mind right now are chores," he answered sarcastically. It was good to see that they were already getting along. He wondered if sarcasm was such an effective way for guilt tripping someone but it was too late to take it back. "So when exactly am I getting outfitted in my virgin outfit," he glared at all the other soldiers, if they laughed there would be blood. His dignity had already been reduced to shreds, he didn't need to take it from some stupid macho men who had sex every other day. If he was going to have to die he would have liked to do it in a manner that wasn't completely humiliating, a difficult feat considering how he was dying.
Yukimura’s eyes followed the lively red-head’s eyes to the soldiers standing at the end off the room. From what he could see, they found the entire scene unfolding here very amusing. Some were grinning and others were trying to keep from laughing. The blue-haired youth thought that it was inconsiderate of them to be so disrespectful to the virgin sacrifice. Shooting them a glare, the snickers and chuckles dissipated, leaving the hall in an uncomfortable silence.
Turning back to Marui, Yukimura looked at him kindly, “You will be outfitted in a day or two, I will be taking you to the tailor myself, but until then…” he said, looking at the soldiers behind him, “… they are at you disposal.” Turning at the soldiers, the blue-haired youth gave them a glare that promised a painful and slow death, daring them to disobey his orders. He may be younger than them, but he wielded more power.
Bunta twitched, "Take them back, they'll just mess up the kitchen." Their perfectly run inn did not need clumsy, stupid foot soldiers. Furthermore they would take up food and room. And even more than that they'd probably only serve to make the redhead's temper even worse than it had been for the last two days. "And a day or two is no good, tomorrow and the day after that the kitchen will be busy, we're catering." He wasn't going to let the stupid sacrifice thing get in the way of his day to day life more than it already had. If he was going to be crammed in a white outfit they'd do it according to his schedule. In the background his mother coughed softly as if to remind Bunta of his manners. He smiled widely, flakily, "Please."
“They would still be following you around as you do you chores anyway. But, it is up to you, my offer still stand though,” Yukimura said pleasantly to the incensed youth, not really caring what the youth thought of him. “And if you are not free tomorrow or the day after, when are you available? Today? Or after these two days?”
His mother having ears that heard all quickly moved to usher the other soldiers somewhere to the back to give them instructions. He could sleep well knowing that at least those jerk offs paid for their idiotic amusement. "Today, after I get out of the cooking clothes." He darted off somewhere, leaving the soldiers at his mother's mercy and Yukimura waiting. He didn't care, he wasn't going around the own smelling like smoke. He was going to be smoked in a few days, there was no hurry. He reappeared in fresh clothes; somehow the simple act of changing had managed to make him less grouchy.
He raised an eyebrow mildly before grinning a little sadistically, "I'll leave them in the care of my mother then." Misery so loved company.
Yukimura watched amusedly as the proprietress marched them off to do some chores. It would at least keep them of his back for a few days. Enough time for him to enjoy peace without the clanging of their armors and their boastful words. Now, really… If they were as great as they said they were, they would have been more generals in the palace already, instead of soldiers. Waiting for the red-head at the foyer, he smiled as soon as the other reappeared, looking fresher. It was mysterious how getting clean makes one feel much better. At the words, Yukimura threw another look at the way they took and shrugged. “They need something to keep them busy.”
"They'll be very busy," he assured Yukimura in amusement, not to mention humiliated, even the dying needed their kicks. They were lacking some bar wenches anyways. "Off to the tailor now?" He kept his tone light and the humiliation out of his voice. Days of sitting with the idea and the entire situation made it possible. And he'd always been good at that kind of acting anyways.
“I am sure they will be,” the blue-haired youth replied, his amethyst eyes twinkling slyly. He hoped that the proprietress will work them long and hard. He turned back to the red-head and nodded. For someone that was going to be sacrificed to the dragon, he was composed, even serene. As if he has already accepted his fate… Shaking the thought out of his head, Yukimura lead the way, heading towards the tailor’s shop where he had passed by on the way to the inn.
They headed for the tailor on foot; Bunta assumed it was close by. Didn't want him walking off the little bit of meat he did have, the dragon wanted a meal, not a toothpick. It was when they stopped in front of a familiar shop that Bunta really started thinking about running away or suicide. Death before complete and utter humiliation.
It was a well known tailor, one with so much skill that he was asked for around the court. But he was known for women's clothing, dresses specifically in case the 'women' part didn't make that clear. The redhead had chosen to die in some semblance of grace, without weeping about his fate but he did not want to choose to die completely humiliated in women's clothing. "You sure you have the right place?" he asked in a cautious voice. If he was going to do this he was choosing to do it kicking and screaming.
Looking at the store, Yukimura turned when he heard the red-head speaking. Did he not read the parchment carefully? The blue-haired youth thought all instructions were written clearly in the letter. “Yes… It seems that it is easier for the dragon to… er… eat if there is not obstruction of clothes…” he broke off, keeping silent. There was no need to distress the other more than necessary.
He had a feeling that this tailor was in charged of all the virgin sacrifices or something, probably never heard of a male virgin sacrifice. Prejudice freaks. "It would probably be even easier if you just fed me to the dragon naked," he retorted sarcastically.
“I do not think the king would mind you doing that, but think of the knights and the spectators that have gathered outside the dragon’s lair. Would you really want to walk there nude?” Yukimura said calmly, looking at the other. He was one of the better behaved virgin sacrifices that the blue-haired youth had met, even though he has a temper, not that Yukimura is blaming it on him.
"That's a low blow," he muttered even as he walked into the store with Yukimura following close behind. Maybe the tailor would make him white pants. If not he'd wear pants under his dress, maybe the dragon would choke on the excess fabric (he really didn't think the dragon was going to strip his meal before chomping it down) or give him indigestion. What a way to die, and return to haunt people as the dragon's really smelly fart. It got less funny the more he thought about it and tried to joke. Why were there even going to be spectators? Was it so fun to watch someone turn into bloody drool, dripping from the dragon's jaws? Did they even see that much? Who knew? Bunta wouldn't he'd be dead.
Yukimura smiled as they entered the shop, this Marui amused him a lot. Taking the lead, the blue-haired youth walked towards the owner of the shop, an elderly man about forty and gave him the basic sketches for the clothes. Explaining all the details, Yukimura stood aside as the tailor peered at the red-head.
It was a battle of wills as the tailor met Bunta's eyes. The redhead wanted nothing to do with this. Walking to the dragon naked and walking to the dragon in something that looked like a wedding gown was about on equal ground on the scale of humiliation. That is until the tailor showed him the sketches. "And this is so much better than walking around naked obviously," he intoned in disbelief. Was he supposed to look like a virgin sacrifice or a virginal two dollar special. The dress had what appeared to be a v-neck collar along with little flappy things that were masquerading as sleeves. The worse part was the skirt part, it had slits. Not only would he look like a woman he'd look like a woman with no sense of modesty. Dressed in virgin white. "I must say I have no idea where you managed to earn your acclaim Mister tailor-man."
The scene that unfolded in front of the slender bodyguard amused him. No one dared to say anything about what the sketches or the design before that. If their situation were different, Yukimura was sure that they would have gotten along well together. Placing a hand over his lips to hide his smile, the blue-haired youth watched for the tailor’s reaction.
The elderly tailor sputtered with indignant as this… this… young air-head criticized his masterpiece. Even the king approved of his designs. What does this boy know about masterpieces? “YOU WOULD NOT HAVE REALIZED WHETHER IT IS A MASTERPIECE OR NOT EVEN IF IT HITS YOU IN THE FACE,” the tailor shouted angrily.
Bunta made a face at the tailor, stupid, egotistical, maniac. He placed his hands on his hips stubbornly, there must have been some way to negotiate that horrible design. "I know why don't we trade, and you wear that and walk up to the dragon," he trailed off as nasty thoughts scrolled across his brain. "Oh GROSS, I just thought it," making a face he shook his head furiously to dislodge the rampant thoughts, completely ignoring the red faced tailor that looked like he was about to blow an artery.
Yukimura laughed aloud at that and turned to the fuming tailor. “Why don’t you go with his design? The dragon may not even notice the difference… not that they do in the first place…” At that, the tailor muttered angrily around his workshop about insufferable brats and their hoity-toity ways.
Even with Yukimura's support it seemed that the tailor would not easily compromise his design. They spent a good hour arguing about how the sacrificial dress should look before they even got down to the measurements. In the end they removed the sleeves completely, raised the collar, and removed the slits, trading it for a full length flowy skirt that definitely looked like a bridal train. A sash was added around and above the waist, pressing the outfit into a 'form fitting mess' as Bunta had dubbed it. He had to take it back of course; the tailor threatened to revive the slits and add puffed sleeves.
Now he was standing, stripped to an undershirt, that thankfully covered all his basic bits, with fabric draped over his body trying to keep still. A near impossible feat for Bunta, he winced as he was scolded for a miniscule twitch. Looking in the mirror he saw himself buried in layers of white, his red hair stark against the pure fabric, he really was going to die, wasn't he? If he weren't he wouldn't be able to live through this humiliation.
After another thirty minutes or more of taking measurements, the grumpy tailor said that Marui was done for the day. Moving from the corner he placed himself at when they entered, Yukimura paid half the money for the gown while waiting for the other to change back into his normal day wear. He wondered how the other must have felt when he wore the gown, knowing that his fate is sealed. The other did not even have a word of say in making the decision.
The two young men walked back towards the Maruis' family inn in relative silence. Bunta with a slight hop that seemed permanently imbedded in his walk. "Where do people go when they're dead?", he asked a little abruptly. He had very little interest in such subjects in the past, he figured he would think about that when he was dying. Well now he was.
Yukimura stopped in his tracks and looked back at the red-head. It was then that the blue-haired youth realized that even though Marui looked cheerful on the outside, he was probably feeling like anyone else that went though this. Being cheerful was just a way the boy used to hide his fear from others. He wanted to answer the other… but he did not know what to say. He did not want to give the other false hopes of entering heaven and all that rap. "…I am not to sure myself…" Yukimura said truthfully.
"Hm, guess I should think about it," they reached his family inn about then, cutting off any more odd thoughts and questions vocalized. "You should too, last minute cramming is hard without any guidance."
The inside of the small inn was brightly lit, the restaurant preparing for dinner hours, the wooden surfaces of the tables, chairs, floors, walls even seemed to glimmer. "I guess they cleaned," Bunta noted as he ran a finger over a wooden counter, spotless. A wide grin graced the redhead's face as he walked in further, examining every surface. "I guess they were useful," he chirped cheerfully at Yukimura, "Are you staying for dinner?"
Last minute cramming? The blue-haired bodyguard wondered what they other meant, but he decided not to ask him about it. Placing a neutral smile as he entered the cozy inn, Yukimura looked approvingly at the cleanliness of the table. He had seen the secret that the soldiers use to put that extra shine in their boots… and he hoped that they did not do the same for the table counters…
"At least they were good for something after all," Yukimura agreed, pulling his eyes away from the finger. "I think so, since we are supposed to stay with you until the day…"
The redhead frowned deeply and glared at the blue haired man. "I was inviting you to stay for dinner. I don't care what you're supposed to do. If I didn't like you I'd kick you out anyways." He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the soldier to reply expectantly. "Don't make my last days more annoying than they have to be."
Amused at the Marui Bunta’s action and rudeness, Yukimura just gave him a smile, it usually caught people off-guard. Maybe it was because of the inappropriateness of the situation in which the blue-haired youth chose to smile. “Thank you for your hospitality then,” he said kindly. The redhead was different from all the other victims he had the chance to meet. Most of them will be reduced to tears and will most likely be trying to beg them to free them of their ‘duty’ to the kingdom. “I will try my best to stay out of your way then.”
"Good," with that he spun on his heel for the kitchen. Yelling could be clearly heard as he berated the soldiers for moving anything, misplacing anything, and the general state of the kitchen.