"No," the ghost repeated firmly, her eyes slightly unfocused as she stared at the TV and laser-disc player. On its own accord, the player opened and the waiting shiny disc hovering above it slid into place. "I don't really like smoking."
Subaru sighed and looked enviously at Seishirou seated next to him as the assassin casually tapped out one cigarette from a box he had produced from somewhere. Then he leaned over and rested his head in his hands. If there was ever a time he really needed something to settle his nerves, it was now. He really did not like singing. Especially in front of other people. But Hokuto had asked him to, and he could never refuse anything of her.
Hokuto, dressed in a short black skirt and top with red stockings held up with suspenders, didn't take any notice of her brother. "I think you should quit," she continued. "They'll drive you to an early grave."
Subaru laughed shortly without looking up. "Considering the many ways I could die in the next few days, I don't think that lung cancer is a problem," he replied.
There was a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. Subaru rolled his head to one side, looked at the man on his right and frowned.
Seishirou lifted his lighter to the two cigarettes he held between his lips, the glow from the flame reflected in his honey-gold eye. Subaru watched every move as the assassin gracefully took one of them from his mouth and offer it to the onmyouji.
Subaru stared at the smoldering cigarette, the scent diffusing into him. But he didn't take it.
"You know you will, sooner or later," said Seishirou softly, not looking at him but instead focusing on the TV screen as it lit up. "Just take before Hokuto-chan turns around and sees."
The young onmyouji set his mouth in a thin line, but reached out and took the cigarette. Trying not to think about what had happened to it beforehand, he put it to his mouth and took a welcome drag of its smoke.
"Now guys, I've picked some really nice songs and-" Hokuto broke off as she turned around and pouted at the sight of the two men with cigarettes held between their fingers. "Sei-chan!" she whined, giving the man in the black and red suit a betrayed look, arms folded across her chest.
The Sakurazukamori put on his best innocent expression. "I'm sorry, Hokuto-chan," he apologised, almost sincerely. "But I can’t bear to see dear Subaru-kun tortured." He ignored the way Subaru rolled his green eyes and muttered something best left unsaid.
Hokuto sighed. "Fine, fine," she relented. "I suppose one advantage of being dead is that I can't smell it. So!" she said brightly. "Who's singing first?"
Seishirou smiled at Hokuto and nodded his head ever so slightly to his left. Subaru gulped as a microphone flew towards him and dangled in mid-air in front of his face. With a flicker, Hokuto blinked out of sight, only to appear behind the couch, her head thrust in between them as she gave Subaru her sweetest smile.
Subaru gulped. "Do I have to sing?"
His dead sibling’s eyes glittered like emeralds. "Of course, Subaru! I've practically never heard you sing, and now that I'm dead I won't ever be able to anymore! This is my only chance!" With another shower of golden sparkles she winked out of sight and appeared in front of them. Her sudden departure from behind the sofa left Subaru looking at Seishirou. The onmyouji blinked at the unexpected sight of the assassin's mismatched eyes, then quickly turned away, forcing himself to stare resolutely at his sister as she willed a laserdisc to slide out of its case and hover in mid-air.
"You know, Sei-chan," continued the ghost. "I really wish that you had waited a bit longer before killing me. Of course it would have been great if you didn't have to kill me at all, but anyway, couldn't you have waited until I had at least finished teaching Subaru how to dress properly?" She turned around, running a critical eye over her brother’s clothes, tight long black pants and shirt with a red jacket, then nodded with satisfaction at her handiwork. "Or better yet, have let me see you kiss Subaru at least once. Then I could have died a happy girl."
Like he had done so many times when he was sixteen, Subaru fell off the sofa in a fit of coughing.
"I could make you a happy girl right now, Hokuto-chan," said Seishirou, watching Subaru climb back into his seat, "but I'm afraid Subaru likes playing hard to get."
"Too true," Hokuto sighed as her brother fell off the sofa again. "You won't get out of it this time, Subaru," said Hokuto. "Look, if you sing, Sei-chan will sing too."
The onmyouji flicked his eyes to the Seishirou, searching for any response to this. Irritatingly the man just grinned and tapped the ashes of his cigarette into the bowl on the side table to his right.
"Come now, Subaru-kun," the assassin said. "You have a beautiful voice."
Subaru just looked at him.
"Or," Seishirou continued as he brought the cigarette to his lips again, "is it because you don't want to sing for me?"
The younger man snarled and grabbed the microphone out of the air. "Who said I was singing for you, Seishirou-san?" Not waiting to hear the answer, he stood up, crushed the remains of the cigarette and turned to the TV screen and the ghost of his sister, waiting with a remote control floating in front of her. "Put something on, Hokuto-chan," Subaru said.
The spirit raised one eyebrow. "Anything?"
Subaru nodded, his eyes determined. He was going to see this through to the end.
Besides, there was the incentive of hearing the Sakurazukamori sing . . .
Hokuto smiled slyly and the 'play' button was depressed. When the first strains of strings crept into audibility, Subaru didn't feel so determined. He had never been a great music fan, but then a broken chord rippled and there was no time for protest.
Subaru took a deep breath. The song was vaguely familiar; one of those he had heard a couple of times but never really listened to. It wasn't particularly difficult, and his low alto would reach the notes easily. In fact it was so easy, he didn't even have to think about it, but just follow the words as the lit up one the screen.
"Moshimo uchuu ni kono hoshi futatsu are ba
Ima sugu fune ni tobinori nigedashite
Nidoto musubarenu higeki ni nakebasumu..."
The accompaniment was soft, too soft and Subaru let his voice drop accordingly, embarrassed at being heard so easily. The words were rather . . . sad.
"Yuushin tessen futari o shimetsuketemo
Natsu o ooikosu kurai ni motome gatta ..."
But he had to admit that the song was lovely. He was barely aware that his voice and the music were the only sounds in the room. The regular rhythm and resonating harmonies lulled his nervousness and
Subaru almost found himself enjoying it.
"Meguri atta kotoga sude ni yuuzai na noni ..."
Why were the majority of karaoke songs love songs? This one was melancholy, expressing some kind of longing and desire, but at the same time guilt. Subaru could empathise with it very well.
Too well . . .
"Anata no nioi, anata no karada, anata no koe mo - naze...
Anata no shigusa, anata no ondo - te o no bashitara sugu todoku?"
No. They aren't. And yet I still want it . . .
Subaru lowered the microphone as an instrumental interlude let him rest. He opened eyes he never realised he had closed as violins played a haunting, almost wistful motif like twinkling stars, and caught his breath. Hokuto stared at him, a soft smile on her face. Hesitantly, Subaru smiled back, but the smile vanished as his eyes inevitably settled on the other member of the tiny audience.
A guitar solo with percussion backing, as if the clouds of the night sky had parted and let the moon shine.
Seishirou was watching him, his honey gold eye strangely intent and a hungry smile on his face. Subaru gulped and his voice caught in his throat. The music called for him to sing again, but he couldn't.
The assassin gestured slightly, as if saying, 'Go on.' Immediately, Subaru took a deep breath and obeyed.
"Ikutabi uso o tsuke ba jigoku ni ochira reru ..."
Subaru closed his eyes again so that he wouldn't have to see his audience, and his voice soared.
"Satsui ga tanabi kunara ai wa yuuzai na noni ..."
He couldn't help but open his eyes and look at Seishirou as he sang that line.
"Anata no nioi, anata no karada, anata no koe mo - naze
Anata no shigusa anata no ondo anata no kami mo - naze ..."
"Anata no toiki, anata no sugao - te o no bashitara sugu todoku?"
Subaru held the final note only as long as necessary. The moment the music allowed he stopped and let the microphone drop. It hit the carpet with a muffled thud, breaking the spell as the unwilling singer fled to the relative safety of the sofa and sat down firmly in its farthest corner, ignoring the applause and trying to hide his furiously blushing face.
"Subaru!" squealed Hokuto. "That was so good! You were lying when you said you were tone-deaf!"
Her brother, who was as red as a cherry, unconsciously filched the lighter and a cigarette from Seishirou's box, then tried with shaky fingers to light it. The owner of the lighter and cigarettes gave Subaru a slightly surprised look, then shook his head at Subaru's repeatedly unsuccessful attempts at lighting the cigarette to sooth his nerves. Firmly, Seishirou covered Subaru’s hand in his own and deliberately struck the lighter properly, then guided the flame to light the cigarette. Letting the annoyed onmyouji go Seishirou turned with narrowed eyes to the ghost.
"Did you have any particular reason for choosing that song?" he asked suspiciously.
The girl winked. "Of course not!" she said, too innocently. "I just thought it was nice, that's all!"
She was rewarded with a slight smile. "Then I'm interested in what choice you've picked out for me," said Seishirou.
Already the abandoned microphone was lifted by invisible hands and floating towards him. Seishirou slowly took it and with a sideways look at Subaru, got to his feet. Unconsciously, Subaru looked at him.
Hokuto had that grin on her face again, the one that told everyone that she had some ulterior motive going on. She pressed play.
Subaru realised that he had never heard Seishirou sing before. That night when they had all gone to the karaoke bar he had been to embarrassed to sing in front of Seishirou, and since Subaru wouldn't sing, Seishirou wouldn't either. The rest of the night had been spent listening to Hokuto's beautiful unaffected voice. However that was nine years ago, and Subaru was surprised to see that he was actually very interested in seeing what the Sakurazukamori would do with music.
Seishirou listened with half-closed eyes to the opening bars, bell-like intonations that built up on each other ringing like crystal. Subaru frowned, not recognising the song.
The Sakurazukamori did. Opening his eyes, Seishirou gave the silently laughing spirit a long-suffering look. "Hokuto-chan . . ." he said in a voice that said everything.
The ghost smiled and gave him a mocking bow. Seishirou shook his head at her, a wry smile on his face. Suddenly his good eye glinted, light flickering off liquid gold as he suddenly turned to face the sofa's single occupant. The smile turned predatory as Seishirou looked at Subaru with a piercing gaze and began.
"Donna monoyori tsuyoku kimi wo misetsudsuketai
Boku igai no dare ni mo chikadsuitari shinaide ..."
Subaru caught his breath. Seishirou's voice swept over him like velvet, a seductive tenor. The rich warmth of his voice however, completely belied the words he sang.
"Kimi ga te ni ireru mono kasuka na yokubou no koe
Sobani iru to sore dake jerashii ni oboreru ..."
While Subaru had closed his eyes when he sang Seishirou kept his open and they never moved from Subaru's face. His voice was unfaltering, uncharacteristically warm, hypnotic.
"Kimi dake wa tokubetsu sa donna toki mo wasurenai
Shizuka na yoru no mukou de kimi wo te ni iretai ..."
The song was unsettling, for all its soothing melodiousness. Subaru wondered for one, brief moment, if Seishirou was making up the words as he went along. The lyrics were uncanny, disturbingly personal, whispering about some dark obsession. A shiver went down Subaru's spine, but he couldn't break Seishirou's gaze.
"Koboreru houseki dane marude kimi no hitomi wa ..."
Emeralds trapped in solid gold. Was it his imagination, or had Seishirou's voice become more . . . passionate?
"Anna ni hageshii kokoro mune ni kakushita mama de ..."
Seishirou was singing for him.
"Moeagaru honou sae tsumetaku kanshiru hodo no ..."
Seishirou was singing for himself.
"Samishisa wo ima nara tsutsunde agerareru ..."
_Did you watch for it?_ thought Subaru. Or did you not want to?
"Kimi dake ni okuritai kazari no nai kono ai wo
Tatoe surechigau dake no deai da to shitemo ..."
Subaru knew how good an actor the Sakurazukamori was, but yet there was something desperate to the song seemingly expressed in Seishirou's voice, and it did not seem to be false. It was the sense of someone wanting to be understood - someone who wanted to do something, but couldn't and so, depended on the other person to understand.
"Kimi dake wa wakaranai tashika ni sobani iru noni ..."
How can I understand you? All you do is confuse me . . . like now.
"Dakishimereba sore dake hanarete iku you de ..."
Subaru couldn't move as the assassin lowered the microphone with the onset of the instrumental solo, mismatched eyes still locked with his. He never stopped staring as Seishirou slowly took one step towards him, then another. Standing above the onmyouji, Seishirou smiled.
"Do you understand, Subaru-kun?" he asked, voice still low and silkily seductive as he leaned towards the younger man.
Subaru instinctively began to back away. However he couldn't forget the almost imperceptible signs of what could be emotion that he thought he had seen as Seishirou sang, hints of something revealed as music seemed to reach past into the subconscious. Music was the most irrational of arts, after all. And strangely enough, it may be the first time he understood Seishirou.
He held his ground.
A faint flash of surprise flickered across Seishirou's face, one of the rare times Subaru had ever seen him taken off-guard. However it was gone as quickly as it came and as the musical interlude ended,
Seishirou began to sing again. He did not bother with the microphone, his face overpoweringly close to the only person that he wanted to listen.
"Yawaraka na kami wo kaki age sotto sotto kuchizukeru ..."
Subaru shivered as cool fingers cupped his cheek, whether in revulsion or pleasure he didn't know. So hypnotised by the song and the singer was he, he didn't shy away, even when they brushed the fringe of his soft hair. Seishirou smiled, predatory. Hungry. His voice, however, soothed any fluttering of fear.
"Nigerarenai yoru wo se ni shita kimi wa
Donna yume miteru no ..."
Bell-like notes sounded the melody, intertwining and echoing one after another, as Seishirou leaned closer, face inches away from Subaru’s. The onmyouji gazed up at him, unflinching, questioning.
A smile slowly spread across the Sakurazukamori’s handsome face. Then he brought his lips to Subaru’s.
The younger man froze for just a second at the unexpectedness of the action - but only for a second. As soon as his mind registered the kiss, Subaru jerked away, arm flinging out to grab the armrest of the red sofa. Seishirou let him go, laughing softly as the younger man took a deep breath and glared at him. Stepping away from him, the assassin brought the microphone to his lips again.
"Kimi dake wa tokubetsu sa donna toki mo fushigi na hito ..." sang Seishirou. There was a mocking, almost taunting note in his voice.
"Shizuka na yoru no mukou de subete te ni iretai ..."
Subaru’s emerald eyes were hard. Angry at himself, he should have known the Sakurazukamori was playing all along. There was no true emotion in his song.
"Kimi dake ni okuritai kazari no nai kono kokoro ..."
Again, Seishirou had been toying with him. And again, Subaru had let him, even though he knew better. Why?
In a way, he almost enjoyed it.
"Tatoe surechigau dake no de aidato shitemo ..."
The assassin lowered the microphone, still smiling at Subaru uncomfortably. The younger man glared at him as the song began to die away, an uncomfortable feeling still filling him.
"Don't ever forget, Subaru-kun," said Seishirou softly. "You are mine."
Subaru's face darkened, the forgotten cigarette one long ash cylinder. On the back of his hands, the inverted pentagrams suddenly flared with a sullen glow. The onmyouji clenched his fists and forced himself not to lunge at the other man. The burnt out cigarette crumbled and dropped onto his black pants.
"Hmmm, perhaps it was a good thing I didn't choose a duet," said Hokuto. Arms folded as she floated beside the wall, she looked at the two men in turn. "With all those looks you gave each other I would have drowned in sweetness if you sang together."
There was a thump as Subaru fell off the sofa.
"But Sei-chan," continued the ghost, ignoring her spluttering brother as he climbed back up. "I didn't choose that song so you could seduce Subaru."
"Oh?" asked the assassin with one raised eyebrow. "I thought that was the point."
He was rewarded with a vigorously shaken head from the spirit. "No," Hokuto replied. "I just wanted you to sing a nice song."
Seishirou and Subaru gave her a look that said everything. The ghost merely grinned and waved her hand. The microphone still in Seishirou’s hand disappeared with a shower of golden sparkles as Hokuto flitted to the center of the room, motioning for Seishirou to sit down next to Subaru.
"My turn, my turn!" She turned back to the player and willed it to open, replacing the disc with another. Spinning around, her black beret with red flower set at a jaunty angle, Hokuto flashed a smile as the music started. Subaru really hoped it wasn't a love song. He didn't think he could take any more of them.
It wasn't, thank goodness. Instead Hokuto had decided to break the mood and sing something light-hearted, a welcome respite from all the angst of the previous two.
"Donna hito momina tekushi ..."
He didn't know what his sister had had in mind, choosing those songs for him and Seishirou to sing. Obviously there was some hidden meaning or purpose in her choice. Unfortunately, Subaru had never been able to see the aims of the crazy plans his sister cooked up for him.
"Aisuru mono niwa tayasuku damasareru hoontoyo ..."
Hokuto's sweet soprano filled the room, but Subaru listened with only half an ear. Shooting a look at Seishirou seated so calmly by his side, Subaru wondered if the assassin had understood. Was there some message Hokuto had so cryptically given to them?
Or maybe the message hadn't been from Hokuto. Maybe it had been to each other.
"Minna kou iuwa, Saiwaise na beto tanoshii ..."
Subaru’s song is ‘Yuuzai’ from the ‘Tokyo Babylon Image Soundtrack 2’.
Seishirou’s song is ‘Solid Gold’ from ‘Tokyo Babylon Image Soundtrack 2’
Hokuto’s song is ‘Charlotte no Okurimono’ from ‘Tokyo Babylon Image Soundtrack 2’
Lyrics taken from Ueno Park where you can also find translations.
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