Part Six

Entering a timeless zone
Lost but still without fear
Shrinking to nothing
We all feel free
Free at last

Surprised to find
A way out
To a strange and mysterious world
Nothing familiar for us to see
Nothing familiar

    Breakfast was quick and light, with plenty of kisses and touches between Ririka and Yohji. Ken and Fuumi had finally sat between them so the two wouldn't get too carried away, as Ken kept trying to remind Yohji that the older man worked that day. They left the apartment together, with Fuumi and Ririka escorting the boys.

    Fuumi's thoughts were running in scattered circles as they brought the boys home. It was supposed to have been the usual routine last night- Ririka would find a guy and his friend and bring them both to a club. Fuumi would play the perfect part for the friend, and they would all go home happy to do some under-the-covers exploring. Plans had changed when Ririka had chosen to go to the Koneko no Sumu Ie.

    Word of the decorations that had lined the shop two days ago had spread like wildfire. Finding Hidaka Ken- and learning that he was nineteen- was the special bonus. Finding out that he hadn't been the one they were looking for made the previous evening a complete waste of Fuumi's time. Her acting, her patience- all of it went down the drain. The only good thing was that Ken had tasted good when she kissed him.

    Now the question was- who had made the designs? This "Omi" person- who was he? He had made the clemin dish, so he was the one to decorate the shop. What a fool, to advertise so publicly like that. Did he have no common sense?

    They paused by the flower shop. The metal store front was pulled down. Yohji scratched his head. "Am I the only one who's wondering why the shop's not open?" he asked.

    Ken moved forward, banging a fist against the front. "Aya?" he called, worry evident in his voice. "What if something happened to Aya?" he asked Yohji, sounding near frantic.

    Fuumi tilted her head to one side. ~What could happen to this Aya person? Most people automatically assume that someone overslept or is skipping work, but the tone in Ken's voice suggests some type of emergency. Why the quick panic?~

    There was a clang from inside and the metal rolled up to reveal a beautiful man with red hair. His face was bruised in two spots, and there was a bandage on his forehead. He was dressed in a messy apron and was wearing black gloves. Ken sighed in relief, leaning over to close his hands on the knees of his pants. He tilted his head back to meet Aya's gaze as the redhead opened the shop door. "Aya, why's the shop closed?"

    Aya didn't answer, instead studying the two girls- first Ririka, who was hanging onto Yohji, then Fuumi. His gaze lingered on her, and she had a feeling he didn't like what he saw. ~Or perhaps,~ she thought with some amusement when she saw the faint hurt and disappointment in the back of those violet eyes as Aya lowered his attention to Ken again, ~just doesn't appreciate the fact that Ken spent the night with a girl.~

    Ken straightened. "What's wrong, Aya? Oh. Meet Ririka and Fuumi." Ken gestured to the girls, smiling.

    Aya refused to look at Fuumi again. "It took you long enough to get back," he said, his voice a little _too_ calm.

    Well, it was just a guess, but Fuumi would have fun anyway. She stepped forward, reaching out and taking Aya's hand. From the way he stiffened, she had a feeling not many people dared touch him. She didn't care. Touching him gave her a better glimpse at his aura. Her senses told her that he was a recluse, an elegant and handsome man, but cold. And yes, there it was. Jealousy. She hid a smirk.

    "Sorry to keep your boyfriend out overnight, Aya-san," she said in a voice too low for Ririka and Yohji to hear. "We had a bit too much to drink and fell asleep at our apartment." Ken gaped at her and Aya's eyes widened fractionally at her use of the word 'boyfriend'. Ken looked like he was trying to say something to her, trying to stammer out something, but no words left his mouth. She gave them an innocent look. "I'm sorry, was my assumption wrong? I just thought you two were an item because of the way you look at each other."

    "We weren't looking at each other weird," Ken muttered, getting his voice back. His cheeks were _red_, she noticed with a great deal of amusement.

    Fuumi crossed her eyes behind her back, looking up at the shop. "Cute name," she complimented.

    "I've heard this shop is really popular," Ririka spoke up, right on cue. "Can you three handle it all on your own?"

    "We're not alone," Ken said. "Omi works here, but he's gone for a while."

    Ririka put on an interested face. "Is he old enough to club? Because I have a friend, you know…"

    "He's seventeen," Yohji told her, shaking his head.

    ~Seventeen. _Perfect_!~ Fuumi thought excitedly, her outside appearance not changing. She rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. "Ririka…"

    "It was just an idea!" her sister said in self-defense.

    "Jeez." Fuumi lowered her eyes to her watch. "Fuck. I'm late for my dentist appointment." She gave Aya and Ken an apologetic smile. "Yesterday was fun, Ken. I hope we can do it again next time. Maybe we can convince Aya-san to come with us." She winked and started away, lifting her hand in a gesture of farewell.

    "Bye, Fuumi!" Ken said cheerfully.

    "Ririka, you coming?" Fuumi called over her shoulder, glancing back.

    "Yeah, yeah." Ririka went up on tiptoes to snatch one last kiss from Yohji and to whisper something in his ear before setting off at a lazy pace after Fuumi.

    Fuumi turned a corner and waited for Ririka to catch up. As soon as her sister turned the corner, Ririka's smile vanished. "So Omi is the one who made the designs…But where is he?"


    "So, Aya…Why's the shop closed?" Ken asked.

    "Come inside. There was a surprise visit to the shop last night." Aya opened the door and headed inside. Yohji and Ken followed. Aya closed the metal front again.

    The first thing Ken noticed was the complete lack of flowers inside the shop. "Where are the plants?"

    "In the dumpster out back. Grab some rags. I straightened up some of the kitchen already." He moved past them. "The shop was ruined completely. I would suggest…that you don't look at your rooms yet." He turned to gaze at them- or rather, to gaze at Ken. Something in his eyes warned Ken to follow his advice. "Not until after we've finished cleaning some of this up."

    Ken merely nodded, looking around the shop. It looked eerie in its vacancy.

    "Does Omi know?" Yohji asked.

    "Aa. So does Manx." Aya watched as the two put on their aprons. "There's something Manx said about Omi that you should keep in mind."

    Yohji and Ken paused in the tying of their strings, glancing at each other before giving Aya their full attention. "All right…" Yohji said. "What about Omi?"


    Omi pushed open the heavy wooden doors of the library and stepped inside. He had to pause a moment as the doors swung shut behind him to let his eyes adjust to the dimmer light inside. As he waited for his eyes, the rest of his senses were finding out what they could. The air was stuffy and thick, pressing up against him. Dust was everywhere, irritating his nose, and he sneezed.

    His eyes finished and he started away. His sneeze had alerted one of the workers, though, and a librarian around his age appeared from around a rack of books, smiling and showing off her braces. "Hello! Welcome to the library. Looking for anything in particular?"

    "Hi." Omi smiled at her. "I'm looking for anything on the Star Cathedral, Star Mages, twin stars, or Myrr."

    She studied a small notepad she had hanging from her waist, flipping through the pages. "Um…That would be…" She paused, chewing on her lower lip, then looked back up at him. "Sorry. Those are in storage, and that area is closed off permanently. No one is allowed access to the books."

    "Are you sure?" Omi asked.

    "Yeah. I don't know why." She shrugged. "I think it's stupid that they won't let anyone up there. Why? You interested in it or something?"

    Omi groaned, clapping a hand over his face. "No. I promised I would do a report on it for school. Of course, I waited until last minute to come find the research so…"

    She grinned sympathetically. "I do that all the time."

    Omi gave her his best pleading expression. "Please can I go back there? No one has to know." She shook her head slowly with a regretful grin. "I'll pay you," he added quickly, making his tone and face desperate.

    She perked up. "How much?"

    How much did he have? Omi pulled out his wallet and opened it. He knew he didn't have to bribe her to get to the books. He could always come in after store hours and take a look around. It would just be better if he could take care of this during the day, so he would still have the evenings to go over his notes and contact the others if he needed to. He counted his money before handing it over. It wasn't much, but it was all he had. He would have to visit a bank if he wanted to stay at the hotel again tonight. It was enough, though, he noticed from the way she eagerly accepted it, to get him into the storage room.

    She led him up an elegant staircase that looked like it was ready to give way at any moment, fishing around in her pockets for keys. The storage room was in the far back of the second floor. She unlocked the three bolts that held it shut and turned to him.

    "Now remember- you can't tell anyone you were in here, all right?"

    "I won't. I promise. Thank you so much."

    She waved the money around before stuffing it in her pocket. "No, thank _you_. I'll hang around this area so I can lock it up when you're done." She lifted a hand in farewell and began to roam the aisles.

    Omi ducked into the room, closing the door behind him. His fingers searched for the light switch and he flicked it on. A bare bulb lit up, revealing a small desk. The floor was littered with empty boxes and library receipts. In one corner sat a few books, covered in dust. Omi made his way over to them and lifted them one by one, brushing the dust off their covers. It fell in thick clumps to the ground. He sneezed, setting the cleaned books on the desk.

    The first one was the same book he'd seen in the other library, the one on ancient cities. ~How odd for this to be back here. It only has one article on the subject.~

    The second book made him pause. It was called The Twin Stars. He let out a soft breath. ~Perfect!~ He flipped it open eagerly, reading the first page. It was a small note to any readers:

    "This book is neither entirely fact nor entirely fiction, but a compilation of the vague stories of those who descended from the proud races of the old empires. Where holes were missing in the tale, logic was used to fill in the blanks.

    "This book is the tragic tale of the two twin stars, whose lives shaped the way the old empires flourished…and fell."

    Omi started to turn to the next page when the door opened. He jumped in surprise. It was the girl. She was beckoning to him. "Come, quick! The security guards are coming around. Come back tomorrow and I'll let you in again."

    Omi closed the book and set it down, scurrying out of the room. She turned off the light and closed the door, locking it again. She flashed him an apologetic smile. "Gotta go. Sorry!" With that, she vanished into the aisles.

    Omi moved off in the opposite direction, letting his gaze drift over the books as if he was interested in them. He made his way downstairs and outside, pausing to let his eyes adjust to the brightness of the outside.


    Ken glanced down at Aya. He and the redhead were cleaning the kitchen up. This morning before he and Yohji had gotten home Aya had cleaned up the shop, hoping to salvage some of the plants, then started on the fridge items. Now Ken was putting away the cabinet items while Aya cleaned the floor. The redhead was kneeling, dressed in jeans and a sleeveless black shirt, with that messy apron on over top. Ken could see his muscles rippling under his arm as he scrubbed at a spot that didn't want to come up. His tidy appearance was gone, replaced by a ruffled one, and Ken found that he liked the sight it provided.

    He hadn't looked in his room yet. Neither had Yohji. The oldest Weiß was in the living room, crowing with relief that his precious chair was unharmed. That was his job - straightening that room. Aya had said that Kritiker would cover the cost of replacing the ruined furniture, computer, and plants, which was good news.

    Aya's cell phone rang. The man leaned back from his hunched over position to sit on his heels, removing a glove and reaching up to lift his cell phone off the counter. He flipped it on and held it to his ear. "Moshi moshi." He listened in silence to whatever Omi had to say. "Hai. I'll take the next train out." He hung up.

    Ken set a few more cans back in their spots. "What's up?" he asked.

    "Omi thinks he's found what we need. He wants me to come take a look at it." Aya stood, wiping absently at his apron. He stepped briefly out of the room to grab the phone book and searched for the number to the train station. Marking the number with a finger, he called, "Yohji."

    "What?" came the reply. "I'm working- I promise I am."

    "Come here."

    There was a loud sigh, then Yohji padded into the room. "If you don't trust me you can go check for yourself."

    "You see him?" Aya asked, voice calm, gesturing to Ken with the hand that was holding his cell phone. Ken blinked. Yohji looked from Aya to Ken, then back again.

    "Yeah. What about him?"

    "He is in age range of the victims, and I already told you that Omi got the cults' attentions by decorating this shop. If they get hold of him, I will come back here and you will be the first one to die. Is that understood?"

    Ken felt his cheeks grow hot at the calmly spoken words. Yohji blinked in surprise. "He's an assassin, Aya. He's not going to get taken so easily."

    "I didn't ask for his profession. I merely asked if you understood what I said to you, because I'm deadly serious." He met Yohji's eyes and they gazed at each other for a long moment in silence.

    Yohji scratched his head. "I understand."

    Aya gave a short nod and left the room with his phone. Yohji and Ken looked at each other, then Ken turned away to continue working. Yohji shook his head and left the room, muttering something about overprotective redheads.

Part 7