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[FANFIC] [TRC] The Second (Chapter 4)
nyanja14
Fandom: Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle
Title: The Second
Author: nyanja14 (aka: Miss Fish, the_myrah)
Summary: At the end of a war, hitzusen strikes as the most unlikely of meetings occurs. (kurofai)
Word Count: 2505
Rating: Teen
Warnings: some dark themes



Chapter 4: Family, Near and Far

"Adin! Duva! (1)"

The first looked up from his position from the floor and rolled over to face his brother. "You think we should let her find us?" he asked.

The second turned away from the window and mused aloud. "She sounds frantic."

"She'll scold us again," the older pointed out, speaking a little more loudly to be heard over the noise of the housekeeper's shouts.

"She might need us for something important," the younger countered.

The brothers stared at one another before turning to face the room's door, which had a slick sheen to its surface. The servant continued to call their names out from behind it, wandering up and down the halls. Sighing, the first boy gestured at the door and muttered, "Show. (2)" The door immediately lost its strange glow.

The second smiled and turned back to staring outside, but not before intoning, "Open. (2)"

Just moments after the door opened itself, Meiling (3) rushed to the room, panting. "There you are! What have I told you two about this room! It's too—oh, never mind that now." The old woman bent over and grasped her knees, catching her breath for a moment before rising again. "We'll speak about your behavior later, don't think I'll forget," the housekeeper promised, waving an admonishing finger at them sternly. "But for now, hurry to your room and get dressed in formal robes. I've already sent the girls up to help you."

"Wait, Meiling, why? What's going on?" the first demanded.

The servant had already rushed halfway out the door but she paused, wringing her hands agitatedly. "We've just received a messenger saying that the Count of Rompiyer (4) will be here shortly! Why they didn't send word earlier, I have no idea! I've got to tell the kitchens at once and—"

"The Count of Ro— you mean father's brother?" the elder brother interjected.

"Your uncle, yes! (5) Now, hurry up, we haven't got much time to prepare!" With that Meiling dashed off, leaving the twins to stare at one another before following the woman out the door.

Neither of them liked the stiff, heavy ceremonial clothes, but since it was a necessity, they changed hurriedly with the other servants' assistance and made their appearance in the reception hall just in time. Meiling checked over their appearance, attempting to fix their hair and quickly abandoning the task in favor of shouting for the house's staff to line up along the entrance way properly, all the while muttering under her breath about the rudeness of counts.

Just as everyone fell into place to the housekeeper's satisfaction, heavy knocking rang out from the entrance door. Meiling bustled over to it, opening the door and bowing immediately as she did so.

"On behalf of our absent Lord, we welcome you to our home."

The twin's uncle smiled sedately. "Now, now, there's no need for such formalities." He crossed the entrance, alone except for a man that had to be a guard. "We are all family here, yes?"

The first leaned over to whisper in his brother's ear. "Kind of rich coming from someone whose never visited, right?" he snorted, and the second grinned in agreement.

Their uncle was a wide man— not fat, simply broad shouldered. A beard consumed most of his face and his eyes were an unremarkable color. He looked nothing like the young boys, but they had taken mostly after their mother.

Meiling raised herself. "Yes, of course. It is an honor to have you here." She turned to the manor's staff. "Go and finish the preparations in the dining room." The housekeeper then raised a hand to indicate the young twins. "May I present our Lord's sons. The first, Adin." The elder brother bowed his head slightly in a polite greeting. "And the second, Duva." The younger gave greetings as well.

The Count and his guard returned the bow. "Adin and Duva?" he inquired Meiling. "Were you not told their names?"

Meiling sniffed, head held high. "His Lord did not deem the risk necessary. I'm sure you, sir, heard that they'd taken after the late Lady in more than appearance."

The Count smiled, a thin twitch of the lips. "Yes, the news of their power did reach all the way to Rompiyer. Do not worry, I understand the need for secrecy. There are several magicians such as them in my army's ranks." He folded his arms, shifting the conversation. "I'm afraid I have some private matters to discuss with the boys."

Meiling took the hint. "A lunch shall be served soon. Pardon me, but I must oversee the final preparations." With that, she turned heel and departed the hall, skirt flaring behind her.

The Count looked over his shoulder to address his guard. "Go and assist her in any way possible." The guard nodded in quiet assent and left the room as well.

Alone, the Count knelt before his nephews to be eye-level with them. "It is true that I am very glad to meet you two at last, but I am afraid I've arrived with some terrible news," he murmured. When neither of the twins gave him a reply, he sighed and forged on. "It pains me to be the one to inform you that your father has been killed in the war."

Adin gasped aloud and Duva clutched his brother's hand.

"How can that be?" the second asked. "He was not to fight…" His voice wavered.

Their uncle's lips thinned. "I'm afraid I misspoke. He did not die in action; there is suspicion of betrayal among his ranks." He rose, though he remained bent over to speak with them. "As you know, I'm involved in the war with the Clemites myself. The battlefield is a… treacherous place, even among your own men."

Adin had begun crying. The second tightened his grip on his brother's hand. "What's to happen to us?"

The Count stood to his full height. "Your father had asked me before the war reached its height, that if anything were to happen to him, I'd take you two into my own home." He smile at them again, attempting to be reassuring and failing. "I'm sorry, this is so sudden, and we've only just met, but I must ask you what your matushkan (6) names are."

Duva took a step back, pulling his brother with him. "Why?" he demanded.

The Count bowed his head in deference. "I know it is a lot to ask so soon, especially of magicians such as yourselves. However, I must. My castle is heavily warded and I shall need your names if you are to become permanent residents. It will take some time to adjust the wards and I need to return to the battlefield as quickly as I can. I hope to send my guard ahead with your names so that the process may begin sooner."

The crying boy ran his palm over his eyes. "You can't. Our names can't be spread—"

"No, of course I would not be so foolhardy." The Count raised up a hand. "I do understand, truly. I have some magic myself and since all my servants have pled loyalty to me, I can make the information… classified." He stroked his beard, almost nervously. "Please believe me, I would not ask if it were not necessary."

The twins looked at each other, then down the hall of their birth home, and then turned to stare at one another again. The older one nodded at his brother, then faced his uncle, voice still thick with tears. "…My name is Yuui."

The second would not look the Count in the eye. "My name is Fai."

**********

Something nudged Ni gently in the side. He buried his face deeper into the pillow, unwilling to get up. Though the futon was nothing compared to some of the grand beds Ni had frequented many years ago, it was highly preferable over the cool ground of his cell; Ni didn't feel like leaving it just yet.

"I know you're awake. Now, c'mon, get up." The colonel pushed his foot into him again lightly.

Ni turned over, blinking up at Kurogane. The man was dressed already, outfitted in full armor as though he intended to ride out into battle any minute now. He must have notice Ni's inquisitive stare, for he offered a brief explanation. "I have to go look over things at the fort. There's loads to be done, but hopefully we'll be out of this damn place in a day or two."

Nodding, Ni raised an arm to shield his eyes from the morning light invading the tent. He wanted to ask just who was a part of this collective we, but he was too sleepy to bother coming up with a way of communicating this.

Kurogane pointed out down at another bowl beside Ni as well as a mug filled with something Ni didn't identify. "Breakfast," he stated in a tone that implied he expected Ni to eat every bite. He then looked away from Ni's prone form beneath him and frowned at the tent. "Most of the men will be out at the fort, so it would be okay to go outside. I'd rather you stay in here though." He looked back at Ni, who had finally sat up and was trying to fix his messy hair. "I know there's nothing to do in here, but the less people who see you, the better."

Ni nodded again at that, but he didn't intend to obey. Kurogane had been nice towards him thus far, but he wondered what the warrior would do to punish him. He figured it would be better to find out now, rather than later. Besides, Kurogane hadn't said not to leave the tent, he said that he would prefer if he stayed in it.

Kurogane seemed satisfied with Ni's apparent consent and made to leave, though not before pointing down again at the food and drink sternly. Then the tent's flap fell back into place and all that was left of the colonel was the soft sounds of his feet carrying him away.

Ni wondered why the man was so concerned with making sure he ate. Perhaps because of the lunch he skipped when he first arrived? Or maybe because he figured he hadn't gotten enough at the prison? Ni dismissed the curiosity, shelving the thought in the back of his mind where he kept all of the mysteries that had sprung up since Kurogane's arrival in the prison. Though he really didn't have much of an appetite, he ate all the food-- whatever it was. One part of it seemed as though it might've been some form of eggs, but everything else was foreign to him. Ni frowned as he drank whatever was in the mug. Southern food was definitely different from anything he was used to, though none of it had tasted bad.

Finally getting up from the comfortable futon, Ni considered the pile of clothing meant for him and selected something to wear. The clothes resembled some of robes Ni had had to wear in Ressue, though they seemed to be worn differently as Ni had observed when he came into the camp. Last night, since he was just going to sleep, he hadn't bothered trying to put them on correctly. Now he was planning to go outside and as there was little point in drawing extra attention to himself, he figured he should at least try to dress properly.

Once he was satisfied that he at least didn't look like a buffoon, Ni peeked his head out of the tent and confirmed that there was no one in the vicinity. Judging from the smells wafting over the camp, anyone who hadn't left for the fort was eating breakfast under the big tent right now. Ni stepped outside and set off to wander about the camp, wondering what to do with his first full day of freedom.

If he was indeed free. Ni, as of yet, had no idea what the colonel planned to do with him.

There really wasn't much to see. Mostly tents everywhere he looked, of all different sizes. Ni entertained the idea of swimming in the lake again, but as tempting as it was he figured that would be calling unnecessary attention to himself.

After a few minutes of walking aimlessly, Ni came to where he'd first arrived at the camp. Several horses were tied to the post there, each watching him warily with their long tails flicking about. Ni raised one hand up delicately to the horse nearest him, a proud black one, but the large beast tossed his head, ears pressed back, and jerked away as far as it could get.

"Careful. He bites."

Ni turned, startled. He hadn't heard or felt anyone come near, which just proved how out of practice he was. The man behind him didn't seem particularly malicious, but it was the negligence that was troubling. There'd been a time when no one could get ten yards from him without his knowing.

The stranger moved forward and laid a hand on the horse's neck. The animal stilled immediately, but it continued to watch Ni distrustfully. Ni wasn't concerned though; animals had never liked him. "This is Shigatsu. (7)" The man paused, then added, almost as an afterthought, "I'm Doumeki. (8)"

Ni regarded him. The man must've been somewhere in his thirties, and he was taller than most of the other men Ni had seen so far in the camp other than Kurogane. Though the man did not put on an authoritative front, there was a sort of calm, commanding air to him that left Ni with no doubt that this Doumeki must be some sort of officer.

Smiling in greeting, Ni raised his hands to begin to go through the motions that would explain his name, but Doumeki beat him to it. "You're Ni." Rubbing up and down the bridge of Shigatsu's nose, he continued. "The colonel said to keep an eye out for you."

Wait. Did that mean that Kurogane had expected Ni to disobey him? Carefully, Ni made sure not to let the surprise show on his face. If Doumeki noticed any there, he didn't mention it.

"He also said you're a good shot. I'm going to the archery range, are you coming with?"

Good shot? Ni had never been trained in archery. He could fight hand-to-hand and was pretty good with a knife, but he'd never so much as held a bow in his life. The people he'd learned to fight from had always been more concerned that he'd be able to defend himself if someone got up close, not strike them down from far away. That's what magic was for.

But then again, if this man, Kurogane, knew his clothing sizes and what kinds of food he liked, it stood to reason that his assessment of Ni's skills would be just as accurate.

Ni nodded in agreement. Doumeki turned back to his black horse and gave it a final pat on the head. "C'mon."

NOTES:
1 -  "Adin" and "Duva" is butchered Russian for "one" and "two". I'm no Russian speaker, I just wrote down how they sounded phonetically to my American ears. Besides, it's not meant to be exact Russian anyway, that's just where I'm taking inspiration from.
2 - I considered putting these incantations in fake-Russian too, but decided to leave it. As for speaking-your-spells, I'm a fan of "Loveless," so I've taken some ideas of how I want this world's magic to work from there.
3 - Meiling is a character in the "Cardcaptor Sakura" anime, though she did not appear in the manga. She is Syaoran's cousin and fiancée, and very bossy and out-spoken. If you've seen the anime, you should understand why I find the idea of her being a housekeeper funny.
4 - Rompiyer is an anagram for Primorye, (also known as Primorsky), the Russian territory that is closest to Japan.
5 - To my best knowledge, Yuui and Fai's uncle is never named.
6 - More butchered Russian here. "Matushka" is supposedly "mother", so by this I mean the names that were given to them by their mother. More on the significance on true names later, but as Yuuko says it's never a good idea to give yours out. You see this in "Loveless" too, when the Zero boys ask the teacher what her name is… and if you've seen/read it, then you know what happens.
7 - "Shigatsu" means "April". No prizes for guessing where the inspiration for that came from.
8 - Doumeki Shizuka is from "xxxHolic", and if you didn't know that I feel very sorry for you. If for some reason you don't know him, he is an archer with the inborn ability to repel and exorcise spirits.


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