A/N: Hello everyone. Miss me? I know, it's been way too long since my last one-shot, and for that I am deeply sorry. Even if I've got a lot of work to do during the week, that doesn't excuse the fact that I chose to hold off on finishing this series for you guys. If you want to blame me for being such an inconsistent writer, go for it. I still consider myself a rookie for good reason and these erratic updates is one of the big reasons. Anyways, on a brighter note, this is the final one-shot of the series! *Hooray!* For this final one-shot of the series and the conclusion of the 'Party' miniseries that started with the Dryad one-shot, our main focus is an Oomukade. Even better, we won't just be talking about the featured Mamono, we'll also be taking a look at the massive amount of cameos that appear in this one-shot! I wonder if any of you will be able to piece the story together, especially mine. Yes, as Director and author, I will also be taking part in the 'Party'. If anyone has been paying attention to the author's notes, I did get an invitation at one point. So remember, this last one-shot is not only a conclusion to the series, but also a conclusion to the events in my author's notes. I have more to say, but it's all posted in the latest announcement on my profile. Without further ado, I bring you this exciting finale!
“Director! Are you ready yet?”I hear my assistant, Pon, calling.
“Almost! One minute!” I shout back, still adjusting the bow-tie on my tuxedo.
“Sir, we're about to be late for the party; please hurry up.”
I wave Pon away and finish dressing before stepping out. Pon is waiting outside of the room along with my other assistants, Sigfred and Magnus. The annoyance in Pon's crimson eyes is evident, but it gives quite the stoic look when combined with the autumn leaves that decorate his yukata. The light scar crossing over his left eye takes his appeal even further, adding a hint of boldness to his image. He passes a hand through his ruffled sandy-brown hair and sighs in disappointment before resigning himself to stare off to the side.
“Kanto, I hope you aren't going to make us wait any longer...” Magnus warns me, crossing his arms as he silently leans against the wall.
“Relax, Magnus, it'll be fine.” I reassure him.
His midnight-black hair gives a good contrast when parted away from his serious gray eyes and his tuxedo adds even more to it as it firmly wraps around his toned body. Despite being born in Zipangu, he definitely has a more Western atmosphere to him like his parents before him.
“Director, are you sure it's fine for me to tag along for this party? I mean, I've always lived with a modern sense, so it's a bit awkward for me to be mixing in with old-world people.” Sigfred shyly asks, looking down at his outfit glumly.
He's only wearing a modest black dress shirt with matching pants and a red tie. However, the meek and anxious face he's making serves to add a certain gentleness to his normally aloof attitude. If all of us weren't married, I'd be worried that we would be drowning in proposals all night.
“Now, all we have to is lock up and get a move on! Magnus, care to drive?” I sweetly request of the reformed criminal.
“Sigh...I'll bring the car around to the front. You've got five minutes, Kanto.”
“Nice to know you care so much for us. Don't forget to call Prince Aster to meet up with us too.”, I remind him before addressing Pon and Sigfred, “Let's get to work, you two!”
“On it!” My assistants reply, eager to close down the movie studio for a night of pleasure and entertainment.
Unknown to us, in a room cleverly hidden away at the mansion where the party is held, the Lord of the estate is dealing with some very sensitive issues concerning his family. Lord Alistair Cromwell is pacing in his study with a somber expression on his face. The only sound that is present in the room is the light tapping of his dress shoes against the oak wood floor.
-Tap tap tap-
-Tap tap tap-
“...what to do...this issue...”
He looks out of his grand window at the evening landscape, lit only partially by the lights currently decorating his estate for the party. Alistair feels a subtle relief wash over him and manages to relax his shoulders ever so slightly. Memories of his wife surge through his mind, as they first met on quite night just like this one, many years ago.
“Kaede...what should I do?”, he whispers in a low voice, “Our daughter celebrates her sixth birthday tonight, and yet...I can feel nothing but sorrow for the whole event. I do not want to anyone else to share in my suffering, but I must not hold on to it any longer; I'm sorry, my love.”
No one is present in the room but the Lord himself, his emotional venting only just starting to unravel.
For the next hour, Alistair continues pacing about his private office until he can no longer think anymore about carefully weighing his current options about his dilemma. He looks at his grandfather clock for the time: '7:00 PM', it reads. Letting out a heavy sigh, Alistair silently leaves his study to join his family and guests to enjoy the celebration that he put together for his daughter. Just as he nears the foyer, the sounds of clinking wine glasses and idle chatter immediately fill his surroundings and just as he goes through the two heavy wooden doors leading to his study, the whole house falls quiet all at once. Alistair carefully scans the room of people, wondering if any particularly influential figures accepted his invitations.
There is Prince Aster at the heart of his own entourage; more charismatic than ever, it seems. He has the same blond hair as his father once did, and I've never seen more serious eyes than the icy-blue ones he possesses. It appears that the rumors of his marriage with the Minotaur princess is true, and they both look rather happy with the arrangements. Who else is here...ah, Artemis is here too with her husband. She brought her daughter Juno as well...excellent. I'm sure both of our children will become close friends in no time. And near them is none other than Lord Cale Darrow, with a Human woman and Lady Reveria, no less. It's about time that the Elf finally realized that maid's affections for him. Still, it's interesting watching the maid bicker with Lady Reveria over sharing a dance with young Elven noble.
A small flicker of magical energy is all that is needed to attract Alistair's attention elsewhere, as he is amazed to find even more famous figures present in the room.
T-That's Tomas and Mathis, the brothers turned heirs to the Moon-Bathed Kingdom! And next to them are Lady Ivana and Lady Katherine, the closest kin to Lady Viola herself! If even such famous individuals like themselves have come, then who else did?
“Ah, excuse the rudeness, Lord Cromwell. There's a great deal of work that I must attend to before I can fully invest myself into your daughter's party.”
The voice of an old friend fills Alistair's ears along with the gentle clinking of glassware as he turns around just in time to catch the sight of Alexander V. Wales passing by in his trademark trench coat. A beautifully-dressed Dryad is walking alongside him, smiling gently as she converses with him. Just out of sight from Wales, Alistair can spot a casually-dressed silver Werewolf peeking at the couple with interest. The Lord smirks briefly at the display, glad that Wales is attempting to move on from his heavy worries.
However if the father is here, then that must mean the son is close by as well. Alistair's assumption is correct as he smoothly sidesteps a younger man in a tuxedo briskly walking to keep up with Wales. Despite not getting a detailed view, one can tell that Damon Wales is present for the party. From a few well-sought rumors that Alistair is hearing, he can assume that the Alraune 'Lisianthus' is somewhere on the grounds too. Almost all of the most prevalent guests on the party roster have gathered for the evening, but there's still one group of males that Lord Cromwell is patiently waiting for.
“Damn, this place is packed, and the eye candy's not bad either!” A certain black-haired young man comments loudly over the low roar of the guest's conversations.
-Back to Drake!-
“Alistair! Where are you, old man?” I call out plainly, my mood heightened from all of the interesting people I've already seen since I arrived seconds ago.
“Director, should you really be shouting like that? I mean, it kinda makes us stand out...a lot.” Sigfred's worried voice makes itself known as he trembles slightly to my right.
“Eh, who cares!? We're here to party~!” I blissfully ignore him.
“Hey, Kisuke, care to join me for a few drinks?” Yuuko, who is (obviously) Pon's date for the night beckons to him, flirtatiously showing off her silken-smooth skin underneath her lavender kimono.
Pon (or Kisuke) himself looks somewhat shaken, hopefully from excitement. I smile widely at him and pat him on the back, hoping to draw out some of his 'fun-loving' personality. Pon takes this as a sign of my approval, and so he takes a step forward to join his date. He does so much work around the studio that I want him to enjoy the party as a break from all of the daily chaos we deal with. Off to the side of the front entrance, I spy Magnus being lightly tugged along by his Ryu girlfriend, Kasumi. I almost consider walking over there to tease him a bit, but a dark flash of purple cloth blocks me mid-stride. In-between Magnus and myself stands the Kunoichi stalker, Tsukiko. Despite her gracious work in the studio, I never could ignore the feeling that she holds some kind of grudge against me. I seriously don't understand what I did to offend her, aside from my usual playful abuse of her longtime crush. Before I can even protest, Tsukiko's gray eyes petrify me with a death-filled glare. My mood deflated, I let out a huff of air and resume looking around.
Seeing nothing much more interesting at the moment, I make a quick walk around the room and gather up my companions for a short group talk. Pon and Sigfred look relieved as I pull them aside, but Magnus seems to give off a barely-contained fury when I interrupt his potentially wondrous night with Kasumi and Tsukiko. I manage to persuade Prince Aster to join us as well, hoping he could contribute to the guys' plan that I made for tonight. I peer over the crowd at Alistair, who catches onto my plan and ducks back into his study.
“Alright, guys, this is the night we've all been waiting for. Not only are we celebrating Hikari Cromwell's birthday, but this is also our time to commemorate yet another finished series!”
I pause for a moment to let the guys erupt in rowdy cheers.
“Unfortunately, I won't be able to mingle with all of you and meet all your wives. Hell, I didn't even bring my own wife here tonight because of the business I have to take care of. So while I'm gone to talk with Lord Cromwell, Aster will be in charge since he is arguably the one with the highest status around here.”
“Your trust is not mispaced, Lord Kanto.” Prince Aster gives me a slight bow while the other guys simply nod.
“Tch. We'll be sure not to let things get too out-of-hand; no promises, though.” Magnus adds, putting me in a smiling mood.
“Hahaha! Magnus, you big softie! C'mere!” I shout with glee.
“G-Get off me, man!!! Do you have any idea how many people are watching us right now!?” Magnus protests, trying to his best not to hug back.
Off to the side, Aster and Pon seem to be exchanging a few words...
“So, how has your kingdom been so far?” Pon asks.
“Nothing worth speaking about, for the most part. Valeria is a surprisingly diligent ruler, despite being a Minotaur.” Aster's unease is apparent in his tone as he stares into the crowd at his soon-to-be queen.
“You are not having second thoughts, are you? Despite it being your father's decision, you seemed to fully fall in love with her.” Pon joins in as the he hands the Prince a glass of wine.
“I still love her with all my being and that will never change. However, there have been some troubling events recently: a group of anti-monster extremists have been moving quickly. My sources tell me that they are targeting your employer.”
“What would a group of brigands want with Drake?” Pon ponders quietly.
“Is there something in his past that associated him with these groups?” Aster's faces remains neutral, but there is an ominous sense of caution about it.
“He...never spoke about his past; not even to me.”
The two men glance at the man in question who is conversing energetically with other guests before finally leaving the crowd to ascend the stairs to the second level.
With all of the party guests occupied with festivities, I silently make my way to Alistair Cromwell's private study to discuss a harrowing issue that has often kept him up late at night. The older man sits against his wooden desk, his dulled brown eyes meeting my own bright ones in an understanding gaze. He puts a hand through his gray-speckled dark hair in apathy, hoping that I might be able to provide the answers that he seeks.
“Mr. Kanto, I trust the party is well-accommodating to you?” He asks in a business-like voice.
“Yes, it's quite suited to my type of enjoyment, Alistair. I'm sure that Hikari will remember this birthday for years to come.” I reply, carefully prompting Alistair to narrow the topics down.
“...Indeed. Kaede and I will make sure that Hikari is at her happiest tonight. I trust you in bringing her up correctly, unlike my efforts in these past few years...”, the older man waves a hand through his aged hair and breathes a tired sigh, “Do you think that Kaede and Hikari will still treat me the same way after they learn the truth?”
“It's hard to say for certain. They both have been living a lie ever since you and Kaede married, and at this point in time, anything can happen. Then again, you're asking for advice from me, an impulsive young director with no experience of raising children. I can tell you that Kaede will probably take it well, but the decisive blow will come to Hikari; painfully or otherwise.”
I take a seat in one of the empty chairs set up in front of his desk and find a relaxing position to sit in. Alistair remains standing and starts to pace the room from one side to another.
“Drake, what do I do about this, though? I can't just tell my wife of what happened all those years ago and expect things to just go back to normal. Hell, I've even prepared all of my belongings for the moment she decides to exile me from this house. It's just killing me inside to choose between two painful choices after 10 years of marriage! 10 years of falling in love with her when I never had anything to do with her at all! Why does this have to happen to me, Drake? What have I ever done to warrant this kind of torture?”
Alistair looks at me for some kind of encouragement, but I shrug my shoulders simply because I don't know enough to help him. He paces the room for several minutes in heavy breathing, his shoulders rising and falling with an irregular rhythm. I can do nothing but watch him, a mere bystander in the face of the immense challenge that has haunted him for so many years. The more I watch him, the more I start to see myself before I started producing my work. I can empathize with this man who has no choice but to be swept away by the erratic pace of recent events in his life. At first, a well of sadness starts to form in my heart. It stings a bit and almost forces rare tears to trickle from my eyes. Thinking back on those moments, I briefly revert back to that weak and helpless boy I was once known as. However, I grit my teeth as the painful memories are replaced with a subdued anger.
“Does your name mean anything to you, Alistair?” I ask in a low voice after a pause.
“Of course it does, the Cromwell name has held a high level of respect for-”
“Then what's the problem!? You are her husband! You know her the best out of anyone in this whole world! If a little thing like this is enough to make you struggle with how to face your family, then you might as well cut all ties now and leave behind everything you've ever known.”, I coldly rant with mild malice, “Kaede loves you, as does Hikari! They both consider you a vital part of their lives just as you do for them. If you've seen Hikari today, then you must have noticed it too. In her eyes is nothing but pure adoration for the man who is everything she could possibly want in a father; even if he doesn't count himself as such! Kaede is the same way, maybe more so. This isn't my problem at all, but I can't stand it when someone faces hardships half-heartedly! You still think that you're a total stranger in all of this? Guess again, Alistair, because you're at the heart of it and the future of your family is all dependent on how you will address this issue. If you don't feel ready to tell Hikari the truth, then I will.”
Alistair is taken aback by powerful outburst and merely stands in place, staring incredulously at me without any idea of how to answer me. I don't know what kind of face I'm making, but the way Alistair trembles ever so slightly gives me more than enough of a hint that it's not a pleasant expression.
“Drake...I-I just don't know if I-”
“Hold on; we've got uninvited company approaching.” I cut in, holding a hand up.
I stand up quickly and silently shuffle to the study door. What was once a grimace is now replaced with a wide grin as my sense of mischief flares up with the possibility of this uninvited guest being one of the two we were discussing. Alistair looks on with mild fear, anxious as ever to be rushed into such a life-changing confession with my aid. I don't have any concern for him nor do I hesitate in opening the door.
“-Ahem- Good evening Kaede, Hikari.” I greet the two loud enough for Alistair to overhear.
“Hello, Director. I assume you're enjoying yourself?” Kaede asks me, softly smiling.
“Maybe, depends on the present company.” I coyly tease, shifting my attention to a pair of Mamono that pass by.
I look down towards Hikari, who looks to be pouting in a teary-eyed manner. It's actually somewhat cute given her young age.
“Ah sorry, Hikari, I almost forgot about you. How are you liking your birthday so far?”
I kneel down to her height and open my arms wide, hoping that she accepts my invitation. With a light smile, she breaks away from her mother's arms and skitters into mine. Hikari looks more like her mother each time I see her, and it's not just an exaggeration. She, like Kaede, has wavy black hair, a naturally gentle face, and a sleek centipede body that shines softly at times. Like all Oomukade, her poison glands are already starting to come in, particularly on her cheeks which look like magenta-colored ocean waves.
“...It's fun, but it's feels lacking in some way. Are you...finished talking with my father?” She asks with a fragile edge to her voice.
“Why, yes, we were just finishing up our business. I'll be joining you soon enough, so don't worry so much about spending time with me. Besides, I've heard that your best friend Juno is here as well. Why not hang out with her until I come by?” I gently explain while patting and rubbing her head lovingly.
“...♥.” Hikari nuzzles against my hand in response.
“Your daughter seems quite attached to me. Has this always been the case?” I quietly whisper to Kaede, not wanting to disturb Hikari's happy thoughts.
“Why, yes. She has become very fond of you since your last visit, and she always seems so...empty when you are not nearby. I can imagine that she may ask to marry you at some point in the near future.” Kaede jests, giggling softly at the thought.
“-Sigh- Well, whatever she decides to do, just make sure she is certain about it. You and I both know that children often like to make rash decisions before considering all of the outcomes. I don't want to hurt her out of necessity if that day comes, so please try and find someone more worthy than me for her. Hikari deserves someone who won't vanish from her life and then reappear without so much as single word. It's a wonder why my wife still loves me as deeply as she does...I'm sorry if my rambling is bothering you.” I cut myself off once I'm reminded that I'm at a party and it's the last place I'd want to reminisce on troubling thoughts.
“Not at all. I understand your point completely, Drake, and I will strive to guide Hikari towards whomever she truly desires in her heart. However, I will not deny that you are one of the more promising suitors for her at this time.” Kaede playfully adds.
“...Heehee...so warm....hmm? O-Oh! I-I am sorry if I didn't notice you addressing me, Sir Kanto.” Hikari finally snaps free from her brief reverie to look up with adoration.
“It's nothing to worry about. I'm glad to feel so loved by such a cute girl on her special day. Now then, I heard Juno was looking for you since the party started. Maybe you both can share some stories and catch up with each other.” I suggest with a lopsided grin.
“Would you please accompany me? I'm sure Juno would be delighted to see you once again.” Hikari returns the gesture with a smile of her own.
“Thanks for the offer, but I need to clear some business up with your Mom and Dad here. I promise that I'll join you two soon enough.”
Hikari stares at me for a few long seconds before nodding and starts to leave the room. I turn back to her parents, but the sudden feeling of lips against my cheek briefly confuses me. The look of satisfaction from Kaede and a raised eyebrow from Alistair tell me all I need to know as the soft tapping of Hikari's steps slowly exits the room followed by the closing of the door.
“Now, I'm sure you both know why I've come here tonight; aside from fun and games, of course.” My tone quickly adopts a solemn mood, which is also taken up by the two in the room.
“Yes. It seems that I must confess something to you, Kaede.” Alistair speaks in a low voice.
Kaede's eyes narrow at the words, as if she had been preparing for this day just as her husband has. Normally, an Oomukade like herself would be terrified at the thought of receiving such ominous news, but she is different. Whether she is truly anxious or not, she hides it well as she responds briskly.
“Don't delay then, my love. Please tell me what you have to say.”
“I...am...not your true husband. I am not Hikari's real father, either...I'm sorry for deceiving you all this time. I know that you wanted to forget those painful memories of how we met, but I just needed to finally tell you before it eats away at me any further. I know that you probably don't want anything to do with me because of my part in those things, but I ask that you look past that. The guilt of falsely stealing away your affections is just too much for me...” Alistair explains in a slow, shaking voice.
Kaede doesn't react at first, so little that I might assume that she is unaffected by this information. Then the slightest crinkle in her expression appears, followed subtly by many others. Unlike what I initially think, it's not at all a sorrowful mood, but rather an indistinct one. Alistair's slow to react to it, but how can anyone blame him? Even someone like myself would be lost in the torrent of emotions flooding through this conversation at the moment. Keade was just told that she has been married for 10 years to a man who was not the father of her precious daughter. This is unheard of in the Mamono culture, impossible even in regards to the Demon Lord's standards! And yet, Kaede is still holding an aloof face against all of this, even a steady voice when she finally speaks out.
“...I know. I've fully known of your 'lie' ever since we spent our first night together. I know that you were once one of the knights who tortured me, and an accomplice in their wicked experiments. I hated you gravely for it and I even had thoughts to kill you though the Demon Lord made it impossible for us Mamono as we are now. But despite everything I held against you, you saved me, and I have never forgotten that sentiment. Alistair-”
“Uh, sorry to interrupt this sweet talk, but I'm kinda lost here...” I manage to squeeze in softly.
“Alistair...does he...?” Kaede begins, looking at me suspiciously.
“No, Kaede. He was not even born when those events took place. It would be good for both him and ourselves to refresh the memory of those times.”, Alistair's eyes take on a dark expression as he takes a breath, “Drake, what you are about to hear must never leave this room. No one must know about the story I will tell here, especially Hikari.”
“Your past is safe with me, old friend.” I answer solemnly, taking my seat as Alistair begins recounting the events in question.
Despite the hundreds of years that passed since the new Demon Lord rose to the throne, the Order still stood fast to their principles in a way much more harshly than they do now. These old knights held no sympathy or pity for the things that they did to Mamono, even going so far as to enslave children. 'Zealots' we called them, and I was one of them. I won't tell you details about the awful things I've seen or done, but I can say with complete certainty that they violated the laws of nature itself, morals be damned. Each time they gave an order, it usually resulted in a baptism of innocent blood. We slaughtered whole villages like machines and burned everything else that remained. If by chance any Mamono survived, they were captured and sent to our dungeons for fate to decide their future. You can imagine how Kaede and I met, given those conditions. I was a Senior Commandant at that time, and my men had just finished razing yet another village while we were operating in Zipangu...
“Sir, the village is completely wiped out. All traces of Demonic Energy have been cleansed as well.” A young soldier informs me.
“Excellent work. Begin scouting for our next attack location, but do not advance. I'm sure you are all eager to move, but we need to rest as much as we can in the meantime.” I order, masking my somber empathy for the destroyed village.
“I will spread the word swiftly.”
The soldier salutes me and runs past to where the bulk of my army is waiting, ready for another battle. They were all good people at first, always reluctant to face the Mamono and unwilling to simply kill when ordered. Many of them found purpose in the fact their families would be threatened if they refused to act out the Zealots' will. Of course, I knew the truth about the Zealots' ways: they knew nothing of honor. They killed my parents and left me no choice but to join their ranks. The misery they inflicted on me was just another tool for them to use. I never forgave them for it, but I obeyed nonetheless for fear of putting my men at risk.
After pondering those thoughts, I took a walk through the destroyed village to examine the damage. As the young man reported, there is little left to suggest that there even was a village here in the first place. Piles of broken stone and brick stand in place of buildings, small fires litter the streets, and a thin smog gathers in small pockets around the area. If anything, it looks like a plague withered the town, not an army of hellish 'soldiers'. No, 'hellish' couldn't describe the Zealots, for they were far more...clever. This particular village held just over 1000 Mamono, and yet the streets were absent of any bloody bodies and the slaughtered innocents that were alive just hours ago. That is where the Zealots take pleasure: cleaning up their messes. It was a rule that every Zealot had to have at least 3 bottles of Holy Water on their person to make sure everything was cleansed. When poured on Mamono blood, the water will purify it and cause the liquid to sizzle before disappearing in seconds. As for the bodies...we burned them. For years, I was haunted by the faces of the dead and the innocent. Mothers, daughters, children-yet-to-be...we were trained never to hesitate no matter who stood before us.
Then, as I stood over the ruins of a particularly simple house, I met Kaede. She was buried underneath it all; breathing heavily, but alive. It's a small miracle that she managed to stay hidden from my men during their cleansing. I clawed away at the rubble just enough for her to slide free from her bind. I gently guided her body out of the hole as she used all of her strength to crawl to freedom. It became clear to me that she was a fearsome centipede Mamono, an Oomukade. The process took a toll on her body, but I managed to lean her up against a standing tree. She looked harrowed and beaten, no doubt suffering from being malnourished. I reached into the satchel that was attached to my belt and grabbed a slab of meat that I cooked that morning. It was wrapped up as leftovers, but it was still edible. There was no time to debate, so I unwrapped it and held it out to her. She looked at me cautiously, but slowly accepted the food.
“Careful, you don't want to eat too fast.” I told her as she started wolfing down the meat.
“...” She seemed to respond, gradually slowing her pace, but not by much.
I remained silent as she finished eating.
“Feeling better now?”
I smiled lightly at her finding her voice to speak.
“Your welcome. Now, you must leave this region before anyone else sees you. I wish I could help you more, but I'm afraid that just isn't possible.”
I stand up to move, but she latches onto my arm in a daring move. Her many legs were injured enough, and the extra strain could have broken something.
“Wait...please.” She pleaded.
“My apologies, but I must move on.”
“Why did you do this?” She whispers with a gloomy softness.
“...It is...not...so...simple. I had no choice but to give the order.” I admit, partially to her but mostly to myself.
“My family...my friends...all dead...” The Oomukade starts to weep softly, her tears no longer emerging after who knows how long.
I find myself frozen in place, unable to act against such a soul-rending scene. I've dealt with many sad partings in my career, but it's distinctly overwhelming watching this.
“I'm...sorry. I know that you can never forgive me, but I vow to make your suffering more bearable from this moment onward.”
“...I don't care anymore...whatever happens to me is up to the gods to decide...there's nothing left for me now...” Her voice became monotone and icy, reflecting her hopelessness.
“You'll see one day. I'll do whatever I can to ease your pain. I only wish that my duties didn't force us to meet like this.”, I turn away from the Oomukade to the growing form of my approaching soldiers, “Men, capture this monster here and make sure she is properly put into my personal custody.”
“Yes, Commander Cromwell!” The men shout before they surrounded the Oomukade, bound her with rope, and escorted her along to our encampment.
I really am interested to hear more of the story, but I can tell that retelling it is causing some painful memories to surface in both Lord Cromwell and Kaede. I clear my throat to get their attention before gently speeding the conversation along.
“I can assume that you two got to know each other while Kaede was captured, but how does Hikari fit into all of this?”
“That...was one of my greatest failures. I had placed such trust in my men that I foolishly believed they would not harm her.” Alistair's eyes are somber, but seem to hide a hidden anger within.
“I can tell him the rest, Dearest.”, Kaede cuts in and continues with a nod from Alistair, “He took me into town one evening and had just proposed to me that night. I was so happy that I failed to notice a group of brigands hiding in an alleyway. They stole me away as soon as I passed by, and attacked Alistair. He suffered horrific cuts and gashes while they held him down. The ordeal did not stop there as the brigands soon came for me, tearing off and my clothes...and...violating me.”
Kaede's eyes are filled with tears and her cheeks are lightly glistening with the streams. Alistair stand from his seat and holds her close in comfort.
“Through sheer willpower, I regained consciousness just after they had finished using Kaede. I killed 7 men that night in my rage; 7 of my own men. I learned in the police report that those men were some remnants of the Zealots, and that they served in my unit. It was tragedy for everyone that night. I wanted to abandon the baby after that, but Kaede refused to let me go. She wanted to raise Hikari with all of her love, regardless of whether or not I was the real father.”, Alistair looks at his wife who has now calmed down in his embrace, “I was responsible for all of the suffering in your life, and yet you never gave up on my hopeless promise to change my ways. I wanted to leave Hikari to you alone because I didn't want to reminder of my failures in life. You've proven me wrong about that each day our daughter says those three little words. Now, it's my turn to tell you once again: I love you, Kaede.”
Knowing that my work is now done, I take this chance to quietly excuse myself from Alistair's study.
Well, I guess those two settled everything just fine. I didn't even need to be there that much either which gives me plenty of time to enjoy the party. Hehehe...I am so getting drunk tonight~!
I grin like a mental patient as I walk back down the staircase to the lobby. The guests have dispersed to other parts of the mansion, but many groups are still present in the main foyer. I see my 'brothers-in-suits' talking casually with each other, drinks in hands. I take a glass of wine myself and walk towards them, still grinning madly.
“After that happened, she picks me up by the collar and tosses onto the bed saying 'Take it off'. I couldn't walk straight for week after that night.” Magnus finishes his story.
“I always wanted to ask you about it, but you always seem so...” Sigfred begins.
“Angry? Irritated? Violent? I have that effect on most people, so I'm used to it.”
“From my experience, you looked pretty pitiful the first time we met.” Pon cuts in.
“One: you threw a rock at me, and two: I was atoning for my crimes. It's not like you're one to talk, Mr. Hero.” Magnus retorts.
“By the way, Pon, how's that amulet working out for you? Get into any trouble lately?” I ask, deciding to make my presence known.
“Somehow, there hasn't been as many near-death incidents as the first time you gave it to me. I still hate you for giving it to me in the first place, though.”
“Hey, it really kept the ladies off you enough to meet your wife, you know? Plus you have to admit that I am good at what I do.” I boast, taking a sip of wine.
“...-Sigh- Yes, you are. These past two years have been more fun than I can imagine, so thanks Director.” Pon shyly confesses, finishing his glass in an instant and reaching for another one.
“Say, Director Kanto-” Sigfred starts.
“We're all friends here. Call me Drake.”
“Right, Drake. Am I out of a job now? I've only been working at the studio for a month, and to have it closed down so suddenly...”
“Yeah, unfortunately we can't continue filming the scenes ever since those protesters won the court case. That's why guys didn't see me for a few days. I pushed as hard as I could, but they had the law on their side. Apparently, striking a woman (even in self-defense) is essentially allowing them to legally f**k your life as they please; goddamn weak-bodies. Anyways, their demands were that we shut the studio down permanently and discontinue our services. They also wanted me to break up the couples that were formed during filming, but I convinced them to allow it to happen naturally. Too bad for them that none of those couples are ever going to break up; another win for me!”
“If you need work to do, I can employ you and your group in my kingdom.” Aster offers, finding a spot for himself in the circle we stand in.
“Thanks for the offer, but I would prefer to stay within my hometown.”
“Speaking of which, where are you originally from, Drake?”
“A distant land that no one has ever seen before. Currently, I've made my home in Lescatie. It's such a long commute that I was hardly ever home at all.”
“So, is this the end of our work together?” Pon, of all people, asks with a saddened tone.
“Unfortunately, yes it is. However, we'll all still be good friends no matter what life throws at us. I will keep in touch with you all as much as I can and I'm sure you will do the same.”
“No argument there.” Magnus shows us a rare smile in agreement.
“I will contact you as much as I can, Drake.” Sigfred vows.
“You are sure to receive letters from me frequently, my friend.” Aster promises.
“...I'll do whatever I can to make sure you stay out of trouble. After all, I am your best friend, Sir.” Pon tells me.
“That you are, Pon, that you are. Now, this is our last night together as a brotherhood, so let's drink and party our worries away! I'm sure we can all work to give Hikari one hell of a birthday this year!” I roar, my friends joining in as we bolt into action to make the most of this one last night.
A/N: And there you have it: 25 one-shots of some of the best efforts I can bring forth. This whole experience has been one of the best times of my life. Sure enough, it's had its hopeless moments where I almost gave up, and its joyous times where I couldn't help but release 3 chapters at once. Everything that I've done for this series is all thanks to you, my readers, and I wouldn't have it any other way. This series was created solely from suggestions that were given to me and I hope it has been worth reading after so many long months of work for me. I've never been more proud to write with such a purpose as you guys have given me. Seriously, you guys are awesome. Now comes the best part: since I'm overloaded with requests once again, there will be a third series of one-shots which will be called 'Mamono One-Shots S3: Aftermath'. It will be set 10 years after the conclusion of this series, where all of the couples that appeared in the first and second series have finally had children. Let's just say that Drake and his brothers will be playing a vital role in this new series, just like they did in this chapter. See you all next time and happy readings! This is Drake Kanto, rookie author and friendly face, signing off on yet another finished project.