evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Narrowly
Fandom: Kyou Kara Maou
Pairing: Gen-ish. As gen as this series ever gets. Hints of pairings if you want to see them.
Rating: Worksafe
Summary: Sometimes a spy's job is harder than others.
Notes: Written as a contest entry for the now-deleted yozakxmuraken comm on Livejournal. The theme I picked was "dodge the bullet." Anime-canon info, through early season 2.



Yozak clenched his hand tighter around the hilt of his sword and swore viciously to himself. There was a fine tremor running through his badly overworked muscles and he tried to steady his grip. He wished the pounding ache in his head would ease up enough to let him think clearly. The low grumble of thunder outside muttered a counterpoint to the throbbing of his pulse and the rain lashing at the windows grated on everyone's tightly-wound nerves.

A flash of lightning threw sharp-edged shadows over the tense tableau at the head of the meeting room. The king was on his feet in front of his elevated chair, eyes wide and dismayed. Wolfram and Günter were furious, standing defensively in front of Yuuri with swords drawn. Gwendal and Conrad were more in control of themselves, standing to either side of the king and Yozak saw the cool calculation in their eyes as they surveyed the scene. Yozak himself stood with the ragged ring of guards filling the rear of the room. Everyone's attention was fixed on the richly dressed diplomat whose extended sword was buried in the shoulder of the Great Sage, standing on the lower step of the king's dais. The diplomat was angry and terrified and the threat of his blade kept everyone back. The Sage looked as collected as ever, if pale, and he stared calmly at the man who'd stabbed him.

Yozak swore to himself again. He should have known the kid would do something like this. If he'd been less exhausted, he'd never have let the Sage leave without him after hearing Yozak's report. If the agony in his head hadn't half-blinded him, he'd have realized sooner that Murata had rushed to the meeting himself, to prevent the diplomat from attacking Yuuri.

Stupid, stupid diplomat, who wasn't part of any foreign plot, just a scared and paranoid man. He'd been horrified when his king had proved receptive to the Maou's overtures. Terrified that the Mazoku might gain influence in his homeland, the man had hidden his feelings and competed for the diplomatic mission. Desperate as he was, the man was also devious and it had taken Yozak far too long to uncover his intention to assassinate the Maou during his visit. Unfortunately, the diplomat's servants and guardsmen were very loyal to their master. One of those retainers had caught Yozak, posing as a wagon driver, trying to send a warning to the castle as the party approached the city. He'd woken up hours later in a watery ditch, pain lancing through his head and chilled through but he'd forced himself out of the ditch and started slogging through the storm. He'd finally staggered up to the castle gates, to be swept inside by an anxious Sage who'd called for blankets and a healer and immediately demanded to know what Yozak had discovered. He'd listened to Yozak without interrupting, expression grim.

Seeing the Sage considering what he'd just heard, Yozak had closed his eyes and relaxed into the soft warmth of the chair. Dazed and hurting, he'd barely registered the gentle pat on his shoulder and the low-voiced, "Good work. Now stay here." It wasn't until after Gisela's ministrations had revived him somewhat that the quiet command and the Sage's absence started to make an awful sort of sense. He'd risen abruptly from his chair, brushing off Gisela's protest with a terse explanation and hurried as best he could towards the hall where the king usually held informal diplomatic meetings.

He could just see the Sage's entrance into the room. He didn't need to have been there to know that the boy would have simply sauntered in as if it were his own throne room. No one would have questioned his presence - the Sage came and went as he pleased - and the king would probably have welcomed him, since the Sage was much better at dealing with political intrigue. Yozak imagined he would have settled himself somewhere on the royal dais, careless cheer masking the attention the boy was paying to the proceedings.

When angry shouts echoed down the corridor, Yozak had known that he was too late and he'd put on one last burst of speed. He'd skidded into the audience room just in time to see the sword sink into Murata's shoulder.

The Sage was the first one to break the strained silence. "You have to know that this can't succeed," he said reasonably. Yozak was impressed; Murata's composure was rock-solid and his voice was even. It was almost unnerving, how effectively he was ignoring the wound in his shoulder.

The diplomat laughed jaggedly, unable to hide the fear that was eating away at his veneer of confidence. "Why would I do that?" he asked. "I don't care what happens to me, I didn't do this for myself. I'm willing to do what it takes to stop HIM." He glared at the king, who shrank back from the naked hate in the diplomat's eyes. Yozak had to give him credit, the kid rallied quickly, squared his shoulders and opened his mouth to speak. Nonetheless, Yozak was grateful to see Conrad lay a hand on the king's shoulder and quietly urge him to keep silent. Injured or not, the Sage had a better chance of regaining control of this situation.

Murata shook his head. "There's no way for you to get to him now But if you surrender, I'm sure the king will be merciful. It's a quirk of his," he added, with a quick, wry grin.

"You don't think I can hurt him?" the diplomat asked, with a sneer. "Not even like this?" he asked viciously, giving the sword in his hand a sharp twist. The Sage gasped, his face going even paler, and wavered on his feet for a moment. Most of the guards reflexively lurched forwards before reining themselves in. Growls of protest rose from the watching defenders, drowned out by Yuuri's cry of protest.

"You're at my mercy, little sage," the diplomat spat mockingly. "I'd say you're the one who's helpless."

Murata simply regarded the other man, pain buried under a smooth layer of self-possession. "Oh, I'm not nearly as helpless as you think I am," he said softly. His voice was quiet but intense and it carried over the restless rustling of the guards and the hissing of the rain against the window.

His attacker was visibly shaken at Murata's sang-froid. "Oh really?" he blustered.

The Sage smiled, a small, hard curving of his lips. There was something building in the air of the room, a familiar sense of rising power that shivered down Yozak's nerves. Fitful shifting around him told him that the guards felt it too. Eyes darker than the roiling clouds outside held the room in thrall. When the Sage deliberately looked over at the wide windows, Yozak had to fight the involuntary urge to glance over as well. The diplomat and a number of the guards, lost in the influence of those eyes, snapped their heads around to stare out into the storm.

A brilliant flash of lightning blinded them. The diplomat reeled backwards, almost losing his grip on his sword. There was a violent crash of thunder and the windows shattered, filling the air with fierce gusts of wind and glittering glass shards. Translucent water dragons snaked into the room and wrapped themselves pitilessly around the flailing diplomat. They jerked him into the air, pulling him away from the Sage, who fell to his knees and pressed a hand tightly against the bleeding hole in his shoulder.

Seeing Murata safe, Yozak looked to the top of the dais. The Maou stood there, sheathed in the shimmering blue glow of his power, with one arm outstreched towards his water dragons as they writhed around the suspended diplomat. His eyes were narrowed as he stared dangerously at his captive.

"You will not hurt him," the Maou declared, voice fierce.

Yozak was momentarily surprised at the lack of melodramatic speeches. Another glance at the Sage on his knees at the foot of the dais, pale, shivering and bloody made sense of this departure from the norm and made Yozak hope that the dragons were squeezing the diplomat tightly enough that it really hurt.

"You are not badly hurt?" the Maou was looking down at the Sage. To Yozak, it sounded less like a question than a command.

The Sage looked up and smiled gratefully. "Fine now, Your Majesty. My thanks." The Maou acknowledged him with a sharp nod of his own before closing his eyes and slumping backwards as the aura around him flickered out. Conrad took a step forward and slipped an arm around Yuuri's waist as the king shook his head groggily. The water dragons lost cohesion and dissolved, sending a cascade of water and one near-unconscious diplomat crashing to the floor. The guards surged forward to secure him.

To no one's surprise, Günter promptly erupted into hysterics, alternately wailing over the Sage's injury and swooning over the Maou's display of power. Rolling his eyes at Günter's histrionics, Gwendal descended from the dais to take charge of the milling guards. Within moments, the diplomat had been removed from the room under heavy guard and messengers had been sent to fetch Gisela and servants to clean up the mess. Gwendal glanced around the room, lifted an inquiring eyebrow at Conrad and purposefully strode out after Conrad nodded a reassurance to him. Wolfram was still on edge and seemed reluctant to sheathe his sword. Yozak thought that Wolfram's inability to act earlier was probably wearing on him so he wasn't surprised when, after a few moments of glaring impartially around the room, Wolfram muttered something to Conrad, looked Yuuri over once more and then hurried out after Gwendal. Now that the excitement was over, however, Yozak was beginning to feel his aches and fatigue again. He decided that Gwendal and Wolfram wouldn't have any trouble rounding up the members of the diplomat's retinue without him and he began picking his way carefully across the room, avoiding the broken glass.

The king roused suddenly and wrenched himself away from Conrad to rush down and crouch next to the Sage. "Murata! What were you thinking?" he scolded angrily, hands hovering nervously over his friend and eyes fixed on the blood spilling through the Sage's fingers. "That was stupid! You could have been killed!" Yozak was amused at the familiar display of the king's soft-hearted nature. The kid never could stand to see anyone hurt on his behalf. Feeling eyes on him, he glanced up to find Conrad looking at him as he walked down the steps towards the pair huddled at the base of the dais. A brief, unspoken exchange sufficed to reassure Conrad that all was well and he resumed his watch over the king.

"Well, I couldn't let him kill you, now could I?" Murata was responding to Yuuri's shouts, laughing as the king spluttered at him. "Stop worrying, Shibuya! It's all right. This isn't as bad as it looks," he assured him.

"But you never get hurt," Yuuri said guiltily, his voice almost a whisper.

Murata nodded ruefully. "Usually I'm not called upon to get involved quite like this," he complained good-naturedly. "We just didn't have enough warning to settle this before it became violent."

The king continued to fuss. The Sage shook his head with an indulgent smile and let himself be fussed over, glancing around the room until he spotted Yozak. Their eyes met and they shared a smile, pure relief running underneath Yozak's usual vaguely sardonic smile and Murata's blandly cheerful grin. Yozak took a deep breath and finally felt the tension in him begin to unknot.

This had been a bad one. Tonight's events could easily have ended very badly. If it had taken Yozak just a bit longer to discover the truth, if he'd been slower to wake or slower to reach the castle, if the Sage hadn't been on hand at the castle, if that diplomat had struck just a bit lower, if the Maou hadn't intervened... They'd come so very close to a tragedy that Shin Makoku would have never recovered from. Through Shinou's grace or Yozak's stubbornness or Murata's meddling or maybe just blind luck, they'd somehow managed to prevent this latest catastrophe.

Yozak snorted at the melancholy turn of his thoughts. He refused to panic over what might have happened. Last-minute miracles were his specialty after all. Guilt and worry was Conrad's department.

Conrad must have picked up something of his thoughts because as he looked faintly reproachful as Yozak approached the dais, though his eyes were warm. Yozak just gave him a wide, insolent grin and a casual salute. The Sage looked up and waved a welcome at him, telling the king how Yozak had been the one to get word to the castle. The king ignored him in favour of exclaiming over Yozak's injuries. Yozak just sat down on the edge of the dais, trying to fend off the kid's concern, and settled back to enjoy the satisfaction of another narrowly averted disaster.

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