Volume Five

"Tsuzuki-san. Please marry me."

Being propositioned by Muraki in his own bedroom in the afterlife is the last thing Tsuzuki was expecting. He thinks he's saved when Tatsumi breaks through the door--but Tatsumi has been hired to help the doctor. Just as Muraki starts having his wicked way, Tsuzuki wakes up from his nightmare, only to find that someone really is on top of him. It's the Earl's servant with an invitation to a tea party. Due to his unpleasant morning, he arrives late to work. Tatsumi tries to wipe a little breakfast off his lips, but all Tsuzuki can think about is how he had been sold out in his dream, and he runs away in tears.

Hisoka, Watari, and Tatsumi were also invited to the Earl's cherry-viewing tea party. The four go together to the Candle Mansion, where of course the springtime has put the Earl in the mood for romance, to Tsuzuki's disgust. The Earl admits he's been writing a novel recently. It's a special story in that he set up the characters and the book is now writing itself. At the meal, Hisoka is amazed at how quick Tatsumi is to look out for Tsuzuki, which turns to shock when he hears the two used to be partners. Tatsumi had dumped him for not being a suitable match. Tsuzuki is hurt by the discussion, believing that Tatsumi hates him, and runs away again.

Tsuzuki gets lost in the mansion, then becomes depressed when he sees the candles of human lives, knowing that as a shinigami he might be responsible for snuffing them out at any time. He stumbles across the Earl's study and gets sucked into the aforementioned work-in-progress. The others wait for the Earl to get back from searching for Tsuzuki, but it's a big house so it could take a long time.

Tsuzuki crashes in a lake, where he's found by a dark-haired woman whose face resembles his. She thinks he's an angel because he came from the sky. He immediately tries to get back where he belongs and bumps into her father, who looks exactly like Konoe-kachou. He finally figures out that he's in the Earl's book, and it pisses him off that the Earl's using the shinigami as characters--not to mention arbitrarily changing his sex.

He goes off on his own to think, where he's nearly trampled by the novel version of Tatsumi, who is distraught that he might have injured the face that his master loves. Then the lord shows up (making the same identity mistake). Tsuzuki refuses to turn over the rabbit being hunted, which just tickles the lord even further because his personality is exactly like the girl's.

He reports to the girl, who explains that the lord reigns over the whole region. Unfortunately, the girl's father is sick and can't work, plus they had to borrow money for medicine, so she's in a bind. If she can't come up with the money to pay back the loan, she'll have to marry the lord. Tsuzuki promises to help her. When he learns she doesn't even have a name (no one in the story does), he names her Ruka after his sister.

At the lord's castle, his son by a previous wife (Hisoka) wants the steward to stop the wedding plans. He doesn't want anyone else to replace his mother. However, the steward refuses, saying it's long past time the lord remarried. For his part, the steward is conspiring with the alchemist (Watari) to cook up something that will make certain the marriage takes place.

Tatsumi flashes back to when he split up with Tsuzuki, how Tsuzuki had tried to pretend it didn't hurt. He remembers a time when he heard crying that resembled his mother's, but it was Tsuzuki. Tatsumi can't stand to see him that way. He begs Tsuzuki to stop, powerless to comfort him. Back in the present, he and Hisoka are searching the mansion, where they can't find either Tsuzuki or the Earl. They hurry on toward the study, the last place left to check.

Ruka's father collapses, and the steward refuses to loan her any more money for medicine until she pays off her previous debt. Then he chides her for leaving her hair loose and ties it in a ribbon for her. She relates to Tsuzuki that she and the steward used to be childhood friends, playing together all the time, but he's changed. Then she realizes that he couldn't give her money, but he gave her his own fine silk ribbon she could sell for a good price to get her father's medicine.

Tsuzuki gets an idea and puts on a show, taking advantage of his skill with spells and summoning, calling up Byakko as a grand finale. The show nets them a tidy pile of coins, enough to pay off the debt with some left over for more medicine. (He apologizes to Byakko for putting the god in such a position, but the big pussycat doesn't mind. He invites Tsuzuki to come visit the shikigami in their world, Gensoukai, sometime.) Suddenly Tsuzuki is accosted by a bug. It's a beetle claiming to be the one making sure that the story goes as the Earl hoped. It's upset because the "romantic" ending got derailed. Tsuzuki asks how to get back to his world, to which the beetle replies that he's stuck. There is no way out.

Ruka picks some flowers, leaving one for the steward and bringing the rest to Tsuzuki. She thinks the "angel" has wonderful magic to make everyone happy. He confesses that he's a shinigami, but she scolds him, saying that angels and shinigami are both the same, guiding dead souls so they don't get lost. She urges him to be more forgiving of himself. He thanks her, in his heart seeing her as his older sister. (The steward, prompted by the flower, comes upon their little scene and hears the whole thing.)

At the mansion, Hisoka asks Tatsumi why he lied at the tea party and said that he threw Tsuzuki away. As an empath, Hisoka could tell that Tatsumi didn't hate him. (Tatsumi: "Does it really bother you that much? Our relationship?") Tatsumi explains that he couldn't take the pain of seeing Tsuzuki cry after every mission, especially when Tsuzuki tried to smile through the sadness for his sake. He didn't leave Tsuzuki because he wanted to be apart. He had to distance himself because he wasn't strong enough to bear being beside him unable to do anything. Tsuzuki has gone through many partners since, but Tatsumi declares that his true partner is Hisoka. He asks Hisoka to take good care of and support him. Hisoka responds that Tsuzuki surely understands Tatsumi's true feelings.

They burst into the study, where the Earl is happily reading the story as it unfolds. An epidemic is spreading through the town, and the citizens blame Tsuzuki. The steward urges the lord to use Tsuzuki as a sacrifice to pacify the townsfolk, starting a full-scale hunt to capture him. He won't let anyone get in the way of his plans.

The alchemist finishes the love potion he was working on. The lord's son attempts to get it from him, but the alchemist won't renege on a contract. However, he's on the son's side, so he gives him a different bottle instead. Reading the danger Tsuzuki is facing trying to run from the steward, Hisoka asks the Earl if he can do anything to get his partner out. (Tatsumi wants to know why he was given such an awful personality...)

Ruka asks why the steward is so desperate to please the lord that he makes her suffer so much, wondering if he really hates her. He reveals that he's only doing everything in his power to make her happy. (The beetle tells Tsuzuki that the steward is based on Tatsumi's personality, so that's his true feeling--the emotion he keeps bottled inside.) Unfortunately Tsuzuki steps on a branch, giving away his presence, and the steward shoots him.

Watari shows up, and Tatsumi figures out how he can help get Tsuzuki out of the book. He starts drawing with a pencil and paper. The wedding proceeds with the drugged bride. The steward is relieved that the girl will be happy at last, never having to lack for money or food. As a peasant himself, he can't give her those things, so because he loves her he's using the only means at his disposal to bring her the life she deserves.

Suddenly a voice shouts that they must stop the ceremony. Tsuzuki bursts in with Byakko. (Can't kill a shinigami that easily.) Ruka comes out of her trance (with a boost from the love potion antidote the son slipped in her drink). Watari's talent is to breathe life into inanimate objects, so he drew a picture of Tsuzuki that he's going to transform into the real thing, sucking him out of the book.

Tsuzuki demands that the steward release Ruka, pointing out that binding her to a man she doesn't love won't make her happy. You can't have just one person happy alone. If it's not together, it's not worth it. If it's not together with Tatsumi, it's not worth it. The steward doesn't know what else to do, but Ruka promises to help him think of a way to make everyone happy, so he doesn't have to lie anymore.

As the story ends, Watari yanks Tsuzuki out. Tatsumi welcomes him home. Later, back at the office, Tatsumi invites Tsuzuki to have tea and snacks. The Earl won't tell Tsuzuki what happened in the story after he left, but he figures any conclusion is good as long as everyone is happy.

Tatsumi bills the Earl for damage due to defamation of character.

End Volume 5

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