Volume Eight

Oriya, worried about his friend, comes upon Muraki contemplating the past. The doctor says he's setting his plan in motion, and he wants Oriya to use two card keys to delay the shinigami that will be following him. He promises to disappear, just like the time he killed his mother. Oriya is upset that his friend sounds as though he means goodbye forever, but he understands, even if he doesn't like it.

At Enma-chou, Watari is examining the data he picked up at the college. Satomi's specialty is making chimera creatures--that is, living things put together from assorted different pieces--which he's been working on for the past twenty years. Just as Tatsumi agrees to go pick up the professor first thing in the morning for his connection to Muraki (and the serial murders), an explosion rocks the building from the direction of the infirmary. The two hurry to find out what happened to Tsuzuki and run smack into Suzaku.

Tsuzuki is in a trance, holding a severed head, trying to lick it to heal the injury. His actions make Tatsumi think the same thing must have happened before, and the recurrence has made Tsuzuki snap. Suzaku won't let anyone near him, as if protecting a chick, which surprises Tatsumi since summoned creatures generally turn on their masters if control ever slips. Then Hisoka dashes into the room and receives a mental blast of what happened.

Muraki had merged Mariko's body with a millipede and forced her to attack Tsuzuki. She was desperate not to die, crying out for help, her only hope to kill Tsuzuki to end her suffering. Suzaku appeared to protect her master, and no matter how much Tsuzuki begged her to stop, yelling that the girl was only being manipulated by Muraki, she blasted Mariko with her flame. Mariko's last scream was to call Tsuzuki a murderer.

His powers going wild, Tsuzuki starts summoning more shikigami. Tatsumi knows they have to stop him; if he gets even three of the four gods together, it'll destroy the whole place. Someone reports to Enma, who has seen Tsuzuki lose control before. Already Souryuu has joined Suzaku, reducing the force field to 50%. Hisoka is unconscious from the memory, and the others can't do anything to help, when Muraki materializes through a portal and carries Tsuzuki away.

The shinigami go to Kyoto, where the police have discovered Satomi's body. They know it means Muraki's plan is near completion. It had taken Hisoka three days to recover from Tsuzuki's emotions, and he's afraid his partner has closed himself away, never to return. However, Tatsumi encourages him, saying they can't give up or they'll be letting Muraki win. (Watari adds that, Tsuzuki being who he is, there's a chance the sight of food will bring him back to himself.)

Muraki has the blank Tsuzuki in a strange laboratory, where he says he will soon bring his brother back to life. Tsuzuki's mind is in the place it retreated to when he was in the hospital for eight years. The boy in his head tells him he's like the rose that allows all the other buds around it to be cut simply so that it will stand out and survive.

Muraki experiments by slicing open Tsuzuki's neck, marveling at how the shinigami body heals itself. He looks in a big tank where he's keeping his older brother's head alive. He intends to give his brother Tsuzuki's body, which can theoretically survive the transplant, so that he can finally die for real.

The other three shinigami pay Oriya a visit to pry Muraki's location out of him. Oriya reveals he's at the underground lab, but they need to use two card keys simultaneously to enter, since they can't pass through Muraki's kekkai otherwise. He challenges them to a duel, one match for each card. Thus, if they lose even once, they're out of luck. Hisoka takes up the challenge, as he's the only one with sword training. The swords are a matched set, so the outcome depends entirely on the combatants.

Oriya asks Hisoka what he's fighting for, saying he'll never win on hatred of Muraki alone. Hisoka charges at him in anger, but loses the first match. Muraki hates his brother, a son his father had with one of his patients. What infuriated him the most was that they had been conceived on the same day. He blames his brother for stealing everything he ever cared about. While he rants, Tsuzuki opens his eyes and sees the knife dropped earlier.

Oriya tells Hisoka the fight is over. However, Hisoka demands the second match. Tsuzuki has come to his rescue many times, has been the family to him that he never experienced when he was alive. Hisoka had closed his heart to people, but by holding him with warm hands and watching over him with a smile, Tsuzuki changed that, healing him. This time, he's determined to rescue Tsuzuki. If there's even the slightest chance of winning, he'll take it. He attacks Oriya, this time not out of hatred, but to protect the one who gives him a place, a reason, to exist.

Once he hears that, Oriya calls off the fight and hands over the keys. He sees the shinigami on their way, wondering if it's for the best, hoping his friend doesn't die. In the lab, Tsuzuki picks up the knife and stabs Muraki, his mind repeating that for one flower to flourish, the others must be sacrificed. He acknowledges himself as a murderer.

The shinigami enter the lab, Hisoka leading them toward his partner. Tsuzuki confronts Muraki, pointing out that even in the hospital he had lucid moments. He figures this one will last him long enough to kill them both. He summons the shikigami Touda, a snake that breathes black flame. Muraki says they're both the same, born out of the dark, sons of sinners. Descendants of darkness.

Hisoka can sense his partner's intention to blow up the lab with himself inside. As Muraki feels his consciousness slip away, he calls out for a woman named Ukyou, sorry he wasn't able to do anything for her, asking her to forgive him for leaving. Touda asks Tsuzuki if he's absolutely sure this is what he wants. The black flame is strong enough to kill even a shinigami. Tsuzuki replies that he can't depend on the other shikigami, they would try to save him, and he doesn't want to be saved anymore. Touda understands.

The other three reach him, but the fire has already started. Tatsumi holds Hisoka back, knowing it would kill him too. Tatsumi believes that if continuing to exist is such hell for Tsuzuki that he can't bear it any longer, they have no right to interfere. Hisoka, on the other hand, can't accept that. He leaps into the flame.

Tsuzuki sees him and shouts for him to go back, protesting that it's no use trying to come for him, he wants to die. He's lived long enough, his head filled with nothing but regret and guilt and sadness, and he's tired. Hisoka lands in his arms and declares that he can't be alone anymore. The only place he considers his home is by Tsuzuki's side. If Tsuzuki is going on to the next world, Hisoka refuses to lose him, he'll make certain they go together. He never wants to be separated again.

Konoe-kachou reports to Enma that Tatsumi used his shadow power to pull the two out of the fire, and they're now recovering. The god is angry that Tsuzuki tried to get away from him, considering Tsuzuki foolish for thinking there was anywhere else he could go. Oriya knows Muraki won't be coming back to him.

Tsuzuki wakes up, confused, in the Enma-chou infirmary (which is still undergoing repairs), surprised he's still alive. The others explain how he got there. All their friends come to visit while the pair recuperates, until it gets to the point that Hisoka runs away from the Hokkaido girls and Tatsumi has to protect Tsuzuki from the Earl. At last Tatsumi apologizes for having saved Tsuzuki's life against his will, but Tsuzuki thanks him. Tatsumi later admits to Kachou that he had only intended to save Hisoka, knowing that losing him would hurt Tsuzuki more than anything.

Tsuzuki finds his partner outside. Hisoka reveals that Muraki didn't die in the fire; someone pulled him out. A huge burst of light surrounded his body, strong enough to burn one's eyes. The spell binding Hisoka hasn't vanished. Hisoka says it's all right, he'll go on chasing the doctor and one day surpass him. As long as they're together, he knows they can do it.

* * *

Watari has cooked up a plan for Valentine's Day. He put a potion in chocolates for Tatsumi, Tsuzuki, and Hisoka. Unfortunately the Hokkaido girls picked out the exact same chocolates, and they crash into him in the hallway.

He stuffs Tsuzuki full of all the chocolate, one box after another, frustrated that it doesn't seem to be having any effect. Later he meets up with everyone after they've eaten the girls' gifts, which had been mixed up with his in the collision. Tatsumi is in Gushoushin's body, Hisoka in Tatsumi, Saya in Hisoka, and Tsuzuki in Saya. Watari rejoices at the success, until he becomes the focus of Tatsumi's anger...

End Volume 8

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