Beneath the mask, Chichiri was smiling happily as he gazed around the large, empty arena in amazement. It looked ten times bigger when there wasn't hundreds of people crammed into the place. "This is so cool!"
He and his close circle of friends had been invited to watch TNT during a rehearsal. It was Tasuki's idea, looking for an excuse to have the blue-haired teen around him, but Nuriko had a large part in having the whole group invited, for reasons of his own. They were given a brief tour of the building by a 'roadie' while the band got ready, then were shown to some seats that had been set up in front of the stage. Miaka also joined the group, sitting by Chiriko, and, of course, Hotohori made it a point to sit by Chichiri.
The two hadn't mentioned the longhaired youth's little confession to anyone, or to each other, and though they weren't exactly uncomfortable around each other, they were a bit more aware of the other's presence. They still managed to become really close friends, and saw each other most every other day. Today Hotohori could feel a certain energy radiating from Chichiri, excitement at being able to see Tasuki again, and couldn't help but feel a bit down, even though he was happy for the other boy.
All kinds of people, producers, choreographers, technicians, and the like, hovered around and on the stage, charting out the dance moves that would make TNT take the audience’s breath away. Every now and then the oh-so-important director people would glare at the group of teenagers when they cracked a joke or got too noisy, but they knew there was nothing they could do about the guests. Kicking them out would incur the wrath of Tasuki, and that was something they rather feared.
It seemed a lifetime before the band finally made it onto stage, dressed in matching red satin shirts and black dress pants. They spoke to one of the producers a moment before Nuriko caught sight of Hotohori, and began jumping up and down, waving at the group. Full of excitement, the teens waved back, with Miaka making kissy faces at Tamahome, who began to return them, then stopped when he realized people were watching him. Not too long after, the idols took position on the stage, while the technicians cleared out, and began their routine when the music started.
They performed beautifully; their natural talents showed even in rehearsal, and the onlookers felt as if they were getting their own private concert. When difficult moves were successfully executed, the group cheered and whistled, encouraging the stars to work harder than they normally would for a practice. They only time there was any kind of slip up was when Tasuki, who'd been distracted by Hotohori leaning in a bit too closely to whisper something to Chichiri, tripped over a floor stagelight and collided with Tamahome, sending them both crashing to the ground. Of course, this started a mini-brawl and a break was called after they were pulled off of one another so they could relax a bit.
"Teme,  it was an accident," the fiery youth growled at his partner as he leaned against the stone wall outside the arena. The whole group had gone out for some fresh air, and were sitting and/or standing around in the shade of the building. Refreshments had been served, as well as ice bags for Tasuki and Tamahome to reduce the swelling their little scuffle had caused. "Ya didn't have ta go pickin' fights over it."
"If you were paying attention it wouldn't have happened in the first place," the other shot back.
"It was an accident!"
"You're just too damn clumsy!"
"I'll show ya clumsy!!"
"Boys, boys," Nuriko stepped in between the two. "Restrain yourselves. We've only got a week before the next concert; don't go marring your perfect complexions." He winked at his bandmates, "we can't have the audience see you two all bruised up, now can we?"
"Yeah, yeah. Fine. Whatever." Tasuki brushed away the hand Nuriko had placed on his shoulder and moved to stand by Chichiri while Miaka went to reprimand Tamahome for fighting. But, as usual, it wasn't long before they'd forgotten all about the argument and were laughing and joking like nothing happened.
Things were looking rather pleasant; Suboshi and Tamahome had a conversation about a commonly liked video game, while Chiriko described to Miaka all kinds of things he wanted to see and do when they went to the zoo together, and Nuriko spent the time hitting on Hotohori. Everyone was talking amongst themselves...except Chichiri. The blue-haired teen had remained unusually quiet for some time.
Amiboshi came to notice his friend's lack of participation in the conversation, and gently asked, "are you alright?"
"I've got a really strange feeling," responded the other boy. "Like...something's going to happen."
The young flutist tensed up a bit. "Something bad?" He knew when Chichiri sensed something it was usually right. The masked teen's intuition was keen, and him having a 'feeling' meant something was definitely up.
"I...." He took a quick glance at Hotohori, and a shiver ran up his spine. "I'm not sure."
A man.... No, not a man, but rather, a beast charged through a small, woodsy area. In no time he'd cleared the trees and entered an open parking lot. He was on a mission.
Ashitare didn't particularly have anything against the young prince. In fact, he really didn't have any opinion of the heir at all, since he'd never met the youth. But, though he wasn't completely human, he wasn't completely animal either, and he was intelligent enough to know fear.
Nakago was fear.
The Emperor had kept the man-beast locked up most of his life, and he well knew better than to go against His Highness's wishes. He didn't want to kill...but he could still feel the lashings of Nakago's whip from the last time he displeased the Emperor, and that had been a long time ago. He did what he had to.
Right now, he had to carry out orders on the execution of Prince Saihitei.
He paused for a moment and sniffed the air. It was difficult in the crowded city, but he eventually caught the noble youth's scent. Glaring at the situation and hardening his heart, the beast assassin headed out with animal speed in the prince's direction.
"So," Nuriko hung playfully on Hotohori's arm, smiling slyly, "hows about you and I go out sometime?"
The longhaired youth blushed slightly. It wasn't that he didn't have any experience in having people fawn over him, with his dashing good looks he was actually quite used to it. The court ladies and all his potential suitors had constantly bid for his attention, but he never thought much about them; they were in love with the prince's title, not him as a person. But Nuriko didn't know his heritage; he liked him for him. Furthermore...Nuriko was a guy! And a beautiful one at that! Having another male flirt so shamelessly with him was something new.
Hotohori turned to where he heard Chichiri's voice come from, only to be tackled by the teen. Bewildered, he looked up, but saw the other boy glaring intently away from him. He followed the youth's line of vision, totally unprepared to see a large not-quite-man crouched in the exact spot where he'd been standing moments before; the beast's claws were buried in the ground where they'd missed their target. The masked teen tensed, then quickly rolled the both of them to the side, just as the attacker lunged.
"What the fuck!?" Tasuki gave voice to the thought on everyone's mind.
Everyone stared apprehensively at the animal, shocked and scared. Chiriko ran into Mitsukake's arms, while Tamahome moved instinctively to stand in front of Miaka.
"What is that?"
"And why is it after Hotohori?"
Ashitare glared at the youth with a dangerous gleam in his eye. "I have orders from Lord Nakago," he growled, "to execute the prince, Saihitei."
"Prince? What?" The group, most of them anyway, stared in confusion.
"It was easy for me to sniff out your pungent nobility," continued the beast.
Chichiri caught on instantly. "You're the prince." It was a statement, not a question, as he looked at the noble youth. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"It makes sense though," Suboshi cut in, "I always thought you were too fancy and mature to be normal."
Hotohori gave a brief scowl before the man-beast roared out "enough of this! I'm going to finish you!" He began an onslaught of attacks, lunging with bared fangs and reaching out with his claws.
Even with his animal speed, Chichiri was always one step ahead of the assassin as he pushed and pulled his friend out of the way. So busy protecting the other, though, caused the masked teen to forget about saving his own skin, and was a bit too slow to move out of the way as Ashitare took a swipe. He stumbled as the claws scratched across his leg, not causing too much damage, but a whole lot of pain. He hit the ground, taking Hotohori down with him, and his mask was knocked clear from his face. His one eye widened, knowing they were now vulnerable, then closed tightly as he waited for the oncoming attack.
When the attack didn't come he opened his eye again, to see the beast being restrained from behind by none other than Nuriko. Few knew it, but the crossdressing idol had a strength that was almost inhuman. Nobody could quite figure out why, he refused to work out for fear of becoming too muscular and 'manly'. It was just a gift he seemed to be born with and had all his life. 
It was a gift that was being used to its full extent at that moment. "You're a strong galute," the star grunted out as he held on with all his power.
"Nuriko!" everyone stared, shocked at the singer's action.
"I won't let you hurt him!" the violet-haired man yelled out, fully intending to rid the world of this beast that attacked his prince. Orders or not, he tried to hurt Hotohori, and for that, he was going down.
 In a brave move to get a better position on his opponent, Nuriko attempted to leap over the animal, but greatly misjudged his speed. The sharp claws pierced his body, and he was suspended in the air, impaled by the beast. There was a collective gasp as the idol's blood started to flow, staining the ground beneath him. And for a moment, which seemed like forever, all was still.
Nuriko's life flashed before his eyes; his hopes and dreams, life and love, everything important to him made a special final appearance in his mind, giving him a sense of peace as the blood left him. He thought of his little sister, Korin, who'd always wanted to be a singer but was killed before she had the chance, and of his own rise to stardom in her honor. He thought of his best friends, Tasuki and Tamahome, and how wonderfully close they all were. Then the image of Hotohori came to his mind. He'd liked the guy...the prince...ever since he first laid eyes on him. He loved beautiful things, and the noble youth was the loveliest he'd ever seen. Then he got to know him, and he turned out to be a kind and gentle person, but also had an air of intelligence and dignity. A beautiful person, through and through. A beauty he had to protect.
A surge of energy filled the singer, and the still moment ended as he used his restored strength to fling himself off his opponent's arm. He caught the large beast's head in his arms as he dropped down, and squeezed at the temples, putting every ounce of his power into it.
The pressure applied to Ashitare's skull was unbearable, and he howled in pain, moving erratically to try and knock the other away from him. But Nuriko's grip was too firm, and the idol let out a yell of his own as he felt the half-man's cranium give in. The animalistic assassin fell dead to the ground and the violet-eyed youth landed shakily on his feet.
The beautiful star, covered in his own blood, glanced over his shoulder at the newly discovered prince...and smiled. Then his eyes closed and his body dropped.
"Nuriko!" "Nuriko!" Everyone called out, running to their fallen friend.
"Please," Miaka held her Man of Honor to her, crying, "open your eyes!"
"Nuriko!" Tamahome and Tasuki crowded around the body, shaking him and calling his name. "Come on! Nuriko!"
Mitsukake pushed his way through the group, "let me through," and kneeled before the idol. "I have medical training." The tall teen had a great interest in medicine, and planned on becoming a doctor someday. He'd taken many extra biology and medical courses in school and at the local college, and also had a natural ability to help people. Those who knew him well knew the singer was in good hands, and were grateful that he was there.  "Somebody call an ambulance!" Amiboshi was on it, running towards the arena, and taking Chiriko with him so that the child didn't have to see the bloody body any longer.
As the youth performed the proper first aid, Hotohori looked on, confused as to why someone who had so much would put themselves in danger like that for him. The only conclusion he could come to was that it was because he was the prince, and the idol was doing what he thought was his duty. Or maybe he thought he'd get some kind of reward out of it...if he survived.
Within minutes the ambulance had arrived, paramedics rushing to the fallen star and doing what they did best. The group could only stammer something about being attacked when asked what happened, and before long the body was packed up in the emergency vehicle and ready to be taken to the hospital. Hotohori insisted on riding with Nuriko, feeling responsible for what happened. If he hadn't run away in the first place, he supposed, this never would have happened. Everyone else agreed to meet at the hospital.
As they rode along, sirens blaring and lights flashing, the noble youth gazed at the idol, taking note of his beauty even when in such a state. It was funny...the other had been trying for his attention ever since they'd met, but he'd never taken the time to really look at the violet-haired star, and now that he did, it pained him. Perhaps, if Nuriko survived this - no...when Nuriko was well again - he would find some way to repay his bravery.
The hospital's waiting room was way too cheerful, and stank of the medicine smell that nobody ever got used to, making even the well feel sick. Nurses in pristine white uniforms hustled about, moving charts and changing bedpans and doing other nurse things. Years old magazines were strewn about, as if people cared about news that was long over with. There was a coffee maker in the corner for those waiting, as well as plenty of creamer...but no sugar.
Tasuki hated that.
"All this fuckin' creamer and no sugar!" the fiery youth complained loudly. 
"I...could get you some," a hospital volunteer offered. She suspected who he was, and was subconsciously sucking up to the idol.
"Don't bother," he growled, "I'll drink it black." He shooed the girl away and sat in one of the too-uncomfortable seats, taking a drink of the plain beverage, wincing, then dropping the still-full cup in the garbage can. He sat a moment, crossing his legs, then uncrossing, and then crossing the other way. He drummed out a mindless beat on the armrest, then shifted in his seat, uncrossing his legs again.
Just a tad edgy.
The group was sitting anxiously around the waiting room, hoping for good news, but fearing the worst. Tamahome and Miaka sat closely next to one another, with Chiriko in the girl's lap, both of them crying softly. The teal-haired singer's own face was grim, every now and then a tear of his own escaping though he tried to remain strong for his fiancée and the others.
The twins were sitting back-to-back, mirror image faces with mirror image expressions of worry as they stayed near each other for strength. Mitsukake was talking with one of the doctors, explaining the aid he'd given. The professionals were amazed at how much the teen knew about medicine, and exclaimed that a big part of Nuriko's chance at survival was due to the fact that the tall youth was around at the time.
On the other side of the room sat Chichiri and Hotohori, the only ones talking. The blue-haired teen, who was still maskless having not bothered to grab the item in all the rush to get where they now were, was softly telling the other that it wasn't his fault...without much success. The noble youth firmly believed the whole situation was to be blamed on him, never mind the fact that his father was the ruthless one who sent out the assassin, and was overcome with grief. At the same time, though he felt selfish thinking it, he was relieved that the other person who'd protected him, Chichiri, was not in Nuriko's position. Maybe because of his feelings for the teen, or maybe because the other boy didn't have nearly as much strength as the idol did, but he couldn't help but want to be near the boy to make sure he was alright.
The two eventually fell quiet, Hotohori still unconvinced of his innocence in the matter, and the room became silent. Unbearably silent to some.
In a fit of restlessness, Tasuki stood again and paced around a bit before deciding the window was a good place to stand, looking out over the hospital's parking lot. He was still for only a moment, before his fist lashed out and hit the windowsill, hard. The metal sill dug into his hand, cutting open his knuckles, but for some reason he rather enjoyed the brief pain.
Chichiri left his spot by Hotohori and retrieved some gauze from the nearby nurse's station, then went over to where Tasuki was. A brief bit of amazement at how comfortable he'd become around the idol entered his mind, but quickly left as he silently took the injured hand in his and began wrapping the cuts. The other looked on, giving a quietly spoken "thanks." When finished, the blue-haired teen continued to hold his hand, looking up into amber eyes, offering his support. He couldn't help but feel something sparking between them, and was shocked when the star suddenly tensed and jerked his hand roughly away.
"Tasuki? Are you alright?"
"Yeah," said sarcastically, "just fine. Now...leave me alone." He turned away from the confused teen, looking out the window again.
"I...I was just-"
"Leave. Me. ALONE!!"
Now they had everyone's attention; seven pairs of wide-open eyes stared in complete shock at the two. Before they'd always been so apparently fond of one another, each obvious in their affection for the other. Friendly and playful, always smiling at one another. This was something totally unexpected. It was understood if Tasuki was upset, they all were, but to snarl like that at Chichiri of all people...something deeper had to be upsetting the fiery star.
Without his mask, the scarred teen's emotions were painfully obvious. Confusion, betrayal, hurt, and even anger flashed through his mahogany eye, though the rest of him was still and speechless.
And the pained look hurt Tasuki. His heart contracted and he suddenly felt like jumping out the window he stood by. "Look, 'Chiri...." Seven eyebrows quirked up at the spontaneous nickname. "I like ya, ok. I'm man enough ta admit that. I like ya a lot. But him," a finger was raised and pointed at Hotohori, "he's the God damned prince! I can't compete with that. Hell, it's probably illegal ta try. I know he likes ya too, so...just go to him." He sat, slumped, on the windowsill, letting his head fall against the glass with a 'thud'.
The room once more fell into a silence, with everyone staring at Chichiri staring at Tasuki. The teen wished he had his mask at that moment; he wanted to put the smiling face on and say it's alright and that he understood. But he didn't understand, and his confusion and hurt were written plainly on his face, bared for all to see.
Hotohori himself was more confused than ever. This was a good thing, right? His competition just dropped out of the race. Then why did he feel so miserable about it? Was it because of how much pain it caused his dear friend?
The quiet room became stifling to the longhaired youth, and he suddenly and quickly stood, causing all eyes to turn to him.
"Where are you going?" Chiriko asked quietly.
"To see Nuriko."
Everyone was a bit astonished, watching as he headed for the door. "They won't let you in the ICU," Mitsukake informed him. 
"I'm the prince," was Hotohori's somewhat bitter reply. "I can do whatever I want."
to be continued....
 'teme' = ....umm...I think 'bastard' is a good/correct translation
 just for the record, I have no intention to make this a reincarnation fic ...officially, anyway, but you can assume whatever you want ^_^
 begin mini-replay of episode 33...now ^^*
 ~_~ this time....
 sounds like me at work ^^*
 aah~n...I have no idea how hospitals work... do they let people in there? or is it just family? anyhoo...I'm just taking a guess from what I, like, see on TV an' stuff
Saa...and another part done! Yay! And, good news, I found my notebook ::holds up blue spiral pad:: see! So now I know what I'm supposed to be writing! ^_^ This part turned out longer than expected; I actually cut out a lot of what I was going to put and will be putting it in the next chapter...which wasn't even supposed to be.... When I started this fic, I'd intended on keeping it short, four parts or so.... It's running away on me! o_o