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marineko's fanfiction
Arashi: An Ever Expanding Sky (43) 
19th-Oct-2013 12:21 pm
AUTHOR: Marineko/mylittlecthulhu
FANDOM: Arashi
PAIRING: Sakuraiba, Juntoshi
DATE: January 10th, 2013
NOTES/DISCLAIMERS: 1. This is a work of fiction, 2. beta-ed by arashic0804

Chapter Forty-Three | Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Three

It was getting less loud outside. Kuroki still glared at Nino when she looked his way, but she was no longer demanding him to free her. The three of them sat mostly in silence for the longest time. The only sounds in the room were their breathing ー Aiba wasn't breathing, Sho thought - and the occasional clicks and whirring of the small transmitter Nino had on him.

Sho thought of how Aiba had basically invented whatever it was that enabled the making of transmitters that small. He wondered if the sounds coming from it was a code, and if it was another of Aiba's ideas. He wondered who Nino was talking to, as he sent sounds back. But Nino had told them all that he wanted, and now he wasn't saying another word as he anxiously worked the transmitter.

"Give me Aiba," Nino said.

"What? No."

"Trust me, it's for your own good." Nino stood up, pocketing his transmitter. He walked up to where Sho was. He had loosened Sho's shackles a little - enough to defend himself against close attacks, he said - but not completely. Sho was completely ready to fight Nino off, but then Nino pulled out a weapon from the same pocket he had kept the transmitter.

A gun. Small, but Sho had seen it before, in what felt like years ago. The first time Sho had met Nino, and Aiba. "You've got to be kidding."

"Ninomiya -"

"Nothing to do with you, Meisa-chan," Nino interrupted. He sounded polite, pleasant. Not the voice of someone worried he might have to shoot someone. "Like I said, this is for Sakurai-dono's own good."

"Don't call me that," Sho muttered. His eyes were on Nino, but he didn't seem as concerned as Kuroki. A big change, Nino reflected, compared to the man who was scared up into an airship because of the same gun. "Ninomiya, shoot me if you like, but you're not going to take Aiba."

Ninomiya smiled, and took aim. "I was hoping you would say that."


No, Nino, don't shoot.

Even though he had been able to feel... something, Aiba found that nothing much had changed. He still had no control of his body, and couldn't even feel anything other than the initial warmth. Even as he felt the panic rising, he wondered if he had just imagined feeling it in the first place.

The sound was louder than he expected it would be, and he wondered if Sho's blood was on him, if it was warm, what he would have thought if he could feel it, if he could see what was going on. 

And then Nino was saying something to him but he couldn't understand, except that Nino must have taken him away from Sho if Nino's voice sounded so near, and he wondered if anyone was helping Sho, if there was any reason not to do what She wanted of him if Sho was gone, and Nino betrayed him.

He listened for Her, thinking he would do anything if She could bring Sho back, but where her voice had come from, there was only silence.

A part of him wondered at the feeling of needing to scream when he had no voice that could be heard.


"Ninomiya, is she supposed to be like this?"

Nino glanced at his sister. She was still sitting up, but she was in a deep trance, and seemed completely unaware of her surroundings. Opposite her was Oguri Ryo, also in a trance. Rin's hands were on both sides of Oguri's head, her fingers near his temple, like she sometimes did when she was "reading" people. She had only done that to Nino once, when he took a job without telling her about it. He hadn't liked it at all, and he had never seen her do it to anyone else.

She wasn't reading Oguri, though. Nino nodded. "How long has it been?"

"Almost two hours. I don't think she can hold it for much longer."

"Toma said he only needed three."

Jin looked doubtful. "Even with the windups down, his men are outnumbered. He couldn't possibly take back the Council in three hours."

"He could, if he gets to Oguri. And Yamashita."

"Easier said than done."

Nino shrugged. "Three hours." He turned to one of the men guarding the entrance. "The last I heard, they've broken into one of the cells. Is that right?"

"All of the cells they've taken the Council members to, save one," the man confirmed. "The council members that are able to fight are helping out. We've gathered those from the main houses, though, to be moved to a safe location."

"Good. Send a message for them to get Kuroki from the last cell; she could go with them."

The man took out his transmitter and started on the message right away. Jin just looked at him, and at Nino, shaking his head.


"I can't believe your windup made those things, for all of Toma's men, while all mine did was try to assassinate you. Unsuccessfully, I might add." 

"Aiba isn't 'mine,'" Nino murmured absently. "He isn't anyone's. And neither is Kamenashi."

"Windups are not people, you know."

"I know," Nino replied. "They're better."

"You're beginning to sound like Yamashita."

Nino shrugged. "Maybe he was right."

Jin stared at Nino. "If you really think that, then what are you doing now?"

Nino tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement. He looked pleased. "Finally, you're asking the right questions."


"I'm not going," Jun insisted. "Not if he isn't."

"Look," the man - who had identified himself as Matsuda - said, sounded tired and exasperated. Ohno didn't blame him; they were in the midst of something bigger than all of them, and this guy had to handle Jun, who was acting like an spoiled prince. "I had strict orders, okay? All the members of the main houses had to be taken to safety."

"I'll go if he comes with me."

"But -"

"Jun," Ohno interrupted. This stopped both of the others, as they turned to him. He had never called Jun by name before, not in front of anyone else. It was probably a crime, Ohno thought. When this was all over he would probably be tried for speaking to a member of the twelve houses as if to an equal. He could be stripped of his caste, banished from Milna. The thought made him want to laugh, somehow. He felt hysterical, it took all that he had to push down the giggle that was threatening to surface. "Just - go with him. I'll be all right. I'm needed up there, they're outnumbered."

"Then I'll go with you," Jun said. "I'm a better fighter than you. I always beat you when we spar."

"Only because I let you," Ohno replied. "I know you hate losing."

"I'm not going to hide away while you're risking your life for me!"

"I'm doing this for Milna," Ohno corrected. "Not you."

"This is the same Milna that would have you tried for using my House's funds while I was otherwise occupied," Jun reminded him. "The same one that would hang you for treason for keeping us locked up, for safety or no."

"Then I'll hang," Ohno replied. "But I won't see you get hurt."

"I don't want to -"

"Matsuda, what's taking you so long?" Another man came up to their cell door. "We're evacuating everyone now."

"Go," Ohno said to Jun. "Please."

Jun looked at the men waiting. He nodded stiffly, and walked out with them without looking back at Ohno.


It was going to be over soon. Toma kept telling himself that as he went on. It had to be over soon; it was their only chance of winning. When Nino came to him with the plan, he was skeptical. Too much depended on what-ifs, on Nino's assumptions and Rin's abilities - abilities that he didn't even think he believed in. 

At times like these, he didn't have a single thought in his head. At least, that was what he told others, when they asked. If someone came at him, he would cut them down. It was that easy. His men knew not to be too near when he was in his zone, as they called it. But really it wasn't that he didn't think - it was that he thought about anything and everything, except what was going on around him. So as he moved he thought about their plan and whether they would make it in time, how they would all be executed if they failed. How they might be executed even if they won, because they were casteless and they broke into the Council building. 

Fuck that, he thought, bringing his sword down on one of the Guards with more force than necessary. He had no love for Milna. Nino and Rin wanted this, and they were family. But his men were family, too, and he would have them - what remained of them - out of Milna no matter what happened, when it was all finally over.

Even as the thought came, the transmitter hanging from his belt beeped and whirred. A message from Matsuda.

Bad timing, Ryuhei, he thought. They had been waiting for a message earlier, but then they've been ambushed by the Guards. 

Hearing someone coming from behind him, he spinned around, sword swinging - and clashing into Shota's. 

"Boss! Snap out of it, we've got them all."

He blinked, and took a look around. Wouldn't let himself think about the bodies he recognized amidst the ones he didn't. Not yet. He nodded. "So we did. Sorry, Shota."

"Uh huh." Shota gave him a look. It wasn't the first time. "My brother's message."

Toma looked down at the transmitter, which was still churning out a series of sounds. He hadn't caught the beginning of it.

-ran out mid-evacuation. Sakamoto tried to stop them. Failed. Lost weapons. Might run into them later.

"Must be one of the nobles running off to join the fight," Toma surmised. But the message continued.

if you stay put they'll find you, they know where Yamashita might be.

Toma grinned at Shota. "Looks like this time, the gods might be on our side."


"How long has it been?" 

Jin looked irritated. "Almost half an hour have passed." Turning to Rin, he added, "I don't think she could hold on for much longer."

"We better hope that Toma worked faster than he said he could, then." 

"Aren't you worried about your sister?"

"Rin is stronger than you think."

"Well, maybe she isn't as strong as you think," Jin muttered.

Nino sat up, and turned to Jin with a serious expression. "Look," he said. "I know you adore my sister and all, so I'm going to tell you this. She isn't some fragile thing you have to look after. She raised me, and Aiba, when she was just a kid herself. She could easily best either of us in a fight if she wanted to, and as much as it pains me to admit it, she's even a better thief than I'd ever be. Not that she would ever want to be one. Rin is strong. She told me she could do this, and I believe her."

Jin was quiet, not replying as he digested Nino's words. 

"I trust her. But if anyone - and by that I mean you - hurt her, they'll have to answer to me," Nino added. 

Considering all that Nino had brought upon Milna lately, Jin supposed that it wasn't an idle threat.


When the warmth started to return, Aiba almost didn't notice. It was too late, anyway, he thought. He didn't know where he was, or how long it had been, but Sho must have been gone. So was Nino - he could not hear Nino at all. 

He only began to realise that something was changing when the light came. In small spots, then all over, and then before he knew it he was breathing in. 


It took awhile for him to be able to even blink. The whole time, he only thought of one thing. Something inside him warned that such single-mindedness could be dangerous, but he couldn't think of anything, or anyone, other than Sho.

By the time he could muster the strength to sit up, Aiba realized that he couldn't hear a thing. Or rather, he couldn't hear anyone. He recalled vaguely that there should have been sounds from what was going on above, or at least the slow footsteps of the other windups that worked in the tunnels. If he was awake, and conscious, surely the other windups would have been as well.

His hand slipped into his left pocket, feeling a weight in it that he was sure wasn't there before. His fingers touched sharp metal, and readjusted to find the grip of his knife. Sho must have placed it there earlier, when he still couldn't feel anything. Or had it been Nino? He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think of what he had heard, what Nino might have done to Sho.

It would be the beginning of a new world, a world with no humans. The voice rang in his ears, heartbreakingly beautiful, inhuman. Was She really there with him, he wondered, or was he remembering things she had told him in the past?

He shook his head, hard. No, he thought, before trying to say it out loud. His voice sounded strange, too dry and thick, too human. "No."

"Ai... ba?"

The other voice was low, and familiar. Aiba heard nothing else as he turned. He felt as if he was in a vacuum, or a dark tunnel, and the only thing he could see, the only thing he could hear, was coming from the door that was slowly opening, the person pushing it open.


He didn't say anything as he watched the other figure come nearer. Sho walked slowly, like he was disoriented, or in pain. It seemed like Nino's shot hadn't been fatal. Aiba didn't think that, or of Nino, though. The only word repeating in his head was Sho's name, hammering at him, telling him this was important, this person was important. Each breath he took felt excruciating, the compulsion was so strong.

There was a joke in there somewhere, a faint voice at the back of his mind sounded, unheard. All they had to do was hit reset, and he was no longer broken. For all his insistence that he wasn't a machine, he understood he had been created to respond like one. Now he was no longer practiced at dealing with even the mildest compulsions, and this compulsion was the strongest he had ever felt. This compulsion was the reason he was made, and the last before he would be unmade.

Sho fell to his knees the moment he reached Aiba. He bent closer to the windup, saying something, but Aiba couldn't hear.

Aiba's grip on the knife tightened as he pulled it out of his pocket, and slashed into Sho.

The voice at the back of his head thought, not for the first time, of how weak humans were, that their flesh tore so easily, and how underneath it all they were really all the same. 

The only thing he heard was still one name, said over and over.


"Are you sure there's no other way?"

Rin shook her head, her expression regretful, and mildly exasperated. She had been doing readings for him all morning. "I'm sorry," she said. "Every time I try, the results are the same."

"So shutting down the windups may be our only chance, but it means Aiba would kill Sho, no matter what." Nino shook his head. "I don't accept that."

"Even if I do another reading -"

"I don't need another reading." Nino stood up. "Fate is your god, not mine. I'll make my own luck."

"Kazu." She looked up at him. "You don't know that you'll win this."

"Doesn't mean I don't have to try."

"That's not what I mean. It's -" she hesitated. "People are going to die."

"I know that. It still doesn't mean we should kneel and bare our throats to them. If I could find one way for Aiba to come out of this without losing Sho, I'd take it."

"And if there isn't?"

"I still don't accept that there's nothing I could do," Nino said.  "But... if it comes to that, I'll choose Aiba."

"And if the sacrifice to be made is you?" She sounded strange when she asked her question. She usually spoke in a low, almost monotonous voice, but she seemed lighter than usual, as if she was striving for nonchalance. He knew then, that it was a possibility she had read in the cards.

"Then, I guess, it would be me." He shrugged. "Besides," he added, his voice even, "it isn't as if we have much of a choice."

Rin looked away, unable to answer. Nino walked up to her, and sat beside her. "Hey," he said, his voice gentling. "I'll be fine."

"You can't promise that."

"Even if I did, you'd know different," he murmured. "You've read the cards, after all."

"Kazu... that boy, Kamenashi, he -"

"He'll be fine, too." Nino smiled. "He's like you - much stronger than he seems."

"He's going to try to kill you."

"I know. You've told me."

"But you still choose to take him to the tunnels with you, to find Oguri."

"He knows them better than anyone now, after studying the maps for so long. I can handle him. Don't worry, okay? I told you," he added, grinning - a little forced, but Rin could see the boy that he had once been in that grin. "Fate is your god. Me, I'll steal the future I want."

~ to be continued ~

notes: special thanks to arashic0804, neko_90, sesquerdo, nekobot01, cherry1989, betzi_chan, yuki_yume85, & newsie55! I don't reply to comments much these days, but I really appreciate that you've taken the time to read and tell me what you think. Now that I'm writing a lot less, sometimes I think the only reason I continue this series is because of the few that are still reading :) This chapter wouldn't be here without you, especially Sah-chan who reminded me of this series the last time we met!

Chapter Forty-Two | Chapter Forty-Four

19th-Oct-2013 05:12 am (UTC)
OMG. I can't believe I just read a new chapter of this series. You can't imagine how happy I was, but... I was kinda lost reading the chapter so I can't possibly give a proper comment. haha all I can say is, thank you for writing the continuation of this series, and I'm looking forward to more updates (but no pressure bb~) and I would have to re-read this series again. I missed windup Aiba and his complicated relationship and love for Sho. All I can remember is the question on whether Aiba and Sho will have the chance to have their happily ever after, and if Aiba will have the chance to be a real human because of love.

Whoa. I just blabbered so much. ahihi~ *blushes* I just missed you and your writing. ♥♥♥
19th-Oct-2013 06:04 am (UTC)
You don't know how happy you made me! Thank you very much! :D

But some things are blurry already so I might have to reread this again from the start :))
19th-Oct-2013 02:15 pm (UTC)
Whoa! So many good things today, how am I supposed to focus on my studying now? :p Totally unexpected, but a really great surprise, thank you for updating! I'll always want to come back to this story, as it's one of my favorite.
The cliffhanger, I can't.
19th-Oct-2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
YES! AN UPDATE! This made my day, thank you so so so much for updating and I hope to read more chapters soon :D:D
19th-Oct-2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
I LOOOOOVE you so much!!!

Imagine, it's been a while since the last update and I have done and read things in between and I still didn't need to go see the previous chapters to remember what has happened last time. I still remember everything! It just proves how good this story is <3 That being said I think I wanna read this fic from the beginning again :D I missed this story and the sneaky smart Nino and spoiled prince Jun and wind-up Aiba and servant Ohno and love-struck Sho <3 Also the other characters are so well described!

...but OMG!!! Did Aiba kill Sho? And will Nino die too? That is a mean cliffhanger you left for us!!! :D But I wouldn't have it any other way ;)

I am totally high and excited from reading this chapter :D Soo happy I stayed up late to browse LJ. This saved my day (or night). THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING AND SHARING <3 <3 <3

(blabbering way too much, take it that I love you lots)
19th-Oct-2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
I think that this, plus the LOVE leak, made this Saturday the best day of the year.

What a cliffhanger!! Not the ending, but all the chapter! I'd like to think that Nino had a plan, that Nino knew what would happen and managed to think of something so that Sho wouldn't die. That last part pushed that thought forward. But still... I can't think of any possibility, and I don't want to accept just yet that Sho is dead! And Jun being forced to leave Ohno behind!

I have to admit that when I read a novel, this point, where everything seems hopeless and there's no way out (apparently) is one of my favorites. Even more when there /is/ a way out, but I don't know why I keep thinking this is going to have a happy ending when no one promised that.

(that doesn't mean I'm expecting it or that I will be disappointed if there's none, of course!! it's just what my mind wants it to happen, but if this goes to the angst path and everyone and their families end up dead and I end up in a ball in the floor and crying I'll still have read and loved every bit of this)

I really missed this (your writing; this au) and it was such a nice surprise *-*


(And thank you for writing, always ♥)
20th-Oct-2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
You have no idea how happy i am about this new chapter. *____*
I thought i won't read anything of this series again.
And i think it is not bad that you write a lot less. I am just happy you continue with this. ^^

This chapter is great. Like the others before. ^^
It get's more thrilling and emotional.
I love it.
I will paitently wait for the next one. ^^
21st-Oct-2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
THIS STILL EXISTS? Need to refresh my mind to read this! :P Glad it's back!
22nd-Nov-2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
Finally, I was able to read the new chapter! \o/
And I have to say you are mean, Mari-chan! XD This chapter is too trilling and it ends with a cliffhanger!!! I need to know what happened to Sho-chan and Aiba-chan… Nino, please, stay alive! And… you separated Juntoshi again, nooooo… They suffered so much already… u.u (and me too XD) In short – I need a new chapter soon! Please! Can I ask a new chapter for Christmas? As a B-Day gift?! XD
Seriously, Mari-chan, thank you for this chapter and this series! I love your writing and you know that! Your work is so good, it turns my imagination on in a way few stories do! Thank you for this great feeling! And be sure AEES is a great series! ^.~
19th-Dec-2013 04:39 am (UTC)
I meant to read this series a long time ago because I never got time. But I've been recently visiting this site especially because I wanted something to read and... I'm hooked! I'm so totally in love with everything, and I seriously can't wait for the next update. But I'll let you take your time haha. Looking forward to the next with much anticipation.
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