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Shousetsu Bang*Bang
Issue 76: Theme-Free

Edited by Shousetsu Bang*Bang
Smashwords Edition
Copyright 2018 Shousetsu Bang*Bang

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Shousetsu Bang*Bang Issue 76 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Table of Contents

remember to love each other, by A.S. Mara

The Brittle Blade, by Onabe Ōkamiotoko (御鍋狼男)

Local Flavor, written and illustrated by Ptarmigan

Just Seven Days, by Hyakunichisou 13 (百日草 十三)

Out of this World, by juou no zan (女王のザン)

Where You Gonna Sleep Tonight, by Wakahisa Rei (若久零), illustrated by The Winter Cynic

Knickpoint, written and illustrated by Iron Eater

Front cover by cloven

remember to love each other

by A.S. Mara

It used to be something they celebrated every year, counting down the days beforehand with casual reminders, planning reservations and buying gifts for each other. Not a huge deal, but still a special day they liked to remember. But as the years passed, and the electric chemistry that buzzed between them slowly eased into something softer and more comfortable, the celebrations petered off too. It was hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, only that at present, more often than not, they simply forgot about it.

So it was with some surprise that Adhi found his eleven-year-old daughter already up and waiting for him in the kitchen on a Saturday morning, hands moving to form the words, “Happy Anniversary!”

Adhi blinked at the sight, slowly enough that Chiru began to frown and lifted her hands again, repeating the words.

It made no more sense the second time around than it did the first. Adhi gathered his thoughts enough to sign back, asking, “What anniversary?”

The frown on his daughter’s face deepened in the kind of solemn disapproval only an eleven-year-old could express. Adhi felt chastened even before he saw the answer. “Your marriage to Papa,” she said, shaking her head slightly. “It’s today.”

Adhi stared at her for a beat longer, then reached for his phone. The digits on his screen confirmed that Chiru was, in fact, right.

“I completely forgot,” he signed, feeling sheepish.

Chiru shook her head again, but walked over to him for a hug. Adhi returned it gladly, and was just entertaining the idea of trying to lift Chiru up into the air–like he used to when she was smaller, before she started protesting it–when he heard footsteps behind him. Chiru wriggled out of his arms and moved to Sharala to repeat her greeting and hug him as well.

Sharala met his eyes over the top of their daughter’s head, smile as sheepish as Adhi felt, which went a long way to relieve the guilt that had begun to collect in his stomach.

After that, Chiru dragged them both over to the kitchen table, where a plate of charming, lightly burnt toast had been prepared for them both. She waited patiently for them to pour themselves a cup of coffee each, using the water she had thoughtfully boiled beforehand, then settled down at the table with her customary bowl of cereal.

After they finished cleaning up, Chiru tapped Adhi’s hand to get his attention.

“I’m going to spend the weekend at Uncle Luka’s house,” she signed, casual as anything. “So please make sure to celebrate properly this year.”

“What?” Adhi said out loud. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sharala turn in their direction. “What do you mean?” Adhi signed.

“You have to celebrate your anniversary properly,” Chiru said. “It’s important to take care of each other, so we stay together as a family.”

Adhi gaped at her. It was Sharala who knelt down to be at eye level with her as he asked, “You don’t think we take care of each other?”

“Not enough,” she said. “Families who don’t take care of each other don’t stay together.”

“Where did you read about that?”

“In a book Granny Frithi gave me. It’s important.”

“We can still spend time together with you,” Adhi said. “There’s no reason to we have to be alone to do it.”

Chiru gave him a disapproving look. It took seeing the faint flush spreading across Sharala’s cheeks for Adhi to realise what Chiru meant.

“And where,” Adhi demanded, face hot all over, “did you read about that?

“School,” she said. “I’m going to pack. Uncle Luka is picking me up soon.”

And with that, she turned right around and marched into her room without another word.

Adhi turned to look at his partner.

“Did that really just happen?” Sharala asked quietly.

“I think so,” he replied. “Sorry I forgot our anniversary.”

“It’s fine,” Sharala said with a small, embarrassed grin. “I forgot about it too.”

Adhi rubbed the back of his neck. “We celebrated last year though, right?”

Sharala’s brow furrowed in thought. “I’m sure we did. I remember there was cake and…board games.”

He nodded along, then stopped. “Wait…I think that was Chiru’s birthday. There was that new game she kept asking for…”

Sharala took a moment to consider this. “All right, but the year before that, I’m sure.”

Adhi thought about it, long and hard. Sharala lapsed into a similar silence that stretched around them.

Sharala crossed his arms. “Surely we’ve had sex recently.”

Adhi stared at him, watching the mortification he could feel settling into his skin mirrored in Sharala’s expression of increasing horror.

No,” Sharala whispered.

“But how would Chiru know that?” Adhi demanded, feeling a mixture of desperation and panic rising up his throat. “She doesn’t know that.”

“Maybe she…guessed?” Sharala covered his eyes with one hand. “No, stop. I need to sit down.”

Adhi watched his partner stumble out of the kitchen, and turned a little desperately to the sink, desperate for something to do. He got started on the dishes, trying to drown out his thoughts in the brainless chore and failing entirely.

Light flashed in the corner of his eye just as he heard the doorbell ring, which effectively dragged him out of his mortified stupor in front of the still-unfinished dishes. He dragged his feet over to the front door and opened it to find Luka, holding a bottle of Kamira’s White in his hands.

“Happy anniversary to you both,” he said, handing the gift over. “I’ve been assured by the shop owner that this is one of the crowd favourites, and Raz informed me it has a satisfying, buzzing aftertaste, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

“I–Thank you,” Adhi said, taking the bottle from him. “Do you want to come in?”

“No, that’s alright, I don’t want to intrude. Is Chiru ready?”

“About that,” he started. “Are you sure? You don’t have to do this. I’m sure you have other plans for your weekend.”

“No, I don’t mind at all. And before you ask, neither do the others.” Here, he smiled a little. “We’ve been looking forward to this for weeks.”


“We’d love to have her for the weekend. You know we enjoy her company.” Luka smiled a little wider, his grin turning wry. “And we all agree it’s important for the two of you to have more time alone.”

Adhi opened his mouth to protest further, face heating treacherously, but at that moment Chiru reappeared at his side with Sharala in tow. She gave Adhi another quick hug and stepped back. “Have a good weekend,” she signed.

“Wait,” Adhi said, resting a hand on Chiru’s shoulder. Chiru turned her patient, unyielding gaze on him, and he gave up the rest of his protest. “Have you got everything you need?”

Chiru nodded.

“Run your plans for the weekend by me?”

“Art project, lunch, homework, movie over dinner, sleepover. Breakfast, homework, lunch. Home.”

“Don’t worry about the food,” Luka added, hands moving. “We’ll order in.”

Adhi looked at them both, then turned to his partner. Sharala met his gaze with a faintly resigned smile, and shrugged.

“Alright,” Adhi said. “Have fun, Chiru.”

“Remember we love you,” Sharala said and kissed Chiru on the forehead.

“I love you too,” she replied, then added, “remember to love each other.”

Then Chiru exchanged one of her bags for Luka’s hand, who shot one last amused smile Adhi’s way, and marched off.

Adhi watched them go, Sharala standing next to him by the doorway. Once the two figures rounded the corner and disappeared down the stairs, Sharala turned to him. “This is not how I expected my Saturday to go.”

Adhi laughed. “Me neither. What were your plans for today?”

Sharala crossed his arms. “Nothing much, really. Go to the shops if you needed anything. Help Chiru with homework. Sleep.”

Adhi shut the door behind him and headed back into the kitchen. “Well, you can still sleep, and we can get some groceries later. Two out of three isn’t so bad.”

Sharala hummed softly, and laid a hand across the small of Adhi’s back. “I think our daughter may be right though. We should do something to celebrate, even if it’s a small thing.”

Surprised, Adhi turned to him, running water splashing onto his hands. “What do you want to do?”

Sharala shrugged, shoulders lifting a little helplessly. “Things we used to do? Dinner, movie, a walk out in the park, maybe. Anything out of our usual routine.”

“You know we don’t have to do anything, right?”

“I know, I just think we should,” Sharala said. “I mean, I think it would be nice. I don’t remember why we stopped celebrating.”

Adhi looked at him, at the small, sad smile that was tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah, alright.” He put away the last of the dishes onto the drying rack. “So what do you want to do?”

“How about a movie?” Sharala asked.

“What, right now? It’s noon.”

“So? People watch movies when the sun’s still out.”

“But we usually watch them at night. Or well. We used to anyway.”

Sharala gave him a gentle nudge. “That’s no reason not to go see a movie right now.”

Adhi hesitated. “Yeah…I guess you’re right.”

“Excellent!” Sharala exclaimed and then paused, before leaning in to give him a quick chaste kiss on the cheek. Adhi was too stunned by the suddenness of the gesture to respond, and by then Sharala had already turned away. “Let me get my wallet and a coat. Then we can go.”

Adhi stood there for a moment, in silence. His cheeks felt warm, and his chest too, a soft, pleasant feeling.

An hour later they were standing in front of the now showing list at the cinema, slowly working their way down the list by taking turns looking up quick summaries and reviews.

‘”–and then apparently the love interest steals the relic from right under her nose and runs off, leaving an apology letter about how their job is more important than their love which sets things up for what people are presuming will be a sequel.”

“That,” Adhi said, “is a whole lot of unnecessary drama.”

“Yeah. I’ll check out the next one.”

Adhi squinted back down at his phone. “Well this one is about space…immigrants? I’m not really following the plot, to be honest. Maybe we’ll skip this one too.”

“If it’s got JD in it, I’d say we skip it on principle,” Sharala said without looking up.

“Yeah, good point.” Adhi scrolled down the walls of text. “Oh, hang on. Isn’t this the one you wanted to watch? Starship Tani?”

Sharala gasped. “I completely forgot about that. It’s still playing?”

“Yeah, the next session is in 20 minutes.”

Sharala gripped Adhi’s arm. “Let’s watch that one.”

And Adhi, faced with the gentle weight on his arm and Sharala’s bright, pleading gaze, could only say, “Okay.”

Sharala insisted on paying for the tickets, so Adhi snuck away and bought them both popcorn–sweetened, because that’s the only kind Sharala would eat–and drinks–bottled water, because Adhi had finally gotten out of the habit of soda, and wasn’t about to let himself relapse. Adhi returned to the ticketing counters to find Sharala only just exiting the queue. When Sharala spotted him, his gaze turned shrewd, an expression Adhi realised he hadn’t seen much recently, and had missed dearly.

Sharala took the popcorn from Adhi’s grip and replaced it with his hand, twining their fingers together. He was still smiling. “I suppose now we’re tied,” he said, in a tone that promised vengeance.

Adhi ducked his head. “Let’s find our seats.”

To his surprise, the cinema was emptier than he expected.

“Maybe most people have already seen this movie,” Sharala murmured.

“Or maybe this movie just sucks,” Adhi offered.

Sharala whacked him gently on the arm, sending Adhi’s bangles clinking together. Adhi hissed in pretended pain.

“Watch the drinks,” Adhi chided, gesturing to the still-sealed bottled water.

Sharala laughed, a low, quiet sound, and held his seat down for him. He had put them both in the back row, near the middle of the room. This meant there were plenty of empty spots between the two of them and everyone else, which was exactly how Adhi preferred it.

They spent the entirety of the commercials whispering to each other. When the movie finally started, Adhi started drifting off almost immediately, lulled into a sleepy daze by the complicated layers of politics and secrecy he could barely follow. It wasn’t until Sharala pressed an arm close against his own and began a hushed commentary of the plot that Adhi managed to focus on the movie again.

“–So why did they decide to keep the plant a secret again?”

“Because,” Sharala murmured, as patient and earnest as the first time, “they know the community chief knows they have it, and they assume she told her partner, who would have told her mother, who’s friends with the lead scientist. And if the lead scientist knows, their company’s business rival knows too.”

Adhi took a moment to parse this. Sharala had stopped using the characters’ names about 20 minutes in because Adhi kept mixing them up, but if he was being honest, this wasn’t much better. “But why don’t they just destroy it?”

“Because it’s worth a lot of money.”

“To the people they’re hiding the plant from?”


“But they’re not selling it.”

“Not yet.”

“But why?” Adhi asked, still whispering, exasperated. “Why wait?”

Sharala turned a fond smile his way, the shape of it highlighted by the flashing lights on the big screen. He squeezed Adhi’s hand. “I’m sure it’ll make sense in the end.”

It did not make sense in the end, Adhi decided, as he dumped their empty bottles and popcorn box into the appropriate trash cans on their way out. It made absolutely zero sense and in his opinion, the movie’s only saving grace was the way Sharala was beaming quietly next to him.

“Thank you for watching that with me,” Sharala said, once they were back on the streets. “I know it wasn’t really your thing.”

“I didn’t mind,” Adhi told him, warming his hands in the pockets of his coat. “None of the other shows sounded interesting anyway. Besides, you liked it.”

Sharala smiled at him. “What do you want to do next?”

Adhi hesitated. “Is it okay if we head back? I’m a bit tired.”

“Of course,” Sharala said, and linked their arms together. “Let’s go home.”

Adhi woke, groggy and disoriented, to the smell of frying butter. He pushed himself up and half-fell off the couch, narrowly missing the coffee table as he stumbled onto the floor.

“Adhi?” came Sharala’s voice, concern. “Was that you?”

“Yeah,” he croaked, and cleared his throat. “It’s fine.” He took a minute to gather his thoughts, looking around the living area, before pushing himself to his feet and heading for the kitchen.

The scent of butter grew stronger, tinged with garlic. Adhi walked up to where Sharala was standing by the stove, and peered over his shoulder. “Are you making dinner?” he asked, incredulous.

Sharala flushed. “Maybe.”

Adhi looked at the plate of fish waiting at his side. “We have fish?”

“I went out and bought some.”


“While you were sleeping.” Sharala shot him a small smile. “Did you have a good nap?”

Adhi rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t even remember falling asleep.”

“Well, you certainly look more awake now.” He picked up the plate of fish and gestured with his free hand. Adhi obediently took a step back. “Have you been working late nights again?”

“For a while,” he said, then fell silent as the fish sizzled in the pan, loud in their small kitchen. He reached up and turned on the fans on the cooker hood. “But we finished it yesterday, so I’ve been getting more sleep.”

“I’m sorry I dragged you out today.”

“Don’t be,” he said. “I had fun. And I think I needed to get out of the apartment for something not work-related.”

Sharala hummed and flipped the fish. It turned over cleanly, without sticking, which made him smile.

Adhi took a few more steps back, and looked around. “Anything I can help with?”

“Do you mind getting the rice?”

Adhi obliged, washing the grains and rinsing them. He let the sounds of cooking soak up the silence around them, and it made him remember the first few days they cooked together, back when they had first gotten the apartment and were still figuring out how to balance chores, their time and their space. It made him realise how far they had drifted over the years–not far enough that it had become a problem, only that they hadn’t even noticed the distance that had grown between them.

He thought about saying something–what, exactly, he wasn’t sure, only that he felt like he should name it, somehow.

But the dinner Sharala had put together waited appealingly–butter-fried fish, steamed mix vegetables and white rice still hot from the pot. Sharala sat down at the table, so Adhi sat opposite, and they dug into the food in easy, companionable silence. The nagging urge in his throat slid back down a little further with each swallow, until Adhi let it go completely, and the moment passed.

After the last of the dishes had been washed and set to one side to dry, the two of them sank heavily onto the couch with a loud sigh. Even though Adhi had just woken up from a nap, he felt inexplicably drained, his eyelids drooping low even as he fought to stay awake. Sharala sighed again, and leaned closer, until they were pressed up together on one end of the couch.

Sharala was a warm, soothing weight against his side; Adhi let the quiet wrap around him, listened to their shared silence, concentrating on the way Sharala moved against him as he breathed. He pressed a kiss into Sharala’s hair and felt him go still. Sharala turn slowly to meet his gaze, a small smile on his lips.

Adhi leaned in and kissed him where he waited, felt the way Sharala sigh against him. They took their time; Sharala licked gently at his bottom lip, coaxing Adhi into surrendering his mouth fully. He let Sharala wrap a hand around the back of his neck, tugging them both down until they were sprawled out against each other on the couch, still kissing slow and deep.

Adhi would have been content to spend the rest of their night like that–wrapped up in Sharala’s warm embrace, rediscovering the quiet thrill of having Sharala’s mouth on his own, of being on the receiving end of his undivided attention. He would have been content, having spent the whole day together, and Adhi would have gone to bed happy.

Then he felt Sharala shift underneath him, Sharala’s hard cock pressing against his thigh, and Adhi remembered two things:

One: Sharala was rarely content with a little, when he could have more.

Two: What Sharala started, he pursued until the end.

The realisation sent a jolt through Adhi’s own cock, and he groaned, pulling away for breath.

Sharala took that opportunity to latch onto Adhi’s neck, grazing his teeth gently along the skin under his jaw. Sharala’s hand slid down Adhi’s stomach, fingertips grazing the waistband of his pants.

“Yes?” Sharala murmured into his ear.

Adhi shivered, curling his fingers into fists where they rested. “Yes.”

Sharala hummed, a low, pleased sound. Adhi felt Sharala slip his hand beneath the waistband of Adhi’s trousers, fingers scratching lightly through the curls of hair there, making him groan. Sharala kept his touch light, teasing, until Adhi was canting his hips for more. Laughing softly, Sharala reached down and grasped Adhi firmly, jerking him off in slow, firm strokes. Adhi closed his eyes and lost himself in the sensation of Sharala’s touch, the scope of his focus narrowing down to the hands on his neck and cock.

They stayed like that for a time, Sharala coaxing soft sounds out of Adhi with every motion of his hand. Adhi felt frustration begin to creep in underneath his skin, as Sharala’s touch gradually went from ‘good’ to ‘not enough.’ He felt hot inside out, an itch for more skittering across him in a slow, rising wave.

Sharala pressed another kiss to the curve of Adhi’s ear. “Let’s go to bed.”

At first, Adhi wanted to protest; there was no reason they couldn’t continue right where they were. The couch was soft enough, if cramped, and there was nobody else in the house.

But Sharala gently pushed him back, until they were both sitting up, and some sense returned to him.

They couldn’t fuck on the couch, because they had an eleven-year-old daughter who napped there sometimes, when the days got hot and humid enough to warrant afternoon naps.

Adhi stood up, knees protesting–another reason to move things somewhere more spacious and gentler on his body. Sharala put both hands on his knees and pushed himself up with a soft grunt. When he caught Adhi looking, he grinned a little and took his hand. “Come on,” he said, eyes bright as he led them both in the direction of their bedroom.

Adhi followed.

They left the lights off, fumbling their way to the bed in the dark. Sharala bumped against the edge of bed with a soft “Oof”, and Adhi resisted the sudden urge to laugh, crowding Sharala against the soft mattress. Arms bracketing Sharala’s head, Adhi leaned down until they were kissing again, open-mouthed and hungry. Sharala cupped his fingers over the back of Adhi’s head, tugging him even closer, insistent.

He wanted Sharala to touch him again, wanted it so badly his skin was burning. Adhi leaned down to press kisses along the slope of Sharala’s neck, drinking in the the scent of his cologne and the soft gasps he made with each touch. Adhi mouthed briefly at the loops of Sharala’s earring, giving it a gentle tug before heading back down to scrape his teeth over the arch of Sharala’s collarbone. He pushed up Sharala’s shirt so he could kiss his way down Sharala’s chest and to his stomach. Adhi bit gently on the soft flesh there, listened to the way Sharala laughed, his fingers skipping lightly over Adhi’s back.

“Where are you going?” Sharala asked, tugging at his shoulder. “Come back up here.”

“In a minute,” Adhi said. He popped the button for Sharala’s trousers, tugging it low enough for him to lean over and wrap his mouth over the jut of Sharala’s hipbone. He felt Sharala twitch underneath him, fingers curling in his hair as Adhi sucked hard and fast on the sensitive skin there. He draped an arm over Sharala’s abdomen, keeping him in place even as Sharala groaned and writhed underneath him. When Sharala’s grip in his hair tightened, Adhi switched over to the other side, sucking another mark there.

Sharala groaned, bucking up against him. Adhi could feel the shape of Sharala’s cock against his neck, and was reminded again of how much he wanted Sharala’s hands on him.

“Adhi,” Sharala gasped. “Adhi, let me touch you.”

He pulled back, panting for breath. “Later,” he said, already tugging Sharala’s boxers down. Adhi wrapped one hand around Sharala’s stiff cock, stroked it a few times just to hear the way Sharala moaned for him. Adhi licked the tip of Sharala’s cock, tasting the salty precome that had gathered there, then opened wide and took him into his mouth.

Sharala yelped, and his grip on Adhi’s hair turned sharp with pain, but Adhi ignored it. He remembered what Sharala liked, knew it as intimately as his own desires by now. So Adhi watched his teeth and started sucking Sharala off nice and slow, giving him little, teasing flicks of tongue at the base of his cock, then up his length and over the tip, before working his way back down. He cupped his free hand around the curves of Sharala’s balls, rubbing them gently in the way he knew drove Sharala mad, and was gratified when Sharala shuddered.

In what felt like no time at all, Sharala was gasping out pleas and curses, his fingers twisting in Adhi’s hair and sending frissons of pain straight to Adhi’s own cock. Adhi groaned, his whole body aching with need.

“Enough,” Sharala gasped, tugging none-too-gently on his hair. “Get up here.”

Adhi pulled off, panting for breath. His face felt filthy, chin dripping with his own saliva, but he barely had time to try and wipe it off with his arm before Sharala was pulling him up, covering his mouth in another kiss.

Sharala groaned against him, licking the taste of himself out of Adhi’s mouth. Adhi let him have his fill, fisting his hands in the sheets so he didn’t touch himself.

“I want you to fuck me,” Sharala said. “Will you?”

Adhi’s cock twitched at the words, hips stuttering desperately before he could stop himself. “It’s been a while,” he began. “We can’t–“

Sharala shushed him with another kiss, one hand reaching for Adhi’s own. He wrapped his fingers around Adhi’s wrist, their bangles clinking against each other, guided it down between them, past his stiff cock, past his balls and going lower still. Sharala slid their fingers together along his hole, where he was already wet and waiting.

Adhi gasped, feeling dizzy with need. He pressed a thumb against Sharala’s slick hole, tracing his rim. “When did you–“

“Earlier,” Sharala said, pushing against his touch. “Will you fuck me?”

“Gods, yes.”

They were naked within seconds. Adhi couldn’t even remember what they’d done with their clothes, only that he now sat with Sharala’s thick, warm thighs on either side of him as he watched Sharala take his hand in his. He removed Adhi’s four bangles–one for each member of his family–and carefully placed them on the bedside table. Then Sharala held out his own arm, where his one bangle rested against his wrist, and looked to him.

Adhi traced the shape of it with his fingers, making one full circle, and before taking it off and adding it to the stack next to them.

Sharala inhaled deeply, and reached over for the lube. When Sharala finally touched him again, coating his cock generously, Adhi had to squeezed his eyes shut against the sensation; it had been so long since they had done this. Why had they waited so long to do this again? Sharala’s touch felt good enough to finish him, and it wouldn’t even be satisfying.

“Easy,” Sharala murmured, and wrapped his fingers against the base of Adhi’s cock in a vice grip.

Adhi yelped, falling forward against Sharala, grateful and frustrated all at once. He could hear his own ragged breathing as Sharala waited it out with him, neither of them moving as Adhi felt his climax slipping further and further away from him.

When his head cleared a little, he pressed a kiss into Sharala’s shoulder and reached for the lube.

“You don’t need to–” Sharala began.

“Let me,” he said, already reaching down between them. He found Sharala’s entrance, wet and waiting, and pressed one finger in easily. He pulled out and added another, teasing more than stretching, taking his time.

Sharala allowed this for what couldn’t have been longer than a few minutes before he grabbed Adhi’s wrist. “I’m ready,” he hissed.

Adhi removed his hand, and pressed Sharala down until he was flat on the mattress. He braced himself up on one arm and pushed in slowly, listening to Sharala’s shuddering breaths, until he was surrounded by him completely.

He took a moment to breathe, to really savour how long it had been since they last had this. Adhi stroked one hand down the length of Sharala’s stomach, along the soft skin of his inner thigh. When he finally started to move, Sharala whimpered, a low, quiet sound, and his hand found Adhi’s hip, fingers digging into his skin.

Adhi moved, keeping his thrusts at a slow pace he knew would drive Sharala out of his mind. Sure enough, Sharala hissed under his breath, fingers digging into his hips.

“Go faster, damn it,” Sharala groaned.

Adhi leaned down to kiss him. Sharala responded by biting his lip which made Adhi laugh as he obliged, speeding up until Sharala released him with a gasp. Sharala’s hands dragged Adhi closer, his hips matching Adhi’s speed. He pressed their cheeks together, panting hotly against Adhi’s ear and sending full-body shudders down Adhi’s spine.

“Touch me,” Sharala demanded.

Adhi wrapped one hand around Sharala’s throbbing cock, and jerked him off fast. Sharala sank his teeth into Adhi’s shoulder, muffling a shout, and came all over his hand.

It was almost enough for Adhi–almost, but not quite. He held Sharala through the aftershock, but he didn’t stop moving. Sharala wrapped both arms around him in a crushing embrace. “That’s it,” he murmured, low and still hungry, and the sound of his voice sent a fresh wave of heat straight to Adhi’s cock. “Keep going. Don’t stop until you’ve come for me.”

Adhi cried out as he came apart, the force of it crashing through all thoughts and senses until he could feel nothing but the shuddering waves of his orgasm. Sharala murmured sweet nothings in his ear, stroking his back as Adhi shook helplessly in his arms.

As soon as the aftershock faded, a bone-deep exhaustion settled in. Adhi had enough presence of mind to roll off of Sharala, trying to gather his thoughts as his breath slowly came back to him. Tethering on the edge of sleep, Adhi was dimly aware of Sharala cleaning them both up, whispering words he couldn’t quite make out but felt deeply grateful for all the same. The bed shifted as Sharala settled back in next to him, and he felt Sharala press a soft, sweet kiss to the corner of his mouth. “Happy anniversary, my love,” he said.

Adhi tried to reply, but he was already drifting off, heart warm and content.

The Brittle Blade

by Onabe Ōkamiotoko (御鍋狼男)

Milo had come to the tavern for anything but a drink.

He sat at the table alone, hands occupied with what was between his legs — a dagger made of bone. With a silent focus, he sharpened the blade with a whetstone while the noises of the tavern blossomed around him. Bright, joyous music from the stage filled the room, and lamps flickered from the walls, establishing a cozy atmosphere. Milo sighed. His heart was heavy. He’d been keeping track of the days in his journal for the past week, eager for the arriving full moon.

A clattering on his table broke his concentration. Milo, finally torn away from his blade, stared up to see a young man standing across from him, arms folded with a skeptical. Very light shoulder-length blond hair framed his face, delicate enough to remind Milo of a plume of feathers. Milo set aside his dagger, eyes lingering on the young man for longer than he should have had, until his voice finally broke.

“Let me get you something,” the young man offered.

“Are you the barmaid?” Milo asked, skeptical of whoever this was.

“No, but that isn’t such a bad idea now, isn’t it?”

The young man helped himself to a seat. Milo didn’t argue — he crossed his legs instead and glanced at his blade on the table. He quickly placed the whetstone next to it as well, hoping not to give the impression that he was a threat. However, it seemed that the young man was occupied with everything other than the fact Milo carried a blade so casually into a place of business. He’d seen this type of behavior before — it was typical of werewolf hunters from the village. It seemed as if anything the sun touched, the hunters felt obliged to own in some way or form.

It left a bitter taste in the young man’s mouth, to say the least.

“Is that blade for anything in particular?” He asked Milo.

“No quite — I’m hoping to have it appraised by the guild master.”

“Guild master — you don’t mean Lyle Hartman do you?”

Milo smirked. He was pleased to hear the name spoken so openly. “Yes, that’s exactly who I mean. I crafted it myself.”

“That’s quite the accomplishment then,” the young man said. “You must be very proud of yourself.”

As he spoke, two cups of ale landed on the table. The busty barmaid serving them bowed politely and excused herself after delivering the drinks.

Milo’s eye widened — he hadn’t ordered anything. All his suspicions pointed back to the young man, who was beginning to look rather pleased with himself.

“Did you…”

“It’s a treat on me,” the young man explained, waving his hand. “Don’t worry about it. I can appreciate a talented amateur when I see one.”

Milo hummed, not sure what to answer that with. He took a sip from the cup, praying to himself that it wasn’t somehow poisoned. “Thank-you,” Milo said. He’d grown up in a household where gratitude was a virtue, and unlike the other hunters he knew, he never turned his nose up at a gift

“It’s my pleasure.”

The young man was very well-dressed. Milo wasn’t typically one to take note of who was wearing what, however he did notice the cotton collar around the other’s neck. Below it was a frill tucked neatly into his button-down shirt, with his long sleeves expertly tailored to fit his frame.

“Now, tell me about that blade,” the young man asked. “My name is Sylvester. It’s a relic of my previous master.”

“Master — you’re someone’s protege?”

“Precisely, I’m studying under Mr. Hartman himself.”

Milo drummed his fingers impatiently as Sylvester drank, obviously not used to the bitter taste of this tavern’s offerings. “So, you work under the Hunter’s Guild?” Milo asked. If this Sylvester was going to interrupt him, they may as well speak.

“That would be the case,” Sylvester replied. “I’m very lucky to be working with such an expert. The next full moon is soon. It’d be a shame for us to be down any number of men.”

Milo raised a brow. Perhaps he was misunderstanding — but somehow Sylvester neither gave him the impression of a hunter, nor someone who would be working under one. It was suspiciously, to say the least.

“Now, about that blade…”

“I’m planning on using it on the next full moon,” Milo said. “It was a gift. But it’s dull now. So, I’m preparing it for the hunt.”

Sylvester laughed. “Maybe our meeting is auspicious after all.”

There was something vaguely unnatural about his eyes, something almost pointed that seemed to watch Milo’s every move. They were a stark icy blue, a color that Milo had never seen. But he attempted to mask his preoccupation with another drink while Sylvester spoke.

“My master’s quite the huntsman,” Sylvester said. “Many talented werewolf hunters have studied under him. I find his taste in peers… interesting, but I’m grateful nonetheless to be working for him.”

“Have you ever…” Milo let the question linger, trail to the end of his tongue. He winced at Sylvester’s obvious mention of werewolves, as if approaching such a subject matter wasn’t some tactless faux pas.

“No, no yet,” Sylvester answered. “I hope to find my answer this coming week though. The full moon is coming. I’d be ashamed for all this training to be wasted.”

Milo silently nodded in agreement. He eyed his dagger on the table, wondered if him and Sylvester might have similar goals. If both of them were both destined for that fabled title of werewolf hunter, along with all the danger and baggage the occupation carried. Hundreds of men before them have died doing the same thing, and many before that as well. When Milo truly contemplated it, his skin ran cold, and he felt the sweat on the nape of his neck at the thought of encountering a living, breathing beast in the wilderness.

These were uncertain times.

“My neighbor’s cattle were destroyed only a few days ago,” Milo explained. “He depends on his farm to feed his family. It’ll only get worse the longer we wait. I can’t stand seeing others suffer just because we can’t control the wildlife.”

Wildlife…that’s one way to put it,” Sylvester laughed. “But I agree. Perhaps, there are other solutions to our problems other than mindless maiming and killing, though. But I doubt we will see that in our lifetime.”

Milo took another drink. A golden medallion hung off Sylvester’s collar in the shape of an eye. If he suspected Sylvester was wealthy, then this observation only confirmed it — he was dealing with a member of the bourgeois who pursued membership into the guild for sport. He feigned a smile, knowing better than to let those ugly thoughts creep across his face in polite company. However, Milo soon caught Sylvester grimace, palming his medallion feverishly, as if he were sitting across a thief rather than a new acquaintance.

“This is from my Lyle. He demands I wear it,” Sylvester confessed. Milo’s ears perked at the sudden drop in formalities. “He said all of his protégés before wore it as well. I don’t argue with him.”

“That’s strange,” Milo said. “But I suppose tradition is worth something.”

Sylvester seemed less concerned. He bit his lip and took another drink from the ale, although it was clear he wasn’t enjoying it much. “I’ll be heading off now,” he announced. “I assume you will be at the gathering at the guild house later?”

Caught off-guard by the invitation, Milo anxiously stirred in his seat. The chair beneath him screeched as he shot up without any reservation for those watching. To meet the guild master personally was the opportunity of a lifetime — one that Milo knew would never land in his lap again if he dismissed it. “An invitation to the guild meeting? Really?”

“Absolutely,” Sylvester said. He circled around the table closer to Milo, close enough that Milo recognized how smooth his skin, how light his hair was. “It’d be an honor on my behalf to have you come join us.”

A pair of gentle lips brushed against Milo’s cheekbones. Milo closed his eyes, and suddenly realizes the soft scent that seemed to radiate from Sylvester, like wet flowers in spring. The kiss was brief, a chaste farewell as Sylvester departed, and left the tavern door swinging in his absence. Milo first touched the side of his face, then reached for his blade with a renewed fever to finishing sharpening it. Such customs weren’t uncommon in the village, yet Milo felt a lucidity in him stir from Sylvester’s touch. Fixated on the blade, he finally placed it back in the sheath strapped to his side and left the ale on the table. The candles on the wall flickered restlessly as the barmaids and patrons went about their regular business.

Milo thought of the gold of Sylvester’s hair – a rich, powerful gold that Milo could only encounter in dreams. He hoped to see him again, as soon as possible.

* * *

The starless night made Milo’s eyes weary and his spirit low. He sat on the edge of his bed while the trees shook outside. A few quiet murmurs of animals outside interrupted his silence, but Milo was mostly deep in thought. Tomorrow morning would be the first guild meeting at the village town hall, where he would finally meet Sylvester’s infamous master.

Milo’s stomach twisted itself in knots. He gripped the wooden handle of his dagger, knuckles white with determination as he placed it back in its sheath. The meeting with Sylvester was still on his mind — the impeccable otherworldliness of the young man still fresh in his memory. Something was not right about that boy. His demeanor was polite, however Milo wondered if there was more to him than impressions gave.

Only time will tell. All that matters is walking with those prestigious werewolf hunters, Milo thought to himself.

Morning came quickly after a restless night. Milo stripped away his clothes for a leather vest and cotton tights. He tied a hemp belt around his waist, making sure his cherished dagger was securely in place. A kettle whistled in his kitchen and eggs sizzled on the frying pan — when he was done with breakfast, he left for town.

After locking his door, Milo caught a glimpse of a carriage bolting down the street. Alarmed, he slammed his back against his door frame as the carriage horses trampled past him. However, the horses quickly came to a sudden stop, their hoofs skidding against the ground as their coachman pulled back on their reigns. When the commotion finally came to a pause, Milo eased his way back to the road in front of his house, where he unexpectedly heard his name called out from the carriage window.

“Milo is it?” the voice cried.

Milo bit his bottom lip. He nodded.

A head emerged from the window: a blond, otherworldly head. When Sylvester finally found him, he gave him a toothy grin, clearly pleased that coincidences permitted their meeting. “Would you mind riding with me to the guild meeting? There’s spare room. I prefer to ride with company than alone.”

Milo shook his head. A horse whinnied, kicking the ground with its hoof while Milo cautiously watched. Something never felt right about horses to him. It was their too-human eyes. But their uncanny beauty also reminded Milo of Sylvester, who was currently perched outside his carriage window like a bored tropical bird.

“I understand if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself,” Sylvester offered, “But I promise it will be much quicker this way than traveling on foot. And I suppose you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to leave a good impression with master Hartman, wouldn’t you?”

“You have a point,” Milo decided. Arriving on carriage would definitely make a better impression. But it still wouldn’t change the fact that he was a newcomer, a fresh-face who’s arrival would garner unwanted attention from veterans regardless.

With little more convincing to be done, Milo accepted Sylvester’s offer. As he boarded the carriage, Milo noticed Sylvester’s garments to be even more lavish than those he wore the previous night. Milo reckoned it must be for a special occasion, that as Hartman’s protégé, there were different standards in how one dressed for meetings.

As the carriage started moving again, Sylvester took a deep, impatient breath. Milo raised his brow but said nothing until Sylvester finally spoke again.

“I’m frightened,” he admitted. “There are rumors that a werewolf might be about this coming full moon. If that is the case, then this meeting will be more significant than the prior.”

A chill ran down Milo’s spine. Cheery voices ebbed and flow from the village outside while Sylvester carried on their conversation in a hushed, cautious tone.

“I hope not to alarm you, but it’s quite dire. The guild will need every able-bodied man in the village at this rate.”

“Surely you must not be that low in numbers,” Milo gasped. “I understand that enlistment has been…”

“Quite low, yes,” Sylvester muttered. “Not as many individuals are willingly to put their lives on the line. The hunting business is not merciful.”

“That’s a shame,” Milo answered. “But there isn’t much getting around it, nowadays is there?”

“I just wish they weren’t such savages.” Milo watched Sylvester fold a strand of golden hair behind his ear. “The hunters, I mean. Not the werewolves. There’s no working around that.”

“For now. Until we find a cure,” Milo offered. He hoped he sounded sincere. The last thing he needed now was for someone as generous as Sylvester to think less of him. “If men can turn into werewolves, then surely we can reverse the effect somehow.”

Sylvester gave another deep-seated sighed. He leaned into the cushion of the carriage, folding his hands atop one another. “Your optimism is refreshing.”

Milo frowned. A pause. He heard the movement of the horse’s hooves as they approached the cobblestone road in front of the town hall. As he leaned out the window, Milo saw the towering wooden structure move into view. One large balcony watched over the building’s entrance, which was gated and guarded by two members of the guild for that afternoon.

“Let us go,” Sylvester said. As the carriage came to a stop, he neatly adjusted the collar of his vest. For once in his life, Milo felt horribly underdressed. Yet, he wondered where exactly Sylvester acquired such fine clothing, and whether or not the guild had any role in it. Not to mention — what role exactly, did Sylvester act, if he wasn’t a hunter himself? Milo tucked the question away for later, like folding a letter in an envelope he refused to read. To ask so would be impolite, and Milo was beginning to prefer having friends in high places.

Sylvester’s coachman bid them farewell as they arrived at the gate. Without as much as a nod, the guards let Sylvester and Milo through, quickly shutting it behind them.

“Do they always do this for you?” Milo asked.

Sylvester shrugged. “I suppose it comes with the job. No one has complained so far, as to my knowledge.”

Milo laughed. Sylvester glanced at him, before smirking with mild amusement at his reaction.

“Are you surprised?” he asked.

“No, not really,” Milo replied. “Just takes some getting used to, is all.”

“Charming,” Sylvester laughed.

* * *

A considerable crowd of huntsmen had arrived before Sylvester and Milo made their proper appearances. From the rows of tables, Milo recognized a few faces he’d only seen in passing at the tavern. The rest of the guild members were absolute strangers, however Sylvester assured him that this was common. As the full moon approached, it was only natural for their numbers to fluctuate, for new members to arrive with the prospect of slaying a werewolf on their first outing. Very few lived to tell the tale — even fewer ever saw the opportunity in their lifetime.

Sylvester wasted no time bringing Milo to a stairwell secluded from the central hall. From here, he promised that they would meet his master, that Sylvester would introduce both to one another with commendations. Milo’s heart jumped at the thought, however he remained skeptical until Sylvester finally led him to an inconspicuous wooden door. After Sylvester gave it a few solid knocks, Mr. Hartman hastily welcomed them inside.

“And who’s this?” Hartman asked. This was clearly a man who’d seen his fair share of battles, marked by scars and painful-looking abrasions.

“A friend,” Sylvester chimed. “I met him at the tavern. He wishes to become a member of the guild. And I highly recommend him for the position, sir.”

“Well, hurry and bring him downstairs,” Hartman spat. He shuffled some documents on his desk and stood up. Milo figured he must’ve been at least six feet tall — nothing less for the man who led the hunting guild. However, how exactly such a man would meet Sylvester, and make him his protégé no less, remained a mystery.

Hartman’s office was a compact room, albeit too antique for Milo’s taste, however he could clearly see Sylvester’s influence. Carefully carved wooden tables and shelves lined the walls, stacked with books, and novelties. A small selection of framed artwork sat aside unhung, most of which were studies, although Milo did notice a few paintings.

Hartman left as soon as they’d met him. Sylvester made an annoyed noise and folded his arms as the man swung the door open to descend downstairs. Murmurs of voices from below indicated that the meeting was taking place soon. However, it quickly became apparent that Sylvester had other plans.

“That was unfortunate,” Sylvester bemoaned. “but it’s also very like him. I’m sorry for my master’s rudeness.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Milo replied. “I mean, I’m just glad to be here. It really makes no difference to me.”

“Yes,” Sylvester hummed, turning to him. “There’s no changing that man. He’s a stubborn asshole. I’m sorry, but I don’t think your blade will be getting appraised anytime soon.”

Milo felt a hand brush against him. Instead of pulling away, Milo allowed it to linger and trace the outline of his fingers before resting in his palm.

“Your hands are calloused,” Sylvester whispered.

“I suppose it comes with the job,” Milo laughed.

Sylvester nodded, fixated on Milo’s reaction. Milo allowed Sylvester to gently take his hand – Sylvester’s skin was soft, surprisingly so compared to his own. Clearly something had prevented him from enrollment in the hunter’s guild, Milo thought. This was not the touch of a man who hunted werewolves. This was a delicateness Milo felt the world was becoming less and less accommodating of, a selflessness that he himself felt incomparable to.

“We have a meeting, don’t we?” Milo asked.

“Yes, we do,” Sylvester sighed. His expression became cloudy, difficult for Milo to read, however he assumed he wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of going back downstairs. “However, I rather spend my time up here with you.”

“What?” Milo was surprised, although he understood Sylvester’s intent well meant. Milo simply couldn’t comprehend why Sylvester would want to abandon an importanting for him, of all people.

“I was just – entertaining a thought,” Sylvester laughed. He rubbed the medallion hanging from his neck feverishly, as if he’d somehow been summoned from a land far away and was trying to return. “I apologize for my directness. I went ahead of myself.”

“No, that’s not it at all,” Milo whispered. He’d admitted he enjoyed the other’s company – it was a welcomed break from the dreariness of hanging around taverns all night. Plus, he also didn’t mind Sylvester’s good looks. “I’m just in awe, really, of actually being here.”

“Well, at least you have a good sense of humor about it,” Sylvester added. He opened the door, revealing the staircase leading back to the hall stage. “How about it? Do you want to join the others? Or would you rather take this opportunity to see something most don’t?”

“Like what?”

“Something like – this,” Sylvester said, gesturing at the framed paintings. “You’re not a regular member, so I doubt you’d be given access to Mr. Hartman’s office for some time. Why not make the most of it?”

“Do you spend a lot of time here?” Milo asked, following Sylvester behind the desk to the paintings.

“Something like that,” Sylvester chimed. “Despite being his protégé, I also play the part of a secretary. Not exactly what I signed up for but – it’s worth the experience, I suppose.”

“And these?” Milo asked, pointing to a black and white study.

“Oh, that. An old work. Nothing I would pay attention to, really.”

“I want to see,” Milo implored. He skimmed his fingers along the frame, wiping away a streak of dust in the process. Another frame appeared behind it. Curious, Milo reached for that one as well, before Sylvester placed his hand defensively over his.

“I’m sure they can’t be that bad,” Milo said. “It’s not an art gallery. Surely your master must have some reason for holding on to them.”

“In a better world, yes,” Sylvester answered. “I’d be an artist. But that isn’t the world we live in. I peddle paperwork all day, mostly.”

“Better than putting your throat on the line.”

“Yes, I suppose that much is true,” Sylvester sighed. Milo snorted. He found it bizarre Sylvester felt the need to demean his own work, however he decided not to press it any further until he could see the paintings for himself.

“Here is one.” Sylvester pulled out a single framed work, a small square that he held lightly with both hands. “This is of a specimen we have preserved in one the laboratories.”

The painting depicted a single, lupine-shaped skull with an arrangement of minerals and stones. A nude figure sat beside it, back turned away from the viewer to reveal the boney curvature of their spine. Something ominous surrounded the piece of art, as if it were inviting wandering eyes to nestle themselves between the crevices of each bone, to wearily contemplate it. Sylvester’s lips made a fine, thin line as Milo observed it, fingers ghosting over the glass frame separating the illustration from the rest of the world.

“Something from a long time ago, I’m afraid,” Sylvester said. “The skull belonged to my master. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the model.”

“You have a gift,” Milo said.

“Better here than a gallery, I say. There’s nothing good in hanging useless art up on the wall.”

“No better than hiding it a dusty office.”

Sylvester hummed, and rolled his sleeve cuffs. Milo knew a comment like this would touch a nerve, so he refrained from saying anything more to Sylvester about his art.

A hand gently brushed Milo’s shoulder. This time, he didn’t flinch. His eyes remained glued to the golden framing of the study, how the coils complimented the raw fury of black and white on the paper. The juxtaposition of the frame and color hues made Milo shudder, as if the study itself possessed some otherworldly power.

As Milo turned around, he felt Sylvester’s touch again, and happily welcomed it as he looked up from the study. A kiss – fast and inconsequential. Milo welcomed it, closing his eyes as Sylvester quietly pulled away. Delicately, he reached for the other man’s collar and pressed into the touch, savoring it. Sylvester tasted like whiskey, warm and familiar. Milo moaned and pulled back, breathing heavily as he fixated on Sylvester’s glowing face.

With one hand preoccupied with unbuttoning Sylvester’s shirt, Milo removed his coat and swung it over Mr. Hartman’s chair. He was pleased to find Sylvester purring and grinning, his canines sharp and distinguished. Carefully, Milo removed his gloves and moved his hand to the other’s hip, squeezing it gently. He’d been enamored with Sylvester’s strange allure since they first met – although he feared it was nothing until he felt him reciprocate. Sylvester laughed and brushed a strand of hair away from Milo’s forehead, and gazed into his eyes.

“Mighty bold of you,” he teased.

“You’re fascinating,” Milo answered. He felt as though his head was spinning in a dream “What are you?”

“That’s a secret for me to keep,” Sylvester said. “Please, be patient.”

Both of them knew their time was short. The guild members downstairs only grew louder. Sylvester took a deep breath, and after parting from Milo, reached for his wrist on his hip.

“Sit down,” he told him. Milo silently nodded and obliged, taking Mr. Hartman’s seat as Sylvester made himself comfortable. He couldn’t help but feel the walls watch him, however. Milo felt goosebumps crawl on his skin at the thought of them being caught, much less fooling around in the guildmaster’s personal office. However, Sylvester seemed to show little to no regard for the possibility of being caught. Instead, he licked his pointed teeth and looked up at Milo with big, fierce eyes.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

“Your master,” Milo whispered. “If he comes back, we’ll be caught.”

“Don’t be too nervous,” Sylvester hummed. “He’s a very busy man. And you’re about to be, too.”

With a gliding motion, Sylvester spread his palm over Milo’s thigh and groped him through his trousers. Slowly, he moved from his leg to the growing bulge of his groin, running his hand over the taut surface. When Milo cried in response, Sylvester cupped his crotch and thumbed the button holding his trousers shut. “My, someone’s excited,” he said.

“Please,” Milo whimpered, “please, Sylvester.” Was this truly the man he’d met at the bar? Did it ever cross Milo’s mind that, perhaps, such an esteemed citizen of his village would take interest in him?

“Absolutely. You don’t need to ask twice.”

Snapping off the button, Sylvester was glad to find that Milo’s member was already hard. As gently as he could, Sylvester slipped it out of his undergarments, tapping the blushing red tip. A pearly white bead dribbled down the peak, coating his fingers as Sylvester slowly began stroking him. His grip was firm and concentrated; Milo found himself frozen gazing at Sylvester’s beautiful expression completely fixated on pleasuring him. With his cock exposed, Sylvester wasted no time swallowing it, slipping his tongue over hot, swollen head. As he slid it further into his mouth, he felt it brush against the back of his throat, excited and begging for attention. He was going to give Milo plenty of attention – with his hand firmly planted on Milo’s thigh, he felt his cock harden against his tongue. Hungrily, he ran it across the bottom of his shaft, cherishing the precum as it dripped across his lips. Sylvester smirked, and engulfed Milo with a need that reminded him of a hungry, wild animal. He was in heaven.

Suddenly, a crash came from downstairs, followed by footsteps. The picture frames on the bookshelves rattled ominously. Sylvester nearly gagged before pulling away, a thread of saliva trailing from his tongue as his eyes met Milo’s.

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