X/1999 Fan Fiction ❯ On Earth as It Is in Heaven ❯ Tokyo, Again ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

“You can't go home again.”
Thomas Wolfe
“Home is where the heart is.”
On Earth as It Is in Heaven
Chapter 1: The City of Times Past
August 26, 1999
The city of Tokyo stretched outward, enveloping the scope of his sight like a glutton. With the way it winked and shifted, Kamui would almost think it a reflection of the heavens above him, trading stars for streetlights. It was a terrible comparison.
There was nothing in the night sky so beautiful as the people on Earth.
The long-forgotten form of a cherry blossom flitted past his vision. It was the harbinger of a swarm that whipped about him like so many locusts. He caught one of the floating flowers in passing, bringing it toward his face in a fisted hand so that he might remind himself of its smell. It had been too long.
Releasing the blossom to return to the stream of its siblings, he turned toward the source of the blossom drift. The air current came in strong and high, leaving no doubt as to the source. His thin cloak flapping him about him like a pair of great wings, Kamui leapt from the highest weather vane of the Tokyo Tower, moving from strut to strut, length to length, rooftop to rooftop, like a stone skipping across so much water.
They couldn't have been more mismatched. One clothed himself in immaculate white, the other an impenetrable black. The younger smoldered with palpable rage while the other exuded an amused sense of disinterest.
“Seishirou,” the handsome young man with the cold, green eyes whispered the name as if it was one part prayer, one part curse. “I've spent years searching for you.”
“Still looking to avenge your dearly departed elder sister, are you?” The tall, dark man smiled broadly as he removed the cigarette from upturned lips. “Subaru, you really are so adorable.”
Subaru stiffened at the words but restrained himself, focusing his outrage into his concentration, crafting a five-pointed star between the palms of his hands out of his own willpower and inborn magic. Hewn from his own being, the pentagram expanded like a balloon at his behest, engulfing office buildings of Ark Hills and everything within several kilometers. Accompanying the star-shaped fortress was a wave of sepia tones, as if the shield had sucked the essence out of the environment to sustain itself.
“A kekkai?” The black-clad man exhaled in a cloud, using an archaic Japanese to describe what would be known as a “barrier field” in other circles. He tossed the spent butt down upon the lifeless rooftop. “So, you really are one of the Seven Seals. How goes the life of the man who carries the fate of the world on his shoulders?”
“The Promised Day means nothing to me. This field is simply a means to an end. I don't want anyone else getting in the way of our fight.”
“Well put,” the man was still smiling even as he began chanting a spell under his breath.
It called out to him with a voice that reminded him suspiciously of his mother's sword. It wasn't a voice in the traditional sense that beckoned him, something heard through the ears, but something that reverberated throughout his skeleton. With what could have almost been a trance hanging over his head, Kamui leapt through the slate gray wall of reality and into the great unknown.
The slips of pentagram-inscribed paper melted into the shape of doves as they charged toward their master's rival. With a flick of his wrist that made his arm a blur, the burning lobe of his cigarette carved a star into the air, erecting a barrier that was as much a brick wall to the doves as anything else, braining themselves harmlessly, if bloodily. And through the film of gore, Seishirou smiled.
His smile was like a scythe threatening to reap. Sable slips of paper came to his hand, as if of their own accord, marked by a milky white star in the perfect mirror image of Subaru's own ofuda, the currency of their magic.
Kamui followed the duel like it was a spectator sport. He beheld every magical thrust, parry, evasion, and counter. Every surge of power rolled over him like a wave of heat. It was the sort of spectacle that most could only dream of seeing. Kamui wondered why he had even bothered wasting his time.
These two men had absolutely nothing to do with him. If they wanted to throw up protective wards and exchange attack spells, that was their prerogative. They seemed quite content in their murderous dance and he had precious little incentive to interrupt. Any other person might have felt compelled to do otherwise, but he had always been loath to unnecessary entanglements.
He didn't know anything about their circumstances. For all he knew, these were both wretched men with blood-stained pasts that deserved nothing less than a violent death and their mortal enemy as their only comfort in their final moments. And even if that wasn't the case, each could have any number of comrades or acolytes who would come searching for the outsider who had contributed to their brother's demise. He had no desire to attract the attention of that particular crowd.
So resolved, Kamui leapt back through the barrier field, none the wiser as to how much of an impact he would have.
“Your tenacity is quite endearing,” Seishirou's two-tone eyes flashed in the dark, bereft of the concealing shades, “but your lack of focus is your Achilles heel. You won't be able to defeat me if you continue focusing on the boy.”
Subaru's eyes went wide at that. The other man had known? Of course he had. Seishirou Sakurazuka was even more seasoned as a spiritual warrior than he. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that he would perceive the sudden presence of a third aura in such a private space. The problem now became how to react.
As suspected, his adversary turned, a spell smoldering in the palm of his hand. The young man's retreating back was the target. Subaru felt his breath catch in his throat. The intruder was totally oblivious. There would be no way to for him to pass over the threshold before the spell reached him.
He abruptly wound one spell into another, changing chants mid-stream. It would be extremely sloppy, but the counter-spell he had improvised was the one, real chance this unwanted outsider had. The other man's curse burst from his hand like a cannon shot, while Subaru's own streaked toward it on an intercept course, pulsing like a comet. Intermingled red and white shook and spasmed before eventually spinning back toward the first caster in a ball of conflicting auras.
That was the second time Subaru felt his heart skip a beat. Seishirou made no move to avoid the death sphere, his perennial smile wavering all of zero times as it shredded his frail human body. All at once, he was one arm short of a full body, the ravaged remains giving way to so many petals, like an onion stripped of its layers.
“An illusion? Then, that means—”
He perceived Seishirou's aura spike a moment before he felt the stinging pain of his attack. A hand wreathed in fiery magic sliced through the air, the ceremonial robes, the flesh, and the gristle beneath all in one, smooth motion. He shouldn't have been shocked at that. There was little, if any defense, against the Sakurazukamori, the most feared clan of onmyouji-users Japan had ever known. He hit the landing pad with a sigh as gravity compressed his ribcage against the concrete.
Steely fingers seized his wrist, aborting a last-ditch effort to surprise his opponent with a concealed ofuda. His left arm was a lost cause, the slightest twitch cutting through his body as if the wound were freshly inflicted. Seishirou had him trapped in a perfect checkmate. The question was what he would do with it.
“I enjoy the work out; really, I do, but I have places I must be going.” All at once, he disengaged, strolling toward the building's edge as he returned his glasses to their proper place along the bridge of his nose and plugged a fresh cigarette into his lips. He then produced a white ofuda and set it ablaze with a simple spell, using it as the match to light his cigarette. He peered at his fallen enemy through thick lenses to see the look that broke out across his face at the sight of his own spell slip. Subaru had been defeated utterly and totally. “This kekkai is as good as gone. With your wounds, you won't be able to sustain it much longer.”
He knew that. Didn't Seishirou think he knew that? He bit back the childish urge to say as much. That would just give him the satisfaction of knowing he was still a child. He pushed the thoughts away, closing his eyes against the piercing look of his smug rival. The barrier faded, retreating to the recesses of his mind the way a puddle vanished into a sponge.
By the time he opened his eyes, Subaru was alone. No matter how many times it confronted him, the loneliness would never stop hurting. The sound of the building's infrastructure slowly giving way did nothing to comfort him.
Her sigh cut through the refrigerated abyss like a knife. She was usually so quiet, content to join with the Beast.
Then again, it wasn't every day she discovered such an electrical signature. Impulses like these were rare, to say the least. He had to be among the Angels or the Seals. He could have even been something greater. The numbers didn't lie.
This slight boy scaling the steel mountains and navigating the concrete rivers of Tokyo could be the very “Kamui” on which Kanoe had pinned so much. It went without saying that she put a trace on his movements.
Some things were said to be universal, such as death and joy and any number of other human works. Nature was much the same. In fact, a wiser man that they had once remarked that the same sky hovered over everyone, bringing us together no matter the distance. The siblings had no way of knowing that the same stars shining down on them also shone upon an old friend, or that the cherry blossoms that the boy watched so contently had captured his friend's attention long enough to lead him astray.
“What are you thinking about, Fuuma?” The voice brought him out of his daze.
“Oh, nothing,” he responded at length. There wasn't any delicate way to tell his baby sister he had been ruminating on death. The blossoms lived such short lives and fell so soon, just like humans in the grand scheme of things. It was a morbid subject; doubly so in the face of what had happened.
“I've been thinking about Kamui.”
He turned at that, shifting his weight to face his sister. Her voice hadn't been so light in a very long time. He owed it to her to listen.
“You do remember, Kamui, don't you, the little boy who used to play with us when we were all kids?” She tilted her head to the side, her hair spilling down in an auburn waterfall.
“Of course I remember,” his broad chest rumbled in mock-outrage. It was hard for most to imagine, but the seemingly grim Fuuma Monou they thought they knew was a far cry from the doting older brother Kotori knew. “How could I forget? We had wonderful times together…but it's been years since we saw him. What made you think of him?”
She favored him with a smile. “I dreamt him.”
“Dreamt him?” His voice held a trace of unease. Had the nightmares come back?
“That's it exactly. Last night, I had a lovely dream. I dreamt Kamui had come back to us.” She clasped her hands together as if in prayer, turning her shining eyes toward the stars. “He was so grown up, but I knew it was him. He was laughing and smiling along with us like we were all kids again.”
Fuuma followed her gaze with a nostalgic smile. “It sounds like a wonderful dream, Kotori. I hope it comes true.”
The two of them basked in the shared silence for a time, thinking back fondly on a time so distant. They had been happy then. They had their Kamui then. It was hard not to think the two as fundamentally linked.
“I'll go turn the lights off in the shrine.” He pushed the thoughts from his mind. Fond memories were nice, but it was all too easy to drown in the `good old days.' He was living in the here and now, full of new fears and responsibilities.
“I'll go with you,” she hopped into her sandals, tagging along. It would be easy to take the action for a childish one, yet it was motivated by a very adult fear. She'd lost too much in too little time to make light of the days spent with her only brother and last living relative.
It was with these unspoken thoughts that they wandered toward the holy place they had made their playground. It was the same as it had ever been, breeding comfort in an uncomfortable, ever-changing world. But nothing ever lasts, not even the safe places of youth.
The Earth went red, a thunderbolt cutting a crimson path through the cobblestones. The substance underfoot heaved upward and out, popping like a balloon as a host of wires and cables burst forth. The man-made tentacles waved blindly, shaking off earthy bits of shattered stone and steel as easily as a dog might shake off drops of water. The sound of churning Earth and crackling electricity filled their ears even as the sight of impending doom filled their eyes and minds.
Fuuma reacted instinctively, throwing his large body between the arcing wires and his sister. She went stiff in his arms even as she peered through her slit fingers. It was an irresistible urge. The cables came closer, closer, closer, and they grew deadlier, deadlier, deadlier. Fuuma couldn't protect her. For all his athleticism and good intentions, he would be shredded like so much tissue paper. Only one person could do that.
“I promise I'll never hurt Kotori or make her cry! I promise to protect her always!”
Her faith was rewarded, in the black clad angel who wore wings of fabric that fluttered in the wind. He was very slight and hardly the physical specimen like Fuuma. Yet the approaching cables could not have had a more imposing opponent, going slack and falling to pieces, shredded beyond repair by an unseen weapon. The light subsided and the danger passed, leaving the two to deal with the new arrival.
The youth turned his big blues toward his friends for the first time in six years. Kamui Shirou had come home.
“This is swell.” The teenager let out a long-suffering sigh. He'd been so excited when old grampa Stargazer had told him it was the time to answer his calling in life. The Seven Seals had begun to gather in Tokyo, he said, and he couldn't afford to be left behind. He'd left the temple with grand plans; beat all the other Seals to Tokyo and make contact with the one and only Kamui. When it finally looked like the boy was about to put down roots, things had gone to Hell in a hand basket, between the living machinery and an obvious do-not-approach vibe that radiated off the destined youth in waves. The sudden, bone-deep, oddly hollow sensation of collapsing barrier field had only added to his worries. “I feel like I should say `hi' to the guy…get my foot in the door, at least…”
“You should probably reconsider.”
He nearly jumped out of his skin, steadying himself with a hand as he squatted on the wires criss-crossing the skies above Tokyo. The voice had come out of the darkness at him like a stranger. Straining his eyes, he picked out the speaker less than a block away from his, casually perched in a nearby tree with her luscious legs crossed at the thigh.
“Tokyo really is the best city in the world, huh?” He made the transition from power line to rooftop. “This city has pretty ladies growing on trees!”
“You're going to make me blush,” she joined him on the roof with a feline grace. The moonlight suited her very well, if he did say so himself.
“I think I'm the one who's got the blood rushing to his head, babe,” he shot back with a saucy wiggle of his eyebrows. The lacy, slinky number she wore could barely be called clothing. But there was something classy about her, something that made her strut around in that sort of thing without looking shameful.
“I'd love to trade pick up lines with a cute little boy like you, but we really do need to get down to business.”
“Oh, you know just what you want, don't you?” But he relented all the same. “I'm guessing you're not one of the Seven Angels, or we'd be making a huge racket.”
“You would guess right.” She favored him with a pearly white smile, extending a flawless hand. “I'm Karen Kasumi, one of the Seven Seals.”
“That would make me Sorata Arisugawa, your future sweet lover.”
Somehow, this wasn't how she had pictured it.
The sandcastles in her mind had promised hugs and kisses. Kamui would come walking back into their lives like he had never left and everything would be wonderful again. Fuuma would find his smile again—a lasting smile, not the fleeting thing that only ever danced across his features so rarely that it could have been an urban myth. She would show him what the kind of woman she had grown into, and the boys would smile all the wider for it.
“No,” Kamui murmured shortly, shooting down the idea that he had come to Tokyo for vacation. He had spared precious few words since falling back into their lives less than an hour ago. He had been oddly adamant about insisting they had all been a party to some sort of accident, likely a side-effect of the tremor that had shaken the shrine earlier. The wires had sprung up from an exploding gas line or the like. However, that had been the exception to the rule. It felt like he didn't even want to talk to them.
“Well, whatever your reasons, we're glad to have you back.” Fuuma had always been better with awkward situations than her. He cut through the heavy air simply and as painless as possible. He didn't even have to lie to do it; both siblings were glad to have Kamui come back to them.
“I don't mean to be rude,” he said at length, finally giving some sign of humanity beneath the monosyllabic automaton that had been sitting with them. “I'm just very tired. It was a long trip and it's late. Can we discuss this more in the morning?”
“Of course,” Kotori smiled at the thought. There was hope for Kamui yet. “I'll get the guest room ready for you.”
“It's alright,” he rose suddenly to wrap his fingers around her wrist. “You don't have to go to the trouble of doing that for me. I've slept over here more times than I can count.”
“With all three of us in the same bed.” Fuuma chuckled, amused at the way Kotori colored. “Really, though, you're our guest and, more importantly, our friend. Let us do something for you.” He emphasized the sentiment with an arm around their shoulders, all but burying his friend and his sister in his broad chest.
Kamui clung to the moment like a miser. He closed his eyes so that he could listen to Fuuma's heartbeat, just as he inhaled through his nostrils to catch the scent of Kotori's hair. The two of you have already done so much for me and you don't even realize it.
With a sputter and a hiss that could have almost passed for human, the great hulking figure of the Beast withdrew. The wiry tentacles it used to join with its mistress withdrew, leaving her to her natural beauty, one that was not marred by the veiny bulges of its extensions. The restraints pulled up and away, sliding into their little crevices with clicks and clacks while she donned her familiar pair of bifocals and stretched wire-ridden limbs.
“So, tell me,” a voice slithered out of the air, syrupy sweet. “What does the Beast say? Is this boy really the one, true Kamui?”
Satsuki Yatouji, all fourteen years of austere beauty and rigorous genius, turned her bone-chilling gaze toward the one woman who could pass for an authority figure in her life. Of course, it would be hard to tell, given the simple yet flattering secretarial ensemble she wore. If Satsuki had anything approaching a sense of humor, she would have laughed uproariously at the notion that this unassuming secretary was one of the most powerful women in the country, if not the world.
“Beast estimates within less than one percent margin of error that this individual is indeed the foretold Kamui.”
“Then it seems your sister dreams true, Kanoe,” a velvety voice joined the dialogue as a pair of winsome blonds sauntered into the room from the same door that had spawned the woman in question. The older of the two, with his fashionably flamboyant attire, spoke. “Destiny has finally gotten around to checking `End of the World' off of its To Do list.”
“Of course she dreamt true, Yuuto” she flipped her long, luxurious waterfall of brunette hair. “My sister is second none as a Seer. However, with Kamui in our midst and the Promised Day at hand, she will find herself out of a job soon enough.”
“Splendid,” the younger clapped his hands festively, the leather of his gloves causing an odd sort of echo in the chilled chamber. “I'll finally get a chance to flex my muscles against more than the trash you see lining any given street. To think—the chance to test my prodigious talents as a water master against fellow empowered! I have lived for this day.”
“We all have, Shougo,” Kanoe smiled in a way that was not reassuring.
This house, these feelings.
To say he felt ambivalent would be to understate just how confused he felt, silently stalking the halls of the home in search of old memories, unable to sleep. The house was just as he remembered it, but it couldn't have been more different. It felt like home even as it felt empty. He supposed it was only natural. So much time had passed since he had last set foot here. He had changed. But it wasn't only he who had changed.
Fuuma and Kotori always came with a certain expectation. Up until that very night, he had pictured Kotori as the girly princess of his youth, and Fuuma as the scabby-kneed adventurer of their boyhood. Had he really expected them to freeze for the six years they'd been apart? That was really the only explanation, he supposed. He hadn't been expecting the definitive example of feminine beauty from Kotori any more than he expected a statuesque picture of masculinity from Fuuma.
But the greatest change of all would have to be how quiet the Shrine had grown. It wasn't a surprise, but it hurt in a melancholy way all the same. There were no parents here anymore. There were no mothers to kiss away childish tears and trifles, no Uncle Kyougo to bounce them on his knee.
They were all gone now, ripped from the mortal coil by the machinations of Destiny.
Destiny had robbed this place of its unseen beauty. A miasma of morose feelings hung over the place in a cloud and what little hope remained was cautiously withheld for fear that those same hopes would be dashed. He had seen it in Fuuma's weary gaze and Kotori's façade. In spite of all the time that had passed, he still saw them for what they were in their struggle to cope—his stoicism, her air.
The clouds parted and moonlight flooded the kitchen. He allowed his eyes to wander to the vacant orb. It was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. This place was; the Monous were. They were what made life worth living.
And those two would go on living. Destiny be damned. Kamui Shirou had come back to Tokyo to watch over his friends, no matter what Fate or the people who followed it had to say on the matter. Let them come. They would learn their place, prostrate before his immense power.
And there was the sad irony of it all. While Kamui vowed to protect his friends, they dreamed strange dreams handed down as if in spite of that vow.
Kotori dreamed of Kamui and how he stood over her, her like Christ on the cross, ready to die for the sins of those she loved.
Fuuma dreamed of Kamui; more accurately, he dreamed of himself.