A/N: Mostly just ruminations, swearing and lots of explanations. Will be a short chapter but should finally clear up a lot of the questions that started accumulating over the course of this story.
Like most of his people, Kawahira has always disliked Magick.
Well, not so much Magick herself but rather her arrogant denizens, Magicals - or wizards, as they apparently called themselves these days.
Magick and Flames weren't even all that different at first glance. Both were powers that existed freely in this world, both of them possibly as old as the planet itself. And both could be wielded by certain individuals, who were born with that aptitude.
But of course there were also some very significant differences, especially for those who could wield either of these powers. Because Flames were born from within oneself, from one's very life force, and thus dependent on the beings using them. In contrast, Magick also very much existed outside of living beings, an elemental, integral component of this earth, just as much as the water in the ocean or the very air around them.
And while Magicals were born with an aptitude for wielding magic just like Flame users were, the Magick they wielded was not actually born from within themselves but merely filtered through their core, making it their own for a while but always returning it to the all-encompassing cycle of Magick.
Just thinking about it was at least somewhat vexing to Kawahira.
Admittedly, true magical creatures had existed long before Kawahira's own kind, while Flames had only developed alongside his people and then humans.
The magical beings of old used to say that Magick was the planet's very soul, even used to claim that Flames were simply a derivation, a branch of Magick herself. And Kawahira's people had always hated that claim. It made their own powers seem so inconsequential.
Honestly, most of his people's dislike for Magick might have been based in some sort of misdirected jealousy at the ever-present, overwhelming, oh-so-versatile power that was Magick.
There were creatures who in themselves were Magick. It was a concept that boggled the mind.
All in all, there were several reasons why his people had always disliked or at least distrusted Magick and had been happy to ignore the existence of magical beings entirely for centuries.
Of course, Kawahira's people had their own reasons for feeling superior, namely the fact that they had been tasked with upholding the balance of the Tri-Ni-Set themselves, while Magicals had no such influence.
Because as all true powers in this world, Flames and Magick had a balance to uphold, an equilibrium, a symmetry to keep that was essential for the continued existence of this world.
But Magick also enforced her own balance, picked her own champions, supported her side of the equation, no overseer required. Without giving her chosen ones any choice in the matter whatsoever.
So yes, Kawahira's people had definitely felt superior to normal Magicals.
Well, at least until they had realized that their people were dying out.
Then, the Magical World had actually been the first place his people turned to, hoping to find an additional way to support the balance of the Tri-Ni-Set.
Only to quickly realize that the Tri-Ni-Set refused to mix with Magick. In any way.
Not because Magick and Flames couldn't coexist, but rather that it was plainly impossible to force them to do so.
Turned out that because magical beings were just that, beings of Magick, Flames had no way to so much as touch them.
Of course, wizards could have Flame potential just as regular humans, but their magical core already started developing and growing at birth. As such, by the time a Magical could potentially activate their Flames, Magick would have already inserted herself into every available space within their soul, leaving no room for the wizard's Flames.
Magick was a force of nature - an elemental force of this earth - and she made sure that her denizens, their very existence, depended on her presence within themselves. Once Magick had claimed something for herself, she did not release her hold by choice or circumstance.
At least that had been the accepted theory amongst Kawahira's people as to why Magick and Flames simply did not mix.
No one liked to speak about the theory that it might actually be their own fault, that by having ignored - almost shunned - the Magical World entirely for such a long time, Kawahira's people might have managed to push the two powers even further towards being mutually exclusive.
But when they had split the Tri-Ni-Set, Sepira had actually tried to shift the focus of the Pacifiers to also consider Magicals as an option, even if only as a last resort.
Suffice to say, it had not worked. The resulting backlash had certainly been impressive.
Oh, how much easier would Kawahira's life be if he could include some of the powerful, long-lived individuals from the Magical World in his regular search for Arcobaleno. Even as much as he disliked Magicals on principle and still thought they were at least somewhat beneath him.
After taking over the responsibility of the Tri-Ni-Set entirely, Kawahira had realized that he would not even be granted Sight into the Magical World as he had into any other part of the world. Well, that revelation had been a long time ago, and by now it had actually become habit to simply ignore the Magical World in its entirety. There never seemed to be a point.
But while Magick had never needed help with the keeping of her balance - had an entire world of magical beings to choose her champions from -, the Tri-Ni-Set seemed to become increasingly desperate with each generation of Arcobaleno, uncompromisingly siphoning the strength out of the Sky Arcobaleno, further shortening their life spans with every new generation.
Over the past decades it had become very apparent that this wouldn't be sustainable for much longer. Kawahira already had to exclusively rely on Sepira's descendants for providing the next Sky Arcobaleno, who died younger and younger with each generation, unable to shoulder the burden of the Pacifier with their - sometimes even not yet fully developed - Flames.
If things continued this way - even assuming that the Tri-Ni-Set wouldn't further increase its draw on the Sky Arcobaleno's life force as it had been doing over the past decades which seemed unlikely - within the next three or four generations, Sepira's descendants would barely reach the age for child bearing before their death, and certainly wouldn't survive until the next generation was old enough to take over their position.
So, Kawahira needed to change something.
He needed to give Sepira's children a chance to birth more than a single child every generation. He needed a back-up, someone outside of Sepira's bloodline to take on the position of Sky Arcobaleno, someone with enough life force for the Pacifier to siphon off to last at least one generation.
Which had immediately made Kawahira think of all those powerful, long-lived Magicals whose life force would probably be able to sustain the Sky Pacifier for at least a few decades before even their well of power dried up.
If only they had active Flames.
Because there were a few rare instances of magical Flame users over the centuries. But that had only ever happened when a wizard's connection to Magick was so very weak from birth that she hadn't been able to occupy all the space available in their soul before the wizard could activate their Flames or when the connection had been severed at some point.
In his long life, Kawahira had met only a few wizards with active Flames and most of them had been so incredibly weak in Magick that you could barely call them magical at all.
Although, not once had he met a magical Sky, but that was possibly just due to chance, seeing as Skies were pretty rare anyway and Magicals with Flames rarer still. The likelihood of a Magical with Sky Flame Potential actually activating their Flames without outside interference was infinitesimally small.
What if Kawahira could somehow force Flame activation in a wizard with Sky Flame Potential? What if he had just one or two Flame active, magical Skies at his - quite literal -disposal, no matter how weak they might be magically?
That would be the perfect back-up to hold the Sky Pacifier until Sepira's bloodline had replenished itself.
And while only a very weak wizard would have the potential for truly pure Flames - strong enough to pull in Elements of the strength required to hold the positions of Arcobaleno Guardians – that person would still be a wizard and no matter how weak magically, they would still have an extended life span, giving Kawahira the breathing room he needed.
Maybe he could even repeat this once or twice, give Sepira's descendents the time to possibly birth two or even three generations of Skies before Kawahira once more turned his back on the Magical World and could go back to how things were supposed to be.
It was perfect. And thus, a plan had been born.
A plan which had actually been pretty simple all things considered. Give one group in the world of organized crime the knowledge how to forcefully activate Flames and then get a wizard involved to develop a spell to identify those in the Magical World with Flame Potential.
And then sit back and watch the chaos unfold.
It had been easy.
After getting all the elements of his plan in position - making sure that the technology and the information were available to the lower rungs of the criminal underworld - Kawahira had turned his attention back to important things, just letting everyone fight it out between themselves.
There would always be those sufficiently unscrupulous and with enough hunger for power to simply start at the top of that list of Flame Potentials and work their way all the way to the bottom. Kawahira couldn't care less if the list and technology switched hands a few times in between, only waiting for the characteristic feeling of a powerful Sky activating their Flames. He had better things to do than worry about just who got involved or who got left behind in the inevitable struggle over the technology or information.
He still had to fill the positions for the next set of Arcobaleno.
Kawahira already had a few candidates, like Reborn as the Sun Arcobaleno, Fon as the Storm Arcobaleno and Viper as the Mist Arcobaleno. He had picked those three as possible candidates quite some time ago, a choice which had only solidified over the years with their ever-increasing powers.
So much so, that at this point Kawahira didn't even feel the need to keep a particularly close eye on them - only checking in on them from time to time - seeing as there wasn't a single Sky around who would be powerful enough to pull them in.
Kawahira would know. Because if there was a Sky strong enough for those three - especially Reborn, whose power had grown to a point Kawahira wasn't quite sure he had ever seen in a Sun before - he would promptly have forced the Pacifier on that Sky and all of Kawahira's problems would already be solved.
And even if circumstances would have somehow made a bond possible for them, Kawahira's shield around his chosen Arcobaleno would make sure that they never harmonized with a Sky not of his choosing.
So, he had turned his attention elsewhere, trying to find candidates for the other positions.
Which had clearly been a mistake.
Because several weeks ago Kawahira had realized he had somehow lost Reborn. And no matter what he tried, Kawahira had been unable to find the Sun.
Kawahira had been counting on Reborn. He needed him as the Sun Arcobaleno, needed the ridiculously powerful Sun to balance out the Sky Arcobaleno, who - as a weak wizard and untrained Flame user - would probably be mostly useless in his position and get himself killed much too soon.
Kawahira needed Reborn to keep the Sky alive for at least a decade, maybe two, before the Pacifier siphoned off the last of their Magick, Flames and life force. So, Kawahira needed Reborn.
At first, he had tried finding the Sun subtly but once he realized that Reborn had somehow entirely vanished, he had pulled out all the stops. Still, it had been to no avail.
It almost seemed like something might actually have managed to kill his chosen Sun Arcobaleno. But in that case Kawahira should have felt the backlash of Reborn's death in some way at least. Something wasn't adding up.
Still, Reborn had disappeared, maybe even died. Which was more than annoying, but it also wasn't the first time one of his candidates had managed to get themselves killed before Kawahira could actually make use of them.
Although, annoyingly enough the Sun Arcobaleno was the one position where Kawahira hadn't even felt the need to look for other candidates, convinced that Reborn would be able to keep himself alive until Kawahira had at least gotten some use out of him.
But well, now he would just have to find another Sun Arcobaleno and shift the responsibility of keeping the magical Sky alive onto Fon instead. Because at least Kawahira still had two of his chosen Arcobaleno as well as several candidates for the other positions.
Although, he decided it might be better to keep a closer eye on them from now on. Because something about Reborn's sudden vanishing trick was making Kawahira apprehensive, almost suspicious.
Which was most likely the only reason why he even noticed when, suddenly, the presence of his chosen Storm Arcobaleno had flickered, had started waning from his senses.
Waning, fading, dimming. But not dispersing in the way their death would, but rather dulling. Like something was actually trying to occlude Kawahira's Sight.
Which should not even be impossible.
Kawahira narrowed his eyes, throwing his entire attention at the Storm, grasping onto his presence, his very essence. He had already lost the by far strongest Sun under suspicious circumstances, he could not lose his Storm candidate as well.
Following the Storm's presence - ripping through the veil that was starting to occlude the Storm from his Sight - to his utter surprise, 'lo and behold, Kawahira not only rediscovered his elusive Sun candidate, he was suddenly left staring at the reason why he had lost sight of Reborn in the first place.
A magical Sky. A strong magical Sky.
A strong magical Sky with pure Flames and powerful Magick. Who had also somehow gathered two of the Elements that held the position of most powerful for their own Flame type.
How in the world had Kawahira missed this? This wasn't even supposed to be possible!
Although, he certainly wasn't going complain about this.
Because even as he tried to grasp onto the three Flame Users' essences - as to not lose Sight of them again - his mind was already calculating the advantages he could draw from this.
A Sky, not only with Flames pure enough to bond Arcobaleno-strength elements but also with powerful Magick. More Magick meant a longer life span, which meant more power to be siphoned off and thus sustaining the Tri-Ni-Set for longer. This was actually perfect and exactly what Kawahira had been looking for.
He wanted that Sky, and he definitely wanted his Guardians.
Of course, seeing as they had already bonded it would be more difficult to get them to agree to take the Pacifiers. Promising his chosen Arcobaleno the bond they had been longing for their entire lives, dangling Harmony in front of them, was the easiest, most effective way to pressure them into accepting the deal without even knowing the full consequences of their agreement.
Well, Kawahira would just have to find a way to either force the Pacifier on this Sky - which would then automatically also bring in the Sun and the Storm - or he would simply have to break their bond and hope that at least one or two of them came out of it with their Flames intact. If it didn't, then they would be useless to him anyway. And a broken bond would also make them far more vulnerable to Kawahira's own influence if it really came to that.
Even as he felt the Sky's presence shift, almost as though Kawahira's attention had not only been noticed but something now seemingly poking at him, at his presence, he was still calculating how best to pressure agreement from the three Flame users, convinced that it should be rather easy to force them into their assigned roles.
Although, as happy as he was with the result - simply assuming that this was in some way due to Kawahira's scheme - he certainly hadn't counted on his plan leading to the existence of a Sky with pure Flames and powerful Magick, if only because it was supposedly impossible.
Suddenly, Kawahira couldn't help but think of his people's grave warnings to never dare interfering with Magick herself or her chosen champions. For her retribution would be swift and terrible.
But Kawahira had been counting on the fact that - despite his plan to use a wizard or two in his scheme - he was also the last of his people and thus, he was needed for keeping one of the essential balances in this world. So, Magick would have to direct her ire somewhere other than his actual person.
Kawahira ignored the thought, that as magically powerful as this wizard appeared to be, this Sky would always be absolutely and uncompromisingly beholden to Magick herself first.
Another shift, suddenly feeling as though something - that couldn't be the Sky himself, right? - was staring right back at him, returning his Sight. Then a shove, almost as though something was testing his presence. And not liking it at all.
Kawahira flinched backwards, the Sky's Magick slamming a not entirely metaphorical door in his face and immediately something else - something ancient and powerful - joining in with the Sky's Magick, abruptly cutting off Kawahira's Sight and his grasp on all three Flame users, leaving absolutely nothing of their presence behind for him to hold on to.
Something which a normal magical shield should really not be able to do.
A foreboding shiver worked itself down Kawahira's spine. He suddenly felt like he might have miscalculated somewhere.
But still, there shouldn't be a reason for Magick to seek direct retribution from Kawahira himself, if only due to his position as the only remaining enforcer of the Tri-Ni-Set.
It wasn't like this Sky was one of Magick's own chosen champions and thus under her explicit protection.
A/N: Tadaa! Hope you like the glimpse into the KHR 'verse :) This should finally clear up a lot of the things I have been alluding to ever since the start. And I would love to know how many people guessed that Kawahira wasn't only behind the Mafia trying to find Reborn but also the one who was originally behind the Flame activation technology!
There is also still a lot of information buried in this chapter (because I need to keep you guessing ^^) and I'm really looking forward to see how much you picked up on :)
Also, I'm sorry that it took me so long to update! I have numerous excuses (like trying to write too many fics in parallel, making the really bad call of using different tenses in different stories which is really messing with my writing, RL biting me in the ass, my muses nattering too much or not at all, etc) but I'm still sorry that it took me so long (._.)
And as a final note, because several of you mentioned re-reading this story from time to time (which, wow, thanks so much! I'm just amazed and that makes me so so happy #^^#), I just wanted to let you know that there is a slightly re-edited version of this story over on AO3. I went through the entire story again chapter by chapter checking for typos and inconsistencies and adding a few little scenes here and there. The plot is unchanged, but the first twenty chapters are probably a little smoother to read :)
As always, thanks for all your reviews! This story now has more than a million views and over 5000 favs (°0°) I'm amazed and you guys are just so awesome! Thanks so much (*^^*)