I no longer have a beta-reader, and I normally do not proofread my writing.

Chapter Five

As of now, Hisoka was starting to repent his sins. Being eternally stuck sixteen was certainly no justification for being a whiny brat (he assured himself that this was merely a self-effacing exaggeration for his past (future?) behaviour), considering the trauma a six-year-old has to deal with every single day of his life.

"Your posture, Hisoka," Rui chastised as she deftly wound the sash of his kimono around his waist.

Hisoka choked back a frustrated a sigh and straightened his back. "Yes, mother." If he had wondered how he had managed to survive his brief teenage life, now he was wondering how he managed to survive his now seemingly painfully long childhood. He fiddled with his sash irritably as Rui fussed with his hair, only to have his hands placed by his sides gently but firmly. He shifted uneasily under the weight of his kimono, and he heard his mother sighing heavily in response. If he had been actually ten years younger, he might have curled into bundle of absolute shame for disappointing his mother so. Beautiful Mother, who sighed gracefully, managed to be alluring in her frustration, and somehow never failed to entice even in her anger. Who would dare displease her?

Right then, however, Hisoka just wanted to scream. He might have done so if he had been a wonderful age of sixteen. But no, not at six, where his fastest speed required only slight stretch of an arm to keep him in place. Six-year-olds should not be subjected to such indignity. Mothering was meant for slobs like…slobs like…

"Turn around," Rui straightened his obi, "yes…yes, you look perfect." She gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. "I'll see you in the family shrine in half an hour." She smiled fondly down at him, but the pride in her eyes made Hisoka feel uncomfortably like a prize just being to be trotted out for a parade.

Hisoka scrambled onto the stool before the dressing table right after the sliding doors closed behind her. The face that stared back at him from the mirror was exactly what he had expected—big round eyes, cheeks still puffy from baby fat, fair smooth skin…He studied himself carefully, superimposing the image of his sixteen-year-old self upon the childish countenance. Narrower eyes, slightly more tilted at the ends, a thinner mouth, slightly more prominent cheekbones…the image blurred. What would he look like at sixteen? A fresh wave of panic welled up. He was sixteen. He had been sixteen. Been more than that. Why could he not remember? He desperately pictured himself again at the age of sixteen. The age he had spent so much time in…why did he think that?

He paused. His head throbbed from the effort of trying to remember. How could you spend more than the normal year being sixteen? Yet he remembered being sixteen for more than that…a much longer time…no, he was only six. No, it must have been a strange dream. Wait…

He remembered someone. The slob he was thinking about. He must have been a friend, although he couldn't remember the man's name. Were they close? They must have been, although he found it strange that he would actually miss someone whose name he couldn't remember.

The man had strange eyes.

Rui came in to hustle him out. The lush brocade of the kimono she wore gave him a strange but not unpleasant jolt of familiarity.

The man had purple eyes.

Life wasn't actually the best for eight-year-old Hisoka. He lacked the mental faculties of the average eight-year-old. That description might be misleading; it was not that he was slow. In fact, his understanding and intelligence far exceeded that of his peers.

Young Hisoka had dreams. They involved quite a lot of electronic devices far superior to that available as of yet; so while other eight-year-old boys played tag in the fields, Hisoka frequently occupied himself mourning the current non-existence (but he was sure would eventually come to be) of an invention which enabled people to obtain the latest movies, news, and music with a few clicks and no more than a few minutes of waiting.

The neighbourhood children thought Hisoka was strange. Hisoka, in turn, thought they were incredibly immature and, to put it bluntly, rather stupid. This did not bode well for any blossoming of a sweet childhood friendship. His mother was all too satisfied with this turn of events, for the village children were, as she termed them, "below us".

Unfortunately, even the adults failed to see things on Hisoka's level. They did not understand the importance of this new-TV-but-not-quite device that Hisoka kept raving about. His mother would say, "Hisoka, stop with this nonsense and get back to your studies (which Hisoka thought dreadfully dull; one of the few opinions he shared with all others his age)", while his father…well, Hisoka tended to put on his best behaviour when his father was around, so the few times he did see his father wouldn't pose much of a problem.

His father had Problems. So did his mother, actually, but his mother's worries were almost fussy compared to that of his father. The pain and trauma his father experienced hung over the ancient mansion like a dark, ominous cloud.

His father also feared the Thing. Hisoka felt its presence as well, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker, but it too is a constant presence in the house. The Thing Hungered and Hated like a venomous snake with an empty stomach and prey in its sight but still had not quite got around to fully feasting upon its prey yet. It was horribly Creepy and gave young Hisoka Bad Dreams at night, because all the pain and fear materialises in the ethereal dream world and it is not a pleasant experience at all for an eight-year-old child.

He woke up screaming in the middle of the night occasionally. The times were fewer and increasing further in between now as he gradually acclimatised himself to his dreams, which was a relief, because his mother was beginning to worry, and Hisoka did not feel up to the task of coming up with reasonable explanations, especially not after one of his dreams.

This was because young Hisoka, with his surprising maturity and understanding of the world, knew that the Things with Capital letters were not to be spoken of. The Kurosaki family dedicated quite a lot of their time to pretending to be normal, and Hisoka knew that the wise course would be to follow the adults' way (so that they would leave him alone).

Hisoka knew he was Different. Other people did not feel what he felt (they might know, but they did not feel). He knew they did not because it was impossible to lie to him. He also knew that one of the reasons his parents loved him as much as they do now because they thought he was different from them because he was so incongruously normal. He had childish fantasies of high-speed databases on televisions and three-dimensional television games with vibrating remote controllers. He drew diagrams of ovens that heated things up quickly within a minute. He was a healthy child with, perhaps, a not-so-healthy-over-creative imagination.

They loved him because he was Normal. His father, in particular, wanted to protect him from all the abnormality that tainted the Kurosaki family.

Hisoka was not going to tell them that he had an uncanny ability to share their feelings, knew that there were Dead People and a Snake Monster on the grounds, and that he felt that he was the Wrong Age.

He did unwittingly let slip that he frequently dreamed of a Purple-eyed Man to his mother. It was fortunate that his mother merely gave him the look that most mothers with eight-year-old children have mastered and told him to stop dragging out his breakfast in hope of being late for his lessons.

After dreaming about the Purple-Eyed Man long enough Hisoka decided to call him Tsuzuki.

During his sixteenth year Hisoka Felt an Abnormal Murder. Hisoka was not a stranger to the trauma of death. It was, after all, a rather common event in life, however much humans chose to ignore it. Murder was perhaps a little rarer, but this one was so unsettling on so many accounts that it became a frequent visitor in Hisoka's dreams, alongside with his childhood dreams of the Monster, Dead People and the Purple-Eyed Man.

He could feel the murderer feed on the pain and fear of the victim. He could feel both the life ebbing away from the terrified woman and the strength and adrenaline coursing through the blood of the attacker. His mind reeled at the terror of the dying human and soared in ecstasy at the beauty of this perfect kill.

He threw up the day's meals even as the murderer let his victim, now nothing more than a bloody, beautiful corpse, fall to the ground, atop the bleeding cherry blossoms.

The household found the dead body the next day. His mother blanched and fainted to the ground at the sight of the woman while Hisoka turned and dry-retched painfully at the dizzying, nauseating smell of death and rotting cherry blossoms.

After staring silently at the corpse for what seemed forever, his father turned around to face the household. Had anyone heard or seen anything, he asked, his expression as stony and void of feeling as ever.

Hisoka joined the chorus of nos. He had, after all, only Felt it.

After his seventeenth birthday, Hisoka finally voiced his request.

He wanted to leave. He wanted to go to university. The cities were waiting for him. There was so much he had to learn.

He had barely finished when his mother's outraged screams started ringing, reverberating throughout the room as she yelled at him about honour and duty and filial piety and had he no sense of responsibility, ungrateful boy he is.

Hisoka stood quietly throughout her tirade, his eyes fixed firmly upon his father and father only.

Yes. Hisoka would never forget the intensity of the single emotion he felt from his father. It was an emotion that soared within Kurosaki Nagare whenever he looked upon his son, but never in his life had Hisoka experienced this strong, unfailing urge of protection so fully and passionately.

His father seemed to age ten years at the utterance of that single word.

Hisoka left for Tokyo.