This will be more of an introduction to the new AU. ^^ Here we go again! Same characters, same couplings, and different story.
"Anna-okami," bowed the hooded people standing by the aisle of the temple. She gave them a brisk nod, then continued forward to the altar.
An elderly woman was waiting for her there, holding on to white-wrapped prayer beads. "The time has come now, for you to seek your king."
Kyouyama Anna, aged thirteen, nodded. She knew the traditions of the clan – to dedicate the lives of its young women in searching for the shaman king. According to the legend, when an itako from the mountains marries the shaman king, the mountains shall be blessed bountifully forever.
However, she knew that it was the most impossible tale in the world. The shaman king appears only every five hundred years. How should she know that this king would appear in her lifetime?
She didn't want to leave the sacredly serene mountains – she had been to the city more than once, and she didn't like the chaotic noises of the people.
Furthermore, she knew that she wasn't really part of this clan – that she was just found by the river when she was still a child, and was reared in the mountains. The legend surely wasn't talking about her.
But she was deeply indebted to the elderly people of this community. If not for their humanitarian concern, she would have perished before, back when she was still a baby.
She accepted the beads, then bowed. "Thank you for taking care of me."
She got up and out of the temple. The women watched her in mixed awe and fear – at her tender age, she already exudes the confidence and authority their elderly head could manifest.
"Anna-okami is destined for something great. She just may be the one," one woman said as the itako continued out of the forest.
Two days later, Anna finally reached the boundary of civilization – the town of Izumo.
Clutching her prayer beads, she walked down the busy market place, taking in the sudden life around her. The chirps of the birds and sound of the nearby river were overwhelmed by the animated chatters of the people coming from all walks of life.
"Step right in, folks! These rugs are already in bargain prices! Beautiful pieces of art to be displayed in your living rooms!" a peddler shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Apples! We sell large, luscious apples here!" yelled another peddler.
"Hey, don't sell your wares in front of my stall! You're blocking my customers' way!"
"What customers? I don't see any."
The itako wasn't surprised anymore why the spirits were already forgotten by the outside world. The world has since moved on to other superficial things, like money.
A satirical smile spread across her weary face. It's not like they can take all those money to the other world once they die.
Her attention was then caught by a figure she thought was not fitting into the scene of busyness in the market. A boy was lying in the corner of a closed stall, eyes closed as if sleeping, a pair of headphones on his head.
Is he a petty thief here? But why would he sleep on his job?
She then noticed a spirit looming beside him. A samurai with silver hair was seated on the grass, concentrating. He looked pretty strong.
He'll do for my bodyguard.
She took out her itako beads and went towards the spirit. The samurai immediately sensed her, but instincts told the spirit that she already knew what he was.
She raised her beads at the spirit. "You, samurai spirit!" Without warning, she threw her beads around the ghost.
Her eyes widened when a sheath of a katana suddenly hit her beads aside. "What the-"
The boy that was sleeping awhile ago was already awake, his hand holding out the katana in protection of the spirit.
She frowned. "What are you doing?"
He grinned. "Actually, shouldn't that be my line? You attacked Amidamaru without warning."
"None of your business," she snapped.
"Why are you picking on Amidamaru anyway?" he wanted to know.
She realized two things. One of them was that the boy before her wasn't ordinary, for he could see spirits. The other was…
"So Amidamaru is the spirit's name." She picked up her beads. "He looks pretty decent when it comes to strength. He will be a perfect bodyguard."
"Bodyguard?" The boy frowned. "Are you a celebrity or a politician or something?"
"None of the above," she said coolly. "I'm an itako."
"You are?" He whistled admiringly. "That's so cool." He frowned. "However, that is not valid enough a reason to just charge on spirits just like that."
"What do you care? It is my life, not yours." She looked at Amidamaru. "You're coming with me."
He raised a hand. "Hey wait…" He turned to the spirit. "Would you like to come with her?"
The samurai shook his head vehemently.
He turned to her again, grinning. "So sorry. He doesn't want to go with you. You'll just have to look for another bodyguard."
"What Kyouyama Anna wants, Kyouyama Anna gets." With that, she lifted her prayer beads again.
"Oh…nice to meet you, Anna!" He placed his hands into the pocket of his jeans. "Well, I have to refuse your challenge to a match. The sun is so nice…I want to sleep a little more." He stretched. "Nice meeting you again."
"What?!" she yelled. She pushed aside her desire to get Amidamaru. The boy's laidback attitude irked her so much! "Get up and face me! I'm not yet through talking to you!"
He rubbed his eyes and sat up, yawning. "What is it?"
"Hadn't it occurred to you that I may use the opportunity of you asleep to push through with my plans for getting the spirit?" she demanded.
He grinned. "It never occurred to me. I think you are a good person, because only good people can see spirits."
She was stunned. His answer was so brief and simple, but something struck within her. We've just met…how dare he judges my character so easily!
"Well, good day!" He turned his back on her.
Steaming, she marched away.
If all people are like him, I wouldn't be too surprised if they have not gotten past the ice age!
Lyserg Diethyl was just coming home from the university when a pale young girl with plentiful silver hair and bright scarlet eyes groggily stumbled onto the gravel path. He quickly ran to her. "Miss? Miss, are you alright?"
She didn't reply. He touched her forehead, then frowned. The girl was burning with fever! Without hesitation, he lifted the girl into a piggyback, deciding to bring home the girl.
The dowser lived all by himself in his apartment ever since his parents were murdered some years ago. His fists clenched upon the memory. Until now, he couldn't forget the malevolent smile on the young man's face as he left the burning house where his parents were mercilessly imprisoned.
He threw his books down to the sofa and carried the sick girl into his bed. He reached for a face towel and drenched it with water from the leftover in his kettle-heated water. He then started to wipe the girl's face. He sighed, relieved, upon seeing the girl respond to the towel. She was moaning, and whispering something to him.
He brought his head closer to hers.
He frowned, then reluctantly slapped her cheek gently. "Miss? Miss, are you ok? Please tell me your name."
Her eyes flapped open weakly. "X…"
"What's that?" he asked.
A tear began to streak down her cheek. "Fire…" She then broke into a sob.
Lyserg instinctively imprisoned the crying girl in his arms, smoothing her hair.
She must have gone through a very traumatic experience, or why else will she be this incoherent?
He knew so, because he had gone through these experiences too. But he was in a worse situation then. His parents were the only people whom he knew that loved him, and when they died, he was left with nobody to comfort him, just like what he was doing to this stranger. If not for his desire to avenge his parents, he wasn't sure if he would have survived this far in life.
"Your name?" he asked, smoothing the girl's curls. He felt his heart wrench at her sight. She looked so young and fragile, perhaps she was barely eleven. How could fate be so cruel to make this young lass experience already the harshness of reality?
She didn't reply.
"Miss, will you tell me your name?" he asked again.
She blinked, and more tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Onii-chan, don't you dare stop running or you won't be eating dinner tonight!" screamed Pirika as Horo Horo did his eighth lap around the six-kilometer rice fields of their tribe.
"Pirika, d-don't do this to your brother, please!" wailed the boy. "Don't you love me anymore?"
"On the contrary, onii-chan, I'm doing this for your own good." Pirika looked at the flyer handed out to her while she was doing the grocery in Izumo. "There will be a mini-tournament for wrestlers, and the grand prize is five hundred pieces of gold. We need that money to secure our three-times-a-day meal for the whole year."
"And whoever gave you the idea that I can wrestle?" he snapped.
"Well…" She looked at her fingernails. "It is said widely in the history of man that a man can do anything, just as long as he has the right frame of mind. Look, we even sent a man to the moon when he couldn't fly and a man to the bottom of the ocean when he didn't have gills!"
Horo rolled his eyes. "I bet those men you've mentioned did it because they were being pestered by their sisters."
"Hey, you're stalling time!" she yelled. "Go back to your training!"
"Alright, alright!" He then paused. "Last question. When is that wrestling match?"
She blinked innocently. "Didn't I tell you? It will happen tonight in the jamboree!"
The boy's eyes widened, then he wailed, asking Kami-sama why He made his sister so cruel.
Ren Tao turned around. His sister, Jun, was looking at him pensively. "What is it, onee-san?"
"Father has allowed you to continue your training outside the mansion, provided that you return after three months with enough strength to defeat him…" Her words trailed off. It was a common knowledge in the family that En Tao was the strongest member of the Tao clan that was still alive.
Ren smirked. "Piece of cake."
"Mother, on the other hand, says that you must bring home an able shaman bride upon your return here too," continued Jun, who couldn't help but smile.
"S-Shaman bride?" Ren's eyes widened. "W-What the hell- "
"Mother says that like a sword needs a sheath, a warrior needs a lady to restrain him when he is in crazed passion." Jun turned to the window. "Just like Mother is to Father."
The Tao rolled his eyes. "Did you have to tell me something so insignificant?"
"I think what Mother said makes sense," she said thoughtfully. "That's right. A girl is what you need most. Someone like you who have seen so much hatred and violence…"
"Women," he muttered. "I'm leaving tonight."
"Just in time for the town jamboree!" Jun clapped her hands. "Good. A lot of women are out there! Who knows, you might meet her already! You know, the one."
"Shut up," he muttered again.
Anna watched as the town people were putting up a huge tent. She then overheard some women excitedly talking.
"The town jamboree tonight will surely be very memorable!" one wife said.
Her friend nodded. "I heard that even the people from the neighboring town will celebrate with us here in Izumo."
"I can't wait!"
The itako's eyes narrowed at the tent.
A jamboree. It's possible that I might meet some shamans. I better be there tonight.