This story is a Naoe-centered vignette that takes place during the first episode/book of Mirage of Blaze (Honoo no Mirage) after Naoe had seen Takaya and Yuzuru for the first time, but before he has given the bracelet to him. For the sake of clarity, I am assuming a day has passed between these events.Tachibana Yoshiaki, if you haven't seen far enough in the anime, is the name of Naoe's current incarnation, though he rarely uses the name.

Um, it's mostly based on the anime, but might make a few vague references to info from the books, not that much though because I'm still inching my way through the first one myself (with the help of my meager Japanese and two kanji dictionaries :-P). This is my first actual fanfic however, so any comments/criticism would be most appreciated.

Disclaimer: Mirage of Blaze (Honoo no Mirage) is the property of Kuwabara Mizuna, published in Cobalt Books by Shuseisha. I'm just borrowing the characters/plot for my own amusement.


The young man leaned against the elegant green sedan, taking a deep drag from the cigarette loosely held between his fingers, watching as the orange glow slowly consumed the paper and leaves from within. As thick tendrils of smoke wafted up from his cigarette, he very deliberately cleared his mind of all thoughts. Nothing mattered at this moment, nothing but the heat of the cigarette against his fingers, the chill of the car metal against his legs, palpable even through his expensive suit, the sharp taste of the nicotine as it burned his throat. Only these sensations registered- certainly not the memory of dark, furious eyes-Stop that.

For this moment he didn't have to be Naoe Nobutsuna, relic, warrior, revenant; he did not even have to be Tachibana Yoshiaki, respectful and responsible temple priest. Right now he was just a man enjoying a cigarette in the night air.

A breeze brushed past his face, gently mussing sandy-hair and creating lovely abstract images in the rising smoke. Sensibility would demand he retire for the night, it was getting late and he would need all of his strength for the upcoming battle. Takeda Shingen was a formidable enemy even with the Yashashu at full strength, and he was alone. Still, Naoe remained where he was, sleep would not come tonight, he knew. Not after the desecration of the Takeda tombstone, not after seeing him.

It had been sheer luck that he had been close enough to feel the flare of that unfortunate young woman's power, the same power that had destroyed the seal and freed his enemy, as it raged out of control. The scene played itself out in his mind once more, the staring crowd, the woman screaming, enveloped in blue-violet flame, the fair-haired young man watching with horror. It was that one who had caught his attention first, the aura of the Takeda flaring out from behind those cherubic features. It was a new possession, weak for all of the ghost's power, it would be some time before Takeda would exert full control. The other young man, taller, thinner, darker than the first, had barely registered on his consciousness.

It shocked him now that he could have overlooked that presence, as powerful as Takeda's if much more deeply submerged, and one that Naoe knew as well as well, or better, than his own. Perhaps it was that familiarity that had deceived him, he theorized, tapping his finger against the cigarette causing ash to fall free. That all encompassing presence slipping through barriers as though they had never existed, barriers that of course had never been meant to keep him out, filling the void that had been empty for all of Yoshiaki's lifetime. It settled in as though it had never been gone and even now Naoe could still feel the heat of it down in the marrow of his bones, but at the time, he had not even noticed it. He might have overlooked it entirely if the boy had not shouted to his friend, distracting him from his scrutiny.

An odd picture had met his eyes, the dark-haired boy frantically trying to smother the blue-violet flames with his coat of all things. Naoe had been mildly impressed, most would not be able to see the manifestation at all, but faced with the impossible, the boy had not frozen in place as Takeda's host had done but rather leapt into action, as futile as it was. That thought had cut short however, when the boy's furious glare pierced the gaping crowd and locked on to his own, and behind his sunglasses, Naoe felt the jolt down to his soul.

There was no recognition in that deceptively delicate visage but it had not mattered. This was Kagetora, and the draught of his presence was stronger and headier than any cigarette and it burned. He had feared, truly feared, that he would never feel such again. The tragedy thirty years before and the recollection of his own role in it had left Naoe floundering, drowning in guilt and despair. Then all these years had passed, without even a trace! He had at least felt the others, though he had only bothered contacting Haruie, but of their leader, there had been no sign. Uesugi Kagetora, leader of the Uesugi Yashashu might as well have never existed. The despair had drove Naoe once to attempt suicide, and it was only the monastery and a shred, a mere shred, of hope that kept him tethered to this mortal life. Now his hopes were realized, and he felt almost lightheaded with that realization.

Kagetora was alive and apparently whole, though it seemed that the memory of the Yashashu leader had been lost. A Kagetora in full possession of his facilities would have certainly reacted differently to the woman than trying to smother the flames with his coat, and the reaction would have been undoubtedly more effective, and more destructive. Memories were a small sacrifice to pay for the chance to see that spirit in the boy's fierce gaze, stripped down to the basic underlying, undeniable essence. In a strange way, Naoe mused, this boy was so much more of Uesugi Kagetora than any of his past incarnations, freed from the burdens carried through multiple lifetimes, purified as though cast into ritual flame. He was a phoenix rising from the ashes to soar into the sky.

Takeda ceased to matter in the face of this discovery, though he would need to be dealt with soon it was not important. What was important was that here was a Kagetora with whom he could start fresh, doing everything right this time. Here was a Kagetora that was unburdened by the past, giving Naoe the opportunity to atone.

This was a Kagetora who would be his equal. Naoe took a deep breath, smoke filling his lungs, even as the full realization of it filled his mind. This boy was everything Kagetora was, beautiful, powerful, fierce, but he was also young, lacking experience, innocent. He could teach the boy, guide him, he was not foolish enough to think he could ever be Kagetora's superior, but this time, for the first time ever, they would be on equal footing. Kagetora's raw power matched by Naoe's experience, brash action countered by calm contemplation, fire and ice. They would be well-matched, and this time, when Kagetora came into his own, regained what was lost-Naoe had no doubt that he would, Naoe would be not only lieutenant and servant, but teacher and partner. For the first time, Kagetora would need Naoe as much as Naoe needed him. The thought hit like a jolt of pure nicotine through his blood. Kagetora would need him.

Naoe pushed himself off of the car, glancing down at the burned remnant of his cigarette, glowing faintly with a last defiant spark. With a casual motion he discarded it, grounding it out with his shoe. Sleep was a good idea, he mused, climbing into his car. Tomorrow he would pay a visit to Narita Yuzuru, a bit of research had unearthed name, residence.acquaintances of Takeda's host. Takeda's hold on the boy was still weak enough to be blocked, and Ougi Takaya was Narita's best friend. After that, one would have to see.

As the car drove away, leaving a small cigarette stump forgotten in its wake. Faint wisps of smoke rose into the night air and were gone.

Um, explanation, right. Well, I find the relationship between Naoe and Takaya/Kagetora particularly fascinating with a complexity rarely seen in canon couples (though occasionally explored in fanfiction), and I wanted to try to revisit the very beginning from Naoe's perspective. I hope I managed to convey at least a part of the love/hate obsession that defines the character. Thanks!