A/N: Thank you so much for the reviews.

cutieangel – Thanks for your review!

HMgirlKristi – Thanks for the review!

instantR – Wah! This is bad! There really quite a lot of holes in my language. Hehe, I really should stick to simpler words then. Thank you for pointing out all those mistakes. Honestly speaking, I only recently started taking Japanese classes, and my teacher has yet to teach grammar (I didn't even know you don't need to attach desu to a verb) Uu. I didn't mean to defile this beautiful language… Thanks again for enlightening me about my Japanese.

Helena-Jeanne-Chibi – Thankies! I'll keep that in mind!

For those who expect Hao to be the antagonist, you'll be surprised how much he changed. But Hao is Hao, so he can annoy some people to no end. Heehee…

Disclaimer: Hiroyuki-sensei owns SK, not me.

"…" talk

((…)) thoughts

Bold changes in scene/time


Chapter 3: Meeting Again

Asakura Hao. That was the name of the boy standing in front of her. He had midnight black eyes and really long brown hair. He also looked very similar to Yoh. ((And they have the same surname too.)) Shizu remembered her manners, "Arigatou gozaimasu, Asakura-kun."

"I'd prefer you to address me as Hao."

Shizu nodded. Hao may look like Yoh but the aura around him is rather different. While Yoh's was relaxed and warm, Hao had a detached coolness around him. "What were you doing at that kind of height?" Hao pointed up the tree, emphasizing his point. "Oh, I was returning a chick to its nest."

"That's a pretty serious fall." Hao observed. "Hao-sama!" Shizu turned at the sound to find a tiny er, person that rivaled Manta's size. With a headful of really bushy, curly hair and dressed in what seemed to be a large piece of cloth, Opacho hurried towards Hao. "Opacho." Said person latched immediately onto Hao and glared daggers at Shizu. "You better not hurt Opacho's Hao-sama!"

"Of course not. Hao-kun had just saved me." Shizu smiled at them. ((Is that a girl or a boy?))

"Opacho is a boy, in case you're wondering."

"Oh."

Shizu felt herself turning red from embarrassment. "Hao-sama, who's this person?" asked the little boy, the previous suspicion fading at her smile. Shizu kneeled down until she was level with him. "Namae wa Kibouno Shizu desu. Opacho desu ne? Yoroshiku." Opacho clung tighter at Hao's cloak. "Ne, Opacho, would you like to join me for tea?" Opacho frowned as he considered the offer deeply. At last, he nodded slowly. Hao was watching this exchange in an amused manner when Shizu looked up and smiled gently at him. "Would you like to join us too?" Hao blinked, surprised. Then, he smiled, "Tea sounds nice."


Shizu felt her life was going very well. She didn't face the friendless state she was afraid she would be in. In fact, life was offering much fun. Summer vacation will arrive soon, and Shizu looked forward to it. She would spend the day with Yoh and his friends, hanging around Funbari Onsen. At night, sometimes, Hao would accompany her as they star gazed. Shizu said nothing about meeting Yoh's duplicate to anyone. For some reason, she just felt that it was best not to.


The robed figure that was Hao sat with his back leaning on a tree, eyes gazing far into the horizon. A small relaxed smile was on his face, his mind wandering. Faithful Opacho stood by his side. Just suddenly, Hao shot up, body tense and alert. Opacho had wheeled around. "Hao-sama!" Hao nodded. It was barely there for a second, but it was a strong burst of furyoku.

Opacho was quick to trace the furyoku. Hao followed wordlessly, his feet making soft crunching sounds, robe billowing behind him. Opacho led him to a cliff. Peering over the cliff, the shaman noticed how the edge had crumbled. The residue of the furyoku had already faded, and Hao had no choice but to make his way down. Amidst the rubble, Hao caught a glimpse of flesh, a hand. Hao moved closer. The sight made him freeze. Pale skin coloured red with blood, Shizu was sprawled on the ground.


Shizu's residence

Hao stared at the unconscious figure on the bed from the chair he was sitting in. Opacho was curled on his lap; the little one had drifted off not so long ago. Hao had done what he could with Shizu's bleeding head and broken leg. He just hoped that her brain did not sustain any damage, or that she had internal bleeding. Actually, Hao was rather surprised that the brown-haired girl managed to escape that fall with somewhat minor injuries. That kind of height would've been fatal for some. Midnight black eyes reflected the worry that he felt for the girl. Hao snickered inwardly. He, Asakura Hao, worried for a mere human. What a contradiction he was, a shaman who at first tried to vanquish humanity, now feeling concern for a girl.

Of course, it would be saying it rather unjustly if one took into account of Hao's past experiences. Yes, he did try to create a world for shamans. In the process, he had killed many, for the sake of being stronger. His existence had threatened humans, ordinary and with shamanic abilities alike. All for the sake of his ambition. And he failed. His plans were brought to a halt by no other that his own younger twin brother, Asakura Yoh. ((He was a fool.)) But Hao was grateful for this fool's actions. Yoh had the chance to kill him, but he did not. He only chose to break his Oversoul and cut away a large amount of Hao's furyoku. As a result, Hao was weakened and was forced to stay in isolation, waiting for a full recovery. The damage made to his spirit was far worse; Hao lived the first year in bitter spitefulness. It took three years for him to fully regain his furyoku, but in that time, Hao had gotten into a bit of self-reflection. Strange, how time can affect one so. Slowly, as his abilities recovered, his soul mended bit by bit too.

Hao laughed mockingly. He never thought this kind of thing will ever happen. Opacho squirmed slightly on his lap. The long-haired shaman stayed very still for a moment, and then let out his breath slowly. The child had been worried sick. Opacho was close to tears! A child's heart is pure, and it is capable of recognising other forms of kindness and purity. Opacho is particularly sensitive. The fact that he would cry over Shizu showed that the girl meant a lot to them. ((For a human girl, her heart is kinder than any other I've seen before.)) She had helped changed his perspectives. If his little brother were to see him in this situation, would he be surprised.

((Now, about the furyoku…)) There were traces of it at the broken cliff and around Shizu. ((Was she attacked by a shaman? But why? She's only human.)) Hao cast a glance at the brunette. ((Or could she be…)) Hao shook his head slightly. He didn't trace any battle aura. If Shizu was a shaman she would put up a fight. Was someone after her? ((I admit there's a certain strange atmosphere about her.)) More theories formed in Hao's head, each as unlikely as the previous ones. His eyelids were getting heavier and heavier, until he felt sleep overcame him.


"Ssshh!"

"Opacho wants to wake Hao-sama."

"He's still sleeping. Let's not disturb him."

Hao heard the hushed voices and stirred. Shizu was sitting up with Opacho at the foot of her bed. "Hao-sama, ohayou!"

"Ohayou. I'm sorry. Did we wake you?"

"Morning to you too. Ow…" Hao groaned and massaged his sore neck. "Sleeping in the chair was a bad idea." Shizu stated. "Opacho will get Shizu-sama and Hao-sama some water."

"Arigatou." Hao stood and stretched his limbs. "What about you? Feeling alright?" A small smile graced his features.

Shizu nodded. "Hai. I'm sorry for making you worry."

His eyebrows creased gently into a frown. "You know, that was a very dangerous fall. You could've gotten worse injuries. What happened?"

"I don't know. I was standing at the edge of the cliff when it just crumbled."

"You have a tendency to fall from high places." Hao said jokingly.

"I guess I do." Shizu tried to move. Instead, she winced as pain shot through her head and leg. "Don't try to move."

"I have school today."

"Don't be ridiculous. You're not going anywhere."

Just then, Opacho entered, balancing two glasses. "Shizu-sama, here." Shizu nodded her thanks. Hao accepted his glass with a smile. Shizu made a move to get out of bed but Opacho and Hao stopped her.

"You're staying in bed."

"Shizu-sama must rest if she wants to get better."

Shizu sighed. "Hai, hai. I can't win over the two of you."


Funbari Onsen, a week later.

"Yoh-kun, we haven't seen Shizu-san for a week already." Manta had a frown on his face. "I'm worried." Yoh nodded. He was worried too. "Wonder if Ren had seen her?"

"I haven't seen Shizu." Yoh and Manta looked up to see the Chinese shaman at the doorway. Manta sighed, "I hope nothing happened to her."

"Just go and look for her then!"

"Anna!"

"Anna-san!"

"Manta, you've been to her house before right?" The blonde folded her arms. "We'll just go knock on her door and see how she's doing."


Shizu's residence

"Shizu-san no uchi wa achira da." Manta pointed at the old house he had visited the other day. Yoh stepped up to the door and knocked. They heard a muffled sound and the door opened after a while. Yoh and his friends couldn't help gasping. Shizu was using a crutch to walk!

"Konnichiwa. Er, come in!"

"Shizu-san, what happened to you?"

"Here, let me give you a hand." Ren helped the grey-eyed girl to the living room and into an armchair. "What in the world…?"

"I had an accident and broke my leg." Shizu gestured for them to sit.

"No wonder we haven't seen you lately." Yoh said. Manta shook his head in disbelief, "You should've called us or something like that! How can you manage this place alone?"

"I don't want to worry you guys. Besides, I have a few friends over to help me out. I have a bigger problem…" lamented the girl. "I missed a whole week of school!" Manta reached into his bag, "I've got your notes, right here."

"Arigatou, Manta-kun! Since you're here, why don't you stay for dinner?" offered the brunette. Yoh and the others agreed.

Just at that moment, they heard the front door open. "Tadaima!"

"Ah, o kaeri!" All heads turned to the entrance. The sight that greeted them elicited gasps from the guests. For a moment, Yoh wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. For one, Asakura Hao was standing there, mirroring his expression!


Translation

Uchi - House

Achira - That way

Tadaima - Japanese equivalent of 'I'm home.'

O kaeri - Japanese equivalent of 'Welcome home.' (The polite form would be 'o kaeri nasai'

A/N: Heheh…this is all for this chapter…