Yami's koi: Thank you so much for reviewing me… I can't believe you gies still remember this fic! XD

Neutral Man: Check out her deviant art gallery. I have to advertise because she feels bad about doing it.

Yami's koi: Um, whatever. Here's the ye old update. But first, lemme just say… I was really, REALLY worried about writing the yaoi scene. So many people are writing yaoi so much better than me these days. I've put off writing the yaoi scene so many times, I just wrote around it. Bad, huh? Anyways, here ya go! You gies deserve it. I wouldn't have updated if it weren't for you gies. :D

Ren lay back once more against the bark of the tree, smirking as Faust and Manta appeared, Eliza and Mosuke nowhere to be seen. He made a mental note to put the two men into a category in his mind that stated 'In denial.' He decided he would not do this without good reason, and such reasons their placement was quite simple.

For one, opposites attract. On the one hand, you have the tall, intelligent German Doctor, who never failed to stun passers-by into a star-crossed gaze of lust. On the other, you had Manta, a short, equally intelligent bookworm, who would be bestowed a high honour if any girl gave him so much as half a glance.

Ren grinned at this, despite himself. Now he was acting like the matchmaker of the group… How very girly. Perhaps he too should be categorised, like he was doing to the others.

"Hello, Ren," Faust greeted, in his usual manner. Ren raised a hand apathetically, looking as if he was trying to swat a fly. An extremely slow fly, that is.


"Meh isn't a word."

"How do you know it's not a part of that crazy language he speaks?"

"If you mean Chinese, then it is not crazy, just reserved for the more complex of us, Horohoro," Ren stated, eyes falling to a close as he attempted to block out what his companions were saying, as they chatted to each other cheerfully.

"I can't believe the Shaman Tournament is over… And that Yoh won it all!" Manta confided, staring over at the Village wistfully. "I wish we could go back and relive these past few months… They've been so great. The nights, the days, the fights, everything."

Faust smiled. "Yes, they have." He agreed, shedding himself of his shirt in the humid evening air. The material had been sticking to his skin, due to sweat, and the man began to fan himself as soon as the shirt was discarded, smiling softly.

Ren couldn't help but grin at this. He watched Manta's reactions carefully, and decided instantly that Manta had a crush on the Necromancer. The teenager watched Faust's muscles flex as the shirt was lifted, and the slightest hint of a blush, almost undetectable under the shade of the tree, caressed across Manta's cheeks.

Ren giggled quietly, trying to contain himself, but the attempt failed miserably. This was just so perfect! He could see them now… Manta being held up by Faust's strong arms until they were at the other's eye level, and then their lips would join in a kiss, the younger of the two blushing. They would make a perfect couple, Ren decided, despite the factors that were restraining them.

Faust and Manta simply stared at the absolutely insane Chinese teenager before them, having no idea as to what was going through his head. Ren glanced at them again as his laughter was about to die down, and instead he carried on, clutching his stomach and kicking his legs comically as he struggled to breathe. Mental images of the two kissing re-entered his mind, and so his laughter carried on, even louder and uncharacteristic than before.

Horo attempted to glare at Ren, deciding that although at first glance, Ren appeared to be simple; he was, in actual fact, very confusing. Maybe he was one of those people who, in life, you were never meant to understand. Or maybe the atmosphere was clouding Horo's thinking.

"So… Faust…" Horo began, edging away from the Chinese Shaman ever so slightly, "… Where's Eliza?"

Faust shrugged his naked shoulders, rubbing the dark patches beneath his eyes as he spoke. "I have no idea. Probably talking with the other ghosts." He said dismissively, as if it were no concern of his. "Doing womanly things that have failed in interesting me on many occasions."

Ren giggled at this, having only just recovered from his previous fit of laughter. Talking with the other ghosts, was she? Unlikely that Amidamaru would go near her, considering he was probably making out with, or fucking, Yoh. Ren sat up then, back touching the scratchy tree trunk, stretching his arms lazily.

"It seems likely, doesn't it?" Ren simply said, much to Horo's interest.

This was one of those rare times when he actually caught onto something. Ren was saying something beneath that comment and quiet snigger. But what? He just needed to read between the very fine lines of what the other Shaman was saying… But that kind of thing had never been, and never would be, one of Horo's strengths.

Faust, oblivious to Horo's musings, nodded absent-mindedly as he continued to stare at the sun setting over the horizon. He threw himself back onto the grass, sighing dramatically. It took his intelligent mind a few moments to construct a sentence in perfect English, and possibly less time to gain a reaction from someone.

"What a day!"

"Tell me about it," Manta murmured, following Faust's actions slowly. He fiddled with his fingers for a moment.

Insecurities were practically a dominating feeling in a teenager's life. So far, Manta's main concern had become related to his appearance, and how appealing he looked. But to have made changes, he would have to go through the practically humiliating process of his voice breaking, and that of a very fast, very sudden growth spurt. And to do all of that, for a man he would never be with, seemed just the slightest bit degrading.

And the reasons why he could not be with Faust? Well, the last time Manta checked, he was happily married to Eliza. Which probably meant that the man was straight… And even if he did swing both ways, he was, again, tied down to Eliza. Manta frowned slightly, but then stared back over the shimmering lights and sounds of Dobie Village, and tried to forget about his insecurities, even if for just one moment.

Faust, trying to discard the thoughts that Manta was troubled, stared at the now subdued Ren, who was now in a deep argument with Horo. Nothing new there. From the way this was going, Faust would have to converse with his diminutive friend.

"Talk to me, Manta." The German doctor said gently, trying not to pry.

Manta glanced up at Faust reluctantly. He knew very well that the man was not going to be angry with him if Manta decided not to confide in him… But oddly, Manta felt obliged to do so. Despite once being under the belief that Faust was an insane, twisted Necromancer, obsessed on one goal and the things he would do to accomplish such a target, Manta knew different now. Manta had, at first, feared Faust, and the man had sensed this, taking the teenager aside one day.

"… I cannot blame you for not wanting to be around me. I understand entirely. What I did was inexcusable. And if I could go back in time to reverse what happened during that match, then believe me, Manta… I would have done so much sooner. I've been wracked with guilt, and I want to try and offer my hand in friendship to you."

Manta stared into the dark rimmed eyes of the Shaman, seeing the fear, sincerity and hope within them. They were such sad eyes… It did not suit the man, although the dwarf-like boy knew it had been a common look on Faust since Eliza died.

When Manta did not respond, purely because of shock, Faust continued, wary of having the boy avoid him, steal terrified glanced at him whenever he was around.

"I am so sorry, Manta. I know that can't erase the experience from your mind, but it is the least that I can do to prove to you how guilty, how stupid I feel."

Manta shook his head. "You don't need to prove anything to me." Faust looked down at the boy, eyes boring into his own. "I don't think you'll do it again."

Faust shook his head. "Never." He said earnestly, with as much energy as a child. He awkwardly offered the boy his hand. "It may take some time for us to become proper friends, but may we at least make a start now?"

Manta nodded, accepting the hand, blushing when he realised just how low down Faust had had to crouch, just to give him a handshake. He tried not to let the man see though, turning away strategically as the Doctor rose to his usual height. The two made suggestions as to where to go, and there they went, travelling into Town together.

By the time they had come back, they were chatting to each other as if they had known each other all their lives'.

"Manta? The Doctor is awaiting your response!" Ren trilled, chuckling once more. Horo gave him a weird look, and edged even closer to Manta and Faust, not wishing to catch some sort of laughing disease.

Manta started, and blushed. He stared into his lap, unable to look up at anyone. "I just…" He shrugged, "… Wish I was taller."

Faust smiled gently, nodding in understanding. "But you're an amazing person, Manta-kun. Why worry about your height, when your other characteristics are worth so much more?"

Manta's blush intensified, ad he kicked himself mentally for doing so. In retaliation to this anti-blush policy, Manta snapped his head back up, determined on facing Faust at least once after he complimented the short one.

"Well… I don't know. Maybe because there are people who take fun from my height. Like Anna." He said, savagely.

Faust laughed, now being very sympathetic. Anna could be very careless with her choice of victims and insults. No wonder the poor boy was so sensitive about his height.

"But does Anna's opinion even matter to you? She barely knows you."

"Like she'd want to," Manta spat before he could stop himself. He bit his tongue then, quite literally, to prevent himself from going on. Faust did not want to spend a lovely summer's evening listening to an adolescent talking about the problems in his life… He could have more fun with a wet cat.

Faust sighed heavily. "So you would rather believe the word of a person who barely knows you, say a passer-by in the street, than someone who has gotten to know you right down to the very core? You'd rather listen to someone who takes fun from exploiting your weaknesses, rather than those who push them aside and judge you solely by what's within? You would prefer to listen to someone you will never see again, as opposed to those who know and love you?"

Manta blushed again at this, totally abandoning his policy. That was so sweet, and also so very true. How come Faust was always the one to think of the most darling, esteem building things to say? Just at the precise moment Manta was about to lower his face, Faust caught his chin. He shook his head sadly.

"Don't do that. You don't have to be ashamed of anything. And don't you dare feel the need to hide anything. Otherwise, you will have to answer me, and you will not appreciate what I will say to you when I hear some bastard has wasted your life by making you feel sad."

Again, Manta felt a blush touch the slowly forming cheekbones, but did not try to pull himself from Faust's grip. Not that it could be called that, Manta realised… It was so soft, so gentle… And his hands! Who would have thought that Faust would have silky smooth hands? 'It must be all of those medical creams,' Manta thought idly, sighing internally when Faust let go.

Ren had watched this exchange of quiet words, and smiled secretly, not wanting to break the moment with his laughter. This was actually quite nice, seeing a young love, with the other being totally oblivious.

At this moment, Ren made a small bet with himself. He smiled up into the darkening sky, wishing upon the first star that he saw.

'Please… Don't let this evening end.' He thought desperately, unexpectedly. He grinned back at Horo, who too had zoned out for the past few minutes of peace, and struck up a conversation that soon would lead into the typical argument.

And Ren Tao, a young Shaman with many hopes and possibilities, would never have had it any other way.

Yoh and Amidamaru

Amidamaru was thrown off guard by the sudden kiss, but immediately moaned and slipped his tongue out to meet Yoh's. His hands ghosted over the boy's chest, the older man grinning when he heard the younger moan quietly. His arms rested at the small of Yoh's back, his callous hands massaging the skin there. His fingertips slithered under the Shaman's shirt, fingertips dancing across the delightfully soft skin, smirking when he felt Yoh shiver into their kiss.

Now focusing solely on his tongue, Amidamaru stroked his way along Yoh's tongue, slipping his tongue inside his warm cavern before darting back inside his own, dragging his teeth along Yoh's lower lip. Yoh gasped and gripped onto the samurai's tresses, whimpering as he felt his body being assaulted by this new sensation. Tingles of pleasure shook through the Shaman's spine, and he bucked his all-too evident erection against his lover's thigh.

What usually was a gift was now becoming a curse. Yoh's lips left Amidamaru's to catch a quick breath, cheeks dusted with a pretty blush. Savouring the sight whilst it lasted, Amidamaru quickly dipped his head down and pressed gentle, almost none existent kisses along his liege's cheek. The patches of skin where his lips had touched tingled, and Yoh bit his lip, knowing he needed to feel more of such touches. His eyes wandered to Amidamaru's, adoring the look of uncontrollable, raw need in the samurai's eyes. And what made it even sexier was that the samurai wanted him. Without another word, Yoh crushed their lips together again, feeling as if a great weight had lifted off of him. Although the matter he had just abandoned for thirty minutes was indeed daunting, Amidamaru was a good kisser. In other words, the man was a useful distraction.

Being the wise man he was, Amidamaru already has assumed this much. He too, wanted to have some time where he didn't have to think of the consequences that shouldn't exist, consequences he felt partially responsible for. Pushing that guilt from his mind, the samurai returned the kiss passionately, leading the kiss. His and Yoh's tongues battled for dominance, but eventually the warrior broke the kiss and pushed Yoh back, onto the couch. Here, he rested himself atop of Yoh's body, and resumed the kiss.

Moaning, Yoh arched his body upwards to connect with that of Amidamaru's, the open mouthed kiss proving too much for him when he felt blood rush to his cock. Before he realised what he was doing, he wrapped his legs around the older man's waist, rocking his hips up hesitantly, unsurely. Amidamaru groaned and rocked back, dragging his teeth across Yoh's lips, loving the quiet moans his love made when he moved down to the Shaman's neck. The spirit dragged his teeth along the skin, suckling as he did so, delighting in the moans he was extracting from the young boy beneath him.

Yoh's fingers stroked through Amidamaru's hair – A silent plea for him to never stop this. The warrior complied eagerly, biting down gently on Yoh's skin to test the boy's pain tolerance. When he was certain that he would not hurt him, the spirit bit down on the skin harder, sucking as he did so to form a red mark, branding the boy as his own.

"'Maru…" Yoh gasped, opening his eyes at the surprise mixture of pain and pleasure. Once the feeling ebbed away, he settled once again, and Amidamaru continued with his ministrations, a faint smile on his face.

Both understood what that mark meant. No matter what, they would not allow themselves to succumb to Yohmei and Mikihisa's wishes. They would not separate for anyone. They would not relent in the pursuit of persuading Yoh's family that what he was doing wasn't wrong, because this was making him so happy…

Ren, on the hill

"Well, I'm off to do something more worthwhile than talk with losers." Ren stated, glancing at his watch wearily. Truly, this had been an interesting evening, for everyone. And this atmosphere was so heady, the scent of grass floating in the air, settling around Ren like the humidity that threatened to drift him into a deep sleep…

But no. Ren had to now think of an idea. An idea that would save his ex enemy.

Odd… when had Yoh officially become friends? It sounded strange to hear himself think of Yoh as a previous adversary. But this was an interesting question to be proposed.

Had it been when they had drawn against each other in the preliminary rounds? Or perhaps when travelling to Dobie Village? Whenever the event of their rivalry evolving into friendship had occurred, it must have happened gradually, for Ren could not pick out a certain memory in which the two became mutual friends. Stretching the tiredness from his arms and legs reluctantly, Ren pushed himself to his feet, murmuring a quiet goodbye to his chatting friends. He did not dare glance at Manta who, since the appearance of Eliza a few minutes ago, had gone strangely quiet. Surely another clue that he liked Faust! Ren's lips touched on a smirk for a few moments as he walked down the gentle gradient of the ground.

As soon as the Chinese Shaman stepped back into town, the various street merchants typically bombarded him. He spotted Silva failing to interest a previous Shaman Tournament candidate, sighing as he lit a cigarette.

"You have to work during your half hour break? What a boner killer."

Silva shrugged, smirking. "It's called, eternally bitchy one, being an Officiant. And just because the Tournament is over, doesn't mean we're unemployed. Goldva won't allow that." He tilted his head in the direction of Yoh's apartment. "You heading back?"

Ren nodded, feigning interest in a small bangle that he had watched Silva try to sell just a moment ago. "It's almost time."

"I'll give you a discount, if you're interested." Silva mumbled, taking one long, tired drag of his cigarette, as if it would be his last.

Ren gave Silva a look that could have been questioning his sanity. Silva shrugged and didn't ask again. He flicked ash from the end of his cigarette, losing it to the slight wind that had recently picked up. He watched it flutter down the sidewalk, until it disintegrated into nothingness upon contact with the floor. He sighed and, holding the fag between his lips, began to roll up his stock. Ren simply watched, not feeling in the least bit inclined to help the man, despite knowing him well, and being friends with him.

A few moments later, when the referee was ready, the two began to walk off, in the direction of Yoh's temporary apartment. Silva eventually broke the sullen silence, almost regrettably.

"Do you think we'll be able to come up with something?"

Ren shot the man a quizzical glare. "You're related to Yoh. You know what his family are like. What do you think?"

Silva grimaced. "Even so… Ever since I've gotten closer to Yoh, his nature has rubbed off on me. I keep saying to myself things like, 'It'll be all right,' or 'It'll all work out eventually.'" Silva grinned sheepishly. "I just hope it's not false hope I have. I don't like being let down." His eyes narrowed when Silva Wing reappeared, squawking loudly.

"You're gonna be late! You're gonna be late!"

"Ahh, fuck off."

Ren turned around at the sound. He glared furiously at the Ainu who had now thrown his arm over his shoulders, cursing him for following them. Hadn't he blown him off good and proper?

"Hey gies! Faust is making out with Eliza again, and Manta told me to fuck off, so I figured I'd hang with you gies! Neat, huh?" The snowboarder grinned widely, oblivious to the tension in the air. "So, where are we gies going?"

"Me and Silva," Ren muttered, through clenched teeth, "Are going to see Yoh."

Horo didn't quite catch the hint. He rested more of his weight onto Ren's unprepared body, and snickered when the boy faltered in his steps for just one moment. "Awesome! I wanted to congratulate him on his Shaman Tournament victory anyways! Let's go!"

Ren's eyebrow twitched. "Listen carefully. Me and Silva are going to see Yoh. What part of that do you not understand?"

Horo's face dropped, and Silva sighed. The Shaman tried not to look too disappointed as he turned his head and set off in the opposite direction, without so much as a word of farewell. Horo glared ahead, wanting desperately to go back to Faust, Eliza and Manta, but then a sudden thought occurred to him.

What if they, like Silva and Ren, did not want him there, either? Faust would be preoccupied with Eliza, and Manta would be feeling sorry for himself, and Horo would most probably only add to his stress levels, until the young man broke and lost his cool. Yeah… That would be what would happen. No doubt about it. Horo's pace slowed, and he found himself standing at the bottom of the hill, where he saw Faust looking at him. Faust spotted the teenager and waved, a boisterous gesture for the boy to come over.

'I'm gonna have to decline,' Horo warned the man in his thoughts, 'I'll only piss you off, like I do to everyone else. And then if I tell you what's wrong, I'll only be feeling sorry for myself. Fuck, no wonder nobody can stand me. I don't even think I'd stand me, if I was someone else.'

Without so much as a response to Faust's wave, Horo circled around the hill at a top pace, arms moving faster at his side to increase his speed. Horo didn't bother to stop when a searing stitch arced across his right side, and did not slow when he was in the town, using his agility to dodge between the Shamans who were enjoying the nightlife and entertainment, unlike him. Not caring where he was running too, Horo turned a corner and sped through a darkened alley, hurtling past the trashcans that littered his eyesight every few moments, made out vaguely by dim lights and blurred eyesight.

Whilst Horo sped past sights and sounds, lights and laughter, Ren and Silva were making their way back to Yoh's apartment. They could make out the small, yellowish building from the illuminated street lamps that were dotted along the street, and Ren began to contemplate what he had done, whilst Silva muttered quietly to his spirit familiars.

He couldn't deny that what he had done was uncalled for, and had definitely hurt Horo's feelings. Ren had been doing an awful lot of that lately, especially to the Ainu. Sure, the two were very different in some respects, and yet shared some very valuable qualities that was the root of most arguments, but this time, Ren knew, he had gone over the line. He'd been toeing it for a while, but all in good fun. He'd never quite lost his cool like that in front of Horo before, and it was taking him a while to compose himself. Reminding himself of which family he belonged to seemed to help, but then even that only gave him a distant heartache that they would berate him when he got back home. They would discard all of Ren's other achievements, accounting solely for the time when he lost his chance of becoming the Shaman King. Any other parent would have been secretly disappointed, yet would be brimming with pride and tears upon their next meeting, whereas Ren would be faced with stern words and cruel gestures.

In some ways, Ren could envy Horo. He had a family, all of whom supported and loved him unconditionally. Such customs were so different to what Ren was used to, and this explained why the Tao had previously mocked methods of cooperation and respect for others. He had lost all respect for anyone, and was neglecting those he called his spirit guardians because of that. He could not cooperate with anyone; due to the harsh teaching methods and morals his Uncle had taught him at an early age. He could only consider his guardian spirit as a tool, soon to be replaced with a better tool, one that would better suit the task at hand. Bason would have been discarded, all memories of the struggles they battled through together pushed to the back of the mind, regarded solely as a time of weakness. If it had been anyone but himself, Ren would have felt nothing more than the deepest sympathy and regret for that person.

However, Ren wasn't someone else. He was the one who had witnessed mind-numbingly disgusting sights, including one that had decided to be his first memory… Of course, it soon had become his worst…

Flashback, Ren's POV

I was four years old on that day. At four, almost every child in the world focuses their birthday as one thing – A time when a lot of people around you give you presents. This is the order of things, the way that things should be. Just a child turning four, receiving gifts that would soon be used, and possibly broken. There should be little more to be concerned about.

However, when I awoke on that day, I knew that something was awry. I knew that what I was feeling shouldn't be, that it was not in the right order of things, even though I was only four, but the thoughts quickly left me when my sister came into the room. Being four years older than me, she had, no doubt, already experienced what I was about to, for she did not do as she usually did on my birthday.

For once, she did not come in, with a tray full of breakfast foods in her small, delicate hands, with perhaps a little orange juice or milk splashing on her freshly washed nightdress, her little voice singing happy birthday for all to hear. Instead, what happened was that she entered the room, and kissed her brother solemnly on the cheek.

"Happy birthday, Ren Tao. Today is the day that you become a man... The day you accept your destiny." She whispered, giving me a wide hug. Because I was young, tired and excited, all I really wanted was to push her the hell away from me, so that I could rush downstairs in delight, beaming at the faces of my family who bore gifts. But when Momma entered the room, she lowered her voice to a whisper.

"When Uncle takes you away into the basement, close your eyes, Renny. Please. It will do you no good seeing…"

"Happy birthday to you…" Momma began to sing, seeing that I was awake. Jun pulled away from me and fixed a wide smile onto her face, tears overflowing from her emerald eyes as Uncle entered the room. She hid her face behind her mother's body effectively, the look making her age drop considerably. Upon reflection of this memory, she probably looked terrified, but she had twisted some of Momma's robes to hide her face, so my assumptions are left best to my imagination.

"Today you will take a big step in becoming a boy. After this day, you will begin training for a big tournament that's coming up." Was all that Uncle said, destroying a fragment of the mood.

Of course, being a child, I paid no heed to my Uncle's words. "Presents!" I cried impatiently, bringing a reluctant smile to Momma's face. She nodded, and took my hand as we descended the stairs together. Later I would walk up this same staircase and vomit over the gold and crimson walls, defiling paintings of Tao history and elaborate kanji there.

So, I opened presents without a fuss. I tore wrapping paper off presents after present, giving little unintelligible sounds to voice my approval, losing the capability to speak in my excitement. Momma was smiling and laughing at my antics, whilst Jun remained quiet and unsociable. Uncle dragged her out of the room for a few minutes, which passed unnoticed by me at the time, but the next time I glanced over at her, there was an odd brightness to her eyes that were not explained entirely by the fake smile she had been 'advised' to wear.

After breakfast, Uncle began relaying to me the events of the day. I waited impatiently for him to finish, which was when I foolishly decided to act upon my very childish, very unwise curiosity.

"Uncle, Jun says you have something to show me down in the basement."

Yami's koi OMG how crap was the yaoi scene! Not hot at all… Meh. But thanks to Siarra Fenris, AKA Fenris Mourningstar penname, please check out her stuff, she is a very talented author and very valuable friend of mine), for helping me to adjust my style so that it wasn't quite so… awkward. So fantasy-like. Thank you to all of the people who have shown an interest in this again, I am so happy that there are people out there willing to read my stuff. It really helps. :) I hope you have enjoyed this chapter, but please leave me a review to show your… Level of enjoyment. :)


X yamiskoi X

PS: I have another three exams yet to be taken, all this month. Please understand that… y'know… I might not be able to update all that quickly. I will try to write if I allow myself a day's break, I promise. 