A Slight Distraction
It was a typically hot summer day, but Akira ignored the discomfort as he glided along the frozen surface of a small pond. The group had stopped off to rest during the hottest part of the day, and he had decided to take this chance to work on his control over his chosen element. He had come upon this particular method of testing his control by accident shortly after Kyo had left and the Shiseiten had first disbanded. He had been so enraged by Kyo's leaving, so hurt by what he saw as a betrayal of the group he had come to think of as his family, that Akira's concentration had scattered like so many ice crystals in a harsh wind.

For a while, he had been completely incapable of summoning the concentration it took to call up his elemental attacks, so he had fought without them. However, he had always been conscious of something missing while fighting, and was determined to discover a way to hone his concentration in such a way that almost nothing would be able to break it. He just hadn't been sure how he was going to accomplish his goal, for whenever he tried to summon up his ice attack, anger at Kyo would infiltrate his mind and cause him to lose his focus. This lasted throughout the summer and into the beginning of winter, when he stumbled upon the answer to his dilemma accidentally.

He had been passing through a village when he overheard some of the local kids discussing when the local fishing pond would freeze over so they could all go and skate on the surface. Akira had paused to listen as they described the different games they would eventually engage in, and an idea began to form on how he could use this knowledge to his advantage. He had swiftly moved out into the countryside, where he eventually came across a body of water that was larger than a fishing pond, but smaller than a lake. The air had not yet become cold enough to freeze over the surface, but it was cold enough to give him a little help.

It had taken a few days, but eventually he was able to concentrate enough to summon his power and create a thin layer of ice over the surface of the water. It hadn't been thick enough to hold even the lightest of beings, but it had been a start and encouraged him to continue with his exercises. After several weeks, he had managed to form a layer thick enough to support his weight, and he was able to glide over the surface without losing his focus on maintaining the ice's solidity beneath his feet. Eventually he was able to once again summon his power as effortlessly as he drew one of his short swords, and he took to practicing his sword work on the surface of the frozen water in an effort to hone his power to such a fine point that the barest thought would bring it rushing to the foreground during a fight.

Akira sighed as he executed a graceful turn on this new "practice field" he had created. He was now able to maintain his power in such a way that not even the scorching midday summer sun could cause a single area of ice to melt, something he found very gratifying as he had left the group with an iced over Benitora, who had gotten a little too noisy for Akira's peace of mind.

"How wonderful, Akira-san!" a familiar, and unexpected, voice called out from the edge of his impromptu skating rink.

Startled, Akira turned his head in the direction Yuya's voice had come from at the same time his foot caught on a small area of ice that was slightly rougher than the rest of the smooth surface, and he lost his balance and pitched forward. Normally, this wouldn't have been enough to cause him to lose his focus, but the combination of sensing Yuya at the edge of the pond along with the sudden sensation of losing his balance and pitching forward at a dizzying rate caused his concentration to waver, and he landed prone on the surface of a pond full of freezing cold water with a sound between a flesh smacking thud and splash. He bobbed there for a moment with several chunks of rapidly melting ice bumping against him before sinking beneath the surface, only to be jolted out of his slight shock by the feel of small hands hauling at his body. Putting his hands down, he found he had been closer to the edge of the pond than he had originally thought, and managed to push himself to his feet and found Yuya tugging at his arm and gazing at him with a worried look on her face.

"Are you all right, Akira-san? I didn't mean to disturb you!" the blond cried.

"I'm all right, Yuya-san," Akira reassured her as they sloshed their way back to the bank. "I was just thinking a little too deeply, I guess, and you startled me."

"I'm really sorry about that," Yuya said as she sat down on the dry bank next to him, letting the warmth of the sun soak into her slightly chilled limbs. "But you looked so graceful on the ice that I just had to comment."

"Ah, thank you," Akira stammered slightly, blushing as he began to wring cold pond water out of his hakama, but his efforts were wasted as from out of the surrounding forest came . . .


. . . And Kageboushi Benitora came flying out of the trees and jumped into the pond in such a way that a wave of chilled water washed over the two occupants of the bank. Before the two, now very soaked, individuals could get their bearings once again, Bontenmaru and Yukimura came racing out of the trees and jumped into the water, causing yet another wave to crash over the bank.

"This is wonderful!" Benitora crowed as he splashed around. "Nothing like a dip in a pond to cool you off during the hottest part of the day, I always say! And thanks to Akira-han, this water is cooler than normal!"

"Yukimura-sama," Saizou cried as he, Akari, Sasuke, Kyo, and Hotaru emerged into the small clearing. "You'll catch your death of cold if you stay in the water too long!"

"Let him be, you old worry wart," Sasuke commented as he quickly took a perch in a nearby tree. "A little cold water isn't going to hurt Yukimura."

Kyo settled himself under a nearby tree as Akari grabbed Yuya from the bank and dragged her back into the pond in order to join the water fight that had erupted between its current occupants. Akira just stood there with his jaw hanging open, wondering just how it had gone from peaceful to chaotic in such a short amount of time.

Hotaru wandered over, managing to keep a safe distance from the water's edge as he leaned over and said in Akira's ear, "Don't let Kyo see too much of your feelings for her."

Akira whipped his head around to find that the fire user had moved several yards away and was settling down underneath a tree. He stomped over and demanded, "What are you talking about?"

"Huh? Talking about what?" Hotaru asked, giving Akira a blank look before returning his attention to the shifting patterns of sunlight through the tree leaves. Akira opened and closed his mouth a few times, before he managed to summon up his feelings with a single word.



Notes: Anyone who's ever accidentally, or deliberately, performed a belly flop is very familiar with the noise your body makes as it smashes into the surface of the water. Good thing Akira had on his hakama and haori, otherwise he'd be suffering more than soaked clothing and bruised ego.

Kageboushi - roughly translated, Shadow User. Or rather, Benitora's nickname.

This is the unBeta'd version as my Beta Reader has been MIA for a little while now (she'll be back soon, though), so I apologize for any grammar, spelling, etc problems. :grin: This is also in response to the LoveDeeper community challenge on live journal.