Standard disclaimer applies.
Author's notes: One of the things I like about Shaman King is the dynamic between Hao and Yoh and how Takei shows them as two different persons but at the same time sharing many similarities. I wanted to show something like that here, Hao and Yoh simply being themselves, and hopefully I did it right. Enjoy!

November 12, 2004
Revised: April 2008

A gentle breeze played the oak tree's leaves, swaying softly its branches. The sun went down and tainted the sky wine red, oranges, and royal purple. He stood there in the silence of the afternoon, looking unfazed at the horizon as the last sun rays died. It was astounding that sights like this wrapped him so in their velvety magic.

"What do you want, Hao?" he spoke in a low voice, still looking at the setting sun. It amused me how he never changed; how he could be guarded while looking so carefree at the same time and yet be as clear as the water running down the streams in Izumo. I smiled to myself (a smirk more than a smile, but my lips did curve upwards), I hadn't expected him to find out until much later but this was how it was: two of the same flesh and soul.

"My, my," I started in a mock tone as I came out from my hideout between the branches. One quick jump and I was standing beside him. We both stood against the large shadows of the trees. "Look at the welcoming I got just for visiting my little brother. And one that just wants to be thoughtful."

I had been sleeping in one of the lower branches of the tree when he came over, in all truths. It hadn't been until a few moments later after I woke up, alerted by his warm, plausible energy, that I realized he was there too. Surprisingly enough, we'd thought of coming to the same quiet spot within the forest without ever thinking of meeting one another.

"Stop it, Hao-aniki," he turned to look at me with a bold expression, frowning lightly. It was one of the few times he called me his brother. And it was one of the few times I saw him wear a serious mask gracing over his features. That face, however, I was getting used to see lately when I was fighting on the arena, killing little bugs.

"Why are you looking so grim, Yoh?" I asked casually, and then, voiced out my thoughts as I continued smiling unworriedly, "Such face doesn't suit you." It didn't, really.

He smiled somewhat bitterly, again another gesture that wasn't his, and shook his head in a sad motion. Yoh looked back at me and held my gaze; onyx eyes staring back at onyx. Mine were darker, but his were deeper. We could be mistaken as a water droplet split in two, but there were too many things that made us different. We were like wind and fire, of the same nature but far unlike the other. There was much to be understood about us both, but I truly thought it wouldn't be happening any time soon.

"Today is 'Kaachan's birthday," he stated.

"Oh, yes..." I nodded, my features darkening visibly. So this all was about Keiko... huh?

It was a subject I never really spent time to dwell on. Or cared to do so. My ties with my biological family hadn't mattered to me much in this lifetime, except that of my bond with Yoh, and that had been merely because he was my other half, the possible key to reaching my goals. And yet... Even if I had no attachment whatsoever to my so-called family, Asakura Keiko had once bore me inside her womb and her body had protected and nurtured me. She was... my mother too.

Asakura Keiko was indeed my mother, the very same woman who had been willing to sacrifice her sons. For this, I had once despised her. But deep inside, I had always known that it had been her duty as part of her clan to do as told and accept her fate, even if it was inevitable going against herself and her love as a mother. I knew that at the times, she still wept at night, never forgiving herself for not being able to protect her firstborn. Sometimes, I even have had to stop myself from pitying her.

There was nothing she could do, anyway, to fight destiny. I was born to be Hao. I was a menace to mankind.

"Why would that trouble you?" I tried to smile at him like it were nothing, but I was gritting my teeth tightly.

It never did please me having to think about my mother or my ridiculous family. I didn't have time to be bothered by them. I was who I was, and I would fulfill my dream even if it meant stepping on one or two or a thousand of bugs.

"'Kaachan is sad because of us." Yoh clenched his fists and tried to keep his calm. I never thought something other than myself could upset my always peaceful brother this much. Me, and perhaps that girl that is always on his heels. That little girl was interesting enough, being able to change his moods so.

"Of us?" I asked again, indifferently. I was persistent in my attempt to sound even as well. I would not let him know that this was annoying.

"Us fighting each other," he said simply, "it pains 'Kaachan."

He didn't go on any more, despite having so many words to continue with. He didn't because I knew and he knew and that was it. We didn't even need to be reminded. And I don't think I would have liked having him elaborate on his answer either. I nodded again in understanding.

"There's nothing we can do about it, can we?" I laughed cynically, because that's the only kind of laugh that I can manage.

He looked away. "No..."

I shrugged at him. Without a doubt, there was nothing we could do about it. We were in the middle each other's path to conquer our dreams; it would be useless just trying to avoid the fact. He must have realized it from the beginning as well. To be able to accomplish our goals, we would need to break those of others. It was not just the two of us, even if we did pose the greatest threat to the other. It was the way of a shaman wanting to reach the title of king.

"Yoh? ...Yoh!" It was a girl's voice calling him. We both looked at the direction where it came from; the source was not so far away. "Yoh, where are you?" She went on, and for a second his features softened. Like I said, it was a wonder how she could change his whole resemblance so quickly.

Ah... that girl, the itako... When I thought of her, I would come up with three words to describe her: beautiful, powerful, and passionate. After all, she had all the makings and requirements to fit the role of the future Shaman King's bride and I had no doubt that that old lady Kino had done a fine job training such a strong shaman.

I had only met Anna face-to-face twice, however. The first time was when she was looking for Yoh to give him the 'Tchou Senji Ryakettsu', which I told her was actually doing me a great favor to her grand annoyance. Her slap hurt like hell, and for a fraction of a second I pitied my brother. The second time had been further into the tournament, once when she'd been on the streets of the Patch village, walking with her fiancée. We exchanged our greetings, and I believed she was content to see me again if the thin, tight smile on her lips was any indication. Afterwards, my brother had ensured that I did not meet her alone. His midget of a friend might have told him of our first meeting; or he was simply being (strangely) extra careful when it came to her.

I snickered silently to myself as her voice and its echo were carried to us by the wind.

Every time I saw Anna, now that I thought about it, Yoh had been there. Funny how I hadn't noticed that until now… But it seemed that, even on a subconscious level, my little twin was protecting what he thought of as 'his'. The petty fool... It was useless. Didn't he understand by now that everything he knew, everything he possessed, everything he cherished would be mine at the end?

"She's looking for you," I said vacantly after a good two minutes of silence. The aura of the young priestess was getting closer. Sure enough, she should have sensed us not too far away from her and now she was moving toward us. Yoh would be in big trouble if she found us together.


"You must go then," I said looking at him intently and prompting him to leave as well. I was getting impatient myself; I wanted to be left alone for the time the stars started to show up.

His eyes looked deeply into mine, as if looking for some sort of answers. I stared blankly at him, smirking at my little brother. 'What do you want to find, eh, Yoh?' But he merely stared at me.

"Yes, I don't want Anna to get mad at me," Yoh said after a moment of thought. His knuckles were white by now, since he hadn't unclenched his hands ever since he fisted them. "Goodbye, Hao."

"See you, little brother," I said as parting words, ready to walk on a different path. He turned away, releasing his hands from the fists and walking away.

It was then that my lips betrayed me, for I was speaking without having had given the permission to my mouth to do so. "Yoh," I called him before he left. He turned his head over his shoulder and looked at me mildly confused. I had to smile at that. "Send Keiko my greetings."

He nodded one last time, a small triumphant smile settling on his face, before disappearing from my sight; he was lost in the thickness of the forest.