A/N Chapter five! I'm so sorry this was so long in the making. I had planned it out ages ago and even started writing it, but the whole thing was coming out forced, so I stopped. I promised that I would finish this story if it kills me and I meant it! Thanks so much for the encouraging reviews. Each one worked to get me writing again.
This chapter is dedicated to all my reviewers, you have no idea how much your encouragement means to me. I love you all!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Tactics anime, manga, or characters.
Through the Eyes of a Child
Chapter Five: Come Here Boy
If Kantarou had been excited the day before, his enthusiasm had increased ten-fold over the night. When Haruka came out from his room Kantarou was standing there grinning like an idiot.
"Breakfast is ready! As soon as you're finished we can set out." Haruka gave him a questioning look. "I already ate. You're kind of slow in the mornings, you know?" He laughed and dodged swiftly as Haruka swat at him. Downstairs Haruka ate his meal quietly with little Kantarou's amiable chatter in the background. The boy sat nearby picking at his bandaged hands.
"These are going to be a pain today. I probably should rewrap them so I can actually use my hands." The boy left the room and came back with fresh bandages. Unwrapping the first hand with his teeth, he hissed as the last layer came up off the blistered skin. Haruka winced inwardly at the sight. Then he smirked as he saw Kantarou staring perplexed from the new bandages to his other hand still fully wrapped and unusable.
"Come here," the tengu coaxed with a dramatic sigh. The boy grinned sheepishly but scooted so that he sat closer. Haruka carefully wrapped the small hand leaving the fingers uncovered so that Kantarou would have more dexterity. He did the same with the other hand after carefully removing the old wrappings. When he finished the boy flexed his fingers experimentally. It was slightly painful, but he definitely had the use of his hands back.
"Arigato, Haruka-chan!" Kantarou beamed at the tengu who sat back in surprise. Normally only Youko would use that honorific. "Are you finished Haruka-chan? Let's get going!" Haruka held back a smile as he took another painfully slow drink of his tea. Kantarou was less than pleased with his little game. "Harukaaaa!" The tengu almost choked at the familiar sound. For a second he could have sworn he heard his older master whining at him to help him escape the "clutches" of Reiko-san or an upset Youko-chan. He coughed at the sudden intake of the hot liquid. Kantarou asked if he was alright, but the tengu could tell he was trying hard not to laugh. "It serves you right for teasing me. Now hurry up so we can get going!"
Kantarou started off by giving him a tour of the village. Some places the tengu knew, like the clothing store from the day before, or places that still existed in the future. Others he had never seen before. It amazed him how the boy knew exactly who lived where and the names of everyone they past on the street. He greeted a few and most that he spoke to smiled politely and bowed. Others they passed gave Kantarou hurtful looks or ignored him completely. To them the boy pretended to be oblivious and instead focused all his attention on Haruka.
They had walked a fair distance when they came to the anmitsu restaurant that Haruka remembered going to before… in the future. They sat at a table in the corner and a waitress came to serve them. It was some time after they had received their food that Haruka saw Kantarou stiffen visibly. He followed the boy's eyes to a girl who was being seated with her parents at another table. Outwardly she was quite different from the last time Haruka had seen her but her carefree tone gave her away completely. Haruka recognized her to be Yumeyako, the "childhood friend" of Kantarou's.
"Haruka-chan I just thought of a perfect place that we could eat outside. Why don't we just pay now and go there instead to finish," he ducked under the table as the girl looked in their direction. Hastily the child placed sufficient payment on the table a wrapped the remaining food in the western cloth napkins.
Kantarou led him to a spacious clearing neatly tucked near the edge of the village. "It's a perfect day for a picnic ne, Haruka-chan?" Kantarou spread his arms wide and spun on one foot before falling gracelessly on the ground laughing. "This is much better than that stuffy restaurant. Too many… people in a restaurant," Kantarou's eyes remained fixed on the sky and the smile had faded from his face. He reached his thin hand skyward as if to catch something. When Haruka looked up there was only a bird rising and diving with the wind currents.
Feeling uncomfortable, Haruka sat quietly and began to unpack the food. "If you don't sit up I'm going to eat all this without you."
"Haruka's a meanie!" Kantarou whined but he but he grinned at the tengu. They ate comfortably with Kantarou rambling about this and that as Haruka was accustomed to him doing in this form. Haruka's mind wandered and he once again struck by how easily Kantarou had accepted him when most people were so cruel. "And then she put it on my head! She put the frog—"
"Kantarou don't you wonder who I am?"
"Eh?" Kantarou looked at him quizzically.
"Where I am from? What happened in my past? How I got here?" Haruka was reminded that even he didn't know the answer to the last question. "Most people ask those kinds of things before they let someone in their house."
Kantarou's face went serious for a moment before he smiled at Haruka said confidently, "Haruka is Haruka, ne?"
This time Haruka swore he felt his heart clench at the likeness. His forehead creased in pain as he remembered his older master, who was somewhere in the distant future, in pain and possibly dying. A feeling of helplessness overtook him again. A look from the boy brought Haruka back from his thoughts.
"Haruka, daijobu? Did I say something wrong?" The tengu's face softened at the worry in the young man's voice.
"It's alright. It's just you remind me so much of someone."
"Someone bad?" Kantarou said afraid, "Your face looked so pained." Haruka looked at him with unbridled surprise.
"No," crimson eyes looked apprehensive, "No he's a very," Haruka hesitated and placed a gentle hand on the fair head, "a very good person." Enjoying the contact, Kantarou smiled and leaned into Haruka's hand. He gave a small cry when he leaned on one of his wounded hands. Haruka sighed as Kantarou laughed embarrassedly.
Taking one the smaller hands in his own, the tengu inspected what he could see of the blisters. They were red and inflamed and some of them had ruptured since that morning. Haruka suggested that the go see Unkai for more of the salve that the old man had used on Kantarou's hands the day before. They cleared up their mess and headed off towards the inn.
As they approached they could see large crowds had gathered around the building. Anxious voices rose above the crowd. Haruka caught the word demon from among the nervous din. Kantarou must have heard it too because his eyes widened fearfully. Haruka heard him whisper Unkai's name before running off towards the crowd. Haruka followed after him as best he could, but an ominous presence stopped the onigui tengu in his tracks. It was gone as quickly as it had come but Haruka was sure that he had felt something.
A high pitched scream startled him and he noticed that he had lost sight of Kantarou. He rushed off in the direction he had last seen him. After minutes of frantic searching he found him safely at Unkai side. Unkai was reprimanding him severely and telling him to leave for home at once. When Haruka approached the old man looked up sharply. The tengu was sure he would have had an equal tongue lashing if another screaming had not risen above the noise. The trio hurried toward the noise pushing past spectators chattering in terrified voices.
"Is she dead? Her face is so pale, is there a pulse? She is so cold. She dead isn't she? She's dead!" Unkai finally made it to the front of the group with Kantarou and Haruka close behind.
"Step aside. I said, step aside!" Quickly the old man checked the pulse and shook his head. "She's not dead, but she is not well. Someone help me get her inside quickly." There were several protests on going back into the inn. It seems that the trouble had started inside. "I assure you that whatever was there has left for now. Let's get this woman inside before she gets trampled!" The authority in the old priest's voice set the crowd into motion.
"Unkai," Kantarou said softly. His face was deathly pale, "Unkai-sensei, will she be alright?"
"Leave this too me and get home at once! Do you ever listen, boy?" Kantarou recoiled looking hurt and slightly sick. The whole situation was getting to be too much for him. He took Haruka's arm and had turned to go home when a voice from the spectators called out.
"You!" it said repulsed. "It's that boy, that demon child!" Another voice sounded from close by.
"You're the one who talks to devils. You brought this terror, didn't you?"
"You are a plague to this town. Take your witchcraft elsewhere!" The noise rose centered now on the apparent culprit. People pointed at his red eyes and his unnaturally fair hair. The boy clutched Haruka's arm tightly ignoring the pain that shot through his hands. Tears welled up in his eyes as these accusations were made and he was showered with heated glares.
"Silence!" Unkai's authoritative voice rose again over the clamor. "If you are not here to help I suggest you go on your way, now." As his voice reached threatening tones, some began to disperse. But the damage had been done. The boy's small frame shook as he fought bravely to hold back the threatening tears. Haruka glared at the crowd and those closest took a step back, but the dark-haired goblin noticed that while his icy looks scared those who hurt his young master, they did nothing to actually help the boy himself.
The tengu knelt softly by the distraught boy and careful wrapped his arms around his small form, pulling him close. The boy gasped, surprised to say the least. Then when he noticed his friend wasn't pulling away he let go of Haruka's arm and sobbed pitifully into his shoulder. The remaining crowd looked uncomfortable, and with a final glare from Haruka they went on their way. He caught a grateful look from Unkai who was retreating into the inn with the unconscious woman.
Not being very good at comforting people Haruka just held the boy until the sobs died down into hiccups. He pulled back a little to view the puffy-eyed child. Kantarou rubbed his arm over his eyes much like he had when the two had first met. He smiled a little through his wet face.
Relieved, Haruka ruffled his hair, "That's better." He was shocked when the boy wrapped his arms around his neck and embraced him again.
"Arigato, Haruka-chan, arigato gozimasu." The words were muffled as Kantarou spoke into Haruka's shoulder, but they made Haruka feel a great rush of affection for the small boy. Carefully the tengu pulled away again taking the boys hand gently as he stood.
"I thought you said something earlier about ramune?"
"Hai!" He rubbed his eyes one more time, smiling more brightly this time. "We can get some right around the corner!" He took off dragging Haruka behind him.
A/N: I hope that was worth the wait. At least a little bit… Ack, who am I kidding you guys had to wait a long time for this one. Hope you enjoyed. Please review. Flames are welcomed as always.
I realized after I went over this chapter that I integrated some Japanese. I'm sorry it's kind of a habit so here are definitions if you're confused. There was a time I needed these too, so I not skipping over anything. This is pretty basic stuff but I don't want to confuse anyone!
arigato (gozimasu) – Thank you (so/very much)
ne – In question form normally means something like "right?"
daijobu? – Are you alright?
hai – yes
I LOVE MY REVIEWERS! (Individual shout-outs to those who reviewed chapter 4):
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Chelley – Well if you love the softer side of Haruka this is definitely the chapter for you. Thank you for reading!
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Miyu-chan – Thank you very much! I try very hard to come up with original and believable material. Yes I am aware of my spelling and grammar deficiencies. I actually had someone who said they would beta but I haven't heard back from her in awhile. Probably my fault. I read over my chapters at least three times so just bear with me for now. Thanks so much! (Your questions will be answered in time.)
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karin1004 – Kan-chan is adorable isn't he? Thanks for reading!
lazy fat kitsune – Yes I bet Kantarou was positively glompable when he was younger. Thanks for reading and for the encouragement!
NaTsUkO-ChAn – Thank you! I am working on the grammar, bear with me!
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