Narrator here. This is a short, fluffy AkiraxYuya ficcy I dreamed up waaaaaay back in the fall semester of my senior year of college (okay, so it was only last year.). I have a bad habit of dreaming up "what if" scenarios for various anime/manga during boring lectures, and every now and again, an idea strikes my fancy enough for me to scribble down some preliminary notes. Eventually, I type those notes up and make a stab at creating a story. Most of the time, I lose interest (for example, this fic languished a whole year untouched before I got back to it!).
In any case, this story's a little bit of "what if" that asks the question: "What if Akira and Yuya had met before the manga storyline?" Since I'm heavily influenced by the Right Honorable nekozuki1776-san in my AkiraxYuya leanings, I dedicate this fic to her.
Disclaimer: The Narrator does not own Samurai Deeper Kyo, much to her eternal regret... this fic is purely a work of a depressed fan trying to bring some fluffiness into her dreary existence...
A Chance Meeting
"Akira-chaaaaan, what are you doing? Let's go!"
The youth looked over his shoulder at the pink-haired shaman but did not move from his vantage point. "You go ahead with the others, Akari-san, I'll catch up," he said instead, returning his attention to the town below.
Akari arched a perfectly plucked eyebrow and pouted her lips. "What on earth is so interesting over there?" she wanted to know, strolling over to him.
A stunning evening panorama spread out before them. In the valley, paper lanterns by the hundreds had been strung, criss-crossing over even the meanest streets of the good-sized town, challenging the fiery brilliance of the setting sun. Music and laughter, wild and festive, winged high to where the pair stood on the cool, late spring breeze.
"Matsuri?" Akari observed, "It must be a local festival of some sort." She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Akira, who was looking down at the sight with practiced nonchalance that did not fool her for a moment. Even with his face set like a Noh mask, a warrior and shaman of Akari's class could easily read the veritable hunger in the boy's spirit as he took in the sights and sounds of festival.
"Why don't you go and have some fun, Akira-chan?" she crooned teasingly.
Akira stiffened and glared at her. "Why on earth do you think some backwater matsuri would be the least bit interesting to me?" he retorted coldly, folding his arms. It was a useless charade, but Akari was not about to enlighten him to that fact. "I thought you were all hot to join up with Kyo and the others."
The second he turned his gaze back to the town, Akari smirked in the not-so-nice way that often presaged pain or embarrassment on the part of her young comrade-in-arms. "Go and have some fun, Akira-chan," she pressed, going so far as to steer him in the direction of the slender path leading to the valley below, "You know where we're headed. I'll just tell everyone that you decided to stay behind on your own so they won't waste time waiting around for you."
Akira frowned at her warily, wondering what ulterior motive she might be hiding beneath her "friendly," persistent urging. "But to repay the favor, bring me back a sweet little something," Akari chimed to allay his suspicion. She made shooing motions with her hands. "Don't get into trouble and be back here before the moon sets," she added with such a maternal air that Akira shuddered, in spite of himself.
"See you later," he replied, squaring his shoulders and starting off down the trail.
Akari waved until he was out of sight. "It's been so long since I've been to a matsuri myself," she observed pleasantly, laying a finger against her cheek and cocking her head. She grinned once again, and began following Akira on silent, sedate feet.
He vaguely recalled attending only one festival in his young life: an Obon celebration that took place shortly before his village was wiped out and he had been forced to fend for his own survival. His village had been small and very poor, so there was nothing the pale memory had to offer by way of comparison to the heady maelstrom of music, laughter and light that swirled about him.
Vendors of all sorts, from saké to dango, from masks to pinwheels, lined the streets and hawked their wares with competing shouts. The very center of the town, where Akira was carried by the sheer momentum of the crowds around him, had been cleared for the express use of musicians and dancers. People of all ages were singing and moving energetically in rhythm with the joyful, powerful harmony of shamisen, hichiriki, bells, and taiko. Akira stayed on the fringes to watch, complacent in his ability to observe without feeling the need to abase himself with such exuberant displays of indignity.
But, somehow... he could not help but envy the easy and complete joy the mobs of townspeople seemed to be sharing just by being with each other.
'Bon and Kyo would probably be staked out at one of the saké vendors,' he thought as he wandered down a street of purveyors of food and drink, 'Hotaru... well, he'd probably be happy enough gaping at the lanterns if he wasn't trying to set fire to the musicians' platform. Akari might even be dancing, or more likely causing trouble for that monk selling fortunes.'
The appealing scent of grilled, marinated fish made his stomach growl slightly, but Akira wanted to make certain he had enough mon to buy Akari's "sweet little something." He knew better than to presume that she had merely been joking. 'Should I get dango, or daifuku, or...'
So absorbed was he in mulling over his options that Akira almost did not anticipate the young girl who burst from the midst of the crowd at top speed, barreling smack into him in heedless flight.
Akira absorbed the impact readily, keeping both of them steady on their feet with easy, instinctive effort. Very neatly, he caught the double pin-wheel that flew from the girl's startled grasp.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" the girl gasped. She was just about as tall as he was, so they stared at each other, nearly eye-to-eye; Akira was surprised to note that hers were a vibrant shade of emerald green. "I'm..."
The sound of loud, angry shouting from the direction she had come made her squeak in dismay, her face blanching. Before Akira could ask her what was wrong (or give her back her pinwheel for that matter), she spun away and ducked under nearest vendor's table, her straw-colored pig-tails and pink-flowered kimono sleeves winking out of sight in the time it took him to draw a breath.
'Wha...?' Akira had time to think before a gang of four boys, all taller and bulkier than him, ran up, their faces red and sweating from exertion and anger.
"Hey you!" their leader shouted, even though he was barely an arm's length from Akira. He was an arrogant-looking bully with a sloppy topknot and even sloppier blue and grey kimono; the stench of saké and pickles on his breath was enough to turn the stomach. Akira disliked him intensely at first glance and was pleased to see the tell-tale hints of an impressive bruise beginning to purple over his left eye. "You see a scrawny little chicken-girl with ratty yellow pigtails run this way?" he demanded of Akira, still at the same volume.
Akira did not deign to answer, but merely pointed down the thoroughfare (not with the hand holding the pinwheel; that he kept at his side).
"Let's get that bitch!" another boy (who spoke through a split lip) crowed, and the gang ran off in the direction Akira indicated.
Akira could not help but notice that one of their number was limping along behind his compatriots in a rather pained manner.
"Jerks!" Akira turned at the sound of a vehement hiss and beheld the girl dusting herself off as she glared after the disappearing pursuers. "I hope your eye stays black and blue for a month, Misato-no-baka!" she declared, making a very rude gesture. "Thanks for throwing them off like that," she said to Akira, flashing a grin so huge and genuine that Akira marveled at the abrupt switch in her demeanor.
"Why were they chasing after you anyway?" Akira found himself asking as he held out her pinwheel.
"Oh, thank you!" She took the pinwheel with a bow of gratitude. "Well... I'm pretty sure the fact that I kicked Nobu-kun in the groin after giving Misato-kun that black eye and punching Jun-kun in his foul mouth and hitting Ichiro-kun over the head with that board upset them a bit."
"He called me a 'bitch with rice straw for hair'," she elaborated defensively, noticing his expression.
"And that was the reason you beat them up like that?" Akira asked rather numbly. All four of the boys were older and stronger than the girl in front of him (toying with the pinwheel he had returned to her), and given their appearances, she had done quite a number on them despite that. Even if they had been slightly intoxicated, it was an impressive accomplishment for so (seemingly) ordinary a girl.
"No." She shook her head. "First they insulted my nii-sama. Nobu-kun got special treatment because he insulted me."
"Ah," was all he could say. Akira did not know whether to be intensely amused by the strange, outspoken girl he had "rescued," or merely disturbed. 'It's a good thing she's not a samurai,' he thought, finding the idea of someone of her temperament in possession of any bladed weapon down-right scary. "Well, good evening, miss," he said, for lack of anything better. He bowed slightly and would have walked away if the girl had not grabbed hold of him by the sleeve.
"Wait a minute, where are you going?" she demanded, sounding almost angry.
To say Akira was taken aback would be something of an understatement. "Ano..."
"You helped me. I owe you now," she said, as if it should have been intuitively obvious. She placed one hand on her hip and regarded him with avid scrutiny. "You're new in town, aren't you?"
"No, just passing through," Akira said.
She nodded dismissively. "Well, that means you don't know your way around. Tell you what: I show around, like where the best food and vendors are at this festival, and we'll call it even, okay?"
"You really don't... I just..." Akira was not used to being at a loss for words, and it bewildered him that a mere girl could reduce him to such a state simply by being pushy. "You don't owe me anything," he said finally, in such a tone that the conversation should have ended then and there.
"Yes, I do," she insisted stubbornly, placing her other hand on her hip and setting her jaw. She had a temper, that much was clear, and Akira idly wondered what would happen if she challenged Akari to a contest of wills. "My nii-sama says that you should always pay your debts, and I intend to do so."
"You're pretty devoted to your brother, aren't you?" Akira noted, hoping that if she sensed he was teasing her, she might get mad enough to leave him alone.
"Of course I am!" she proclaimed, either ignoring his intended slight or missing it completely, "He's the strongest and bravest man in the world!"
Akira had to consciously suppress the urge to laugh his head off at this, knowing that the girl had no idea as to who she was talking to. 'This is... amusing,' he finally decided, 'Maybe I will just let her show me around and perhaps I will meet this dear "nii-sama" of hers.'
"Sounds like someone to listen to, then," he said aloud, "All right, you've convinced me. Where should I go to get a friend some good sweets?"
She beamed. "I know just the place! Fujita-obaa-san makes the best mochi and daifuku in Japan, and since I sometimes help her out, she'll give us a special discount!"
In truth, Akira quite forgot the little side-game he had intended with his new-found "friend," and simply began enjoying himself. Her energy was infectious, as was her unbridled joy. A town transformed by matsuri is marvelous enough for those just out of childhood, but the way she dragged him to artistic displays... to games... to a magic show... to dancing... (not that Akira danced, he just watched), laughing and completely, utterly happy the entire time made him wonder if he had been blind to the world outside of battle. He was almost jealous of her, living in this world... almost.
The girl also spoke freely on almost anything, quite a shocking contrast to Akira's own established reservation. He soon learned that she was celebrating her twelfth birthday, that she thought bugs were terrifying (except butterflies of course), and that her brother was the only family she had in the world. Strangely enough, she never pressed Akira for any information, other than a comment about his twin katana, which he smoothly rebuffed. It was as though she had already accepted that he was her friend based on a relationship begun by pure circumstance!
"I thought the ghost story was the scariest one I've ever heard. Imagine a dead woman chasing after you for stealing her jade beads!" she exclaimed, pausing in the midst of eating her dango to shudder. She had magnanimously bought them each a skewer (with money her brother had given her for her birthday) after Akira's stomach gave such a loud growl during a wandering storyteller's tale of a princess stolen by oni that a couple of younger children shrieked, thinking the oni were about to pounce on them next!
"If you believe in that sort of thing, I guess," said Akira. He knew several people who were scarier than any demon or ghost or ogre conjured by a storyteller and thus did not share her sentiment.
She wrinkled her nose at him. "I might be scared of ghosts, but oni don't scare me at all. If I met an oni walking down the road, I'd probably poke him in the eye like Issun Boshi!"
Akira had a mental image of the girl walking right up to Onime no Kyo and sticking him in the eye with a pin and almost choked on his mouthful of dango.
"Don't you dare choke on that and waste the money I paid for it!" she scolded while helpfully clapping him on the back.
"Sorry, bit off more than I could chew, I guess," he said, once he had recovered.
She laughed. "Just be more careful next time," was her advice. She looked up at the sky, admiring the stars. They had walked away from the center of town and were standing alone on one of the side streets that lead into the poorer housing quarter. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Oh no! I promised nii-sama that I was going to meet up with him before the moon set!"
Akira looked up and saw (with some dismay) that the white circle of the full moon was descending apace toward the western horizon. "And I am to return to... my friends at the same time," he said, suddenly mindful of the small package of extra syrupy-sweet dango he had purchased for Akari, "I suppose that it would be best if we parted here."
"That's too bad," she replied, sincere regret in her voice, "I would have liked you to meet nii-sama."
"Aa..." Something occurred to him then: 'I don't even know her name.' Why this was suddenly so important, Akira did not know, but he was not about to dwell on it. "Just one thing; you never told me your name."
"I didn't?" She frowned, probably wondering if he was teasing her again. "Well, you must have forgotten, but it's..."
The rock came whizzing out of nowhere, but Akira easily blocked it with the guard-piece of his sheathed katana. The girl gasped in shock, for it had come with in a hands-span of hitting her in the left temple.
"Oi, bitch! You're going to pay for what you did to us!"
'These fools again? How very tedious,' Akira thought disgustedly as he quickly sized up their assailants. There were the four from earlier in the evening, but they had been joined by at least five others, probably relatives or friends. They had approached from either end of the street, cutting off the most obvious means of escape.
The one with the now-prominent black eye (Akira had forgotten his name, since it hardly mattered) had thrown the rock and was now railing drunkenly at the girl.
"...damn slut cold-cocked me all because I called her lousy bastard brother a..."
"Stop it," she whispered, so softly Akira thought he imagined it.
"... dirty, lying, stupid…"
"Stop it," she said again, louder now. A powerful surge of fighting rage, like a fire flaring to life, caught Akira's attention more than her words.
"… bastard skulking spy!"
"STOP IT!" With a battle scream, the girl thrust past Akira, charging at the youth who dared slander her brother.
"No, stop!" Akira was a split-second too late to grab her. He had seen the tanto the other boy held at his side and knew that the girl, blinded by righteous anger, had not. But before he could go after her, the other eight boys, as if by pre-arranged signal, rushed them both.
Now, do not believe for a moment that Akira would have had any difficulty in sending the whole pack to Jigoku in less time it takes to think about it. Indeed, he had already taken one of his katana half-way from its saya (the boys were far too beneath him to even consider the use of two swords). But at just the moment his ken-ki picked up on the unpleasant sensation of being watched.
'What the hell is Akari doing here?' he thought, pulling up short. His momentary hesitation almost cost him a boxed ear, but quick as lightning, he turned to the battle at hand. It would be too much of an inconvenience to have their dirty, worthless blood staining his katana blade. He turned his grip and sent the fool who had tried to get the drop on him sailing into the wall across the way with a near-careless swipe across the midsection. He had been the only one to attack Akira, for all the others had surrounded the girl like a pack of rabid starving wolves.
"Let me go!" she howled red-faced with rage, kicking and spitting at those that circled around her, and fighting to jerk her arms out of the restraining grasp of the two boys behind her.
"We'll let you go," Black Eye was saying as he grabbed her by the bangs and jerked her head to one side sharply, pressing the dull, nicked blade of the tanto against her throat, "but only after you pay for what you did to us!" He laughed loudly, cruelly, reveling in the cheap victory.
Then, he stopped short; something was missing. Through the fog of his inebriated mental faculties, a slight spike of anxiety (and possibly fear) indicated that what was missing was very important. For the life of him, he could not think of what it was, until the deadweight of one of his friends almost knocked him over.
"I suggest you run now," the slight boy with the moon-bright katana in one hand and a small cloth bundle in the other informed him. His tone was lazy, but the icy disdain in his dark blue eyes promised a grim penalty, should he choose to disobey.
The two boys who had taken hold of the girl's arms decided they had had enough and abandoned their leader with as much gusto and speed as a glutton would have taken to a fine gourmet meal. In seconds, wraith-clouds of dissipating dust were the only sign they had ever been there at all.
The bully swallowed nervously, entranced by the horrible thrilling gaze of his unknown opponent like a mouse before a cobra. If the body of his friend was any indication, every other member of his band had been dispatched with unthinkable speed and ease, and he was quite alone and outmatched.
Akira, bored with the other's catatonic fear, made a slight movement with his sword hand so that the moonlight would waver and glint upon it. The boy jolted like he had been jabbed with a pin, tripped over the prone bodies of, not one, but two of his friends as he turned hastily, sprawling and grunting in the dust until he was finally able to regain his footing and stagger away as quickly as he could.
Later, he would always swear that the girl was a witch who had summoned a demon to fight her battles for her.
"Are you all right?" Akira asked the girl in a low voice, painfully aware of Akari's continuing presence. Would Akari come out of hiding to confront him or would she do/say something in front of the girl that would either scare her away or embarrass him for the rest of his life?
All the scenarios were, to his mind, possible and extremely disagreeable; therefore, he had to make his farewells quick and quiet.
"Yes, I am," the girl breathed, her eyes impossibly wide as she stared, not at him, but at the bodies sprawled unmoving on the ground behind him, "Did you…?"
"They're not dead," Akira told her quickly, sheathing his katana, "Just knocked out."
"Oh…" Finally, she looked at him. Akira felt his breath catch for some reason; it was only when she smiled a second later that he could breathe again. "Thank you."
"Yuya. My name's Shiina Yuya."
"You're welcome, Yuya-san. You'd better hurry if you're going to meet up with your brother."
She nodded, and squeezed his hand between hers. "I'm going to tell him all about you, Akira-kun. He'll definitely want to meet you."
Akira was reluctant to say that he would never see her again, that this parting was "sayonara," now and forever. "When we see each other again, then," he lied.
Yuya laughed and released his hand, twirling away gracefully as her upraised pinwheel spun and chattered in the created wind. "Until we see each other again, take care!" she called, before turning to dash away into the night.
Akira stayed there for a moment, looking after her. "Sayonara, Yuya-san," he said to himself. He braced for what he knew was coming next.
"What a sweet little girl, Akira-chan!" Akari trilled, materializing like a summoned kami, "Ohohohoho, and yet you let her go!"
Akira thrust the cloth-wrapped dango into her hands and started walking away.
"Akira-chaaaaaaaan…!" Akari trailed after him, making disapproving clucking noises. "So cold, Akira-chan, you're never going to win someone's heart like that. You're as socially inept as Hotaru-chan, I swear…" She went on and on in this vein as the lights of the town faded away behind them.
When they had again ascended the heights overlooking the town, Akira spared one sidelong glance at its streets before turning his back to it forever. 'Don't know why I even bothered to ask her name - I'm never going to see her again.'
"You don't know that," Akari supplied, enjoying the way she made him start just a little bit and glance at her with an amazed expression. You would think that after years of fighting side-by-side, Akira would know better than to think Akari could read his mind - she merely knew him too well for his own good.
"There's never going to be a reason; she has here safe happy life here and I doubt she'll ever go more than one li from her town's limits," Akira shot back bitterly, before he consider the wisdom of replying at all.
"Nothing's ever certain, Akira-chan," Akari counseled, patting him on the head condescendingly, "Karma brought you together, it might happen again. I doubt, at the very least, she'll ever forget you."
Akira stopped in his tracks, watching Akari walk on and not hearing the rest of her words. 'She won't forget me?' Well, he had saved her life, or at least, saved her from a severe beating. People who never held a sword in their hands, who had never fought for their lives, they remembered stuff like that, right? 'Like I care if she remembers…' But privately, he admitted to himself, he certainly did not want to forget.
Smiling ever-so-slightly, Akira hurried after Akari to rejoin the rest of their comrades…
Fate brought two souls (each the opposite of the other in nearly every way) together for one single night that should have remained a happy memory for many years to come.
Fate tore another soul away, cruelly sweeping the joy of that meeting into Oblivion in a searing flood of blood.
Fate sundered a family of comrades, the only family known by a soul that cast off all memories of happiness before being cast into the unending darkness of hatred.
Fate brought two souls (each the opposite of the other in nearly every way but for life-shattering loss) together once again…
But for the strangest sense of ease, they did not know each other. Yet…
Muahahahahaha, Narrator's playing with Fate... (whistles "Dance of Curse" from Tenkuu no Escaflowneand swings a rose-colored crystal pendant) Dance for me, my dolls of Fate, dance, ohohohohoho!
Narrator needs sleep, she gets delusions of grandeur when she's overtired. And she still needs to outline her two term research papers...
P.S. - Issun Boshi (Little One Inch) is a famous Japanese folktale that everyone should read because it's spiffy-fluffy good.