Disclaimer: I do not own Shaman King

It was impossible, yet oh too possible. It was inevitable, yet sudden. My world crumbled around me when I felt compelled to ask that one question. The answer turned my life around forever.

"Opacho... Why do you follow me? Are you my friend? Or is it the power which draws you?" I asked. I had to ask. I had to know if anyone truly cared. Opacho is closest to me, so if anyone cared, surely he would. But... he didn't.

He killed my spirit and for once I wished that I was not stuck in this perpetual ring. I live, I die, I live again. In death I wait for life, in life I wait for death. I hate this never-ending cycle. I live in a hell far worse than anything imaginable. I feel trapped; like a caged animal, and my prison is my mind. I walk and it feels insane; like going through water.

Despair, desolation, fear; I live in it. I see its tangible essence. I breathe it in. I see it in their eyes. I represent all of their sorrows. Every fear, all pain, any anguish is what I am in their eyes. Those who do not run and hide, hide behind a mask of anger. In their eyes I see it, though. I see it in their souls. They fear me, they hate me. They call me freak, demon, devil, evil. They say I am a murderer. My pain is worse than they will ever know. I feel broken, like a puzzle with missing pieces.

I used to yearn for my next incarnation, now I wish only that it could end. I want to know the peace of true death. I want to feel the tranquility of that sleep. The most I can do is to enjoy the temporary rest I am doomed to. This is my curse, my punishment. In my mind I am screaming. Somewhere in the farthest reaches of my soul I know I am a little boy. A young child, lost and afraid, huddled in the corner of my heart where no one can see me. Why? Because there I am safe; there I can keep my innocence safe. There he will not see the world's horrors; there he cannot be touched. He is protected. He cannot feel anything there; I cannot feel. I become cold and unfeeling; though I long for warmth. I am desperate for acceptance, but not even Opacho knew.

"Because Hao-sama is powerful, Opacho stays. Why does Hao-sama ask Opacho? Hao-sama cannot allow Yoh-baka to affect Hao-sama. Hao-sama will become weak." he told me. His words destroyed me, cut me, hit me. I will not cry. Not now. The boy inside cries, not me; I refuse. Instead, I allowed anger. Rage blinded me, misted my eyes and clouded my thoughts.

"Go." I said, shaking with rage.

"Hao-sama?" he asked warily. I am scaring him again. Just as I scared him, then. His eyes betray his hate.

"Do you question me! I said go! Get the fucking hell away from me and never come back! Leave me, now!" I snapped. I don't think I have ever been so angry. I wanted to kill him. I've never wanted to kill anyone more than him at that moment. Having watched my brother, though, I know it would do no good. I brought this on myself, and now I must walk the path I have made for myself. This path leads ultimately to my own temporary destruction. However, there is one thing I must do before I can leave this world for 500 more years.

I stood and walked slowly through the streets of Tokyo. Though no one cares to be out this late, and those that do hurry on, I know that they see. They see through my eyes my defeat. I have never done such a thing before, because admitting defeat makes it more real, but I cannot hide it from myself. I reached the gate to my brother's house and silently drew closer. I saw through the window he is having fun with his friends. He laughs and jokes with real friends; truly amazing.

I stepped closer and his merry-making faltered. He knew I was near, but he didn't want to worry them. I stopped, ten yards from his door, waiting, knowing he would come to me. A light breeze ruffled my hair and my mantle moved gently against me. I closed my eyes and allowed a faint ghost of a smile to play across my lips, enjoying that brief moment of serenity.

"Why do you come?" he asked me as though it were an everyday occurrence.

"You know why. I come as always to tell you a message. Listen carefully because I will say this only once... You win. You beat me at everything. You are stronger, smarter, faster, and kinder. You even beat me at friendship. Even Ren, the most reluctant to follow you, would not abandon you. But my partners left me, and my parents hate me; even Opacho, even Opacho never cared. And now he, too, is gone. So you win. You took the gold. Now I will say... goodbye, brother. I will be leaving for a long time." I said, turning to leave. But a hand caught my wrist, causing me to pause and twist ever-so-slightly to look into chocolate eyes so like my own.

"Onii-chan... Do you want to come in?" he asked, eyes pleading.

"No. They hate me and I know why. There's something about me that is cursed. Something about me makes everyone hate me. Hell, even I hate me. Therefore, I must remove myself from their presence." I said.

"I don't hate you. You were just confused. I care about you." he said.

"Yoh... You're too kind. I just can't stay. It hurts too much. Fare thee well." I said sadly. I can't tell you how much I wanted to stay. I can't tell you how much it hurt to see his eyes become so pained. I couldn't stop myself then. I pulled him into a hug, resting my chin on his head. His eyes squeezed shut and his arms wrapped tightly around my waist.

"Goodbye, otouto." I whispered and pried him from me, turning and leaving. I walked aimlessly, making my way involuntarily to the woods. I came across a small clearing bathed in pale moonlight and sat.

I took a small knife and slowly, ceremoniously brought the blade to my wrist. The cold steel made me shiver and I slit it through my flesh. I watched as dark liquid flowed out, dripping to the ground. I dropped the short knife to the earth, bringing my wrist up to rub it across my face. Warm blood covered my cheeks and my other hand reached up to smear it and mix it into a salty mess of tears and blood. The crimson stained my clothes and I stared in mild interest as a puddle began to form beneath me.

My mind became blissfully blank and I lay back, enjoying the stillness. The November air was crisp and clean, smelling of sakura trees. Small insects rose their night song to Mother Nature. I looked up at the winter sky, its stars twinkling happily down at me amid the great black void. My thoughts became fuzzy as the life steadily beat out of me, the pain barely registering. Finally I closed my eyes, welcoming the familiar darkness that settled over my weary body.

My eyes slid open blearily and I blinked in confusion. This... isn't death. I sat up and glanced around. I was in a small room in a traditional Japanese house. In one corner was a small closet and I was lain in a futon with blankets piled over me. My wrist was bandaged carefully and the blood was cleaned from my face. I wore a pair of loose, navy blue pants and no shirt.

I slipped out of the futon silently, looking out the single window. Tokyo was spread out before me in a wide expanse of humans' steel monstrosities. Anger began to boil up within me, but I kept it to a manageable level. I looked closer to me and found a large yard with several people occupying it. So I was at my brother's house. The small one ran about, carrying out various orders from the itako. The Chinese boy ran after the Ainu with his weapon angrily, though inside he enjoyed it as a game. I smiled sadly, knowing I would never know such happiness. A hand lightly brushed my arm and I turned to see my twin.

"You should be in bed." he said softly, gently leading me there and lying me down again. He placed a cold rag on my forehead and busied himself with changing the bandages on my arm.

"Why?" I asked.

"Huh?" he looked up at me.

"Why are you doing this?" I clarified.

"Because you need rest and a bandage change; do you want to get infected?" he grinned.

"You know what I mean." I said warningly. He sighed.

"Don't you think that if even one person cares about you, you should live? If I can care about you, don't you think others can learn to in time? Why would you do that? How could you do that to me? I almost lost you. Do you realize how much that would have hurt?" he burst out, tears spilling over his cheeks. Not knowing what else to do, I pulled him into a hug and he crushed himself against me, his tears falling on my chest.

"I'm sorry, Yoh. I... didn't know it would hurt you so much. I never want to hurt you... I... I love you." I said, holding him tight. He drew away slightly, eyes wide in shock.

"You love me?" he echoed. I nodded. Everything was silent, as though the whole world had stopped and all that existed was me and him. I was drowning in his eyes and it seemed like an eternity passed by. Suddenly, he flung himself at me, eyes shining with joy, and crushed our lips together in a slow, sweet kiss. I relished the feeling, as brief as it was, of his warm, plush lips caressing mine until we pulled away for breathe.

"Aishiteru, Hao." he whispered. Perhaps things aren't as bad as I thought. Perhaps all I need is one person to love me. Come what may, we will stay together, and... nantoka naru...