Disclaimer: I do not own Shaman King

CHAPTER TWELVE - Memories

Horokeu Usui and Tao Ren sat at an outdoor café, enjoying a light breeze as it played through their hair and kissed their faces. A short waitress came up to them, pen poised for their orders.

"Just a bowl of rice and a glass of milk, please." Ren smiled politely.

"I'll have a bowl of rice, some sushi, a few egg rolls, some shrimp, today's special, and some water, thanks." Horo said happily, oblivious to the looks he was getting. When she had left, Horo began.

"Okay, a few tips to start with. Sit up straight. Speak a little more like you don't care and avoid eye contact. Act like you know they're there and it doesn't matter to you. Keep your voice short and snappy, less emotional. Try to say as little as possible. Leave speaking mainly to your eyebrows and body." he told him.

"Okay." Ren nodded in agreement.

"I'll be back in a second, Ren. I got to go to the bathroom." Horo said and left. Ren sat, eyeing their table and fiddling with his napkin.

"Well, well, well...look who's here." a low, sweet voice said as a shadow cast over the table. Ren looked up to see a boy no older than himself. He was dressed in priestly robes and had orange paint beneath his sleepy eyes. His brown hair was rather short, save for a long braid going down his back to his waist.

"Umm... Do I know you?" Ren asked, curious about this new stranger.

"Don't play dumb! You murdered my brother!" he snapped, slamming his fist down on the hard wood.

"I...I didn't do anything... Who are you?" the Chinese asked.

"You know damn well who I am, you bastard! Nichrom! And you fucking killed my older brother, Chrom! You remember it! I see in your eyes, you know it! You killed him! Murderer!" Nichrom overturned the table and stepped closer, grabbing Ren by the chin. Ren stared at him with honey-colored orbs filled with fright and confusion.

"I'll come back for you, you piece of Tao shit, and when I do, one of us will die." he whispered cruelly into his ear before leaving as suddenly as he came. Ren sat, quivering in fright for a moment before running off to the bathroom. He ran past Horo, through the door and into a stall, slamming the door behind him. He curled up on the floor, bringing his knees close, and began to sob uncontrollably.

"Ren? You okay?" Horo's concerned voice called as he followed.

"I...I...I'm a murderer, Horo. I...I murdered someone..." Ren cried.

"Come here, Ren." Horo commanded. Ren did as he was told and stood up, opening the door for him. Horo pulled him out and sat him on the counter beside the sink.

"Here." he removed his head band and wet it with cold water, using it to cool Ren's face.

"I killed someone, Horo. I'm a murderer." he repeated.

"I know... I know." Horo brought him into a firm embrace, tracing light circles along his back.

"How can you love me? How can you love a murderer? How can you even look at me after that?" Ren asked shakily.

"It's in the past. It happened long ago. You've changed. The Ren I know now would never hurt anyone, despite what he'd like us to believe. You were confused and angry. All your life, you were taught to destroy everything. You've done some pretty bad things, but you're different, now. You aren't like that, anymore." Horo whispered soothingly.

"I still did it, though. Nothing can change that. Nothing can change the fact that I killed someone in cold blood, fully knowing what I was doing." Ren hiccupped.

"How do you know you knew what you were doing?" Horo asked.

"I...I remember. I remember looking into his eyes as he died, feeling glad as the blood seeped into the ground. I remember the satisfaction of controlling his fate, the sight of his deep crimson blood. I remember his scream, his pleas for mercy. I remember it all. I smiled as he died. I got a thrill out of taking his life. I remember his tears, and the feel of the grip of my kwan dao as I delivered the final blow. I remember watching him take his final breath, watching his face go pale and his body go lifeless. I remember watching his lifeless eyes watching me... just watching me. His mouth was twisted in a scream of agony that never left his mouth. But the blood kept coming. I reached down and touched it... such fascination I found in the cold feeling of life-giving red. I clenched it in my hands, trying to capture the life that was once there, a twisted sense of pleasure reaching my mind. I laughed. I laughed at the pathetic being I had so easily brought to an end. I loved the feeling, the power, and the control. It's so vivid... Why? Why do I remember it so easily? Why can't I remember you? I want to... I really do..." Ren sniffled.

"What brought this memory on?" Horo asked, mostly to himself.

"Nichrom. He told me I killed his brother, Chrom. And it's true. He wants to kill me. I deserve no less." Ren said sadly.

"No, you don't! You aren't that person anymore. You can be anybody you want to be, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I don't think we should take him seriously, anyways. If you feel up to it, we'll go eat now, if not, we can go back to the hotel." Horo offered.

"I...I want to go home." Ren said softly.

"Alright then, we'll go home." Horo nodded.

"No... Not the hotel... May I... see my home?" Ren asked softly, feeling sick and looking pale.

"Alright, then, your flat it is!" the Ainu grinned.

"No. My home." Ren stressed the word. Horo grew quiet.

"HoroHoro-kun?" Ren asked.

"Ah?" Horo acknowledged him.

"Do I even have a home?" he questioned, gazing at Horo in child-like innocence.

"I honestly don't know, Ren. You hated your estate in China, you had vacation houses all over the world, you bought that flat but lived alone..." his voice trailed off. Ren nodded.

"Then I am...all alone..." he muttered.

"Huh? I didn't catch that." Horo strained to hear his love.

"Oh, nothing. Let's check out my flat and maybe continue the lessons, ne?" he smiled slightly. Horo grinned and led the way, walking backwards so he could instruct Ren further on how to be himself. When they got there, the place was still in ruin. Ren glanced about.

"I guess it is true, then..." he whispered. Horo nodded. Ren walked in further and lifted a painting from the floor. He stared at the jumbled mixture of snow and trees and light and dark. Horo watched him admire it.

"You did that, you know." he said. Ren nodded, entranced. He stared deeper into the picture, used his finger to outline bits as his eyes traveled it. As he stared, a memory floated through his head.

"You're a worthless wretch! You'll never amount to anything! Get out of my sight!" En yelled from his seat in Tanjen Hall. Ren growled and clenched his teeth from his place on the floor, his fists balling up, clenching the blood that his father had beaten out of him.

"I hate you." he hissed, pure rage burning through him, scaring him with its complete hatred. The large man only laughed wickedly. Ren noticed the wood of his kwan dao before him. He snatched up the weapon and let his anger take him completely. He shoved himself at his father, wanting nothing more than to plunge the sharp point into his flesh, to kill him. But suddenly, the man was gone and his attack landed straight into a young servant boy. He stared in shock as blood came dribbling down the boy's chin and he slumped over the blade, allowing Ren to see the point sticking clean through the other end, his insides trailing onto the floor. Ren felt himself getting sick and then a hard blow hit the back of his head.

"Stupid, insolent boy." were the last words he heard as he blacked out.

Ren gasped and threw the painting across the room, backing away as though it were the devil himself. He backed straight into a pair of warm, comforting arms. They wrapped around him as warm breath soothingly blew onto his neck. Hands petted him soothingly as little murmurs of a hundred nothings reached his ears.

"Horo..." he whispered as his vision blurred with tears and the voices suddenly plaguing his mind began to scream and shout. His face scrunched up in pain and he grabbed his head, trying to stop the endless screeching which only seemed to get louder.

"Horo! Horo, make it stop! Make them shut up!" he sobbed, unable to hear his own voice through the mist that had encased him. Hundreds of voices were swirling around in his head, neither ending nor beginning, a circle of countless lies.

"No more! No more, I beg you!" he pleaded with his torment as his head began to ache with all the memory voices mixing around into one giant roar.

"No...more..." he whispered before falling limp and unconscious into Horo's arms