Narrator here. This fic is dedicated to a fellow fan and artist on MiniTokyo and love-deeper, fireflywishes-san, for her birthday. Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: The Narrator does not own Samurai Deeper Kyo, though she would gladly rent the rights to it if Akimine-sensei would be so kind… (bats eyes hopefully)
Don't Fear the Dark
"Whoa!" Yuya blurted instinctively as a particularly powerful gust of wind slammed against the walls of the lodge-house, sending its wooden planks shuddering and rattling the shutters sealed tight over the windows. 'Sounds like angry ghosts are trying to break their way in!' She laughed nervously, trying to tell herself she was just being silly and superstitious and that there was no way the undead would be interested in tearing into a public rest-house on a cold winter night just because she had let her candle burn out…
Forcibly holding back the screech of fright that rose in her throat, the young bounty huntress threw aside her futon and dashed out of her meager room, not even bothering to throw her haori over her shoulders. She did not know (nor, frankly, did she really care) if the terrific burst of sound had merely been a shutter blown away in the midwinter gale or if legions of skeletal shrieking specters were actually on her heels: Shiina Yuya had had Enough.
Perhaps if she had made it to the end of the hall, Yuya would have had time to realize just how foolish she was being, fleeing from a storm's rage like a panicked child. Odds are, she would have regained control of her scattered senses, sheepishly crept back into the room (thanking her guardian kami that no one had woken up to witness her ridiculous behavior), and spent a less-than-restful night waiting for the wailing winds to finally subside.
Naturally, she had no such opportunity…
Some dark, solid, looming mass in the Stygian blackness of the hallway slammed into her (or she into it, more likely), stopping her dead in her tracks. This time, there was no holding back the terror that surged like a tsunami through her very being.
The shadowy barrier clapped what was undoubtedly a hand over her open mouth, effectively cutting off her scream. An arm snaked its way around her waist, holding her so tightly she was fairly certain she could not breathe.
Most people, when reduced to an abject state of fear, will fall back onto their most primordial instincts for survival, the so-called "fight-or-flight" response. As Yuya's option of "flight" seemed rather out of the question, her only recourse was "fight."
And Yuya fought.
"Urgh!" she grunted, thrusting her fist forward into the middle of the dark mass as hard as she could; the arm around her waist loosened just enough to allow her turn around and jab her elbow with more effect into the same spot. The next step was slamming her foot down on where she guessed her assailant's instep would be. Her foot impacted the wooden floor with bone-bruising force, but she had not been too far off in her estimation: she managed to catch a few toes with her heel. Immediately, she whirled around again, twisting completely out of the attacker's grasp to deliver the coup-de-grace: a hard, pointed blow to the groin with her knee.
"Yuya-san!" The sharp, hoarse cry did more to stop her than the hands that seized her shoulders. If she had not suddenly recognized the voice, Yuya would have undoubtedly redoubled her efforts.
"A-Akira-san?" Yuya gasped, checking herself in the middle of her attack. Unfortunately, she could not quite control her momentum with the same precision; already off-balance, she would have toppled over if Akira had not steadied her by once more grabbing her around the waist.
"Oof -" the ice-wielder said under his breath, "Are you unhurt, Yuya-san?"
"Erm, yes - mostly," Yuya squeaked, wishing for nothing more than that the earth should open up and swallow her whole that very instant. She could ignore the stinging, shooting pain in her foot; not only had she panicked for absolutely no reason at all (it was more difficult to believe in ghosts with someone warm and solid standing right next to her), she had seriously tried to injure Akira because she had imagined he was attacking her! 'Aaaaauuuuurgh, just let me die right now! I'm so stupid! Let me die…!'
Yuya was so preoccupied with her embarrassment that she only heard Akira after the third time he asked her the same question.
"Wha…? I'm sorry, Akira-san, I…"
"I asked, 'What frightened you so much, Yuya-san?'" Akira asked in a most patient tone of voice.
Yuya could swear she detected the barest hint of amusement, too. "I wasn't frightened!" she retorted fiercely, denying that her cheeks were flaming red and that her heart-rate and breathing were just then slowing down.
"Is that so?" This time, there was no denying the humor that accompanied the sarcastic words, "Then tell me, Yuya-san, why did you bolt from your room as though pursued by demons and nearly scream loud enough to wake the dead before I could say aught to you?"
Akira had so very nearly hit the mark dead-on that Yuya could swear the man was omniscient. She remembered Akira's words, oh those years ago, when they had first met as enemies: of his ability to sense the truth from liars just by listening. Of course, their current proximity probably aided his deductions.
"I wasn't frightened!" Yuya repeated snarlingly, defensively, "Now let me go!"
"Of course." Akira's hold on her loosened immediately, and Yuya was just as abruptly reminded of how cold it was away from her warm futon.
Bitterly cursing the heat that suffused her cheeks without providing a modicum of comfort to the rest of her body, Yuya clasped her arms about herself and eyed Akira warily. Even here, the darkness proved less than absolute, though Yuya could discern little more than his outline, a darker shadow amid the other shadows. "I-I am sorry I crashed into you like that, Akira-san," Yuya said in a rush, "And I'm sorry I hit you. I didn't hurt you at all, did I?" That last part had been tacked on, automatically, and Yuya regretted it as soon as the words passed her lips.
To his credit, Akira did not laugh or jeer (as Kyo might have done). "Hardly, Yuya-san, although I will admit you surprised me a bit with how fiercely you fought back."
Yuya honestly could not tell if he was patronizing her, as a big brother would a little sister given to temper tantrums. "Well, it was your fault for startling me like that in the first place!" she grumbled under her breath. A thought occurred to her. "What were you doing out here, anyway?" she demanded accusingly. It seemed a perfectly reasonable question, and one that helped distract her from her mortification - not that she expected Akira to admit to being afraid of ghostly shrieks on the wind...
"I didn't like the sound of the wind."
His abrupt honesty surprised her. "Eh?"
Akira's outline shrugged and Yuya heard the barest whisper of a sigh. "When these northern gales strike, I find that their cacophony makes it difficult to sleep."
As if to punctuate his statement, an eerie shriek whistled through the rafters, gusting sharply ice-cold down the space where they stood.
Yuya started and shivered violently in spite of herself - it had sounded so much like the howl of a soul in utter despair that the hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up.
"Of course, sometimes… one does hear voices in the wind."
"Shrieking wind, I can handle," Yuya found herself saying, "It's the stuff I think about when I'm alone in the dark that scares me." 'Oh, DAMMIT!' she thought immediately after.
"Then the solution is simple, Yuya-san," Akira said after a moment, "Don't fear the dark."
His observation was perfectly reasonable, she had to admit - if only in theory. "I suppose that easy for someone like you," she snapped, prepared to waft past him with as much dignity as she could salvage.
"Someone like me? 'Blind like you' perhaps?"
The harsh, raw grate of his words was almost palpable - Yuya gaped in surprise at having struck so deep a nerve, so astonished at his glaring misinterpretation that she forgot all about escape. "No, Akira-san, I…! I never meant it like that, I wouldn't…!"
Something told her that Akira could storm away at any instant, and that she must prevent him from doing so at all costs. Impulsively, she reached out and seized his wrist, holding it determinedly between her two hands. "I meant that someone who's faced down so many terrible things and defeated so many enemies, who's gone through so much and can still be so strong and brave, would find it easy not to be afraid of the dark," she said, speaking so rapidly that her words seem to trip and fall over one another, "I never meant for you to think that I was talking about how you… about your blindness." She finished weakly, dazedly wondering if her nonsensical ramblings had had any effect at all.
Akira remained silent for a long while, as the winds' screeches redoubled and faded, only to return with more shrill force than ever. Yuya felt as though she had been frozen in place, anxiously peering out into impenetrable darkness, waiting for his response. The cold seeping into her heart, that she might have offended Akira beyond repair, seemed more important than the chill nestling about her thinly-clad body.
Had she been able to observe herself, Yuya might have wondered why Akira's acceptance mattered so much.
Firmly, but gently, Akira removed his wrist from her hold. "Good night, Yuya-san," he bid her tonelessly.
Yuya could feel her heart clench, the cold there crystallizing till it caused hurt; but she did not say anything else. What was the point? "Good night, Akira-san," she whispered.
She was halfway into her room when his sword-callused hand slid down her bare forearm to clasp hers. "You are stronger and braver than you think, Yuya-san," he breathed into her ear, the whisper caressing her cheek with warmth, "I should know; I've seen it for myself."
And then, he was gone, like shadow banished by light.
She slept peacefully for the rest of the night, in which the winds were not nearly so terrible nor the darkness nearly so deep.
For those of you who might think Akira was a bit OOC in his reaction to Yuya's "someone like you," hear me out - I'm basing his defensiveness on my interpretation of his character, especially in volume 14, when he says, "I have no need for eyes. There are few things in this world I would care to see" (responding to Bon's comment that it's easy to forget that Akira is blind). Bon calls it "logic," but I think it goes deeper than that - Akira feels defensive of his decision to blind himself, and if he cares about a person's opinion of him, he will respond sharply. In this instance, I chose to make his reaction on the extreme side, for obvious reasons.