Disclaimer: Not mine. Don't sue.
Summary: AU. Work in progress. Akira and Hikaru are preoccupied with Shamanic magic, the kind you might see in Tokyo Babylon, not Shaman King. A better idea would be the movie Onmyoji.
Chapter One: Searching for Phoenix
"I told you for the billionth time, I don't know what the hell you're talking about!" Shindou Hikaru shouted. He pulled a hand through his dyed bangs, the yellow of his trendy T-shirt blending well into his hair. "All this…crap about phoenixes, dragons and stuff is for kids. I don't bother with that kind of stupid stuff. I don't care."
Touya Akira took a deep breath, counted silently to ten, then counted to ten again. He had been so determined to find the source that had wakened him this morning, but now he was quickly regretting that he had. A billion unanswered questions were better than trying to reason with this person.
He had been searching for Ho-Oo, Phoenix, the legendary creature of contradictions, the creature that came in times of peace to herald a new beginning. Its reappearance meant the answer to hundreds of questions gathered over the centuries, a symbol of hope and joy for millions of people.
Akira had thought he'd found it in this boy. He'd been prepared for many things, ranging from innocent ignorance to wisdom enough to rival his father's. At first he'd also expected a girl. After all, in all the scrolls and histories, the Ho-Oo had always represented the Empress.
This…this boy however, was the very definition of stubbornness, ignorance, and obtuseness rolled in one. Far from answering questions, he was well on his way to giving the normally tolerant Akira a very painful headache.
"Besides, magic isn't real! Grow up will you?"
A headache was going to be the least of his problems.
According to legend, the Ho-Oo appears very rarely, and only to mark the beginning of a new era -- the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example. In other traditions, the Ho-Oo appears only in peaceful and prosperous times, and hides itself when there is trouble. As the herald of a new age, the Ho-Oo descends from heaven to earth to do good deeds, and then returns to its celestial abode to await a new era. It is both a symbol of peace (when it appears) and a symbol of disharmony (when it disappears).
A long, delicate finger stopped at the end of the sentence, the tip barely brushing the surface. The scroll was old and delicate, but Akira had long become accustomed to handling them. Dressed in a plain shamanic tunic, he sat with both legs tucked properly underneath him, and moved on to the next passage.
The Ho-Oo is often intimately associated with the Ryu. The two are portrayed either as mortal enemies or as blissful lovers. When shown together, the two symbolize both conflict and wedded bliss.
No matter how many times he read this, the second passage always confused him. How could such opposites be represented at the same time? He frowned, and the soft green of his eyes darkened in concentration as he contemplated it one more time. In the end, he gave up, and set to retying the scroll, placing it back in its proper place on the shelf. A glance toward the open shouji screen revealed that the morning was appropriately gray and gloomy, perfectly matching his current mood. For a second Akira resisted the urge to tweak the weather so that it remained that way all day, but he stopped himself. As Ryu, he reminded himself, he had to think of the people he watched over.
Still, it was hard to resist, when his awareness told him that all it would take would be a slight decrease in air pressure, and he'd have the weather he wanted. One gloomy day—with a slight sprinkle perhaps?—surely wouldn't hurt anybody. But no, that wouldn't do. Besides, his father would surely notice. Although Akira was the only child born to the ancient Touya line with all the true characteristics of Ryu in over two thousand years, his father, Touya Kouyo was a powerful onmyoji in his own right, and could sense any slight modification in the weather. His father might not have all the true characteristics, but he had years of experience and discipline under his belt, enough that he could, and often did, smack Akira down to size during their magic lessons.
So with a heavy heart, Akira set toward the dining room, where both his parents were waiting for him.
"You were up early today," Akiko said after greeting him.
"Yes, I was looking at the scrolls again," Akira replied. He forced himself to take another bite of the roasted fish his mother had prepared. It would be selfish to let the disappointment this morning color the rest of the day, and wanton waste of his favorite food would surely worry his mother.
"Which scroll?" Touya Kouya asked.
"The one of the Ho-Oo legend," Akira said. "I had a feeling this morning that today would be the day when I found the answer to my question, but…" He let his voice fade, leaving his failure unspoken.
"A difficult dilemma indeed. No wonder you were up so early."
Akira looked down into his bowl of half-eaten rice. Somehow sympathy from the person he most loved and respected made his failure feel ten times worse.
"I was so sure this morning…"Akira said again. "But no matter how many times I read it, the scroll makes no sense. How can the union of the Ho-Oo and Ryu be both conflict and wedded bliss? How can it be a mortal enemy, yet a partner at the same time?"
"That is why it is a legend," Touya Kouya reminded him. "The Ho-Oo has not been seen for thousands of years. Any proof of its existence that might have been left behind has long disappeared."
"But…but if I am Ryu, shouldn't there be…?"
"Ryu have existed without the Ho-Oo before. You may be no different." His father's quiet, unrelenting gaze made Akira look back down into his bowl again. Normally, he would end the conversation here, but the feeling that had forced him up this morning made him try one more time.
"Yet Otou-san, the feeling was so clear today. I felt it this morning: the heat of Ho-Oo's Fire, the notes of Ho-Oo's Song. A Ho-Oo is here. I'll find her, and when I find her I'll learn the truth."
The room turned uncomfortably still after Akira finished. He shifted his weight slightly, but determinedly held his head up, waiting for a reply.
His father never answered. Instead, it was Akiko who broke the silence, glancing toward the clock as she did so.
"Akira-san, you should get ready for school," she said. "It's almost time."
The clock read half past seven.
"I'd best get going then." He looked at his half-finished food resignedly. "Gochisousama."
When he left for school, now changed into his school uniform, his father still hadn't answered.
"Magic isn't real!"
Akira resisted the urge to rub the space between his eyes. A bright show of magic would surely convince Shindou, but they were in public, and the rule that magic should not be used in public unless absolutely necessary was well grounded into Akira's psyche. He hadn't used up all possible plans, but things were nearing the bottom at this point.
"Have you ever experienced anything unusual?"
"Aside from meeting a weirdo like you, you mean?" For a moment Akira felt a tiny ray of hope as Shindou actually paused to think. "Nope. Never. You're enough strangeness to last a lifetime though." Shindou grinned.
The boy actually had the audacity to grin after that string of offensive words. It wouldn't do to give in and return the insults word for word though, however satisfying it would be. Akira fumed silently, but as he tried to calm down, the reason for his fury became very clear.
He had felt Ho-Oo's presence again toward the end of classes at Kaiou Junior High. In a rush that startled his fellow students and teachers, used to the calm and silent Touya Akira, he had rushed from classes half an hour before it was over without so much as an excuse. Like a beacon, the feeling became stronger each step he took, until it led to the boy standing before him.
Shindou Hikaru had an aura as bright as his name, with magical power in the form of red and gold that gathered like a thick firestorm everywhere he went. When Akira opened up his inner mind, he could hear the beautiful music of birdsong in Shindou's voice. Even as he was shouting and being his most obnoxious, Akira could hear each seductive note as clearly as if he was the one singing instead of Shindou. It was enough to make Akira weep, to feel and see all this, yet have the possessor of such power deny its existence.
"You…you can't see it?" Akira persisted. "You can't see your own power? Surely you can at least feel it. Surely you must be able to at least…"
"I told you! I'm not into that magic stuff!" Shindou interrupted. "Just…go away. Leave me alone already. I want to go to the arcade, okay? Go take your crazy magic stuff to someone who'll actually listen."
"What kind of arcade games are you into?"
"Not magic ones. I like racing games."
A thought occurred. Could the boy be blocked? It wasn't unheard of. Sometimes those who are powerfully gifted suppress their power to protect themselves when the environment doesn't favor their gift, as was obvious in Shindou's case. If that was true, then the way to get Shindou to see would be to...
"Shindou, come with me," Akira said.
"What? Didn't I tell you to go away and leave me alone! What are you…hey! Don't touch me! Let me go!"
Ignoring Shindou's protests, Akira dragged the boy across the street toward the nearest station, Shindou yowling on the top of his lungs the entire time. Once they got into the train, the boy fell silent, but his lower lip was protruded outward in a pout, and he settled into a sulk. Halfway through the trip curiosity got the better of Shindou though, because he suddenly stopped pouting and began asking questions.
"Where are we going?"
"To my house. You're going to meet my father," Akira said.
"Is he as crazy as you?"
Of all the rude and offensive things Shindou had said, this was the worst yet. Turning a face full of unveiled anger at the boy, Akira said coldly, "When you meet him, I highly recommend that you not say anything like that in front of him."
"Ooookay then. So long as you guys don't kidnap me or anything." He paused as a thought hit him. "Hey! You're not…you know."
"Oh good. Kaa-san is expecting me home in time for dinner tonight. She'll get mad at me if I'm late."
Shindou's mood certainly changed rapidly. He was easier to talk to like this though, so Akira continued answering his questions.
"So…so why are you so into this magic stuff?"
"My family has been onmyoji for thousands of years."
"Really? I guess you're an onmyoji too then. No wonder you're so into it, if it's a family business and all."
"So, do you do
prayers and spells and stuff?"
"Does it work? The spells I mean."
Shindou fell silent at that point. Akira supposed he was giving the boy a lot of answers to think about. Unfortunately it didn't last long.
"Are you going to show me then?"
"Show you what?" Akira said, playing dumb mainly to irritate.
"Magic!" Shindou growled, falling for it immediately. "What did you think I was asking you to show?"
"I don't know."
"You're irritating, you know that?"
Akira personally thought it was rich that Shindou would accuse him of that of all things, but his stop arrived before he could respond with a proper retort.
"We get off here."
The walk home was more of the same question and answer routine, until they stopped in front of the main gate of Akira's house. Then he was forced to endure a rapid fire of exclamations from Shindou's direction.
"Wow! Your house is huge! Hey, it's an actual temple! You weren't lying when you said your family was a bunch of shaman were you?"
"Why would I lie?" Akira answered as evenly as he could. If he could only wring Shindou's neck right now…no, he'll regret it later.
"Welcome to my home," Akira said, motioning for Shindou to follow him. Shindou remained blessedly silent once they past through the gate, the temple atmosphere doing what he had not been able to do. The traditional Japanese temple certainly kept Shindou too distracted to think up more stupid questions at least.
Father would be having a study session with his disciples in the study right now, so that was where Akira went, Shindou following obediently behind.
They met Touya Kouya's eldest student and Akira's distant cousin Ogata Seiji as he was exiting the library. Preoccupied as he was in the scroll he was reading, the older man only paused and nodded politely when he noticed Akira a feet away from him, but the minute he saw Shindou the blood immediately drained rapidly from his face. Akira was silently gratified at the reaction. So he wasn't the only one feeling Shindou's blatant power.
"Akira-kun, I see you've brought a friend with you," Ogata managed to say calmly. "You rarely bring guests into the house."
"Ogata-san, konnichiwa. This is Shindou Hikaru."
"Konnichiwa," Shindou said noncommittally, unaware of the spasms he was giving Ogata-san at the moment. As it was, he was having a hard enough time holding onto his scroll. Akira was sure Ogata-san won't be the only one. If the others in the temple haven't already felt Shindou's presence, which was highly unlikely, they'll soon be joining Ogata-san.
"Shall we go into the study then?" Ogata said.
"Was Otou-san expecting me?"
"He was," Ogata said, his tone implying more. With Touya Kouyo's ability, he would have felt Shindou when he and Akira had left the station. He gave Shindou another look. "Well, Akira-kun, before we go to Touya-sensei, I must congratulate you. Even I had doubts when you insisted that Ho-Oo would reappear in your lifetime."
Shindou glared at Ogata, and muttered something about more crazy magic believing people. Akira ignored Shindou, but Ogata gave the boy another contemplative look.
"Interesting…" he murmured.
This was too much for Shindou.
"What's interesting?" he snapped.
"You really don't sense anything do you?" Ogata turned to Akira before Shindou could give a reply. "That would be why you brought him here immediately, hm? The boy's clearly blocked."
"That's what I thought as well Ogata-san," Akira replied.
"But the blocking wasn't the boy's own doing," Ogata added. "He was blocked by outside forces."
That surprised Akira. Ogata was an expert when it came to analyzing other people's abilities, so it was safe to trust Ogata's judgment. But if that was true, then…
"Who would be powerful enough to block him?" Akira wondered out loud.
Ogata smiled, a look that gave him a very sly, fox-like appearance.
"That's the question isn't? Like I said, it's very interesting."
"He-ey! I'd like to remind you all that I'm still here! So please stop talking about me like I'm some sort of strange specimen you just found, got it?" Shindou interrupted.
Akira sighed, and looked to Ogata-san for help. Ogata would know how to handle this.
"Shindou Hikaru is it?" Ogata said.
"Yeah," he said sullenly.
"Perhaps we weren't clear before, and for that I apologize," Ogata said. "I will then spell this out clearly for you. You, Shindou Hikaru, are a strange specimen we just found." He went on smoothly without a hitch. "And as I am a scholar of magic, and you are clearly a magical specimen, that puts you in my field of research."
Shindou opened his mouth, then closed it again, his mind clearly working furiously for some sort of insult but unable to come up with anything.
"Shall we take him to your father then?" Ogata said.
Relieved that he was finally not the only one dealing with Shindou's belligerent personality, together they herded Shindou toward the study, where his father waited.