Disclaimer: These two were hatched from the collective brain of CLAMP. Not mine.
Spoilers: I don't think so, but it is set during the Shurano arc. I intend to write a few short stories based on the adventures of Kurogane and Fai in Yasha territory, with a focus on the language barrier because I love teaching, languages, and cross-cultural confusion. Yummy.
Rating: For all the stories as a whole (language, some violence... possible "adult situations." Oh ho ho.)
The moonlight seeped in through an opening on the cave's roof, illuminating the rabbit Kurogane balanced in one hand as he very carefully attempted to skin it with his long sword. A breeze whistled through the cave, but other than that, it was blessedly silent.
Kurogane sighed. This was, of course, temporary. Fai had left the shelter to fetch water to boil dinner in, but he would inevitably return and murder the silence with that mix of mangled Japanese and his own strange language. Fai was inconsiderate that way.
During the few weeks he had been stuck wandering the wilderness alone with the damned insane mage and no walking pork-bun translator, Kurogane had managed to beat a few key phrases of Japanese into Fai's flighty brain while they hunted for adequate shelter and scrounged the scrubby wasteland for scrawny prey (tonight's menu: mutant fire-breathing bunny rabbit, complete with scales.) Key phrases being: monster, run, shut up, sleep, food, and water. And of course, his own personal favorite: "I will kill you." Fai had learned that sentence - his first complete sentence of Japanese - with surprising speed. Regardless, Kurogane had never wanted to be a language teacher, of all things: to a ninja, silence was a weapon just as his sword was. A ninja who couldn't maintain his silence couldn't sneak up on his enemy and neatly relieve him of his head. A ninja who chattered exposed his thoughts and vulnerabilities to his enemies. Plus Kurogane simply thought talk was overrated. Usually his glare was sufficient to convey everything he wanted to say and a whole lot more efficient.
Hell, he hadn't even wanted to be a sword teacher to Shaoran and he liked cutting things. But one of them had to learn the other's language, and it made sense that it would be Fai. It was Fai's Big Wish, after all, to never return to Celes, and thus Kurogane did not believe they would be needing the language anytime soon if the Space Time Bitch did her job properly (although Kurogane was having serious, justifiable doubts in her abilities at the moment.) Secondly, many of the worlds they had been dragged through so far seemed to use some variant of Japanese. Kurogane knew this because while Mokona translated all the speech for them automatically, the translation did not extend to the written word. Yet kanji was widespread enough that Kurogane could continue reading the serial installments of Maganya (with a little help from the brat now and then.) Judging from Fai's occasional remarks, though, they had not yet come across any worlds that used a writing system he was familiar with.
Finally, Fai was a wizard, or a recovering wizard or whatever, and Kurogane knew from association with his own mother and Tomoyo that magic users regularly learned all sorts of spells, many in nonsensical languages (it was easy for Kurogane to see why making up languages would appeal to the crazy sort like Tomoyo and Fai – it was like being part of a twisted club with its own special, useless secret handshake.) Therefore, learning a real language with logical rules should be a piece of cake for Fai. Right?
Or not. Kurogane winced at the horrible mutilation of his name, wishing that he could rip his eardrums out temporarily. The ancestor-shaming name mutilation was his great, glaring failure as a teacher of language. He had tried repeatedly to teach Fai to pronounce his name correctly, but Fai had not yet reproduced it to his satisfication, not even once. The ninja suspected that Fai was being purposefully perverse tonight, and thus he punished Fai by pretending to be too preoccupied with the mutant-bunny to look up as Fai traipsed into the cave, cheerfully swinging the bucket of water. The wizard looked slightly disappointed, then shrugged and started quietly chattering to himself as he began striking two rocks together in order to start a cookfire.
The ninja growled to himself as he gutted the mutant bunny with a bit more force than necessary. In retrospect, he wasn't terribly surprised to realize that Fai's native language really annoyed him. If languages were a reflection of a culture (as Tomoyo had once suggested), Fai's entire culture was mentally disturbed: he spoke a language that sounded as if it were stuck on a see-saw. Up-and-down, up-and-down. The language was also full of clusters of consonants that sounded like metal in one's mouth, although this was balanced out partially because Fai's voice was ridiculously soft like a noblewoman's. Japanese, on the other hand, was even, steady, disciplined, with the right amount of vowels sprinkled throughout it to give a nice, fluid sound. Not at all like Fai's language.
Oh hell. The wizard was making up songs with his name. Very bad songs. He hadn't wanted to play teacher tonight, but Fai was his pupil nonetheless and his honor was at stake. A vein started throbbing in his forehead, pulsating to the beat of Fai's hideous song.
Kurogane's arm shot out and he grabbed Fai by the wrist, abruptly ending the silly song. "Stop that," the ninja growled as Fai's eyes widened in shock. "That is NOT how you say my name. You don't get to say my name in any form until you can pronounce it correctly at least once." Fai blinked at him in confusion and Kurogane frowned, running through a mental tally of vocabulary. He had taught the ex-wizard "you," "don't," "my," "name," and "no" (although "no" required constant reteaching), but probably not "pronounce" and "correctly," and he wasn't sure how he could teach those words either. Fai didn't know enough Japanese for Kurogane to explain that Japanese was a language that weighted syllables equally, but Kurogane knew that Fai wasn't going to realize it on his own.
Kurogane furrowed his eyebrows in concentration as he thought of a new approach. He loosened his grasp on Fai's wrist and cupped it instead, then took the index finger of his other hand and held it front of Fai's face. "Watch." Kurogane rhythmically tapped his index finger on Fai's wrist as he slowly said the syllables of his name, a tap for each syllable. "Ku-ro-ga-ne. Ku-ro-ga-ne."
Fai's mouth rounded in surprise, and Kurogane saw a flicker of realization in the wizard's eyes. "Ku-ro-ga-ne?" he offered hesitantly.
"Yes, good." Kurogane gave Fai a small smile (only because it was the easiest way to show approval). Encouraged, Fai repeated his name several more times with increasing confidence then began to recite other Japanese words, taking care to emphasize the syllables equally.
The ninja allowed himself to gloat in this minor victory. Now if Fai mangled his name, he would know it was intentional and he would enjoy beating the crap out of the wizard. If he could manage to catch him: Fai was fast. He probably had lots of practice running from pissed off people in his own world, Kurogane speculated as he examined Fai's captured hand. His skin was soft, but Kurogane sensed the wiry strength of an athlete lurking in his long, graceful fingers. They were a little cool, though, and Fai's coat sleeves were damp. Silly wizard had probably been careless and gotten wet in the stream; he didn't possess an ounce of common sense. Maybe he should take the wizard's coat off so he wouldn't catch a damn cold; the nights were always cold here and he was too skinny to have decent insulation. It would be a pain to try to keep the fire going all night with the breeze. Maybe he would just sleep next to Fai to keep him warm. It was better than listening to him whine about being cold, and Fai wasn't unpleasant to touch.
...the hell? Kurogane jerked back, dropping Fai's hands. "Kurogane?" asked the wizard questioningly.
Kurogane quickly turned his back so Fai wouldn't see his hot cheeks. "I, uh, forgot about the rabbit." He scooped the mutant rabbit up from where it lay neglected and pitiful in the dirt; he had dropped it earlier when Fai's songs pissed him off. The ninja busied himself with finishing the gutting of the rabbit. During dinner, he was careful to avoid eye contact with Fai and only grunted when Fai jabbered to him.
His cheeks were still burning when he lay down to sleep (not anywhere close to Fai, not even within poking-with-a-long-sword distance.) How had he gone from relishing the idea of beating Fai senseless to planning a snuggly-slumberfest with him?
Kurogane agonized over this for several sleepless hours until he struck upon the obvious answer and solution:
He would definitely have to start boiling the drinking water.
I really appreciate feedback! I use comments to improve my writing. Please let me know if Kuro-min is reasonably in character (I exaggerated a bit for humor, but I hope he's still recognizable as Kurogane.)
I'm continuing with my idea from Child of Celes about Fai's culture being similar to Russia. Russian is definitely a language that uses stresses and lots of consonants, and I think it does seem
"harsh" compared to Japanese (so does English for that matter.) A few sound files of Russian are posted in my LJ (see profile) for the curious.
Why is speaking syllables with equal weight a big deal to Japanese? One reason is that they have difficulties hearing unstressed syllables if there are stressed syllables in a sentence (For example, after meeting Americans for the first time, the Japanese believed the Americans were calling themselves "Merikans" because Americans stress the word "a-ME-ri-kans." There is so much stress on the second syllable that the Japanese heard that and not the quieter "a" syllable.) Your ears are accustomed to catching particular sounds and patterns, so you usually have to train your ears in order to pick up on foreign ones.
Kurogane seems to know a bit more about language than the typical ninja would. My theory: Tomoyo receives ambassadors and visitors frequently and has probably taught her favorite ninja a little about their cultures, including language. Kurogane's impetus for learning a bit about languages? So he can spy on visitors and figure out if they're plotting something. I bet he would be the type to want to learn to curse people out in their own language too. XD