Somebody shoot me, I must be insane.
Well, I guess I should explain that. What you're now reading is a story I started waaaay back in 2006 and then just kind of left alone for, oh, two and a half years. And now I'm working on it again. The problem is, my original first two chapters... um... sucked. So I went back and fixed them. And that's what you're reading now. The fixed parts. Yeah.
I've always been fond of the character Jin. He's one of those rare characters that just makes me laugh. Every. Single. Time. I think that's what's pulled me back to this story- lately, I need to laugh. And, with a little help from my darling fiance and my equally darling younger sister... bless you both, you little twits... I've rather run out of reasons not to work on Kaze no Fantasia again. But I'll explain that when I finally post chapter three.
So, again, this chapter is a rewrite of the original. I've always had certain scenes and conversations that I was just not happy with as time went by, so I've ironed those out a bit, polished it all up, and made it shiny. Because really, we all need to laugh sometimes.
And, as a note, I've also decided to include Mana's 'playlists' if anyone is wondering. For chapter one, the songs she listens to are:
Kaze no Fantajia- Fantasia of the Wind: Record of Lodoss War; Ending Theme from one variant of the anime
Kiseki no Umi- Sea of Miracles: Record of Lodoss War, Opening Theme from the OTHER variant of the anime (Oi!)
Hiro no Tsuki- Daytime Moon; Outlaw Star ending theme
That way you guys can go look all of those up. Just remember, the versions I use in the story are English translations (loose ones) while the songs themselves are in Japanese.
So... let's go!
Okay, I really need to think of a different catchphrase for this story...
The last thing he remembered before the gate opened was shouting. Shouting... and a stabbing pain across his middle. Now the shouts were gone, but the pain was still there, cutting through his midsection. Shifting against the cold brick wall, Jin closed his eyes and tried to remember quite what had happened. Risho. Risho had cornered them for a chat when the ambush had started. The stone manipulator had gone down first, his left leg twisted at an odd angle by the surprise blow. Touya and Jin had immediately gone into defensive mode, but it wasn't enough. Somehow, they had been caught off guard. Jin remembered a blast of some sort from behind and then the sharp, searing pain of the blade in his gut. Touya had grabbed Risho and gotten the gate to the human world open right as the ground exploded beneath them, spraying them with shrapnel. He looked around for his friends, but neither were to be seen as the red-haired wind master sat in the dank alleyway where he'd come out, watching the humans pass him by with one hand pressed to his stomach. Most took no notice of him, and the few who did quickly made their way past. Jin heard murmurs about delinquents and drunkards from the ones who walked fast. A man in a business suit walked by muttering about 'punk kids these days' while a young woman very openly dragged her small daughter across the street at the sight of him. Fine, upstanding members of human society, he thought with a sigh. Finally Jin stopped paying attention to the people altogether. He felt hungry, weak from blood loss, and so thirsty he could barely stand it, but he couldn't move yet. He closed his eyes and sat against the wall, waiting for his wounds to heal enough that he could at least move to the other end of the alley, away from the bustling street.
He must have fallen asleep, Jin decided later, because the girl came as a complete surprise. He just opened his eyes and there she was, crouched in front of him. He said nothing, just stared at the strange lavender eyes that were peering so intently into his own deep blue ones. She was very young, he noted as she started rustling through a messenger-style book bag after several silent moments of eye contact. She had pale skin that stood in sharp contrast to her periwinkle blue school uniform and hair like corn silk, a fine gold veil that swept down to her waist. Finally she seemed to find what she was looking for, because she tilted her head lightly and pulled out a paper bag. "Here," she said in a soft voice, "You need this more than I do."
Before Jin could reply, there was a shout from outside the alleyway. "Mana!"
The girl's head snapped up. She grabbed her bag and rose to her feet, looking towards the main street. "Just a minute," she called as she hastily closed the book bag and slung it over her shoulder. She looked down at Jin again, studying him appraisingly before bobbing her head in a curt nod. "You'd better try and get some rest, heal those wounds. And try to stay out of sight, too." She reached down and tapped him right on the horn. "I don't think you want people to see that."
And then she turned and ran out of the alley, was gone. All that was left was the brown paper bag. Slightly perplexed about her reaction to his horn, he opened it and found a bottle of apple juice, a large bread roll of some sort, and a small boxed lunch. Jin's eyes widened. This girl, whom he had never seen in his life, had given him food! He opened the box eagerly, his mouth practically watering. Rice and fish and some sort of salad! He ate quickly, almost feeling like it was the first meal he'd had in months, and then sat back against the wall again, scooting back a bit to get a little more out of sight. He still felt weak, and his middle still burned, but at least his stomach was satisfied. He would probably be able to heal a bit now. He fell asleep.
"Mana Koyama, you did not give your lunch to a bum on the street!"
Sitting on the steps of Sarayashiki Junior High several hours later, the golden-haired girl winced. "Not just a bum, okay, Sachi? This guy seemed different..."
Sachiko Misato, Sachi for short, rolled her eyes and tossed her long black hair as her identical twin, Hachiko or Hachi, tore her anpan bun in half and held the larger part out to Mana. "Bum or not, you can't go without eating. You know what it does to you."
Mana nodded before bending her head down and tearing off a mouthful of the sweet bread, too hungry to waste her time on words and in too much of a hurry to care about manners. Right now she really wanted two things- to eat, and to avoid the subject of the boy in the alleyway. Even she shouldn't be able to walk down the street and find wounded apparitions just sitting there in the open. Come to think of it, if the twins thought he was just some bum, well, that was fine with her...
"Botan hasn't been around lately, has she?"
Mana was so busy on her food that she hadn't caught which twin had spoken. Raising her head- and silently cursing their identical voices- she saw Hachiko looking at her, waiting for an answer. Mana shook her head as she swallowed. "There haven't been any cases needing my abilities. Besides, she says I should lay low for a while." The blonde eyed Sachiko's half-eaten bento lunch. "Are you going to finish that?"
"Only if you answer me this," Sachiko countered. "If you haven't been doing any jobs for the spirit world, then why are you so hungry lately?"
Mana grinned ruefully. "I've been doing precision training?"
"Training how?" The girl's hands were on her hips in a 'don't cross me' pose. The blonde girl sighed. She knew that pose well; it was the one her friend always had right before she started trying to smack people. It was probably best to just be honest for once.
"Avoiding the college kids, mostly. I've been using the spyglass to keep an eye out."
The youth's voice was shrill. "They are not still gathered at your apartment building! Oh, those idiots, just because you helped their stupid club once..."
"There are a few left. I just use the fire escape." Mana reached towards the remnants of Sachi's lunch; the other teen grudgingly handed it over. "But sometimes they catch me anyway, and I have to create a diversion to get away. A small explosion at some point across the street usually works. Point and click behind my back, a few trash cans explode, and no one notices me any more."
"Mana!" Mana backed away as both girls closed in on her in unison. "Mana, you can't do that," Hachiko half yelled, half wailed. "You know what Botan says about expending your reiki like that! No wonder you're eating so much! Your body must be starved for energy!"
"From now on, we're walking you home. I can deal with the idiots while Hachi gets you inside." Sachiko's voice was serious, but Mana waved her aside anyway.
"I'll be fine, okay? Besides, I have things to do today."
"Like what?" Sachiko demanded.
Mana shrugged, looking up at them with level eyes. When in doubt, there was always one ploy that worked. She waved her hand noncommittally. "Oh, you know, grocery shopping and the like. They're having a sale at a store across town, and I can get eggs really cheap, so I thought I'd get that done."
The twins stared at her a moment, and then Hachiko threw her arms around Mana's shoulders. "It's not fair! Poor, poor Mana, it must be so hard living all by yourself!"
The blonde cringed slightly. As mean as it was, playing on Hachi's sympathies always worked. Always. "As long as Dad keeps paying the rent, I'm fine. My allowance more than pays for the food I eat, and I don't mind the quiet. You worry too much." The bell rang, and Mana stuffed the last bit of rice into her mouth before standing. "Come on. They're announcing the results on the last mock exams today. I want to get in and see my score."
"What are you worried about, you probably got high marks again," Sachiko muttered. "I swear, some people are born lucky."
Mana rolled her eyes. "It's called studying. You should try it some time."
After school that day, Mana did not go shopping as she had told her friends she would. She'd done that the day before, after all. The girl sighed, feeling a small pang of regret over yet another lie as she headed back towards the alley she'd stopped in on the way to school that morning. Barely even a block and a half from her home, even. What was the human world coming to today? Peeking around the corner, she saw her empty lunch box lying at the feet of a sleeping figure. "Still here, huh?" There was no response. The girl knelt down cautiously, looking the demon boy over. What she saw was enough to make her more than a little puzzled.
Asleep, his expression was innocent and unassuming in a way that contrasted sharply with the rest of his muscular body. He had the build of a trained fighter with the face of a teenaged boy. He was breathing through his mouth, his lips barely parted, and she noted with some amusement that he had a single tiny fang peeking out from under his upper lip. His mane of bright red hair seemed a bit natty, but looking at the messy cut she wondered if that wasn't just an every-day thing. The tiny white horn was what amused her the most, though. Like his face, it somehow seemed too cute and innocent for the rest of his body. She reached forward, resting her finger on the tip of the horn. It wasn't overly sharp, but it wasn't dull, either. As a fighter, and she was certain he was a fighter now, he probably had found some pretty creative uses for it. She pulled her hand away from the horn, brushing his bangs back from his face instead. He had big blue eyes; she remembered them from that morning. There was a scratch just below one messy eyebrow, a small spot of dried blood that had once been working it's way to his eye, just as there were scratches, cuts, and gashes all over his body. She rested her hand over the shallow scrape, pulling away only once the small wound was gone. "You're lucky. Most of these seem pretty shallow."
There was no answer, but he did shift slightly in his sleep. The girl's eyes widened as his hand fell away from his stomach. The wound there was not small; a gash started maybe her hand's width to the left of his naval and traveled upwards and across to the right at least a good eight inches at least. It wasn't bleeding at the moment, but the skin along the cut was an angry red with... she knelt closely, inspecting it... with a purplish cast in the flesh at the very edges. Discoloration like that usually meant some form of toxin. Judging from the clean cut, it had probably been from some sort of poisoned dagger or the like. Mana reached into her bag and pulled out a length of silver cord. "I guess we'll have to take care of that, then."
The first thing Jin was aware of was the noise. Or rather, he was aware of the fact that the noise suddenly wasn't there any more. Gone was the hustle and bustle of the streets, and in its place was music. Soft, pretty music. As he lay there, listening to the music, he also became aware of the fact that most of the pain had receded, leaving only the throbbing of his wounded stomach. Add to that the fact that he was actually quite warm and comfortable, and Jin was confused. Then the music ended, and another melody began, and with it a soft, sweet song.
"Please, give me your wonders... fill me with a fantasia... and I will stray no longer, all for my love of you..."
Jin opened his eyes and took in what he could of his surroundings, but all he could really tell lying on his back was that he was indoors.
"Oh, spirits of the wind, spread your wings wide, and fly through the valleys of time with the speed of light..."
Pretty song, he thought, turning his head to look around. He was in somebody's house, lying on a couch with a small coffee table in front of it. Someone had covered him with a blanket. It was a pretty good-sized place from what he could see, with a half-wall between the kitchen and the living room. There was a flat-screen television mounted on the wall, he noted, the kind that rich humans liked to show off. A small shelf under the TV and the movie boxes running along it had dust enough to hint that they weren't used very often. There was also a section within his visual range with a table and chairs and a china cabinet that seemed like it should be a dining area, save for the fact that the table was covered in books and papers. One wall of the living room was glass, and there was a door in it leading to a balcony beyond. The place was bright with the mid-day sun.
"To be in love with you is destiny. I have decided it will be forever, like a night that has no end, all because of you."
That had to be some of the prettier singing he'd ever heard with the exception of a regrettable tangle or two with siren song (or not so regrettable, depending on how he looked at it), and it was coming from the kitchen. Jin was certain it was a live human being, and not a recording, and he struggled to sit up to see the singer. Just a little further and he could see over that dividing wall...
"Come, lay down your head, rest within my heart..."
Long blonde hair was the first thing he saw, fine and golden like corn silk, a waist-length veil. Pale white arms up to the elbows in soapsuds as she did the dishes. And underneath her bright red apron was a periwinkle blue school uniform. Jin stared. It was the girl from the alleyway, the one who had given him something to eat.
"If we can just open our hearts, we will see a fantasia... if we can just close our eyes, our dreams will come true... Oh, veils of the wind, lift away and then we find double moons within the sky, shining through the skylights above."
She was singing along with a CD playing in the stereo next to her, and did not appear to be aware that he had awakened. Jin tilted his head to the side as he watched her. Something about her voice haunted him, and he began to feel drowsy again. He shook his head to clear it.
"The stars we saw last night have traveled millions of miles, surpassing all of history just to meet us here. To be in love with you is destiny. I have decided it will be forever, like a night that has no end, all because of you."
Jin shifted to stand. Maybe he could slip out while she was distracted. It would be best not to spend too much time with a human, after all. As nice as the species could be, it was just one of those things that really wasn't too smart. He could move now, so he really should try to find Touya and Risho.
Her voice cut across the room without her ever having taken her eyes off her dishes. "I wouldn't get up just yet, if I were you." Jin stopped short as she turned. "I was able to take care of most of your injuries, but I can't seem to make any difference with the large wound on your stomach. I think it may have been poisoned." She dried her hands on a dishcloth as she came around the dividing wall. "I bandaged it as best I could, but without stitches it could come open again, so you shouldn't get up." The girl held out her hand. "I'm Mana, Spirit Detective in training."
Had he heard her right? Jin took her hand, blinking. "Yer what now?"
Mana stared at him, a look of surprise on her face at the sound of his voice. It was the sort of expression that should have been accompanied by a smirk or a smile, but the girl did neither. "You know what a spirit detective is, no?"
"Yeah, ah know." There it was again. Her mouth quirked when he talked. Damn it, his accent was getting away from him and now the human girl was looking at him funny.
"I'm still in training."
Her hand in his was tiny and delicate. He studied it in silence, having a very, very hard time believing that this girl could ever work for the spirit world as anything more than, say, a secretary. It was as he was looking down at her hand in his that he noticed the twisted cord around his right wrist. "Eh! Wot's 'at doing' there?"
Mana removed her hand from his to scratch the back of her neck. "I put it there... to suppress your yoki..." She looked up at him through her bangs, and almost, almost smiled. "Sorry. I couldn't take the chance that you'd be violent when you woke up."
Jin stared at her. "Ya know wot ah am..." Damn it. He tried again, more slowly this time. "Ya know what ah am..." Slightly better, although she still looked almost amused. Okay, so it had been hardly better at all. He gave up. "And ya brought me here anyway, with just a little bit o' string to protect ya?" How was she expecting a bracelet to seal his demon energy?! Mana looked away, pursing her lips just a little. Jin bristled slightly. She was laughing at him, wasn't she? He scowled, his control slipping again. "In't 'at just a li'l bit dangerous?"
"Well, it wasn't like I could leave you where you were." The girl turned and walked back into the kitchen, her decidedly golden hair swishing behind her as she went. He stared, wondering what it would look like with a little bit of a curl to it. Almost like a princess's hair, if it only had some curl. Eh, he'd listened to too many of his mum's stories as a boy... "Anyway, you just rest, and I'll fix you something to eat."
Jin settled back down onto the couch, staring after the girl in disbelief. Okay, so she didn't remotely look like spirit detective material, and she didn't seem to have very much of an aura about her, but the courage was there, he had to give her that. The courage was definitely there. Of all the kinds of humans he had met, only the ones who worked for the Spirit World would be so balls-on crazy as to bring someone like him into their homes...
He continued to watch her as she moved about the kitchen, singing along with her music again. "The dark night sky above exists to expose our hearts as they call out to each other when the two of us are apart..." There was something mesmeric about her voice. It grabbed a hold of him, enveloped him in a strange sort of warmth as he settled down into the blankets on the couch. Jin ran a hand over his middle and felt the bandages beneath his fingers. He held his arms out in front of him. He could see pale streaks in his skin, places wounded in the explosion that were now healing at an unusually rapid rate, even for him. That must be were her power lies, Jin decided- in healing. She wasn't a combatant for the spirit world, she was a nurse. He looked back up at Mana. She was moving about the kitchen, heating something on the stove even as she put rice in a steamer to cook. And she was still singing, always singing. He wished she would stop. Her voice was pretty, yes, but it was making him want to fall asleep...
"Oh, wind, I rise and turn to face you! Now let's go to the sea of torment ahead..."
There she was singing about the wind again. It was a little eerie, Jin decided, but probably just coincidence. She was just singing along with what was on her CD. Good taste in songs, he decided, shaking his head slightly to keep from nodding off again.
"By the way," Mana called out conversationally, "You haven't told me your name yet."
"Em?" The redhead blinked. He hadn't, had he? "Ah'm Jin."
"Jin," the girl repeated. "Well, nice to meet you, Jin." He heard dishes clattering where he couldn't see them, and then Mana came around carrying a plate. "I hope chicken is okay." She set a plate of stir-fried vegetables, chicken, and rice in front of him, and then sat down on the floor expectantly. Jin picked up the food and ate, slightly resentful of the fact that he was letting this human girl feed him for the second time in a day but too hungry to actually put the food down. The whole time he ate he could feel her eyes on him, watching his every move. So she had courage, but she wasn't stupid. He would have to remember that. He raised his eyes to look at her. She was leaning with her elbows on the table and her chin resting on her hands. Her eyes were curious, but still wary. "Is it good?" He nodded between bites. "Good." She rolled back on her heels, as though satisfied, and stood. "I've got a bit of homework to do, so you just rest, okay?"
Mana walked over to the table with the papers on it and sat down. Pulling a stack of papers to her, she then picked a book and set to working. The only sounds were the music on her CD player and the occasional scratch of a pencil as she wrote on the papers before her. Jin settled more comfortably onto the couch and watched her work. After a while, she glanced up at him, and their eyes met. Mana closed the book in front of her and sat back in her seat. "You ought to sleep."
"Ah don't feel like it."
Mana tapped at a piece of paper with her pencil a moment. Then she tipped her head back and began to sing once more, about the moon and the sands and cherry blossoms in the breeze. Jin listened, and realized that his eyes were starting to shut without his permission again. He shook his head hard, and looked back up at the girl. She was staring right at him, and looked determined. She's doing it deliberately, the wind master realized. She was using her song as a sort of weapon, trying to force him to sleep. Well, we'd just see... about... that...
Jin slipped off to sleep just as Mana ended her song. She watched him a moment, and then went back to her schoolwork.
It only took Mana a couple hours to complete the assignments she'd been given for the next day and get a good start on the ones due at the end of the week. Closing the last of her books, she sat back to muse over her new houseguest. Jin, huh? Drumming a book idly with her fingers, she looked over at him. He was still asleep. Good. He had to have been weak, she reflected as she stood, for her poorly trained lulling techniques to have knocked him out completely. The blonde walked over to the couch, kneeling down and loosening the bandages on the demon boy's waist gently. Yes, now that she'd had a chance to talk to him he definitely seemed young to her. His arms and legs appeared to be recovering nicely, but damn it all if that gash on his stomach didn't seem to have healed a single bit. Mana frowned as she took a basket from the head of the couch and pulled out a jar of salve and a roll of fresh bandages. Well, at least she could keep the wound from getting infected while she figured out what it was about, and maybe she could clear up a few of those scars if she just pushed out a little more energy.
He seemed nice enough, she decided as she worked. At least, he wasn't openly hostile when he woke up in her home. He hadn't said much, but he hadn't been being rude, just wary. So had she, so she didn't really mind. And the accent was cute. Mana's mouth quirked as she worked. Honestly, that was one of those things that amused her about demons; they were every bit as diverse and unusual as humans were. Still, Irish? That was new. That was definitely new.
It had been a real pain getting him here that afternoon, Mana reflected. The next time she had guests, she really needed to make sure they were conscious first. She had honestly tried to wake the demon and he just... wouldn't. So she'd had to settle for tying the binding cord around his wrist and then dragging him a block and a half down the back streets to her home, and boy! Was he heavy! And then she couldn't use the front door because she'd be seen, but she couldn't use the fire escape like she was accustomed because the ladder was ten feet off the ground and had to be climbed to, so she'd sat for about half-an-hour trying to decide how to get him up to her fourth-floor apartment before she'd remembered the old service elevator in the back of the building. Still, she'd reflected, at least she'd managed to keep off the busy streets. That had been a definite plus.
Of course, it had hardly been a picnic once she had him in her home, either, because Jin still hadn't woken up, and she had to sort of shove him around a bit to check all the cuts and scrapes on his body. It had taken a while to get all of the dirt and bits of rock out of his arms and legs. And bandaging his waist had been, and still was, a pain, because she had to keep shifting him to get the bandages around him. But Mana didn't really mind that much. It made her feel good to be useful to someone, if only for a short while. Besides, she could hardly say she wasn't curious about this one. Sitting there, in her world, all torn up, so weak that she could put him to sleep with her song. That technique was more suited to cooling tempers than it was to being a full anesthetic. What the heck had happened to this guy? Mana tied off the last bandage and sat back, her eyes falling on the binding cord she'd placed on Jin's wrist. That was going to hurt her later on, she reflected, but she still didn't know enough about him to take it off. The blonde sighed and pulled a framed photograph out of her first aid basket.
"Too bad you're not here, Mama. You'd know just what to do, wouldn't you?"
Jin woke up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that something was wrong. He frowned, trying to figure it out. The apartment was dark and silent, and he lay straining his ears in the dark. It had been a noise, he was sure of it. Some tiny noise had woken him up, the kind that meant something wasn't right...
There it was. The noise was somebody coughing. Jin sat up, trying to see over the back of the couch. There was a hallway back there, and coughing behind a door to the... right? He stood slowly, carefully, and headed towards the hallway. Two doors to the left, one to the right, and the noise was definitely coming from the one to the right. He rested his hand on the door, and to his surprise it opened at the slight touch. Jin stood there a moment before actually looking into the room.
It was Mana's room. By pushing the door just a little more, he could see her. She was sitting hunched over on her bed with her back mostly to him, coughing so violently it shook her whole body. Coughing something up, if the bucket she hugged to her was any indication. Jin stepped back from the door as the girl gasped for air. He felt like he shouldn't be watching this, like he was invading her privacy. He reached to pull the door closed behind him when Mana retched suddenly, and he thought he smelled blood. There was more coughing, and then a cold, cold silence. Jin tugged at the door and froze when he heard a sound like hinges squeaking. Don't let her hear that, he pleaded with the door silently. Please don't let her hear that... but then he heard it again. It wasn't the door at all. It was the girl on the other side of the door. Was she... crying?
Jin stuck his head back into the room, unable to contain his curiosity. Mana was curled up on her side, hugging her pillow to her face to muffle the sound. She lay like that for several minutes, crying softly, before he heard a shuddering gasp, and then another, as she tried to silence herself. Jin stepped away from the door and pulled it shut, puzzled. She seemed like she was in a lot of pain, and the air around her felt kind of unsteady. She hadn't seemed that strong earlier, but she hadn't seemed quite this weak, either. The wind apparition shook his head as he headed back to the couch. It was none of his business anyway. He would stick around until this wound healed and then be gone. The girl could keep whatever was wrong to herself.