Title: Castle of Oblivion
Fandom: Tenipuri
Pairing: Pillar Pair
Genre: AU, angst, romance
Rating: PG-15
Word Count: 6,742
Teaser: Tezuka felt something stir in him upon hearing the name Obliville, the Ashen Town. There was just something about the town that called out to him.

This is my very first AU for Tenipuri fandom. I'm sorry for all the cheesiness that might ensue TT.

There are roses to kiss: and mouths to kiss;
And the sharp-pained shadow of death.
I remember a rain-drop on my cheek, --
A wind like a fragrant breath . . .
And the star I laugh on tilts through heaven;
And the heavens are dark and steep . . .
I will forget these things once more
In the silence of sleep.
-Conrad Aiken : Evening Song of Senlin -

CASTLE OF OBLIVION
An Alternate Universe Tezuka x Ryoma Story

There were not many people on the street of Obliville, the Ashen Town. Maybe it was partially due to the state of the gloomy sky above, or the whisper of the not-so-delicate wind. Tezuka Kunimitsu wondered the possibilities since the townspeople looked like they were in a big rush although it did not look like it was going to rain soon. True that it was a bit dark and windy, but he doubted the rain would come sooner than at least the next few hours. He had been to many town and cities before, but this particular town was by far the weirdest.

Tezuka felt something stir in him upon hearing the name 'Obliville'. There was just something about the town that called out to him the moment he passed through the gate. The buildings were void of colour except for a small tint of dirt on their white walls, matching its nickname – the Ashen Town. The stalls were not as lively, and the people were not so friendly. A boy who almost crashed into him did not look his way when he apologized. It made Tezuka wonder if people of Obliville were weary of wanderers and strangers. Whatever their reasons were, he knew he was not welcomed there. It seemed the rumours he heard from the previous town he visited was not just an obscurantism to make Obliville seem lesser than the rest. What was said about unfriendly townspeople and their fear of rain were true.

An elderly man looked Tezuka up and down before shaking his head. "You should hurry and find a shelter too, Mr. Stranger. It will rain soon." And then the man left, leaving Tezuka confused at his hasty remark. He watched as people dropped assortments of fresh vegetables, fruits and meat into a middle-sized box at the corner of the street. Tezuka did not know the significance of it. He did not think anyone would care to explain it to him either. People shot him unreadable glances as they hurried past him, whispering to each other all the while. In less than an hour, the street was empty. Doors and windows were slammed shut; Obliville became a blur of white. The box was the only thing that was not white, the only thing that seemed alive to Tezuka. It was black, with a small white crest on top of it.

Tezuka sighed. There was nothing he could do in this town. He figured he should head to his next destination before nightfall. Just when he hoisted his duffel bag over his shoulder, the sky roared with sightless thunder. Droplets of rain fell from the sky and soon the town wept. Tezuka took shelter under one of the buildings overlooking the box, thinking about how his theory of rain could be wrong. It had not been this dark a moment ago. Unless there was something supernatural going on about this town, the weather should not be as unruly.

The young wanderer sighed. It had been exactly one hundred days since he left his home on a journey of self-discovery. He was born into a noble family of a faraway country; his family was not exactly the happy family one could wish for. They might have the money, but Tezuka thought only a few of them actually possessed a heart. He did not want his life to be confined to the cage that was his family mansion. Tezuka wanted to see the world – to see the many faces of people living on Earth. There was something about himself that made him feel incomplete. He hoped to find the missing pieces to complete his soul in his journey.

Sounds of footsteps hitting wet tiles brought him back from his reverie. He looked up to find himself looking at a young man standing next to the black box. Their eyes met… and time seemed to stop for Tezuka. The young man blinked his large golden eyes, as if surprised to see him there. Tezuka wondered if he had been too lost in his thoughts to not realize the young man's presence sooner.

"Hello," the young man greeted. "I didn't expect anyone to be out here."

"I didn't expect anyone to be out here either."

The young man's eyes fell on Tezuka's duffel bag. His mouth formed a small 'O' before turning into a light smile. There was a flash of sadness in his eyes, though. "You're not from this town, are you?"

Tezuka frowned. The man sounded tired despite his young look. "No, I'm not. I'm a wanderer."

The young man nodded his head, expecting the answer. He cast a contemplating look to the confused wanderer. "If you're waiting for the rain to stop, then I'm sorry to inform you that it won't stop until the day after tomorrow."

Tezuka wanted to curse. He really should have done a bit of background reading before coming to this town. He could not risk walking in the rain for the next 48 hours. He could not possibly take shelter in this unfriendly town either.

"My house is just nearby if you're looking for a place to stay," the man offered with a smile. "I've got a quite a number of empty rooms."

Tezuka did not have much choice. It was either to die of pneumonia or trust this complete stranger in front of him. The young man was looking at him expectantly, making it impossible for his to resist. He did not think the man would do him any harm. The young wanderer accepted the offer and watched as the mysterious young man's expression lighted up. He picked up the black box from the floor and tossed a large umbrella towards Tezuka, who caught it with care.

"Do you mind?"

". . . Certainly not."

The two young men walked alongside each other in silence, save for the introduction of each other's name. The young man introduced himself as Ryoma. Tezuka thought it was a nice name. It felt pleasant when he tried saying the name; it rolled off his tongue like he had said it countless times before although he was quite sure this was the first time he ever heard of someone with that name. Ryoma wore a black tunic over his black overcoat, making him look smaller than he really was. The emerald pendant he wore rested against his chest. He had pale skin in contrast to his vibrant pair of golden eyes. The box was carefully balanced and held in his arms as they walked down the street and towards a makeshift path and into the neighbouring forest, leaving the white blur of Obliville behind.

It was not long until they reached a clearing. In the middle of it stood an enormous mansion – a castle surrounded by tall, strong walls. It had two tall towers on both wings and a large garden. Tezuka held his breath at the wonderful scent the flowers gave off in spite of the smell of the heavy rain and murky atmosphere.

Ryoma pushed the gate open and looked up to the stunned wanderer, "Welcome to the Castle of Oblivion."

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

The Castle of Oblivion was deserted except for Ryoma and a Himalayan spotted cat named Karupin. Although it looked dark and gloomy on the outside, Tezuka was surprised to find the inside so bright and lively. Somehow, living alone in such a big castle must have been extremely hard on the pale young man. No wonder he was delighted to have a guest over; Ryoma must be awfully lonely here.

He was led to his room after sharing a quiet dinner. The room he was given was more than pleasant. It was warm and comfortable, and he could look at the beautiful garden from the large window. Tezuka found it hard to believe that no one had been using the room since it was not dusty in the least. Then again, no part of the castle was dusty too. Maybe Ryoma hired people to clean the castle for him during the day so that everything was kept in tact. He did not think Ryoma alone could manage the castle.

There was a row of bookshelves near the window. Curious, Tezuka let his eyes went through the titles. None of them were familiar to him. He pulled one of the books out of its shelf and flipped it open to the first page. The title read 'Seeing the Real World', written by an author he did not recognize. The rain continued to rage outside as Tezuka flipped through the pages. From the first few pages, the man assumed the book was a travel journal written by the unfamiliar author. He wondered if Ryoma too wanted to go on a journey, away from this empty castle. Tezuka chuckled at the mental picture of someone as small as Ryoma roaming the land while bickering with his cat. He closed the book to put it back where it belonged. He decided to retire for the night. The bed looked inviting enough to his tired body.

That night, Tezuka's dream was filled with distant happy laughter, blurred faces he could not see and desolate tears.

He did not notice the door creaking open slightly to reveal a pair of eyes eyeing him silently in the middle of the night.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

True to Ryoma's words, it was still raining when Tezuka woke up the morning after. He could barely recall his adventurous dream, but his muscles ached all over like he had been running for miles. He changed into a fresh pair of clothes and ventured outside, gulping as he found himself not knowing the way. Ryoma had been there to show him the way the night before but he was nowhere in sight that morning.

"Mrreow"

Tezuka looked down to see Karupin nuzzling his right leg with delight. He bent down to pat the cat on its head and listened as it purred happily, standing tall and proud like a royal cat.

"Could you bring me to Ryoma, Karupin?"

Karupin nuzzled his leg one last time before taking off, stopping and looking back occasionally to make sure Tezuka was following. Along the way, Tezuka had the opportunity to look at the many paintings on the wall. On the wall to his right were portraits of whom Tezuka assumed were relatives of Ryoma, probably his ascendants. There were three holes indicating there should have been three more portraits hanging on the wall, much to Tezuka's bewilderment. He wondered why it was taken down, and he wondered why Ryoma's portrait was not there.

Speaking of which, he was dying to ask the young man about the black box he took from Obliville.

Karupin led him to the ground floor on the left wing of the castle. The cat circled his leg, waiting for Tezuka to open the gigantic wooden door. He knew he ought to knock first before entering, but Ryoma probably would not hear it due to the pouring rain. He pushed the door apart as slowly as he could only to find himself glued to the floor at the sight in front of him. Beautiful melody blanketed the hall as Ryoma swept his fingers over the keys of the lone Grand Piano standing next to a long settee in the room with grace, humming along to the music he produced. The hall had the curtain fully drawn, showing the perfect view of the rose garden behind the castle. Despite the rain, the flowers looked lively still. The hall itself bathed in the light of a large fancy chandelier hanging on the ceiling in the middle of it. This must have been the ballroom, Tezuka assumed.

He knew Ryoma was aware of his presence, but the man did not seem to mind. Tezuka decided to enjoy the man's lone piano assemble and looked around the hall. There was a large portrait of a family of three on the left side of the hall. The young boy standing in the middle of his parents looked a lot like Ryoma, so Tezuka thought it must have been his family portrait. He turned to the right side and walked nearer to the wall to look at the two portraits hanging there. One was a picture of a snobbish-looking young man with fair hair. Young Master Keigo A., the tag below the portrait read. The other portrait was of Ryoma himself, smiling softly. Whoever painted the portraits must have been really skilled; they looked real compared to the other portraits he saw outside the ballroom.

Tezuka was about to look away when he saw something rather unusual. The tag Young Master Keigo A. came with a year – 1619. The portrait was drawn over a thousand years ago! He was surprised it was still in perfect quality, just like the portrait of Ryoma's. Tezuka inched closer to look at Ryoma's portrait. That was when he felt something under his shoes. He bent down to look at what he had stepped on; it was a tag. Tezuka turned the tag over, expecting Ryoma's name to be on it. What he saw, however, made him drop the tag with a loud clank onto the hard floor.

Young Master Ryoma E. – 1619

Tezuka looked at the fallen tag with disbelief. 1619… The portrait was drawn the same year as the other one. If that was Ryoma in 1619, then who was the one he met the day before. The music stopped. At the scrapping of the piano stool, Tezuka turned around at admirable stealth, eyes wide with disbelief. Ryoma was not looking at him. He was looking down at the piano with sad, unreadable eyes.

"Wh… What are you?" Tezuka asked. His legs shook. If the 1619 Ryoma was the same as this Ryoma, than it only meant that the man was not human. He had heard stories of vampires who lived for centuries, but he never really believed in them. Could Ryoma be one of the vampire kinds too?

Ryoma visibly flinched at the question. "If you think I'm a vampire or something, rest assured that I'm not. I am a mere human, just like you." His eyes grew sadder as he spoke.

"But you…"

"I've been living for over a millenium? Yes, I have. But believe me when I say I'm an ordinary human because I am."

Tezuka was not convinced. The man could be lying to him for all he knew. Then again, if Ryoma was really planning on harming Tezuka in any ways, he could have done so when he slept last night. The smaller man's eyes did not look like the owner was lying either. Still, he could not find anything that could explain how an ordinary human could live for over a thousand years. He could not understand how Ryoma could be an ordinary human like him.

Ryoma mustered a small, tired smile and motioned to the long white settee. "Why don't you have a seat while I tell you my story?"

A part of him wanted to run away, yet another part told him to trust Ryoma. After debating with himself for one full minute, he decided to trust Ryoma. Besides, he was curious as to how an ordinary human being could live for more than a thousand years. Maybe Ryoma would be able to enlighten him. He admitted that he still felt some kind of fear as he sat down on the lush sofa, facing Ryoma who sat back down onto the little stool.

The smaller man fiddled with the emerald pendant of his necklace and looked at Tezuka, "Do you believe in past lives and reincarnations?"

Tezuka was instantly reminded of the many tales his mother loved to read to him when he was little, some of them involving the main characters meeting a bitter end and being reincarnated in another era to find happy endings. He supposed he did believe in them though he had never met anyone who claimed to know someone who was reborn as another person.

Silence reigned the hall for a short while, broken only with Ryoma's sigh. He cast a longing look at the portraits of the two young masters. "This castle was once known as the Castle of Light. And the one who painted the two portraits… was my lover."

"An artist?"

"No. He was the son of one of the maids in the castle."

Tezuka was mildly surprised at the words 'he' and 'son'.

"Anyway, my father was a wanderer like yourself too. He travelled the land, walking across the continents far from his homeland with his half brother after losing their parents in a plague. They went separate ways just before my father reached this place, but they remained in contact. My father was the one who founded Obliville when he found a small village there. He was welcomed by the villagers, who took instant liking towards him and his wisdom. Together, they began reconstructing the village. In a few years, taller buildings began to take the place of smaller wooden huts. My father, who led the construction, was hailed the new leader. Upon establishing the town status, Obliville was finally able to open its market and trade to neighbouring towns and cities, making it bloom in prosperity. My father himself became a renowned merchant and thus the Castle of Light was born.

He met my mother, fell in love with her, got married and had me a few years later. They were always busy with their work, but they cared a lot about me. They always try to find the time to be with me no matter how busy they are. When they were not around, I spent the time playing with Mitsu, the maid's son. He was two years older than I was, and he constantly looked after me, especially when I would try to do stupid things like walking into the forest alone or going to the town on my own. I didn't have anyone else, so he was my only friend until my uncle came to live with us. Their family moved away after the town they lived in was flooded. He became my father's partner in business, and Mitsu and I became friends with my cousin Keigo. My cousin was like Mitsu when it comes to looking after me, probably because they were of the same age.

When I was twelve, my parents fell sick. Mother was the first to leave, followed by father just a few weeks later. On his deathbed, he tried to tell me something but his voice wouldn't come out. I grieved for a few months, comforted and supported by my two best friends. Upon the death of my father, my uncle was made the new leader. He was a strict merchant, and he was nothing like my father. As years passed by, he became more and more vicious and greedy. It was about the same time that rumours spread around the town regarding the rise of a group of Black Magic practitioners. The people heard of their viciousness; they were afraid that the town would be targeted. My uncle set up walls around the town. I wondered why our castle was not within the protection of the walls but later I guessed that the existing walls surrounding the castle were well protected enough to ward off intruders.

Keigo's constant teasing about my attachment to Mitsu made me realize my true feelings when I was seventeen. I was scared; I freaked out. It wasn't long until Mitsu found out what was bothering me and when he did, he kissed me to shut me up. I was really glad he felt the same way. Mitsu was an excellent painter. He drew the portraits of Keigo and I on the same day, taking extra care when painting mine. Keigo was happy for us. After all, he was the one who pestered us to no end so we acknowledged our feelings. Later when I was eighteen, my uncle sent Mitsu on an errand to another country. I was devastated for his absence, but I was glad Keigo was there to be my friend.

One night, I was unable to sleep because of the heavy rain. I was on my way to the kitchen for some snacks when I heard a woman's crying voice. As I descended down the stairs, I was surprised to find the guards and the maids on the floor. I thought they were merely unconscious but when I saw blood oozing out of the guards' heads and the maids' terrified expression, I knew they were dead. I wanted to scream, but nothing came out. I stood unmoving in the middle of the hallway, shaking. That was when I heard footsteps a few metres away from me. I turned around to find myself looking at my uncle. He was wearing a dark brown robe. In his hands were a staff and a bloody blade. At a corner behind him, I saw my aunt's dead body on the floor. My uncle killed her as he killed the guards and the maids.

At that moment I did scream and ran away from him. The moment he advanced towards me, Keigo came out from behind the stairs and pour boiling water over his father's head. He took my hand and we ran out of the castle together heading for the town. My uncle ran after us. He didn't look like my uncle anymore. He looked more like a monster, with red eyes and all. The guards patrolling Obliville saw us from afar and went to ring the alarum bell. We were unlucky, though. I tripped and fell onto the wet ground. I told Keigo to keep running but he ran back to get me when my uncle caught up with us. He… He used his body to shield me from his father and got stabbed in my place. He continued to stab his son even when Keigo was already dead. And when he kicked Keigo's body away to kill me, a spear went through his chest.

The townspeople rescued me. The moment they surrounded us, my uncle was still alive with a spear through his chest. He laughed manically and looked at me. He called me names… and then… he cursed me with the curse of immortality. I would live in loneliness for the rest of my life. He cursed, saying that I would only be able to come out of the castle when it rains. I would suffer alone, unable to end my own life. He cursed the castle so I wouldn't be able to leave the town too. After he was done talking, he was struck by lightning and died. The whole town was in an uproar. Only then we found out that that my uncle had been one of the Black Magic practitioners. On nights when he went away on his business trips, he joined the circle of magic users to strike terror.

We buried the dead bodies close to the graves of my parents. The townspeople looked at me with pity. At first, no one believed in my uncle's curse. Somehow as the rain stopped, I knew it was real. Until today, I become invisible to everyone when it doesn't rain. Within a week, I was the only one who could see and enter the castle. That was when the Castle of Light became the Castle of Oblivion. I could only leave the castle when it rains to get my supply of food from Obliville. Otherwise, I have to forage the land myself. Taking pity on me, the townspeople would put a large amount of food supply into a box for me. When it rains, I would go out to retrieve it and return the box before the rain stops."

Ryoma stopped his long story to look at Tezuka. The latter had a look of surprise and utter shock. Ryoma could not blame him. Anyone would wear the same expression when told such a bizarre story. He would to, long ago before it happened to him.

"What happened to… to Mitsu? You said he was sent to do an errand for your… uncle." Tezuka almost said the word 'monster' instead of 'uncle'.

When Ryoma cast another longing look at the portraits, Tezuka expected the worst.

"A few weeks after the massacre, I found my uncle's journal in his room when I was about to lock it for eternity. There was no such thing as an 'errand' for Mitsu to run for him. That was just an excuse. He wrote in there that he had sent Mitsu straight to his 'friends' as a sacrifice for a demonic ritual. I also found out that my uncle was the one who poisoned my parents so he could be the leader and gain more power. Once again I grieved for everyone who was killed, for my parents, for Keigo and for Mitsu. I tried drowning myself. I tried stabbing myself multiple times but nothing I did was able to end my life. When I injure myself, the wound would heal on the spot. My body just refuses to die.

But then a month later, someone knocked on the castle door. I was surprised because I didn't think anyone would be able to see the castle anymore. When I opened the door, I was more surprised to find Mitsu there. He survived the ritual and came back for me. He heard the whole thing from the townspeople and rushed to the castle. When I asked him how he could see it and how he was able to see me since it wasn't raining, he didn't know it either. I was so happy to have him back, glad that I wasn't alone. He didn't come back unharmed, though. He lost his left arm when he struggled for his life. That was why he took a long time to come back to me. He didn't even ask me if his mother survived. I suppose he'd heard of what happened to everyone in the castle.

He stayed with me and tried to find a way to lift the dark curse. We went through all the book of spells and curses belonged to my uncle but for years, we found nothing. I watched him grow old while I stayed young. There was nothing I could do when he fell sick in his old age. I had to watch another person I loved die before me. One day, I woke up to find him gone. What was left was a letter. He left the castle, and he left me. He didn't want me to watch him die. In his letter, he told me he found a way to lift my curse but it was impossible for him to do it in his lifetime. He had been learning White Magic, the healing and constructive kind of magic, without my knowledge.

He left a charm on me and on the house – a white curse. The charm was that the dark curse left by my uncle would be lifted when I meet his reincarnation. He cursed the castle so it can be seen by people with pure and kind hearts. The spell cost him his life, which was why he didn't want to let me see him die."

Tezuka was suddenly ashamed of his initial reaction. The man had been suffering for over a thousand years, and he had looked at him with disgust and fear. He could not even interact with people because he could not be seen by most of them. Tezuka sighed, failing to find the right words to speak. He watched Karupin jumped into Ryoma's lap and nuzzled his master lovingly as if to comfort the man. He did not need to ask if the cat was a gift from his lover Mitsu because he knew it probably was. His lover must not have wanted Ryoma to be all alone on his own.

The unfortunate man ran his fingers through Karupin's fur absent-mindedly, taking comfort in the cat's warmth and soft purr. He wiped his tears away before Tezuka could see them. Tezuka saw them anyway.

"I waited for his reincarnation," Ryoma continued. "I waited day and night for him. Occasionally, there would be people with pure hearts like you stumbling across this castle. Unlike you, they fled the moment they found out about me, so I thank you for taking your time to listen to my story."

Tezuka shook his head. "I should be the one thanking you for trusting a stranger like me enough to take me in and let me hear your story. I'm sorry for… er… my reaction earlier."

Ryoma waved it off, saying it was completely understandable for Tezuka to freak out. It was not everyday that one met a man who had lived for over a millennium. The wanderer was glad to find Ryoma. His tale had moved his heart a great deal. He did not know human beings could be so cruel, like Ryoma's uncle who sold his soul and his family to the devil for selfish personal goals. He did not know how to cope if he was in Ryoma's shoes; he would probably become insane after a few hundred years.

"How about the townspeople? Why do they lock themselves in their house before it rains?"

"Ah, that one. Well, living a long life isn't easy. I don't know what went wrong either but about a couple hundred years after the incident, the story about me got twisted by someone somewhere. I became an evil entity of the rain to whom they must serve by offering the supply of food everytime it rains. I guess they think I'm some kind of a guardian or a rain ghost now. They adopted the colour white as a mean to purify the town from evil energy. Too bad I'm not evil. They can't purify me."

So that explained Tezuka's confusion. The people were scared of Ryoma. He wondered if they remembered who the founder of Obliville was if they did not even remember what happened to the founder's son and his family. They had a leisure chat some more before Ryoma announced it was time for lunch. Tezuka helped him in the kitchen, fear and confusion solved and forgotten. Shortly after lunch, Ryoma looked out of the window and sighed.

"You might want to pack your stuff now. The rain is going to stop soon. If you're leaving this town, I suggest you hurry. The rain will return in about three days from now."

Ryoma sounded sad when he told him so. Tezuka decided Ryoma was right. He should continue to his next destination before it rains again. He went back to his room to check on his stuff. There was not much for him to pack. He shoved his clothes into his bag and head downstairs to meet Ryoma. The man gave him some food to chew on his journey. As soon as the rain stopped, Tezuka said his goodbye. Karupin meowed sadly at his retreating back.

"Goodbye, Mr. Tezuka Kunimitsu, and thank you. I hope you have a save and wonderful journey ahead of you. Until next time!"

Tezuka walked further and further away from the castle to his next destination. He did not know why but something stirred in him with every step he took. Even his heart felt heavy as he walked the green path of the forest. He shoved the thoughts away, keeping up with his pace until he reached another town not too far away from Obliville. The people were a lot friendlier. The place he chose to stay the night was also packed with friendly folks. It even had a mini library for customers staying the night. Entering the small, almost empty library, Tezuka was immediately reminded of the bookshelves in his borrowed room at the Castle of Oblivion.

Browsing through the shelves, he accidentally bumped into a sharp edge of a reading table, causing a few items to spill out of his bag onto the floor. Tezuka berated himself as picked them up, apologising to the other person in the room for making a noise. As he was about to stuff the items back into his bag, his eyes fell onto a familiar amulet. It was an emerald amulet his mother gave him when he was little. She told him it was given to his ancestor by a good friend a long time ago. He was also told that he was given the amulet because the moment he touched the pendant when he was just a baby, it glowed a beautiful shade of green. Her mother thought it might protect him from harm. He was even named after the original owner of the pendant.

It was odd that the pendant was exactly the same as the one Ryoma had. He was surprised he did not realise it sooner. Tezuka held the pendant in his palm… and was struck by another startling realisation.

"Goodbye, Mr. Tezuka Kunimitsu, and thank you."

He had never told Ryoma his full name. How did the man know? Was he fooled by the smaller man? Did Ryoma actually possess supernatural powers, like the ability to read minds? His eyes did not indicate he was lying, though. Tezuka shook his head and put his bag on one the chairs. He snatched a random book from the shelves and sat down to flip through the pages, hoping to clear his mind of all the bizarre thoughts he had.

"Oh, so you're interested in the tragedy of the Castle of Oblivion?" the other occupant of the room asked casually, gesturing to the book Tezuka was holding. The wanderer looked down at the book; the title glared at him in bold letters: The Obliville Curse. What a wonderful coincidence…

"Quite. I passed through Obliville on my way to this town."

The man shook his head with a saddened look. "I suppose you know about the cursed Castle of Oblivion."

"Yes, I do. What happened was really tragic," Tezuka answered with a nod. "I wonder if the cursed man really is still alive. I heard only people with kind and pure hearts are able to see the castle and the man when it isn't raining." He was careful not to tell the man about his encounter with Ryoma.

To Tezuka's surprise, the stranger laughed aloud at his fake musing. "People with kind and pure hearts? Really, where did you hear that, young man? Not even people with pure hearts can see the castle."

"Eh?"

"The only one who can is the man's soulmate – the reincarnation of his deceased lover. What other people see is an empty lot of land covered in wild flowers and thorns."

The man shook his head at the surprised look on the wanderer's face before returning to his book. Tezuka was dumbfounded. Nothing could describe the astonishment thrown into his face by the stranger's words. He quickly flipped through the pages, intent on finding the record about the details of the curse. The man was right. The only one who was able to see the Castle of Oblivion was Ryoma's lover. Only the reincarnation of his lover would be able to see the castle and lift the curse on the unfortunate man. If Tezuka was able to see the castle, then…

Tezuka gasped.

It all came back to him. Everything was starting to make sense.

The desolate incompleteness he felt before he started his journey…

The strange feelings he felt when he first heard the name Obliville…

The pull he felt towards Ryoma and the intensity of his golden eyes…

The dream he had when he slept that night…

The ache in his heart when he left the castle…

The similarity of Ryoma's emerald pendant to his…

And the fact that Ryoma knew his full name…

His hand shook as he closed the old book. "Excuse me," he called for the stranger sitting in front of him. "Do you know the name of the man and the man's lover?"

The man shrugged. "Sure. Everyone knows, I suppose. You must be from far away not to know their names. Ryoma and Kunimitsu. Poor chaps…"

Tezuka choked on nothing. He thanked the man, grabbed his bag and ran out of the room without bothering to put The Obliville Curse back on its shelf. He ran past the buzzing customers, ignoring the call of the inn's owner. The ache in his heart grew as he ran, making it hard for him to breathe properly.

"I waited day and night for him. Occasionally, there would be people with pure hearts like you stumbling across this castle. Unlike you, they fled the moment they found out about me, so I thank you for taking your time to listen to my story."

Ryoma had lied to him. He had known from the start who Tezuka really was and he did not say anything. That explained the surprise in the other man's eyes when he saw Tezuka in Obliville. He finally understood the sad and longing look Ryoma had on his face. No one else had ever stumbled upon the castle. No one else had ever been able to see him. No one – until Tezuka.

Mitsu… KuniMITSU… Of course.

His mother told him he was named after the original owner of the emerald pendant. Said 'original owner' must have been Ryoma's 'Mitsu' – his Kunimitsu. The man must have given the pendant to Tezuka's ancestor in hope of being reborn into his friend's future lineage after his death.

He, Tezuka Kunimitsu, was the reincarnation of Kunimitsu.

He was the reincarnation of Ryoma's deceased lover who promised to free him from his curse in his next life.

Ryoma knew and he kept it all to himself. He even lied to Tezuka.

As soon as he arrived back in Obliville the next morning, he ran straight into the forest to find the Castle of Oblivion. He needed to talk to Ryoma. It was only unfortunate for Tezuka that what he wished to see was not at the spot where the castle once stood. There was not even an empty lot covered in wild flowers and thorns there either. The only thing in front of him was a large flower field full of colourful roses and shrubberies. The field bathed under the heavenly sunlight, creating an ethereal glow to match the sweet scent circling the open air. Even when it rained a few hours later, the castle was nowhere to be seen. Ryoma was nowhere in sight as well.

"The charm was that the dark curse left by my uncle would be lifted when I meet his reincarnation."

Days later when Tezuka sat in silence at a small inn in Obliville to recall Ryoma's tale, he realised with a sudden clarity that he had freed Ryoma from his uncle's evil curse. The man's soul was finally released. Ryoma had finally found freedom.

In his next life, Tezuka vowed to find Ryoma. He had a lot to make up for the centuries Ryoma spent in loneliness.

And together, they would find happiness.

"I hope you have a save and wonderful journey ahead of you. Until next time!"

Until next time…

Tezuka Kunimitsu, a senior and the president of Seishun Gakuen Student Council and Tennis Club, watched the newcomer from an empty classroom on the second floor. He watched the boy slaughter his opponent with ease, spotting a confident and satisfied smirk on his face as his opponent flailed and groaned in frustration. His name was Echizen Ryoma, as told by Coach Ryuzaki. Tezuka watched Ryoma's eyes danced with silent mirth as he served; he watched him win one point after another.

There was something about the boy that stirred his heart, but Tezuka did not know how to describe the feeling. It was something abstract, something that was telling him to get to know the boy better if he ever wanted to unveil the mystifying sentiment he felt. For the time being, he did not know how to interpret the unusual pang in his heart but Tezuka was determined to find out what it was about.

Soon, he hoped.

# - END.

Hope you enjoyed the story. I'm sorry for my language and all the grammatical mistakes you found along the way. This is the prequel for my AU TezuRyoWIP – 'Echoes of the Rain'. It's the story that cursed!Ryoma told wanderer!Tezuka as you read above :)