DISCLAIMER: There's a lot of things I wish to own but cannot. Tactics is one of them.
"His beauty was a sin towards women, thus why he never attracted them. His beauty was a blessing for the Tengu, thus why he captured his heart and soul…"
By Trance of Avalynn
Slowly and ever so quietly he stepped outside, sliding the door behind him shut with nothing but a quiet 'thump'. He stayed that way for a few moments, a hand still on the door handle. Listening for anyone to realize his sudden absence, he held his breath. When none reached his ears, he sighed gently, letting go of the door and stepping off the porch.
He couldn't stand it in there.
It was simply too stifling. Not physically, of course. Though it was summer, the evenings itself were still cool, and for that he was thankful of course. A house with that many people would be unbearable had it been as hot and humid as it had during the day.
A sudden round of laughter erupted from the house, and he stopped to listen. A small smile crept onto his lips, only to vanish in an instance.
'They are having fun…without me.'
He didn't know where his feet were taking him. All he knew was that he had to get away from there…away from all those people.
It was Haruka's birthday.
Not that they knew when he was really born. They simply held it on the day he was released.
He knew every guest who was there. Because, after all, he had invited them.
Youko and Haruka were there, being the hosts and all.
Reiko was asked just this morning when she had come for the deadline. She ended up forgetting completely about the manuscript she was supposed to squeeze out of him, and instead made a mad dash off to find a present.
Rosary…Rosary had given a simple nod implying she would come…along with Hasumi of course. Not that Hasumi was invited, he just came. Though that was already predicted.
Suzu actually asked him about Haruka's birthday a month before he sent out invitations. How she had found out he had no clue. Probably stalked him…and- no…she probably just asked Youko a long time ago.
Sugino and Muu-chan were there too, Sugino nearly having kicked him out by mistake when he had went to deliver the invitation. It seemed the white Tengu really did hate him. Heh.
Yumeyako couldn't make it. She had a job that night, and thus couldn't come. She did send a gift and her blessings. His eyes softened a bit. She was a good friend, probably the only human female friend he's ever had, and even that was because of…well…
And then there was Yuri.
Yuri who had lost her memories in the fight between Haruka and Raikou. Haruka had lost control over himself and attacked her, while she too was lost under the command of Ibaragi, possessed by a demon.
It was just recently that she had recovered her memories. Because when she did, she had asked for Haruka.
She liked Haruka…a lot.
And…he sighed…Haruka was definitely fond of her.
'And what of me?' he thought silently to the night sky.
His feet stopped.
Staring at the skies, he waited as the cloud slowly crept past the moon, revealing it once more, bathing him in silver light.
He looked down. Seeing another moon in front of him, his eye widened for a second; until realizing he was standing by a pond. He smirked and smacked himself inwardly.
'I must be going mental over this'.
He squatted down by the pond and stared into it once more to see a reflection of himself staring back at him. His hair glowed an outline of silver, his body a silhouette against the moon high above him.
Then a gentle to mildly rough breeze brushed through, causing the moon to waver, the pond to ripple…just like his past.
He closed his eyes and reminisced for the first time in a long time.
He was always alone.
He was always rejected.
He was always unloved, hated, detested.
Whether his parents loved him or not, he did not know. They were dead by the time he could stand for himself.
He had long ago given up hope for real friends. Ever since, he had only one wish: a companion. Someone he could love, and who would return his love.
But that hope was soon dimmed to a bare trickle.
Wherever he went he was shunned. And even now…
Did no one truly care about him?
He shook his head slowly and sighed. He was being stupid. It was useless to wallow in self-pity, and he was not that sort of a person. Yet he couldn't help but think…
For the longest time, it was just him and Youko. The only other person that visited was Reiko, who came not as often, and solely for the manuscript.
Then Haruka came.
And suddenly everyone came. The girl next door, the rich girl in town, the waitress at the bar, the girl from somewhere…
Well, they didn't always come to the house, but they always came, at least, for Haruka.
Why did females come naturally to Haruka? They would all gladly accompany the Tengu to death if need be. How come no such person existed for him?
They never did give him a second glance…was it because he was too ugly? His silvery-white hair and crimson eyes an evil, demonic look? After all, his eyes red bore the same shade as the blood-thirsting oni, or so everyone believed. His silvery-white hair a completely abnormal color; only the old bore it. Yet he was only in his twenties.
He blinked. Maybe girls thought him an old man at first glance? He pushed the thought aside.
He had wanted to find Haruka, to prove to everyone he was strong…and to be able to find a woman, a companion, that would accept him. That was all.
His eyes opened slightly, slight pain and sorrow marring them.
He had always longed for that sort of attention, a companion whom he could love. He wasn't an attention-seeker, not at all…
Because after all, everyone gets lonely when no one pays attention.
When Haruka stepped in, his life brightened considerably. He had been, after all, searching for him his entire life. He could finally prove to everyone he wasn't weak, and wasn't a monster.
But this wasn't what he wanted or expected. Now…everyone simply ignores him mostly to visit the Tengu, save Youko and, he chuckled at this, Muu-chan. And Hasumi…he sweatdropped. Even Yumeyako, his childhood friend, was drifting away from him.
His eyes misted a little, and he shook his head to clear his thoughts.
He wasn't even jealous anymore…
Just sad…and empty…a longing for companionship.
His birthday was just a few months ago. No one had come then. Not that he had told. Youko bought him some dango, knowing he loved them. Haruka…well he never paid much attention to anything, so he hadn't expected anything from him, even though it did disappoint him. Muu-chan…heh…yeah. Reiko had not come to pester him that day even though it was his deadline. As to whether it was purposeful of coincidental he still did not know.
He sat down by the pond and continued to reminisce.
How long has it been? Since he had lived like this?
He had hidden away since he was a child. It wasn't a mask, no. A mask covered up who he really was to the outside world. But inside, he would still feel the pain and sorrow. He didn't do that.
It was all too tiring, too painful, and he was too wounded by everything to carry on as he did. And so when he was but a child, he shed his suffering.
He swore to never reminisce, never think about the past.
He created for himself a fantasy world, where he was loved, appreciated, and cared for: a false dimension to live happily in.
He had been happy, even if it was living a lie. And it had worked too for a while. First he found Youko, and they became friends, then it was Yumeyako who befriended him, and then Reiko was his editor, pestering him about deadlines.
How did he do it exactly? How did he shed his suffering? How did he trap himself in a fantastic world?
He pretended. He pretended, not as in: to be what he wasn't. Instead, he pretended that everything and everyone else around him were what they weren't. People who were mean to him, he laughed and brushed off as a form of shyness. Things that did not go well, he pushed aside as a bit of bad luck; the good luck would come soon.
The most important thing, though, was that he shut tight the doors to his heart. Allowing loose friendship love, but nothing more. Not even to his future wife did he expect to love anymore.
It had all worked too…until everything broke.
Haruka had become reality.
And he soon realized that despite all he had done…had fallen in love with what was real.
Everything was fine before Haruka stepped in. His fantasy-land was able to shut out most of the pain and rejection he felt.
But ever since he released the Tengu, his life had taken a different course.
His fantasy-world was crumbling. His pain and sorrow started coming back. Without the defense of his delusions, he began to become more prone to rejection…and loneliness.
With the Tengu, he gained something. A lot of things. And friends were only one of them. Yet when he gained them, he feared even more to lose them.
And now he fears to lose the most important thing he's gained so far.
Would he leave the safe haven of his fantastic world? Risk losing himself to sorrow once more, plunge into the bitter reality once more, for a small chance at a nearly impossible love?
Would he be able to take it? Coming to light of reality would mean having to face all the pain once more as well. Rejection, loneliness, hate, shunning. There was no way he would be able to take it all…alone.
A sob escaped.
This was never how he thought it would turn out. In his fantasy, he was happy. He had a lot of 'good' friends. He would befriend the Oni-Kui Tengu. All his friends would love him as he would love them. He would find a lifelong companion, settle down as a family, bear children and live happily.
But now, everything was wrong.
He was attracted to another male. A Tengu at that. And he himself was human.
The risks were too great. Haruka never paid attention to even beautiful women for heaven's sake! What made him think that a male, human such as he, stood a chance? And also…Yuri was already there.
Bits and pieces of the past, coming back.
'Damn it! N-No…please…not now…I don't need this. I p-promised myself…no more of the past!' He shut his eyes and let the tears flow down his cheeks. His fists went up to rub the tears away, like a child.
Another choking sob.
Haruka doesn't like him…
Haruka only stays with him because he's his master
Haruka already has Yuri…
Yuri is a great person…
His past, his present, mixing up in a swiveling mass of chaos.
"Crying won't solve anything."
His eyes widened, and he gasped while hiccupping simultaneously. His hand reached up to cover his mouth as he jolted a bit in shock.
Yet he did not move. His eyes fixated on the pond in front of him, he saw two black wings emerge from behind his reflection.
"H-Haruka…" he managed to choke out.
He relaxed, his facial features dampening a little in spirit. "Then what does…?" He whispered quietly, partly to the Tengu, partly to the heaven.
The Oni-Kui Tengu studied his master carefully. This was the man that had released him, who had named him, who had given him his life back. In the entire year he had known Ichinomiya Kantarou, he had never seen him break down completely like now.
Yet he had known it would come soon.
Haruka had seen pieces and fragments of the real Kantarou, no matter how the latter had tried to cheat himself of reality. It had still come through at times.
And he had promised himself that when the times comes, he would help him. He wanted to mend such a beautiful soul, for the soul had already stolen his heart.
When the Tengu first met the exorcist, he was careful to remain neutral and impassive. He had no clue to his past, so he didn't trust, nor did he doubt. Yet when he saw that sincere, dazzling smile, he couldn't help but love it.
But that smile soon disappeared.
In it's place was a fraud.
It was as though he was happy, yet not entirely convinced of his own happiness.
And it was then the Oni-Kui tengu became intrigued by the human named Ichinomiya Kantarou.
It didn't take long for the Tengu's speculative observation to realize what Kantarou had done to himself. It was a self-defense mechanism; to place yourself in fantasy in order to ignore the pains of daily life.
Haruka was cautious in his emotions. He never prodded. He simply watched. And sometimes, he would see the true Kantarou slipping out just slightly. Such as when his master had protected him and promised to protect him that time with Watanabe. At that time, he could see the silver-haired man's eyes stained with desperation and pain. Yet the sincerity of it was simply beautiful.
The next day as he recovered, he was met by Kantarou's dazzling smile once more. The one he saw upon their first meeting.
He ached to see that smile everyday, without the usual fakeness marring it.
But even though Haruka was a keen observer, he was not keen enough to observe himself.
It was when he nearly killed Kantarou, did he realize how important his master was to him.
He loved Kantarou.
That's why he was so keen everything. He wanted to see all of Kantarou in his true form. His true smile, his cries, his true happiness, his sorrow.
He knew he would have to help him.
"Crying won't solve anything…" he repeated, "…but it is the first step to solving everything. It is proof that you have realized what is real, and are no longer denying truth. From there on out, you can begin to heal." He answered truthfully, turning his gaze from his master to the silver moon in the pond. It was still wavering as a lighter breeze kicked in.
Kantarou's head lifted a little. "Haruka…why are you out here?"
Haruka slowly turned his attention back to his master, carefully regarding as to how to answer.
Receiving no response, Kantarou continued. "Why aren't you back there? It's your birthday…"
"Why are you out here? And not back there?"
Kantarou chuckled with a sad smile. "Don't be silly, I came to get some air…"
"Well then me too." Haruka harrumphed and turned away, his eyes never leaving the silver-haired exorcist.
"How did you manage to get out?" Kantarou suddenly piped up quizzically.
"How did you?" Haruka shot back.
At this Kantarou jumped up to face the Tengu, pouting. "HaruKAA!! Why are you answering my questions with questions?!" He waved his arms up and down for emphasis.
Suddenly, Haruka's arms shot out and pulled Kantarou into a tight yet gentle embrace. The latter tensed up in surprise.
"Why do you keep changing the subject? Why do you ignore your pain, pretend everything is fine? Why do you hide? Why do you lie to yourself?" The Tengu whispered fiercely in his ear.
He waited for an answer. He had to be patient. And he was rewarded. Slowly, he felt the young human fall into his embrace. He heard a bitter chuckle."…That's just it then…huh? I've finally stepped outside my nest, out into the cold water…nothing left but the bitter truth…It's all or nothing then…" he muffled out into the Tengu's chest. 'My one shot at love…I've given up everything for it…'
Haruka remained silent as a implication for him to continue. Already could he feel his shirt begin to dampen.
"I…I don't want to-to be alone anymore…I always just wanted a companion…someone to love me as I would love them! B-But…I-I can never attract people the way you do, H-Haruka…I-It's like you're the perfect gentleman, everyone likes you…especially Yuri-san…b-but not just h-her…everyone…" His voice trailed off as he tried to calm himself and stop his sobbing. "Yet n-no one truly likes me…is it because I'm ugly? I'm lazy or mean? Youko-chan might see me as a friend sometimes…and Yumeyako-san…I-I don't know…everyone else-"
"So I've become one of everyone else, huh?"
Kantarou gazed up to meet the Tengu's eyes. "Wh-what?"
Haruka sighed and pulled away from Kantarou, his hands sliding over to Kantarou's shoulders. His face as impassive as ever. "Don't. Don't let me become one of them. I'm not like them. I realize true beauty when I see it. You're beautiful, Kantarou, both on the outside and the inside…you're too beautiful. That's why women don't like you. They're envious of your beauty. Your ability to appreciate life, your sincerity, your kindhearted ways. But for me…Kami-sama blessed me by allowing me to be by you like this."
Kantarou stared, eyes gleaming with uncertainty, fear and hope.
"If you continue to pretend, continue to lie to yourself, you'll only lose yourself. Pretending is not something you should do. It is a sign of weakness and is a drug that tears you away from reality at a high price… " he whispered.
Kantarou hung his head in shame. He heard the ruffling of clothes, and rose his head a little.
Suddenly his chin was tilted up and his eyes met the Tengu once more. The latter's features were practically unreadable. Yet he could make out the thin line of determination.
"Let me be your sole companion if need be…Kantarou. You can step out of your safety haven now…I'll be with you, to face reality. No one else matters right now…just…"
As he spoke those words, his lips were inching towards Kantarou's.
Kantarou felt the blood rushing to his cheeks, his head a bit faint, and his vision a bit swarmy. 'Have I fantasized too much? Is this my fantasy? Or is it…reality? Oh Kami-sama…'
He closed his eyes and waited, unsure of what to do. His heart was beating so fast, he was frightened it would all of a sudden stop.
Until he felt the Tengu's lips gently upon…
His eyes shot open in confusion, fear of denial, and disappointment.
Haruka backed up and stared at his master. "When you're ready…I'll help you step into reality…and heal."
The pond gleamed in the moonlight with certainty, a pool of silvery calmness, just like his future.
And once more, Ichinomiya Kantarou smiled that dazzling smile.
A/N: I hope you liked this story…I hope it wasn't too confusing, because it was definitely confusing at first to write. I really wanted to create a story where it tells why Kantarou's beauty was never appreciated. He's not bad-looking, right? And I love HaruKan…so here it was. Only, it seemed more like a humor jealousy type story to me, yet I like angst more, so that was the hard part…to change a humorous story to a tragic one.
I'm not sure of the day Haruka was released…I remember it did snow, but it wasn't winter was it? Because I thought there was something like 'snowing in summer?'. I don't know. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
If there are some mistakes in the plot or anything because it doesn't connect with the anime/manga, please tell me. I have not read the manga though, so I'm sorry if anything there is wrong.
Thank you for reading this! Reviews are most appreciated.
Trance of Avalynn