If only things could be simple, Shizuka thought briefly. An uncharacteristic and very unreasonable thing to think becuase of course, his very purpose for meeting Watanuki had spelled danger long ago.
Shizuka disliked it.
He disliked having to follow just at Watanuki's elbow, getting a little bit in the way, hands laden with a bag in each, carrying the items the noble had purchased. Disliked having to think about how he would have to move should he need to grab his sword, hoping nothing in the bags would break if he had to drop them. Disliked that Watanuki should ever be exposed to this kind of danger –that quietly assessing presence just at the edges of Shizuka's range of awareness.
He disliked it.
Watanuki made noises about disliking a great many things as well, marching stiffly along on his errands, glancing back only ever so often when Shizuka tensed each time the assassin following them moved just that touch closer. Judging by the way the presence seemed to scoot back each time to the edges of his awareness, the monk surmised the assassin could feel his consciousness; could tell he encroached too closely into the monk's radius of Spirit power.
Smart bastard, Shizuka allowed. He narrowed his eyes at he glanced back again, casting away his other concerns under the importance of the directive Keep Watanuki Safe. The killer would realise the fervour of his stance, too. Not even a crowd of bystanders would stop Shizuka from protecting Watanuki; there would be no Good Guy / Bad Guy scenario here for the monk spared no care for the people standing unknowingly by if it meant keeping Watanuki safe. The same way this assassin could use the crowd to his advantage, so would Shizuka for his own purpose. In the end, they cancelled each other out and this silent stalemate would remain until either could secure better ground for a confrontation.
Briefly, the monk wondered if his lack of compassion for these people would offend Watanuki who so often seemed filled with enough kind-heartedness for three people. He put that thought aside. Any offence he might make would mean nothing if Watanuki's life were taken from him.
And he'd be having tempura tonight, come hell or high water.
The next time Shizuka turned to check, the crowds parted enough for him to catch a glimpse of a pale face, long and defined, a short and shaggy haircut framing wide cheekbones and slender jaw, a small bow mouth and pointed chin, the light skin bringing out what appeared to be purple eyes.
Most odd. Shizuka wondered first why the assassin would dare to show his face, second if the odd coloured eyes had anything to do with the young man's magic. And he was indeed young. Regardless, it took only that short glimpse to see he would have a tough fight ahead if he faced that man. It must not be a fight in which Watanuki could be involved, he realised, and it must be a fight Shizuka would enter for the purposes of slaughter. That cold, precisely calculating gaze expected nothing less.
"What are you looking at?" Watanuki asked suddenly. "You've been glancing back constantly, this is the fifth time I've seen you check behind us like that."
Twenty seventh, actually. "We're being followed," Shizuka said quietly, without taking his eyes from where he sensed the assassin to be.
And then he realised his mistake; the assassin had purposely been leading his eye to that 'presence' and had even allowed that glimpse of him –because right as he finished his sentence, he sensed a muted version of that existence moving further into his awareness from another direction.
Without regard for the people around them, Shizuka reached out with an arm and snatched Watanuki into his grip, eliciting an indignant squawk. Swiftly, he pounced up onto the nearest ledge, leaping from there to the next and up further until –in moments—they reached the roof.
He knew the instant the assassin came within striking range, just on the next roof over behind him. "Interesting," he said in Japanese.
The presence unveiled itself, the spell to mute it dispelled while the stronger 'presence' back there where Shizuka had last glimpsed him disappeared. He said nothing.
Shizuka turned his head slowly to his shoulder, Watanuki standing frozen still in the loose circle of one arm, bags in the other. He remained relaxed but ready to ditch the bags and draw his sword, eyes carefully eyeing the slender young man.
"Oi," demanded Shizuka, "My name is Doumeki."
"Kamui desu," came the deceptively soft-spoken reply, the layer of steel beneath the voice so very well concealed.
Shizuka nodded and in Japanese asked, "I can sense your blood thirst. Why do you wish to harm him?"
Still expressionless, almost rivalling the monk's, Kamui said, "I have my orders."
"Do you not care that your orders could be wrong?" Shizuka asked, prodding for an acknowledgement somewhere of who had ordered this, "He is a noble. His blood might mean war."
"I know only that his continued existence means blood and war already," said Kamui, still in that blasted soft tone; eyes blank save for a dangerous hunger –a clear intent to kill.
"I spill no blood and wage no war," Watanuki snapped angrily, "Do not say that I do!"
Kamui turned his unchanging gaze on the insulted noble, "You know nothing," and moved.
Shizuka's eyes widened slightly in surprise when, dropping the bags and darting a step forward with his sword drawn, it took more effort than he usually spent to meet and block Kamui's blade. The clash of metal rang loudly, and the weight of the sword crossed with his own startled the monk. In that instant, it confirmed further what measure of his skill he'd need to match this assassin. He shifted quickly to open an advantage, twisting the blade to re-direct the force, moving his body out of the way and to one side so he could press forward. Kamui danced aside and they stood facing each other perpendicular to where Watanuki stood watching quietly, wise enough for once to remain out of the way and quiet—
"This is a misunderstanding!" Watanuki gasped, wide-eyed. "Stop this! Fuuma is the one who won't speak with me, won't tell me what it is he needs me to do! The Affairs Council refuses to—"
"So you travel the world and do nothing," Kamui said quietly, low voice sharp enough to cut into the tirade. "You consider nothing. You wait and sigh and throw up your hands. Your inaction is a decision all on its own, foolish noble."
"Do not call me foolish!" Watanuki hissed.
Shizuka heartily disliked someone other than himself had become a focus of that fiery passion. "But you are," he muttered to himself.
Kamui's disconcertingly alien purple eyes flashed to his, "You understand."
"No, he doesn't!" Watanuki exclaimed, watching as Kamui gave a push and backed away out of Shizuka's range –who paused at the flood of hurt and confusion from the bond. "He doesn't… he doesn't think of me like that!"
"I do not," Shizuka agreed, eyes only for Kamui much as he wanted to reassure Watanuki. "I agree only that whatever the situation is in Japan, it has devolved into grim circumstances." He poised to attack, "But it should not cost him his life." He focused half his concentration, half his skill, closed down half of his thought processes that might allow distraction… and opened his Centre.
Kamui's eyes widened and he moved defensively when Shizuka attacked, a slash of the sword so fast the monk appeared almost like a blur of movement. Swiftly, Shizuka followed the movement with another cut, disregarding the defensive block and continued his flow of movement into the next slash, mindful of his own openings, though small, in case Kamui should counter-attack.
He moved surely, carefully, leaving a miniscule hint of a weakness only the very skilled might notice –which Kamui did, falling for the little trap, sliding to Shizuka's right shoulder where the monk seemed least flexible with his movements. At the last instant Shizuka swivelled, grabbing the sword from his right with his left and cut that attack down, angling the base of the blade diagonally straight toward Kamui's face.
The assassin hissed and sprang away, eyes blazing. Shizuka paused and watched, disappointed only for a heartbeat his strategy hadn't worked. He'd learned a lesson about his opponent, too.
"You are out to kill, monk," Kamui observed. "And to face one of your kind, I find I require a little more preparation."
Shizuka tightened his grip on his sword, sure now that he should not allow Kamui to escape and regroup. He pounced forward once more, appearing to meet Kamui's defensive cut but suddenly dashing around it to the assassin's unprotected side in a move that required more effort than most would think –it was risky but he did it and did it well, managing to press the middle of his blade along the base of Kamui's and curl the momentum into an upward slice to bring the tip of his sword along Kamui's upper arm and shoulder before the young man could twist away with a muttered curse.
As Shizuka continued forward, still in the advantage, Kamui smoothly pulled a blade from his arm band and hurled it. Cautiously, Shizuka dodged, keeping to the side where Watanuki stood rather than go around the other way. The extra half step that move required was all it took and Kamui had dashed another few metres away –outside of Shizuka's range to protect Watanuki. The monk would not risk it now and they both knew it. He glared, growling low in his throat.
"My apologies for the retreat, monk," murmured the assassin. To Watanuki, "Rest well, young lord. Until we meet again."
Shizuka snarled when Kamui darted away, moving quickly out of range and beyond his senses. With a noise of irritation, he straightened and sheathed his sword. In the next heartbeat, he had gathered up the shopping bags in one hand and approached Watanuki.
"Doumeki!" Watanuki scolded, startled by the quick movements. His frown disappeared suddenly and he asked quietly, "Are you alright?"
"Fine," Shizuka replied in a low tone, instincts still on high alert, still primed for battle and as tense as ever—
And he tensed further when something slammed into him –the realisation that his low tone had affected Watanuki. Desire whispered gently down the bond and Shizuka leaned into it, eyes quickly snapping up to meet Watanuki's who seemed to be only watching him with, amidst the concern and frustration, a kind of admiring interest.
Certainly the type of person to make the most of an opportunity, Shizuka moved a half pace closer and reached out with his other hand to touch Watanuki's bare arm. "Are you alright?"
The sizzle of a mild current jolted the noble into a little jump and he answered very quickly, voice suddenly high pitched, colour flooding over his nose and cheeks, "I'm fine!" He scowled, "I'm not the one who crossed swords with a hired killer!"
Shizuka did not think it wise to point out nothing had really happened to him despite the crossing of swords Watanuki seemed to find issue with. Not even the incremental increase of desire through the bond from Watanuki could keep his exasperation at bay…
But that skin really was quite smooth and he encircled the thin arm with his hand, grasping firmly but gently, and pulled Watanuki into his arms. From Watanuki, desire thumped once, heavily, and Shizuka marvelled at its taste through the bond. He also wondered at how good it felt to have Watanuki pressed up against him from knee to chest, warm and slender, fitting snugly against his arm and into the bow of his hips. Should they fit this well? He pondered this looking down into Watanuki's flushed face.
"Wha-what are you doing?!" Watanuki hissed belatedly, sounding oddly like he was trying not to shriek.
"Helping you down," Shizuka answered, lifting Watanuki against himself as he had earlier and hopping off the building to the ground below.
When they landed, gently of course, he set Watanuki down… who seemed to be taking an extra long time to unwind his arms from about the monk's neck. Hmm, Shizuka thought, watching Watanuki's frowning, irritated expression –so at odds with the hesitant and warm pulse of desire from the bond between them.
Displeased by the uncertainty, the lack of trust he could sense, Shizuka decided a burst of temper might be better in order, "What else do you need to make tempura?"
Watanuki's face flushed instantly. "You-you-you—" sputtered the noble. "You imbecile!!" He darted back and away, and Shizuka let him go despite his yearning for more of that luscious body heat and the feel of Watanuki against himself. "Do you care only about food?"
Shizuka would never deign to answer that useless question.
"No patience whatsoever!" Watanuki ranted as he led his way down the main market foot-path, one arm waving. "Attention focused only on me and food, the ridiculous monk," he griped, not realising how true his own words were.
Smiling softly, Shizuka followed, his bliss marred only by the knowledge he would not be pleased with whatever it was Kamui needed to 'prepare' for their next fight.
Well. At least dinner looked promising.
Shizuka folded his arms as he glared at the blasted Arms chest. Not even the lingering taste of tempura dinner could cool his ire.
"It'll be unloaded when we get to France," Watanuki grumbled, the words reassuring but the tone impatient. "The trouble of transporting it will be the last we'll need to deal with it. After that, we can tell it good riddance."
"I think I'll miss it," the monk murmured, aiming to annoy.
"What." It wasn't a question, spoken with narrowing eyes and a tight mouth. This was the second time the monk had managed to push the noble beyond politeness.
"It led me to figure your past out," Shizuka reminded him, "Such signs as this are welcome and useful since you always seem to forget to tell me things."
"Forgetting to explain my past wasn't intentional!" Watanuki spluttered, "I just didn't think it was relevant!" He glowered, "I don't think you'd go around telling me about your own family, now would you?!" He waved his arms with triumph.
"Actually, I do have some things to tell you," Shizuka corrected and Watanuki slumped, slamming his face into a palm. "But let's discuss that in a few days, after tomorrow when we go over our research with the others." When only silence reigned, he glanced over at Watanuki.
Shoulders only barely up, posture nowhere near his perfect ramrod straight stance, Watanuki looked sadly at the Arms chest. His eyes had gone soft and distant, appearing to think back on something long ago.
"It was Jason," he whispered.
"Jason who what?" Shizuka prodded patiently.
"Jason who cursed that Arms chest," Watanuki confessed. He looked suddenly tired and sad, almost desolate.
Shizuka looked the Arms chest over again. That? The curling miasma and… the crying! The priest thought back to the weeping he'd heard. "Desperation, resignation, abandonment."
"Huh?" Watanuki glanced over at him.
"The emotions I felt when I tried to disseminate the curse on the chest," Shizuka answered. "Emotions so overpowering it was as though the person who'd felt them thought they were worthless, alone and doomed."
Watanuki looked heartbroken, "That bad?"
"Do you not feel it?" Shizuka asked, "When you breathed the smoke of the curse?"
"No," Watanuki looked the chest over again, that stricken expression still on his kind face. "I feel only the pain, the whole wash of the curse, not the individual emotions. I can't work them out, they're so twisted up together."
Waterfall, Shizuka guessed. Watanuki with his open and kind heart probably pretty much sucked up all the emotions without care for himself like a waterfall –it would be so like him. Accepting an avalanche even if he could have a steady flow if he just tried to temper what he took in. Resigned, he asked, "Do you know what happened to cause this?"
"The children in his father's manor thought him to be an odd child," Watanuki said, speaking slowly, "His mother raised him separate of them, away from most of their court's eyes." He smiled a brief, humourless curve, "Well, at least we know now why. Thing is, they called him all sorts of things behind his back despite being nice to him to his face. One day, when the manor was busy preparing for Uncle Jason's departure on the ship we retrieved this from, they played a trick. They locked him up in it."
"Most children learn cruelty faster than compassion," Shizuka observed, thinking Watanuki had likely never learned cruelty at all.
"They do." With a sigh, the noble continued, "Jason had been left pretty much on his own for a few weeks as preparations were underway for his father's departure." Shaking with irritation, "They just left him in there all morning, through lunch and the rest of the afternoon. They called him names and told him no one missed him. When they finally came back to let him out for dinner, they said they only remembered him because the maids had set out one extra plate and that's what reminded them he existed. Otherwise, no one wanted him. No one missed him."
Shizuka thought back to the quiet Jason he'd gotten to know, smiling and friendly but had nothing open about him or his character. He was locked up tight and safe in there, accepting only Watanuki.
"When Uncle Jason finally left, Aunt Chii grew distant." Watanuki hugged his arms around his own waist, chin dropping so his hair fell over his eyes. "And then word of the ship's sinking came back and everything went to hell. She neglected him in her grief and the children's words came back to haunt him. A year later after that, Aunt Chii died, wretched and absorbed in her mourning. Within weeks he moved in with my family but even then he still had nightmares of being locked up." Shaking his head in sad disbelief, "It took me years to earn his trust, for him to let me love him. His own family!"
Shizuka stared at the box now, "But it all started here for Jason, didn't it?" Watanuki shot him a puzzled look. "This was where it started, the feelings of being alone. Before that, he was fine and happy, was he not?"
Watanuki blinked then nodded, "Yes. I've seen portraits painted of him and his mother. He was very happy."
"Then it is possible his connection to the chest, from when he was locked in it, remained even after his father took the chest across the sea." Shizuka thought back to what he knew of wild magic, the untamed power naturally gifted mages were born with. "Even from here, as his mother… well, neglected him, he must have been transmitting his grief and loss across to it."
"Building it up," Watanuki said.
Maybe even enough to sink the whole-- hold on. Shizuka blinked, "You knew."
"What tears me up," Watanuki said quietly, "Is that I think Jason does, too."
Shizuka didn't move, didn't change anything outwardly, when he sensed Watanuki climb from bed and tip toe carefully to the bedroom door. He did nothing when the door opened those few inches, nothing when he felt the weight of Watanuki's gaze on him.
But he almost wanted to turn over and meet that gaze when he felt, filtering down their bond, a kind of confused happiness from Watanuki. It was the touch of yearning mingling with the irritated fear and respect that really got him, enabled him to ignore the rest of the emotions coming along the connection; the indecision and helplessness.
One day soon, Watanuki would accept his decision, Shizuka knew. And when that day came, when whatever it was that played a cataclysmic role in imprinting the truth into the noble's head, Shizuka would be standing firm.
It was harder not to do anything when Watanuki opened the door further and stretched out a toe to step out toward him…
…harder still when, after a long pause, feelings warring, Watanuki pulled the foot back and shut the door before returning to bed.
Shizuka said nothing still hours later when he set the noble's morning tea before him, eyes sliding over the pale skin exposed by the loose sleeping robe. He remained silent as he traced one collarbone with his eyes up along to Watanuki's neck and to that blue, blue gaze watching him just as intently.
The door banged open. "Good morning!" Jason cheered, throwing his hands up in the air.
"Are you excited about your training?" Arashi asked, smiling at Jason as she sat down to dinner.
Shizuka briefly eyed her belly, sifting through her presence to ascertain her health. She seemed fine so he returned to his dinner and the occasional side long glance at Watanuki beside him.
"Oh, yeah," the Englishman replied, grinning, "Very excited. Doumeki-san is going to whip me into shape, just you see."
"You're already skilled with weapons and you have good movements," Sorata said around a mouthful of eggs, for which Watanuki shot him a quick glare. He swallowed quickly before he spoke again, "So the concept of magical fighting will come easily for you. It'll just be lessons on wielding the new power like a weapon. You already know half the lesson, pretty much."
Shizuka snatched up another piece of fried fish, eyeing the soft belly section Watanuki still had on his plate. Sensing his intentions, Watanuki whipped around and shot the monk a dark glare, one hand shifting the plate a little further from Shizuka's reach and he began calculating his next plan of attack.
"That's good to know," Jason nodded, "I remember when Watanuki was first learning from Doumeki, those gestures and movements were a lot like footwork and balance technique." He turned a puzzled look on Watanuki, "They looked pretty similar to those flowing dances you and your mother used to do, too."
"Kata," Watanuki nodded, eyes finally moving from Shizuka, "Yes. And Tai Chi Chuan."
Jason wrinkled his nose, "I can't pronounce that last bit." Sorata and Arashi chuckled.
"Well, yes," Watanuki murmured, "It's pretty much the same movements as you've learned, just that the techniques I use are fancier and cover more range."
"Hopefully my footwork will suffice to get me started," Jason agreed then turned to Doumeki, "What do you think?"
"You'll do well," Doumeki answered, still alternately watching Watanuki and that tantalising portion of fish on the noble's plate, "Don't worry about it."
Jason grinned when Watanuki fired the monk another glare. Sorata shook his head, reached to pat Jason's arm and said, "What we should be worrying about is Watanuki." He shared a nod with his wife and another with Shizuka before turning to Watanuki. "You ready for this?"
Watanuki looked grim as he set down his tea cup, pausing a moment to contemplate the liquid before raising his eyes and giving a firm nod.
"Your name," Sorata said, "Do you know what it means?"
"Watanuki is written with the character for April first," Watanuki said, "And Kimihiro is written with the characters for 'benevolence' and 'ocean' …but the word also could be spelled with the character for 'prophet' strangely enough."
"Yes," Arashi smiled. "Rather prophetic words, don't you think?"
"What we mean to say is," Sorata said slowly, "Is that a lot about you has already been… foretold in some way or form."
"Prophesied?" Jason kidded with a small snicker, "Like a messiah?" No one laughed and Jason settled down, confused.
"It's not really the name, it's the… level of power behind him," Arashi said. She paused then asked, "Have you ever heard of the symbolism behind the Triad, or of the words The Power of Three, if not the Cardinal Three?"
"Sure," Jason offered with a shrug, "There's a similar concept in construction engineering –the minimum number of pillars required to support or hold a weight. Three is the minimum to devise a three-dimensional pin-point. In Science, the three measurements to assess mass."
"Exactly," Sorata said, jabbing a finger in the air. "But it doesn't stop there. In Religion, there's the Trinitarian of beliefs. There are a set of three Gods for Greek, Indian, Egyptian, and Roman worship. Even the Catholics have the Christian Holy Trinity. In Norse mythology, there are the three Norns and the three hags."
"The God Odin has three forms in Eddic mythology," Shizuka put in, "Also, there are three Gorgons, three parts to a chimera, three faces of Hecate, three Harpies and the three headed dog Cereberus who guards the gates to Hades."
"The three Fates, Graces, Furies –therein three again," Arashi stated. "The ancient Mayans believed the three stars of the Orion constellation are the wards that contain the fires of the Universe, the nebula."
"It's steeped into anything and everything," Jason observed, surprised. "But what about four? Four legs to table and the foundations of a block building. Isn't that… more stable?"
Shizuka inclined his head in acknowledgement, "In terms of balance, four might be considered stronger, more powerful, but it is an even number and its power is limited to seeking a specific non-conflicted balance. That is not to say that four is not powerful on its own, just in a different way."
"The point is, Watanuki is a third generation Seer," Sorata stated, "And common through many religions, three is the number required to purify a soul." He gestured emphatically, "Three symbolises not only The Triple Gem of Buddhist beliefs but also the three stages of a soul's life cycle before it returns to the Source, to the Abyss. We should have seen him coming."
"Third generation Seer?" Jason queried, puzzled.
Shizuka narrowed his eyes at Watanuki, "His mother and grandmother were also Seers."
"Really?" Jason exclaimed, turning for confirmation to Watanuki, who hesitated a moment then nodded. "So hold it," he frowned, "You're saying this has something to do with his very soul?"
"Let me try to mince it down," Sorata said, smiling gently, "It's confusing for me, too. When Arashi first explained her hunch to me, I scratched my head over it for a bit." He took a breath, looking distantly into his cup, seeing beyond it, "Watanuki's soul and where it originates from is a puzzle we didn't think mattered, even after we read up on him being third generation. But Arashi re-read the Doumeki ancestor journals. Specifically, the part where it discusses the Living Soul, the soul that remembers itself when separated from its body is a Whole Soul."
"I remember that," Jason murmured. "Something about retaining everything of what or who they are even in Spirit form, which Kim does." He blinked then pointed at Doumeki, "But he can do it too."
"Not exactly," Arashi interjected, eyes gleaming. "What I learned is Doumeki is very different. That's what alerted us into looking closer at Watanuki's ability to do it and its consequent implications." She pointed at the monk, "Doumeki leaves his body in a state of sleep with normal brain activity. Watanuki separates from his body leaving it in a comatose state."
"And that's significant?" Jason asked, brows rising. He flashed his cousin a reassuring smile when Watanuki shifted uneasily in his seat.
"Very," Sorata said, palms up; just the messenger of the news. "Watanuki uses no spells to separate. He simply detaches. The body is left as a body, a shell. The Soul… leaves it."
"So when Doumeki leaves his body," Jason guessed, glancing at Shizuka, "His soul doesn't? He's still attached to it?"
"Yes," Doumeki answered with a small nod. "It's why I protect my body with barriers before hand, it's to keep it from being stolen or interfered with. The only reason I practice leaving my body at all is because of my clean aura and its powers."
"Okay," Jason shook his head, "What's this about clean auras now?"
Watanuki looked curiously over at Shizuka, hands firmly hidden in his sleeves on his lap.
"Aura is a general term for a spirit's manifestation in a body, how a soul lives in the body and is affected by it," Shizuka patiently explained, watching Watanuki's reactions carefully. "Separate of that, spirit power manifests from the soul. When I leave my body, I take only my spirit power and between my ghostly existence and the body, my soul remains a connection between them."
"Okay," Jason nodded, "I'm still with you."
"I am powerful enough to arm myself in spirit form because my soul is strong –the whole reason I attempt the detaching in the first place," Shizuka pointed a finger down and drew a circle, the barrier he'd mentioned, "The barrier I create protects my body. Body and Soul must be defended, connected as they are. If something or someone breaks that connection, both die."
"But Kim doesn't protect his body," Jason said slowly, worry flashing across his face. "Have we only been lucky?"
"Not necessarily," Doumeki said slowly, looking over at Sorata.
"This is where it gets tricky," Sorata said, nodding in return. "We learned that the thing is, Watanuki's body can't be inhabited or disturbed by anything other than his Soul. He doesn't really need to guard it." He indicated Shizuka, "Doumeki discovered that when he first saw Watanuki leave his body back in the House of Wotangu in Africa."
"How'd you figure I don't need guarding?" Watanuki asked suddenly, looking surprised –some of it by his own words. He subsided again quickly, flashing a quick glance over at Shizuka.
"Because it's not a real body," Arashi answered gently.
Dead silence descended.
"What?" Watanuki whispered, stricken. His blue eyes dimmed and Shizuka badly wanted to rub at his chest where Watanuki's agitation echoed back through the bond.
"It's not a real body," Shizuka confirmed, swallowing the grunt of pain at the hurt that flared in Watanuki. "It's made from a real body, it functions and grows like a real body, it has inherited the traits of your parents but ultimately, it is a shell."
"A shell?" Watanuki stupidly repeated, looking flabbergasted and rather lost. The pain in the bond dissipated.
The monk blew a small sigh then answered, "For your soul."
"And that's where the real answers are," Arashi said firmly. "All this time we wondered and researched into why Watanuki's body heals the way it does, why he is sick the way he gets, and wondered after all the reasons why he could Spirit Walk and how he could see things in Spirit Form so much clearer."
"We ran into dead end after dead end," Sorata added, shaking his head, "With no idea where else to look."
"But the truth," Doumeki finished, "Is that it is because you are a Clean Soul and everything about you has nothing to do with your body." He paused, "Which brings us back to the Three. Your Soul is purified already from your descended blood line."
"Three times over, is what we suspect," Arashi added.
"Urashima-san even said it," Sorata put in, "That he observed how clean your soul is after realising that Doumeki-san and I are so loyal to you." He frowned slightly, "We compared history. We both, Arashi and I, as well as Doumeki-san, have felt compelled to protect you beyond what we logically should."
Watanuki's expression tightened. Doubt, pain and a general sense of imbalance filtered down into the bond. Instinctively, Shizuka sent back emotions of reassurance, calm and his determination that things would be all right. The negative emotions seemed to ease, and Watanuki glanced over in surprise at him.
"Excuse me?" Jason gasped, after a pause of surprise. "What does your loyalty have to do in respect to Kim's soul?"
Worries over what Watanuki's conclusion might be made Doumeki hesitate a moment before answering, "Necessity." He gave Watanuki a small reassuring look and a gentle nod, "He needs to be protected. That need calls to our very souls because of what we are." Most especially mine, now.
"When we realised what it was that made us feel the need to protect him, that his state of soul is more important than we ever thought," Sorata explained, "All the rest of the pieces fell into place. We researched some more about a soul never having been human," Sorata glanced over at Watanuki's ashen face, "You aren't."
"Then what is he?" Jason exclaimed, reaching to grasp Watanuki's hand under the table, outraged and anxious on his cousin's behalf.
"Calm yourself, Jason," Arashi said quietly, a note of danger in the voice that Doumeki noticed and disliked –but he realised why when he noticed the flare of dark shadow over Jason's left shoulder, a reaction to his emotions. "It's not just that he doesn't have a human soul. It's also that he's never existed before."
Jason and Watanuki exchanged nervous glances.
"Background: all souls have come from an origin," Sorata explained, "A… general and ancient existence. There is a Source, the original form of a whole soul, and this splits off to share through all the different worlds into existences, plural, out there; into multiples of different people with the same soul."
"The reason why people dream or see things they don't otherwise understand," Arashi picked up, "Is because when the consciousness gathers the pieces from all the fragments across the worlds, the souls resonate with each other."
"Other worlds?" Jason gasped. "You mean there are others out there? The same Us?"
"Yes," answered the monk. "And we resonate with each other across all distances, a shared existence with many different fates. But Watanuki… when you dream those dreams, you only see those others who look like you outside of yourself, don't you?" he asked softly. "You don't see them or the things they see from your own perspective."
"I thought I was dreaming outside my body," Watanuki admitted quietly, eyes sad as he looked at Shizuka. "Not that much of what they said or did, or the people they talked to in the dreaming, made much sense to me."
"That is because none of them are you, and you only share a small connection with them," said the monk quietly. "Those others of you are much fewer than the usual. In other words, there are very few other Watanukis in the other worlds. I think this is because you each serve a different purpose, a different reason for existing. And none of you are actually from the same Source."
"But if he's not part of that soul," Jason asked, looking confused, "Then whose soul does he share the rest with?"
"He doesn't," Sorata answered, a bit awed. "He's new. Clean. An original Source."
"Then that means… he's not part of the other worlds?" Jason guessed. "And that part about him being Clean, the need to protect him? That means he's…" the Englishman shrugged, at a loss for words.
"Yes." Shizuka sighed, "It means he belongs to an entirely different kind of world than all the others, including this one." The monk sighed and pronounced the truth he'd been dreading would prove fact, "He's a three-by-three, we believe. Three generations descended Seer, three others who have Whole Souls who bear his body and face, and maybe three states of existence. Three destinies which may or may not be connected."
Sorata nodded, "He's still growing, still learning the boundaries of his Soul but it's nearly unmistakeable for him to be anything else. He is a Complete Soul. Which means that he doesn't belong to the same worlds that most souls share, pieces of the one soul. He is one Whole himself. This means that he belongs somewhere else, a different world."
The truth began to dawn.
Watanuki curled over and a pulse of dark despair and fear rolled down the bond. Shizuka quickly tangled his fingers into the corner of Watanuki's sleeve, drawing the noble's attention enough to distract him from his painful thoughts.
Looking frightened and disguising it with anger, Jason slammed his hands down on the table, "But he's my family!"
And the monk knew then it would take time and a lot of patience before he could explain to Jason that the only reason a Whole Soul could exist was because it was meant to leave its shell behind one day. That leaving would be the only way it could grow to fulfil its own destiny.
That in all of history recorded by the Order of the Shirasagi, Whole Souls were never anything other than the Lords of the World they truly belonged to.
Coming soon: Arc 5, By Blood or Choice.
Before anything else, a WARNING: I am taking time off to finish writing the next arc. No The Seer fiction will be updated during this time, NONE AT ALL.
You can message me and ask, if you need to, but I think this will take up to about six months. Think of it like TV series! When I come back, there will be updates every week --someone close to me complained most people post on the weekend so I'm thinking I should post during the week to cheer you up. There will be no more of this rotation ridiculousness I've been trying to do for the last few months because that practice didn't really work for me.
Meanwhile… *evil cackle* did I shake it all up for you enough? I guess you can figure out at least a little bit of who are coming in the next arc. I did leave a little breadcrumb trail. Trust me, the first chapter of Arc 5 will rock your socks off –I totally loved writing it. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the story once it's done.
Now, please don't forget to feed(back) me! I love to hear from you if you have thoughts and observations to share. And if you spotted any mistakes, be sure to point it out. Thank you!