A rich crimson pelt suddenly coated the forming creature. Four heavy feline paws materialized along with a golden segmented scorpion tail. A human torso glimmered into existence where the lion-like chest ended. Four iridescent dragonfly wings sprouted from his feline and humanoid shoulders.

Lazily the god trotted towards the intruders, looking like an odd centaur through the mist. His human lips curled revealing sharp pointed fangs. His eyes were a dead white and without pupils, nevertheless he could spot a shape in the inky darkness. His forked tongue picked up the taste of his aura clearly.

This should be entertaining, he thought to himself as he savored the power emanating from the soul before him. Mmm…tasty little morsel…

Chapter 2 – Pulling Heaven Down

"I don't see myself when I look in the mirror
I see who I should be
I don't see myself when I look in your eyes
Thank God for that

I don't see myself when I look cross the river
I see where I should be
I don't see myself when I look from the sky
Thank God for that…"

-In the Crossfire by Starsailor

Tasuki plodded down a winding mountain path staring at the scenery though bloodshot eyes. The sun was shining brightly overhead, birds were chirping joyfully, the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees… it was horrible. Theredhead had the hangover from hell, meaning he'd thoroughly enjoyed himself last night. He groaned as his horse began to trot faster down hill. Kouji barked out some orders causing half of the men to wince. Tasuki himself could only grunt in agreement.

Ok, so maybe having a kegger the night before a raid hadn't been such a great idea but in his defense it had been… um… that one guy's birthday. His name escaped Tasuki at the moment but despite that, a celebration had been in order!

Why did I agree ta this?! he mentally grumbled, it's not even a proper raid. It's just payment collection!

Raiding had never been the same ever since he'd been proclaimed a national hero. People practically groveled for him to take their stuff . He liked to consider himself a criminal, but he drew the line at using his status for easy cash. Still, the villages in his turf knew who he was and they were more than happy to hand over anything he asked for… to his irritation, it almost always included a daughter or female relation of some sort. Ugh, he was NOT in the mood to deal with some clingy female with a screechy voice. He definitely regretted getting suckered into going down the mountain.

"Kouji, it could have waited!" he whined loudly and immediately regretted it. His head felt as if he'd jammed a chopstick into his brain. If Kouji answered Tasuki didn't hear it. Something gripped his insides and he lurched backwards. A wave of nausea washed over him, that, coupled with his hangover, caused him to topple off his horse. He hit the ground hard and turned a sick shade of green.

"I'm gonna be sick…" he moaned before the lurching jerked at him harder this time. He felt as if he were falling down a well the sunlight and trees falling farther and farther away. A cold wind struck his face soothing his nausea and he blissfully blacked out.

Opaaru lay down on her bed in her room her head lolling off the edge. The blood was rushing to it giving her a perpetual sort of blush. Hakkai, having given up on fighting her dementia, sat on a beanbag chair staring at the monitor showing Fushigi Yuugi.

Meanwhile, Chichiri sat cross-legged in the null-space silently examining his miko's strange bedchamber. There were framed images of strange men (he assumed) on the walls. One was dressed all in black and wore a pale grinning white mask but his eyes were black. They were shadowed behind the edge of his hat as he wielded daggers in both his hands. The mage now understood why some people found his mask unnerving. But at least I don't carry knives around like that no da.

There was another picture of a similarly dressed man but he seemed less threatening. This man's mask only covered half his face, and seemed elegant albeit in a gothic sort of way. Now that he was paying closer attention, he saw a theme in Opaaru's décor.

Masks and blades, he chuckled nervously, I seem to fit right it no da.

Chichiri then heard his voice coming from the demon slate. It was odd watching the story of Suzaku as a distant observer and kind of made him feel like a bug under glass. Suddenly, the overture for Phantom of the Opera erupted from somewhere inside Opaaru's jacket. The young woman reached for the discarded clothing and brought out a small phone. Chichiri looked on highly curious at the loud little apparatus. Amidst the vampiric organ and violin composition she checked the caller ID. It was her mother's phone number.

"Aw hell," she groaned. I think I know that this is about.

She took a calming breath and answered the call. As expected a loud demanding voice yelled at her. She winced and smiled weakly.

"Hi mom, sorry I didn't call." She paused as a barrage of accusations hit her. "No mom, I'm ok. Sorry. I'm not with a guy or anything," she grinned wryly. At least not in the traditional sense. "I met up with Hakkai and he gave me a ride home. I forgot you were going to pick me up."

The petite woman on the other line continued to scold Opaaru much to her embarrassment. She was positive Chichiri was getting every little aspect of the conversation.

"Kay mom, love ya, see you in a while…" she cut in before hanging up

"Someone's busted isn't she?" Hakkai chirped in a sing song voice.

"Oh shut it," she muttered, "go bring us some cookies or whatever."

"Does your mom still bake those shortbread chocolate dipped thingies?" Hakkai gave asked with a lopsided grin as he stood up. He'd been intimately familiar with the well-stocked Ameron family pantry since he was six. They always kept some of the best stuff around.

"Moocher!" Opaaru called after him.

"You offered remember?" he answered.

"Daaa…" Chichiri sweatdropped, "your mother is an interesting woman."

Oh come on, she's not that bad, Opaaru blushed, I'm sure yours is just as bad.

"My mother died when I was eighteen," Chichiri said softly. A weary sort of sadness came over him as he remembered his mother. Her voice had always been so soft and gentle. Her eyes… He shook the emotion off irritably. By now he'd have thought himself to be immune to such depressing thoughts.

Opaaru mentally kicked herself. It figured she would say something stupid. I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have… she trailed off awkwardly.

"Anyway... This moving-picture-thing should be showing Tasuki soon! You'd probably like him too na no da!" he said, reverting back to his happy-go-lucky self.

Despite the unnatural manner in which he changed his tone Opaaru felt more at ease once he did. She wondered if that made her selfish. Her attention snapped to the anime as a loud pained scream burst from the speakers. Miaka had been pulled out of danger by a familiar silhouette…and then she bit Chichiri's hand.

"Holy- she bit you?!" Opaaru's jaw dropped as she righted herself.

A small smile crossed the monk's features at the nostalgic scene. He still had a faded crescent mark where the young girl had chomped on his skin.

Chichiri laughed quietly. "Yes, yes she did. She may have been weak, but she was always a fighter no da." He rubbed his hand between his thumb and index finger. "She had a strong bite, I can't deny that no da," he smiled.

Considering how much food she puts away, I'd say she had plenty of practice. And you say you protected this girl? she asked a half way between incredulous and amused.

"It was our duty," he replied simply, "and, she really grew on you after a while. I somewhat miss her no da."

Opaaru felt a slight twinge of jealousy and something akin to bitterness. It must be nice, she privately thought, to have a group of men born only to help you out in life.

"Where is she now?" Opaaru asked.

The monk sighed. "Gone back to her world no da. She found Tamahome again, and they're together, in her world." He knew the phrase was repetitive, but he honestly didn't have much more to say. All seishi were close to the miko, some more so than others, but after the wars and slow reconstruction… Miaka's happiness seemed more like a bonus when compared to the big picture. Yes, the dee-vii-deeshowed Tamahome and Miaka's love, and the brotherhood of seven seishi, but it was an unrealistic romanticized version. He doubted the device would show the long strife of rebuilding, and the overwhelming loss of human life. But he would not tell Opaaru of those things, it was enough that she got the glossy tale of love and heroism instead of the gritty, unappealing truth of the Konan/Kutou war.

"Happily ever after then," Opaaru chimed as she leaned back and pondered the workings of his kasa. "I need to get me one of those," she mused.

Chichiri blinked and then sweatdropped. "Eheh…I don't even want to know what you would do with one no da."

"Oh not you too, Mirror-chan, I'm crushed!" she replied in a mock hurt tone.

Why I'd only use it to better mankind! she continued in a scandalized manner, Of course a few trips into the Gold Reserve and several choice bedrooms would come first. It is interdimentional isn't it?

"Anou… as long as you don't show up in my bedroom, I'll be fine no da."

Just then the screen showed as a Kutou assassin's attack was foiled by Chichiri. Her eyes grew wide as saucers and a slightly demented grin spread. Dude, you're...FRIGGIN AWESOME!

"You've officially made my 'Kick Ass' list right between Ichigo and Kakashi," she smiled, "ne, if I'm good could you teach me some moves? I've always wanted to do magic."

Ichigo? Kakashi?Chichiri mused. The names meant nothing to him, but her request made him wonder if that was even possible. She was just an ordinary girl. …strictly ki-wise speaking, that is na no da.

"Hmm... well, I don't see why not no da. Of course, that all depends on whether I can teach it to you without any visual aids…" he said. His eye then widened and he hit his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Ore wa baka, na no da! I canshow you visual aids no da!"

He concentrated and conjured up an image of his favorite place to meditate at the imperial palace in Konan. Opaaru felt a light pull and an image began to take form within her mind. It was like looking through a second set of eyes. She let the vision take over her senses and she was gracefully deposited in the middle of a garden.

"Wow..." she breathed at the beauty of the place. It was artificial nature at it's finest. Very beautiful, very extravagant and VERY expensive. It's function hindered only by it's priceless quality. Like a dagger with a gold blade. "You LIVE here?"

That's one of the best analogies for manufactured beauty I've ever heard, he stared curiously at Opaaru. Perhaps she had more depth than what he'd first thought. Though in my defense, her first impression makes it really hard to tell no da.

"Ah, not exactly, no da. It's the imperial palace in Konan no da. I just... stay there sometimes," he explained.

Her mouth formed a little "oh" shape. Not too far off she saw the palace's buildings. Instantly her inner architect began assessing and categorizing the parts of the building.

Post and beam… ranges from light to heavy timber…coated with a lacquer of some sort… egg based perhaps considering the time frame… ceramic shingles… crawlspace… birds carved out of the joists. The corridors are outside… tropical to light temperate climate. Cedar posts… solid cedar posts, gods they don't grow them like that anymore! Bamboo screen walls… are they dry set or attatched with nails? How do they keep the wood in the little gazebo from rotting with the lake water? Opaaru then realized she had been staring at the buildings and not her "teacher".

"Erm," she smiled sheepishly, "you were saying?"

Chichiri smiled knowing how she must feel in a completely alien environment. "So you can see me now no da?"

Opaaru realized he was right. She cocked her head as she saw him for the first time without being superimposed on her image.

"Heh, guess this means you can see me too now," Opaaru smiled, "you look taller than I thought. Soooo, someone promised me a magic lesson."

"I suppose I did, didn't I?" Chichiri laughed. Perhaps it was because they were in his favorite spot, or because he'd temporarily escaped the emptiness of the void, but he couldn't stop grinning. He sat down on a handy rock by the water, folding his legs into the lotus position and patted the rock beside him.

"Sit, breathe, relax no da," he said with a smile. "First you'll have to learn to free your mind."

Opaaru had the mental picture of someone looking like her, albeit slightly more deranged, running around with a bloody ax and laughing maniacally as chains trailed behind. She sweatdropped and bit her lip putting it from her mind. Chichiri though was trying very hard not to burst into laughter. He cleared his throat and closed his eye as if in concentration.

The girl sat down beside the monk crossing her legs Indian style and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and exhaled in the slow calculated manner she did every time before a fencing bout. Her shoulders unconsciously tensed awaiting a strike that would never land. Her fingers, deprived of sabre and laptop fiddled idly against the side of her hiking style shoes. She opened an eye and gave the monk a sidelong glance awaiting his next instructions.

Chichiri sighed, shaking his head. He could see that she wasn't relaxing. "Opaaru-chan, you need to relax or you'll never get anywhere no da. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and try to empty your mind of all conscious thought no da," he said, demonstrating. A slight hum broke through the silence as his ki flowed free and unrestrained.

"When I feel you're ready, we'll try some ki manipulation no da." It was nice, being back here. Even if it was just in his head. Or Opaaru's head? It didn't matter. The fact was that there was something besides the void for a little while. A slight smile tugged at the monk's lips. Maybe he could think of a way to keep this illusion going.

Opaaru furrowed her brow. She was relaxed, or at least as relaxed as she ever got. With another deep breath she closed her eyes. It's amazing how much junk your mind can accumulate after 20 years in a techno world. Just as she had phased out all thoughts, her brain began a tirade of Green Day's Holiday accompanied by random arcade noises. After battling with her mind for a few minutes she fell back somewhat frazzled.

Oi...this is haaaard! My head's too full noise.

Just then she noticed there she had achieved radio silence. The key was not to try too hard. Opaaru lay there blinking at random intervals. She was afraid that sitting back would instantly sent her mental noise bubbling out once more.

Her ears picked up the lapping water somewhere nearby along with the song of a few birds. She closed her eyes once more and let the noises wrap around her. It felt nice, different but relaxing.

Chichiri opened his eye and glanced down at Opaaru. "Anou... don't fall asleep no da!" he laughed. "Alright... now... stay relaxed..."

He reached down beside him and picked up a pebble.

"Concentrate on the stone in my hand. Imagine that it has no weight at all, that it can float as easily as a bird na no da."

Opaaru slowly sat up and did as he asked. She had always had a sort of rampant imagination, so she focused that upon the pebble. The pebble could float. She closed her eyes as she felt the power of her mind. The pebble was light, light as a feather...no, lighter. Why shouldn't it be?

9.3... Her eyes snapped open and she battled between beliefs. The pebble is floating... falling up… But gravity is pulling at it at a rate of 9.3 meters per second, a snide voice replied and instantly her concentration snapped.

"Shimatta," she growled, "Physics 101 is against me!"

Chichiri had felt the pebble lighten and almost lift off the palm of his hand! But her concentration had suddenly snapped.

"Umm... try not to think about this 'physics' na no da. You almost had it," he said encouragingly.

Opaaru stared at Chichiri. It was kind of cute how he was totally oblivious to modern science.

"Physics is the science that tells you how the world works and why things happen. It sort of...rationalized the world. Made things neat and defined by perfect little equations; and took the magic out of them. It's amazing at times, but, well, it makes accepting unexplainable things much harder," she sighed, "like right now, I know pebbles can't float because the earth pulls down on it at a set rate. I can sort of fight it but then again I'm... an exception."

Opaaru mumbled the last part. She took another deep breath, and focused. Even if she couldn't destroy the laws, maybe she could find a way around them. She wracked her brain. There was no doubt gravity existed, but then the density could be completely different. It could be like pumice stone, no heavier than a feather.

That still wouldn't make it float. There had to be a force holding up the object. What was there? Her will? The world suddenly brightened. Quantum mechanics. We shape the world through our perceptions. We are only limited by what we define as true. A wild torrent of information flowed into her brain all of it bolstering her efforts. The pebble floats, because I say it does.

Y'know, I think I'm glad I don't know any of this "physics", Chichiri mused while he watched the pebble start to shake slightly. Suddenly the small bit of stone shot off his hand straight up into the air and a good three feet overhead. There was a little gasp of surprise from the monk. Chichiri's eye widened beneath the mask. He hadn't expected her to be able to levitate the pebble so soon! It was impressive that she had even been able to make it move, let alone float at a steady height!

"That's very, very good Opaaru-chan! Anou, how are you doing it no da?" he asked.

"I sort of found a loophole in the laws," she smiled, "there's this odd new research that pretty much says that if you honestly believe something is true, then it is. The opposite is also true. People find it easier to think they're powerless." She then realized she was getting into a Sociological rant so she clipped it, "Granted it's a little mad, but then you can't argue with results."

"Mad, ne?," Chichiri laughed, "Demo, I think I understand no da."

He looked around himself, out over the lake to the forest. "We've been here long enough. We'll have more lessons later, if you wish no da," he said with a warm smile.

His gentle tone and expression made Opaaru's stomach do flip flops. Nevertheless, she realized he was right. It had to be some sort of record, she had interacted with a new person and he had yet to call her crazy and run away. Not that'd he'd get very far. But he's so easy to talk to.

"Yeah, I think you're right, Hakkai might start noticing I've spaced out," she perked up at the promise of new lessons, "And maybe next time I'll show you something."

He held out his hand as the landscape began to dissolve into black. "It's a deal no da!"

Opaaru reached out and just as her hand touched his, the world around them disappeared. Her eyes refocused on the real world. Out in the hall she could hear Hakkai coming up the stairs, most likely loaded with pilfered goodies. She then realized that Chichiri had probably remained trapped in that darkness that had replaced the beautiful illusion. She couldn't imagine being in his situation.

"Daijobou Opaaru-san," he replied getting the gist of her thoughts, "I can see through your eyes just fine na no da!"

Well yeah but still… hey do you think it's possible for you to come to my world? I mean if you concentrated enough do you think you could?

"Worth a try," he replied thoughtfully as he leaned back in the void, "I may have to use a little of your ki to manifest, but I don't think I'll drain you too much no da."

He concentrated, mahogany eye half-closed as he imagined himself outside the void. The darkness began to lighten, as if it were being stretched thin all around him. A second later the light brightened to a hot white before dimming down to the soft warm glow of lamplight. He turned to Opaaru and smiled. "How are you feeling no da?" he asked, stretching slightly enjoying the feeling of the bed beneath him.

It was good to have something solid supporting his weight. The world felt real again, even the air was not hollow but had the faint scent and texture of sandalwood from a nearby incense holder.

Opaaru felt slightly light headed at the transition, but it was worth it to see the expression of relief on the manifested seishi.

"I'm fine but…you're see-through," she reached out and touched his kesa. Instead of her fingers slipping through, Opaaru felt a light resistance. If she put enough strength into it Opaaru was certain she could stick her hand through the ghostly man, but she didn't want to run the risk of hurt him.

"Whoa, you're actually here," she continued poking him as if that would help her accept it more.

"Hey, that tickles no da!" he laughed as he batted her hand away. The mage looked down at himself and noticed he was indeed transparent. He raised an eyebrow. "Hmm... Well, see-through is better than nothing no da. Anou, it would be best if you didn't move for a moment while our ki stabilizes."

Suddenly there was a loud clatter as Hakkai froze at the doorway and dropped a tin of cookies. One of the sweet pastries was stuck halfway out of his lips as his eyes widened incredulously. Chichiri, the same man he had seen not five seconds ago on the screen was talking to Opa. It was like looking at a ghost. Hell, it WAS a ghost!

"Opahruh!" he cried out and choked as he inhaled crumbs. Opaaru and Chichiri sweatdropped.

"Uh, yeah," she mumbled, "that's Hakkai for you."

"Oh gods! Opaaru get away from that thing!" her friend managed to hack out as he grabbed her arm and yanked her towards the door. The miko was pulled to her feet but stumbled at the sudden motion.

Chichiri couldn't say or do anything, he was so shocked that this boy could see him. How could that be? He'd never even entertained the idea that others besides Opaaru would be aware of his existence. So he sat there, mute, feeling a sudden cold shock jar his ki as Hakkai pulled away his only tie to this world or any other. Fear gripped his heart like an icy claw as he felt his energy distort and wobble as if on unsteady legs. What if he died? Or worse, what if he simply ceased to exist and disappeared?

"Opaaru…?" the seishi managed to squeak.

Within the void, the manticore leapt at Chichiri from behind. The beast's talons had all but closed around the glowing aura when the monk suddenly winked out of existence. Pearly eyes widened as he stumbled to a halt. The mage had left the void…

"The human has escaped this prison…" he murmured with considerable admiration though all the while keeping a cold frost to his words. A thousand thoughts filled his mind all of them tempting him with the promise of freedom. He would feel the wind on his face and the sun on his back once more.

If only I had captured the transient being at once,he sighed wearily. Ki levels surged not far from where he stood as a second human popped into existence. He summoned a gray path and bounded after the aura, lest it vanish as the first one had. Ivory eyes focused on the man newly arrived. Judging by his clothes he was from the orient, though his bright red-orange hair was unusual in those parts. The god wrinkled his nose in disapproval. This man's aura was weaker that the first's and by no means looked like a magician. Still, if there was a chance that he could escape his imprisonment, the kami would not overlook it.

Tasuki had been drifting off into slumber but there was something about being in this no-space that toyed with his mind. He heard the sounds of battles long ago echo in the stillness. His friends, now deceased, called out to him as steel clashed against sword, and armor, and bone, and tissue… Nuriko… Come back, he silently called out to the ethereal voices. Chiriko, I'm here. Too slow… why? Why can't I move? There's so much blood…

He sat up with a start gasping for breath as if the blackness had become viscous and tried to drown him. He blinked disoriented as he saw the darkness had been replaced with a gray foggy sort of light. There was a ground of some sort beneath him but his surroundings were overshadowed by the large crimson and gold creature observing him.

"Good morning, fretful dreams?" it asked in a deep rumbling voice, "I'm afraid that's a side effect of being literally nowhere. My, but you are so very far away from home aren't you? Where did you come from?"

Now Tasuki prided himself in his ability to cope with monsters, but when faced with a half lion, half human, half scorpion (Now that was three halves wasn't it?) he did what any normal person would do.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?!" the redhead screamed as he pointed his tessen at the creature. His eyes all but bulged out of his head.

The beast's iridescent wings flicked in annoyance at the lack of groveling and overall reverence. Yet other than that, he made no other motions.

"I am a superior being, my current form is called Set" he replied coldly as his crimson lion paws flexed revealing the tips off-white ivory claws. He was showing an uncharacteristic level of restraint towards someone he could easily snap in two, "As I am a superior being, Lord Set will do. But since you show a lower level of intelligence than what I am used to, I'll keep it simple. WHO are YOU and how did YOU get HERE?"

Tasuki gave the creature a wary glance. He honestly didn't think it was such a good idea to provoke the creature, but he also didn't like anyone speaking him in that tone. In the end pride won out over reason.

"Superior bein' my ass!" he snapped, "Looks like you were just slapped t'gether at the last minute. Either that or yer dad was one lonely guy."

The manticore stared at Tasuki through half lidded eyes. Veiled threats of a thousand horrible things glistened in that white gaze. "You must be a very suicidal or very stupid little man."

Tasuki's eyes narrowed and tightened his grip on his diamond tessen. "Fuck off! REKKA SHINNEN!" he yelled and a wall of flames spilled out like a tidal wave.

The fiery surge struck Set engulfing him in a roaring vortex. He wasn't sure if the shock he felt was from the fact that the human had powers or because the man had used them against him. White pearly eyes became tinged with an enraged crimson. He had actually been polite and asked for information rather than tear it out of the bandit's hide. It was more than what any human deserved! Either way he had had enough. Pale eyes cut through the flames and ripped the whirlwind apart. In an instant the holy fire was gone.

The crimson lightning then leapt at Tasuki. His claws, although not fully extended, pinned the impudent mortal to an invisible bit of ground. Blood spilled in crimson splatters as the god brought his weight down upon the pinned bandit.

"You obviously have no idea who you're dealing with," he stated in a soft rumble, "I am son of the Zeus, and brother to Osiris. I am Suzano the wind, bringer of death to mortal and god alike. I am Mercury your guide to the underworld, and Set bringer of light."

Tasuki yelped and struggled but only managed to get the ivory claws deeper into his flesh. For the first time in years, Tasuki felt dread eat at his heart. The manticore was unscathed, not one crimson hair was singed. If possible the seishi's eyes widened all the more. This thing really is a kami?! Holy Suzaku!

The heavy paws held him firmly. The seishi then felt a cold presence in his mind and shuddered. It was like something was driving an icicle into his brain.

"LET GO! LET ME GO YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!" he screamed as the pain blossomed in his forehead and chiseled deep into his head. All the worse was the fact that the beast held his gaze, and though he tried to look away from the frosty eyes the power was beyond him.

Welcome to Abyss...Tasuki…The savage voice crackled all around him raking his skin with invisible talons. The manticore pulled the information slowly and deliberately. It had been a long time since he had put a human in his place, and he was going to enjoy it.

"You're a bandit!" the god purred, "Given your profession, I would expect a little more venerance for the god of thieves lest I cease to smile upon your deeds."

Tasuki lay very still as the creature spoke to him. The fact that it was pulling information from his mind was enough proof that it was indeed a deity. Dammit…Get it off me…anyone…get it off me!A flash of memory seeped through the mental wound and he saw a familiar smiling face. He hadn't seen Chichiri in so long, and perhaps now he would never see the cheerful magician again. Shimata…Ch'chiri, if you can hear me… help… help me…

Darkness crept into the edges of his vision and there was only that dead gaze staring into his soul. He couldn't stand to watch those eyes any longer.

"Stop…I'll tell ya anything, just… get outta my head," he winced as he attempted to form a coherent sentence.

"Oh I think we've long since passed that," the deity murmured as he dug his claws into his flesh ever so slightly. "But I suppose I could show a little generosity. If you care to volunteer the information, I'll gladly listen. I already know who you are Which of the gods do you belong to? Who is Chichiri?" His white pupil-less eyes remained fixed upon Tasuki, "and I strongly suggest you don't lie to me."

Tasuki shuddered as the iciness piercing his mind receded. He took a moment to gather his thoughts as tried not to think about the points embedded in his shoulders. It was easier said than done.

"Suzaku the beast god of Konan, I'm a Suzaku seishi," he said but balked at the thought of putting his friend in any danger, "Chichiri isn't important, he's no one just a friend."

At the mention of Suzaku the manticore retracted his claws and stepped back. He had an empty expression on his face. It's not possible, they can't be Suzaku's.

"Liar!" he hissed and took a mental stab at him causing the seishi to collapse down against the pseudo ground with a yelp. A quick view into the bandits mind revealed the truth, "…but there it is... the great crimson chicken himself."

Set jerked his head and released the bandit. "How long have you been here?"

Tasuki stiffly sat up and grabbed his shoulder stemming some of the flow. The scratches didn't seem life threatening though they hurt like hell. He didn't understand why the manticore was suddenly angry but he would make damn certain he didn't provoke it anymore.

"I've been here fer about a day," the seishi replied visibly cowed by the aggressive creature. Despite his usual denseness, Tasuki felt this Set creature was not someone to mess with.

"Suzaku…is permanently unavailable and so can't come to help you," the manticore finally said after a long pause. "You'd be better off giving you allegiance to me."

"I can't do that," Tasuki replied in soft defiance.

"It makes more sense for you to honor and abide the god of thievery than the god of love," the beast gave a short bark of laughter, "what's love ever done for you?"

"More than you," the redhead suddenly spat.

"Yes well, great pity Suzaku's dead now then isn't it? I wonder if this makes you a sort of orphan? Exactly what kind of person dies via pointy stick anyway? Humiliating way to go…" he trailed off thoughtfully.

Tasuki stared up at the beast. Suzaku was dead. Impossible! He had seen him, in Miaka's world. HE HAD! Set had to be lying there was no other way! Yet despite his inner turmoil, the beast's next words gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Ah well theology gets us nowhere, on to a more interesting subject. Why don't you tell me more about Chichiri," he purred, "your memories of him are fascinating."


Somehow Opaaru caught all of Chichiri's emotion and panic in that one word. The miko responded automatically by shrugging off Hakkai's grip.

"Hakkai you idiot, you're scaring him," Opaaru scolded her friend, "Sheesh you drama queen!"

"That thing is the ghost and I'm scaring it?!" he protested.

The girl rolled her eyes before taking a seat beside Chichiri once more. "Sorry about that, he's usually not this excitable," she apologized placing a hand on the mage's shoulder.

Chichiri immediately felt his ki stop flickering like a candle and then stabilize. He gave her a look of sheer relief though his mask probably prevented her from catching it. "It's okay no da, I didn't think he would be able to see me. I guess we should have warned him. Anou, konnichiwa no da, my name is Chichiri and I promise I mean you no harm na no da," he smiled at Hakkai and offered him his hand. Miaka had taught him that handshaking was more customary than bowing in her world.

Hakkai eyed the hand as if he were being offered a live cobra and twitched. Chichiri blinked and tilted his head. Had he offended the man? Perhaps handshaking was a rude gesture here.

"Oh come on Hakkai, stop being such a twonk! Chichiri's being nice to you!" Opaaru snapped and that seemed to revive him.

"Opa, have you gone completely insane!" his voice bordered on hysterical, "He's see-through and in our world. Damn it you actually BROUGHT him into our world! Who knows what he's capable of, and you're here acting like it's normal!"

Chichiri sweatdropped. He does know I can hear him right no da?

"Will it help if I promise on my honor as a celestial warrior of Suzaku notto use my powers on any of you no da?" he asked with a sigh.

"No," Hakkai replied bluntly as he glared at the monk. Life had taken a step out of the normal. Well in reality it was more like Life had bought a 4x4 off road vehicle and driven out of normal and off a cliff. Either way he didn't like it. The boy was happy with the ordinary and any deviation put him in a snappish mood.

"Hakkai you need to relax," she told him, "Chichiri's not going to hurt me or anyone else. He could have done so already, I mean he HAS been in my head all this time."

"This whole thing is impossible!" he exploded before taking a deep breath and pinching the bridge of his nose.

Chichiri tilted his head with a puzzled look on his face. Was he really that frightening?

"Sorry about this, he gets edgy when strange stuff happens," Opaaru apologized to the mage before turning to give her friend a saccharine sweet smile. "Hakkai, you're acting like a psycho. Now are you going to be sensible about this, or am I going to have to throw you out the window?"

He blinked at Opaaru. She had that predatory smile which he hated, and said window was a good ten feet off the ground. Well given those two choices, he just might get to be more open minded after all.

"Daaa, Opaaru-san, it's ok na no da!" the monk interceded before his miko resorted to violence. "It's just a new experience, I've never been feared before na no da!"

"I am not afraid of you!" snapped Hakkai defensively.

"Then WHAT is your problem?!" she sighed exasperatedly.

"I…he…has blue hair…" Hakkai mumbled as he trailed off.

Opaaru gave her friend a pointed look punctuated by a long pause. Chichiri held back a soft chuckle lest he insult Hakkai's swiftly vanishing dignity. Just then the front door slammed shut as someone entered.

"And that would be my cue…" muttered Hakkai as he turned to the doorway expectantly.

"Nani?" the mage chirped.

"It means my parents are home," Opaaru replied choosing her words carefully. She wondered if Chichiri fit under her bed. Surely there was no right way to explain to your folks that some transdimentional traveler had come into your life and was now going to practically live with you. The fact that Chichiri happened to be male did not make matters any easier. Granted Hakkai was also male, but he didn't count.

Chichiri would have been more worried about meeting up with his miko's father if he knew the kind of man he was up against. However, there was something else niggling at the back of his head. Some little thread of emotion was tugging at his subconscious making his entire ki twitch ever so slightly. Chichiri drew a deep breath and froze as slowly a pain bloomed in his chest its delicate strands taking root in the deep crevices of his soul. It was the sixth time he'd felt anything like it and it caused his symbol to flare in his anxiety. Tasuki's in danger!He closed his eye beneath the mask and sought the bandit's ki.

Opaaru felt a surge of dread which caused her to glance at Chichiri. It was impossible for her to know how, but the girl felt the worry emanating from the seishi beside her as keenly as if it were her own. Her hand reached out tentatively but before her fingertips had brushed the bubbled kesa, Chichiri's jerked out of his trance-like state and stared at Opaaru's outstretched hand as if it were something alien.

Chichiri took a steadying breath but the pain intensified.

"I… I have to go," he stated softly before fading away.

Opaaru retracted her hand feeling for all the world like a child who'd been rebuked for attempting to touch a priceless vase. Before she could form a reply he was gone; dissolved back into the mist of her psyche.

"Well that was rude," Hakkai drawled. He was completely aware he'd missed something, but that didn't mean he had to be nice, "you really know how to pick them."

"Shut up," she scowled, "he had issues to take care of."

"Mhmm, you should know all about guys with issues, you date them right?" he retorted impishly.

"Get out of my room!" she thundered.

"Joking I swear!" he yelped but she was already kicking him out.

The immortal beast stood over Tasuki his claws spattered with crimson blood. He was hissing softly all the while keeping the bandit pinned with it's great paws.

"It doesn't have to be this way," he rumbled, "you could just tell me what I want to know. Tell me about Chichiri…"

"Go… go t' hell," Tasuki spat.

The answered struck a nerve and Set opened his jaws in an angry roar.

"You have no idea what hellis frail little dust mote!" he snarled and sharply impaled the redhead's mind with his will. Memories, thoughts, information poured out like water from a shattered dam, and the manticore absorbed them all.

Another presence suddenly began to manifest itself. The manticore's forked tongue flickered out. The aura tasted like Tasuki's. Another one of Suzaku's, but much stronger. He fixed his gaze where a silhouette flickered into existence before solidifying.

"Chichiri I presume," Set stated smoothly and he smiled revealing pointed teeth, "yes, you would be he. If I were Tasuki, I'd call for your aid. I take it you are his leader. Ah, and here you tell me Tasuki-kun, that he was not important…" He stared at the redhead with empty eyes. "Did you lie to me Tasuki? I'm hurt, I thought we were beyond petty betrayals what with our closeness…"

The monk had not realized what a terrible situation he had stepped into, but this creature was hurting his friend, the last of his fellow seishi. Chichiri would not let the past repeat itself. He would not let Tasuki die.

"He doesn't lie," Chichiri said, his voice low and carrying a sharp edge, "I'm no more important than any of my brother seishi."

The mage's mind raced. He had to keep him talking. That was the plan, keep him talking until he found a way to get this demon away from his friend. The powerful aura radiating from the monster was intimidating but there had to be a weakness somewhere…

Wait... what is that there? It looks like... A thin line was coming from the center of the manticore's head. A spell.Chichiri followed it with his senses, trying to determine it's effect. His eye suddenly opened and his symbol flared. Rage and disgust erupted in the monk's soul as he realized what the spell was doing.

NO! Nonononononono!

Chichiri acted completely on instinct, casting a powerful counter spell to repulse the thing's mind from that of Tasuki. He realized that may have been a mistake a fraction of a second later, but it was too late. All he could do now was skate the razor's edge, and hope to hell he didn't cut himself.

Set had half expected the mage's reaction, but he was not worried. Celestial warrior or not, it was not within his power to scatter a kami's spell. The ki blade shattered and the spell thrummed, as solid and unbreakable as steel cord.

The creature nodded sagely. Yes, Chichiri was definitely stronger, and his power had the phoenix's markings all over him. It was undignified for a god to yield to a mortal, he would release Tasuki on his terms. Although bravery and boldness were hardly something he valued, there was something to be said about someone who dared strike a god...or at least attempted.

"I think," the manticore said casually as he stepped aside and his lion half relaxed and lay down, "you don't give yourself enough credit Chichiri. From what I gather, Tasuki has you in very high esteem, infallible even."

The spell now seemed more like a leash. Tasuki groaned unable to form a coherent thought.

"I also think, we have many things to discuss, Chichiri," Set stated with a predatory grin. He relished speaking the mage's name as it created the illusion of power over the weaker being. There was much work to be done, and much amusement to be had…


Y'know it's a lot harder condensing an RP into fifteen pages. Yes it was fifteen pages and I basically skimmed the important parts of 60 pages RPG wise. X-X Oi, I needs to type faster.

So yeah, I spoke with the guy who RP-ed Hakkai recently and he (among others) egged me on with this fanfic. Mostly -I believe- because he was bored as hell in a train station with nothing to read. I dedicate this chap to him, his new bride to be and Inuphantom, the only reviewer and most loyal fan. MUCH LURVE TO YE!

This is the beginning of the Kami in the Void arc starring Set. I will save some of the Set fangirling for later, mostly because it'll make me come off as narcissistic but also I want ya'll to get to know him better. Originally Hakkai was a miko but for the sake of simplicity he got demoted to supporting cast in the fanfic. I mean come on, who needs a Soi-no-miko anyways! -snicker- And yes I know I will get nothing but hate mail from the Tasuki mind rape, but he's a tough cookie, he'll live!

Tasuki: -vacant stare drool-

Um... I can fix that. 0-0;

Ironically, Tasuki the women hater went through two mikos 'cause the first one got bored and vanished. So while he will have a most entertaining miko, it will be later on in the fic. Around this time in the RP we were mostly getting a feel for each player's writting style... Lots of randomness ensued since we had midnight yahoo messenger sessions. -sigh- Some times I miss those nights muchly, but then we all grow up sometime ne? Too bad I stayed a immature as ever.

As always reviews are welcomed and ADORED.

-Jaa Ne Minna! :)

Next time in Tenrai...

Chichiri had just begun to frame his mouth around a question when searing pain blossomed along his entire body. He fell to his knees with a gasp, his throat tightening in agony, keeping him from emitting more than a groan. He stared at the ground, eye wide and unseeing.

Wh-what's happening??

It felt like he was being consumed by flames from the inside out. Emotions that weren't his own began barraging his senses. Fear, anger, nausea... Chichiri clutched at his stomach and began retching. Something was wrong... something was really, really wrong...

Opa...aru... please...

His vision began to blacken around the edges, and the agony threatened to rend his soul apart.

... help me... Opaaru...

The mage distantly heard Tasuki yelling.

"Chichiri! Damn it what's wrong?! Chichiri! Oh gods, oh gods please don't die!"

Chichiri collapsed and everything went dark.