Hello once more, folks! I'm probably supposed to be sorry about the rapidly increasing update timeframe thing, but I'm really not, for some reason. It's been one of those nice, relaxing days for me, filled with Broadway musicals from the comfort of my home, hot chocolate, my favourite hot foods, Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged, and a bunch of other things that were nice. We had rain, too. I love going out and walking around in the rain. Dunno why. Just do.

DISCLAIMER: If I owned Shaman King, I wouldn't need a disclaimer in ALL CAPS just to ward off a court case. Hell, if you're stupid enough to believe I don't need one, maybe YOU should be practicing law. Seems like that's what the world's come to these days.

I kept to you and did not stray

And you would swear your heart was mine

But, in truth, there was no day

In which I was not surely thine.

My feet ne'er once did touch the ground;

The envy of each every dove

My heart was flying, now unbound

With thoughts that surely this was love.

Did not your black heart ache within?

Some guilt along with baited lure

Did not your soul regret its sin

To twist 'round something white and pure?

Ever since the Asakuras had taken to training together, it seemed that they had lost all possible hints of subtlety that they may once have had. Occasionally, one would leave to go home and the other would run to catch up. They would walk together while going home, even though everyone at the school knew that when coming to school, they came from opposite directions. It was highly suspicious. It really didn't help that Hao was insanely popular and attracted unwanted attention in ALL of his movements, but Yoh's ever-present popularity with the female population was the last nail in the coffin.

"Did you hear about those two?"

"I heard Hao-sama goes to Yoh-kun's house every day and doesn't go home 'til around seven in the afternoon."

"No way!"


The girls laughed as they passed Manta down the halls, not even bothering to keep their voices down. Manta blushed a dull red. Why were all girls secretly yaoi fangirls? It wasn't fair. Believe it or not, some guys did exist who weren't totally fruity every hour of every day. Manta himself was a prime example, right?

The tiny boy pushed a hand against the doorframe and swung himself around into his classroom and over to his desk. Chattering came from the couple of desks in front of his. Oh, Jesus, was he safe from it nowhere?

"I can't believe Hao-sama and Yoh-kun are such fast friends. Y'know, it's only been, like, four days since he first showed up, and now they act like they've known each other their whole lives…"

"Maybe they really do know each other and just keep quiet about it?"

"Nah, doubt it. Why would they lie? There's no motive for a trick like that, especially if they're gonna hook up like that so fast all over again. Nope, it's gotta be a first meeting."

"I was talking about, like, maybe they knew each other in another life!"

"And fell in love there!"

"So now they're in love here!"


"You're a retard."

"I'm serious! Look at how they interact. Just, one of these days, watch them. Their movements look choreographed, almost. Perfectly planned, always moving just as the other does. Actions and words melding seamlessly. That sort of behaviour is what comes after a lifetime of marriage or being born and raised together. If they aren't twins in this lifetime, maybe they were lovers once?"

"Wait, back up. You mean you watch them every minute of every day enough to notice that kind of stuff?"

"Ah! No! That's not- Ooooh! Stop laughing, I mean it! You guys are so mean!"

Manta winced. Okay, strike that whole thing about no subtlety. It was like they were trying to attract attention on purpose now. Maybe he ought to mention to rumours to Yoh so that he could try to be a LITTLE more discreet with whatever it was that he was doing. He still hadn't told Manta anything, much to the little man's chagrin.

Manta raised one eyebrow unconsciously as he thought to himself. Well, if everyone else was doing it…

"Actually, girls, you don't know the half of it," he said.

"Hmm? Hey, aren't you Yoh-kun's friend in this class?" asked a brunette.

"Yeah, so I've got more examples of weird behaviour that you don't see on school grounds," he said.

"Ooooooh." He instantly had the attention of all three girls, brunette, redhead, and blonde. Was this what it felt like to be Hao or Yoh, with the eyes of the entire female population on you? The pressure was a little bit crushing.

"Well, for example, Yoh more often that not forgets all about pre-arranged stuff. The other day, we'd planned to hang out at an arcade in town, and he somehow forgot all about it. He doesn't really have much to do or anyone to interact with in his house, so there's no way he'd forget unless someone else got his attention, and we all know that there's only one person who can do that."

The girls grinned widely at each other, especially the blonde, who had been the one to come up with the reincarnated lovers theory.

"And whenever Hao-san skips class, Yoh does, too. It's the same whenever Hao-san walks through the halls and Yoh sees him. He just drops whatever he's doing and will run over right off the bat."

"Such devotion!" said the redhead. "That's really sweet of Yoh-kun!! I mean, we all knew he was sweet, but that's really pretty romantic!"

"But what's Hao-sama bringing to the party?" asked the brunette. "If he mistreats our Yoh-kun, we're going to have to kill him, pretty as he is or not."

"Oh, of course." The two other girls agreed instantly. Manta was a little frightened of the wrath that was coming off of the trio in corporeal waves of evil-smelling death. Yes, it was true that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or, in this case, a woman protecting one who she considered her surrogate child.

"Wow. Uh… I haven't ever seen a girl who was all over Hao-san at first sight…" Manta accidentally thought out loud.

"Maybe. Sounds about right, anyway," the blonde said. "But still, our maternal love overpowers our hormones." More nods from her companions. In this, at least, they were united.

"Well, all I know is that whatever Hao-san agreed to give Yoh, it's making him happier than I've seen him in all the years I've known him."

"You mean you don't know for sure?"

"Yoh said he was going to tell me someday, but apparently 'til then it's a secret. I don't really know too much. The two of them are really good at keeping secrets, even if they're terrible at hiding the fact that they HAVE a secret."

"Okay, okay… so it's all a big mystery…"

"That's so great! As long as the two of them are happy, I support them all the way!!"

"Say, kid, what's your name again?"

"Manta, or in other words, the loser with stunted growth cycles," he said.

"Manta, huh? Well, my name's Shibai, drama geek extraordinaire," said the redhead.

"I'm Kaime, youngest of five siblings and the only one not in college yet," said the brunette.

"And I'm Shindou, prodigy of the flute with crazy good grades in math and band and nothing else," said the blonde.

The bond was made between these four, having given their names and relative positions in life. Now came the clincher.

"We're all three yaoi fangirls," the three said in unison. "And you are?"

"-not gay. I just want to see my friend happy for once. I can't help but not trust Hao-san. Something seems off about him, so there's no way I'm just going to fork over my best friend in a few days and let it go at that. I want to protect my friend as best I can from the shadows, where he clearly wants me to be in this matter. I'll need to find out everything I can about Hao-san, not to mention information on what he and Yoh are actually doing behind my back so that I can determine whether he's a threat or not. For that sort of thing, I figured that I'd need you girls and your… considerable… ability to collect information from every corner of the globe. The yaoi fangirls I've met in my day have all been interconnected in one vast network of gayness. I need resources like yours if I'm going to finish the job I've set out to do. Can you please help me? By the way, I'm totally not gay for Yoh, if that's the first thing that popped into your heads when I said that. I'm totally just the concerned friend figure here." The girls exchanged guilty glances. "I'm also asking for your help because I totally don't want to have anything to do with investigating if they really ARE doing something gay. I don't want to get caught up in all of that, between you and me."

The girls looked at each other momentarily.

"Done," they said together.

"You're not connected enough with the fighting!" Hao yelled. "Try to concentrate at least a little!"

"I can try, but no promises," Yoh muttered.

Hao was trying to teach Yoh hand-to-hand combat. Yoh was, as he had said many a time before, a laid-back guy. Unfortunately, that also meant that he only defended most of the time. He only tuned into the fight when it was necessary and was off in la-la land the rest of the time. Hao was having a hell of time getting him to try any offensive at all.

Hao sent a jab towards the boy's collarbone, long fingers outstretched. Yoh twisted his arm around and flicked the attack away with little effort, then shooting out his leg to wrap around Hao's in an attempt to trip him up. Hao jumped and shot both feet out in front, kicking Yoh square in the stomach. The boy went flying with a grunt of pain.

"Ow," he said, hand over his injured abdomen.

"Getting better, but not near good enough. You leaned forward only a little when you did that, which is the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do. Lean back, and try to get your head out of the range of the opponent's legs, otherwise they might try what I just did. At least you remembered what I said about the legs."

"'Always trust your legs more than your arms'," Yoh recited with a wince.

"Exactly. You know, if I were a completely ruthless person, I could've kicked you in the throat or the face just now and half-killed you."

"Oh, lovely. Won't be trying that ever again."

"Good," Hao said. "In light of your poor offensive techniques, we'll be working solely on some of the more violent retaliations, like what I did."

Yoh shot his tutor a strange look. "I thought that if I was poor in offense I should work on offense."

"It's not that your performance is poor. It's your mindset that is ill-suited to brutish attacks. It's not in your nature, and it's a fool's task to change someone else's mind. We'll work mainly on retaliation. Get up."

Yoh grinned sardonically and stood up, staggering slightly. "You got it, Slave Driver-sensei."

Hao laughed outright and took another look at Yoh's physical condition. A straight hit to the solar plexus with one foot and the stomach with another. It had been a long afternoon, so perhaps it would be all right to switch topics of study now.

"Changed my mind, we'll do phys' training tomorrow. Now it's psych training. I want to see how well you're able to function with pain."

"Oh, thank God," Yoh muttered. He was actually good with the spiritual aspects of being a shaman.

"Kokimiyoi, you can come out now," Hao said to a stone tablet on a table at the far end of Yoh's backyard. White mist began to seep out of it, taking the form of a girl a year or two older than Yoh. She had a strictly no-nonsense look about her with differently coloured eyes and cropped brown hair that flipped out at the ends. She sat on the lawn table with a bemused expression.

"Always a pleasure to see you, Koki-san," Yoh said, bowing slightly.

She smiled slightly. "You as well, Yoh-dono. Hao-sama." Koki, as Yoh called her, was the spirit of a child artist that he had been practicing with for the last several days of training. "What aspect are we going over today?"

"We're going to start on Oversoul techniques today," Hao said, smiling fondly at her. Koki was a long-time friend of his.

Yoh raised an eyebrow. "Oversoul? What's that?"

"Precisely why we're studying it. You already are more than adept at loading spirits into your soul, but Oversoul is very different. In terms of your chemical makeup, what are you?"

Yoh made a face and pondered it. "Just a bunch of water, calcium, and God knows what else."

"Yes. You're made up of elements, same as everyone else. Your body is just an item. If a spirit can enter your body and use it, then-"

"-Then they can be loaded into other stuff, too?"

Hao was surprised and delighted for what had to be the thousandth time that week. Yoh was so smart! He was very good at picking up on information as it came to him. "Exactly. An Oversoul can really be just about anything, but it's infinitely easier if the 'other stuff' you use has something to do with the spirit in question."

"And since I'm an artist-" Koki said.

"-We'll be using her art materials," said Hao.

"Like what? Paintbrushes and charcoal?" Yoh asked, perplexed. Most art materials seemed pretty fragile to him.

Koki shook her head. "Your assumptions about the art world hurt my heart. We artists have more up our metaphorical sleeves than just paints and charcoal."

Hao picked up a small, glinting metal object that looked like a steel pencil from a distance. "This is the Exact-o-Knife that Koki actually used in her lifetime. Don't touch the blade on the edge; it'll slice you open like butter."

Yoh took the knife, examining the inch-long slanted blade on one end. It didn't look too threatening to him, but whatever Hao said went. "So, this is used in art? Whatever for?"

Koki joined the conversation once more. "It's basically for cutting out anything that has a lot of small twists and turns in the design that would be completely ruined by normal scissors. They can also be used for removing dried paint, as long as you're smart enough to know how to do it. The blades on the end have to be kept as keen as possible at all times, so they're removable and adjustable. Hao-sama wasn't kidding when he said they could slice you open. Happened to a poor girl I used to know. She was afraid of them for the rest of her days, far as I know. Other people had to use them for her. Mostly it was me, which is why I have such a bond with this particular Exact-o-Knife."

"Makes sense," Yoh said dubiously.

"I don't expect you to get it on the first or even the fifth time, so just go at your own pace, alright? I can't really give you any more hints, seeing as completing an Oversoul is different for everyone. See you, I'm going home," Hao said. "Keep Kokimiyoi here tonight. And… one more thing…" Hao's outstretched hand curled around the other boy's face, pulling him closer. Their lips met, moving against each other with an earnest grace that had come from the few times they'd practiced over that week. Hao flicked his tongue against Yoh's lips. The boy made a very tiny sound, as if he were trying to muffle himself. Either way, Hao's tongue was invited in for a battle. As usual, Yoh's version of offense was seriously lacking. He was no longer able to muffle his moans, either. When they broke contact, Yoh's eyes were a little glazed over. Hao looked cool as ever.

"'Kay, I will," Yoh said shakily, waving goodbye to the other boy. The hand and silly smile both fell after he disappeared from sight.

"You're missing him already?" Koki asked slyly, hand not quite big enough to cover her smile.

"Ma—maybe," Yoh said, blushing. Koki just laughed.

"Did you want to give it a try?"

Yoh looked down at his hands. "Yeah, I probably should. I get the feeling that he'd know if I didn't practice."

Koki nodded. "You're right. Knowing him, he would, too."

Yoh's fist tightened around the knife. "Let's try it.

Yoh had tried it about four times now with not too much success. The fourth time, it had happened for a full seven seconds before disappearing. The Oversoul had taken the form of a beautiful twisting set of nine ribbons, each with an elongated Exact-o-Knife blade incorporated on the ends and hanging from evenly spaced metal clasps on the fabric. It was a beautiful weapon, with twisting Celtic designs on the silk and glinting metal adornments, but it was too hard to maintain. Koki was getting a little exhausted, too, which was odd considering that she was a ghost.

"Do you want to call it a night, Yoh-dono?"

Yoh laughed, still breathing hard. "Yeah. Sounds like a plan to me."

"You're a very good student. Very few people get that much success in the first night. Hao-sama will be pleased."

"Really? You think so? I mean, we haven't even gotten it perfect yet."

"You don't have to be perfect for Hao-sama. You just have to be you, and there's nothing wrong with that. You're one of the best students Hao-sama has ever had, for one thing. You don't have to improve yourself any more for him."

"I am?"

"Take it from me; I've been one of his spirits for a very long time, so I think I'd know. You're also one of the very few who have been able to achieve the ribbon form of the Oversoul. Most people just managed to make something akin to a sword. That's not my style at all. People who are more compatible with me are always the ones to get the ribbon."

"You mean the Oversoul doesn't always depend on just the spirit?"

"No, sometimes the master changes it, too. But often, most people don't know it, seeing as most spirits, once finding a master, stay with that person for the rest of the master's life."

"Then… all those people you're saying did an Oversoul with you… what happened to them that you're not with them?"

Koki's expression darkened. "They… moved on. Found better places to be and people to see. Hao-sama only trained them; after that, who can say?"

"I see. So they got different spirits and became real shamans after Hao trained them?"


With that, the subject was subtly dropped.

Hao looked up at the sky once more. Twilight was such a beautiful time of day. He wondered vaguely how Yoh was getting on with the Oversoul training. Depending on what kind of person the shaman was, the Oversoul could take one of three forms: the katana, the shield, or the ribbon. The katana was obviously for the offensive people who just wanted to mess other people up. The shield was for the mousy people who were more concerned with their own personal safety than the defeat of the opponent. The ribbon was for those few people who were a perfect, beautiful balance between the two. Hao highly suspected that Yoh would get the ribbon. He just knew it.

There was a spring in Hao's step that he could swear hadn't been there before. Was having such a good student with so much promise really so exciting? He smiled at that. Yes. Yes, it was. Teaching had always been such a worthwhile endeavour in his eyes, even though sometimes the students didn't pull through. This time around, he had a wonderful student and was honestly enjoying himself.

Maybe sucking out his soul at the end of this isn't such a good idea… Seems like such a shame…Hao shook those thoughts out of his head, or at least tried to. Was he getting soft? He'd been alive for a crazy long time, but had he really ever felt this amount of compassion for his future victims? No, not really, even when promising ones had come along. There had certainly been others with Yoh's level of skill and above. Usually, those people were chosen as minions rather than victims, but that was out of Hao's self-interest rather than compassion. It was always nice to have strong minions who loved the crap out of you to take care of the small fries so that you didn't have to do it yourself and get tired out. Minions solved that problem nicely.

No matter how hard he thought about it, Hao could not picture Yoh being one of the loyal minions. It was much easier to imagine the "partners in crime" thing than the former.

Is he really so important to you, Hao? A small voice asked. Now you know he HAS to go. Anyone important to you will fade away as you get stronger. It'll only hurt you in the end. But if you take him in and make him a part of you, he'll live on with you forever. You can keep him all to yourself forevermore. You need to take his soul now, while you can bring yourself to do it. Hao shook his head, trying to throw out the voice. Even if he'd been willing to comply, Yoh simply wasn't at the stage of training where he would do Hao any good. He had to get stronger and Hao would just have to wait. It wasn't something he was looking forward to anymore.

Odd as it was, the longhaired boy considered the other to be almost a brother. Well, they did look alike, sound alike, and think alike. It really was like finding a long-lost twin, separated at birth. It was really cool, especially when no one else knew. It was like a dirty little secret that children chuckled over while their parents' backs were turned. It felt wonderful to have secrets that were so much fun.

It's 'cause you've kissed him, isn't it? You just did it on a whim that first time, but after that, you knew damn well what you were doing every time you touched him. Don't tell me you're going all schoolgirl on me over another GUY?? asked the voice. Hao firmly rejected the idea. There was no way. Hao may've been frighteningly pretty for a boy, but that didn't automatically make him gay. Besides, he had dated girls before. The word bisexual floated in and out of his mind.

Hao just took a deep breath and kept walking. How far away WAS his house, anyway? He was certain that it usually didn't take this long to make the trip. He rubbed the back of his neck, which was beginning to ache.

Great Spirits above, just don't make me do anything that I'll really regret doing, he prayed.

Well, this is the first chapter that has hit ten pages on Word. Wowza. And you know, just about NOTHING actually HAPPENED in this chapter. I feel kind of like I gypped(sp?) some people. I don't know. I also included a LOT of OCs.

Let's review:

Shibai: She's the redhead of Manta's new friends. She a self-proclaimed drama geek, so her name, meaning drama or play, suits her very well. She's got one younger brother who loves video games. He played Kingdom Hearts a lot, which is how she first got into yaoi. She had noticed that a lot of male characters really seemed to care about each other, and that's when the fangirlism started. She doesn't tend to get along with her teachers.

Kaime: She's the brunette and the youngest of five siblings. She doesn't live with all five, since they're all in college. The oldest is a boy, the second oldest also a boy, and then the third and fourth are identical twin sisters. Kaime means something along the lines of "nth time around", so it's kind of an insensitive name for her. She resents being the youngest and strongly wishes to break the low expectations her parents seem to have of her. She was going to have a younger brother, but he died in childbirth.

Shindou: She's the blonde with good grades in band and math, but is good at just about nothing else. She plays the flute and can do some crazy awesome things with it. She's considered a prodigy with a flute in her hands. Shindou can mean three things: 1. an oscillation or vibration, 2. a prodigy or wonder child, or 3. shock, tremor, or impact. Since she's a musician (noise is technically vibrations in the first place) and totally brilliant at it (the wonder child part) and has a very loud voice (she makes a big impact, I suppose), the name suits her remarkably well. Her grandfather on her mother's side was a world-renown musician as well, so she was technically named for him. No one actually expected her to live up to the name!

Kokimiyoi: She's the spirit that Hao and Yoh work with. Because her spiritual energy is remarkably similar to Hao's, he uses her to train those he wishes to victimise. Her name means smart, clever, etc. Her nickname, Koki, means aged seventy years, ancient records, an antique, or exhalation. She's usually a very disapproving person, so even the last part personifies her sighs of exasperation. She loves history as a subject, so once more, the name suits her. She's a wonderful artist and knows lots of little obscure facts about the tricks of the trade. She's seen a great many of her masters-in-training be killed and eaten by Hao, so she's really gone through a lot. Koki was actually in love with Hao for a while, but now that she's met Yoh, she's determined to protect him as best she can. She's suffering from the same thing that most of the girls at Yoh's school (for example, Celestine, Shibai, Kaime, and Shindou) have: the intense maternal desire to protect Yoh and care for him no matter what. Poor thing. She's not in love with him, though. It's strictly a Mommy thing.

Well, see ya! Love you all. #kisses#