Anime-verse story with manga-verse-natured Yoh. Sorry for any resulting confusion. :D
I come to you in pieces…
The first time she met him, they were both four.
He'd been out all day training in the woods around the Asakura mansion with his grandfather, her teacher's husband. They had come back just in time to meet with Anna and her teacher who had just finished the day's training as well.
Even at the mere age of four, Anna had already been taught by Kino-sama that sticking around people during their conversations that don't concern you in any way is considered rude by society and, not wanting to be frowned upon by her mentor later, the little girl decided to leave the adults to their own devices and exited the shrine in favour of breathing in some fresh air.
Outside, to her surprise, she found a boy—judging from his looks and size, he wasn't much older than her if at all—whom she had never before met, trying to summon earth spirits by using small rocks and leaves as his medium.
Trying being a key word, since he didn't seem to have much success with it.
Anna's brows narrowed over her eyes. Who was this boy anyway? Was he supposed to be a shaman in training of some sorts? Some fine shaman he was—he hadn't even noticed her presence until she had spoken up.
"What are you doing?" she demanded coolly, but the sound of her voice took him by surprise, making him squeak and jump a foot back from her before managing to even acknowledge her.
"What am I doing? What are you doing, sneaking up on me like that! Do you want to scare me to death?" She found rather exaggerated the way he put a hand over where his heart should be. She rolled her eyes.
"Well, if you're so easily killed off, you're better off not being a shaman at all—you'd only bring shame to your family's name." She said it calmly, ruthlessly. Because that was what she had been taught, what she firmly believed. Only those who were ready for the trying task it was could become shamans.
Her words seemed to aggravate the boy, who balled his small hand into a fist and shook it in her general direction.
"What was that? Do you even know who you're talking to? I'm going to become the greatest shaman of them all and attain the Great Spirit! I shall become Shaman King and rule over all the shamans in the world—even you! Ha!" He crossed his arms over his chest while Anna looked on in puzzlement at him.
"Shaman King?" This was the first time she'd heard of such a thing. It sounded preposterous… and made up.
"That's right! I'll become Shaman King and then have an easy and relaxed life, listening to my favourite music all day long!" His new declaration made the little girl cock a curious eyebrow.
She was at a loss as to what to make of this guy. Was he a complete moron? Was he actually serious about this?
"That's the stupidest goal in life I've ever heard of," was the only thing she could think to say to his outrageous proclamation.
Her words were so blunt and so well-aimed that the boy bristled and resumed explaining to her how he was going to make her eat those words when he stood atop the shaman world. Anna, on the other hand, was completely unimpressed with his indignant self and didn't even bat an eyelash at his pointless threats.
Unbeknownst to the two youngsters the pair of Asakura elders observed them from the temple's window, amused expressions on their faces before those melted down and the couple shared a significant look between them, and then nodding to one another.
This was how it was decided that the Kyouyama daughter would be wed into the Asakura family.
The second time they met was some few months after their first rendezvous. However, this time their meeting was fully anticipated, as Yoh's grandfather had told him they were to meet with his wife and her pupil so they could make an announcement to the two kids.
Yoh had looked at his grandfather with an expression overflowing with childish puzzlement.
"What kind of announcement would you need us for?" He winced at the thought. He really would rather be anywhere but near that psychotic girl. She scared him in a way that all his grandfather's threats and punishments could ever accomplish.
Old Yohmei chuckled to himself at the look his grandson was giving him. He knew well his scion's plight for he had gone through a similar thing in his youth but, he knew and Yoh would learn, it would be for the best.
"You'll see when we get there."
And see he did, though he could barely believe his ears.
"W-w-w-what?" Yoh stuttered, his face stricken with horror at his grandparents' "announcement". If he had taken the time to notice, he would've seen that for once, Anna shared his opinion on the matter, a similar mask of shock on her face.
The elder itako snorted condescendingly, giving her grandson a withering look.
"And here we were supposed to be the ones nearer deafness. You are going to be engaged to be married to Anna. All the arrangements have been made with the Kyouyamas—they are more than pleased to have their daughter wed into the Asakura family. We all have high expectations from you both," the old woman explained, to both youngsters' growing petrifaction.
"An arranged marriage? B-but… we're only five years old! You can't do that!" Yoh's voice was shrill and more similar to a whine than a coherent sound. Both of his grandparents scowled at him, making him shrink back under their scrutiny and making it clear to him that all his objections would be ignored.
Anna was about to open her mouth to say something as well but the meaningful glance Kino threw her way made the girl hold her tongue.
"I will listen to no squabble over this matter. It has already been decided, so you will just be wasting your breath even if you do contend against this decision. Your families are ones with traditions dating back hundreds of years and you will continue those traditions, whether you want to or not," the stern old woman said as she rose to her feet.
She looked at both youngsters in turn with an equally stern look in her eyes while her husband stood up to join her.
"Both families have invested all their hopes in you two." She lowered her brows and her voice, her tone crisp and cold as she added, "Don't disappoint us."
And so the two elders left the kids behind, the two still slightly trembling under the weight of the aura of the seasoned itako and from the crushing news they had just received.
The next time the two kids met was an official occasion, all the priests and parents present wearing presentable kimonos and stern looks on their faces.
Yoh shifted his troubled gaze from one adult to the other, the whole seriousness of the atmosphere oppressing his free-spirited nature.
He didn't have much time to dwell on that though because his grandfather called him by his side soon enough.
They were all lined up, the Asakuras—Yoh's father and mother, his grandfather and Yoh himself, all seated with their legs bent neatly beneath them, backs straight and shoulders squared. Similarly, opposite of them, the Kyouyamas – Anna's father and mother, then Yoh's grandmother and Anna – were seated in a similar fashion.
The six-year-old boy swallowed thickly, unsure what was about to happen but it definitely didn't seem like it would be good news for him.
He tried not to linger too much on how well this kind of get up suited Anna and gave her some kind of air of maturity that was very becoming on her. For all he knew, she might miraculously find something in his words to be insulted by and he wouldn't live to see the sun rise on another day ever again.
Then some kind of ritual began – it was really too difficult to understand the adults' traditions and follow their sophisticated conversation but from what little young Yoh could gather, it was some sort of celebration of a joining. What he couldn't understand was what he had to do with it—he couldn't even get what they were saying, not to mention taking any part in the "festivities" or whatever. Besides, this kind of oppressive taut celebration was definitely not to his taste—he'd rather go train himself to unconsciousness any day than have to attend this kind of family gathering.
That was his train of thought until his grandmother finally said something he could vaguely understand.
"And so the daughter of the Kyouyama family, Anna Kyouyama, is from this day forth betrothed to Yoh Asakura of the Asakura clan. May our joined families prosper."
Everyone bowed and so did the two youngsters, still not following what was happening, though the equally stony and serious look on Anna's otherwise generally impassive expression definitely didn't sit well with Yoh.
Once the whole ordeal was over and the adults were conversing in quiet voices between one another, small smiles on their faces, the boy snuck away from his parents to join Anna to the sidelines of the whole fiasco.
"Hey, Anna, what was this whole thing about? I didn't get it at all. They were saying things that I don't understand—were they even speaking Japanese?" His complaining grated on her already worn nerves. She sighed in dejection, throwing him her most disapproving look.
"You really are a total disgrace, aren't you? Can't even recognize your own native language but you go and say things like becoming the Shaman King." The boy instantly bristled but before he could argue with her she shifted her attention from him to her parents who were merrily conversing with his.
When he found out she really wasn't paying any heed to him, he turned his gaze to follow hers. The look she had on her face really made a sinking feeling settle into his gut. He wasn't at all good in this kind of situation…
"Hey, Anna…" She didn't even bother to respond. He pushed on. "What does "betrothed" mean?"
A muscle in her face twitched but whatever emotion was trying to rise to her face, she quelled it before it could make an appearance.
"It means that we're going to be married when we are old enough to."
Ah, that. It was a conversation his consciousness had long since buried, hopefully never to stumble upon again—a day a bit more than a year ago when his grandmother and grandfather had called them together to make an "important announcement". He'd been shocked and mortified but when nothing had happened for a while, he'd laughed it off and decided that his folks had realized how outrageous it had been of them to engage two five-year-olds. Besides, arranged marriage was only found in books now – this wasn't how modern society functioned any longer.
But the Asakuras and the Kyouyamas weren't modern families. They had their own way of doing things.
A knot tightened in the boy's stomach and he realized why the stony expression had never left Anna's face throughout the whole ceremony.
His lazy and carefree life seemed farther than ever in that moment. He didn't realize fully the weight of the situation—figuring out difficult matters had never been one of his strong points—but something told him that his family had just taken away from him a choice that should've been his to make, at a later point in time when he would understand that sort of thing.
He looked at his "betrothed" out of the corner of his eye to see an equally miserable look on her face as she kept staring at her folks laughing and discussing something with her would-be husband's parents.
And even though he hated this whole situation their parents had thrown them into and he had his hands full of being sorry for himself, something twisted in his heart while he looked at this girl—a girl he did not want to marry but whom he didn't really have anything against—be crushed under a fate that was forced onto her just as it had been forced onto him.
Yoh gritted his teeth and balled his hand into a fist under the long sleeve of his kimono.
"Hey, Anna…" He started out in the same way, and the girl didn't even turn to him. Despite that, he smiled slightly, the tiny curve of his lips brightening up his whole face. "Those clothes—they look really good on you!"
Only then did she turn to look at him, the goofy smile on his face widening when he'd finally gathered her attention.
The little girl huffed indignantly and faced away from him, but not in time to hide the light blush that had risen to her cheeks.
"Idiot…" she muttered but instead of spiking his temper like it would have at any other time, her insult of his intelligence only made him snicker.
He didn't understand girls well at all since he had never had to deal with any of them, but he finally understood how rarely this one was honest with her feelings.
And, as they shared the same fate from which they could not weasel their way out it seemed, he liked to believe that it would all somehow work out in the end, despite how unpleasant the whole thing seemed at current.
The next time they met for more than exchanging a greeting in passing was at a New Year's party of their ninth winter, a celebration held by Kino-sama at the Asakura manor.
Ever the observant one, Anna noticed that Yoh had somewhat changed. He'd always been prone to sneaking away from the watchful eye of his grandfather to be lazy and just listen to his music but it seemed to her that he'd started to keep more to himself and become somewhat more reserved.
A frown tugged on the corners of her lips.
After some investigation conducted very carefully and with the help of Kino-sama's teachings, Anna found out from local spirits that Yoh had been ostracized by his fellow students in school for being "a demon child" and his ability to see spirits. The girl scoffed at the imbecility of the local townsfolk's offspring—they had some nerve, acting like complete jerks towards a kid that was not really much different from them.
It wasn't like she liked the whole "betrothal" thing or that she had accepted it but she would most certainly not stand for having her, like it or not, future husband becoming some kind of social outcast because he didn't know how to handle such idiots with dignity.
He was seated on a table on his own, watching as the adults talked and laughed together, a wistful, heart-wrenching look of melancholy on his face.
But before he could feel any more sorry for himself, his headphones were yanked off his ears by someone, forcefully pulling him out of his reverie.
"Hey!" He started to protest, fully intending to give an earful to whoever had disturbed him, only to find Anna standing behind him, her fingers firmly wrapped around his large headphones.
Immediately he backed off, even prepared to give them to her as an offering to soothe her wrath whatever had incurred it.
The girl continued to relentlessly stare him down with that scary look in her eyes. He resisted the urge to whimper and run away from her because he knew this kind of encounter could only end badly for him.
"What are you doing, Yoh?" she demanded coolly. The boy swallowed and inched as far away from her while still remaining in his seat as physically possible.
"Nothing really…?" He wasn't sure if this question had some kind of right answer or not but he had a feeling this hadn't been it when her gaze hardened.
"And that's exactly the problem. Kino-sama has gathered us here to have fun. Is this," she held out the headphones for him to look, almost shoving them into his face as she did so; "your idea of fun?"
He'd been just about to tell her that, actually, yes, it was but he thought it was good for him that she never gave him the chance to do that because who knows what she would've done if she'd heard that.
"It seems to me you don't know how to approach this kind of social event." She crossed her hands over her chest and the boy resisted the urge to reach out to snatch his precious headphones back from her and re-immerse himself in his music. "Fine then, since I've been given the important role of your wife, I guess I'll have to teach you how to enjoy this kind of family gathering."
Yoh had opened his mouth to object but he wasn't given a chance to voice his opinions because she wasn't even listening to him, already on the task of "teaching" him.
She proceeded to thrust all her demonic, tyrant views on him—made him eat his dinner even though he'd said he didn't have the appetite, forced him into dancing and smacked the back of his head every time he got a step wrong, and much, much more that he'd rather forget.
But she most certainly succeeded in pulling him to present time and out of his antisocial fit.
Because, whether she liked it or not, she was gradually starting to understand him better than anyone else.
Every now and then, after rigorous training, Anna would come to her mentor's house to help out the old woman with this or that. The Asakura manor was truly quite vast and as the modest numbers of the Asakura family were the only ones living in it at current, maintaining it was more than a bit difficult. This was why the young itako's help was more than welcome, and even more often than the girl could offer it.
When she was done, Anna wandered through the vast hallways of the large compound, an intensifying feeling of oppressiveness coming over her the further she walked. These long, empty halls were better at making you feel tiny and miserable than any large natural disaster could ever make you feel. She couldn't imagine living in a house like that—though she supposed she'd have to get used to it, since she was probably going to move in there after a few years (the mere notion sent an unpleasant shiver down her spine).
Just as she was becoming tired of the place and planning on finding Kino-sama and telling her she was going to excuse herself for the day, she rounded a corner to find her fiancé, slouched over the edge of the wooden floorboards, looking up at the clear sky full of stars with a vacant look in his eyes.
She stood behind him for a while, watching him as he didn't move a muscle and just stared on and on, the music in his headphones his only companion in the spacious house he had grown up in.
A frown came over her face as she considered it—she wondered whether she'd be able to be as merry and carefree as he was if she had to grow up in such an oppressively massive place. If he had been anyone else, he would've been able to call a friend or two over to make the manor more bearable when he didn't have to train and no one was around to keep him company, but he was "a demon child" in the eyes of all of his contemporaries, so there was no chance of that happening.
Anna herself spent all her time and energy into learning everything Kino-sama taught her—from the arts of the itako to social etiquette she'd have to use in the future when she became Yoh's bride—so she didn't have much heed to pay to others. But the idea that her future husband was growing up in an environment of such suffocating lonesomeness did not sit well with her at all.
Wordlessly, she sat down next to him, her eyes pinned up to the sky as well while he glanced curiously at her, pulling his headphones away from his ears.
They stood there silent like that for a while, gazes and minds wandering.
"The stars are really bright here," Anna said calmly at length. "You can't see them from the city."
"Yeah," Yoh muttered in agreement, a lazy smile dawning on his face.
The silence was then renewed, and it stretched and stretched for what the girl thought were hours instead of seconds, decades instead of minutes. Her cool, collected demeanour hid her present state of mind marvelously, as her mask of listlessness didn't falter for even a second while she racked her brain for anything decent to say in this sort of situation.
Gradually, with the years, she'd learnt that Yoh wasn't such a bad guy to be engaged to—he was kind, nice and she could practically force him or manipulate him to do anything she wanted to. He made a bit of a fuss but he never really stood much of a chance against her in a battle of wills and he seemed to have learnt that fact as well (and learnt it the hard way). And even though she was stern with him, whenever she needed it, he said or did thoughtful things she would've otherwise doubted him capable of even noticing.
So when it came to it, she wanted to be able to return some of that but here she was, uncertain with what to say in this kind of situation to offer him some companionship, even though she thought it was highly debatable whether he'd want her companionship even if she should offer it outright.
After a while she sighed lightly and gave up. There was no point in forcing herself to do something she wasn't any good at—communication with people had never been her forte anyway, this particular person even more so—so she was sure she wouldn't be able to come up with anything regardless of her struggles. She was better off giving up the fight and going home.
Were her parents and his overestimating the two of them when they had put all their hopes in the future of this kind of dysfunctional relationship two unwilling kids had been forced into?
Just as she'd been about to get up from her seat, Yoh turned to her with a gentle smile playing on his features as he asked,
"You'll stay for dinner, right?"
She blinked a few times and had to wait a bit unless she should embarrass himself in front of him and stutter out her response.
When she agreed to his offer he grinned widely.
"Good! I'll go let granny know and I'll help her set the table for one more. Food always tastes better when shared with more people."
She watched him take off languidly, a perplexed look on her face. Then her expression eased into one of understanding.
This boy was so simple-minded it could almost make her cry. He was so obvious in his attempts to get to spend more time with her and trying to come to terms with the whole engagement thing.
She pulled herself to her feet and jogged to catch up with him. After all, it was her job aiding Kino-sama, even if it's in setting her own meal.
Besides, she wanted to spend more time in the company of this weird boy whom it was so easy to understand it was almost scary.
Even though it had seemed like such a loathsome and hopeless situation at first, if it was them (because it was them), maybe they could make this betrothal thing work out some way or another.
Because, she could tell even then, she knew she could count on having someone reliable by her side to pick up the pieces whenever she needed it.
Although he probably wouldn't have been her first choice of a husband if it had been up to her, she could definitely see herself falling for the lazy goof.
… so you can make me whole again.
A/N: The whole story was inspired by what Anna said before the fight with Faust in the preliminaries and the gnawing phrase from the lyrics of Red's "Pieces" (check them out to see what I mean). It just begged to be made into a story. If the manga clarifies later how these two's relationship began, then consider it an AU, but I just had to write it. Such a couple founded on so deep trust just had to have such a story written. I like to think that those two are in such perfect sync with each other that one can pick up the other before they can fully sink into a fit of self-pity. :3
Second half was really rather weak but… meh. Oh well, what can you do? Regardless, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed! :3