I didn't know when I first noticed it. Seimei had at first kept me by his side, which was a little unusual for him. He knew how Seriyuu hated me and was smart enough to keep us apart. Especially now. For some reason, Seriyuu seemed to be more hostile towards me than ever. I couldn't figure it out and, at first, just shrugged it off as Seriyuu being, well, Seriyuu.
But then I began to notice that the other Shikigami were acting strange around me. Ti'ian wasn't her normal bouncy self, and Rikugou was more brooding than ever. Genbu couldn't even look at me without some strange emotion flickering in his eyes, and Ti'nitsu, being Ti'nitsu, simply watched. Suzaku and Byakko tried to act normal, but something was bothering them.
It both worried me and frustrated me. Because no one would answer my questions. Not even Kouchin, and she always did. All she would do was shake her head, looking at me through sad eyes. The same eyes that Abe no Masahiro looked at me through.
It was those eyes that made me feel like someone had socked me in the gut. Every single time, I felt a wrenching pain in my chest, as if someone had pulled my heart out. Those brown eyes were always filled with pain, despite the cheerful smile on his face. Part of me wanted to question the boy as what made him so sad and fix the situation. That part of me screamed that his pain was unacceptable, and that I needed to do something. That it was my job, my duty to.
But why? I had never met the boy until three months ago. I remember vividly my first sight of him: broken, bloody and lying unconscious on the ground. His face was tear-stained, and he had mumbled my given name in his unconscious state. I had inquired of Kou several things, trying to understand why the sight of this child's brokenness hurt something deep inside me, but only received vague answers. Why was I in this small form of a mononoke? Why was I guarding him? Because Seimei had ordered it.
"Mokku- Guren, Semei-sama is looking for you!" Akiko-hime's voice broke through my thoughts and I looked down at her from my perch on the roof, startled. It was late in the evening, why would Seimei want to see me? And why send Akiko? But what startled me more was what she said in the beginning.
When that boy, Masahiro, had first awakened, that had been his first word. That word had caused my heart to constrict, though I didn't know why it had any meaning to me at all. My name was Guren. I was Touda, the fire demon. Not Mokkun. But it hadn't just been Masahiro that called him that. The first Princess of the Fujiwara Clan called me that too, at least at first. Seimei had told her to just call me Guren, and a mixed look of pain and sadness had crossed her face before agreeing. She still slipped up, making me wonder what I was missing, and why everyone was keeping secrets from me.
I hate secrets.
"What for?" I questioned, hopping off the roof and onto her shoulder. She began walking to Seimei's rooms, looking askance at me. There was worry on her face, and she was fidgeting with a sachet she wore around her neck. She had told me once that Masahiro had given it to me, and had given me a look as if I should've known that.
"Masahiro has vanished. Rikugou and Ti'ian are looking for him but..." her voice trailed off as I leaped off of her shoulder, bolting for Seimei's quarters. "Wait, Guren!"
I didn't understand the fear that shot through me, nor the anger or the exasperation. My whole body tensed with it, and the first thing I thought was: "Stupid boy! You shouldn't push yourself so hard, not right after you just got better!" The thought surprised me, but I shrugged it off. Anyone would be worried about the thirteen year old boy who just got his bandages taken off when he disappeared. I burst into Seimei's room just as he was talking with Ti'nitsu.
"Where has that stupid boy gone?" I demanded, looking at them.
"Calm down, Guren." Ti'nitsu said calmly, folding her hands in her lap.
I glared at her, sitting down. "I am calm."
"Well, well, Guren. I need your help." I turned my attention to the old man. He seemed calm enough, but his eyes were dark with worry. "My divination aren't turning out right, and Masahiro had disappeared. I can't find him anywhere."
"So why call me?" If Seimei couldn't find him, why ask me?
"Because we need all the help we can get." Genbu shimmered into existence next to me. "Seriyuu and I are going to search near Ukyo."
I looked from Seimei to the other Shikigami to Akiko, who was standing near the door, worry on her face. I gave a little growl. This was so stupid. Why did I have to search for some errant child? It wasn't my job; my job was to guard Seimei! But I couldn't ignore the nagging feeling to run off and find the boy.
"Fine." I said, heading towards the door. "I'll go search up by Kifune. You said he liked to go up there, right?"
"Guren, wait." Akiko knelt down in front of me and pulled the sachet she wore over her head, placing it around my neck. "It has aloswood in it. It'll protect you."
Touched by the princess' kindness, I nodded. I transformed into my humanoid form. Kifune wasn't that far away, but I had to hurry. There was some ominous presence coming from the place, even though the Goddess Takao should be protecting it. I was about a mile outside the mountain when I was assaulted...
...by three minor demons. I was toppled over, falling flat on my face.
"Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing?" I yelled, flinging them off of me.
"Hey, hey, Touda, are you going to help Seimei's grandson?" the little round pink demon asked.
"He was looking really pale today, but he said he was going to exorcise the big scary demon at Kifune all by himself!" the yellow horned demon said.
"You're normally with him, aren't you, Touda? But when I asked him where you were he got really sad. Did you guys get in a fight?" the green, lizard like demon cocked her head at me.
I was normally with him? What were this little demons talking about? After all, I hadn't met Masahiro before three months ago. "What are you guys talking about?" I demanded.
They completely ignored my protests and said, in unison, "Please, Touda, save Seimei's grandson!"
I stared at each one. They seemed to know Masahiro pretty well, but what would an onmyouji be doing associating with minor demons? They weren't usually troublesome, just annoying. They looked pleadingly up at me and I ran a hand irritably through my hair. And they knew me too. What had the lizard one said? You're normally with him, aren't you, Touda? Normally with him?
Did that mean that I... actually knew Masahiro before three months ago? A cold feeling settled in my belly. If that was true, why didn't I remember any of it? And that meant that everyone was lying to me. Why? I stared at the minor demons. Either they were lying or Seimei and the other shikigami were. I didn't want to believe in the demons and find out Seimei was lying to me. But they practically radiated sincerity. I growled again. I didn't have time for this.
"Come with me!" I snapped. I winced as the demons assulted me once more, clinging to me. "You said he went to Kifune to exorcise a demon? I though the Goddess Takao protected Kifune!" I demanded of them as I continued my way to Kifune - a little bit faster this time
"She does!" squeaked the pink demon.
"But the big demon caught her by surprise, and she called Seimei's grandson!" continued the lizard.
"She's keeping up a barrier so that other demons can't get in, but that is taking all of her strength!" added the horned demon.
She called Masahiro? Why him? Wouldn't it be easier to call Seimei, and safer? He was the greatest onmyouji, after all! But I was more irritated at the fact that Takao had called him so quickly after his bandages had been removed. He was still weak, and could get injured! What was that stupid dragon thinking! I sped up, ignoring the demons' protests. I had to get there, and fast!
It wasn't long before I passed through the barrier surrounding Kifune and was forced to leave Masahiro's little friends behind. I stopped, trying to pinpoint the demon - and Masahiro's - presence. It didn't take me all that long - the whole place reeked with it. A roar made me jump, and I narrowed my eyes as the ground shuddered. This had to be a huge demon to cause so much damage, I thought, looking at the uprooted trees and bouldes around me as I flew towards the noise
"I call upon the decending gods and ask them to give me the power to bind this demon, banish it's evil and eliminate a hundred devils now!"
The yell made me look down and I froze in midair. I saw the boy instantly. He wore that rediculous red kimono thing, and his spiritual pressure was astounding. However, my attention was caught by the demon he was fighting. It was huge, easily towering over even the biggest trees in Kifune, and had the shape of a giant fox. For a minute, I was worried that it was Kyuubi, the nine-tailed fox, but breathed a sigh of a relief when I saw it only had two tails. But even so, Masahiro seemed to be having troubles, despite his exorcisim spell.
Masahiro's cry of pain jolted me out of my thoughts, and, to my horror, I saw him flying through the air. My body acted before I could think - one minute I was above the scene, the next, behind Masahiro, cushioning his fall. I grunted it pain, though some part of me was glad that he was okay. The boy stirred in my arm, groaning, and his brown eyes opened. For a minute, we stared at eachother, one in disbelief, one in surprise.
"Mokkun?" he breathed.
For some reason, that put a smile to my face, but I shook my head, standing up. "My name's not Mokkun. It's Guren."
Something flashed in Masahiro's eyes, pain that I had a feeling had nothing whatsoever do to with the scratches on his face and chest. He struggled in my arms, and I let him down. "What are you doing here, Guren? Aren't you suppose to be with Grandfather?"
I quirked an eyebrow at him. "Is that the way you thank the person who just saved you, Seimei's grandson?"
Fire in his eyes, he snapped, "Don't call me that! It's Masahiro! Abe no Masahiro!"
"Aren't you Abe no Seimei's grandson, aren't you? I saw you walking with him a long time ago, right down this road. So what are you doing all alonef, Seimei's grandson?"
"Stop calling me that! I am Masahiro! Abe no Masahiro! I am my own man and don't you forget it!"
My head ached all of a sudden, and I blinked. What had that been! I shook my head in annoyance; we didn't have time for this! I looked down at the boy, saying, "Whatever. You went missing, and Seimei sent me to come after you. You better thank me - I didn't have to come."
Masahiro glared at me. "I didn't ask for you to -" A roar followed by a burst a flames cut off our conversation. I yanked Masahiro out of the way and snapped, "Don't you have something else you should be attending to, other than arguing with me?"
"So, we meet again, Touda."
"Masahiro, I think there is something more important that you should be attending to right now."
Again, a flashback. Or was it a dream? My head ached, and I gave a low growl. Masahiro either didn't hear me or ignored me, turning to the demon. I sent a flame towards the demon, blocking its attack, giving Masahiro time to attack.
"Army of light that fights the forces of darkness, go forth and destroy!" He shouted, making a pentagram in the air, then bringing his hand down to fire at the demon. It howled, and I increased the amount of flames on it. With a howl of pain, the demon disappeared. Masahiro swayed where he stood, then crumpled to the ground.
"Masahiro!" I darted to his side, lifting him up. "Masahiro! Masahiro, wake up!"
"Calm down, Touda. His wounsd are mild, he's only exhausted. "I looked up at the goddess' voice, angery. She seemed calm enough, appearing in her human form, toying with a strand of hair. Her expression, however, was guarded as she looked at me, and something seemed to flicker in those eyes. She crossed her arms over her chest as she looked at me, raising one eyebrow. "And why are you here?"
"You know full well why! What were you thinking? He just got his bandages off, and you drag him here to do your dirty work?" I snapped furiously, cradeling the unconcious boy in my arms.
"He wanted to go." Takao said simply. "I asked if he would, and he agreed."
"Of course he would! He's just that god damn noble!"
"And why do you care, Touda?"
The question caught me off guard, and I stared down at the boy. His face was in a mask of pain, though the wounds didn't seem all that bad. He unconciously was holding onto my hand. I stroked his hair gently, and his face smoothed out. "I don't know." I whispered. "I don't know why. And no one will tell you."
Takao sighed. "Because they're afraid."
"Afraid? Afraid of what?" She didn't reply, and I clenched my fist. "Takao no kimi, please. Tell me what I've forgotten."
Takao looked at me, staying silent for a long moment. "Are you sure you want to know? It will be painful. In more ways than one."
I narrowed my eyes. "Not as painful as watching this boy in pain."
"Touda, listen to me. This boy gave up something very dear to him in order to protect someone he cared about." Takao was very serious now. "I do not want his sacrifice to be in vain. You must promise not to hate him."
"I could never hate Masahiro." My voice was barely audible, but Takao heard it.
"Then I'll tell you."
Everything hurt. My head, my chest, my face, my heart. My eyelids felt like they weighed 20 pounds - each. Never the less, I forced them open. A blurry face was hovering over mine, and I blinked. Akikio's face came into focus, and she threw her arms around me when she saw my eyes open.
"Oh, thank goodness you're all right, Masahiro!" she said, hugging me tightly.
"Ow... Akiko... that hurts." She gasped and released me, blushing and muttering an apology. "No, it's okay. I'm all right." I looked around and realized that I was back at the house, in my room. "Akiko, how did I...?"
"Guren brought you back. He's currently talking with Seimei." she explained.
I closed my eyes, blinking away tears. When Guren had shown up, I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. I couldn't bring myself to regret my decision. At least he was alive, moving, and I could see him. But it hurt. It hurt that he didn't remember me, even though I knew that that was impossible. Only someone with strong power could return his memories, and Grandfather wouldn't do it. He couldn't.
I looked at Akiko, who was looking worriedly at me. "I'm okay." I said, forcing a smile.
"No, you're not." Her words made me blink in surprise. "You're hurting, Masahiro, and don't try to hide it!" she looked almost... angry. "I care about you so much, yet you hide things! Why won't you let the people who love you help you?"
I stared. "People who love...?"
Akiko gasped, turning red, slapping a hand over her mouth. But at that moment, Guren walked in, in the form of a mononoke. Akiko looked at him, then quietly excused herself, still bright red. My mind was wirrling. What did that mean? The princess couldn't possibly... that would be impossible... but she had said... Could she...? She couldn't possibly feel the same thing I felt for her... I stared at my hands, unable to wrap my mind around what she had just said.
"Well, even though it's autumn outside, it seems to be hooooot in here." Mokkun's voice made me look up. He was seated at the foot of my bed, a smug smirk across his face. I mock scowled at him, though the words felt like a barb to my heart. He had said that once, a long time ago. Sometimes it seemed like a lifetime ago... "You know, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times. You certainly do have a thing for that hime, don't you?"
For a minute, the words didn't register. I stared at the mononoke, mouth agape. He padded over to me, leaping up onto my shoulder, nuzzling my ear. I jerked my head to the side, ignoring the twinge in my chest as my newly healed skin protested. "M-Mokkun, you..."
"You stupid boy." He said affectionately. "I've looked over you since you were born, why would you go ahead and do something to make me worry?"
I burst into tears. Perhaps it was childish of a thirteen year old to do, but I couldn't help it. Akiko ran in when she heard my sobs, pausing in the doorway as she saw me give a crushing hug to Mokkun, who squawked in protest. I buried my face in his soft white fur. "How? How could you... how?" was the only thing I could say. He stopped struggling for a moment, patting my face.
"Takao. She helped me remember." he admitted.
"But I thought th-that it was impossible! I-"
"It was. But, Masahiro, not even death can overcome some feelings. You gave up everything for me. Stupid, but that's just you. And I already sort of remembered. The Goddess just helped." Mokkun explained in a gentle voice. "Now can you let me go before I die - again!"
I gave a watery laugh and released Mokkun. He leaped out of my arms and shook his fur out, giving me a mock scowl. Then he smiled at me, sliding a glance at Akiko, who also had tears in her eyes. "Akiko-hime, I know this boy can be troublesome and childish at times, but would you mind helping me look after him for the rest of his life?"
"Mokkun!" I said, blushing. "Isn't the guy mentioned suppose to say something like that?"
Akiko looked at me, eyes wide, then at Mokkun. Then she executed a perfect bow and said, straight faced, "It'll be a long journey, I'm afraid, and a hard task. But I think I can bear it if you can, Mokkun."
The two looked at my sputtering face and burst into laughter. I couldn't help but laugh along with them, though I was definitely indignent. But I couldn't help it. For the first time in a long time, everything truly was right with the world.
A/N: So... yeah. I just finished Shounen Onmyouji, and really though that there should've been one more episode. So here's how I thought it should've ended. Cliche, yes, and maybe even sappy, but whatever. I'm happy with it. Read and review?