Kosuke and Saburo
It was a crisp fall morning in Japan, and most of the city of Tokyo was quiet as the majority of its population was at work or in school. Though in a city like Tokyo 'quiet' is something of a subjective term. Regardless this story focuses on two boys who were not in school, but instead walking through a park. One was about twelve with spikey blond hair, and piercing blue eyes wearing a red hoodie, black jeans and white shirt. The other boy was about fourteen, though wasn't that much taller, and wore white-grey sweater that was unzipped completely to show a dark red shirt, green jeans and a white tuque over his platinum hair. Like his friend he had bright, piercing blue eyes.
"I gotta say I'm kind of surprised you actually cut class just to hang out with me Kosuke," the older boy said, his voice calm and gentle sounding with not a word having anything but sincerity or light hearted jesting. "I must be rubbing off on you."
"My grades are so far ahead there's no reason I would need to go to school any more often than you Saburo," Kosuke said, his voice just as calm, though with a strangely more melancholy tone to it, "But usually I like to try to be normal."
"So why skip today?"
"I figured you could use some company."
"Aw, you didn't have to do that for me."
"I wanted to."
"Thanks then," Saburo replied with a smile. Kosuke sighed, breathing in the fall air. It was a peaceful tranquility that for him could be shattered in an instant. The grass around the dirt path was still showing signs of a frost and the leaves on the trees were changing. "It's such a beautiful time of year, don't you think?" Saburo asked, looking at one of the trees.
"Yeah, beautiful, but I think it's kind of sad. The trees put on their best as their leaves die, like a sweet maiden is garbed in white on her deathbed," Kosuke mused.
"That's pretty poetic, now I know I'm rubbing off on you."
"Maybe," Kosuke replied with a chuckle.
"It's not all sad though. It was around this time when we first met, remember?"
"It was only two years ago, but yes," Kosuke said, "My dad had taken me into the woods to train. My powers had awoken a few months before and he finally decided it was time to begin to communicate with the Guardians. He chose the woods because Qinglong is supposedly the easiest to contact."
"You know in the two years knowing you, I never thought to ask what exactly you were training out there. That's good to know."
"Then you managed to wake up an orochi broodling and it decided to teach you respect. To be honest though, orochi are heavy sleepers so I wonder if it was just causing trouble."
"Something else I never knew. No matter how much you think you know, there's always more to learn."
"Ain't that the truth," Kosuke said.
"Anyways I tried to fight it off, but it didn't really do much, so I called for help and you came out of nowhere and your skin turned into wood."
"First time I ever called on a Guardian, and the first time I wore my armour. I cut two of its heads off and my father warned it against causing trouble, and it slinked off."
"It was something I never thought I'd see. Extra-dimensional entities that form connections with certain humans… it amazes me all the time."
"Only humans with the blood of Amaterasu," Kosuke corrected. He fell silent as they came to a bridge overlooking a slow, gentle river. The bridge was stone and quite old, with low edges that had led to a safety rail being installed. Ever willing to practice his acrobatics it only took a few seconds for Kosuke to clamber around until he was hanging upside down from the rail.
"I'm not sure if I should be impressed or worried about you," Saburo teased.
"I like being upside down; it helps me think."
"So, have you talked to the Hinatas much since you stayed with them?"
"Not really. They're just like everyone else; nothing but idolization. Fuyuki doesn't stop asking me about being a Celestial Warrior, and I'm sure I've answered the same questions a hundred times, and Natsumi asks me about you."
"Oh, that might be partly my fault," Saburo said with a nervous laugh, "She always gets nervous and excited around me, I'm not sure why."
"You really don't know why?"
"No, do you?"
"I think I have a theory, but I'm going to let you figure it out."
"Alright," Saburo said with a smile, as usual not protesting at all.
"I feel bad for Fuyuki though. He has so much more potential than he gives himself credit for."
"You think so too huh?"
"I don't know if he could match his sister's athleticism, but he could definitely match her intelligence."
"Oh right, you corrected his homework while you were with them."
"You can tell he just drifts off while working; unless it has to do with aliens or ghosts. I think he has an inferiority complex that's never been treated, so he just gives up on himself."
"That seems about accurate. I think it's tough on him being the only boy in the house. He suppresses a lot of anger too."
"Have you ever seen him get angry when not affected by an alien drug?"
"Once, let's just say that when it happens you see that the drug was a much safer route."
"I noticed him say creepy things when he was calm, and I heard one of his scary stories."
"Oh man, I feel sorry for you now," Saburo said. They both had experience with the mentioned stories and they both knew the stories in question were both creepy and twisted.
They stood in silence for a time, just watching the river and the trees. Well, Saburo was standing; Kosuke was still hanging upside down. "I've told you before about the elements a Celestial Warrior can channel; fire, water, metal, wood and earth, if they're lucky," Kosuke began abruptly, "There's a sixth one though; void."
"That's a Japanese element," Saburo said.
"Yes. And it's one a Celestial Warrior never wants to channel. It's linked to no Beast and is instead channeled when…"
"When a Celestial Warrior feels so overwhelmed by rage, loss or despair that they simply want the world to end. Everyone feels that way when they experience those emotions, but we can make it happen. Channeling void turns us into black holes… we consume everything around us."
"Has that ever happened?"
"Not long enough to destroy the world, but the continent of Mu was consumed by one Warrior who lost someone very close to them."
"What about you?" Saburo asked. "Who do you hold that close?"
Kosuke didn't answer, and instead he swung himself up, unlatched his feet from the rail and somersaulted through the air until he landed on his feet in the middle of the bridge. Saburo whistled, showing he was impressed. "Want to go look for Gundam models?"
"Sure," Saburo said, falling into step beside his friend, "I know you don't like being idolized, but in the defense of those that do; that was pretty impressive just there."
Kosuke shrugged "You could manage it too if you practiced, just like I've been practicing poetry."
"Oh that reminds me; do you think you could play your guitar on my radio show tonight?"
Kosuke furrowed his brow as he thought about the request, weighing the options. On the one hand he'd gladly do anything for a friend, and he liked playing his guitar, but on the other hand he didn't think being on the radio would help his goal of being normal. "Of course, but only if I can use an alias."
"I'd already planned to let you use one; I wouldn't ask if I couldn't ensure you were comfortable."
"Then you can definitely count me in."
They fell into silence again while Kosuke, despite his melancholy tone, was actually feeling his happiest. It was always that way when he was with Saburo. Sure some people might think it was due to a relationship beyond mere friendship, but to Kosuke simple friendship was all it was and more than he'd ever had. It wasn't based on trying to impress each other, or due to blood, but simply due to shared interests and enjoying each other's company.
They left the tranquil fall beauty of the park behind and headed back into the bustle of the city, looking for model or toy shops. Kosuke was doing this almost exclusively for his friend; he himself had no time for model building. Even without school he still had training, as well the comic he worked feverishly on. It was considerably harder to do when he was the sole person working on it, and although Saburo was a decent drawer, enough to make his Reality Pen worthwhile, he wasn't quite skilled enough to help with a comic. Kosuke had already told him this, and as usual Saburo responded calmly and maturely. In fact he'd agreed with him.
"Must be fun being you," Saburo said as they walked down the sidewalk. "All those adventures, seeing things beyond what we could imagine here on Earth, you must have some great stories."
"Sometimes," Kosuke muttered, "You're right, the adventure is fun, and some of the things I've seen have been simply amazing. But… it's a lot of work. I have to train daily and my parents never stop talking about my ancestry and the blood I inherit. 'Your blood is sacred and you're bound to your duty', 'You must not dishonour your ancestors' and so on."
"Do you like being a Celestial Warrior?" Saburo asked.
"Of course, if nothing else it's an endless source of inspiration. I just wish I could take a vacation sometimes; just spend some time as a normal kid."
"You know I'm sure the reverse is true."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm sure someone like Fuyuki wishes he could spend some time as a super-powered prodigy. Not even, say, Natsumi has such spectacular grades that she could skip school for a day to hang out with me."
"You can't say you've never wished you could be normal."
"Of course I have. Like you said earlier; it's hard to fit in with people who're only idolizing you, or occasionally jealous. I would love to be a normal kid, but I still try to appreciate the gifts I have."
Kosuke took a long time to reply. He hadn't really ever considered that. Saburo was right, which was normal, but it was only a small comfort. He was grateful for his gifts, but "Nobody's grateful for me. My gifts are all that matter to anyone," Kosuke replied sadly.
"Ah… I see. I think there's a couple people who're grateful for you."
"Maybe. I think there's only one."
"Well either way I know something that might cheer you up," Saburo said, pointing through the window of a comic shop they were by. Kosuke followed his finger to see he was pointing at the latest issue of Shonen Alpha featuring the latest installment of Captain Geroro. Kosuke, in spite of himself, grinned.
"I know it's not great practice to get happiness out of material things, but… just a second," Kosuke said, almost exploding into the comic store. He grabbed both Shonen Alpha and a translated Fantastic Four comic. His comic weakness wasn't nationally exclusive. He paid and came back out, his face beaming. "Score," he said cheerily, holding his new comics tightly.
"See, I said that'd cheer you up."
"The guy in there said there's a hobby shop down the street, so we can check there for models."
"So why doesn't the Narrator over on the frog's show like you?"
"I don't know. He's called me a pretty boy a couple times."
"He better not when I'm around," Kosuke muttered angrily, "Or else he'll see what a Celestial Warrior can do when angry."
"You don't need to do that," Saburo chuckled, "Besides, if I'm pretty boy, then wouldn't that make you pretty boy junior?"
"Maybe," Kosuke chuckled, "Oh here we are, hobby shop." Both boys went inside. Kosuke didn't have time for models, but he didn't mind looking. "Which guitar do you want me to play on your show?" Kosuke asked, trying to keep his voice down. He knew Saburo wasn't keen on letting people find out he was Mutsumi of Youth Radio. "Electric or acoustic?"
"Whichever you prefer; I don't think my listeners will be too picky. Hey look, Evangelion models," Saburo added abruptly, looking through the shelves.
"Branching out your collection?"
"Outwards and upwards." Saburo bought his model and the two left the store in comfortable silence, walking somewhat aimlessly again. Kosuke was deciding whether to play his acoustic or electric guitar on Saburo's show; acoustic seemed to fit Saburo's style a bit better, but he personally preferred electric.
"Indecision is the state of wanting to know which future is better, when there is no discernible method for identifying which is superior," Kosuke said, once again giving poetry a shot.
"Once again very good," Saburo congratulated.
"I think we should go to lunch. There's a place around here that has great yellowtail," Kosuke suggested. "Gash Sea Diner I think."
"I know that place. You're right, they do have great yellowtail. They make these yellowtail burgers that are especially good."
That was their next stop and they walked there in silence, as usual. Kosuke found Saburo was both lost in thought and completely focused in these moments of silence between them. Kosuke was usually a little more lost in thought, though both were skilled at shifting seamlessly into conversation and then dropping back into silence. They would often shift between a strong conversation about a movie, a book, a painting, or any number of topics, then drop back into silence like it had never happened.
They arrived at Gash Sea Diner and entered the small, but still sizable restaurant. Both ordered yellowtail burgers, and Kosuke added a salad, but Saburo was surprised when Kosuke said "And that's to go by the way."
"It is?" Saburo asked, actually confused. Kosuke chuckled at the unusual sight.
"I'm taking you some place interesting; my treat," Kosuke explained cryptically, grabbing the bag of food as it came and walking out the door with Saburo in tow. He lead him down a narrow alley away from prying eyes and pulled an amulet out from under his shirt. It was rather simple; merely an iron circle filled with a circle of green jade and hung around his neck on a chain.
"What's that?" Saburo asked, taking the bag that Kosuke handed to him, as well as his comics which Saburo placed in the bag holding his model.
"It's the Jade Amulet, one of the Kojima family's trinkets. It holds the power to carry its user and anyone touching him across space, through the walls that separate dimensions. It takes about an hour and a half to charge up between uses, but that shouldn't be a problem," Kosuke explained.
"Cool, but where are we going?"
"Surprise," Kosuke said, clutching the amulet in one hand and grabbing Saburo by the wrist with the other and chanted the prayer "Great Guardians respond to my call, carry us across the black void, through vast space to worlds beyond our own." The amulet glowed green in response, engulfing the two boys in radiant green light. This light consumed them and they vanished into thin air.
When they re-appeared they stood atop a hill amongst a foothill range. These rolling scenic hills were coloured a brilliant emerald green by the grass, which swayed in the gentle breeze, giving the impression of waves rolling across and small patches of jade coloured woods dotted parts of the hills. The sky above was blue, but with a slight green tint that made it seem almost like a painting, dotted with a few clouds that only completed the picturesque look.
The hills, and the sweeping valleys between them, spread out to the horizon to the north and south. To their east the edge of a great rainforest of azure coloured trees could be vaguely seen, and to the west were mountains with a brilliant golden-yellow colour in the distance. Streams and rivers trickled through the valleys, sometimes through the jade woods. The brilliant, vibrant and beautiful colours often merged and melded through light and shade to produce even more beautiful combinations. It was truly like a world from a painting.
"This… is beautiful," Saburo muttered with awe, and found he was at a loss for any more words.
"It's the world where the Celestial Beasts live or part of it anyways. The world where those beings humans once called gods, they live here. This is the Island of the Eastern Guardians, specifically the Emerald Foothills," Kosuke explained cheerily, "These foothills are one of my favourite places in reality. Between the protection of two dragons to our west and east, there's scarcely a more beautiful and peaceful place in existence." Kosuke sat down and took the food bag from Saburo's hand, which had relaxed as he looked around in awe. He quickly began eating, waiting for his friend to adjust.
It was a while before Saburo, who was looking all around, finally sat down and ate. By that point Kosuke was already finished and smiling broadly, glad that his friend was enjoying the place. Of course it would be a little while before they could return to Earth, but Saburo seemed in no rush. It wasn't until he was almost finished that he seemed to find his voice again. "I never imagined a place like this could possibly exist, and now I wish I brought something to write in."
"Poem inspiration?" Kosuke asked.
"Yes, I think I'm overflowing with it. Thanks for this Kosuke."
"You're welcome," Kosuke said cheerily, but his smile faded slightly and his face became more serious as his thoughts turned to something he hadn't said yet. "Saburo… remember earlier when you asked me who I held so close that losing them would cause me to channel the void?"
"Yes, and you never answered so I figured I was prying too much."
"The answer is; you," Kosuke said softly.
"Me?" Saburo said with surprise "What do you- why me?"
"You're my only friend. You're the only person who cares about me, not my skills. When I'm hanging out with you I feel like a normal kid. You're like a brother, something I've never had. Kojima family tradition does not allow for any more than a single birth, so we've all been only children," Kosuke explained, he'd held a lot of this in for a long time and now he was saying it the words just seemed to spill out, "I've tried and tried to get people to treat me normally. I've even asked them outright, but they don't seem to listen. Then I met you in the forest that day, and every time we would talk afterwards you spoke to me, not to the Celestial Warrior or to the prodigy, but to me, the person at the center of those acquired identities. We just hang out and talk and have fun, and you let me be myself. Nobody else does that. And that's why… that's why if I lost you… I don't see why anything else would matter." Kosuke fell silent, his eyes feeling slightly watery as the memories of loneliness and happiness came together.
They were both quiet for a time after that, Saburo dwelling on what he'd been told, and Kosuke letting his head clear. When at last Saburo spoke it was in a slightly more gentle tone than usual, showing he understood and wanted to comfort any hurt his friend was remembering. "I had always thought you might have at least one or two other friends, I didn't know you really felt that lonely, and I'm glad I've been able to help. Things haven't always been great for me either, and I guess I always could tell that things were difficult for you too," Saburo replied, "I treat everyone how I want to be treated, but I think you and I are quite similar so it's only natural we would connect." He placed a comforting hand on Kosuke's shoulder and smiled one of his winning smiles, "And thanks for finally sharing that with me. Just in the future remember that you don't have to be worried about telling me your feelings. You're like a brother to me too, and you're my friend, so remember that you can tell me anything. Okay?"
Kosuke nodded and smiled, "Thanks Saburo. Now come on," he said, getting to his feet, "You want to see more of this world right?"
"Sure," Saburo said, stuffing the trash into the bag it had originally come in and moving to put it in his pocket, in highly crumpled form.
"Let me handle that," Kosuke said, taking the trash. He muttered a short prayer to the Vermilion Bird of the South and the trash in his hand burst into flame and burned away to ashes that scattered in the breeze. "Only my brother gets to see me do that," he said, punching Saburo playfully on the shoulder.
"Sounds fair. So which way do you want to go?"
"Your trip, your decision, we have about thirty or forty minutes before the amulet recharges."
"That forest looks nice," Saburo said, pointing eastwards.
"The Azure Forest, that's fitting. It's where the Azure Dragon lives, the first Guardian I channeled."
"Which was the day we met, I see what you're getting at. I didn't even think of that, I just think it looks nice. You make a good point though." They began walking towards the east, Kosuke feeling much lighter now that he'd gotten his feelings out. He still felt that lonely pit in his being that made him yearn to be normal, but at least he now knew he had at least one companion to ease his loneliness. And even that was enough to cheer him up for now.
Their walk brought them across hills and through valleys, across the streams and through the woods; where Kosuke jumped into the trees and crossed through them with ease. Having trained almost his whole life, he'd at least learned how to make training fun for himself. Saburo smiled, and watched his friend's acrobatics. "Do you ever stay still?" he asked jokingly.
"Sure," Kosuke said, hanging upside down from a branch, "When I'm in a bad mood like before I stay still. But I'm in a good mood now, so you're just going to have to deal with it."
"I always do. But don't you get dizzy being upside down like that?"
"Nope!" Kosuke said, swinging back up into the tree and backflipping off it to land on his feet on the ground, "I like to make my athletic training fun. Even more fun to do it here in the world that fuels me."
"Yup." He grinned and dropped into a fighting stance, "Want to spar?"
"I don't know how," Saburo said simply at which Kosuke shrugged and jumped back into the trees.
"This world always makes me feel more energetic," Kosuke said, "It has to do with being closer to the Guardians." He dropped down upside down again with his cellphone in hand, "And unfortunately I have to cut it short. The pendant recharged and it's almost six."
"We've been here five hours? Guess time really does fly when you're having fun."
"And we have a radio show to do, and we'll have to be fast if we want to get what we need from both our places and get to your studio in time." Kosuke returned to the ground and grabbed Saburo's arm again while speaking the prayer to activate his amulet. The green light consumed them and they vanished, returning to Earth.
A couple hours later the two boys sat in the radio studio in front of a pair of microphones. Kosuke was fiddling with his electric guitar, which he'd decided on since, well, since he preferred it a bit. "Dude, I'm nervous," he said to Saburo who was setting up and finishing a poem.
"You'll do fine. Besides you're not until near the end, so you can just relax."
"It's not the playing, it's that you asked me to guest host with you."
"Again, you'll do fine," Saburo replied, "You ready?" Kosuke nodded hesitantly. Saburo counted down and they were live.
"Hello Tokyo, this is your nightly Youth Radio brought to you by your past and present host DJ Mutsumi. And I happen to have a guest host in with me today, my brother…"
"Sora," Kosuke said, perhaps a little too quickly, but it was the first name that came to his head, "I'm his brother Sora, and I'm going to be helping out today. I may sound young, but I bet by the end all you pretty ladies will enjoy me almost as much as my bro, who I'll turn you back over to." The rest of the show went well, and by the time they got to the live music segment, that was his guitar session, all his nervousness had gone. Not only that, but the day's events left him feeling, knowing, that his friendship with Saburo had grown ever stronger that day.