A/N: This was partially inspired by Seishirou's sort-of last words to Subaru and me wondering how he's going to manage being the Sakurazukamori if he can't kill, and partially about the history of the Elder Wand from Harry Potter. Oh, and partially from a really crazy fanfic I wrote a while back called Crimson Bloodied Depths (it's a Digimon Frontier fic, but doesn't require background knowledge if you'd like to check it out). But...yeah. Enjoy. And forgive any weird phrasings; it's almost midnight.
His white hand was coated with blood. Blue veins ran transparently across the top, dark creases marring the underside. The coagulated red teased its way around the smooth tresses to burrow into the folds of his palm; it slid off the pallid surface like oil slipping off a film of water.
A few flecks fell from the trembling limb, but it maintained its position, partially plunged into a child-sized chest. The boy was pale as well; he was almost as white as the hand about to steal his feverish heart. Eyes were closed, the shadow of the moon darkening their lids. A translucent streak of grime marred one cheek and a deep scratch one wrist – the signs of what had doomed him to be the new Sakurazukamori's first victim.
And "victim" was a perfectly accurate term, even if the strike had slid just over the heart and buried itself halfway through a lobe of the left lung. "Child" perhaps was the inaccuracy; the boy was at least thirteen years of age, perhaps older – old enough to be aware of his own actions, and certainly old enough to realise that throwing stones at an injured sparrow was immoral, and driving it to near death by such an act even more so.
Subaru should have felt no remorse in killing such a person: one who would ignore all attempts to deter the path that would eventually lead to blood and ruin and a chest of brittle stone. Indeed, he had thought that after his hand had plunged through Seishirou's heart, no subsequent action would matter.
And yet here he was, aim skewered by hesitation, hand only half through and magic falling apart.
'Come to think of it, you could never commit yourself to killing anyone. It's simply not in you…'
Then why..? he thought desperately, arm and the body it attached to both wracked with hesitation. Why give me this title? This legacy.
The tree curled its petals as the first drop of blood hit the ground. The boy, the victim, tethered on his feet before falling back; the hand slid easily out, as if pulling a drinking straw from its brewage. Perhaps the analogy was closer than first thought; more blood splattered upon fallen Sakura petals as the hole became unplugged.
The blood that touched the ground vanished as it was thirstily lapped up by the tall tree.
The boy clutched his chest, trembling in shock. Eyes half gazed focused on the higher branches, on the bird that sat there with one beady eye focused upon his suffering form. It croaked one, a harsh cry permeating the night sky, before it stretched its one good wing and hopped up into the shadows.
And then there was shouting, the flashing of lights – worried friends or family no doubt. The Sakurazukamori tensed; he'd thought it would have been easy. After one kill, another should not have mattered. The hollow emptiness in his own chest stopped sympathy or guilt from consuming his mind as he carefully considered his charge; the thought of driving flesh through blood once more had seemed little more than mending his coat…and yet, in an instance, his heart had frozen in cowering ice.
His beating heart.
In the end, he wasn't quite sure why he fled. Honestly, he should have let himself be caught; it was selfish not to do so. A criminal, no matter the crime was partially committed, should be paid its retribution. And a murderer was the worst of them all.
No, he had not been thinking of his family them; to be honest, there was little love between the extensions and a little more with his grandmother – she could never be Hokuto, or Seishirou, and they had taken the largest parts of his heart.
He also wasn't sure why he returned after a night of wondering to the Sakura tree, its petals shimmering gently amidst the rising sun while its boughs crept with growing shadows. It appeared it were hungry again, and yet he only realised the replica shadow stirring within his own mind when the bark fell beneath his fingertips.
A gentle wind rustled the blossoms: an assortment of pink and white. As it always was. The brown surface had become smoother, more finished…he reached out to touch the bark in a turmoil of confusion, his mind still trapped within a swirl of red and black and grey, but the characteristic feeling of thousands of trapped souls screaming for released found itself drowned underneath a watery layer.
The blossoms fell about him: pink blossoms – the white stubbornly clung to the branches, but its yang could not abandon it so fully, and a good number remained. His black coat became pollinated by the dust, but he made no move to brush them off his form.
And then there was the rustling of grass, the snapping of a twig and the squeal from a young girl.
He hadn't realised he'd moved until his mismatched eyes focused upon the child he caught. She grinned sheepishly up at him, the baby-cuteness and innocence in her face saying she couldn't be older than four.
'Gomen nasai Oji-san,' she said cheerfully. 'I'm really clumsy; I'm always tripping everywhere. Onii-chan says one day I'll fall, and a really han-som man will catch me, but he said it wouldn't be for years and years, until I'm all grown up. But I didn't know what han-som was and he said pretty and I know what pretty is and you're pretty and – oh, that is so rude of me.'
Somehow, she managed to say all that in a single breath, reminding Subaru quite painfully of his sister's boisterous demeanour. Indeed, it caught him enough by surprise to render him temporarily speechless; why was it always children and animals that managed to sneak past his mask?
Somehow, she managed to say all that in a single breath, reminding Subaru quite painfully of his sister's boisterous demeanour. Indeed, it caught him enough by surprise to render him temporarily speechless; why was it always children and animals that managed to sneak past his mask? Things he could not close his eyes too…or his heart…
'You're simply too kind…'
Apparently, not even being the Sakurazukamori could change that. But it was a curse; it did only one thing of benefit to him. Told him Seishirou's last words were true.
But he was the Sakurazukamori, and to be the Guardian of the Sakura Burial Mound was to kill…and eventually be killed. He wondered by whom, as the only two people he loved so dearly were already dead. How could a third person enter such a closed-up space?
But for the moment, the tree still seemed capable of patience, and so he sought to send the innocent soul as far away from possible before the hand of death was poised to strike.
His fingertips burned, and then his hands in their entirety were cold when the girl straightened away from him.
He straightened too, forgetting, momentarily, about the thin lower branches of the Sakura tree…at least until the first drops of red fell upon the fallen petals.
'Oh, Oji-san?' The girl's sharp voice called his attention; a hand had been moving to its face of its own accord. 'You're hurt.'
She looked incredibly flustered, digging around for something in the pockets of her coat. A handkerchief presumably, although nothing emerged as she finally withdrew her brown fingers: a direct contrast to his own pallid skin.
By the time she finally found an unused tissue in the pocket of her pants, the shadow in his mind had faded away, leaving him a mixed-up mess…but mostly relieved.
He waved the girl off automatically and then stared at the Sakura tree. The white tissue was clutched in an equally blank hand; blood still ran down his forehead. He knew head cuts bled a lot – it probably wasn't serious.
For some reason, the thought occurred to him: whether he could have exorcised the souls trapped within that hollow bark. If he had still been the thirteenth head of the Sumeragi clan of course – if he hadn't lost that power at Rainbow Bridge. He doubted the Sakurazukamori was capable of exorcism; he was distinctly reminded of that incident at the Karoke bar at age sixteen.
The cut on his forehead stung at that moment, bringing his thoughts back to reality…but not before he remembered a nine year old boy thinking along the same lines.
I am the Sakurazukamori now. That was in the past.
If it was, why wouldn't it leave him alone? And why hadn't he killed – since Seishirou, he had tried three times. All had varying degrees of failure, the closest to success being the one whose blood had spilt over the Sakura blossoms.
And yet…just as he had failed to drive Seishirou out of his mind, he was failing to do the same to Subaru…
No! Sumeragi Subaru was dead. It had to be that way.
So why was he slowly dreading the Sakura tree's next hunger-pang?
It came soon enough amidst his usual aimless wanderings amongst a world in which he barely belonged. Like a shadow he was, flittering though space and time, barely leaving a scratch to mark his presence or a sense to track – until the Sakura called, and the Sakurazukamori sprung into action.
And yet, he found himself once more standing under the tree…alone. It wasn't for lack of a potential victim – he'd seen many of them. Drunks staggering home in the late hours of the afternoon. Men in business suits walking to or from subways. Teenagers leaning on walls or lampposts, waiting for a delusion to grab them…they were the easiest, particularly the females. And yet, he couldn't string the thread that would lead them to their deaths.
It wasn't his powers at fault; he managed a good deal of illusions when he needed them for other purposes, the most common one his invisibility. It was his conviction. His intent. Not even the shadows growing in his mind again, shadows stemming from the Sakura tree in Ueno park, were enough to force it to turn.
Seishirou-san was right. A simple fact, but it meant the world. It meant the mantle crashing down and shattering upon the fallen Sakura blossoms turning pink…
Maybe he could give himself instead. No doubt the tree would be satisfied for a time. It wasn't like he had a purpose any longer, except to live so Seishirou and Hokuto could live on in his heart…
It seemed like a feeble wish, but under the shade of Sakura tree, he realised it was an important one. For he had not moved at all: not against himself, nor anyone else.
The boughs shifted restlessly. And then, suddenly, the old thought of how blood had sated the tree's hunger clicked. Blood. Not flesh or bone or soul; it explained why they always screamed out near the time for a kill.
It made sense. After all, the Sakura were trees. Warped, powerful, spiritual...but trees. Inanimate. What use did it have for souls? And it could not decompose the human body quickly or efficiently. Most of the minerals were discarded as waste. Everything of essense was in the blood: the liquid, its nutrients...
But it was impossible. Inconceivable. Wrong. Because why? Why had generations of Sakurazukamori killed for it, if it wasn't necessary? Why?
He felt like his eight year old self, standing in the shadow of his destiny. Before he'd done the year of training, apart from his dear sister, apart from the home he had known. Uncertain. Reluctant. But with the path of his life paved before them.
A hand lifted to the scar on his face, before the other traced that wrist. It sounded so easy. Too easy…but as he summoned the magic in his mind for the incision, he felt a sense of reluctance as well –
Until he stumbled against the tree, wrist bleeding profusely and head spinning due to a mix of blood loss and sakanagi. It had been stupid of him to forget that. Foolish.
But it did the trick. Even as his uninjured hand closed upon the wrist, blocking the passage of blood, the Sakura roots lapped up its drink and sucked the shadows back into his depth. The cries that had started without his notice faded away into a dim murmur, slipping into an uneasy slumber until the Sakura's next hunger-pang would wake them again.
He cared. It was useless trying to convince himself otherwise. His sister was right; Seishirou was right: he was too kind. It hurt; it always hurt, but something tickled in his heart. Something warm. Something content. No-one would be dying by his hand for awhile; he'd wondered once what would happen if the shadow consumed his soul, but it had been a small fleeting thought.
Now, he knew it would likely never come to that. Blood could be replenished. Lives, no matter how insignificant they appeared at a first glance, how undeserving, could not.
'It's simply not in you.'
Maybe it was a good thing after all, despite all the times he wished he really was capable of such a thing.
He hadn't even noticed the footsteps, or the presence until its owner spoke. "His" owner really, and not one he did not recognise at that.
He turned, slightly. 'Kamui…'
'Subaru,' the teen returned, his amber eyes gracing the situation before resting on the coated wrist. He hesitated a moment, before speaking in a voice laced with pain: 'You told me you were not broken.'
'I am not.' And it was true.
'Why did you leave then?' The tone turned more desperate, more pleading.
Subaru leaned against the tree, inhaling its calming sense and allowing the dizziness to slip away into shadow. 'I am Sakurazukamori.'
'You are Subaru,' the boy, the Kamui of the Dragons, of Heavens replied. 'I do not believe you can kill anyone. Even if you hated them with every fibre of your being.' His voice wavered, but not from lack of conviction. Time perhaps, or power: they were things that changed people into unrecognisable puppets of fate. Perhaps he was thinking of the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth. Of Fuuma.
You are right.
'That is what he said too.'
Kamui looked at him, then at the wrist he held. 'Were you trying-' He broke off.
'You said it yourself,' Subaru replied, closing his eyes and letting his inner senses take over. 'I cannot kill anyone. Not even myself.'
'Then…why?' His tone betrayed confusion.
'Because I cannot kill.' He opened his eyes again, a blue and a brown. Behind them was the weight of emotional turmoil. A pain that he, Kamui, could understand and yet not. After all, pain was something different to everyone, something only the one feeling it could possibly understand.
'I don't understand.'
'Do you love me?' the Sakurazukamori asked.
Kamui blinked, caught off-guard, but before his mind could process the question, Subaru smiled.
The teen captured the sight.
And then he was gone, leaving both the Kamui and the Sakura tree behind. All that remained was the small pool of blood upon painted blossoms…before those were gone as well.
And Kamui, Kamui found himself wondering about a great many things. Questions he had wanted to ask but had not remembered, or lost the ability to voice. Issues that remained unresolved. Emotions, problems he wanted to spill out to the onmyouji…because, after their talk within his heart, they had established a kindred relationship.
'Do you love me?'
He could not imagine why Subaru would ask him such a thing. Certainly not romantically; there was nothing in Subaru's voice to suggest that, and his heart would always belong to Sakurazuka Seishirou. Even after death. No…it was love of a different kind he meant.
And the answer…the answer was yes.