Tsuzuki-Rikugo-centric. My take on how Tsuzuki got Rikugo as a shinigami. hc warning. Complete!
DISCLAIMER: not mine. Definitely not! I just play with them and hope I tread on no one's toes.
Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note):
English is not my first language; it's German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are.....
WARNINGS: none, really
FOCUS: Tsuzuki, Rikugo
FEEDBACK: empty inbox seeks emails
Autumn had taken reign over GensouKai, turning the leaves a brilliant red, orange and yellow. The winds were cooler now, speaking of possible snow in winter, and the days had grown shorter.
The tall, blond man looked down into the wide place that stretched out in front of the palace, an intricately laid pattern of pure white and cream colored stones. From up here, he could distinguish the individual lines, forming spiral Zen patterns. A master had created this place and it still sent the calm and peace it was intended for into the watcher.
Rikugo's eyes strayed to the lone figure sitting on one of the cherry wood benches, underneath broadleaved konara oak trees that had no more traces of lush green, only the deeply golden colors of dying leaves. The placement of these ancient trees was as aesthetic as the inlaid pattern of the floor or the late-blooming flowers springing up at intervals. It all served a purpose.
Today, that purpose was lost on the astrologer as his eyes fixed on the only soul occupying the huge front yard.
Tall and lean, rather sinewy, with a shock of dark hair that was tousled and defied any kind of taming. Dressed in black, befitting the expression on his smooth, handsome face. The clothes he had arrived in, a white shirt, black pants and suit jacket, as well as the tie, had been exchanged for a more traditional GensouKai garb, but the colors were the same.
But then there were his eyes. Rikugo had looked into many eyes, had seen a lot in them, the windows to a person's soul, but he had never seen something like this. Eyes that held such innocence and beauty, but could be like the sharpest blade if need arose. Eyes the color of amethyst. Eyes that didn't look human, though their owner was. Eyes that had stared back at him in their spiritual battle, over a battle field created by two powerful minds, challenging him, warning him, drilling into his very soul and showing him his defeat.
Rikugo let his gaze wander over the slender figure, coming to rest on the interlaced hands, the arms encircling drawn-up knees, and then going to the pale, expressionless face. No, not expressionless. There was pain there.
And he was responsible for that pain.
"You're still here?"
The rough, old voice made him turn around. He hadn't really noticed the approach of the ancient shikigami now gazing at him through bushy, white eyebrows.
"Yes, I am," Rikugo answered softly.
Genbu snorted and tapped his gnarled walking stick onto the stone floor. "You should be down there, with him, and you know it."
The astrologer glanced out the window again, then turned away once more.
Genbu watched him, his old eyes as sharp as anyone's. Rikugo had known his sensei long enough to know that what was going on in that mind didn't bode well for him. Genbu was the Protector of the North, one of the four Gods, and very, very powerful. He might look old and small and frail, but he could still take on every adversary that chose wrongly in assuming he was an easy target.
Appearances can be deceiving, he thought. Just like... him.
Rikugo had let himself be deceived by the appearance of his challenger, by a shinigami who had already mastered two Gods. Well, Suzaku and Byakko's challenge had been one of fighting power. Rikugo had challenged the shinigami spiritually, he had forced him into a battle of wills.
And he had lost.
"He's your master now," Genbu interrupted his thoughts. "You could have worse. He's a nice kid."
Rikugo sighed and briefly closed his eyes. He knew what Tsuzuki Asato was, and while it helped him overcome the initial reaction of being conquered, it also filled him with an incredible sadness.
He had looked into that mind, that agile, powerful mind. He had touched something that had made him reel back in shock, that had terrified and awed him in one.
And he had seen the scars.
Those terrible, terrible scars.
Loss, pain, desperation, shame, mixed with self-loathing, the need to make others happy to be happy himself, the wish to have people close. All that scarred the young mind he had challenged, but instead of breaking down under the pressure, Tsuzuki had risen to the challenge and beaten him.
Rikugo knew he was powerful himself. Old, adept in the ways of the spiritual world, able to See things others couldn't or turned a blind eyes to, he was no easy target. He was one of the twelve most powerful shikigami in GensouKai and a student of Genbu, a God.
But Tsuzuki had beaten him.
And he had hurt the young shinigami in turn.
"Is it that you despise him?" Genbu interrupted his thoughts.
"No!" he answered, voice firm.
He couldn't despise the soul he had looked into, which brought forth such protective feelings. "No, I don't despise him."
"Then what is it you feel?"
"Helplessness," he whispered.
Genbu tilted his head a little, brows drawing down. "More like regret, no?"
He looked at his sensei, smiling a little. Genbu knew him only too well.
"You may have lost yourself in this battle, but you haven't lost him. You won him, Rikugo. He is yours to protect." The old God clanged his walking stick against the floor. "A master to you, but also your protÃ©gÃ©. You can't stay away from him forever. Like Byakko and Suzaku, you will follow his call."
Suzaku, despite her fierceness, was completely taken by Tsuzuki. She adored him, she loved him, and Byakko... the white tiger would do anything for this unpretending soul.
Rikugo didn't know what brought forth this magic, this attraction, but he felt it himself. He wanted to be down there, soothe the pain he himself had inflicted, help heal a mind that, while it had won, was suffering from the challenge.
"Rikugo, go to him."
"I can't, sensei. I hurt him. I... lost control throughout the challenge."
Genbu looked at him, one hand stroking his long, white beard. "Maybe you overdid it a little, but you fought well. Go to him. Help him. Only you can. He is your master now and you are sworn to protect him. Do what is your calling, shikigami."
The astrologer hesitated again, gazing at the forlorn figure. Finally he nodded and walked quietly out of the room.
Genbu watched his student go, then went over to the window and looked down on the black-dressed figure, still thoughtfully stroking his beard.
"You have potential, my boy. An incredible potential, and you only just showed us the tip of the iceberg." He smiled a little to himself. "Mastering two gods and my own student. Makes me wish you would challenge me so I can tickle your potential to greater heights."
He chuckled to himself and waddled off to ponder the mystery of this intriguing shinigami.
Rikugo approached the sole figure, stopping underneath the oak tree, looking down at the pale face. He knew he should pay his respects to his shinigami master and, for the first time in his long life, he knelt before someone who wasn't a higher ranking shikigami.
"Don't do that!"
The voice startled him and he dared to look up, right into the wide, violet eyes that dominated the chalky complexion of his new master. Tsuzuki was trembling, something he had done ever since the end of the challenge, and he was shaking his head.
"Don't kneel, Rikugo. Please..."
"It's custom to..."
He winced at the sharp voice.
"No," Tsuzuki repeated more quietly. "It's not. I don't want you to kneel before me. I don't want it..."
He was trembling more now, clearly agitated, and Rikugo didn't like the way those eyes were dilating. He rose quickly and without thinking cupped the narrow face, aghast at how cold and clammy Tsuzuki felt.
Inhuman eyes blinked several times and Tsuzuki swallowed. "I'm just a bit dizzy."
No, you're suffering from the backlash of the challenge. I went too deep. I was drawn to your power, and I wanted to beat you. I touched things that hurt you. I reopened wounds.
"I apologize," he whispered, unconsciously starting to stroke his thumb over the cool skin in a comforting manner.
"I hurt you more than I thought I could... I beg your forgiveness for my attacks."
"But... I challenged you. It was a challenge fight..." Tsuzuki protested.
"Yes, that it was, but it was... too much. You won, but I... left scars, open wounds... pain. Master, I..."
"My name's not 'master'," Tsuzuki interrupted him weakly, starting to sway.
One hand clutched at Rikugo's arm and he groaned a little, beads of sweat adorning his forehead. Rikugo grabbed the slender form as Tsuzuki collapsed, and it was easy to lift him.
My fault, he thought.
The protectiveness he had felt growing ever since this young one had beaten him multiplied. He looked into the half-lidded eyes, saw the monsters of his challenge still dance freely in there, and he cradled Tsuzuki in his arms.
"Let's get you inside," he murmured softly, stroking the barely conscious man.
Tsuzuki didn't protest. His eyes slid shut completely, going limp, giving in to the pressure inside his mind.
Rikugo sat on the mattress of his bed, looking into the pale features of his semi-conscious master.
"Tsuzuki... let me help you."
"Help?" Tsuzuki echoed.
"I did the damage, I can undo it. I won't harm you again. I'm deeply, deeply sorry about this."
A weak hand curled fingers around his wrist and Tsuzuki smiled. "My own fault for thinking I could take on someone like you."
He smiled gently. "You won. You beat me. I had no right to go so deep. Allow me to fix the damage...?"
Rikugo slowly opened the extra set of eyes above his human eyes and he felt Tsuzuki tense. It hurt him to see the reaction, but he knew that those eyes had buried themselves in that incredible soul and done harm. He stroked over the damp hair.
"I won't hurt you."
He held up one palm, the eye in the middle of it open, too.
"I never could. I am yours now. I will protect you, serve you, and I can't stand by and watch you suffer."
"Rikugo..." Tsuzuki swallowed. "I trust you."
Already? You fear my eyes, but you trust me?
The answer was in the violet eyes that were suddenly very steady. Rikugo inhaled deeply, then smiled.
"Relax," he whispered almost hypnotically.
And then he let his power do the rest. He entered a mind that was as intoxicating, as fascinating, as incredible as nothing the astrologer had ever met. And he stroked over the terrible wound he had left, soothing the pain, erasing the terror. He briefly wrapped himself around the bright light that he would never let go, that he would serve, and he smiled at the peaceful emissions, at the gentle aura that radiated its need back to the shikigami.
I'll serve and protect you. I'll guard you. You're mine.
The last sentiment was echoed strongly, and something inside him rippled with joy.
Tsuzuki woke to the wonderful sensation of being perfectly safe and comfortable ensconced in a protective cocoon. He felt secure, was not alone, and his body and mind seemed to be utterly relaxed. Opening his eyes he found he lay in a large bed in an equally large room that looked nothing like the guest room he had spent the last night in.
Confused he sat up.
There was a rustle of clothes and he discovered Rikugo, who had apparently been waiting for him to wake up.
Rikugo, his new shikigami.
Rikugo, who had brought him here, had Looked at him, had...
Tsuzuki frowned a little. Rikugo hadn't hurt him; at least not that he could feel it. He actually felt pretty good.
"How do you feel?"
"Uh, fine," he answered, still confused.
"I'm glad. I can't tell you how sorry I am for inflicting such damage." Rikugo looked positively chagrined.
"But you didn't hurt me..." Tsuzuki protested.
"Not physically, but my challenge... it left you with spiritual wounds. I healed them, Tsuzuki. You should be well enough to return home if you wish to."
Tsuzuki met the dark eyes that were such a contrast to the fair skin and hair, and an even bigger contrast to the two sets of eyes Rikugo usually kept closed. Eyes that weren't human at all and which had scared him at first.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Rikugo just bowed his head a little. "I am your guardian spirit. It was my honor."
Tsuzuki swung his legs out of the bed, pleased to notice the tremors were gone. He had felt so sick, so dizzy, so nauseous, and he had little memory as to what had happened after he had mastered Rikugo. He only remembered the shikigami's touch, his coaxing voice, looking into those alien eyes, and then... warmth.
"What about you?" he asked, looking the taller shikigami over. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you?"
Rikugo shot him a startled look. "Why do you ask...?"
"Because when I beat Byakko I left him with a few bruises and I didn't want that. Suzaku... I, uh, well... I kinda hit her hard..."
Tsuzuki evaded those onyx eyes. He was ashamed of his loss of control, and he was scared of what always lurked inside him. A power he hated, but a power he simply had.
Long fingers touched his cheek, stroked over it in a tender gesture.
"You didn't hurt me, Tsuzuki. I'm fine. Thank you for asking." Rikugo smiled warmly. "You are a kind soul. I'm proud to be yours."
Tsuzuki felt a smile break out on his face. He couldn't help but react to the loving declaration.
"I'm proud to have you."
The plum trees were in full blossom, heralding the arrival of spring. Winter had been mild, without the snow that Sohryu always claimed was a bad omen. It would be a bad omen to have it snow in summer, but winter was a time of coolness, of life freezing to be reborn in spring. There was nothing bad about snow.
Rikugo looked out over the garden that lay behind Tenkuu, smiling to himself. The landscaped garden was pretty but superficial and while he liked it, he appreciated the rougher front yard of his own place. The Zen pattern, the oak trees, the cherry wood bench.
Today, though, he watched something happen within the shade of the beautiful garden that had been told to him by the oracle. He had looked into the world of astrology, immersed himself in the energies of the Universe, the Cosmos, that he could interpret like no other, and he had seen the beginning of something that both scared and fascinated him.
He had seen and known it for months now. Rikugo had looked at it from all angles, had spent hours questioning the answers, but they had never changed. He had seen the familiar darkness, a power so incredible its bearer shied away from it, hated himself for being who he was, and he had seen another darkness. A darkness so great, so powerful it matched the first, a darkness that called out and wanted to be heard.
Today it had come to pass.
The black fire serpent of Hell had been released from Tenkuu's depth, had been bonded to the kindest soul he had ever met, a soul that wrapped its steel core in cotton, that tried to hide the darkness it possessed with an innate innocence.
His master Tsuzuki Asato had accepted Touda as his last and twelfth shikigami.
Rikugo didn't know how to feel about it because he had known it would happen one day. He just hadn't realized how.
So simple, actually.
He watched the two men sitting in the garden, watched Tsuzuki gaze at his latest guardian spirit, and he watched as one slender hand rose and touched the visor that would forever disable Touda in a for shikigami worst possible way. He would be unable to use his heightened senses or his powers, making him an easy target for an attack since he couldn't sense the others' auras. It hid the golden eyes of the fire serpent, his expression, his emotions. It was crude, actually close to torture for such a proud and independent being, but necessary.
Touda was lethal. Dangerous and lethal.
And now he belonged to Tsuzuki.
Rikugo froze as the metal clawed hand came up and gently, oh so gently, pushed Tsuzuki hand away from the mechanical device.
Touda was a predator without claws or teeth, stripped of rank and power for his crimes against GensouKai, and Tsuzuki Asato had demanded him to be set free.
Rikugo had seen the signs, had seen the powerful energy lines snaking toward both men, entwining them more than they could ever imagine. Something would happen again in the near future, something that would change matters forever.
It had started yesterday; it would be concluded, but he had no idea when. It was a foggy vision, one filled with pain and suffering, and he felt his protective instincts rise.
The astrologer knew there was nothing he could do, that the wheels were turning, that fate was inevitable, but he didn't have to like it.
He would be the pivotal point of the change.
"Don't you ever hurt him, serpent," he murmured. "Don't you ever harm him."