Categories > Anime/Manga > Yami no Matsuei

Terra Incognita

by Macx_Larabee 0 reviews

Dropped once again by a partner he had been assigned to, a depressed Tsuzuki seeks peace in GensouKai, only to stumble into a challenge with the Protector of the North... Set before the manga, of c...

Category: Yami no Matsuei - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Characters: Tsuzuki, Other - Published: 2006-11-05 - Updated: 2006-11-05 - 4032 words - Complete

Terra Incognita TITLE: Terra Incognita
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.....
FOCUS: Tsuzuki, Genbu
FEEDBACK: empty inbox seeks emails

There were times Tsuzuki Asato wondered why he still did what he did. Why he still worked this job. Why he still laughed and smiled and went to work each and every morning.
He was lonely.
He wasn't alone, no. He was just lonely.
Leaning back against the warmth behind him, feeling the living, breathing heat of his shikigami, he closed his eyes, trying to dislodge the image of his latest partner at work leaving him for some obscure reason or other.
Imaki had claimed he couldn't work as an angel of death. He had claimed he needed a change. He had claimed a lot that wasn't true and all ran down to one reason: he refused to work with Tsuzuki.
It hurt.
It hurt deeply.
There was a deep, rumbling purr and a warm breath gusted over his face. Tsuzuki opened his eyes and looked into the deep red feline gaze of his first shikigami. Byakko's expression was compassionate, sharing his pain, and there was nothing the proud tiger could do but be there for him. No words could take away the pain of abandonment.
Because that was what had happened.
He had been abandoned.
Why? Why did he have to be so different that people hated him? That partners never lasted longer than a few months?
Tsuzuki shivered and Byakko purred more, the long tail of the tiger wrapping around him. The shinigami stroked over the soft fur, smiling a little.
"Thank you for being here," he whispered.
"I would be nowhere else," was the soft reply.
Tsuzuki had fled to GensouKai, as he usually did when he needed distance and space. Byakko had greeted him there, had taken him to the deep canyon with its green oasis, the forest where the two beings had met for the first time, where Tsuzuki had challenged the powerful God, Protector of the West. Here they had become friends.
He smiled a little and snuggled into the white, striped fur. He was proud of Byakko, as he was proud of Suzaku and Rikugo. He had three very powerful shikigami as his friends and he loved them all. And each was special in his own way.
The sun rose higher, its rays coming through the canopy of trees, tickling Tsuzuki's skin. He was dozing, his mind still going over and over the predicament of always losing his partners. Byakko hadn't moved and his soft breaths and the strong heart beat were lulling Tsuzuki into a sense of security. Byakko smelled of the sun, the wind, and of the untamed wild. Tsuzuki let himself sink into this sensation, turning off everything else.

It was in the late afternoon when they finally left the canyon, mostly because Byakko had received a call. It had been in the form of a messenger, a small, winged creature that had been sent to find Byakko by Sohryu's order.
Tsuzuki sat on the white tiger's back as they flew to the palace, enjoying the wind rushing through his hair. He closed his eyes, fingers curled into the striped fur. Byakko landed not much later, the padded paws making no noise and Tsuzuki slid off the broad back.
"Tsuzuki?" he asked softly, looking into the shinigami's violet eyes. "I have to go... Will you be okay for now?"
Tsuzuki gave him a small smile, nodding. "Sure. Don't worry. Thanks for everything."
And it was okay. Byakko was the Protector of the West and he had a job to do. Tsuzuki wouldn't stand in his way.
Byakko hugged him, smiling into the brown hair. "Later," he whispered.
Tsuzuki smiled more. "Later."
Alone now, he wandered through the huge city and finally found himself in front of the observatory, part of Rikugo's palace. His feet took him inside, past the astrological charts, into the depth of the cool and majestic building, until he reached the study of his latest shikigami. Rikugo wasn't when Tsuzuki knocked carefully.
The study was empty.
The shinigami hesitated a moment, then walked inside.
The study of the astrologer was large, with a high ceiling, a wide open vista that showed all of GensouKai with an unimpaired view, and there were shelves and shelves with books. Tsuzuki let his gaze wander of the backs of the book. He raised a hand and let his fingers glide over the leather-bound books, feeling their age, smelling the dust, and it was as if the room itself was exuding an aura of ancient wisdom, of calmness, a soul-deep balance.
It was what he loved about this place.
It was peaceful.
The soft tenor startled him and he whirled around.
Rikugo smiled at him, onyx eyes warm and loving, the blond hair in his usual tail, dressed in the wide, flowing robes that hid a slender body.
"Rikugo!" he exclaimed. "I... sorry, I didn't... see you."
The smile grew. "I was with Genbu for a moment. I felt your presence, though. I'm honored by your visit." He slightly bowed his head, but not in any gesture of submission.
Tsuzuki hated submission.
"I... came for a visit. I thought I'd drop by," the shinigami murmured. "If you don't mind, I'd like to stay for a while?"
The astrologer nodded. "I never mind, Tsuzuki. You're very welcome in my home."
Tsuzuki gave him a relieved smile. He knew Rikugo would never turn him away, but he would always ask. It was the polite thing to do, and he would always give his shikigami the choice. He would never order them.
The door to the study opened and Tsuzuki smiled at Genbu as the Protector of the North entered. He was the smallest of the Divine Commanders, but his size didn't matter. He was a God, one of the four most powerful beings here in this realm, and Rikugo's sensei.
Walking stick clicking on the wooden floor, the shikigami approached, bushy eyebrows drawn down.
"You look tired," he remarked.
"I had a hard day at work," Tsuzuki answered vaguely.
"I see." The barely visible eyes narrowed a little. "You need to relax more, Tsuzuki. Even an immortal soul is not safe from stress and its consequences."
"I'm not immortal," he protested.
"You're as immortal as anyone," was the simple answer.
Genbu walked past him and settled on the cushion seats that were strewn around the low table close by. Out of his robes he pulled what looked like a folded board. A gaming board, Tsuzuki saw.
Curious, he came closer.
"What's this?"
"Oh, it's what I use to wile away the time," Genbu answered jovially. "It's an ancient game. I tried to teach it to Rikugo, but for all his brightness the boy never really mastered it."
There was a light chuckle from behind him and Tsuzuki glanced at his shikigami. Rikugo was smiling good-naturedly.
"It's because you make up the rules as you go, old man."
Genbu grinned. "That's the beauty of the game. The rules can change with every move."
Tsuzuki was fascinated and he watched as Genbu set up the pieces. The gaming board was a plain piece of wood. There were some colors added to the brown background, forming circles or wavy lines. The game pieces were made of stone, round with a flat base, and shaped more like a fat little man than anything else.
"The basic rule is quite simple," Genbu explained. "Get as many pieces from your opponent as possible while defending your part of the game. Everything else can change." He met the violet eyes watching him. "Ready for a game?"
Tsuzuki shrugged. "I never played before, I doubt I can challenge you, Genbu."
"You know the one rule that needs to be followed."
He frowned a little, intrigued by the complexity of the game. Tsuzuki had played Mahjongg and Go as a boy, though he had rarely had many opponents. The other children had hated him for his difference. But he had known the rules and he had been a good player in the few games that had been really serious. He had also played against some of the shinigami in Meifu once, but there had been no real challenge, no serious game.
Now he had a chance to learn something knew, and it was also a chance to take his mind off his problems.
"Okay, I'll challenge you to a game," he declared, smiling at the Protector of the North.
Genbu nodded sagely. "So be it."
And the game was on.
Rikugo had stopped working a long time ago. Onyx eyes were riveted to the seating area, watching his master and his sensei play against each other. The astrologer was fascinated by the swiftness with which Tsuzuki had adapted to the changing rules. There were moments when he lost a piece due to a new rule, but he usually got back into the game not much later, and it was always him who declared a new level.
Rikugo himself had never really understood the game, which was a complex, mind-bending affair. He had once accused Genbu of not only making up the whole game, but also changing the rules at his whim. His sensei had just grinned toothily at him, then delivered the killing strike.
Now Genbu had initiated Tsuzuki, had challenged him, and the game had been going on for the better part of two hours.
No, Genbu hadn't challenged Tsuzuki, a small voice begged to differ. Tsuzuki had challenged the Protector of the North.
Rikugo's eyes widened.
Tsuzuki had...
No, no, no!
His sensei couldn't have...
But he had, he realized, shocked. He truly had!
Manipulative little bastard!
Rikugo glared at the small figure and as if Genbu felt his burning gaze, he looked up from the board and smiled benignly. It was a knowing smile and it confirmed Rikugo's suspicion.
Genbu had once remarked that he would like to tickle Tsuzuki's full potential, that he would like to face the agile mind that had bested Rikugo on a spiritual level just a few years earlier. Back then Rikugo had taken it as a remark without any serious thought behind it.
He should have listened more intently because right now Tsuzuki was in a real challenge, with a witness in the form of Rikugo, who hadn't realized his role until now either.
You... he thought darkly.
Genbu wouldn't hurt his master if Tsuzuki should lose, but if he won... if he won Genbu would be his. Tsuzuki would have three of the four Gods at his command!
Rikugo suppressed a groan.
He could barely suppress it again when the door opened and Byakko strode in, smiling cheerfully.
"Hey, Rikugo."
"Hello, Byakko."
Red eyes fell on the two gaming men. "What's going on?"
"Genbu brought along his game. They're playing."
"That strange little game? The thing no one can make sense of but him? And Tsuzuki's playing it?"
Rikugo nodded. "That game. And yes, they've been playing it for almost two hours now."
Tsuzuki announced a new level, smiling a little as he collected a piece from Genbu, and the old shikigami nodded his respect.
Byakko stared at them. "They're how far?" he breathed.
Rikugo's features grew grim. "I know, I know. It's amazing. Tsuzuki had a few starting problems, but he's adapting to the ever-changing rules quite well by now." Dark eyes met feline ones. "It was he who challenged Genbu for a game, Byakko."
There was a moment of silence as the two shikigami looked at each other, then Byakko seemed to realize what the astrologer was saying, as it sank in.
And he gasped softly.
"No!" he breathed, soft enough not to disturb the others.
"Does he know...?"
"I don't think he realized it just yet."
The white tiger stared at his master and at his fellow God.
Both shikigami followed the ongoing challenge silently, each with his own thoughts. Rikugo was simply amazed at the adeptness of his master, while Byakko was gripping the edge of the table he sat on, eyes wide, body tense, expecting the worst to come out of this.
Tsuzuki set his last piece and Genbu frowned, leaning over the board for a moment, then the Protector of the North looked up, smiling.
"You won."
"But I only have one piece left!" Tsuzuki protested. "You have three."
"That doesn't matter. Throughout the game you announced a new level a lot more often than I did. You won by points, my friend. You mastered me."
Tsuzuki stared at him, dumbfound. "Huh?"
Genbu chuckled slightly. "You won," he repeated.
"Oh... wow..."
The old shikigami rose with the help of his walking stick and bowed his head. "You were a worthy opponent, Tsuzuki Asato. I knew you had potential the day you beat my student."
Tsuzuki blinked. "I... that's..." He stopped, frowned, then his eyes widened in shock.
With an almost helpless expression he looked pleadingly at the other two shikigami present, meeting the equally shocked red eyes of Byakko.
"You can't mean... Genbu, I never challenged you!" Tsuzuki protested.
"You did. I chose to test you through this game and have found you worthy of my service, Tsuzuki. I am yours, master." Genbu raised a hand at the renewed protest. "I have chosen my path, young one. I have chosen you as my master."
The young shinigami paled dramatically, shaking his head in disbelief.
"No..." he groaned. "I didn't want that. Genbu, I didn't want to challenge you to a fight like that..."
"Well, you did, and we're both bound to this outcome." Genbu looked at his new master. "I'm honored, my friend."
Tsuzuki swallowed. "Byakko..." he asked helplessly.
The tiger shook his head. "It's a done deal."
"But I didn't know..."
"You challenged, he accepted," Byakko told him.
Genbu walked over to the still seated man, expression serious. He leaned onto his stick, holding the non-human, violet gaze.
"You won this challenge fair and square. You're the first to beat me on this level, and believe me, Tsuzuki, I have actually been challenged before. I will not go back on the promise of a challenge, on the contract this forms between the two of us. I will serve you faithfully. I hope you will accept me with the same love as you did the others."
"Genbu..." Tsuzuki stuttered. "I... I will accept you. I'm honored."
The small shikigami bowed again, smiling. "So it is settled. Now...!" He turned and looked at the shocked countenances of the other two. "I think it calls for some food and drink. We played for hours and I'm parched!"
Rikugo cleared his throat, still stunned beyond words, and finally went to find a servant. Byakko remained, shaking his head at what had happened.
Tsuzuki sat on the floor, looking at the board game. He was pale. Byakko walked over to him and knelt next to his master. He reached out and touched the young man, smiling a little.
Huge, violet eyes met his.
"It's okay," the tiger whispered. "It was Genbu's choice to accept the challenge."
Tsuzuki sighed. "I wouldn't have really challenged him," he murmured.
Gentle hands stroked over the pale skin. "We know that."
The shinigami rose and Byakko rose with him. "I need to get some air."
Byakko hesitated, but when his master gave him this pleading look, he smiled and accompanied him to the outside. There he changed into his alternate form and the two were off into the sky.
They had returned to the canyon and Tsuzuki reclined against a fallen tree, watching the water of the near-by river rush past him. Byakko had settled down beside him Indian-style, waiting, now and then gazing at him. There was a comfortable silence between them and Tsuzuki was infinitely glad his shikigami had come along. He needed the space, but he didn't want to be alone.
Being alone hurt.
And the memories of his latest partner came back.
"He left," he whispered, almost surprised that he had said it out loud.
Byakko tilted his head. "Who?"
"Your partner?"
A nod.
"He said he needed a different job, that he couldn't work as a shinigami."
Byakko's eyes narrowed a little. "Oh."
"We were partners for four months, Byakko. Four measly months." Tsuzuki drew a shuddering breath, feeling the constriction clamp around his heart again. "It wasn't very long, but I liked him. He wasn't so bad, really. He just... freaked the first time I used Suzaku to help us out. He has a mid-level shikigami himself and when she appeared... he was really shocked. I thought everyone knew about you, but he didn't really believe it, I guess."
Violet eyes closed and Tsuzuki listened to the rush of the water, the soft whisper of the winds, and he wished he could focus only on those peaceful sounds. As it was, his mind was in turmoil and it was hard to think past the pain of abandonment.
"He said it wasn't normal to command a God. Or two. Now I've got Genbu, too."
He started to tremble.
"He hated me for being different."
Strong arms curled around him, embraced him, drew him to a firm chest. He fell against the Protector of the West, felt a dry sob leave his throat, and Byakko held him tightly.
"You're not different," Byakko whispered fiercely. "You're you, Tsuzuki Asato. We love you as you are. Everyone who can't see past prejudice and such childish fear is an idiot."
He clung to his support, to the first shikigami he had won here. Tsuzuki didn't care how weak he appeared to any of the ones serving him, to his friends, because here he was never judged. They were true friends, would never abandon him, and he trusted each and every one with his life.
Byakko stroked over his head, carding long fingers through the tousled strands.
It was how Tsuzuki fell asleep, exhausted. Byakko watched over him with alert eyes, all senses primed on his master.

It wasn't much later that Byakko felt Suzaku's arrival. The female shikigami approached openly, her sword strapped to her back, and she smiled when she discovered the two men.
"Hey!" she said softly. "How is he?"
She settled down next to them and ran a gentle hand over the tousled hair. "Understandable. I always knew Genbu was a devious old geezer, but to voluntarily let Tsuzuki challenge him... why?"
"We don't really know."
Byakko rested a hand on his master's body, feeling the warmth, each breath. It was very reassuring to have the young shinigami this close. He loved Tsuzuki and would do everything for him. Just like Suzaku. Why Genbu had willingly maneuvered himself into the position of a challenged shikigami, no one knew. What he might gain from it, it was speculation. Byakko just knew that he himself had only won from this partnership, that he had grown.
He watched Suzaku as she caressed Tsuzuki, a warm, loving smile on her features, how Tsuzuki unconsciously leaned into the caress in his sleep, and he had to smile himself.
Whatever Genbu's reasons had been, they were his own. Sohryu would probably go through the roof, but so be it.
Rikugo scowled down at his sensei, dark eyes narrowed, expression more than misgiving.
"What were you thinking?"
Genbu gave him a mild smile. "I found it an interesting challenge."
"You manipulated him!"
"No. He freely spoke the challenge."
Rikugo chuckled darkly. "Because you conned him into it, old man."
Genbu gave him another toothy smile. "It was my game. You always lost, so why would I con anyone into playing against me... knowing I'd win?"
The blond glared at him. Sure, the game had been true. Genbu had played as he always did, with cunning and deviousness. But Tsuzuki had bested him.
"Then how could he beat you?" he asked.
"Because Tsuzuki Asato is two people. He is the one you see, the one who interacts with everyone. And he's the warrior, the one who is both a strategist and an instinctual being. That instinctual being challenged me. That man entered the game and won against me. You are a strategist, Rikugo, but not flexible enough to see the game as what it is. He is flexible, he is the man who absorbed himself in the levels, accepted the rules, and adapted quickly each time."
Rikugo rubbed his forehead. He knew he was no good at instinctual decisions. He was a thinker, a strategist, but when it came to gut feeling he usually lost. For him the battle was one of the mind, not the heart.
"What do you think to gain from having a master?" the astrologer finally demanded. "You pledged servitude to a shinigami. You never did so before!"
"So have you," was the quiet reminder.
"I was challenged!"
"So was I."
Rikugo shook his head in frustration. "You never told him that the game was a challenge, Genbu!"
"You, as the impartial watcher, didn't protest."
"Because I was as clueless as Tsuzuki!"
Genbu just sipped at his sake, looking satisfied to the world.
"Genbu!" Rikugo exclaimed. "Why did you do it? Why did you accept a master?"
"For all your Seeing abilities, you are blind, my friend," was the simple answer. "Don't you see the potential in this young man? Don't you see his power? Can't you feel his power coursing through you?"
Rikugo stared at him. "I can't believe you did it for such selfish purposes," he whispered.
Of course he felt his master's power. Of course he had Seen what lurked beneath that innocence and child-like exterior. He knew what Tsuzuki harbored inside of him, this dark power, this potential.
"Everything we do in life is selfish. Why did you accept his challenge, Rikugo?"
The astrologer hesitated. Yes, why? Why had he agreed to the challenge? Because he had thought no one could beat him? Maybe. But something about the young man had fascinated him.
It still did.
"I wanted to get to know him," he murmured.
"So did I. I saw what he has achieved so far. He bested Byakko, Suzaku und you. All of you are powerful and still, such a young shinigami gained you as his guardian spirits." Genbu placed the sake cup onto the low table. "I want to get to know his potential. It's still developing, he's very young, and in time I believe he can have all of us."
Rikugo's eyes widened and he could barely refrain from snapping open his additional eyes. "What? All twelve of us? Even Sohryu?"
Genbu chuckled. "Even Sohryu. He can do it, he has the power, the strength and the energy. He might not realize it, he might not like what he touches when he really goes deep to draw on what he has to, but he is what he is. You know it more than I do. You Saw him."
Rikugo nodded. He had. He had Looked into that wonderful soul and he had seen the difference, and it had hooked him to Tsuzuki.
All twelve.
He shook his head. Well, maybe Tsuzuki could win one or two more; he was powerful enough to attract others high level shikigami, but not Sohryu. The dragon would never accept the challenge, let alone lose against a shinigami. Tsuzuki was strong, but Rikugo doubted the young man could win against this dragon.
And there was one last high level shikigami no one would ever have: Touda. The fire serpent was rotting in his eternal prison, his name erased from all official lists.
But no, Rikugo decided, Tsuzuki would never challenge any other shikigami. He had four now, three of the Gods.
Why would he try for more?

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