Categories > Anime/Manga > Yami no Matsuei


by Macx_Larabee 0 reviews

Shikigami story. Touda-Sohryu centric. Ever wonder how they met? This is our take on their relationship before Touda went on a killing spree. Set in our Darkness Unleashed series universe. Please r...

Category: Yami no Matsuei - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Touda, Other - Published: 2006-11-05 - Updated: 2006-11-05 - 9489 words - Complete

Reflections Reflection
by Macx and Lara Bee
WARNINGS: This is our take on Sohryu's and Touda's past. It's not canon. We repeat: NOT canon!

The day had been long and strenuous. Touda couldn't remember when he had gotten up this morning, only that Byakko had still been asleep, completely unaware of his lover leaving their shared bedroom to prepare for his new responsibilities.
He had been reinstated as Sohryu's commander, which meant a load of work and especially a load of catching up to do. Touda had ignored the inner workings of GensouKai in the decades of his freedom. He had been at the edge of the group of twelve shikigami that were responsible for this realm. He had still been a Divine Commander by power and standing, but he had had no duties. Now and then he had been called upon to work the main computer because his visor allowed him a perfect interface, but those occasions had been far and few.
Now that had changed.
Two months ago Sohryu had pardoned him completely, had Rikugo remove the control mechanism, and Touda had been free. From one second to the next his life had been given back to him. Before that, his life had been his service of Tsuzuki, taking care of his master, only belonging to him.
He still belonged only to Tsuzuki in a sense of a word. Touda felt a deep, unwavering loyalty to his shinigami friend and master. Nothing could ever destroy that and no one else would ever take priority over Tsuzuki Asato - not even Byakko. The tiger knew that because he had the same priorities. He served, too.
Sohryu had quickly integrated the serpent shikigami in the daily operations of GensouKai center. Touda had caught up on matters, was still the one who accessed the mainframe and did the work requiring extensive electronic research and creation, but he was also a commander, which meant Sohryu wanted him in charge of something. So far, the dragon had been slow in letting Touda get his feet wet again, but he was going somewhere.
Touda sighed.
He wasn't really looking for a command. He had been doing fine as he was, with no responsibilities, but he understood that Sohryu wanted him in a position that was secure and with back-up. Not all of GensouKai had taken the news as neutral or accepting as most had. There were those who still looked at the black shikigami with distrust and sometimes hatred.
Touda shook his head, clearing his mind forcefully of those thoughts. Nothing as what he had done would ever be forgotten and his own guilt would always be there. He had killed innocents because he had lost it over the sight of his lover's dead body, his mutilated body, and too many innocent people had died that day, including Sohryu's wife, Byakko's father, and many more.

Today Touda had gotten up so early because he intended to spend some time going through the old records. Sohryu had asked him too, actually. There had been too much lost in the time of the wars and after that. The fire serpent had started by going through the basement of Sohryu's place, the gigantic palace that was the center of everything.
He walked through the semi-dark corridors, a wistful smile on his lips at he let his eyes wander over the boxes of memories, over books and toys and albums full of the past. He had more or less taken a wrong turn, ending up in a section that wasn't part of GensouKai's official history. It was a private place, one for family. Sohryu had stowed everything down here, all the childhood.
And Touda lost himself. Not in the maze of corridors, of shelves with dusty relics of ancient times, of even more dusty papers, but in his memories of a time that had been... a long time ago.
His childhood.
He ran careful fingers over a book he knew only too well. The last time he had looked at it had been together with Aya. Sohryu's late wife, back then his soon-to-be fiancée, had been asking him about their past and Sohryu had had nothing better to do than show her these pictures. Touda had grumbled, had felt embarrassed, but she had just laughed and called him silly.
Touda had loved Aya. Not as a lover, but as a friend. A good friend. His best friend's partner. She had been good for the dragon and while the two men had shared a lot in the past, Touda had voluntarily and happily stepped back. Their teenage years experiments, their first stumbling steps toward sex, was nothing compared to this love.
Aya was dead; as was Keijin.
Touda inhaled deeply and pulled out the book, chasing those ghosts away.
He opened it and smiled as he looked at the picture. Oh yes, even now he remembered those days, how he had come to GensouKai center.
He had been so scared.
He had been so terrified...
The room was large. Very large. There was a hardwood floor with very elaborate carpets covering it. Throw pillows were piling in one corner. A huge table with two chairs stood in front of the double door window that allowed an unrivalled view of the inner yard with its landscaped garden and the pond. The walls were decorated with hand painted pictures and a huge wardrobe dominated one side, just opposite an equally huge bed that easily held two grown-ups.
To the little boy who had just received the shock of his life everything was overwhelming, fearsome, and alien. He had crawled into the safest place he could find, which was the wardrobe. The wooden piece of furniture was empty, the wood creaking a little, but the darkness was more consoling than anything. The bed had looked enticing, but he felt so exposed, so horribly alone.
Legs drawn up to his chest, small arms wrapped around the knees, he fought down his tears.
His father had left him alone.
He was in a strange place, so full of powerful shikigami, and his father was gone. He had left him alone. He didn't know why and there was no one to ask. The servants had simply left him here.
Tears spilled over and he angrily wiped them away. He was a big boy, had been all his life, and he wouldn't cry. His father would come back and get him. He firmly believed it.
Time passed. He was all alone in his wardrobe, mind blank, wiping his nose and his eyes, the small body refusing to stop the trembling.
There was a noise. A door opened, then closed, and light steps announced a visitor. For a moment there was nothing, then the door to the wardrobe opened. He looked into large, gray-blue eyes, framed by dark blue hair in a face that spoke of a child not much older than him. A smile broke out on the child's face.
"Hey. There you are."
It was a boy. He was dressed in an elaborate gown that spoke of his standing.
He huddled deeper into the corner of the wardrobe.
"Cool place," the boy remarked. "I mean I have my hiding places, but I never tried the wardrobe. It's too full anyway. Can I come in?"
He didn't answer, just tried to be as small and inconspicuous as possible, but the other boy just took it as an invitation.
"I'm Sohryu," he said, beaming. "I listened in when your dad spoke to my dad. I wasn't supposed to be there, but I sometimes peek. Dad doesn't know and neither do the servants. Just don't tell, okay?"
He nodded a little.
"Great. So... you're staying, hm?"
He didn't know. His father would come and get him, he was sure of it.
"What's your name?"
He bit his lower lip and lowered his eyes. His senses, as undeveloped as they were, told him that this was a shikigami of power. About his age, but he would soon be very powerful, and he was the son of the Protector of the East.
"Don't you have a name?" Sohryu prodded.
"Touda," he mumbled.
"Touda? Cool! Are you named after your father? I am. It's so boring. And they tell me I'm the next Protector of the East. I don't want to have the same name as my dad, but it's just like that. So, is your father called Touda?"
He shook his head.
And Sohryu chattered on. He told him about the palace, about his father, about some of the servants, about school. Touda received an insight into what it was like in this place, but the fear only multiplied.
He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be with his father again. Hearing that Sohryu had a mother only made him yearn more for familiar surroundings. His own mother had died when he had been born; he had never known her.
"Listen, I'll be back tomorrow, okay?" Sohryu told him as he left.
He just looked at the other boy, unable to understand why he was here, with him, when he was so obviously a much higher shikigami. His father had told him about GensouKai center, about the Gods, and he knew they were to be respected. They were powerful. Why would the son of the most powerful want to be with him?
Sohryu kept his promise and was back the next day. Touda had even slept in the wardrobe, only inching outside when a call of nature had been too insistent to be ignored any longer. Food had been brought, but he didn't feel hungry.
Sleep had been restless, disturbed by dreams that weren't really nightmares but also not very good either. So when he woke and found it was light again, he had fought back tears and left his hiding place for a toilet run.
Servants had brought him breakfast, but he didn't care.
When Sohryu came for the second visit, Touda had just been brought lunch. The young dragon looked at the plate.
"Wow, you get caramel pudding!" he exclaimed. "I only got some boring stuff today. It was green and icky and tasted like cardboard in milk."
Touda watched the older boy take the bowl with the pudding and then climb into the wardrobe with him.
"This is really my favorite. Have you ever tried pudding?"
Touda shook his head.
Sohryu held out the bowl to him. "Try it."
He shook his head again.
"Oh, okay. Mom always says to have lunch first anyway, then I can have dessert. Want me to get the noodles? I think they're fried and with eggs and vegetables. They're good. Not like eating cabbage. That's yucky. And it stinks."
"'m not hungry," Touda mumbled.
Sohryu frowned a little, still holding the caramel pudding. "Mom tells me we need to eat to grow up. You, too."
Touda again shook his head. He wasn't hungry, just lonely. He wanted to go home.
And then his stomach rumbled, begging him to differ. He clutched it, feeling embarrassed.
"See!" Sohryu triumphed and scrambled out of the wardrobe to get the noodles. He came back in and set the plate down in front of Touda.
He did. Reluctantly. But after the first few bites the hunger woke and he ate quickly. Sohryu smiled widely, almost beaming with pride.
"Told you they're good. Here, have the pudding!"
"You can have it."
The little dragon shook his head, longish strands bouncing. "No. It's yours."
Touda reluctantly took the bowl, then met the eager, blue-gray gaze.
"Share?" he offered timidly.
Sohryu blinked, then grinned. "Sure!"
They ate the dessert in silence, Touda feeling amazed at the strangely sweet and smooth taste. He had never eaten anything of the like before and it was a whole new experience.
Sohryu came back every day. He brought along toys which he explained to his new friend, and they started to play. Touda was reluctant to be in the huge room, but whenever Sohryu was there it didn't seem so big. New clothes were laid out to him and he washed himself, dressed, and then went back into the wardrobe for the night. He had pulled the bedding and cover in there, creating his own little safe haven. It felt like a cave, like a strange kind of embrace. He ate more and whenever he had pudding, he saved some for Sohryu, who beamed at him each time.
On the fourth day Sohryu brought him a book.
"Genbu's teaching me to read and write," he declared proudly. "I can already read this book!"
And he demonstrated it by reading passages out loud. It was an adventure story and Touda listened to the tale, feeling safe with his new friend. When Sohryu had finished, he held the book out to Touda and pointed out the different letters.
"I can read," Touda mumbled.
"You can! Wow! Can you read everything?"
No, he couldn't, and he shook his head.
"I didn't go to school a lot."
Golden eyes evaded blue ones.
"Why not?" Sohryu asked curiously.
"My father couldn't pay for it. I taught myself." Touda chewed on his lower lip, suddenly so very much aware again of their differences.
"Genbu would teach you!" Sohryu declared.
Touda looked at him, wide-eyed.
The dragon jumped up and grabbed his friend's hand.
"C'mon! We'll go over to him right now. You and I can go to school together! It'll be so great!"
Before Touda could protest he was pulled along and for the first time in four days he left the room. He was overwhelmed by the size of everything, by the bustle of people, and he whimpered softly to himself. He followed Sohryu instinctively, too scared to lose his only friend to fight the grip the dragon had on him.
They reached the palace of the Protector of the North and Sohryu simply walked inside. Touda felt even more intimidated.
They reached a small room, well, at least smaller than every other one they had passed through, and Sohryu called for Genbu.
Touda had seen the old shikigami before, that horrible day his father had left him here, and he shrank back as the God approached.
"Sohryu, I see you brought a friend."
"That's Touda. He can read and write, too. But he never went to school. Can he come to school with me?" Sohryu asked.
Genbu stroked his beard, dark eyes under bushy eyebrows looking at the young shikigami who tried not to be there.
"So you can read?"
Touda nodded meekly.
"And write?"
"A little."
"Who taught you?"
"Suzutoku. He lived in my village. He had some scrolls he taught me."
Memories of his life in his home village came back and tears rose once more. He so much wanted to go home.
Genbu still stroked his beard. "Well, I don't mind having another pupil. You have to be punctual, you have to study hard, and I expect you to do your homework on time."
"Yes, sensei," Touda stammered.
Sohryu beamed. "We will!"
Genbu scowled at the young dragon. "Might I remind you of your missing homework, young Sohryu?"
The dragon sighed, looking scolded. "Yes, sensei."
"Now, lessons will be tomorrow. Go and play. And Sohryu, remember your homework!"
"Yes, sensei!" Sohryu called, already racing out of the palace, pulling Touda along, who was too stunned to understand much.
Realization only came back when they were halfway between Genbu's palace and Sohryu's.
He had a teacher.
He would share lessons with Sohryu.
His life changed from then on. Lessons were interesting, challenging and he soon discovered he liked sitting in the classroom, listening to Genbu, doing writing and reading lessons, math and geography, history and so much more. What he was really good at were math and strategies. He loved history and the great battles fascinated him. Touda began to read books, holed up either in the wardrobe that still represented a safe environment, or in Genbu's study. He borrowed books and always brought them back in mint condition.
Weeks became months. And Touda became more open. The servants still brought his food to the room, but now he stopped hiding. Sohryu still shared caramel pudding with him and the two spent all day together. Touda kept wondering when his father would come, but his young mind was busy with so many new things, it was no longer such a pressing matter.
He also got to know Sohryu's mother, who was a warm and loving woman, who talked to him as if he were her son's equal, and he saw his new friend's father again, but only from afar. The God was a fearsome man and Touda tried not to get noticed by him.

"Say, what kind of shikigami do you turn into?" Sohryu asked as they were in his room, playing a game.
Touda blinked. "I... I'm fire."
"I know that, silly. I mean, I'm a dragon. What are you?"
Touda fiddled with a game piece, a well-worn figurine of a warrior. He had only once changed his shape and his father had told him never to do it again. He still remembered the shock and horror in his father's eyes, as well as the flash of disgust.
He had looked into a pond to see his reflection and the horror had looked back.
He had asked why he was such a fearsome beast and his father had refused to answer, had just pulled him along. Ever since things had been changed. The people in the village had looked strangely at him, as if all had seen his other shape with their own eyes, and some whispered behind his back.
Sohryu leaned forward. "You don't wanna tell or you don't know?"
"I... I'm nothing, really."
"I bet you don't know how to change!" Sohryu challenged him gleefully.
Touda ducked away, feeling a lump rise in his throat.
"See? It's so easy!"
And suddenly there was a miniature dragon in the room, with three pairs of wings, long tendrils growing out of his snout, and glistening, gleaming blue-gray scales.
"Try it," Sohryu called.
"No," he whispered. "No, I can't. It's bad. It's hideous!"
And with that he jumped up and ran out of the room.

Sohryu never asked again. Touda had no idea why, but he was glad his friend didn't try once more.
It was around autumn that the first rain showers came down and by now Touda had been in the palace for half a year. His wardrobe no longer had much room for him because there were so many clothes there. His old clothes had been washed and repaired. They hadn't been shabby, just very simple. Now he wore pants and shirts like Sohryu and it made him slightly unwell to think that he was clothed like such a high shikigami.
Walking back from school, the two boys wrestled playfully with each other, a game that soon took on a hint of friendly fighting. Sohryu laughed as Touda lunged at him, then grabbed a handful of muddy ground and flung it at his friend. Touda was too slow to evade the projectile and it splattered on his chest.
"Hey!" he cried, laughing, and picked up his own mud, chasing after the giggling dragon.
He took aim at his target.
He launched the mud ball.
Sohryu ducked.
The mud hit dead center.
And Touda froze.
Golden eyes widened in shock and horror as he took in the mud dripping down an expensive robe. A tremor of fear raced through his body as his eyes traveled up the tall form of the Protector of the East, took in cold, gray eyes in a stony face.
"Touda," the dragon rumbled.
All blood left his face.
He had just hit the God with a mud ball...
"Dad!" Sohryu cried and ran back to where his father was confronting his best friend.
"What shall I do about this?" the older dragon asked rhetorically.
"It wasn't his fault!" Sohryu called and stood between them, facing his father with a fearless expression. "It was my idea."
"You planned to get a mud ball onto my ceremonial robes?"
"No! We were just playing and I ducked. I didn't see you. It's my fault, not Touda's!"
"So what do you suggest should the punishment be?"
Sohryu balled his hands into fists. "It was only a game, father!"
"If it hadn't been mud but something more harmful? What then? If you are to blame, then you must take responsibility for your actions, son."
"I'd say a month of house arrest and no dessert would be enough, don't you think?"
"A month?! Dad!"
Touda listened to the conversation, frozen, terrified, but when he heard the plaintive cry, he swallowed his fear for a moment.
"Sohryu's not to blame," he stammered, voice cracking. "I threw the mud. I should have seen there was someone there. I'm to blame."
He looked at the much taller man and tried not to let his absolute terror show. Stern gray eyes regarded him thoughtfully.
"Well, then I've to think about your punishment, too. But for now there is some matter that needs my attention, and I'll be late because I need a change of clothes." The elder Sohryu turned and walked away.
Touda cringed at the words and bit back his despair.
"A month!" Sohryu muttered, kicking at the muddy ground. "Damn!"
Touda didn't hear much more. He walked back into the palace in a trance. He entered his room, still muddy, and crawled into the wardrobe, uncaring that he soiled some of the other clothes again.
And then the tears broke lose.
They spilled out, ran down his cheeks unchecked, and he didn't even try to stop it.
He had messed up. He was going to get punished. It would be harsh because he, a simple shikigami, had attacked the Protector of the East.
They would make him leave.
They would throw him out.
Touda had no idea where his father was and he would be alone.
Crying into the expensive silk, sniffling, he sank into himself with despair.
He didn't want to leave! He liked it here. He had a friend in Sohryu. Outside these walls there would be nothing. No family, no friends.
He had to make up somehow.
Touda had had to gather all his courage to slip into the huge room, a room that dwarfed him, a room he had been to only once. It had been frightening back then, too. Now it was terrifying him even more.
There was no one there. The servants that filled these halls by day had retired and only one man had remained. The Protector of the East was sitting on his throne-like chair, frowning at papers as Touda crept closer. Suddenly the dragon looked up and the boy froze.
Gray eyes fixed the small intruder with a hard look, then eyebrows climbed in surprise.
Touda swallowed several times, trying to suppress the urge to run. Even if he did, he had no place to run to. This was his only chance. He had learned enough about honor and choices from Genbu's lessons and the books he loved so much to know that a warrior had to stand his ground. He had dreamed of being a warrior one day.
"Why are you here?" the elder Sohryu asked.
Small hands curled into fists and he bit his lip as his body refused to stop shaking.
"I..." he croaked. "I came to apologize, my lord. It was my fault your robes were dirtied and you were late for a meeting." The words came, not very strong but firm, and he tried to meet the fearsome gaze with as much courage as possible. "I ask you not to punish your son. He did nothing wrong. It was my fault. I will take my punishment, but..." He swallowed as the firmness made way for a plea. "Please don't send me away!" he cried.

Sohryu looked at the small shikigami, took in the tremors, the fierce intention to see this through like a grown-up, and part of him had to smile at the courage this little one displayed. Huge golden eyes pleaded with him to accept the apology as the words came forth, but when the boy asked him not to send him away, something inside of him froze.
"Send you away?" he repeated, stunned.
Tears swam in those serpentine eyes. For a child that harbored such potential, such power, he appeared almost fragile. Sohryu had seen the terror in the boy the day he had been brought in this very place by his father, the man pleading with the Protector of the East to accept his son as a protégé. He had been scared by his son's potential and had asked the highest of all shikigami for help.
Sohryu had sensed the developing aura and so had Genbu. His fellow God had only nodded at him to accept. The child was powerful, probably a dormant high level shikigami, slowly developing fierce powers, but all that paled compared to the raw despair of a five-year-old who was afraid to... be alone.
Sohryu rose and walked over to the boy, who was shaking so hard, he was hardly able to stop himself any more. A tear spilled over and it broke the dragon's heart to have instilled such fear in him.
"I'm not going to send you away, Touda," he said softly as he knelt down before the child.
"But I made a mess! Your robe... and the meeting..." Touda whimpered.
He reached out and stroked over the boy's black hair. "The robe has been cleaned and the meeting wasn't that important. And it can only start when I'm there, so it's not like I missed anything."
Touda sniffled, still fighting the tears.
Sohryu wrapped an arm around the slender child and pulled him close. "It's okay, Touda. I'm not angry. You can stay here as long as you want."
It was like a dam breaking and Touda cried into the silky robes. Sohryu just held him, then picked him up and rose. Small arms automatically went around his neck and he smiled. He carried the child back to his room, ignoring the startled looks from the servants. When he opened the door, he looked into a guest room, not a child's room. There was hardly a sign that this was Touda's realm. There were books, but no toys. The bed was neatly made, but no toys either. Compared to his son's room, which was overcrowded with toys, this was... spartan.
"So, this is yours, hm?"
Touda sniffled and looked up, then nodded.
"You like it here?"
Those wide, golden eyes evaded his gaze and Sohryu gave a rumbling laugh.
"I take that as a no. Have you ever been to my son's room?"
A nod.
"You like it?"
Another nod.
"Slept over?"
Now it was a negative.
"Why?" the elder dragon asked carefully, pushing back some black strands from the tear-stained face.
"It's Sohryu's room. This is mine," Touda mumbled.
"How about you two share a room?"
The boy stared at him with wide eyes.
"But... it's Sohryu's room. You can't make him move into mine!" he protested.
"I was more thinking along the lines of having you move into his. There's plenty of space and you two are such good friends..."
Touda swallowed.
"How about we ask Sohryu?"
And he was off to his son's room, which as just a few feet down the corridor. Sohryu was naturally there, since he had arrest, and he jumped up when his father carried in Touda.
"Touda?" he cried.
Sohryu set the boy down and his son hugged him.
"You okay?"
Touda sniffled a yes.
"I was thinking, son," the Protector of the North said and got his son's attention, "that Touda's very lonely in his room, and you two are such good friends, you could share this room."
And Sohryu beamed. "Yes! That's so great!"
"It also means you share the house arrest, but since it's two now, we cut it down to two weeks."
"And dessert?" Sohryu whined.
His father chuckled. "Two weeks," he said and turned, leaving the two boys alone, hearing a huffed 'damn' from his child. He closed the door behind himself, then thoughtfully looked at the lacquered wood.
Touda had shown great courage, but he had also given Sohryu a peek into a wounded soul. The boy had no idea who or what he was, what power he had, what kind of shikigami he could be. He was scared, but also brave.
He smiled a little.
The future would be interesting.
Days turned into weeks, turned into months and finally years. Seasons changed and so did the two boys who had become fast friends. Both were growing up, studying together under Genbu and Rikugo, and Touda was like a dried out well hungrily looking for more knowledge.
Knowledge is the only thing no one could take from him. It was something he had been taught early on, even before he had come to this magnificent palace. Worldly possessions could be stolen, could be lost, could be taken from him. The knowledge was in his head; it was his alone. Throughout his childhood he had become a survivalist, a hardened boy who didn't trust easily. He had come to trust some people now, he wanted to have friends... and he liked Sohryu a lot. He was like a brother he had never had.
Still, they were very different, starting from their status at birth.
And above all hovered the knowledge the young shikigami had that concerned his true form.
Touda, now a young man of nearly sixteen, was torn between two worlds. One was dark and horrifying, a mirror of his fear concerning his other form. The trauma of his childhood was still strong and he hadn't changed his shape ever since that terrifying moment so many years ago. After Sohryu's question when they had been little, no more had followed. Either his friend had forgotten about it or he had simply decided not to question him any further. Whatever it was, Touda was glad.
But things were still changing, ever-changing, and the biggest change was about to happen...
Blue-gray eyes regarded him thoughtfully, and Touda felt them rest on him, making him itch.
"What?" he finally snapped, closing his book with a slam.
"I was just wondering..." Sohryu said levelly, not the slightest bit impressed by his temper.
They were currently sitting at their desk, supposed to repeat the lesson Rikugo had held this morning, but something seemed to have bothered the dragon all day, making him that inattentive that the young astrologer had needed to admonish him - twice.
"About what?"
"Uhm - have you ever...?"
"Ever what? Spill it, lizard."
"Have you ever... kissed someone?"
Touda blinked in surprise.
"As often as you, I suppose. Why, do you ... ?" And then it occurred to him - and Touda started to grin broadly. "Sohryu! Who is it? Akiko?"
Touda had sent an adolescent glance or two toward the daughter of Araki himself. Sohryu shook his head. "Then Izumi? Mariko? C'mon, they're not that many more choices."
"There's one more."
Touda frowned, trying to figure out what Sohryu could possibly mean. Turning he found his friend was looking at him again, intensively this time. And then Sohryu leaned over slowly, cautiously, tentatively his friend for ten years brought their lips together, brushing over his, warm, soft, gentle...
Touda gasped.
And Sohryu pulled back immediately, looking a little more than just shell-shocked about what he had just done. Before Touda could react, his friend had already left.
Touda found Sohryu in his room way after dinner. The dragon looked a little uncomfortable but met his gaze head on.
"Sohryu, what was that all about this afternoon?"
"I'm sorry if I upset you, Touda. It's just... it's how I feel, how I feel about you. If you don't... hmpf..."
Sohryu couldn't say anything more because something was silencing him effectively. It were Touda's lips pressed onto his firmly.


Touda chuckled with the memory of his very first kiss.
Clumsy, awkward, their first steps into the more romantic side of adulthood all gawky. Yes, they had stumbled into it all right, and it had lasted almost two years from the first kiss to the first time he had heard Sohryu's breathy moans while his release had spilled into his hand. For someone who would come to get to know Sohryu now it would be impossible to believe that the dragon was indeed a very sensuous creature. Sohryu loved beautiful things, and he could turn his entire attention toward such things - especially in bed. Especially when they had been in the stage of exploring and discovering - about themselves, about their bodies, about their reaction toward each other.
It turned out that the dragon could be really demanding, but he was experimental as well. They had shared lots of nights, cuddled together after having touched and kissed each other to the limit, sometimes falling asleep like that, as sated as a teenager's body could be.
Sohryu had been his first, Touda mused. And he had been his.
Touda bucked under Sohryu's caressing hands, feeling the dragon's tongue around his hardness, fingers stroking, exploring, and he couldn't help the deep moan that escaped his throat. Something was different tonight, Sohryu had something on his mind, but he knew his lover well enough to wait and see - especially now, especially when Sohryu was spending his focused attention on his body like that... oh gods, yes, exactly like that...
"Sohryu..." Touda moaned, spreading his legs wider, a silent plea for... something...
His insides were coiled tighter than an aggressive rattlesnake, his breath was coming in harsh pants, and his muscles were quivering with his approaching completion, when - Sohryu stopped. Just like that.
"'Ryu! What the hell is wrong, lizard?"
Sohryu's tall form stretched out over him, long blue hair tickling his sweat slick skin and making him shiver, hardness brushing against hardness, and Touda's hips twitched involuntarily. Sohryu pressed their lips together, demanding entrance and was met with vigour.
"Damn, Ryu..." Touda breathed, feeling himself come down a little.
"Touda... I... uhm..."
Uh-oh, that he knew. As demanding and wild as Sohryu could be as insecure he could be when he wanted something which he wasn't sure his partner would like. Touda cradled his lover's face in his hands, planting a short reassuring kiss on his lips.
"What do you want?"
"Didn't expect anything else."
"No, I... I want you, Touda. All the way..."
Touda became very still. Of course he had thought about this, had thought about going all the way, fantasized about it, had even tried to find some information about the 'how' in the library - and had needed a large book to cover his fronts afterwards, pretending not to see Rikugo cocking one eyebrow in slight amusement about his embarrassment. The description in the book had been rather explicit and it had made the teenager's fantasy run wild. And he knew sooner or later one of them would speak about it out loud, and they would have to make a decision.
"Touda, if you don't want to I .. ."
"Sshhh," Touda shushed his lover with another deep kiss, running his hands over Sohryu's back and deeper until he felt the other boy shiver into his caress.
"I want you, too... " he whispered, slightly shocked about his own reaction to the finally openly spoken words. Yes, he wanted Sohryu, more than he had believed.
"Do you know what to do?"
"We'll figure it out. Besides, I read up on it."
Touda burst out laughing which earned him a confused look.
"Me, too."
Blue eyes widened slightly.
"So you..."
"I gave it some thought, too. And now," Touda purred, slipping a hand between their bodies, smiling when he saw Sohryu's eyes close and heard his lover's breath hitch "where were we?"
Yes, their first time ... it was so long ago, but Touda still remembered. Remembered the pain at first, the alien feeling of something big enter him, but his body had adjusted - and he'd never forget the feeling then, nor the way Sohryu had looked or sounded. Touda sighed and put the book back to its place onto the shelf. The dragon had lost it completely back then, for the first time, too - turned out Sohryu was not only demanding but a real wildcat in bed.
One last barrier still remained between them, though - Touda's second form. Even at the age of eighteen, closing on nineteen, he hadn't ever changed his shape again.
And it had been pressing more and more on his mind.

Part of Touda knew he was being stupid. He was a young man now, he knew all there was to know about shikigami and their forms, but the child inside him cringed away from the final truth, from facing the creature he truly was.
Now that his relationship with Sohryu had become closer, that they were more than just good friends since childhood, the weight of what he truly was lay heavily on Touda. His other form was truly hideous, a creature of hell, and he didn't want his friend to know about it.
But Sohryu trusted him.
And Touda didn't want to lose that friendship.
The young man buried his head in his hands with a groan.
They had slept with each other, they had been as close they could be, he had felt the kisses, the touches, the warmth of his lover, and he had done the same. After years of just fooling around they had gone all the way. And they had repeated the first time.
Touda felt good with Sohryu.
What do I do? he thought desperately.
There was no one to answer him.
The honorable thing would be to tell the truth, no matter the outcome. No matter... It would be worse if Sohryu found out from someone other who might recognize Touda's growing aura and tell the dragon.
It would be like a betrayal.
All he had learned from Genbu, from the books and texts, told the young shikigami what he had to do. It didn't still the fear raging through him.
He trusts me, he thought again and again. I trust him. Why hesitate?
Because I'm a horrifying thing. And I might lose more than his friendship over this. I might lose... everything...
"So, why did you ask me to come here?" Sohryu asked curiously.
Touda looked a this childhood friend, fighting down the urge to just call it a joke and lie to him.
Honor, he reminded himself.
He wanted to become a great warrior, serve the elder Sohryu, maybe become a general one day when he was powerful enough, and to lie now... No. He would tell the truth.
It had taken him more than two weeks to finally make up his mind, fretting over all the possible outcomes, and in the end he had done what the books had taught him. He would stand there in front of Sohryu, tell him the truth and take what would come like a man. He would not surrender to his fear!
"You remember when you asked me about what I turn into?" he wanted to know.
Sohryu nodded. "Yeah. You ran away. I talked to my father after that and he told me to leave it alone."
"And you did."
"But you're curious."
Sohryu shrugged. "Sure. I mean, you were so scared. But I'm not asking you to."
"I want to," Touda said softly.
The dragon blinked, then his mouth dropped open. "Touda...?"
"I trust you, Sohryu. I want you to know. I just... please don't... that you won't..." Touda hesitated. "Please don't be scared..."
"Why would I be scared? I turn into a dragon and I've seen my dad, and I've seen Rikugo."
"I'm not a dragon," Touda whispered, not looking at his friend.
"You've got dragon eyes."
He swallowed. Yes, the golden, slit eyes. Not dragon eyes... serpentine.
"I'm... not," he repeated, trying not to lose his bravery. "Promise me, Sohryu," he repeated.
"I won't be afraid." Sohryu smiled at him, calm, warm and reassuring.
And Touda initiated a change which he hadn't gone through for more than a decade. He felt his body stretch, his senses change, wings unfold, and muscles coil in his sinewy body. Serpentine eyes opened and looked at his friend, fear and apprehension mixing in them.
Sohryu gazed at him, eyes wide, mouth open. Touda was already rather big, about the size Sohryu had as a dragon, but he wasn't one. He was a snake. A hideously black, large snake with a feathery neck, a beak, and leathery wings. When he had looked into that puddle, had seen that horror, Touda had been scared of himself. He had never seen a shikigami like that and his father's fear had transferred onto him. Lately, all that knowledge about a shikigami's power and his own powers, which were developing quite fast these days, had made it even worse.
"Wow..." Sohryu breathed.
He walked closer and Touda tried not to flinch back as his friend reached out to touch him.
And then the five-fingered hand rested against the black scales. It stroked over the muscular form and Touda started to tremble.
"You're beautiful," Sohryu whispered.
No, he was a horror.
"No," he murmured.
"You are." The hand continued stroking. "You're a beautiful serpent, Touda. There's nothing to be ashamed of, to be scared of."
"There's nothing like this anywhere," Touda protested weakly.
"You're unique then."
He lowered his head. "No..."
"Yes." The hand on his scales felt so good, so wonderful, so calming. "You're my friend, Touda. You look great."
Touda raised his head and froze when he looked into a pair of cool blue eyes across the expanse of the yard. He couldn't move, he couldn't breathe, he just couldn't... do anything any more.
Sohryu, the Protector of the East, his best friend's father, was looking at him from across the yard.
He saw him.
He saw the hideous creature he had taken in as a child.
He saw the horror his son was touching.
The horror he slept with - though Touda was sure the elder Sohryu didn't know about it.
And he tried to run.
The voice was sharp, cutting through the air, paralyzing him in place before he could fully spread his wings. Quivers raced through him and the serpent's length curled up, trying to be smaller than he actually was in his not yet fully grown state.
"Father..." Sohryu started.
The elder dragon walked up to them and suddenly found his own son standing between the black, winged serpent and himself.
Blue eyes met serpentine ones and Touda felt his insides clench. He knew he was a monster, a horrible miscreation, and he knew now why his father had abandoned him as a child. He had been told that his father had left him here because he couldn't take care of him, because he was poor, but growing up around so many books, with Genbu and Rikugo as teachers, with so much knowledge about shikigami and their powers, the teenager had begun to understand what the child hadn't been able to. And the young adult he was now understood quite clearly that he was a creature with hellish power, a monster, an abnormality.
His powers were developing in leaps, and he knew they were dangerous. He had been aware of Genbu watching him, and while Rikugo had never used those other eyes to Look into him, Touda could tell the astrologer was quite sure of what was to come.
He was a freak.
And he was friends with Sohryu, who now knew what he was. Just like Sohryu's father.
Blue eyes in a serene, emotionless face that gave nothing away ran over his body and Touda ducked more. A fear he had only felt as a child when he had thought he would be cast out for throwing mud at the elder Sohryu raced through him.
"Took you long enough," the dragon rumbled.
He blinked. The neutral features suddenly melted into an expression of approval.
"You're going to be a strong warrior one day, Touda."
He was speechless, still curled up in defense, and the shock of those words was mind-numbing.
"A warrior accepts all his strengths and weaknesses, son," the elder Sohryu went on. "He trains in all forms of physical and mental combat. And we, as shikigami, need to train all our physical forms."
A small smile twitched at those lips and Touda was stunned. Then the highest of the four Gods turned and walked across the yard, disappearing inside the building.
A tremor raced through Touda.
He felt a hand touch his scales and looked at his best friend. Sohryu was smiling at him, warm and reassuring and happy.
"He's right, y'know," the dragon said softly. "We have two forms and denying one freedom, letting it wither and weaken, is not meant to be. You're beautiful, Touda. You're not a monster. Anyone who can't see that is blind. If you want to, we can train together. I bet you can fly." There was a little grin.
"I don't know," he murmured.
"How about we find out?"
And then there was a young, blue scaled dragon rising in front of him, eyes glinting, wings outstretched.
"Let's fly!"
And he was off into the sky.
Touda followed the lithe, beautiful creature with his eyes, then felt an answering thrill run through him.
Yes, he wanted to fly.
Touda closed the book, grinning a little. It had taken him a long time to accept who he was, the black shikigami with the black fires of hell at his disposal. Unique, highly dangerous, and so very much loyal to Sohryu. Born of low level parents but on the best way to being a high level shikigami, a very rare one indeed. There had only ever been one other hell fire shikigami, centuries ago, and then Touda had been born.
The fire serpent placed the book back on the shelf.
He owed a lot to Sohryu's father, as well as many others, so his guilt about killing countless innocents was even heavier than anyone could think of. Still, looking past what had happened five hundred years ago, looking into his childhood, remembering those decades, those centuries, growing up and becoming the warrior he had wanted to be... there was nothing he would change about it. He was proud of it.
Sohryu had been his friend, like a brother.
They had been like brothers and more ...
Touda sighed softly, thinking about the way he had seen Sohryu act throughout the last decades.
You wonder? A part of himself whispered. The man lost his life. And you took it away from him.
But not just that one incident had changed the dragon, he reminded himself. There had been something else, something that had started it all.
And it had begun just a few years after they had become real lovers.
Touda frowned when he neared GensouKai center. Something was wrong. More than wrong. Long strides took him into the palace where a servant quickly took his coat, looking at him with huge mournful eyes.
"What happened here?" he asked the woman sharply, ready to wring her neck when all she did was shook her head and disappeared.
Touda all but ran down the corridor leading into the inner chambers.
He pulled open the large doors to his lover's room, fearing for the worst, and froze. Sohryu was sitting at his desk, a lot of scrolls and papers were loaded on it, and he stared at it with unseeing eyes. When he heard him the dragon looked up and Touda's heart clenched in his chest at the stony expression. This was not the Sohryu he knew, this was not his happy, laughing, gentle lover. This was someone entirely different.
Sohryu stood and something in the way he rose, he moved, abrupt yet fluently made Touda shiver with alarm, reminding him that the man he had grown up with was a god after all.
"Father is dead."
"What? When?!"
"Two days ago."
Touda felt as if dunked in ice water. Sohryu, leader of GensouKai, Protector of the East, Azure Dragon and God of the Sea was dead?
"Obviously it was his time." Sohryu answered tonelessly, and Touda closed his eyes.
Had the dragon been that old? Usually shikigami didn't die young, except through unnatural causes.
But - it also meant...
Touda looked into the familiar blue-gray eyes of his lover, the eyes that now looked so much like his father's and did the only thing he could think of now.
He sank to his knee and bent his head.
"My lord. I pledge myself to your house and your family. I'll protect you with whatever it takes, mind, body or soul."
There was a soft caress on his head as Sohryu touched his hair.
"I know you will, Touda."
And then the new Protector of the East was gone.
Touda, still kneeling, stared at the spot where his best friend and lover had just stood.
His mind was blank, from shock, from disbelief, from his own mourning. Finally he rose, slow steps leading him out of the palace.
Touda lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, thoughts whirling in his head. He hadn't seen hide nor hair of his lover the rest of the day, which wasn't a surprise at all - Sohryu was the new leader unless the Emperor vetoed. Which he wouldn't, Touda was sure. Otherwise there would be no Protector of the East. The older dragon's death had come as a surprise to all GensouKai, which explained the deep shock the center had been in when he had returned. And the obvious shock Sohryu was still in.
Touda swore inwardly about the fact he hadn't been here, hadn't been there for his lover in such a hard time. He didn't overlook all the consequences of Sohryu's death but one thing was certain - he wouldn't be able to stay any longer.
The door hinges creaked as the door was carefully pulled open but the serpent didn't start. He knew who was coming.
"Touda?" Sohryu whispered, padding closer carefully, and he simply lifted the blanket, feeling his lover slip under the cover and snuggling against his warmth immediately. He wrapped his arms around the taller and more slender body, feeling Sohryu shiver every now and then.
"You weren't there," Sohryu said softly.
"I know. I'm sorry. I'm here now."
Sohryu buried his face into the crook in his neck, the long hair falling over his face like a veil, and shivered again.
"Touda... he's dead, just like that. I'm... what am I supposed to do now?"
Touda held his lover tightly - this wasn't the leader of GensouKai, this was a lost little boy who saw himself confronted with a large and alien world. He stroke over the tense back until the shivers subsided, feeling Sohryu's breath against his skin quicken.
"Touda..." Huge, liquid blue eyes stared down at him. "I know it's... but... I want... I need you, Touda. Please ..."
It was the one and only time Sohryu gave himself to Touda, but he did it, and he did it completely. Touda gritted his teeth with the sudden pain of Sohryu's fingernails digging into his flesh, leaving red welts behind, and he concentrated on his lover instead, taking Sohryu even higher when he thrust into the tight heat of his body until Sohryu whimpered and sobbed, holding on to him even closer.
And afterwards he held him securely in his arms, stroking his back when the dam broke and Sohryu started to grieve.
It was then that their paths had differed, that Touda and Sohryu had returned to becoming friends instead of staying lovers. There was no way Touda could continue and Sohryu... the Protector of the East... no, he couldn't continue this either. Where servants and others had overlooked their escapades, there was now protocol and there were rules.
Touda had gone reluctantly, but with the knowledge it had to be done. He had moved to his own housings, had continued his training, had become his former lover's and still best friend's bodyguard. He had protected him - even from himself, from the fire serpent.
When Sohryu had met Aya and the two had fallen in love, Touda had done his share to bring them together. He wanted his friend to be happy and after the former Sohryu's death, Aya had been the first person to bring back the Sohryu Touda had known, the smiling, carefree young dragon he had called a friend, a brother and a lover. Aya had been very good for the young shikigami and she had helped him overcome odds Touda had been incapable of. She had been by his side, had given him strength and companionship and love.
Touda sighed as he remembered those times. Walking back out of the maze of the basement, feeling somewhat reminiscent and far away, he headed upstairs to go to the kitchen. Startling the servants he asked for something he hadn't eaten in a very long time, then took the bowl, ignored the puzzled looks, and continued on his way.
He had a specific place in mind.
Sohryu knew why he hated his job sometimes. It was the bureaucracy. He had assistants to take care of matters, but there was still so much that needed him dealing with it, and it was mostly paperwork. Rubbing over the bridge of his nose he was suddenly startled by something being placed right under his nose.
It was a bowl.
Filled with... caramel pudding?
His head snapped up and he looked into the sparkling golden eyes of Touda.
"What's the meaning of this?"
Touda plopped unceremoniously into a chair and kicked his feet up on the expensive table.
"It means 'take a break'."
Sohryu scowled at the booted feet on the edge of his table, but Touda didn't take the hint. He rarely did take a hint. In a way he was like Rikugo - he got into his face more often than not. The difference to the astrologer was that Touda had next to no political ambitions and wasn't after finding petty problems in the Protector of the East's decisions. He liked to take some friendly jabs at him, keeping his friend on an even keel. Touda was just... Touda. Outspoken, critical if need be, sometimes very direct and to the point, but also a very good friend. It was a slow process, rediscovering their friendship, but it was worth it.
Sohryu hadn't known how much he had missed him until now.
"It's caramel pudding," the dragon remarked.
"I know. You used to like it."
Dragon eyes narrowed at the easily lounging fire shikigami. "I still do."
"So? Dig in."
Sohryu took the spoon and dipped it into the dessert he had loved as a child. "What brought that on?" he asked quietly and ate his first spoonful.
It still tasted as good as he remembered.
A shrug. "I remembered how we met. How I came here. How it all began."
The harsh lines softened and Sohryu found himself smiling. "You were a scrawny kid, Touda."
"And you were a crazy menace."
"We made one hell of a team."
"Uh-huh. Drove your old man crazy. Not to forget he servants."
He chuckled. "Yeah."
Both men grinned at each other, the old mischief still very much in their memories. It had been great times, both of them growing into best friends, and later, into lovers.
Sohryu ate his pudding, smiling slightly.
It had been a long time ago. Their relationship as lovers had ended over five hundred years in the past. Sohryu didn't expect anything in that regard and Touda had shown no moves to renew their more intimate friendship. He had Byakko now and, truth be told, Sohryu thought the white tiger was a very fitting partner for the black serpent.
"Feel better?" Touda asked, grinning.
Sohryu had to confess he did. Caramel pudding, hm?
The fire shikigami chuckled. "Always worked."
Yes, it did.
"Thanks," he said quietly.
Golden eyes, softer than usual, smiled at him. "You're welcome."
Old times. Sohryu sometimes missed them. Too much had happened, but not all was bad. Some of the changes had been good.
Like Tsuzuki.
Because of Tsuzuki things had been turned around, Touda had been freed, and his own ghosts had been put to rest.
Sohryu licked the rest of the pudding off the spoon.
Caramel pudding was not only full of good memories, it was also good for the soul.
Touda remained lounging in his chosen chair, looking comfortable, relaxed, and as much at peace with himself as Sohryu felt.

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