To every action there is a reaction.
To good there is bad, to light there is dark, to right there is wrong.
Sometimes it's for the better. Sometimes for the worse.
Pause. Erase, Rewrite.
Pause. Erase. Rewrite.
Sometimes you're not sure which is which.
There were blue skies up above, towering trees with falling leaves, and the sweet murmur of people in the distance. Harmonic, tranquil, a complete change from the scenery he had last been surrounded by. He wondered what had happened. Did he wake up in the garden? But then, how did he get there? The last thing he remembered was the icy feeling that had covered every inch of his body, wanting to stop, a blur and the feeling of change.
Now there were clouds, trees, and...
"What the hell happened?!"
Someone yelling rather loudly.
Hatori tried to glance around before he realized he was lying on his side. And flopping. Ah...he had transformed then.
"Shit, you changed him into a /fish/? Crawford, hey Crawford, can you hear me?"
"Sea horse, actually, or so it would seem. Bother. This is a rather unexpected turn of events."
"Shut it, Specs. Nagi, hold him in place. Come on, Crawford, give us a sign or a fishy glare or something."
Crawford? thought Hatori as a huge figure suddenly hovered over him. He flopped a bit more. He needed to be placed in water soon. This wasn't good.
But Hatori had been in this situation more times than he cared to remember. If he kept calm, he would last longer out of water.
He stopped flopping.
"He's dead! Look, he stopped moving." Hatori watched the red-haired man pull a gun out of his coat and aim it at something-or someone.
"Schuldig, calm down. If he's a sea horse, it makes sense that he would need water. We need to find a bowl or pot to put him in for the trip home. And soon." The quiet, young voice was proving to be the most reasonable of them all. How curious.
Hatori watched a Japanese boy lean over him and carefully scoop him up in cupped hands, taking him away from the hot pavement.
The redhead-Schuldig-ran off and then Hatori's world went dark again...
Schuldig didn't waste time. He ran straight for the sandbox, pushed a kid out of the way, and stole his little plastic pail. Yeah, the kid was crying now about mean strangers and sand in the eye, and was attracting more attention than actually needed, but Crawford was on his way to becoming glorified sushi.
"Water, water, nowhere," Schuldig muttered to himself, frantically looking around. There was a water fountain a couple yards away, the metal faucet shining with heavenly light. Or sunlight. Whichever.
Many a Japanese park visitor was entertained by the sight of a tall, gaijin dashing about with a yellow sand pail that day. They'd probably never seen anyone so happy to see water in their life.
Nagi watched the proceedings with a resigned sort of feeling. Schuldig looked like he just escaped from an insane asylum. Farfarello was saying something about Finding Nemo. Crawford was no longer a mammal.
In desperation, the telekinetic turned towards the cause of all this trouble. "What's your name?"
The nervous looking man jumped a bit, as much as he could against the invisible hold Nagi had on him, and cleared his throat. "Morris. Morris Lockwood. I'm a scientist, you see, and I'm afraid this was all partially my fault. Or the designs fault. Really, I can't imagine what went wrong with it. Perhaps if I had crossed the Alpha wire into the core, rather than the Beta...no, no, that would have caused a back up in the energy cell..."
Nagi blinked at him. "Morris. Right."
In desperation, he looked at Crawford. At least he was currently silent.
"Nags! I've got it." Schuldig walked over and held out the bucket with a triumphant toss of his hair. "Not what His Highness is used to, but it's his fault for being a fish."
"I dinna think Crawford would ever want ta be a fish," Farfarello commented, peering into the bucket and its new occupant. "I s'pose its less stressful."
"He wasn't supposed to be a fish," Morris offered.
"Can we get out of the park now?" Nagi asked impatiently. This wasn't exactly something they should be discussing in public.
Schuldig shrugged. "Sure. We'll drop by a pet shop on the way back and grab a fish bowl."
"It might be temporary..."
"And one of those little treasure chests that open and have bubbles gush out."
"We're not leaving him like this."
Farfarello perked up. "An' a Chinese Fightin' Fish? So he'll not get out of shape."
"Good idea, Far."
"Might I suggest," Morris interrupted, "one of those small skull caves? I mean, considering your line of work and background, I should think one of those would suit his tastes."
Schuldig narrowed his eyes and looked the British man over. "We should probably kill you. Far?"
Before anyone could kill anyone else, Nagi walked between the assassins and the scientist. "We might need him. He caused it, right? Maybe he can reverse it." He paused. "And let me hold that. You can take /him/."
In his little bucket, as it changed hands, Hatori felt the urge to say the transformation would reverse itself but realized that the poor English man would be dead before he could add that that was apparently the least of their problems. He decided to stay quiet for the time being instead.
Schuldig's eyebrow twitched and he glanced into the pail.
"Schu?" Nagi asked, already turning to lead the way home.
"Nothing, brat. Thought I got a thought."
"Yer grasp of the English language amazes me," Farfarello told him and followed the telekinetic.
Schuldig grimaced a bit and grabbed their hostage's arm, pulling the protesting man along with him. "Yeah, well, it's a bad language anyway. A mutt, I say."
"I must protest-"
"Shut it, Dr. Who. We still need you and that's what's keeping you alive."
"Are you a Red Dwarf fan, by chance?" Morris asked, a little hopefully.
The German groaned and quickened his pace. Crawford had better cave in and buy him that plasma television when all this was through. There were some things a moderately-sadistic assassin just shouldn't have to deal with...
...fifteen minutes later, Schuldig was adding a new DVD player and the complete series of MacGyver along with the T.V.
They had made it back to the apartment with little hassle and few stares, namely because the people in their neighborhood had long ago learned to ignore and forget, but the telepath was starting to get a headache from the whole situation. Nagi carefully placed the bucket on the coffee table while Farfarello took Morris and pushed him into a chair. It scraped against the hardwood floors.
I'm the good cop then, huh? Schuldig drawled. The Irishman only smirked back. Of course. Crossing his arms, Schuldig stared down at the scientist.
The scientist stared back, apparently unconcerned.
Schudlig raised an eyebrow. "Brave, kid, but do you know who you're dealing with?"
Morris cleared his throat. "Schwarz. Assassin group, on the field for approximately seven years now. Leader, Brad Crawford. Second, Schuldig. Subordinates, Naoe Nagi and Jei Walsh, alias Farfarello. You have all, as I was informed, been ranked as some of the most powerful Psi alive. A remarkable accomplishment, I must say."
"That's a 'yes'," Nagi observed wryly.
Morris looked almost smug until Farfarello pulled a knife out of his shirt and held it against the other man's throat. Then he said, "You'll have to do better than that to frighten me."
"I wouldn't give him any ideas. He still bears a grudge against England," Nagi told the brunette.
Farfarello chuckled and dug the knife in a bit more.
"Thank you, Far." Schuldig shifted, leaning down so he was face to face with the man. "So, should I bother asking who you work for and just guess?"
"You already know, I'd imagine. You must be able to read that, at least," Morris said, trying to angle himself away from the blade's edge. "They sent me, of course."
"They?" Nagi asked, looking at Schuldig. The older man had straightened and was observing the captive through narrow slits, hard blue peering through pale red lashes. Contradicting themselves, throwing people off balance, causing doubt. It 's what every aspect of the telepath caused people to do and Nagi watched as Morris started to flinch away from the look more than the knife threatening his life. "Who are they?"
"Capital 'T', Naggles. As in the head honchos. Esset isn't done with us. Right, Specs?"
A nod was his answer.
"Yer machine. What was it fer?" Farfarello growled. He didn't like these games, didn't like anything their former employers-owners, really, and didn't they all hate that fact-did.
"It...I developed it on Their order. Really."
"Fascinating," Nagi drawled in a way that made Schuldig proud. "What was it supposed to do? You said yourself this wasn't supposed to happen," he indicated the sea horse swimming around.
"It was a control device. They want you back, so They told me to invent something. Something that would make their prodigal sons return, so to speak."
"They could've just asked," Schuldig muttered. "They might have liked the couple dozen bullets we would have given them."
"Ah. Yes, well, you can see why they wanted the control device then. You're a rather...shall we say, live-wire group?"
Farfarello mock gasped, to the others' great amusement. "Us?" Then his mood abruptly switched. "Ye meant to rule us as God, aye?"
"Not I! They, remember, /They/."
"Disciples share the blame." Pale fingers readjusted on the blade, a once-practiced move that was now second nature to the insane man. "For 'tis on tha' rock the temples are built."
Silver started to move in a gruesome arc, and the other members of Schwarz moved forward to stop it.
Then something exploded.
"Fuck!" Schuldig yelled and dove behind the hostage chair, whose occupant yelped and cringed.
Brave, Schuldig. What ever happened to leave no man behind? Nagi sent his way from the other side of the room.
Every man for himself, kid.
But there was no debris flying, no smell of burning furniture or teammates. Just a wispy sound of smoke clearing.
Schuldig heard Farfarello mutter 'Adam' but didn't pay any attention to it. The guy had strange notions about things. Peering over Morris's shoulder, he saw a pair of bare feet below the cloud, and a crown of black hair above.
"Braddles!" he cheered and did a hop-step over to the dark-haired man. "How did you like the life aquatic, huh? We were about to buy you tiny fish-sized Armani suits but..." he paused.
Nagi moved to stand beside the redhead, eyes wide and puzzled. "That's not Crawford."
"There's a passing resemblance," Morris said.
"Ah. My name is Sohma Hatori. My apologies for the confusion." Hatori glanced around at the odd assemble of men. "I can see you were expecting, or hoping, for someone else. If you could just let me borrow a pair of pants I will not trouble you again."
Nagi offered Schuldig a small smirk. "He seems nicer than Crawford. Maybe we can keep him."
"Kid, stop hanging around me so much. It's affecting your brain."
Farfarello stepped forward and handed the naked man a bathrobe. "Tempt not the Guilty One," he told him. "There's no comin' back from tha' road."
Schuldig's eyebrow twitched then he realized the white-haired man had an excellent point and Crawford 2.0 was just as well-built as the original. "Why were you a fish?" he asked, mostly to distract himself.
"A curse, placed on my family. It should not happen again," Hatori explained, looking calm and collected in an assassin group's apartment, while he wore one of their bathrobes. "Where am I exactly?"
"Tokyo, Japan," Nagi said, and gestured for him to take a seat. He didn't think the man was a threat and Schuldig would have picked up on it if the stranger had any nefarious plots in his mind. "We mean you no harm, Sohma-san. But we really need find out what happened. Our leader disappeared and you...erm...popped out of nowhere."
Hatori sat, watching the teenager in amusement. The boy reminded him of Yuki, soft-spoken and mature. "I understand. The last thing I remember was being tackled from the side by a girl, just as I was beginning a session of hypnotism. The curse on my family causes us to transform when in close contact with a member of the opposite sex. We're not sure how such a thing occurs, but that smoke you saw earlier is a result of the body deconstructing or reconstructing itself."
"I see," Nagi said, and spared a glance towards Schuldig and Farfarello. Do you believe it?
We saw the man transform, Nagi, Schuldig pointed out dryly. No lies there as far as I can tell.
Stranger things have happened, Farfarello murmured, snapshot thoughts of the Elders and their god running through the trio's connection.
Too true, Far. We should sell the story of our lives to a network. We'd make a killing, Schuldig chuckled.
The other two sighed the sigh of men whose fate is a cruel, sadistic thing.
"Excuse me, but-not to be rude or anything-what are you going to do with me now?" Morris inquired. He made to rise but was pushed back down by the threat in one gold eye. "Right then. Just curious."
"Who is he?" Hatori asked.
Schuldig waved a hand at the general direction of the chair without looking back. "He works for the bad guys. Well, badder guys."
"There's tha' mastery of English again."
"He's a scientist. And a geek with a dwarf fixation. Morris here caused the problems from our end of the spectrum."
"I wonder if we were the only ones affected by this conundrum," Hatori mused aloud. "Two simultaneous actions causing a rift...but that seems unlikely."
"He's right, actually," Morris broke into the conversation. "Two events of this nature occurring at the same time in different areas of the world is not as uncommon as one would think. In different dimensions too, for that matter. A third action, and perhaps a fourth and so on, would be needed to create this much of a disturbance."
Farfarello wandered over to the window, hand delicately tracing the pane. "Three. The number in fairytales. The number of times denied."
"So we think we know how this happened, to some degree," Nagi said, running a hand through his hair as he thought through what sources they had and what options were before them. Not many, and the ones there were blurry at best. "We know something, at least."
"What I want to know," Schuldig said, "is where our illustrious leader is."
His first thought on waking was that the ground was very hard.
His second was that he hoped the dry cleaner could get the dirt and dust off of his suit.
Then he opened his eyes.
"He's awake! He's awake!" a thing said in an annoyingly chipper voice and Crawford had never been so grateful that his teammates had had any chipper tendencies stripped away from them from years of abuse at Rosenkreuz.
"I'm Goku," the thing babbled at him. "That's Sanzo and Gojyo," it continued, this time pointing to the two men that were standing a few feet away. The annoyed looking one was holding a gun-Smith and Wesson, by the looks-and the other had a staff-type thing.
Crawford sat up in smooth move, brushed dust off his lapels, and straightened his glasses. Then he looked closer at the staff wielder and had the intense urge to shout 'They're everywhere!'
Goyjo raised an eyebrow and flicked his cigarette away, smirking at Crawford then at Sanzo. "He's staring at me. He looks kinda panicked, ne, Sanzo?" the redhead snickered.
Even when he wasn't there, Schuldig still found a way to haunt him. Crawford found it exceedingly unfair.
"Waking up to the sight of your face would make anyone panic, kappa." Sanzo tossed his own smoke away and walked up to the black-haired man, finger on his gun's trigger and his thumb on the hammer.
In a second, Crawford was standing a foot away with his own gun drawn and cocked. "It would be unwise of you to try and out-move me," he cautioned. The initial shock was gone, instincts and training kicking in without hesitation.
Gojyo let out a low whistle. "Damn. Sanzo-hime met his match. He's even got a bigger gun than you," he drawled.
Sanzo shot at him, and as the redhead yelled and ducked Crawford couldn't help but feel a fondness for the blond.
"You bastard monk! What the hell was that for?!"
"You opened your mouth, asshole. That was enough reason."
Goku laughed. "He almost got one of your antennae!"
"They ain't antennae, stupid monkey!"
"Don't call me that, pervert!"
Bang Bang Bang
The Sanzo ikkou all looked in surprise at Crawford, who lowered his still-smoking gun. "Gentlemen, if we could focus on the problem at hand." His glasses flashed.
Gojyo and Goku both held up their hands in surrender. Sanzo glared and wondered why his bouts of violence only made the idiots shut up for five seconds at a time.
Seeing that all was in order, Crawford continued. "What exactly happened, to the best of your," /questionable/, he thought, "knowledge."
Sanzo weighed the options of telling the newcomer but Goku made it all pointless by saying, "There was a bamf noise and light and you replaced Hakkai, then Kougaiji looked surprised and ran away, /without even fighting/."
"I see." So Crawford had been swapped with someone else? And apparently not on purpose. "It seems these...incidents have similar circumstances surrounding them."
"What do ya mean /incidents/? Our friend pops out of existence and it's an incident? Asshole," Gojyo growled, his free hand curling into a tight fist. "Who the hell are you anyway?"
"Crawford. And currently my team is lacking in a leader, no doubt finding themselves with a stranger in my place." Not that he was particularly worried about them at the moment. For all their bantering and tantrums, his team was still among the best. Nagi would take his place in calculating, Schuldig would be blunt and take charge, and Far would see any problems arising before the others would. And would kill the problem.
"So we're not the only ones being messed with," Sanzo said. "And not just in our region. You're not from around here," he stated, glancing at Crawford. "I've only seen Westerners wear clothes that resemble your-"
The monk just snorted, not knowing and not particularly caring.
Crawford bristled at the dismissal. Clearly he was dealing with a primitive sort. "Before waking up in this place, I was in Tokyo."
The Sanzo ikkou glanced at each other.
"Japan," Crawford clarified, eyebrows furrowing as another look was exchanged.
"Uh, guy? We're in China," Goku explained. "And heading West."
"Then why are you speaking Japanese?" Crawford asked, annoyed.
And was answered by three blank looks.
"We're on a mission to set things right!" Goku suddenly exclaimed. "We're gonna stop Gyumaoh from being revived. He's the one that made all the youkai go crazy!"
"Idiot!" Sanzo sneered, fan already swooping down to make contact with Goku's thick head.
"OW! What was that for?!"
"For never knowing when to shut your mouth."
"What? He's not from around here! And he's in the same boat as us!"
Gojyo raised an eyebrow. "The kid actually has a point. Maybe Hakkai was training him when we weren't lookin'. What other tricks can you do, monkey?"
"Fine. We'll make camp and decide on what to do from there," the monk said. By 'we' he obviously meant 'you two will make camp while I sit and read'.
Crawford, who had carefully filing away bits of information, was starting to remember something. He wasn't sure what it was, exactly, or how it was relevant, but it had something to do with Schuldig and Farfarello and those ridiculous televisions shows they watched whenever they could.
He was just starting to get somewhere with his thoughts when they were wiped away, replaced by the veil of his power. The vision played out quick segments of the near future, and then faded away again. He blinked when it was over and found the blond man staring at him suspiciously.
"It would be unwise of us to stay here. There's a village of some sort beyond the pass; we'll make it there before dusk."
Gojyo paused in the action of walking deeper into the forest, stopping almost shoulder to shoulder with the black-haired man. "How do you know that?"
Violet eyes narrowed. "He's an oracle," Sanzo told his group.
Holy Beings. Either too smart or too dumb for their own good. "We prefer the term precogs, actually, but in essence yes," he coolly replied.
Then a big white bat-thing flew past him and he nearly jumped back a foot.
"Hakuryuu!" Goku cheered and the little dragon settled on his shoulder, looking sad and lost. "You didn't find Hakkai, did you?" The dragon chirped. "We think we might know what happened to him though."
Crawford added 'dragon' to his mental filing box. Piece by piece...
"Let's go," Sanzo ordered. "I want my own room tonight."
"Aww, Sanzo-hime. You're so coy," Gojyo leered and ducked the shots that were sent his way.
The inn they ended up at was little more than a slightly large house, but it had four walls, a roof, and made Crawford feel more comfortable. As far as he was concerned, no one spent any time in the woods unless they had no choice and no time to find someplace better.
The group sat around a food-covered table, the waitress running back and forth as more was ordered. Goku was shoveling as much as he could into his mouth, somehow managing to not spill any. Sanzo idly picked at his food, eyebrow in a perpetual state of twitching. If they were in Japan, Crawford would have suggested he see someone about it.
"Hey! I called that!"
"No way! I called it first!"
"Both of you shut up."
"But it's not fair!"
"Just give up already!"
It was like watching apes at the zoo, thought Crawford. Or a group of American college students.
He reached neatly for a dumpling.
Chopsticks met and crossed.
"Hey, freeloader, I get first dibs," Gojyo said in a low, dangerous voice. Crawford had never encountered someone with natural red eyes and the effect was rather disturbing.
"I severely doubt that the likes of you will be paying the bill," he responded.
"That's not the point!"
"I can't see how it wouldn't be."
"Look," Gojyo pointed at the dish, "my chopsticks touched it first."
Crawford's glasses flashed. Logically, he should just let it go and east something else. He was normally above this sort of behavior. But something about the redhead got under his skin and he felt he needed to firm in establishing his command. "Clearly, they did not."
Schuldig. Shows. Four men. A dragon. Monkey Kings and demons.
Something clicked into place at that moment.
"Shit," the American said, dropping his chopsticks and sitting back in his seat. "I'm in the wrong dimension."
Gojyo cheered in triumph and gobbled up the dumpling. "Tough luck, man," he said around his mouthful.
"That means Hakkai is probably in the wrong dimension as well," Sanzo murmured, talking mostly to himself.
Gojyo choked on his hard-earned meal. "WHAT?!" he sputtered out in between coughs, banging on the table as if it would help.
Goku mourned the abuse of such good food as a bowl tipped over.
"Hakkai's Chi blast met with whatever it was Kougaiji shot at us. It caused the flash. Crawford, you said there were similar circumstances."
"Hn." The oracle sat up straighter, back into the game, and neatly folded his hands on the table. "A scientist was aiming a weapon of some sort at my team and myself. I started to run towards him, gun drawn with the intent to kill. Then I was here."
"Power overload?" Gojyo suggested. "To much pressure and the cork popped?"
"A horrible analogy, but that sums it up nicely."
"So where's Hakkai?" Goku asked, gold eyes wide and worried.
"He is either with my team, or someone else was involved with this mix up as well. In which case, I couldn't hazard a guess."
"I hope he's okay."
Gojyo sighed and slumped a bit. "He better be."
Crawford stared hard at the table, hearing the bustle of people walking around them, pottery clacking together, laughs and outbursts. It could be any restaurant in any time. "If he's with my team, they won't harm him unless he poses a threat. They'll need to know all the facts."
"Yeah, sure, but what if he's not with your team."
Crawford smirked. "He may then be undergoing torments beyond your greatest imagination. Pains...horrors..."
"Would you like more tea, Cho-san?" Tohru asked, hands clasped and eyes shining.
"If it isn't too much trouble. Thank you. And please call me Hakkai," the green-eyed man said. He had been here for a day now, in a quiet little house far away from his own home but welcoming in ways his world could never achieve.
"Right! It's no trouble, Ch-...ah! I mean...Hakkai-san!" the girl beamed and ran off, ran back to grab his cup, and ran back towards the kitchen again.
"Ch." Kyo sat across from Hakkai, his chin resting on the palm of his hand as he leaned on the low table. "She's going to slip and fall if she keeps running around like that."
"Ah, Kyo-kun is worried about her," Hakkai said pleasantly, smiling at the orange-haired boy. "She's lucky to have someone who cares for her and wants to take care of her when she needs help."
The side-door slid open and Yuki wandered in, already dressed for the day. He spared a look of contempt directed at his cousin. "Hmph."
Hakkai watched as Kyo bristled at the sound, looking more like a cat at that moment than a boy.
"What the hell was that noise for, rat?! Eh?!" he yelled, twisting around so he could glare straight up at the purple-eyed boy.
"You're too easy to offend, you stupid cat," Yuki scoffed.
"Then what the hell was it?!"
"Didn't Honda-san save you yesterday?"
"Let's just fight this out then!"
"Saa...I don't have time to beat you."
"I'll beat you this time! I'll win!"
"Ano..." Tohru peered in. "Ah! Yuki-kun, would you like some breakfast?"
"It's okay, Honda-san. I have to be at a meeting soon. I'll eat an early lunch instead, afterwards." He smiled at her, then turned and bowed slightly to Hakkai. "Enjoy your day," he said and slid open the front door, slipping on his shoes and setting up the path.
"That stupid rat...someday..." Kyo grumbled, but there was no real heat left in it. What Yuki had said was only the truth. It was the implications of it-the truth-that angered him more than the rat's mocking.
Hakkai cleared his throat, recognizing the looks of someone who thought they couldn't protect the one they loved. It was a bleak look, in the lines of one's eyes and the tight line of the mouth. He'd seen it too many times before.
"Kyo-kun...I think it's more important for people who care for each other to be able to care for each other as well. Everyone needs help sometimes, ne? There's nothing wrong with relying on each other."
Kyo glanced at the strange man who-knew-where but didn't respond, instead turned and watched Tohru run back into the room.
"I made some onigiri too! I thought you might be hungry." She smiled at them as she set the food and tea down. "I didn't know what you wanted, Kyo, but if you tell me I can make it for you."
"Ah...it's fine. I'll have one of these."
Tohru looked worried. "But you haven't eaten anything since before you went to the...main house...I mean, to see Hatori-san and....it was..." She looked like she was about to have a panic attack. "I mean...please eat something, Kyo-kun!" she asked in a determined tone, one hand over her heart.
The door crashed open a moment later.
"Waaaah!" Tohru pin wheeled her arms about, trying to hold her balance, then fell forward.
Ayame blinked and peered over the table, at Tohru and the orange cat beneath, then over at the brunette man who was trying to figure out what exactly had just happened.
"Really, Kyo," Ayame tsked, "you should be more careful. Ohohohohoho~"
"B-bastard..." the cat ground out.
"A-Ayame-san!" Tohru stammered out and sat up straight. "Aah! Kyo-kun!" She looked between the two, not sure whether to help Kyo or greet Ayame or make more tea.
Hakkai stood and bowed to the white-haired man. "Let me introduce myself. My name is Cho Hakkai. A pleasure to meet you."
"Ah! Let me give you the honor of being introduced to myself! I am Sohma Ayame, he who lives to make others' dreams and fantasies come true! For without these things the world would be a dark, grim place with no life or beauty! You see, then, how wonderful and unselfish I am, to make the world such a bright place for men and women everywhere! Ahahahahaha!"
Hakkai felt as if someone had stuck him in a room with a large trumpets and a tornado for company. "How kind!"
"But I will not be distracted! I've come here to see Gure-san about some distressing news I overheard this morning as I delivered a delightfully ruffled maid costume to the main house." Ayame examined the room. "Where is he? He wouldn't hide from /me/, would he?"
"Oh, Aaya-san, that I would hide from your heavenly shine, which warms my soul!" Shigure exclaimed as he entered the room, looking aghast at the very thought.
Ayame turned towards him, and Hakkai swore he saw a couple sparkles around the man. "Gure-san! To hear you say such things causes my body to tremble!"
"Alright!" they both said and gave each other a thumb-up.
Shigure glanced down at Kyo. "...Kyo-kun, you should be more careful."
Kyo tried to leap at the older man, claws out, but Tohru made a strartled sound and grabbed him.
"This is no time for jokes!" Ayame suddenly exclaimed, his face serious. "I heard a terrible rumor that my beloved Tori-san is missing."
"Right," Shigure nodded rather cheerfully.
"Then I, Ayame, will find him!" Ayame declared, hands placed firmly on his hips and a gleam in his gold eyes. "Tell me what happened! I will track down the villains that took him and make them pay for their cruel act."
Shigure pointed at Hakkai, who felt he had every right to be alarmed.
"Umm..." he started to object, but found his shirt grabbed by the front and was being shaken with the fury of a rather delicate looking man possessed.
"Where's my Tori-san!" Ayame demanded as he shook.
Shigure chortled. "My, my, Aaya-san has gotten stronger."
"Shigure-san, is that right..." Tohru asked, feeling slightly dizzy.
"Oh dear, you might be right. But the only one that can stop Ayame is Haa-san," Shigure mused, a distressed look on his face. Which was ruined by the way he was grinning as he watched the white-haired man throttle Hakkai.
Kyo transformed a moment later, smoke filling the small room in a purple-grey cloud. "Would you stop it, you psycho?" he yelled at Ayame. "You're all giving me a headache."
Ayame abandoned his self-proclaimed duty of punishment, pushing his victim aside with a thoughtless gesture, in favor of waving a finger at Kyo. "How shameless of you, Kyo, trying to win over Tohru while my brother is away!"
"What are you talking about?" the orange-haired boy said and his shoulders slumped a bit, suddenly exhausted by everything. It was the price one paid for being near Ayame for more than ten seconds.
"Excuse me," Hakkai interrupted as politely as he could, "but could someone explain what's going on?"
There was a pause.
"I suppose I will," Shigure said, "since Kyon-Kyon ruined everything."
"Don't call me that!"
Ten minutes later, Hakkai knew what he needed to know.
He thought it must be a hard life, to be cursed in such a way, and marveled at how the Zodiac members-from what he had seen-were able to carry on as normal a life as they did.
He looked at Kyo from the corner of his eye, the cat looking morose as he stared at the table. His hand rested on the surface, beads circling his wrist as a reminder of something. Hakkai was sure it was a mark of some sort. Outcasts always bore a mark of their sins, sins they usually had no control over.
Beads, hair, eyes.
Small things that changed your world.
"This...Hatori, he transformed before he disappeared?"
"Yes," Tohru nodded, wringing her hands together. "Or as, maybe. I think."
"Has anything like this ever happened before?" he asked, directing it towards the older men, who both shook their head.
"He was trying to hypnotize me, "Kyo said in a flat, quiet tone. "He was already starting to when Tohru tackled him."
Shigure stroked his chin. "That might have had something to do with it."
"Combined with the blast I encountered before I disappeared from my own world. Something may have happened to cause a rift of some kind. If I knew what the purpose was of Kougaiji's weapon, we might have another clue.
"Kyo, what was it that Hatori-san was doing to you. There might be a connection in what was happening."
Kyo rubbed absent-mindedly rubbed the back of his neck. "He was going to erase my memories. Some of them, anyways."
"Ah. I understand."
They were all silent for a few minutes, sipping tea and thinking out their own theories, their own worries, their own regrets. The sun was making it's way across the sky, creating long shadows on the floor and walls. A few birds chirped in the distance. In different circumstances, it would have been a peaceful day.
"I want to help," Tohru eventually said, breaking the silence. "Any way I can."
"I will too," Kyo told him, looking up at him from a fringe of orange bangs.
Shigure yawned, pulling a fan out of sleeve and tapping it against his mouth for a moment before Ayame grabbed it, examined it's lack of aesthetically pleasing qualities, and tossed it over his shoulder. "But what are you going to do now, Hakkai-san?"
For a moment, Hakkai thought /I'll go West/. After so much time journeying, it was an automatic reply. "Saa...I suppose I'll just try and find a way home."
It seemed like a reasonable idea, after all.
Bits and pieces, reused and reinvented.
Worlds of heaven. Worlds of hell. Worlds like any other world, only twisted.
Through the looking glass, where things are the same but not.
Reused and reinvented.
Always the same. But different.
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