Tokyo Babylon † A Day in the Life, pt. 5

When Subaru opened his eyes the next morning, he spent exactly thirty six minutes dealing with his concerned sister and personal hygiene - although not in that order - and then went straight to work.

For Subaru today, that meant hoofing it from place to place in Tokyo, following leads and asking questions of all the other onmyouji he knew of within reasonable distance of his apartment, hearing what they had to say and then trying to follow up. It was long, hard work, and by mid-afternoon he was so tired that he honestly wanted to just throw in the towel and go home. But he was driven; not allowing himself to slack for even a moment (and perhaps in penance for his unusual bout of laziness at the hospital the day previous), Subaru continued to look, searching single-mindedly for the source of evil that had clearly been festering for too long.

Meanwhile, Hokuto stayed home. It was true that she'd been concerned about Subaru that morning, but her worry had held an edge - a light, unaccustomed accusation in her mode and method that was not at all her normal style, and it perhaps only went to show how terribly preoccupied Subaru was that he failed to notice.

Just as well, she thought as he FINALLY left the building to go on another of his special little journeys. She wanted some time alone.

For a couple of days now, Hokuto had felt considerably more irritable than usual; if anything, she'd felt downright cross. Little things were bothering her now that never had before, even when she'd deigned to give them thought: her position versus her brother's, her status in their grandmother's eyes as opposed to his - stupid little things that were simply facts of reality and had been that way all her life. And more importantly, were not going to change.

"No, I don't suppose they ARE going to change," she muttered into her coffee some fifteen minutes after he'd left, swinging her feet high above the floor as she perched on the bar stool against the counter. "Why should they? He's mister special, after all. Mister precious. Mister POWERFUL - although he gets himself banged UP all the time because he's so... he' s so..."

For a moment Hokuto struggled with the strange annoyance that had come over her system, wrestling with it because she honestly knew it was neither right nor wise; but it was, however, overwhelming, and in the end, it won.

"STUPID!" she shrieked suddenly, panting with the effort of failed resistance and sloshing her coffee. "He's... gods, I'd NEVER be that dumb about it! He just... LETS things hurt him - it doesn't MATTER if they deserve it or not, oh no, he can't even THINK about our feelings if he gets himself in trouble and nearly dies, no he's more concerned about some stupid crying GHOST who's already DEAD!"

And in spite of the fact that she'd known this all her life - in spite of the fact that she treasured Subaru, knew how special and unique and fragile he was - at that moment, for the first time, she was angry with him. She did not hate him; that was impossible - but she was angry with him for the simple crime of being himself, and unable to fight this sudden storm of fury that had come on her, Hokuto dropped her head onto her forearms and wept, feeling trapped, feeling undervalued -

And somehow, blaming that on Subaru, too.

She didn't do anything else for the next five hours.

Seishirou was a very busy man, it was true - two jobs, the Bet, and a myriad of other things - but nevertheless, he still had to deal with the sankanagi that resulted from his coming to Subaru's defense almost half a week ago. Sometimes the bigger spells worked that way; instead of one huge bang, the lashback trickled in over a course of several days, causing more of a nuisance than a panic - and so it was now. Unfortunately, Seishirou couldn't seem to concentrate on dealing with it. Pausing in his report to rest his fingers, he sat up in his chair, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly and thinking about Subaru. Subaru, who was sometimes surely more trouble than he was worth - and yet, oddly, of late Seishirou had begun to feel that exactly the opposite was true.

He sat in his lab, surrounded by the constant white noise of animal sounds, inunndated by their normal pet smell and supposedly focused on the report beneath his palms. But in reality, he neither heard nor smelled his surroundings, and the report had sat for the past three hours unfinished. Seishirou could not. Stop. Thinking. About Subaru.

Subaru. Beautiful, beautiful Subaru; unique, innocent - in spite of everything and anything that had been done to him, whether he remembered it or not, and likely to remain that way pretty much forever. It was one of the reasons Seishirou had seen fit to pick this boy as the raison d'etre of his experiment.

Subaru was an amazing creature, more innocent in some ways than the animals Seishirou treated; and as he thought about it, amused rather than annoyed at the boy's lack of self-preservation, he began to wonder why he'd decided to wait for a full year in the Bet anyway.

There was no need to wait. It was a given that he'd won, a given that nothing had changed, and really the only reason this farce had continued at all was because it kept Seishirou from being horrifically bored. But now, you know; somehow, keeping the Bet going, knowing he'd won, was just not as inviting. Somehow, suddenly - other things looked better.

Like hunting down Subaru in the middle of his current assignment, possibly fucking him, ripping out his heart and feeding it still beating to the glorious sakura tree in Ueno Park.

"Mmm," Seishirou commented to himself on this particular fantasy, closing his eyes and feeling the warmth of Subaru's blood running down his arm, seeing in his mind the crystal green of Subaru's eyes - probably leaking tears - losing focus and going dull, FEELING the power from feeding Subaru's soul to the tree -

Seishirou paused. He'd been aware of the strange demon's influence for quite some time, it was true, but until now had assumed he was immune to it; perhaps this was no longer the case.

Leaning back in his seat, he tapped his chin thoughtfully with his pen and considered. He could, of course, track the thing down if he cared to; but it was a fairly good guess that Subaru was already on the case, and even if he wasn't, well... it wasn't as if Seishirou couldn't handle it, if it got out of hand.

And besides, it felt rather... good.

So, returning to his fantasy... why stop there? Who said he had to take Subaru out right away, now that he knew he'd won the Bet? Because of course he had won; Seishirou had studied the human being for many years as a truly objective casual observer, and knew that the way "lovers" felt had absolutely no bearing on him.

No, there was no need to kill Subaru at all just yet - the boy's death was his, to take when he felt it was time. But the boy's LIFE - now, there was something else again. What would it be like, Seishirou wondered, to have and keep the boy until it was time for him to die?

Not unlike the animals populating his lab right now, really; but oh... SO much more interesting.

Delicious. Succulent. Amusing, defiled did he but know it and yet - yet, he was still pure.

Therein lay the fascination. Seishirou began musing to himself, smiling as he leaned back in his chair and tapped his lower lip with his pen. How much exactly WOULD it take to soil Subaru's soul? Was such a thing even possible?

Well. Perhaps he'd find out.

Smiling a smile of eager contentment, Seishirou hummed lightly - some random love song he'd heard on the radio - and resumed filling out his report, completing it and the ones to follow with a dexterous speed that only comes from one whose goals and heart were at peace.

Subaru sighed and squinted at the soiled piece of paper in his hand. The kanji on it was terrible, ridiculously complex and made illegible by the trembling hand of the one who'd written it; but nevertheless, he was FAIRLY sure that this was the right street.

Of course, he could be wrong; he had been on the last three tries.

Subaru removed his hat for a moment to wipe his forehead tiredly, sweating even in the cold because he'd walked over ten miles since breakfast, and had gotten for his trouble only the information that he currently held in his hand. Really, it was beginning to get ridiculous; he'd tracked down all the reliable known magic users in his sector - even a couple he'd normally never go near due to philosophical differences - and the best he'd been able to gather was that nobody knew anything but they knew of somebody who MIGHT.

It was a nice idea; unfortunately, each of those somebodies had said exactly the same thing as the somebodies before.

Subaru sighed again, stashing the paper back in his pocket and resuming his hunt for houses. This was a section of Tokyo he'd never been in before, and lots of things about it gave him the creeps; but at the moment, to be perfectly honest, he didn't really care.

He'd been looking all day; and he'd look all night, if that's what it took. This had simply gone on long enough.

It was odd, in a way; as Subaru made a right down a smaller, older sidestreet that surely held the house he was looking for, the doubt and unhappiness that had been plaguing him since he awoke was stronger than it had ever been. Subaru did not really WANT to be head of the Sumeragi; he had never wanted it. Never asked for it. It was simply something that was given him because of his birthparents and inherited power.

Subaru loved people, it was true; but he also loved animals. Something about the way they accepted without question - the way they were incapable of lying, the way that even hurting one another was nothing more than defensive and survival instinct was so incredibly healing to him. Animals were so simple - so lovely, so delightfully uncomplex and adorable. If he were given his druthers, Subaru would be in the same field Seishirou now occupied: that of veterinarian.

He studied it in his part time; and in fact, when he wasn't busy, he went to Seishirou's clinic and had the treat of being walked through procedures and helping some of the creatures there. There was everything from cats to monkeys, and Subaru loved it; he loved it more than this job, more than the pain he had to go through and see, more than the position he was forced into because his family expected it and - let's be honest here - there was no one else nearly as qualified.

Subaru was young, yes - but he was without doubt the most powerful Sumeragi to appear in centuries, and considering the events that were to come in the future and the fact that the current Sakurazukamori was supposed to also be the most powerful in centuries, Subaru didn't really see that he had a choice.

Well, no; he had a choice. He always had a choice; he just chose to do the right thing.

Difficult as it was, Subaru continued to ignore the niggling doubt, regret, anger and fear that kept trying to interfere with his job. Whatever doubt or worry he had, he knew full well that no one could do what he was doing now - and if he were to stop, it simply would not be done.

That wouldn't be right. Not right at all.

Steeling his reserve, Subaru took the three steps leading to the door at the address he'd finally found and knocked.

Time passed. Cool breeze blew rubbish down the streeth, catching it in gutters and rippling the pools of water that had already formed. It had been raining on and off for days.

Patient but insistent, Subaru knocked again, harder; the glass panes in the door rattled, and in the house itself, a dog began barking. To his quiet shame, he found himself more concerned with the dog than the approaching presence of the person who was coming to the door. Clearing his throat, he forced himself to focus.

The door opened.


"Aramani Kazutaka?" Subaru asked, mildly disturbed at the covering of rags this person wore as if to hide leperousy. The character had a filthy web of power surrounding her, woven and tangled, as if she had been expecting an attack for many years and it had never come. Surrounding... him? Subaru wasn't sure.

"Yes," the individual croaked in a voice so cigarette-ruined that Subaru STILL wasn't sure.

"I am Sumeragi Subaru. We need to talk."

"Head of the Sumeragi clan?" the woman - he was almost sure - wheezed, and Subaru nodded. "Very well. Come in." She stepped back from the door, allowing him entrance, and the dog Subaru had heard barking tore at him from down the hall with the teeth bared for attack.

Calm, Subaru knelt and held out one hand.

The dog - a large thing, mutt, as rangy as its owner but considerably more fierce, slid to a stop as though Subaru had held up a large and threatening stick, opting instead to snarl from a distance. Lips curled, it growled at him, feet splayed, dripping saliva to the floor.

Subaru did not move. Still, smiling softly, he looked into the dog's eyes and waited.

The dog's owner did not move either, and after a moment, the dog itself seemed to abruptly decide that Subaru was simply no threat at all. Suddenly wagging the tail it had been bristling a moment ago, the dog trotted up to Subaru, panting, and happily licked his face.

Subaru laughed; it was a light, lovely sound, and something that the walls of this place had never heard. All but grinning its pleasure, the dog barked once as if for raw joy; and then, tail still wagging, dissolved into smoke without even the tiniest bit of fanfare.

Wiping his cheek a little, Subaru stood. "Nice inugami," he said, smiling sadly because he knew what it took to make such a creature.

"Yes, it is," acknowledged the character in rags to the left, sounding just a touch annoyed. "You dealt with it... well."

"A happy dog deserves better masters," Subaru said quietly, only moderately surprised at himself for responding even that acerbically.

The woman snorted. "And here I'd heard you were compassionate. This way." She headed down the hall, tugging her odd rags closer, apparently just assuming Subaru would follow her.

Subaru bit back the reply that came to mind; he was feeling more sarcastic today than he'd ever felt in his life, but at least he was aware of it - and awareness was half the battle. Keeping this in mind and determined to control himself, he followed his unwilling host into her filthy home.

In a room that might have once been a kitchen had been set up a crystal ball. Subaru, upon entering, had hesitated at the doorway only once - he knew well that this form of magic was verboten to him, and that what he was doing was equivalent to king Saul asking the witch of Endor for advice. However, Subaru's time and resources had failed to produce the culprit - and really, this wasn't quite the same as betraying his beliefs. This was more like asking an enemy exactly where her general was.

"I'm not taking part in any ceremonies," Subaru said by way of caution as the woman sat at her filthy table, and he got the distinct impression she was smiling. Perhaps it had something to do with the angle of her chin, which was the only part of her face he could see.

"And what makes you think I would try to include you in one of my own, Sumeragi Sensei?"

Subaru stiffened slightly. "Don't call me that. I'm not your sensei."

"Ah, but you are the government-sanctioned head of all magic-users in Japan, ne?" The woman chuckled darkly. "I will not purposely address you without respect, Sumeragi Sensei."

Or without sarcasm, either, Subaru thought to himself, abjuring from saying it only by a true effort of will. This attitude of his was so extremely weird; maybe he needed to meditate more.

When Subaru did not rise to her jibe, the woman - appently - stopped smiling. Holding her hands over her crystal ball, she said, "I know what it is you want to know."

Subaru wasn't in the mood to play this game. "Just tell me where the source is, please," he said, his tone and eyes similarly cool. The woman frowned.

"Very well. You will find it close to Ueno Park." She fluttered the fingers of one hand over her crystal ball, playing with aura energies that Subaru could sense but not see - and knew better than to touch. This woman had to be insane.

"Close to Ueno Park? That's not good enough - I need more. Please," he remembered to add, at the last moment and almost too brusquely.

The woman waggled her fingers a little more, long, curved nails moving as if tangling filaments in the air. "Moving. The source of the disturbance... is moving. Toward the east. From the south."

Subaru now felt he knew where the demon was going. "Thank you," he said, and turned to go. The woman stayed seated.

"That's it? You want nothing more?" she asked, sounding very suspicious and cold.

"Not now, no," Subaru said. "But I suggest you free your inugami - before I come back."

The woman hissed as he shut the door behind him; in the house, he could feel the beginnings of a release spell, which was good - no one needed to keep an inugami around just for general attack purposes, especially not an illegal fortune teller. Oh, but she was more than that; registered as a mere medium, this woman was clearly capable of creating and holding complicated spells for protection, dog spirits, tracking - yes, he would have to visit her again.

Although - now that he was moving and getting some fresh air, it didn't seem such a big issue anymore. Really, there were tons of illegal magic users in Japan, as in any country - they didn't do that much harm, and it wasn't honestly his place to police them. The woman was alone, unhappy, clearly paranoid; she did no harm. Why make her life worse?

In fact, as he walked, Subaru began to regret the decision to tell her to get rid of her inugami. For all he knew, that spirit dog was her only friend.

Feeling terribly guilty, Subaru tugged his hat more tightly over his head and made his way toward Ueno Park.

I know he's coming.

He comes not really hiding himself, although he should - he does not suspect enough of me yet.

I want him to suspect.

I want him to fear.

Of course, he does neither, simply walking along and ignoring my prompts - to the best of his ability, of course. He cannot resist me forever - no mortal can - but I hope he resists me long enough to at least know who is making his decisions.

To know that he has failed.

Ah, I would pity the child if I were capable. He does not know he is paying a debt centuries older than he is; he will never know - and therein lies the irony. I will enjoy ripping his life between my claws.

But first -

A little play pretend.

Subaru came within a mile of Ueno Park, and then everything went mad.

The rain, which had been sporadic all week, suddenly opened up over his head in a torrential cloudburst, and in the sudden, cold shock of it on his skin, Subaru almost missed the surge of power that followed. Not knowing what it was, not even sure where it came from, Subaru ducked and rolled, losing his hat on the sidewalk, and missing the blast by a small enough margin that his left arm was singed.

The power struck - hard. Concrete split with an ear-deafening sound, and pieces of the sidewalk flew into the air as though hit by a bomb. Dodging, Subaru scrambled back, then tried to source whatever was attacking him.

Another burst of power came at him; and another - and another -

Breathless, scrambling, slipping in the water and impossible to see

Ofuda out, chanting in movement, watch it -




And suddenly, Subaru's knew: this had to be Him.

Without hesitation, feeling for Yamato Miko, for the governor's staff, for anyone and everyone who'd been so needlessly hurt by this being, Subaru summoned a binding spell. His shikigami wove intricate patterns in the air, surrounding it from the outside and drawing the power inward. Between the shikigami and Subaru, magic like blue-green threads tightened, trapping the assailant and constricting its attack.

Power sliced at Subaru again, cutting his cheek; pieces of debris flew past his face, but his eyes glowing with an inner light, he stood his ground. The thing screamed, trying to free itself from the binding Subaru had woven. Tighter, tighter the magic drew, squeezing bits of the creature between its threads, misshaping; and when Subaru took the final step and flung his white ofuda at the center, the net abruptly became completely solid.

The being, such as it was, fell from the air and crashed. Two things happened instantly: the rain stopped - and the creature disappeared.

Subaru had banished it.

Gasping for breath he didn't know he'd lost, Subaru fell to one knee, his entire body shaking and his hair in his eyes. What had happened? What had it been? What had it even been trying to DO? Just the fact alone that it had known he was coming and lain in wait was disturbing.

And now it was done; done and over, as well as all the havoc that had sprung from it. He no longer felt that nebulous presence anywhere.

And oddly enough, in spite of his exhaustion, he suddenly felt... better. The doubt that had been plauguing him - the irritation, the impatience - all was gone in the blink of an eye, and Subaru was honestly not aware why he had been feeling them in the first place.

He didn't want to think about it right now. He was exhausted - moreso than he should have been really, but he was honestly too tired to think about that, either. Job done, weary, and unaware he was still bleeding, Subaru started toward home.

Hokuto suddenly sat bolt upright; she'd been leaning on her arms, crying and raging for hours, and she KNEW she had been - but suddenly, she wasn't sure why. What in the world had been so horribly painful?

She blinked. She scratched her left ear. She kicked her feet under the counter, but still, she couldn't remember. Puzzled, she gave an odd look to her arms.

"I don't suppose YOU know," she said to them, and when they were not forthcoming, sighed and slipped off the stool. Well, whatever it was, it must have been hormonal - and fortunately seemed to have passed before the boys got home.

Ugh. It had all been so... teenager. Mildly disgusted with herself, Hokuto decided to make cookies with lots of chocolate in them and think about it no more. It wouldn't do any good anyway, seeing as she couldn't quite remember what had been wrong.

Seishirou jumped, startled out of his daydream, and dropped his pen into his lap. He blinked as the sounds of the lab came back into his consciousness, disturbed because he honestly didn't know what time it was, nor how long he'd been there. Checking his watch, he was shocked to see it was after five; he had been supposed to join the Sumeragi twins for dinner at four thirty sharp. Rubbing his head, he sat upright in his chair.

What had he been thinking? Oh, he remembered the content, yes, but not the reasoning. What in the world had gotten into him? Control - self-control - was something he prided himself on, and for good reason - no one had self control like he did. They weren't Sakurazukamori.

Severly discomfited, Seishirou packed up his things and left without even pretending to say goodbye to the animals. Normally, he never broke his persona when in a particular job setting - this was time for vets, not assassins. But right now, he didn't care.

Still confused and leaning toward anger, Seishirou made tracks for the Sumeragi's apartment, determined to find out WHY he'd lost some control and even more determined never to lose it again. By the time he arrived, he was genuinely - for him - angry; but of course, this did not show. He simply kept it under control.

That's simply the way he was.

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