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May. 5th, 2015 12:01 am
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Hikaru no Magic

It was a grey, rainy November evening. In his father’s study Touya Akira paused for a moment from his reading, stretched his back a little and, hearing the wind howling outside, felt quite happy that he had nowhere to go. He had spent the whole day there, immersed in yet one of the thick volumes of his father’s impressive library. (He’s to-read list seemed to be never-ending, and sometimes he wondered if a single lifetime would be enough to read all the books he wanted to, but he surely was determined to at least attempt.) His chosen book – the memoirs of a thirteenth century lesser-known onmyouji, who nevertheless had some interesting ideas about herbs and their use in elemental magic – had captured him so completely he wouldn’t have remembered to pause to eat, unless his mother had come to fetch him personally. They had shared a quiet dinner together, Akira’s thoughts still dwelling on the book. His mother knew him well enough not even to attempt any small talk, she just watched him with a mildly amusement expression as he ate his food, probably not even noticing what it was.

His father was currently in Osaka, giving a lecture on contemporary practical magic for the local theoretical magicians. It had been nearly twenty years since he had, singlehandedly, returned magic to Japan. Sometimes Akira found it a little weird that there were still so very few practical magicians – and they all just students of his father – as he would have imagined pretty much everyone in the world had to dream of becoming a real magician… but perhaps it simply was so that very few in the world did have that gift. After all, there were many who aspired to become his father’s students, but extremely few made it.

He rolled his shoulders a little and took a more comfortable position, planning to go on reading, but a soft knock by the door made him pause.

“Akira-san?” his mother stepped into the room. “You have a visitor.”

“Oh?” He looked at his mother, surprised. Outside, the wind chose that moment for a particularly vicious howl, slamming raindrops with strength against the window. Who in their right mind would go out in weather like this? “Who is it?”

“A young man who in fact came to see your father, but as he is not here, asked to meet you instead. I am not completely certain of his business… his name is…”

“Shindou Hikaru!” an energetic voice exclaimed, and someone stepped into the room behind his mother’s back, giving a bow in the stride. “Nice to meet you!”

Akira stood up and bowed automatically in reply, though he was slightly annoyed at the way the other had entered the room without waiting for an invitation. Straightening, he paused, taking in the appearance of his guest. As was to be expected, he was wet – but strangely enough, only one half of him. On his right side his clothes and hair were glued to his skin, whereas the left side seemed completely dry. The next thing to catch Akira’s eye were his weird, bright yellow bangs.

Akira caught his mother’s eye, and she raised her eyebrow a little. He nodded, very slightly. “Thank you, mother.” As she left, he turned to his guest. “Happy to make your acquaintance, Shindou-san. What brings you here?” And why is only half of you wet, he also wanted to ask, but didn’t, yet.

“Oh, I was hoping to meet your father,” Shindou said. “I want to ask if I could study under him. But of course he’s not here! Figures. And as it was such trouble to get here, I thought I should meet at least somebody, now that I am here.”

Akira would have wanted to point out that it wasn’t exactly a secret that his father was travelling, but he kept quiet about that, too. “I see you’ve got… somewhat wet,” he said instead. “Do you want a blanket or something?”

“No thanks, your mom… mother already gave me one so that I could dry myself a bit. Nothing’s really going as it should today.” Shindou grimaced. “I waited the whole day for the rain to stop, but it never did, and then I thought I should do something about it, I mean, if I wanna call myself a magician it’s a bit silly to let something like rain stop me, but Sa… I mean, I’ve heard it’s not good to mess around with weather, it could cause some, uh, disturbances or something, so I made a spell to keep myself dry on the way, but it started failing right before I got here, and so…” He waved his wet right hand. “I managed to keep just half of myself out of the rain.”

“You… made a spell like that? Really?” Akira stared at him with slightly wide eyes, and he frowned.

“Really! What’s so weird about that?”

“Where did you learn it?” Akira was getting curious, despite himself. A simple water-reflecting spell certainly wasn’t that difficult to perform, but it was quite surprising someone would have come across one (outside of his father’s library, that is), let alone been able to cast it.

“I just said I made it!” Shindou exclaimed, giving Akira a look as if wondering if he was hard on hearing or understanding. “It wasn’t that difficult, I just made the air thicken a bit above me so that the water flowed away on it and didn’t hit me. But I’ve always been bad with, eh, consistency and stuff… which is why I want to get a teacher.”

“You don’t have one then?” Akira asked in disbelieving tone. Even if he were ready to believe that this youngster had created a spell like that out of his own head, he would never believe he’d be able to do something like that without any proper education.

“I…” Shindou glanced over his shoulder, appearing a bit ill at ease. “Not… really.”

“Have you studied on your own? For how long?”

“Umm, a few months, I guess.”

“A few months,” Akira said flatly, and Shindou nodded. “I see.” He sat down again by his book. “Well, as you heard, my father isn’t here now. He should return in a week or so. If you want to meet him, I recommend asking for an appointment beforehand – he is rather busy. But I must warn you, he is very picky in choosing students.”

Shindou watched him quietly as he finished his speech, eyes narrow. “You don’t believe me,” he said then. Akira shrugged, a little uncomfortable.

“I didn’t say so. But nevertheless, my father decides who he will teach and who not. I have no say there, so it doesn’t really matter what…”

“You think I’m making it up.” Shindou was beginning to sound seriously annoyed. “Why’d it be so astonishing if I could do a simple spell like that?!”

Akira sighed. He had already grasped his book, but now he placed it back on the table again. “For one thing, the spell you described is anything but simple. There are easier ways to stay dry in the rain. In fact, I don’t remember anyone, anywhere, ever suggesting something like that. It’s clear that you don’t really have much understanding of magic at all – and so it is quite hard to believe that you’d be able to pull off a spell like that on your own.”

“But I did! Is it my fault if no one else had thought of it before?! I thought it’s kind of obvious…”

“It’s kind of foolish, really,” Akira said shortly. “But, if you’d please…” He opened his book. “Come back next week.”

“I can use magic.” Shindou stated, standing stubbornly where he was and reminding Akira of a sulky five-year-old. “I’ll show you!”

“Fine,” Akira said with a sigh and leaned back in his chair. “Go ahead.”

“I will!” Shindou was practically glaring daggers at him. Akira raised his eyebrows at him expectantly, and slowly the scowl on Shindou’s face died away.

“Umm…” He glanced around, seeming to be a bit at a loss. “Let’s see, maybe…” He turned around, taking in the massive bookshelves, and his eyes widened a little as he realized just how many books there were. “Wow. You’ve got quite a library!” he exclaimed, his anger suddenly forgotten.

“This is just the study,” Akira said dryly. “Your spell, please. Nothing that’d have to do with the books,” he added hurriedly. He didn’t want any half-successful spell attempts destroying some of his father’s precious books.

Shindou let his gaze go round in the room. “Hmm, maybe… hey, what’s that?” He headed to a corner and bent to look at something.

“It’s a go board,” Akira said, biting back yet another sigh. “Haven’t you ever seen one?”

“You play go?” Shindou asked, sounding somewhat incredulous.

“Yes. My father’s fond of the game, and so am I.”

“Hmm.” Shindou was watching the board thoughtfully. He picked up one stone bowl and opened it. He too a look inside, placed it by the go board, and opened then also the other one. “Let’s see,” he muttered again and closed his eyes. Then he stretched out his hand and waved his fingers a bit, as if sprinkling something on the board. A moment passed and then, with a soft click a black stone rose from its bowl and settled on the board.

Akira stood up. A moment he just stared as a white stone did the same, then again a black one. He walked to the board and bent over it, frowning.

“They’re playing five in a row,” he said, not really knowing what to think about it.

“Yeah, so?” Shindou sounded still a bit hostile. “It’s not like I knew how to play go!”

Akira opened his mouth, but closed it then again, having nothing to say to that. Five in a row. In a way, he found this a little annoying, but… it was also somewhat impressing.

“Well. I guess my father might be interested in meeting you,” he said finally.

Shindou grinned. “I bet! I… I mean, that is, it’d be an honor.”

A moment Akira watched the stones playing out their simple game. “What made you interested in magic?” he asked then.

“Well, I don’t know…” Shindou ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess it’s mainly all the stories I’ve heard of Shuusaku, you know? It’s all so… cool. ”

Akira frowned. “A little piece of advice, don’t talk of Shuusaku to my father. You know he doesn’t quite agree with everything that man did. Haven’t you read the latest articles about Shuusaku in Magic Weekly?”

“Sure I have!” Shindou exclaimed. “The most ridiculous bullshit I’ve ever seen! I don’t understand how they dare to undermine someone as great as Shuusaku that way, it’s just...”

“You know, nothing’s published in that magazine unless my father approves of it,” Akira cut him off quietly. “And as I said, he doesn’t approve of Shuusaku. In fact, it is his goal to make sure this nonsensical admiration people who don’t really know anything about magic have for Shuusaku will come to an end.”

Shindou’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?” he breathed, as if he had never heard anything so astonishing.

For a moment Akira paused to wonder how it was possible for someone to know so little of the man whose student he wanted to become. “Shuusaku dealt quite a lot with all kinds of spirits and fays,” he said then. “It’s even said he had some kitsune as his servants. That is not something my father wants to encourage, and his right in that. The spirit world is dangerous to humans, and it is better for us not to have any dealings with them.”

Shindou was frowning. “That’s silly,” he pronounced. “I mean, sure, I get that some spirits are dangerous, but not all! Some of them can be of great help, like those Shuusaku’s kitsune servants! Haven’t you heard all the stories, how many times they saved him?”

“Saved him from trouble he wouldn’t have been in if he hadn’t been messing with the spirits to begin with,” Akira retorted. He shook his head. “If you want to be my father’s student, you’d better abandon any ideas of dealing with creatures of the otherworld.”

“Maybe I don’t want to become his student, then!” Shindou exclaimed. “Seriously, how stupid is that? Study magic without the creatures that are practically made of it? I think I’ll fare better without your dad’s teaching!”

Akira took a deep breath and looked at the other boy sharply. “You have not attempted any dealings with the spirits yet on your own, have you?” he asked, and grimaced at the look that quickly passed on the other boy’s face. “Idiot! Thank the gods you were unsuccessful! You should leave spirits alone. You might not only bring misfortune to yourself, but to those close to you.”

“Who says I was unsuccessful,” Shindou retorted, indignantly. Akira just rolled his eyes at him.

“As if any spirit would be desperate enough to want to make a deal with a novice like you,” he muttered. “Listen to me, and forget all about those creatures. You don’t know what they’re capable of!”

“And you do?” Shindou snapped. “You think you know everything, don’t you? Just forget the whole thing!” he exclaimed before Akira could say that no, he didn’t think he knew everything (yet), which was why he’d like to continue his studies. “I’ll go! And you can tell your dad that he just missed his opportunity for getting a great student!”

“As if my father would need-!” Akira started to yell, but the other had already marched out of the room, leaving behind a wet spot on the carpet where his right foot had stood, and a go board where the stones apparently were starting another game. Akira shot an annoyed look at the latter, hoping the ridiculous spell would wear off soon. Five in a row, indeed.

‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’

As he marched on in the rain, Shindou Hikaru’s left side became soon just as wet as his right side was, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Can you believe it!” he exclaimed aloud, waving his arms angrily. “What an idiot! How can the son of a great magician be that dull!” He snorted. “No dealings with the spirit world, indeed! Destroy the admiration of Shuusaku! Those people are just about out of their minds!”

I don’t know about that, a ghostly figure walking by his side, untouched by the rain, said. But certainly they are quite rude. He sniffed his nose indignantly. Shuusaku was a great man and did lot for this country. They should dedicate a day to his memory, that’s what he’d deserve!

“Yeah,” Hikaru agreed. He shot a grin over shoulder. “Besides, just how strong a magician does that twerp think he is? You were there right under his nose all the time and he noticed nothing!”

His companion sighed. I know. I was somewhat disappointed at that.

“So.” Hikaru stopped. A while he stood unmoving in the rain, thinking. He glanced up, wondering if there was any point to try to cast his rain-repellent spell again, but decided he was so wet already it didn’t matter anymore. “Sai, what should I do now?”

I would have hoped that you’d get a teacher who is of this world, Sai said sadly. I can teach you much about the spirit world, but there are many things of which I don’t really know much. But apparently we should find someone else.

“Who else is there!” Hikaru exclaimed. “Every practical magician I know of belongs to the Touya school, and if that is their attitude, I won’t have anything to do with them! No,” he added, his eyes narrowing. “I won’t need them. You’re all I need, Sai. You’ll teach me more, and some day I’ll show those people!”

Yes! the spirit agreed happily, and the two continued their way through the rain.

‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’ ‘’


About a year later, on a day when the rain again was drumming against the windows with unrelenting strength, a young man rushed into a little shop in the outskirts of Tokyo.

A girl who’d been arranging the shelves spun swiftly around. “Welcome!” she exclaimed happily. “Would you like one of our anti-rain...” she started before noticing that the potential customer was completely dry. “Oh, do you have one already? Then how can I help you?”

The young man said nothing. His eyes skirted fast all over the shop, as if looking for something. The somehow anxious expression on his face made the girl frown a little.

“I’m sorry,” she said a bit hesitantly, “we don’t sell love potions or anything such, if that’s what...” The newcomer’s eyes stopped on her, nail-sharp, and she swallowed the rest of her sentence. “...how... how can I help you?” she repeated in a small voice when she again found her tongue.

“I’m looking for Shindou Hikaru,” he said, again turning his attention away from the girl. He watched thoughtfully the shelves full of herbs, powders and a multitude of different gadgets, the purpose of which was nearly impossible to figure out. “Is he here?”

“Not at the moment,” the girl replied. “If you tell me what you require, I could see if I can help you. Otherwise you can leave a...”

“I’ll wait,” the young man said. He spotted the only chair in the room and sat down on it. “He will drop by here, won’t he? This is his store after all.”

“Well...” the girl said, pursing her lips a bit. “It’s hard to say, he is very busy. He’ll probably not come today, so I think it’s better...” Her sentence was again left unfinished when the stranger gave her another sharp look, and for some reason she found herself blushing a little.

He stared at her a moment, and sat then back on his chair. “Good,” was all he said, as if he had heard something completely different than what she had said.

Time passed. A clock on the wall ticked minutes away one by one. The rain pounded against the window at times harder, then more softly before again gaining strength. The young man sat on his chair nearly unmoving, the very image of patience. The girl arranged the same shelf at least five times, seemingly unwilling to turn her back to him. After a while she finally let the shelf be with a heavy sigh and just stood there leaning against the counter.

No one came, not the shop owner, or a single customer. The girl watched the stranger from the corner of her eye, the fingers of one hand drumming soundlessly against the counter. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her.

“Oh, what the...!” she finally huffed, turned around, and rang a call bell on the counter.

Now the young man was watching her with mild interest. Or the bell, rather. “Where’s its pair?” he asked.

The girl blinked at him. “What do you...” she started, glancing at the bell, but paused this time on her own. “In his study,” she said with a sigh, turning back to him. “It’s pretty unlikely that he’s there though... but one can always try.”

“I see,” he said and resumed his wait. She sighed again, and, just to be sure, rang the bell again, long and hard.

Time passed, nearly half an hour. Then the front door suddenly burst open, startling the girl who had already began to fall into some kind of stupor in the silence of the shop. Someone stomped in through the door, shooting an angry glare at her.

“What is it, Akari?” the newcomer exclaimed. “I was just reading... oh.” He noticed the stranger who just stood up. “You.”

“Shindou. I’ve been looking for you.”

“Who is he?” Akari asked curiously, wondering about the nervous and at the same time eager look the stranger was trying (and failing) to keep in check. Her question was ignored.

“Why?” Shindou asked, frowning. “What do you want?”

“To ask you something. Where can we talk?”

“Well, I don’t know...” Shindou frowned. “I’m pretty busy.” Akari snorted, despite having made the same claim earlier, and he gave her a glare. “Maybe in the backroom, if you really must...” he went on, turning to his guest.

“Yes,” was the short, determined reply, and Shindou shrugged.

“Whatever. Come.” He started walking past the counter and the girl whose curiosity seemed only to be increasing.

“Hikaru? Who is he?” she repeated. He glanced at her.

“That Touya Akira,” he said, with strange emphasis on ‘that’, making it a little unclear whether he thought that being Touya Akira was a good thing or not.

Her eyes widened a little. “What? Really?! How didn’t I recognize...”

The two had walked into the backroom and Shindou slammed the door shut in front of her nose.

‘’ ‘’
“So, what is it you want?” Shindou asked as soon as the door closed behind his back.

Akira gave a look at the door, wondering if he should say something about the other being rude to the girl, but changed his mind. He didn’t reply immediately but first took a look at the room. It seemed to be some kind of a mixture of storage and an office, with walls covered with shelves full of boxes – except for one that had a full-length mirror on it, a somewhat strange thing to see in the dim, rather messy little room. In the middle of the room there was a desk, against which Shindou was leaning, arms crossed, glaring at him. Akira gave him a level look.

“I want to know what you did. And how.”

Shindou’s glare faded away as he stared at Akira, unblinking. “What I... did? Umm, when...?” He looked up, eyes focusing somewhere in the distance, as if trying to remember everything he had ever done (and, Akira suspected, he most likely had done his share of things others might call him to account for.)

“The go board,” he reminded the other patiently. “The never-ending games.”

“Games?” Now Shindou blinked. “Wait, you mean it’s still going on?”

Akira nodded. “And it’s not just that. Those games, they’re simply ingenious. How did you make inanimate objects to play such games?”

Shindou was just staring at him, his mouth forming a little ‘o’. Then he blinked again, many times rapidly. “Oh. Oh. That. Well, sorry, but it’s a secret.” He grinned. “Can’t tell you. Except that maybe it’s just all about me being ingenious.”

Akira frowned. “Do you still claim you have no teacher? That... those go games... it’s an incredible act of magic. Even my father hasn’t been able to solve that mystery, and he has been studying that board the whole year.”

Shindou snorted. “Well, there’s something useful for him to do, instead of just badmouthing Shuushaku. I doubt if he’ll ever figure it out, though.”

Akira’s eyes narrowed. “You…!” he started hotly, but took then a deep breath and told himself to keep calm. “Where have you been this year?” he asked instead. “We’ve looked for you everywhere.”

“Here and there.” Shindou shrugged. “Studying.”

“Without a teacher?” Akira repeated his earlier question, but didn’t get any reply this time either, just a blank look. He bit his tongue a little to keep it from saying what it very much wanted to say, and took another approach. “Why did you start this shop?”

Shindou shrugged again. “For fun. And to get some money.”

For a moment Akira paused to wonder how to proceed. All his senses were telling him Shindou was hiding something. Maybe he wasn’t blatantly lying, but he certainly wasn’t volunteering the whole truth, either. But how to pull that truth out of him?

“Would you come to meet my father?” he said finally. “I know he’d like to meet you, and I’m sure you too would find that meeting fruitful.”

“No,” Shindou said shortly. Then he winced. “I said no!” he repeated loudly. “I don’t want to meet that guy!”

“Okay, fine!” Akira spat out, exasperated. “No need to be shouting! ‘That guy’... gods, you’ve really got no manners, do you?”

“Better than yours,” Shindou retorted, still looking angry. “At least I’m not trying to undermine the work of a great man, slandering his name after he’s no longer around to defend himself!”

Akira couldn’t resist rolling his eyes at that. “Why on earth are you so fixated on Shuusaku? I admit, he did have some skill, but still, that kind of admiration is just foolish!”

“Some skill?!” Shindou all but shrieked out, something flaring in his eyes. “Losers like you and your dad don’t come anywhere near his level!”

The fire spread to Akira’s eyes too. “You’ve never even seen my father! You’ve no idea what he’s capable of!”

For a long while the two locked eyes, each unwilling to be the first to look away. In the end it was Shindou who, with an angry jerk of his head, broke the eye contact, muttering quietly, “yeah, yeah, I know.” What he thought he knew Akira didn’t know, and didn’t care, to be honest. In fact, he truly doubted the truth of that sentence.

“If that was all you’ve got to say, you can just show yourself out,” Shindou stated gruffly.

“You really should be a little more co-operative,” Akira said, once again reminding himself that he was here representing his father and he at least should try to mind his manners, no matter what. “This shop of yours. Do you have a license for it?”

Shindou blinked. “What?”

“A license. You can’t put up a magic shop just like that! If we let people do such things, what would come of it? All kinds of charlatans and wannabe witches would start selling their potentially dangerous ‘services’ to innocent people.”

Shindou took a deep breath and puffed it slowly out. “You’re a jerk,” he muttered. “I’m not asking your permission for anything! I’m done with this talk. I’ve got my studies waiting.”

He took a step toward the door, but Akira moved in his way. “You might not ask for it, but you’ll still need it. Well, not my permission, of course, but that of a government-appointed official, who in this case would be Ogata-san.”

“One of your dad’s students, isn’t he?” Shindou mumbled, his tone full of unhidden anger. “Yeah, sure! Get the hell out of my!”

“Not before you agree to come to meet my father and talk about this,” Akira said levelly. “I’m sure you’ve got no problem to get your license once you’ve proved you’re not selling here anything dangerous.”

“I bet,” Hikaru mumbled. “You can keep your stupid licenses! I’m going!”

Akira raised his eyebrows, still standing in front of the door. Shindou glared at him a moment, turned then on his heels, and marched to the mirror.

Hikaru, wait! a voice called. Akira had time to blink at that, then Shindou stepped into the mirror and disappeared.

“What?” Akira said aloud. “He...” He blinked again. Of course, he had read about people travelling via mirrors, but no one had done something like that for, well, since the days of Shuusaku. He was sure his father could do that if he just wanted, but he never did. It was too easy to get lost in the mirror roads.

He walked to the mirror, curious, and placed his hand on it. Yes, it was a solid, real mirror – for a moment he had wondered if Shindou possibly had pulled some kind of a trick on him (they do it with mirrors, flashed in his mind.)

Well, Shindou had gone, who knew where. He just hoped that Shindou himself knew where he was going. He shook his head at his mirror image, muttering to himself, “what an idiot.”

Indeed! a voice agreed, and Akira took a step back with a startled yelp, stumbling down on his back, as his mirror image was suddenly replaced by the image of a man dressed in Heian age clothes.
‘’ ‘’


Fujiwara no Sai watched with great impatience and mild annoyance as the young man on the other side of the mirror’s glass was trying to gather himself up from the floor, eyes wide and mouth opening and closing without a single sound coming out.

“Come now!” he finally puffed. “This is partly your fault so get up and help me find him!”

“Wh-what?” Touya Akira finally managed to say, and Sai waved his arms, frustrated.

“I need help to find Hikaru! That idiot, I’ve told him not to get on the roads alone! He has no sense of directions whatsoever! I can’t believe he managed to get lost on this simple way from here to his home! Idiot!” He glared at the young man who was finally beginning to find his feet again. “Why did you have to make him mad like that? He always stops thinking when he’s mad!”

“I, uh, I’m... sorry,” Touya stammered, eyes still quite wide. “...he made me mad first,” he added, and winced then a little, probably realizing himself how immature that sounded. “Umm, you are...?”

“Fujiwara no Sai,” Sai said with a little bow and forced patience. “Now, if you...”

“Sai?” Touya had already seemed to have got over his startlement, but now his eyes widened again. “Wait, Fujiwara no Sai? You... you mean, one of Shuusaku’s spirit servants? Why are you here?”

Sai glared at him through the mirror. “I’ve never been anyone’s servant,” he stated indignantly. “Shuusaku was a friend of mine! And I’m here because of Hikaru! Now, he’s...”

“So are you Shindou’s teacher?” Touya cut him off again, understanding spreading on his face. “That... explains so much. How did he...”

“Would you just listen to me!” Sai exclaimed. “He’s lost in the roads and it’s your fault and we need to find him before something else does!”

“We?” Touya asked with a blink.

“We,” Sai repeated, reached out his hand and pulled the other into the mirror.

“Wha—?” Touya uttered as he was for the second time gathering himself up from the ground. Panic flashed on his face when he looked over his shoulder and realized that he indeed was now within the mirror. “What did you do!”

Sai sighed, telling himself to remain patient with the youngsters. “I told you. Hikaru entered the mirror roads, surely planning to go home – that’s the only way he knows at least somehow – but he’s not at home. I checked. He’s nowhere in the mortal world. There I’d be able to find him wherever he is, but this world works differently and it’d take too long to perform the spells that might find him!”

“And you think I could help you found him?” Touya sounded a little incredulous, but Sai was nodding, eagerly.

“Yes! For one thing, I noticed already during your first meeting that there is a connection between you too. Call it karma or fate, whatever you will. And now, you two were just fighting, and the energies between you are still heated up.”

Touya was staring at him with a blank expression. “I’ve studied magic my whole life,” he said, “and I still don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“It’s not about magic,” Sai said impatiently. “It’s about the spiritual. But let’s get started already! I can explain more while we walk. Just, just don’t let your anger die out. Follow it, and you’ll find him.”

“...are you saying that I’m going to find Shindou just by getting mad at him?”

Sai nodded. “At least here, as this is a part of the spirit world.”

Touya paused. Then he shook his head. “That sounds way too easy,” he said dryly.

“Then how about doing it!” Sai exclaimed, all but wanting to strangle the other for taking so long. “Stop wasting...”

Hikaru? they heard a voice from somewhere. What’s going on? It got so quiet...

In the mirror they could see the door to the backroom opening and Akari peeking in through it.

“Let’s go before she sees us,” Sai said and grasped Touya’s arm, pulling him along. “I’m sure Hikaru started in this direction, unless he was completely confused of direction to begin with. You lead the way.”

“But...!” Touya tried to pull his arm free but Sai’s grip was quite firm. “But I...” he glanced over his shoulder at the mirror. “I, you know it’s dangerous here. I’m...”

“Aren’t you at all worried about Hikaru? I told you his lost here!” Sai turned to him, eyes wide and tearing up. “What if he runs into some strong monster? He’s not that good yet, you know!”

“I...” A deep frown appeared on Touya’s face, and he seemed to consider this. He glanced at Sai, who blinked a few tears out of his eyes, and swallowed. “Well, yes... I guess we should find him.”

“Great! Thank you so much!” Sai pushed him onward with both hands. “Now, keep going! I’ll get you out of here once we find him, I promise! On my name or whatever, what satisfies you! And I’ll protect you too if we come across something dangerous.”

“Alright,” Touya said and started walking. Then he blinked. “Wait, once we find him? What if we don’t...”

“Keep going, keep going!” Sai repeated, pushing him onward. “We’ll find him, and besides, you agreed already!”

Touya heaved out a great sigh and started walking onward the narrow grey path that wounded its way through empty darkness.

They walked a good while in silence.

“Are you mad at him now?” Sai asked, and Touya sighed again.

“I’m mad, alright,” he muttered. “How did I get myself into this mess?”

“Don’t be mad at yourself, be mad at Hikaru,” Sai admonished him, and he gave out a little laugh.

“This has to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been in some pretty weird situations.” He shook his head a little. “How did you two meet?”

“Oh, it’s...” Sai paused, considering how much to say. Then again, at this point telling the truth didn’t really matter anymore. “It was something stupid Hikaru did,” he said, and Touya laughed out loud.

“How surprising.”

“Well, he was young then,” Sai said a little defensively. Then again, it had been just a year and a half ago... he decided he didn’t need to tell Touya that. “He’d been reading about magic, and found somewhere a part of an old summoning spell. And of course he got it into him to try it out... If it had been anyone else there would have been no harm in that, but Hikaru... he has a gift. It’s a good thing I happened to hear him before something else did.”

“He got lucky there,” Touya muttered. “Just think what kinds of creatures a badly made spell might summon – and set free.” He frowned. “So... irresponsible.”

Sai nodded, looking ahead. The path divided into three. “Which way?” he asked.

Touya paused at the crossing, looking in each direction. “Here,” he said then and started walking again. He looked a little surprised, as if not quite believing that he really could feel the right direction. “I really need to talk about this with my father,” he muttered. “This is so peculiar.”

Sai said nothing, and they kept on going in silence. At times they passed mirrors, but those pathways hadn’t been used for such a long time they were barely visible anymore, in strict contrast to the brightly shining one through which they had entered the roads. There was nothing else in the roads, just the grey path and the darkness.

After a while Touya sighed. “It’s hard to believe that what reputedly is one of the most dangerous places in all worlds could be this boring,” he said.

“That’s part of the danger,” Sai said. “You have to keep alert and not let your senses grow dull.”

“But there’s nothing here. We haven’t seen any...”

“Well, isn’t this a surprise!” a voice cut him off and he gave a start. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen a mortal here!”

Sai sighed, and bowed his head a little in greeting. “You do know that magic is returning to the mortal world,” he said. He touched Touya’s shoulder slightly. “Keep going.”

Touya, who had stopped to stare at the beautiful woman who had suddenly appeared by their side, blinked and took a step. “I, uh...” He bowed his head at the woman, trying to collect his wits. “Um, afternoon, madam. And, eh, good bye.”

“Why such a hurry?” she asked with a sweet smile. “Wouldn’t you want to...”

“No,” Sai cut her off firmly. “I’m sorry, we really are in a hurry. And he,” he gave the woman a strict look, “is here under my protection, so leave him alone.”

The woman pursed her lips and seemed to consider this. “Not even...” she started, giving Sai a hopeful glance.

“No,” he repeated, and she sighed.

“You’re no fun, Sai-san,” she muttered. “Oh well. Drop in for a game some day.”

Sai nodded. “Maybe.” He started walking, again pushing Touya onward, and they left the woman behind.

“Where... where did she come from?” Touya asked, glancing over his shoulder.

“Forget her,” Sai said firmly. “I mean it. Don’t let her distract you. You don’t want to have anything to do with her kind.”

“She didn’t seem that dangerous...” Touya said, still throwing furtive glances behind.

“Shouldn’t someone who’s been ‘studying magic all his life’ know better than trust the looks?” Sai said, whacking the back of Touya’s head with his fan, and the other’s eyes widened a little.

“I...” He almost looked back again but managed to stop himself. “You’re right,” he said, sounding properly chagrined.

Sai nodded. “Of course. Can you still feel Hikaru?”

“Yes. I don’t think he’s too far...”

“I should hope so. She must be wondering what we’re doing here, and if she and her kind start hunting...” He shook his head. “Please hurry.”

“I try,” Touya muttered, sounding a little annoyed.

They hurried onward, Touya leading the way through a labyrinth of crossings, but there was no sign of Hikaru anywhere.

“Where did that idiot go?” Touya muttered angrily to himself. “I knowhe’s nearby, why can’t I find him?”

Sai said nothing, just watched him, tight-lipped. Touya paused, exasperated. “Why do I feel we’ve passed him already?”

“Should we go back?” Sai asked.

Touya shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe.” He turned and they returned to the last crossing. “I don’t know,” Touya muttered. “I’m sorry. I can’t… I know he went that way from here, but I just don’t know what happened then.” He paused. “Do you think… something might have got him?” he asked quietly.

“I hope not,” Sai said grimly. “I just wonder…” He turned back again and returned to the path Touya had pointed out. He walked to a mirror they had passed now twice, one of those old, dim ones, through which one couldn’t see anything, and peeked into it. “Ah, I knew it!” He reached deeper into the mirror and pulled then back out, dragging Hikaru with himself.

“Shindou!” Touya exclaimed.

“What on earth were you doing there!” Sai was yelling. “Going through strange mirrors, do you have any idea how dangerous that might be! There’s no way to know where you’d end!”

“I thought it’d be less dangerous than staying here,” Hikaru tried to defend himself, dodging a whack of the fan. “I heard voices… and felt something... something I didn’t want to face, so I went in there. And it wasn’t a dangerous place, just an empty room, though it didn’t have a door or anything, just that mirror...”

Whack! went Sai’s fan against his forehead, and Hikaru winced.

“You,” Sai stated, “are more lucky than you deserve. I don’t know what I should do with you.”

“Why would you need to do something about my luck?” Hikaru mumbled glumly, rubbing his forehead. Then he noticed Touya. “Why is he here?”

“I wouldn’t have found you without him,” Sai said. “Especially not from where you were hiding! You should thank him.”

Hikaru gave Touya a glum look. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Touya replied, though he looked like he might have wanted to say something quite different.

“So now what?” Hikaru asked, looking at Sai. “He knows about you now!”

“Now I get you two out of here,” Sai said. “Then we talk about what next. I,” he went on, turning to Touya, “would still like to meet your father, if that’s possible. And don’t worry,” he added to Hikaru. “They won’t be able to harm me anyway.”

“Umm,” Touya said. “Well, I’m sure father too... would be interested to meet you...”

“I could tell him how I did that spell on the go board!” Sai said happily.

Touya blinked. “Oh, of course! It was you! I should have understood that. There’s no way he could have done something like that!”

“What do you mean, no way?” Hikaru exclaimed. “Just cause you or your dad don’t understand it you think I wouldn’t, either!?”

“I know you wouldn’t! Such a high-class spell...”

Sai sighed. “Alright kids, move on before your yelling calls here company we don’t want,” he said and started ushering the two on.

THE END



(A/N: My apologies for all potential typos and other mistakes, and the rushed ending, I almost ran out of time...)

Date: 2015-05-05 07:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ahh, this is such a fun AU! Official schooled magic vs more intuitive spirit kind. And such cute Sai-Touya interaction, hee!
Thank you for writing this fun story!

PS. my apologies for edits, log out didn't work ;A;

Date: 2015-05-05 07:36 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thanks!
Forgot to mention in my hurry that this is, of course, a Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel crossover. :)

-Go-

Date: 2015-05-05 09:47 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I had guessed as much, actually!:) I mean, I only have superficial knowledge of the series (I had started reading it a while ago but got distracted), but the similarities were tangible!

- viisi, who doesn't know how to operate DW properly -_-

Date: 2015-05-06 04:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
My sympathies on the running out of time. I believe that happened to a few of us this round.

I quite liked the way Sai agreed to teach Hikaru. Hikaru's frustration with the Touya school and declaration of how he's going to going forward his own way I thought was quite fitting.

I also found Hikaru and Akira's bickering with Sai's exasperation was adorable at the end, I thought it was a fitting ending reflective of amount of yelling that is in Sai's future.

- Pet Me

Date: 2015-05-08 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thanks! This has to be the most hurriedly written ending ever, so good to hear it worked. XD

Date: 2015-05-07 04:14 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm haven't read the other canon, but it worked as an AU world as well. I especially liked the part with the mirrors and the paths in them. Very eerie, especially the abandoned ones...

~Shan.

Date: 2015-05-08 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you! I really can recommend that book, btw.

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