Reigen kicked idly at a balloon on the ground, a piece of the party that had escaped just like him. He fidgeted with his tie and his suit jacket simultaneously, trying in vain to make it somewhat comfortable. The darn thing didn't fit right, too big around the shoulders and not long enough in his legs. He was too lanky for these rent-a-suits, none of them ever had his measurements. None of them were made with him in mind.
"Ironic, really." Reigen grumbled to himself, kicking the balloon harder this time. It bounced away, leaving him alone, just as he always was. Loner Reigen Arataka, always on the outskirts, never in the group. Never able to resonate properly with a weapon, no matter how hard he tried. At this rate, he wasn't even sure he'd be able to graduate, let alone become the greatest Meister ever.
He let out a sigh, finally looking up to note his surroundings. He had started in the gym of the school, gathered with all the other students for the annual party, but he'd wandered too far now. He wasn't sure where he was anymore.
"Oi, is anyone here?" He called, and was rewarded with a gasp coming from around the corner. Reigen raised an eyebrow, "Hello?"
Reigen heard rustling and drew closer, spotting a boy around his age huddled in the corner of the room. From the looks of things, he was crying. "Hey, you ok?"
The other kid sucked in a breath and went as quiet as he could while stifling his sobs. It was as if he was trying to hide now, after the fact, or maybe that he was ashamed of his crying? He looked absolutely miserable. The sight tugged at Reigen's heart, making him want to reach out.
"I'm not going to hurt you. Do you mind if I sit here?" Reigen hated being alone, especially when he was as scared as this kid looked.
The other kid stared at Reigen for a long moment, maybe trying to assess his threat level or something. Reigen concentrated on making his soul wavelength as calm as possible, sending the frequency out like a soothing blanket. Being Weaponless as he was, he'd chosen to focus more on what he could do as a Meister alone.
One such trick was being able to use his wavelength to calm those in close proximity, and sometimes even himself. It came in handy on test days or when he found an injured animal, and now, here.
The other kid averted his gaze to his knees, but his shoulders weren't trembling like they were a moment ago. "You can sit there… if you want."
Reigen grinned and plopped down with his legs crossed, making sure he wasn't too close to set off anymore anxiety. "Thanks. My name is Reigen Arataka, I'm a Meister, what's your name?"
"Serizawa… Serizawa Katsuya."
Reigen waited for him to say whether he was a Weapon or Meister, but the answer never came. Reigen wouldn't pry, but the omitted information made him curious now. He could be patient, though. "That's a nice name. Beats my name, which means something like… flourishing spirit. I mean, what were my parents even thinking? I'm gonna be the world's greatest Meister not the world's greatest exorcist or psychic or whatever."
Serizawa laughed, a sound so soft that Reigen thought it was a just a puff of air at first. But Serizawa was smiling, too, which Reigen counted as a double win.
They continued to talk, with Reigen filling the air most of the time. He talked about silly things like his big sister who wanted to sit on him until he was too old and gray to be a Meister. About his mother and father who were totally cool and supported his new career choice. (This one was a lie, but Serizawa didn't need to know that.) He kept talking until Serizawa's death grip on his legs was more of a gentle hold.
"Yeah, so, I mean, I've never really clicked with a Weapon, so I'm just gonna have to go solo." Reigen's arms moved around as he continued speaking. "I've heard of Weapons doing that, so I could too, right? I mean, I know it won't be easy or anything, but being a Meister or a Weapon doesn't have to define what we can or can't do on our own. It's just another trait about us, and humans in general are pretty resilient right?"
Serizawa didn't say anything for a moment but his eyes were wide, as if he had never heard anything like that before. He looked down, biting his lip as if trying to decide if he really wanted to say something or not. Finally, when it looked like the question was going to burst out of him, he spoke. "Do you… do you not like Weapons?"
"Did I say that? Is that what it came out as?" Reigen shook his head vigorously, his words speeding up. "That's not what I meant, I'm sorry. Everyone is always telling me I'm not very clear and I know I gotta work on that. But what I meant was just that I don't have one and that I could still be a good Meister. I wish I had a Weapon but my wavelength just doesn't seem to fit most people."
Serizawa nodded, understanding now. "It's hard, sometimes. Even if you do match wavelengths."
Reigen didn't understand why Serizawa sounded so… hurt with that statement, but it didn't sit well with him. He jumped to change the subject. "Anyway, why are you way over here by yourself?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Serizawa countered, his lips curling into something almost sly.
"Oooooohohoho," Reigen waggled a finger at the other boy, "Now you get sassy with me? I see how it is. Fair enough, I'll tell you first then you can tell me. If you want."
He shrugged, no use hiding from the truth here. "I'm not that popular. I don't really have any friends here; parties aren't that fun when you don't have anyone to go with."
Serizawa seemed to understand, at least. "I don't have any… no one there is gonna like me, either."
Reigen scoffed, "Well screw them, then. Their loss."
Serizawa laughed again and Reigen smiled. "You wanna bail? Waiting here is no fun, but if we walk around town then maybe we could find something to keep us entertained."
Serizawa paused, looking around as if he was going to ask permission from someone, but there was no one else there to ask. Reigen wondered if Serizawa had strict parents or something.
After realizing there was no one to make the choice for him, Serizawa grinned, then nodded quickly. Reigen got the impression that this kind of freedom, the simple act of choosing where you wanted to go, was something that Serizawa had grown accustomed to being denied.
Reigen wanted to have a good talking to with whoever had made that look come to this kind boys face. For now though, he rose to his feet and offered Serizawa his hand.
Serizawa took it, but before Reigen could pull him up, something passed between them. A jolt, a spark, a song in two-part harmony that rang for Reigen's ears alone. He'd heard about it, how shaking hands was a good way to see if a Weapon and Meister were good candidates for a pair, but he'd never felt it so candidly before.
"You'll know when you meet them." His teachers had said, but he hadn't believed them. And yet here he was, hearing this song. A possible compatible Weapon. There was still a chance they weren't a good fit, more variables to consider, but something felt right here.
Reigen blinked, and the song was gone. He looked at his hand to find it empty and Serizawa already stood and waiting expectantly for Reigen to pull out of his daydream.
Reigen wanted to say something, even going so far as to open his mouth to start, but he snapped it shut. Serizawa hadn't wanted Reigen to know that he was a Weapon. For whatever reason that was, it wasn't his place to push the issue. He let it go for now, instead grabbing Serizawa's hand to tug him out of the DWMA and into the city below.
And maybe, just maybe, he took his hand so he could hear the song again.
Unfortunately, the song didn't last long because a few streets into the city, Reigen had to stop, almost making Serizawa collide into him with how fast he stopped.
"Ow!" Serizawa hopped on one foot, having stubbed his toe on a loose stone when he'd stopped. "What is it?"
Reigen shook his head, because how could he explain how something felt wrong. Like when you take a sip of a drink expecting one thing and you end up with something different. He knows what the city feels like, he's practiced his Soul Sight here all the time, but there was something very definitely not right here.
Reigen closed his eyes and opened them again with a hard focus to try and discern the souls in the area. He wasn't very good at this, he still couldn't tell a whole lot by looking at souls, but he could get a basic feel for the layout this way. "Something's wrong." He muttered, not liking what his limited vision could see.
The souls were moving quickly, running from something. What scared him the most was when a soul would suddenly snuff out, like a candle in the wind.
"You can see souls?" Serizawa asked, awe in his voice.
Reigen waved a hand, not wanting to explain his limitations right now, "Only a little, but from what I can tell, everyone is in trouble." He moved forward, barely aware of his own movements as he went to help.
A hand grasped his own, stopping him in his tracks, "You want to go towards the danger? We- we have to get out of here. We have to get help."
Reigen saw the fear in Serizawa's eyes, but he couldn't let that get to him.
He may not have very much training, but he couldn't just sit back and watch as they got hurt. He still wanted to be the best Meister, and he couldn't do that if he let something like fear stop him. Especially when all the Meisters and Weapons in town were gathered at the DWMA, all too far to see what was going on in the city below. He bit his lip. "Good idea. I'll see if I can help them while you bring backup, ok?"
"But. You don't have a weapon. You just told me, you don't have a weapon."
"Aw come on, how bad can it be?" Reigen tried for a smile, something confident and reassuring. "I'm pretty tough, right? I'm going to be the greatest Meister ever."
Serizawa frowned at that, and Reigen knew his lie wasn't believed, but that was ok. He wasn't lying for Serizawa's sake, he was lying for his own. "Go on, if you hurry then it won't matter, right?"
Serizawa looked like he was about to protest, but Reigen didn't wait for an answer. He gently took his hand out of Serizawa's, gave a small squeeze before he left to hear that song one last time, and ran into the fray.
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It was a kishin egg, a monstrous creature with longer limbs than any human had the right to own. It towered above the crowd of frightened civilians with ease, reaching out with fingers like needles to pluck whoever it could reach into its waiting maw. Its teeth were like knives, and its form skeletal and haunting, the sight of it turning flesh and bone into nothing but souls that were then devoured seared into Reigen's brain. He had never seen anything like this before in his life, had never encountered the real deal because he had never had the Weapon needed to fight one.
He still didn't have one, but people were dying and he couldn't let that happen for a second longer.
As he ran towards the screams, he kept his eyes out for anything he could use, stumbling across a pile of wood. From what he could tell, the owners' of the shop were trying to board up their windows after the glass had been broken, but now he was going to repurpose the wood for a nobler cause.
"Sorry about this." He muttered, grabbing the first piece he could as he passed. He hefted it, once, twice, gaining a feel for the weight. He was used to handling different types of weapons, his search for a partner had lead him to try everything, so this was at least something he was used to.
He needed to gain the eggs attention, lure it away from the populous and hopefully hold his own until Serizawa came back with help. Easy, in theory, but in practice...
"Can't think about that now, Arataka. Come on, use that mouth for something useful for once in your life!" He brought up the piece of wood to his shoulder, holding it like a baseball bat as he ran, and swung with everything he had just as the kishin was reaching for a young girl. "Hey ugly!"
The kishin paused, either pulled away by his voice or the hit, Reigen couldn't be sure. It didn't look like it did any damage at all, but now the monster was looking at him with murder in its eyes.
"That's right, I'm talking to you!" Reigen screamed at the monster, backing away as it slowly turned more fully in his direction. "I don't think I've ever seen anything as ugly as you, and that's saying something. I've seen your mother."
The kishin let out a growl that sounded like nails on a chalkboard, attention now fully on Reigen and no one else. Reigen couldn't help the ice cold feeling of terror running up his spine, but he kept it out of his voice. "A face only a mother could love, but I'm sorry for the mother who- oh sh-"
Reigen didn't have time to finish his insults or his curse, the kishin rushing to him at speeds he could barely process. He maneuvered the board on instinct, barely able to catch the flurry of nails as they tried to gouge out his throat.
The next few seconds felt like hours, blow after blow hitting the board and reverberating up his arms with how powerful they were. He had no reprieve, and what's more, the board wasn't holding up well. Each strike took away layers of wood that weakened its integrity and brought it closer to shattering in his palms. He wasn't sure how long it would last, and once his makeshift weapon was gone, he was done for.
The kishin hit hard, sending Reigen crashing into a wall, sliding to the ground with a groan. The piece of wood was in splinters now, and Reigen was left defenseless at the hands of a monster. He grimaced, aching all over but he refused to take his death lying in the street like a thug. He'd grown up on these streets, alone and unwanted, and he would be damned if he died that way. He stood slowly, raising his arms up in a defensive stance that would only delay the inevitable, if it did anything at all.
The kishin seemed to find this funny, grinning like the lunatic it was as it approached its prey. No need to rush when Reigen was clearly weak from exertion and bleeding in too many places to stay upright for too much longer. Reigen knew it, the kishin knew it, it was only the teen that was denying it with his sheer force of will.
But that wasn't enough, his strength was waning, and with it left the monsters attention. Civilians were still in the area, either unable to leave or too stubborn, but the result was the same. If Reigen couldn't keep the kishin's attention, then it would go after the stragglers and they would die. Already the kishin's head was beginning to swivel away, and Reigen waved desperately to keep his attention. It didn't do much, but Reigen had other means to keep it occupied. The smart thing to do would be to let the kishin walk away a little before calling it back.
"I don't have all night." He taunted, his mouth running away from him even now, never one to listen to the smart course of action.
The kishin's grin melted away, anger burning bright now in those hollow eyes. Reigen had just enough time to curse his own tongue before the kishin moved like lightning and pinned him to the wall, nails piercing his shoulder where he was being held.
He let out a cough, trying not to choke on the blood that rose like bile and filled his mouth. Bleeding in the lungs, his brain supplied as he watched the kishin raise its other hand for the final blow. At least this will be quicker than drowning in my own lungs.
Reigen watched the moonlight glisten on the blood left on the kishin's nails, fighting to keep his eyes open. He wanted to be defiant, say he stared down death as it came for him, but as the hand came down, he couldn't help his eyes closing in fear at the last moment...
Reigen dropped to the ground with a thud, eyes still shut though now it was more from the strong grimace of pain and how close he was to passing out than fear.
"Reigen? Reigen, wake up. Please, I can't do this without you."
Reigen groaned but his eyes obeyed his command for them to open. "Serizawa?"
The nervous teen deflated a little in visible relief. "Oh thank goodness. We need-" he flinched, and Reigen realized that he was sitting under the protection of a dark umbrella extending from Serizawa's arm. The kishin was on the other side, scratching and howling at the barrier between it and it's next meal.
"Reigen, listen to me. There's people on their way to help, but they won't get here in time unless we can hold the kishin off on our own until they get here. I can't- I can't do this by myself." The urgency that Serizawa started with, brought forth from desperation and panic no doubt, dwindled in the face of self doubts. "I'm not a very good weapon, but we have to help those people."
He smiled, something wry and almost teasing, "Maybe if I'm with the world's greatest Meister, we can hold him off long enough?"
Reigen grinned, then winced because his teeth were probably covered in blood by now. He moved into a crouch, ready to spring up. He was running on fumes at this point, but they had to do this now or more people would die.
It was customary that when a Meister and weapon were to potentially partner up, they would shake hands and compare soul wavelengths, something more intentional than the song that Reigen had heard, a melody heard by both parties. There wasn't any time for such pleasantries, and they both knew it. Trial by fire was the only way to go about this.
They clasped hands, and just as the kishin reared back for another blow, Serizawa changed into his full weapon form in a flash of light. The claws came down but they didn't meet flesh. Reigen was now holding a dark umbrella with an intricate curved handle. He couldn't admire the quality of the design at the moment, but he was able to appreciate how sturdy it was. At this moment, it was holding up against the dangerous claws of a kishin, showing no signs of wear as Reigen's plank of wood had.
Reigen grinned. This was it, the feeling he'd been waiting for. The song was a chorus now, a symphony, something greater than he could have hoped for. "Oh you're mine now, buddy."
He pushed back against the kishin, throwing him back and closing the umbrella in one movement. Reigen didn't let the monster recover, advancing with quick unbalanced steps and striking it with the umbrella like a sword or hammer and piercing it with the tip where he could. With each blow, he could feel his soul twinge and hum, his soul wavelength being used to attack the kishin.
He was weak from blood loss and pain, still barely holding his own against the kishin, but with Serizawa in his grasp, Reigen couldn't find it in him to be too disappointed to lose ground.
The handle of the umbrella felt right in his hands like none of the other weapons he tried ever had. His soul sparked and sang inside him, and he could feel the song of Serizawa's soul reaching for his own as well. It was as if they were calling to each other, resonating without even trying.
Reigen pushed the giddiness out of his mind, focusing on the fight and pushing with all his might. With a cry, he pushed and struck and stabbed and blew past every attack and defense the kishin threw at him.
He was still losing blood though, and it wasn't long before even the new rush of adrenaline and the addition of a suitable weapon weren't enough to keep him afloat. He wasn't going to last long in this state, but Serizawa had been smart, gone to where there were people who would win this fight. Just as Reigen is about to take a strike to the head, a teacher from the academy came swooping into the fray, pushing the kishin away from Reigen and Serizawa with the ease of a trained professional.
Reigen stood there, watching as suddenly the distance between him and certain death widens. In moments, the enemy that had nearly taken his life is beaten and their soul consumed. He lets out a laugh and his knees buckle until he's sitting on the floor instead of standing. It's just as well, he was beginning to get dizzy anyway.
"Reigen!" Serizawa glowed and returned to his human form, holding Reigen by the shoulders to keep him from toppling over completely.
Reigen felt like he was about to pass out, all the wounds catching up to him. But this was important and he's too happy to let a little thing like blood loss get in the way of this moment. He grinned at Serizawa, and it must look even more gruesome than before because Serizawa gives him a funny look at the expression, but he went on. "We did it. You and me, we did it."
Serizawa looked down, shame clear on his face, "You almost died, Reigen. And we didn't even win."
Reigen shrugged, "But we didn't die, and that's the important thing. And I would be dead if you hadn't come to help me. Thank you, Serizawa."
Serizawa gave Reigen an odd look that somehow looks like he's never heard such a thing before. Reigen chalked it up to him being too weak to see clearly, because obviously Serizawa is amazing, and he told him so, right before he passed out right then and there.
Later, Reigen will learn the truth. He'll learn of Suzuki Touichirou and all the horrible things that he did to Serizawa. He'll share things with Serizawa that he's never told anyone. They'll grow closer to each other, and one day, they will grow to be two competent fighters who are unknown outside of a small circle of trusted individuals. Even later, they'll move in together and one day adopt two boys in need of a home. But for now, they are two boys themselves, both healing and both eager to begin this journey as partners together.