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Deterioration

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He was:

Sixteen years old. Everyone liked him, because he was polite and kind. He lived with his sister Hokuto, and when he wasn't performing exorcisms, he went to high school like a normal teenager.

He wasn't a normal teenager, though, because normal teenagers were not the heads of mystic clans vital to the wellbeing of the country. Normal teenagers didn't live in Tokyo with only their sister. Normal teenage boys didn't go on "dates" with attractive older men.

Normal teenagers didn't have brands on their hands.

Despite not being normal, though, he was for the most part happy. He loved his twin sister and, though he didn't realise it for a long time, he loved the man who had so mysteriously showed up in his life.

He did not live in a perfect universe. He had no parents, it was hard for him to catch up on all the school he missed and in his position he held a lot of responsibility. He was kind, and sometimes too kind; he took things to heart, and he felt guilty for things that weren't his fault. He always had to wear gloves in case the Sakurazukamori finally decided to collect his due. Yet still, he was happy.

It was not a perfect universe, but it was perfect enough; then it shattered.

He is:

Twenty years old. He's still kind and polite, but he doesn't have any friends, because he's too detached. The only people he interacts with are clients. They respect him, but from a distance; they wonder why such a young man is so sad, but it's not the kind of thing one asks casually.

He lives in an apartment by himself. When he isn't on a job, he stays home. He smokes a packet of cigarettes a day; his hair is short where it was once shaggy and his clothing is now stark and monochrome. He goes through life in a daze, and time passes him by; he doesn't really know where it goes. He doesn't really care, either. Life has no meaning to him.

He's twenty, but he didn't celebrate his coming of age day. There was no one to celebrate it with. He never finished school; there wasn't much point. He only went because he thought it was the right thing to do and because one day he wanted to study veterinary science, just like Seishirou.

There didn't seem much point, after everything that happened. He doesn't have any dreams now.

He's still the head of the Sumeragi clan, but it is a responsibility he finds even more trying now than he did when he was sixteen. He has no sister to support him, and no Seishirou either. His grandmother is now not only far away but in a wheelchair.

He blames himself for this.

His sister, he knows, would be alive if he hadn't gone Within. He could have stopped his grandmother from being paralysed, perhaps; he wonders if he could have won the Bet, had he been less weak. He also knows if he hadn't been frozen with inaction Seishirou wouldn't have lost an eye. It seems a bit strange to feel guilty about that, when Seishirou was the one to kill his sister and destroy his world.

Not so strange, at least not to him. He is still the kind of person to feel guilty for things that are not his fault, no matter who the victim is. Besides, now he realises that he's in love.

He wishes he'd had better timing.

He didn't live in a perfect universe when he was sixteen, but from the perspective of twenty it seems as though he did. The universe in which he lives now is without light and without purpose; he is alone and everyone he has ever loved has either died or left him. It cannot, he thinks, get any worse.

He is wrong.

He will be:

Twenty-five years old. He won't be alone, and he'll be living in a mansion with the other Dragons of Heaven rather than by himself. In a sense, they will be his friends, particularly his Kamui. It should be an improvement on his current situation. It won't be.

He'll still smoke, and his hair will still be short. His clothes will still be monochrome; so will his life. Time won't pass him by, however, because Kamui will need him. He'll still be the kind of person who's too kind to say no.

Being the Sumeragi Head will be even harder than it used to be; the jobs will be routine, even boring, but he will have to juggle them with his duties as a Seal. It will be tempting to let everything drop to the floor and shatter; he won't do it, because he's always been too dutiful and maybe he always will be.

The hardest part will be seeing Seishirou again, because Seishirou won't be the person he knew. He never was.

He'll still love him.

He'll still feel guilty for causing Seishirou to lose his eye, too; he'll secretly wish to lose his own as a form of punishment or perhaps atonement, and his wish will be granted.

He won't wish to kill Seishirou, even though that would be right and that would be what he should do. Instead, he'll wish for Seishirou to kill him, not so much because he wants to die as because he wants to mean something to someone who means everything. If he doesn't, then he will have nothing to live for; he won't want any other death, however. His wish will be circular. There won't be a way for him to win.

He won't die. Instead, he will somehow end up holding Seishirou's dying body. He won't be able to raise a Kekkai, because he won't have anything left to protect.

He thinks things can't get worse. He is going to find out how wrong he is.

He should be:

Moving on. He should realise that Seishirou was never the person he loved, and he should get over it. He should learn to accept that his sister is dead; he should learn to smile again. He shouldn't cut himself off from the world, because that will only make the tragedy he suffered greater.

He shouldn't have dropped out of school; he should go to university, because he should still have dreams. He shouldn't have started smoking. Maybe he shouldn't have cut his hair, either; at least, not for the reason he did. He should want to kill Seishirou to avenge his sister instead of wanting Seishirou to kill him.

He should fall in love again, because maybe that would help his heart heal. He should want to save the world, instead of doing it out of duty. He should be able to raise a Kekkai because he still cares about everyone; he shouldn't have to raise it for Seishirou.

He should have something to live for and a world he wants to save. He should help save it. He should be happy.

Things don't always turn out the way they should.

He wants to be:

Back in his perfect universe. He wants his sister by his side, his grandmother to be healthy and Seishirou to be the loving person he'd once pretended to be instead of the Sakurazukamori he is. He doesn't want to be the Sumeragi Head; he wants to be a vet, and he wants to be working with Seishirou.

He doesn't want to be involved in the end of the world. He doesn't want the world to end, in fact; he wants it to be somewhere worth living.

He doesn't want people to suffer. He wants Seishirou to have both eyes; he doesn't want the other dragons to have their lives destroyed. He doesn't want Kamui to go through what he's been through.

More than anything else, he wants to mean something to Seishirou. He doesn't want to have to die to achieve this; he wants Seishirou to love him. He wants to live happily ever after, with his sister teasing him and trying to dress him and Seishirou sharing an apartment with him.

He wants to be happy.

He wants the impossible.

He won't be:

Anything he wants, or anything he should be.

He won't be dead. He won't be happy either.