* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Disclaimer: I declare I have no rights whatsoever to the manga or anime series Recca no Honou.
Seven Eighths of a Whole
Part 2: Variances
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"You too, Saiha?" Resshin's eyes narrowed. "What is with all of you today?"
Madoka stood, folded his hands in front of him neatly, and began walking towards the door.
"Sit, Madoka," Resshin snapped, but with less bite in his voice. "We're not done discussing our next tactic."
Madoka didn't look back. "Resshin-sama, I hope what Nadare said got through to you."
Dead silence reigned in the room.
"I was a bit leery of bringing the subject up to you," Madoka continued. "You're a tad touchy sometimes, you see--"
"A tad?" Saiha muttered.
"Sometimes?" Kokuu mumbled at the same time.
"-- but Nadare is right; Recca is still a teenager, not a man yet. You cannot force him to grow up; otherwise, you will permanently scar your son and perhaps he will never reach his full potential. Children need time to be children; most of us realize that now, since our childhoods were taken away due to our flames." Madoka paused, then continued on his way. "I'm heading back to my quarters, Resshin-sama. I'd be happy to discuss things tomorrow. But I strongly advise you to think this over carefully, so not sacrifice your son's welfare." With that, Madoka strode out of the room.
Saiha stood as well.
"What is it now, Saiha?" Resshin sounded weary.
Saiha smirked, the expression surprisingly bitter on his scarred face. "I feel sorry for your kid, Resshin. If my oyaji did thiskind of crap to me, I'd have hated him forever." The man let his eyes narrow just a bit before he followed Madoka out.
Homura rose swiftly and exited without a single word or glance.
Rui silently disappeared. "Resshin-sama, do be rational about this, and don't let the ghosts of a time gone by pull your senses in that direction," she called in a haunting voice as she slowly dissapated.
Resshin seethed, but there was nothing he could do, and nothing he really cared to do. After all, the other dragons were entitled to their own opinions. He turned to Koku almost savagely. "Andwhat about you?" he snarled.
Koku jumped, then waved his hands in front of him appeasingly. "Maa maa, Resshin-sama! I'm not on either Nadare or your's side!"
Resshin glared at him, suspicious.
"Of course," Koku continued, a bit too smugly for the other dragon's liking, "I am on Recca's side."
Before Resshin could respond, Koku had vanished in a puff of smoke.
Resshin scowled as he glanced around. Only the maniacal Setsuna remained, sitting in the corner and letting drool collect on the floor as the beastly man entertained thoughts of blood and tearing flesh.
Sighing, Resshin stood and headed for the door as well. Setsuna was worse company than being alone. At least his room wouldn't smell of spit.
Oh, she knew Resshin wasn't a bad person by nature at all. He just acted like one sometimes. But underneath, the leader exhibiteda sort of perpetually humorous streak that made his eyes dance with a laughter that was never expressed out loud. He hid behind his own shadow, his own legacy left by his life, like all of them.
Rui, the dragon that nobody knew if it was a man or woman. Apparently Rui was truly a woman; she had a daughter with her husband, whom she had loved very much, but again, Rui was a master at illusions and trickery. There was no doubt in Nadare's mind that Rui couldpull off a change of any sort with remarkable ease. Rui was pragmatic, although a bit dreamy at times, and quite good at strategy. She loved to play games and was more catlike than anything else; extremely teasing and playful, but when she played for real it was with a feral ferocity.
Setsuna was the least like dragon for obvious reasons. He seemed more cannibalistic and bestial than human sometimes. Actually,it was more like most of the time, but Nadare was inclined to be generous. In all the centuries Setsuna had been there, Nadare still didn't know whether those eyes hanging from his bandanna were real or fake, and she was squeamish enough not to want to find out. Setsuna had been a nearly god-like warrior; invincible, powerful, with near-perfect attacks and counters. But in return for that power, he had lost his humanity. In a way, Setsuna was a sad caseof what could have happened to any of them if they had let the bloodshed get to their heads. But none of them had been blessed with the incredible fighting talent Setsuna had, and for that Nadare was glad. She knew at least one of the other dragons could have turned out that way, had he been given such superb physical ability.
the pervert, the hentai, the lech. Thousands of other
names popped into her mind, but she refrained from them. But
Kokuu was wise, very wise. He had been a wielder of the phoenix,the holy
flame-- Kurei's flame. But Kokuu hadn't swayed one bit. He had seen
the heart of Recca and although he had admitted toResshin that both Kurei
and Recca were flamemasters, it was also obvious that
his loyalty remained with Recca. Kokuu, in fact, had been
a tremendous leader, a tactical genius and extremely difficult to
outwit. His casual appearance had been misleading, as well as
his diminuative stature. This all contributed to him
as one of the greatest Hokage of all time.
also been an excellent leader in his time, a trait that still
stuck with him even now. He was level-minded, thoughtful, and
extremely observant by nature, though one wouldn't have known of
that by judging his gregarious outward appearance. Madoka'sonly fault
was that he was overly cautious at times; he had waited until
it was almost too late to accept Recca and to save Neon from Ensui's
icicle. That too had caused his demise in his human life. He
gotten into a rare disorientation when surrounded by the enemies after
getting separated from the rest of the Hokage, panicked and gotten
killed as a result. So now, he was the "King of the Kekkai",
as he called himself-- the ultimate defense so that nothing would ever happen to one of his masters.
The complete opposite to Madoka was Saiha. Stoic but opinionated (that was certainly putting it mildly), and basically having a typicalbad-ass character's reputation, Saiha was actually a softie at heart, although his pride as a man would have him commit seppuku before he would admit that. That was why he'd been the second dragon to accept Recca, after her. His patronizing demeanor sometimes irked more than a few others, and his short, sometimes painfully blunt words stung more times than not, but Nadare knew Saiha never meant anything malicious with any of it. But the image as a tough guy was one he'd kept for his whole life, right up until his death--an early one, if she remembered correctly. He hadn't even reached his mid twenties before he was killed. As a result, his attitudegrew bitter for not living his life out at all. Despite knowing him the best out of all the dragons, Nadare suspected she still knew very little about him in total, because Saiha hid in himself so much in addition to hiding behind his life.
A lot like
herself. Nadare had hated her human life, and more than
once had broken out into curses that blistered the walls againstthe flame
that shone on her right hand. Incompetency was not the reason
she'd hated her power; she'd invented the technique of Dan En
(Fireball), and used her honou to proportions that no earlier
flamemaster had managed to achieve before. One time, she actually incinerated a full acre of land, albeit accidently.
Why did she hate it? Because she had had no life to begin with. All she had ever known was training, training, and more trainingwith her flame. It had paid off in the end; she had soared to new heights for flamemasters, but she'd never had a chance to truly be herself. Childhood? The word meant nothing to her; no memories could be recalled when the word was spoken. She hadn't had a doll,nor played tag or hide and seek. She'd been trained and pushed only as a warrior. The only reason she hadn't turned out to be as overpowering as she could have been was due to her nature. She was naturally against any sort of bloodshed, and tended to be more merciful than anyone else, a dangerous trait in a Ninja clan, where "no survivors means no witnesses" was an unspoken law. That hadbrought her own demise; betrayed and stabbed from behind, she knew that she had, in a sense, killed herself. But she welcomed her death; she had hated her life.
Her past was something she tried so hard to forget, but she knew she would never forget it. It had carved her life into what ithad been, and nothing could change the past. Time truly was the most powerful entity; it determined life and death, and countless other precious balances.
She snorted to herself, a bitter and caustic sound. Since when had she gotten so philosophical?
This realm is so lifeless sometimes, she thought dully. She stifled a laugh as she remembered when Fuuko, always so curious, wonderedopenly about where the dragons went whenever they weren't being called by Recca.
* * * * * * * * * *
"You guys shrink or something?" Fuuko asked. She suddenly got excited and began jumping up and down. "Like-- this?" she held up two of her hands and narrowed the space between them. "Kindof like my Fuujin's jewels? Do you guys actually turn into those cool tattoos on Recca's arms?"
Madoka sweatdropped. "Nadare…help me out," he implored. "I was never good at science."
Tokiya, standing to the side a bit, rolled his eyes slightly. "I rather think that science at your time was remarkably insufficient compared to now," he remarked acidly.
Nadare frowned. Although what he said was probably true (science had never been her strong point either), she took offense at his supercilious attitude. He needn't act like they were dunces. "Mikagami-kun,"she said, as politely as she could. "Perhaps your mind will realize then that it is unfair to compare two different times?"
Mikagami only smiled slightly and turned his head to the side. "Nadare-san, you'll also realize that in school now we have a subject called history, in which we discuss exactly that notion."
Stung by his
attitude, Nadare fell silent, silently seething for letting
a seventeen year old human to insult her like that, but her
good nature prevented any sort of cruel retaliation. Saiha,however,
had little reservations in that category. "Oi, Mi-chan--"
he drew the words out derisively and was rewarded by a narrowing
of Mikagami's eyes.
"-- If your science is so advanced, why can't you reproduce the madougu that us primitive people made four hundred years ago?"
Nadare stifled a laugh at Mikagami's absolutely dumbfounded expression. It was obvious that the thought had never occurred to him in the least. Saiha smirked and folded his muscular arms over his equally muscular chest. "Next time you think about how primitive the Hokageare, remember that, and don't forget you're technically a Hokage now too. No sense in insulting yourself, but if you really want to dent that pretty face of yours, I'd be happy to oblige." He glanced at the woman next to him. "You're just lucky that Nadare isn't someone to actually do that; I don't know how she ever made it as flamemaster so soft-hearted."
Mikagami didn't reply; instead, a slight smile quirked onto his face.
Nadare chose to ignore Saiha's indirect insult; he was always impulsive like that anyhow. She'd been dealing with him for a very long time.
"Well, Nadare?" Fuuko asked. "What do you guys do when you're not shooting fire out at whoever Recca's against?"
Nadare thought a bit before answering. "Well, Fuuko-san, we actually don't do anything…"
"So you become like ghosts?"
"No, no. Do you think we'd actually all inhabit Recca? We need a realm to stay in, for heaven's sake. Human bodies don't enjoyfire too much. A flamemaster actually has the power to reach into our dimension and call us out. In our world, we're human, or at least human spirits. In this world, we're fire dragons."
"Ehh???" Fuuko looked stumped. "Different worlds? How's that possible?" A thought occurred to her. "If you're inside Recca…wouldn'tyou make him bloat or something?" she demanded.
"Bloat?" Nadare was bewildered. "Well…Fuuko-san, we don't actually live in Recca…we live in a dimension that Recca has the power to access so that he can call us out…"
"So do you guys just kind of stand guard the whole time? Don't you guys get tired of just waiting for him to call you out?"
"No, we don't just stand guard--"
"Then how do you do come out of his arm?"
"Well…we can sense when he is getting near a battle, so we ready ourselves, and we kind of do stand guard then…"
"Then what if he has a midnight crisis?"
"A what?" Nadare was lost.
"A midnight crisis. Something that comes up out of the blue."
"Oh, that. Time moves differently in our dimension than Recca's. What's a second in his time is like a minute in ours."
"Time difference too?" Fuuko threw up her hands in frustration.
"What next, a ninth dragon?"
"I don’t get this," Domon muttered.
Mikagami snorted. "Nobody expects you to."
Madoka nudged Mikagami slyly. "And I suppose you don't either, since you're not putting your two cents in."
Poor Madoka. He ended up with quite a whallop on the head.
"So what really goes on? Are you guys all related or what? How does this all work?"
Nadare groaned inwardly. This was going to be hard. "Ano, where to start…"
That hadn't really gone well. She had only succeeded in
confusing the entire Hokage group even more. Besides, by thetime
she was done, Madoka was complaining about being cold, and although
Saiha remained indifferent, she could tell that he was starting
to get a bit chilled too. They weren't used to being in
this world, especially in the fall, so after bidding hasty good-byes, the trio gratefully went back into Recca's arm.
But Resshin…what a stubborn bastard he was. Unconsciously, she had dug her nails into her palms. Deliberately not accepting Recca,even when he knew his son desperately needed the help! Nadare would have been delighted to punch Resshin right then and there. Resshin had absolutely no right to do that. As the Karyu leader, Resshin could chose the wielder, but Recca had been at half strength with only seven of them. Kurei had the advantage in that his flame,the phoenix, was only one flame, and did not have eight separateentities. Even the seven of them- her, Saiha, Homura, Setsuna, Madoka, Rui, and Kokuu- all of them, seven flame dragons with devastating powers, could not stand up to a whole flame. They needed Resshin to complete the circle and give Recca his true flame power. Justbecause Kurei had beaten Recca didn't mean Recca was weaker! In fact, Recca was stronger; with his own flame incomplete, he hadfought Kurei to a stalemate.
How could Resshin do that? He nearly killed his own son. And now, he wanted to continue to let him be at half strength and see who Recca could defeat.
Nadare shook her head and wiped her eyes. Recca would be killed if Resshin didn't give him his power soon. There was no doubt aboutit. The Ura Uruha was astonishingly strong, although none of the really compared to Kurei. Still, sheer numbers could easily defeat Recca, who was slowly exhausting himself.
She jumped, startled. She hadn't heard anyone come up behind her.
"Madoka called a meeting for us- Recca's dragons," Saiha continued. "Even if his baka oyaji won't accept him, we do. We need to figure out a way to keep him going."
shouldn't be talking of Resshin-sama that way, Saiha,"
Nadare said with a somewhat unsteady smile.
Saiha shrugged his shoulders. "Resshin can take a hike. I'd rathertake a rice ball in the face than listen to him talk crap about his son again. Like it or not, Recca's definetely the stronger flamemaster. I don't know what the hell's going through Resshin's bullheaded mind." He clapped a hand companionably on her shoulder. "Come on. We'll figure out some way to help Recca, and screw Resshin; I've had enough."
Nadare smiled again. "Saiha, you're incorrigible," she told him as the two headed towards the huge mansion. It was probably bigger than Mori Kouran's house.
"As if I know what that word means," Saiha snorted.
Nadare punched him lightly on the arm. "Baka. You're not stupid, you're just idiotic. Stop pretending that you're both."
"Really. I didn't even know there was a difference," the other drawled back.
Nadare laughed. "Incorrigible idiot."
By the time they had gotten into the house, Nadare was soaked to the skin. Saiha shook his head. "Little lady, you sure know howto make yourself sick," he commented.
Nadare smiled despite her chattering teeth. "A-A-And I suppose you would know how to make yourself sick too," she shot back, eyeing his own drenched clothes.
Saiha shook his head again and pushed her gently towards her room. "You call up your flame and dry yourself," he told her. "We'remeeting in the Room AC on the second floor." He turned to leave, then noticed that adare wasn't moving at all. "What is it?" he asked, slightly impatient. "You're dripping all over the floor, and then Madoka will come and have a fit about the carpets."
"I'm related to him-- would he throw a fit?"
"This is Madoka, not Resshin."
"Oh, right. Good point."
"Nadare! Stop dripping on the carpet! You too, Saiha!" Madoka yelled as he peered in. "Kami-sama, you're soaked to the skin!" he exclaimed to Nadare. Can't you stop running off whenever you're upset?! Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Nadare snapped.
"Are you sure?" Madoka scrutinized her closely.
"I hate relatives," Rui remarked from the doorway. Her kimono billowed open again at her chest like it usually did. "I'm glad none of mine became ryu."
"Are you sure? I thought you were related to that eyeballed blood-crazed freak," Kokuu interjected.
Rui chuckled. "Heaven forbid I have anything to do with Setsuna."
"Are you sure? Nadare, is she related to Setsuna?"
Nadare rolled her eyes. "I thought we went over this before," she said dryly. Heredity became an issue every time a new dragon was welcomed into the ranks, and every time the dragons were summoned to a new master. When there was no flamemaster with the dragonsas their flame, the dragons were basically free spirits and wandered from realm to realm as they wished.
"You might as well go over it," Homura advised. "At least that way some of us will be appeased." He glanced meaningfully at Kokuu and Rui.
Nadare sighed. "Alright, then." The six of them settled onto the couches; her and Rui on the smaller one next to the window, Saiha, Homura and Madoka the big easy seat aligned perpendicular to theirs.
Kokuu took the recliner, as he always did. Nadare summoned her flame and dried herself off, as did Saiha, only the latter had a little bit more difficulty because his favorite flame was, of course, En Jin. Fire blades were made to cut, not dry. Once they had finishedevaporating the water, Nadare proceded to recite the surprisingly short geneline.
only three relationships, and they all occurred in the same
time range or so. I'm Madoka's great-great niece from hisfather's
side. Saiha is Setsuna's great-great-great nephew by marriage.
Homura and Madoka were distant cousins by marriage in Homura's
time- which was fully about fifty years apart, and about
years before me and Saiha." Nadare and Saiha had been almost back-to-back flamemasters; Saiha had died about fifteen years before Nadare was born.
"So you're the one related to the eyeballed freak," Rui said with no small amount of satisfaction, pointing at Saiha. "I'm not in any of your's bloodlines."
"That's because we don't know if you're a man or a woman," Saiha shot back. Rui only smiled angelically.
"Amazing that that's actually all the relations that actually took place among us eight," remarked Madoka. "Since the flame is hereditary--"
"Not all the time," corrected Kokuu. "If it was, we'd have had a huge problem in the clan involving similar genes."
"He's been reading those ningen books again, hasn't he?" Saiha muttered to Homura, who shrugged.
"It's actually only sparsely hereditary," Kokuu continued. "I've been keeping track of the Hokage bloodlines, and it was pretty erratic in the first few centuries or so. That's why most of us aren't related."
"I'm curious," Rui spoke up, her tone lightly thoughtful. "There must be some reason. I remember Kasora wasn't born with the flame. It ended up being my sister's child, Hidarika, who was born with it." Kasora had been Rui and her husband's only child, a daughter.
"The flame isn't a stable power that can be routinely passed on," Kokuu explained. "Like the other madougu, to have the flame, youmust also have the right kind of spirit and temperment, to which you were also matched with the correct type of flame."
"No wonder both Recca and Kurei became flamemasters," Madoka remarked.
"Both of them inherited Resshin's stubborness and perserverance."
"That's not necessarily a good thing," Nadare pointed out. "Recca's stubborness almost got him killed a couple times in the tournament.
Especially when you two refused to get along!" She pointed accusingly at Homura and Saiha.
Homura frowned. "We don't exactly always get along, Nadare, but we all try our best all the time, and it's difficult to give more than that."
Nadare sighed. "Well, you two did behave later on," she conceded.
"Behave?" Saiha snorted. "You make me sound like a duck that won't be caught for dinner."
Nadare was about to make a sharp retort, but found herself lacking in any motivation to do so. Sighing, she sank back into the cushions instead, suddenly listless.
"Nadare, are you alright?" Rui looked concerned. She reached over and felt her forehead. "Good grief, you're burning up!" she exclaimed.
"You stayed in the rain too long, didn't you!"
Saiha groaned. "I warned you, didn't I…"
"Being a flame dragon doesn't exempt you from being sick," Madoka sighed. "Although you will heal faster. Up to bed, Nadare. Nosense in making your illness prolong itself."
"I'm fine!" Nadare protested, despite the fact that she really was starting to feel her fever. She stood to prove her point, onlyto sway unsteadily as her vision blurred.
Saiha strode over with a sigh of resignation. "You're a lot of trouble, you know that, little lady?" he told her, hooking one arm under her shoulders and the other under her knees, lifting her up.
"Saiha! What are you doing?!" Nadare exclaimed, trying to dislodge his grip so she could get on her own feet. "I told you, I'm fine!"
"Yeah, yeah. And Resshin isn't related to Recca. Stop squirming."
"Put me down!"
Saiha smirked. "If you want to have some nasty bruises along with being sick. You're not going to make it to your room without falling down."
"Nadare, please," Madoka implored. "Just go up and rest for a little bit. It'll do you good anyhow, since you've been working nonstop for the past three days."
Nadare scowled like a little girl. "Madoka, I can't afford--"
Madoka sighed. "We're all looking out for Recca's interests, if that comforts you any. You won't be missing much if you go rest.I'll call you if anything comes up, ok?"
"Demo--" she protested weakly. Her eyelids were starting to become heavy.
Saiha looked decidedly annoyed. "Chikusho, Nadare, just go, alright?!"
Nadare yawned, and to Saiha's relief, she finally relaxed. "Fine,fine," she relented with a grumble.
Shaking his head, Saiha headed into the hallways.
"No," Nadare answered, smothering another yawn. "But where Recca is concerned, yes."
"Stubborn, aren't you." What could have been a slight smile flickered onto Saiha's face. "But you're a horrible actress."
"That bad, huh?"
Reaching her room, Saiha flicked on a low lamp and carefully set her down on her feet at the foot of her bed. "You can make it fromhere, can't you?" he asked.
"Of course," Nadare said tiredly. She got into her bed and pulled the covers over her. "See, I'm fine," she added, just for goodmeasure, before falling asleep almost at once.
Saiha shook his head again before heading out. Pausing at the doorway, he hestitated, then flicked the light off. "Rest well, little lady," he murmered.
"Nadare is such an overachiever," Kokuu complained. "She makes all of us look bad."
Madoka waved his hands appeasingly. "Now, now, she's not that bad. She's just a very hard worker, that's all. And it's not entirelyher fault either; we're not exactly helpful sometimes."
Rui laughed. "That's what she gets for being Recca's most often called-upon dragon, and his attorney in Resshin's court."
Homura crossed his arms over his chest and rocked back in his seat a bit. "You've been watching that ningen contrapment again, haven't you, Rui?"
"The TV? Of course! The stories are soo romantic." Rui brusheda stray lock behind her ear.
"First Kokuu and that book. Now you and the television. What's next, Saiha and a car?" Madoka asked in exasperation.
"I don't even know what a car is," Saiha remarked as he appeared from the doorway. He sat down at his previous seat.
Kokuu shrugged. "Nothing wrong with keeping yourself up to date on stuff," he pointed out.
"That's true," Madoka allowed. "But enough talk. Let's get down to business."