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Degrees of Humanity

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As hard as it was to believe, Sakurazuka Seishirou was dead. The Sakurazukamori, dealer of death to those he deemed a threat to the country, was no more. A giant of power and magical skill, with more aces and tricks up his sleeve than anybody could think it possible, perished defeated by a spell he had known all about, had been warned of. An empty shell in a human form, whose heart had felt neither love nor hate, neither happiness nor misery, neither compassion nor pity, had chosen to die.

The thirteenth head of the Sumeragi Clan, once an overseer of all onmyoujitsu users in Japan was now to take over the Sakurazukamori duties. An exorcist whose calling had been to free the souls from their earthly binds became an entity whose job was to bind the souls of his victims to the ancient Sakura tree. He would let the Sakura feed on them and process them into spiritual power, and he would occasionally draw from this now-nearly-limitless source as only a Sakurazukamori could in order to kill and bind again and again and again.

Sumeragi Subaru was the Sakurazukamori now, an absolute opposite of who he had once been. What was most significant, however, was the fact that he didn’t seem to care.

Kakyou had Seen it. He had Seen it as clearly as he had Seen Hokuto’s death many years before and his heart contorted just as painfully when he realised his dream became reality. He had Seen it, many times in fact, and still had difficulty believing it. He had tried to change it, he truly had, even if it meant letting Sakurazuka go his merry way, only to learn he was as powerless as in Hokuto’s case.

He hadn’t wantedSubaru to end up the way he did. Hokuto had given her life for that man, and certainly wouldn’t be happy seeing him turn into what a Sakurazukamori had to be by definition. Also, strange as it may have seemed, he hadn’t wanted Sakurazuka to die. He had wanted him to live, to face all the pain he had caused, all the murders he had committed, and regret them. Yes, he had wanted to see the former Sakurazukamori punished for everything he had done and—

No, that wasn’t true.

Not for everything he had done. All things considered, Kakyou understood the purpose of the existence of the Sakurazukamori and didn’t really blame that poor excuse for a human being for doing what he was born and raised to do. He had only wanted Sakurazuka to feel anything at the thought of Hokuto’s death. Just Hokuto’s, who had been no threat to Japan, who had been capable of loving Sakurazuka despite knowing who he had really been, who had loved her twin brother more than anybody else in the world. You don’t kill people who love you without feeling at least some kind of emotion, do you?

Do you?

If you do, you’re not human, you are a beast.

But then again, the previous Sakurazukamori could hardly be called a human, could he? He was only—

“If you keep thinking about it, you will drive yourself insane.”

Kakyou’s head whipped around, the image of the Rainbow Bridge and two bloodied male figures entangled in each other’s arms faltering. The Kamui smiled gently as he hovered just over the railing of the bridge, something like sadness flickering in the depths of his eyes.

Ridiculous. The Kamui of the Dragons of Earth does not feel sadness. Although… it’s not the first time I see it.

“How do you know what I think? You can only read Wishes, not thoughts.”

“They are closely related. Besides this…” The Kamui waved his hand in a semi-circle, indicating their surroundings. “… is clear enough.”

Kakyou’s dreamscape was not his usual large, empty room nor a sunny seaside. This time, he conjured what he had Seen and what he knew had finally come to pass: the Rainbow Bridge by night, shortly before its destruction; images of Sumeragi Subaru and Seishirou Sakurazuka exchanging last words. A picture of two hearts so close and yet so far away, of hopelessness too heavy to bear, of love never realised, of indifference and hate declared but never present, of a Wish unfulfilled.

And of Kakyou’s powerlessness.

“There was nothing you could do.” These were poor words of comfort, but at least the Kamui tried. It was more than anybody had given Kakyou his entire life, save Hokuto.

“I know,” he whispered.

The Kamui sighed, lowering himself to sit on the illusionary railing of the illusionary bridge. “Yes, and this is the problem. You always know, but you don’t understand.”

Kakyou remained silent. One had to be prepared, mentally, intellectually and emotionally, for discussions with the Kamui. The young man’s logic sometimes seemed twisted at the first, but would always prove unshakable in the end, coming down to one axiom: the future has been foreordained. Glancing at Subaru and Seishirou kneeling in the pool of Sakurazuka’s blood, Kakyou felt his mind and heart falter, desiring a straight answer for once. The Kamui had a habit of being cryptic and vague most of the time, but he appeared to make exceptions for Kakyou. Perhaps even the Kamui needed somebody to understand him every now and then. Or perhaps it was simply because it was what Kakyou wanted and the Kamui’s nature was to grant wishes.

He shifted himself from a kneeling position to sit on the ground, his back leaning against the railing the Kamui was sitting on. His head brushed against the leg of the red-eyed Angel and the hem of his long black coat but the man himself disappeared from his line of vision. It was better not to see the younger man with his confident, all-knowing smirk and piercing, all-seeing eyes. They tended to put most of people at disadvantage; the Dreamer, supposedly all-knowing himself, felt that quality of the Kamui’s gaze particularly acutely.

“What do you mean?” he asked when he felt ready.

“You See an awful lot of things, but your dreams are like technical manuals describing dry facts and telling what would happen. There’s absolutely no explanation as to why. You know what will happen, but don’t understand why it will happen.”

“That’s not true,” Kakyou denied and put his arms around his knees while the phantom Subaru and Sakurazuka continued their last meeting. “As you said, I See an awful lot of things. I am perfectly capable of linking them and deducting the reasons—”

“Is that so?” the Kamui interrupted playfully. “Why did Sumeragi kill the Sakurazukamori?”

“Hokuto cast a spell that would turn the Sakurazukamori’s blow against him if he tried to kill her brother in the same manner as he had killed her.”

“Yes, you know it. You Saw the moment of Hokuto’s death when she cast that spell. But why did it come to this situation? Why did Sumeragi show up to fight?”

“He… wanted to avenge his sister.” He did, didn’t he? Despite everything, he wanted the Sakurazukamori to pay, didn’t he? Isn’t it why he was so torn up? Because he had to kill the one he'd held so dear once?

“Kakyou, Kakyou. You said you were perfectly capable of deduction. What did Sumeragi feel for Sakurazuka?”

“He loved him.”

It was painfully obvious, especially in the moment of Sakurazuka’s death, and then afterwards. Evident in Subaru’s every word, every apathetic gesture, in the emptiness that made itself home in the onmyouji’s mismatched eyes. Kakyou knew how it felt. Only love could break a person like that.

“Then why did he fight him?”

“Sumeragi was the Dragon of Heaven whereas the Sakurazukamori was the Dragon of Earth—”

“Ah, Kakyou. His Wish was to die of the Sakurazukamori’s hand.”

Kakyou swallowed, his throat going dry. Subaru hadn't had the intention to kill Sakurazuka? How was that possible? “…Why?”

The Kamui turned his eyes away from Kakyou and to the frozen, nearly transparent from the Dreamer's neglect, images of Subaru and Seishirou.

“The Sakurazukamori failed to kill Sumeragi before, as you had probably Seen. Dismissed him as irrelevant, as somebody who mattered so little to him that he wouldn’t even bother to kill. The greatest opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. This apparent indifference tore Subaru to pieces, and the only way to mend his soul was to tear that indifference from Seishirou’s face, to become somebody worthy of killing. Being killed by Sakurazuka meant mattering to Sakurazuka.”

The two embracing figures in the distance disappeared as did the Rainbow Bridge. Kakyou stared up at the Kamui, seated on the floor in the middle of a huge empty room whose edges glimmered faintly. His unbalanced state of mind translated into the inability to keep his surroundings a perfect illusion.

“Why…” Suddenly he felt tears pricking his eyes. “Why did Sakurazuka die, then? If Subaru had no intention of killing him, why did he die? Hokuto had made clear what would happen if he tried to kill Subaru like that! I told him what would happen, I warned him!”

The Kamui looked down at him with either compassion or mockery – Kakyou couldn’t tell. “And it didn’t stop him. It didn’t change anything. You tried, and again, the future played according to your dreams and not your wishes.”

“Why? Why did he go to the Rainbow Bridge knowing of my vision? He was a Dragon of Earth; he had all the advantages, the power, the will to destroy…! He shouldn’t have died; he could have employed some other spell to hit Subaru with. Why did he choose to die? Did he want to die?”

The Kamui slid slowly from the remnants of the bridge railing and sat down next to Kakyou, putting an arm around him, fingers playing with long strands of hair. With a choked sob, Kakyou leaned into the caress, letting the gentle hand soothe away his tension.

“Why, Kamui? You were right, I don’t understand. If Sakurazuka loved Subaru, he didn’t have to die! What sort of love confession is that? Did Sakurazuka love Subaru? Kamui, did he?”

“Of course he did. He wouldn’t have died of Sumeragi’s hand otherwise. Only the one the Sakurazukamori loves most can kill him.”

The Kamui‘s hand started to trace patterns on Kakyou’s sleeve as he stared ahead with a soft smile on his lips. In moments like these Kakyou had difficulty remembering that this gentle man who understood him so well and the Dragon of Earth who destroyed the kekkai without a second thought and whose favourite pastime seemed to be tormenting the Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven were one and the same person.

“The Sakurazukamori was a very wise person, after all,” the Kamui murmured.

“Somehow, I don’t see his wisdom.”

“You wouldn’t. You See, but you don’t see, excuse the bad pun. Didn’t it ever strike you as strange that Sakurazuka, who was the most powerful of the Dragons of Earth save myself – and he was, take my word for it – was the first to go down?”

Kakyou recalled his earlier musing about Sakurazuka’s death. “It struck me as strange that he went down at all.”

“Why?”

“Haven’t I already said why? He was the Sakurazukamori. A killer. A Dragon of Earth. He had power. No human feelings that would interfere… ah.”

“Exactly. Human feelings.”

“His… love, for Subaru?”

“Of course. It was his downfall as a Sakurazukamori, but also as a Dragon of Earth. Love stood in opposition to who he was. Oh, he could carry on with it for years as the Sakurazukamori, in denial as to what it was that he felt for the young Sumeragi. But he could never exist as a Dragon of Earth once his humanity started to grow roots. When the time came that the Dragon of Earth role became paramount, there was no longer way of denying, he had to accept his human part and face the consequences.”

The Kamui fell silent, and then repeated, “He was a very wise man, in the end. Well, he was mistaken as to Sumeragi’s Wish so letting Sumeragi kill him did actually more harm than good, but he couldn’t do anything else.”

Kamui,” Kakyou interrupted, frozen to very soul at the implications of the Kamui’s words. “Consequences?”

“Oh?”

He had to accept his human part and face the consequences. What consequences?”

“Why, death, what else?”

“Of the Sakurazukamori, but of the Dragon of Earth?”

The Kamui laughed lightly. “You got it all confused, Kakyou. Death is the consequence of ultimate love in the case of a Sakurazukamori. But lack of humanity is not a requirement for a Sakurazukamori… although it helps, I suppose. Lack of humanity is what defines a Dragon of Earth; that is why Sakurazuka used to fit so perfectly. Once he started to become more and more human, all because of his feelings for Sumeragi, he could no longer be a Dragon of Earth. By the time he faced the man on the Rainbow Bridge he was too much of a human to be a Dragon of Earth.”

Kakyou had Seen an awful lot of things. Deaths, destruction, pain and suffering and even the end of the world. He had talked to other Dreamgazers, to Hinoto who desperately tried to hope that the future could be changed, and to Kotori who had firmly believed it had not been determined yet. He had been proven, again and again, that they were wrong, that there was nothing he could do. The Dragons of Earth were merely puppets following the predetermined paths.

And yet the deep conviction of Kotori and Kamui who claimed that humans are masters of their own lives was something he could not dismiss easily. Hinoto, having Seen everything and, like Kakyou, having been unable to prevent the tragedies, had started to break. But even now she fought. Kakyou had stopped fighting a long time ago, he was broken.

If what the Kamui had just said was true, the difference between Hinoto and Kakyou made sense. The thought, freezing him to the bone for a moment brought a powerful wave of denial.

“Lack of humanity is what defines a Dragon of Earth?” he whispered hoarsely, afraid of the answer, nearly shivering. “I…”

“Have you never realised?”

“How can it be? Are we not humans?”

“We? The Dragons of Earth? Kakyou… As I said, the moment we cross the line between human and a Dragon of Earth is the moment we die.”

“Sakurazuka…”

“Died when he put Sumeragi ahead of himself, ahead of the Sakurazukamori pride, ahead of his fate as a Dragon of Earth and ahead of Earth herself. He crossed the line and was killed. Sakurazuka is the perfect example. Now, think of Nataku.”

“Nataku?”

“When he first joined us, did you see Nataku as human?”

“I’ve never actually met Nataku.”

Amused laughter stood in terrible contrast with the Kamui’s line of reasoning. “Well, did you See Nataku as a fully human being?”

Kakyou desperately wanted to confirm, but in the end couldn’t. “No.”

“No more human than Sakurazuka. A genetic experiment, out of a test-tube, with no mother, no father, no gender, no experience in life whatsoever, no feelings, no emotions. Carrying out orders without a question, killing without ever needing to know the reason—” The Kamui’s voce turned darker.

Was he reminiscing on his father’s death? Kakyou wondered. Was it a flash of Fuuma underneath that amused, empty – inhuman – exterior? From his own visions Kakyou knew that Fuuma had been as human and caring as the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth was inhuman and heartless.

“And then he started to have feelings. He started to care, to long, to Wish…”

“To love.”

“Yes. Those feelings were only developing; he didn’t even understand what he felt. Not being as self-aware as Sakurazuka, he didn’t fight those feelings, didn’t try to deny their existence, didn’t try to escape them. On the contrary, he fed them. Each time he came to me, they grew and he wanted more. And it was enough to cause his death.”

“I think I understand what you are getting at,” Kakyou said bitterly. “Sakurazuka, Nataku… but others? Kanoe loves her sister; I’ve witnessed enough dreams to—”

“I know Kanoe’s Wish, but it doesn’t matter. She is not a Dragon of Earth. Oh, try harder, my friend.”

Kakyou licked his lips nervously. “Kusanagi… He’s so… so full of compassion. He likes to help.”

“Help whom?”

The Dreamer frowned in concentration. “The Inugami mistress.”

“And who else?”

“I don’t know, I rarely dream of Kusanagi. But I get an impression that he’s a compassionate person. I dreamt of him taking care of an injured bird.”

“An injured bird. Bird. I don’t deny that Kusanagi is a compassionate person, but most of his compassion is reserved for the so called lower creations of Nature. Birds, dogs, fish, ants, trees, flowers. Have you dreamt about Kusanagi’s power?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“It’s non-aggressive in nature. Healing, even.”

A snort of impatience coloured the younger man’s response. “Stop projecting the desired traits onto him and answer a simple question. What is Kusanagi’s power?”

“He’s an elemental, like Yuuto. An Earthmaster.”

“Have you ever wondered why the elementals are distributed the way they are? Why the Watermaster and the Earthmaster were the ones to become the Dragons of Earth, while the Firemistress and the Windmaster became the Dragons of Heaven?”

The blond Dreamer bit his lip. No, he had never wondered, but the answer was rather obvious. “The Watermaster and the Earthmaster are by nature of their elements close to Earth. To our Destiny.”

“Especially Kusanagi,” concluded the Kamui. “He can feel Earth and her suffering like no other, possibly including myself. He understands Earth while he doesn’t understand people. He admires Earth and Nature while he has seen enough in his life of a soldier to despise people. Do you think he chose his profession out of compassion? Quite to the contrary, he’s not that keen on the human kind, despite all appearances. The strongest relationship in his life is his connection to Earth – and I know it all because of his Wish. His Wish is what makes him the ultimate Dragon of Earth, a Wish all of us should have. I'm determined to grant him his Wish.”

“But he helped the Inugami mistress.”

“Yes, the Inugami mistress. Not just a regular inhabitant of the world. A person who, like him and probably no one else he has ever met, has insight into the mystical side of world. I will tell you, Kakyou, that it is natural to feel drawn to people who share something with you. It’s why you could meet and love Hokuto, she had minor abilities of a Dreamgazer. Not only could Kusanagi, consciously or not, feel that the Inugami mistress was involved in the End of the World, but he could also feel that her power was exceptionally close to the Nature. It was that pull to the Nature that compelled him to help the girl, not concern for the wellbeing of a hurt child.”

Kakyou frowned. “Now you’re the one who’s projecting the motives on Kusanagi,” he pointed out. “You can’t know what caused him to help the girl.”

The Kamui shrugged. “True, it’s only a theory. But, seeing as he is a Dragon of Earth, it’s a very reasonable assumption.”

“Only because you assume he’s devoid of normal human feelings!”

“He’s a Dragon of Earth. Therefore, he’s devoid of normal human feeling.”

“We’re going in circles here. And if, just if, his actions were a result of normal human feelings?”

“Then he has made a first step towards his own annihilation.”

The Dreamer shrunk slightly in the other man’s embrace. “I haven’t dreamt of his death.”

“It is my belief that Kigai Kusanagi would be the last to succumb to his human nature, if at all,” the Kamui reflected. “He can see the big picture, he knows the stakes. He’s too much of a Dragon of Earth.”

“Others,” whispered Kakyou numbly, “Others are not so much concerned for the big picture. They don’t care for Earth all that much. They are human.”

“Are they? Who's such an exemplary human being? Yuuto?”

The blond man nodded hesitantly. “He’s affectionate. He... He and Kanoe…”

“So he sleeps with Kanoe. She’s that special for him?”

“No,” Kakyou sighed, recalling his dreams about Yuuto. There weren’t that many, not being really important in the grand scheme of things. Some of them, though, had power to make even Kakyou, who had witnessed many things in his visions, many dreams and many fantasies, blush. Yuuto having sex with a busty blonde; Yuuto handing a newly-wed couple a marriage certificate; Yuuto having sex with a dainty redhead; Yuuto advising the choice of name for a child to smiling new parents; Yuuto having sex with a young man with shaved head; Yuuto’s lips curving into an apologetic smile that didn’t reach his eyes as a pretty girl accused him of being a heartless bastard treating people like trash; Yuuto out on a stroll enjoying sunshine; Yuuto having sex with a college student on a break between the girl’s classes.

In Kakyou’s dreams the only Angels who were affectionate were Yuuto and Kusanagi. Yuuto seemed more alive than all other Angels put together, chasing pleasure and experiences with abandon.

“Affectionate,” the Kamui commented with a subtone of sarcasm. “Sakurazuka Seishirou also could be affectionate when he wanted to.”

Kakyou bit his lip, remembering the soft smile on the Sakurazukamori’s face as he had held a dying Hokuto with his bloodied hands.

“It was all an act with Sakurazuka. Sakurazuka didn’t care.”

“And Yuuto does?”

“Doesn’t he? Were all my dreams wrong?”

Kakyou had the upper hand here. His dreams were never wrong, and the Kamui had never tried to deny the fact.

“I’m not saying your dreams were wrong. I’m saying you didn’t really understand what you saw. Yuuto just goes with the current, doesn’t care what happens to him or anybody else. Nobody matters to him, nobody is important enough to go through the effort of keeping them. Kanoe wants him to sleep with her? That's fine. If I wanted to sleep with him, it would be just as fine. If Kanoe stops wanting to sleep with him, it'll be fine. He's a Dragon of Earth for the purpose of destroying humanity? That's fine. He might have to kill a Seal? That's fine. He might get killed by a Seal? That's fine. Everything is fine with Yuuto. And that's not the human way of perception. I know.”

“But he's searching,” Kakyou whispered miserably, hating to admit that Yuuto could get so close to other people without it meaning anything to him. Once, Kakyou would have sold his soul to the devil to be given a chance of getting just a fraction of what Yuuto seemed to bask in every waking moment. “He’s looking for something. He wants something. If he didn’t, he would be like Sakurazuka.”

A ghost of a mysterious smile appeared on the Kamui’s lips, the red eyes taking on a faraway quality for a moment.

Kakyou suspected he had stumbled upon a Wish.

“You’re right this time,” the Kamui said lightly. “He is looking for something. But he’s never been able to find it, and without it, he’s just a Dragon of Earth, and not a human. But if he finds it, he will die.”

A vision of Yuuto’s death fleeted through Kakyou’s memory, quickly chased away.

“What differentiates Yuuto from other Angles is that his Wish, in all its abstract and vagueness, contradicts the very idea of a Dragon of Earth. None other actually Wished to…” the Kamui trailed off. “Yuuto is complicated. Satsuki is much simpler, isn't she?”

Kakyou evoked all dreams he had ever had of Satsuki. The predominant was, of course, the dream of her death caused by the malfunction of the BEAST, but there were many others: a little Satsuki sitting in front of a computer screen, drinking in the stream of zeroes and ones; Satsuki in the company of people of unknown importance, looking apathetic and bored; Satsuki connected to the BEAST, with an enraptured smile on her pretty face; Satsuki co-ordinating a destruction of yet another kekkai; Satsuki watching through the BEAST the deaths she caused, her face blank, eyes completely free of either joy or remorse.

“Nothing that pertains humanity ever affects her,” Kakyou concluded quietly. “Neither affection nor destruction. She doesn’t care for any aspect, positive or negative. Nothing. Like Nataku.”

“Good!” the Kamui smiled approvingly, like a father proud at the progress of his child. “However, the Nataku comparison is not exactly right.”

“Nataku was emotionless as well. He didn’t care for humanity, he was like a machine. Satsuki also—“

“Satsuki would rather be a machine,” the Kamui laughed. “But, you still don’t understand. The difference between Nataku and Satsuki is that Nataku wasn’t given many chances of becoming a human.”

Kakyou recalled the dreams he had had of Nataku. There weren’t many of them before the bioroid’s joining with the Dragons of Earth. He had usually been locked in a tank or carrying out the orders of his creators. There hadn't been anything at all that would suggest any personality.

“He was thought of and treated like a machine, so he became a machine?”

“You could put it this way. Nataku started his road to humanity when he joined us, when I fulfilled his Wish. He was like a newborn child, learning about love and devotion and affection and all that makes a human being. He grew to become one just like children grow into their emotion-filled selves, and died. Satsuki had all her lifetime, not a particularly long one, I admit – to get in touch with humanity. She's rejected it, never felt any need for it.”

“More like Sakurazuka, then, than Nataku,” mused the Dreamgazer. “But Satsuki will die,” he added with the unshakable certainty the prophetic dreams gave him.

“Well. Satsuki’s Wish changed recently. Do you know what it used to be?”

That would be surprising. The Kamui of the Dragons of Earth never revealed Wishes of other people. “You would tell me?”

“Why not, it’s no longer her Wish.” The younger man grinned. “She wanted to become one with the BEAST. She wanted to have all the abilities, the insight and the power of a supercomputer. Don’t you see? She really wanted to be a machine, rather than a human.”

To Kakyou, such a Wish was an anathema. He couldn’t comprehend how someone wouldn’t want contact with another person, company, conversation, touch, love.

“That’s… sad.”

“Her Wish has changed,” the Kamui repeated. “She used to be an opposite of Yuuto, and now they hope to fulfil each other’s Wishes. Satsuki is certainly evolving.”

“Good.”

“Not really. If she evolves too much, she’ll die.”

Kakyou shivered. She would die, he knew. Did it mean she would discover her humanity? That she would learn how to love? If love was what had destroyed Sakurazuka and Nataku, shouldn’t he rather warn her? But then interfering with the course of the Future was pointless. And wasn’t she better off dying by becoming human rather than dying with the End of the World? The same went for Yuuto. They were all doomed anyway.

“Does it bother you?” he asked the Kamui. “That you might lose yet another Angel?”

“One empty place has already been filled; the second could be filled any day.”

Kakyou frowned. “It’s not what I meant.”

“You know what, Kakyou?” the Kamui turned his powerful red eyes at him. “Sometimes I think that you don’t want to understand. You of all people should know that what matters to me is their capacity as Angles, not them as people. They come and go, that’s all. It’s Destiny that binds me to them, not emotion or feelings.”

Kakyou’s heart contracted and curled up somewhere in the corner of his chest. He had always kept telling himself that he was beyond experiencing any more pain, but… But. The Kamui was unlike anybody else: so much more than any other person and so much less at the same time. Either way, his words had power to hurt the Dreamer, to make him bleed, to make him feel his own pain and not just dwell on the pain of others, to bring his soul out of the past and into the present, to make him care.

Two powerful arms embraced him tightly, enveloping his slender body in warmth, and he had an impression that his heart, or at least the dream projection of his heart, started to beat a little faster. The Kamui had also the power to make him feel something other than pain. A strange sort of contentment and hope and longing for something, something he couldn’t put a finger on.

“Didn’t like my answer, did you?”

“I—”

“You must face the facts, Dream Prophet.”

His title falling so dispassionately from the Kamui's felt like a sudden chokehold. The Kamui could grant Wishes, but he had a penchant for striking where it would hurt the most. Dream Prophet. Not Kakyou. As if Kakyou was not a person to him, just a tool. Just as he had been to everybody but Hokuto.

And the worst part was that most likely there was no "if" to it, a tool was exactly what Kakyou was to the Kamui. Even though the Kamui could be so infinitely understanding, comforting and warm, he perceived Kakyou just like he perceived everybody else: a clog in the mechanism that was about to bring the End of the World. And if what he said was true, any other perception was out of the question by the mere fact that the Kamui was the Kamui.

“I know.” He reached up to return the embrace. Try as he might, he could not detect the beating of the Kamui’s heart. Of course, they were in the dreamscape, but the dreamscape was Kakyou’s creation and it adhered to Kakyou’s rules. And yet, even here Kakyou wasn’t able to equip the Kamui with something as basic as heartbeat. “You are not a human.”

“I am the Kamui.”

The Dreamgazer shuddered at the calm acknowledgement as images that he had dreamt fleeted through his memory once again. The Kamui of the Dragons of Earth and the Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven eyeing each other – Shiro Kamui’s eyes filled with pain and need and want while his adversary’s are cold and cruel and devoid of any personal desire. Little Fuuma cradling a woman’s long-haired head in his small palms, the terror on his face giving way to the fascination with blood and death and destruction. The Final Day, two shinken crossing, two Kamui fighting and always, always pushing for this one terrible ending.

The Kamui of the Dragons of Earth narrowing his eyes, hissing in the face of the distraught Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven: “I'm not Fuuma. I'm the Kamui.”

Despite the Kamui insisting that prophetic dreams were like technical manuals, they revealed to Kakyou the true nature of the leader of the Dragons of Heaven. He might not know what made the Kamui tick, he might not know the Kamui’s Wishes, likes, dislikes or desires, if the man had any. But thanks to his dreams he knew exactly who, or rather what, the Kamui was.

And he also knew that until the leader of the Dragons of Heaven figured it out, the course of the Future would remain unchanged, heading to that one inevitable end that Kakyou had Seen. However, figuring it out and confronting it with his Wish would break Kamui's heart.

He had tried to explain it to Kamui. Every person has two selves. Two hearts – one kind, the other cruel. Two souls – one beautiful, the other ugly. Every person carries their own opposite inside themselves. But, powerless as always, he had failed and Kamui’s heart remained blind. The younger boy’s eyes could only see Fuuma’s face and searched desperately for Fuuma’s soul behind the red eyes, trying to slip past the cruel, ugly, empty soul of the Kamui, never seeing it for what it was. He knew that he and his counterpart were bound together without realizing how tightly.

Without realizing that they were one, missing the fact that before Kamui's Choice, humanity and inhumanity were distributed more or less evenly between the two of them. When Kakyou thought about it, he would go as far as saying that Fuuma had had more of humanity than Kamui had, but the Choice had ripped it all off. Kamui, on his part, had became deeply empathic and caring, which had't been his strongest suit before.

In order to bring Fuuma back, Kamui would have to defeat not Fuuma’s other self, but his own. Fuuma didn’t have the other self since he was a part of Kamui and always had been. There was no such thing as Fuuma’s evil side; there was only the Dark Kamui.

The Kamui of the Dragons of Earth knew that too.

“I'm the Kamui,” the dark-haired man sitting in the middle of Kakyou’s dreamscape repeated. “I'm not human.”

Kakyou’s head jerked up at the dark undercurrent in the younger man’s voice. This time it was not an inflectionless statement or a faintly-amused confirmation. It was tinted by anger, suppressed but deep and very, very personal. The next words, however, bore all the marks of callous cruelty that only the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth was capable of, shaking Kakyou, freezing his soul to the core.

“Neither are you.”

One hand loosened the embrace and crept up to cup Kakyou’s face and tilt it so that the red eyes could look straight into his, unfaltering, sure and merciless, spitting out the words that had to come sooner or later. Hearing them said out loud was enough make all his thoughts scatter helplessly in fright and denial.

The image of Hinoto, imprisoned within her own soul, fighting and losing and yet still trying sprung to his mind. And then the face of Kamui, refusing to give in to the fate, refusing Kakyou’s offer of an easy path, fighting.

No. No.

The Dreamer pushed the taller man away, causing him to fall back, and crawled back a little, just to put some more distance between himself and that… monster, liar, a puppet of fate with no soul and no heart.

“That’s not true! Not true!”

The Kamui raised his eyebrows sardonically. “I thought you understood.”

“I am a human!”

“You are a Dragon of Earth.”

Kakyou hugged himself, trying not to give in to the despair, not to curl into a foetal position of the floor and wait until everything ended, until the world ended, until the Kamui killed him. He promised… He promised to fulfil my Wish.

“I feel, Kamui!” he cried. “Are you trying to tell me the pain I experience is not real? That all that mind-numbing suffering I’ve been going through for years is just my imagination? My love for Hokuto? Tell me I don’t have human feelings, I dare you!”

The Kamui got to his feet and started to walk towards him slowly, appearing bigger and darker with every echoing step, like a dark angel of condemnation. He knelt next to Kakyou again, his long black coat fanning out on the floor. The face of the Wish granter was the only thing the blond man could see through the long hair that fell to cover his face. The other man brushed those strands away, so that the red eyes became a focus of Kakyou’s vision.

“You forget that I know your Wish, Kakyou. You Wish to die.”

Thump, thump, thump… Kakyou’s heart started to beat faster again.

“A death wish, as prominent as yours, is contradictory to any human being.”

“But I have feelings!”

“Oh? The love for Hokuto? It was enough to kill any budding humanity in your soul.”

“What are you saying? I loved Hokuto; I suffer in her absence…”

“The suffering, you said yourself, is mind-numbing. You run away from any more feelings, just Wishing for death. Always imprisoned, first in your ancestral house and then within your own mind, you have never experienced what other people experience. Even the love you think you felt, how real was it? Did you feel it because Hokuto was a person right for you, or because she was the first person you’ve met? And where did you meet her? In the real world? No. You have never lived, never went beyond the dreamscape save that one time when you crawled out of your house, trying to get to the Ueno Park. You have never been a human.”

“No… stop it, Kamui, please stop it!”

“You're like Sumeragi. He too has nothing, cares for nothing, aware only of the black emptiness in his heart, of the pain he suffered and of the love he felt. That’s why he became a Dragon of Earth, because after Sakurazuka died there was nobody in this world he would want to live for. He lost all those most important feelings that made him a human being. Even loyalty to other Dragons of Heaven, even the compassion for Kamui was not enough to keep him going. You're exactly the same. You loved Hokuto, once. There's nobody you love now, nobody you would want to live for. No amount of pain can keep a human being going. You're just a vessel for prophetic dreams – a Dragon of Earth. What's more, it is so by your own choice.”

Hinoto, fighting. Kamui, fighting. Kotori, making him give Kamui and Fuuma the message to fight, fighting for them in the moment of her death. Hokuto, facing the Sakurazukamori, fighting. Sakurazuka Seishirou, giving up his life, refusing to kill Subaru, fighting his role as the Dragon of Earth. Subaru, fighting for Sakurazuka’s recognition against all the odds, against the fate that kept them apart.

Kakyou, watching Hinoto’s efforts, Kotori’s struggles, Kamui’s torment. Asking questions, trying to figure out the meanings of the answers. Observing, doing nothing. Asking for death.

He didn’t even have his own opinion as to whether the future had been determined or not! He only weighed the Kamui’s convictions against Kamui and Kotori’s! He didn’t have any faith himself!

The tears that streamed down Kakyou’s face dripped to the floor, making soft splashing sounds as though the floor was a surface of water.

“Why?” he asked hoarsely, not being able to force his tight throat to any more effort. “Why are you doing this to me? What’s the point? You always hurt Kamui… Do you enjoy causing pain?”

“Enjoy? It has nothing with enjoyment. I only grant Wishes, the ones I’m able to grant anyway. Kamui, among other things, Wishes for punishment, so I give it to him.”

“I don’t Wish for punishment.”

“You could fool me. But, when it comes to me,” the eyes of the Dragon of Earth softened uncharacteristically, exuding tenderness, “You Wish for honesty. And I’m giving it to you. You… you are the only person who Wishes for me to me, even though you know what I am.”

They both knelt in silence. Kakyou’s dreamscape body shook with strain to keep him looking up, and finally he gave in. The Dreamer slowly went down to lie on the floor, his face falling to rest on the Kamui’s lap.

The odd mixture of warmth and coldness radiating from the Kamui descend upon Kakyou together with a realisation that he hadn’t been completely passive. He had chosen to join the Dragons of Earth. There was a reason he had made a deal with the leader of the Dragons of Earth. He could distinctly remember the feeling of purpose, the need to be be at the Kamui’s side that went beyond his death Wish.

He still didn’t know what that purpose was but he would find out. He only had to fight. If it meant he would die… well. It wasn’t like he was afraid of death. It would be worth it.

Kamui? What would happen if you started to have human feelings?”

“It’s not possible.”

“It was possible for other Dragons of Earth.”

“Other Dragons of Earth are, or were, despite everything, their own persons. I am not. I am the Kamui. The other Kamui.”

“But what if…?”

The Kamui pondered the question for a while. “Theoretically, seeing as I am a Dragon of Earth, I would probably die.”

Kakyou closed his eyes, desperately clawing his fingers into the soft leather covering the Kamui’s knees, fear and blackness choking him at the mere thought of being left alone in the dreamscape once again, of not being able to sink into the Kamui’s comforting, warm embrace, of not hearing his soothing voice whispering promises.

“Probably? You are not sure?”

“As I said, I’m not a whole person, just a… fragment.”

“What else can happen?”

Would the Dragons of Heaven win? Would their Kamui kill mine? Would Monou Fuuma come back? Would the Final Day fail to come to pass? Who would kill me?

Kakyou has never heard his leader sound startled before. More than just startled. Surprised, confused.

“… I don’t know.”

The Dreamer sighed as he felt two hands caressing his head, combing through his hair again. The lump in his throat eased its hold on his voice a little. “… Perhaps we should try to find out.”

If we just learned how to love…

Would the course of the future be changed?

Would all those people involved in the End of the World stop suffering?

Would I stop suffering?

Just for a short time, before I die, before the Destiny claims me, could I be happy?

Can I Wish for it?

Would you grant such a Wish, Kamui?

Please?