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slightly put off

sicklygarden in ghostsugar_rp

Familial Piety [closed to Yadoru, Chiaki]

[Set the day after A Song, A Song...]

Chiaki had managed to sleep uncannily well that night, despite his window scare from several days ago. Perhaps it was that Yadoru had so confidently reassured him that the face he'd thought he'd seen couldn't possibly have been his mother, or perhaps because the wind had died down the last few nights and he felt safe in his room again. He didn't really know what it was, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He'd noticed that when he'd rolled out of bed that morning that there was a missed call on his cell phone from Yadoru. It was curious that the buzzing on his nighttable hadn't woken him -- wasn't he normally a lighter sleeper than that? -- and that the call was listed at so late a time. Why would Yadoru call him so late in the night? Maybe it was a misdial, Chiaki reasoned. Maybe Yadoru had accidentally slept with his phone on his bed and rolled onto it by accident. He meant to ask Yadoru about it, just in case, but he found he never had the chance. And by the end of the day, as he quietly gathered his things to head back to his room, it had completely slipped his mind.

For Yadoru, however, the day had seemed to last forever. He hadn't gotten much sleep at all the night before; he'd tried to follow the trace of that vengeful spirit, but to no avail. By the time he had been aware of his failure, he'd had just enough time to get back to his room, catch a few small hours of sleep, and get cleaned up for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for him, school didn't let up no matter how much he wished otherwise; for today, he could have slept for hours without regretting a moment of it. He couldn't rest, though; Chiaki was in danger, and throughout class, his eyes had strayed to his friend on a regular basis. He knew that Shizuka could show up at any moment, and if he wasn't looking, he wouldn't be able to protect Chiaki.

But there hadn't been a single response. Not even a prankster ghost to break up the long monotony of his unspoken vigil. Perhaps that was for the best, however... once class ended, Yadoru picked up his things and trotted over to Chiaki, offering a small smile to him. Hopefully there wasn't anything pressing the other boy had to do. "Hey, Chiaki-kun... can I speak to you for a moment?"

Yadoru had caught him just on his way out the door, and Chiaki slowed down a little to allow Yadoru to walk beside him. Chiaki smiled slightly, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "Oh, um, sure. What's up, Chiba-kun?" As he spoke, he noticed the haggard look on Yadoru's face, the dark shadows underneath his eyes. You look like me, Chiba-kun. "You look tired," he said, instead of what he was thinking. "Are you okay? Did you not sleep well last night? Or, um, are you sick?" Maybe that's why he'd called so late. Maybe he'd been really ill? "Do you want any medicine? Or maybe tea? I have a bunch in my room..."

"Oh, no, I'm fine." Yadoru almost sounded defensive at that; if he was so badly off that Chiaki could tell he was having a problem, then clearly, he wasn't being a proper onmyouji. He should be unflappable and tireless at all times! ...but he was so exhausted, so worn from all those nights of patrolling and long days of school. Still, he forced all of that down, trying to smile at the other boy. "But I was hoping to talk to you a little bit. It's about my... um... extracurricular activities."

"Your -- oh. Oh. Right." Chiaki cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, but they were largely alone in the hall, the rush of the crowd having gone ahead of them. "U-um -- right! Let's go back to my room...we can have some tea while we talk, and no one'll bother us, I think..." He didn't believe Yadoru's insistence that he was fine -- since they'd met and become friends, Chiaki had learned that Yadoru had a tendency to put on a brave face, as if he weren't allowed to accept help. Maybe if they sat in peace, Yadoru could at least rest a little.

"All right, that will work for the best. I'll have to check something anyway." In this case, it would be the protective wards that he'd put up. It was possible that Shizuka might have tried to break through, and if she got enough strength, then perhaps they would have been weakened enough for some other spirit to take advantage of it. Really, he just couldn't run the risk of such an event. Meanwhile, he still had to talk to Chiaki about the situation with his mother, not to mention having to come up with some solution about how to get her to the afterlife before she was twisted into a horrific monster. What could he come up with? What would work? He didn't know, but perhaps Chiaki would have an idea. It was a hope, anyway. At any rate, Yadoru took the lead, striding down the hallway and down to the dorms. Needless to say, he still kept his eyes open for any threatening ghosts that were coming down the way.

Chiaki followed Yadoru, but one might have noticed that his stride was less timid than usual. Even Chiaki wasn't aware of it himself, but he'd grown slightly less timid, less of a doormat -- having a friend like Yadoru had inspired a slow swell of self-confidence in him that he'd never known before, but it was creeping up on him so slowly that he hadn't even noticed it yet.

They stopped at Chiaki's room, and Chiaki opened the door without a second thought. As they stepped inside, Chiaki noticed almost immediately that there was something slightly different about the air in the room. He tensed slightly, fearing the worst for a split second before he realized his window was open, blowing fresh air into the room. "Huh," he muttered to himself, crossing the room to close the window. "Could've sworn I left it closed this morning..."

The window closed creakily, and Chiaki sat down on his bed, smoothing the covers a little. "So, is there something wrong, Chiba-kun?" He studied Yadoru's face to try and get an idea of what was going on, but as usual, he couldn't read people worth a damn.

...the window was open? Yadoru closed the door behind him, then stormed over to the window, glaring at it. Was there something that had gotten through? The boy wasn't sure, but he knew that something could happen. And if something had been compromised... he stared intently at the window sill and the clear glass, wishing that he knew a better means of detecting the passage of spirits. Unfortunately, he wasn't really good at that particular part of the job... not yet, anyway.

For now, he crossed his arms and frowned, steeling himself for the inevitable complicated talk ahead. "Um... well... you didn't mention that your mother was still... 'alive,' as it were..."

Chiaki gave Yadoru an innocently quizzical look from the bed, shrugging out of his uniform jacket. "Um...she's not alive," he said, not catching Yadoru's intended meaning. "I thought I told you she was dead..." What a peculiar thing to say, he thought, as he stood up to dig around in his medicine drawer. Maybe he could give Yadoru something that would help him sleep a little better -- that was the problem, wasn't it? It occurred to him that maybe Yadoru wasn't just being forgetful, and he turned back to his friend. "Um, wait, what do you mean?"

"I... encountered her last night," he answered shortly, sounding a little peeved as he did so. Chiaki had said she was dead, not that she was a ghost! For an onmyouji, that could have been a fatal mistake! Ah, how could such a thing have happened!? "And you didn't answer your phone last night, either... that could have created a very big problem."

There was a definite peevish note in Yadoru's voice that Chiaki didn't catch right away. "M-my mom?" He looked half bewildered and half disbelieving, as if unable to fully process this information. "B-but you said that ghosts couldn't travel that far..." He gave Yadoru a plain look, the irritation on Yadoru's face catching up to him. He wasn't sure where that was coming from. "U-um, you didn't ask if she was a ghost or not. I d-didn't think she could come here, so it didn't seem important...a-and I didn't answer my phone because I was asleep." He frowned a little. "You called me pretty late. Did you expect me to be awake at a time like that?"

"Well, I hoped that you weren't that heavy of a sleeper," Yadoru muttered, as he knew it was entirely unfair of him to expect Chiaki to have been awake at that hour, but... the fact remained that he had failed at his one attempt to win her over. Now she wouldn't trust him at all, and without that, how could he hope to get her to listen to him again!? He couldn't blame himself for that, so Chiaki was the next-best thing. After a moment, he took a deep breath and explained, "Normally, ghosts shouldn't be able to do that. But I never thought that she'd be using you as her anchor, not after so much time! And because of that... we're all in a very, very dangerous position. You most of all."

Dangerous? What was so dangerous about his mother? And...why did Yadoru seem to be so upset with him for having missed that call? And what was all of this talk about "anchors"? Man, this ghost stuff gave Chiaki a headache sometimes. "I -- um, what do you mean, I'm her anchor? And what's so dangerous about it? She's just my mom." Chiaki shrugged. "Maybe she missed me a lot. She's my mom. I don't have to be afraid of her."

"Chiaki-kun... she's a ghost now. A spirit." He frowned, not sure how much further to explain. This was getting into the inner workings of the onmyouji, and not only was that dangerous territory, it could also be extraordinarily boring for individuals who weren't familiar with the terminology. "She... she can change. A ghost clings to what they had, but in the process, they can lose everything that they were. I think your mother is right on that edge; all she can think about is you. So..."

How much further could he go with this? What could he do to make Chiaki understand just how complicated a situation this was, now!? "She can't come in here, because of the barrier that I created. That weakens her, but... if she stays close to you, it is possible that she might revert back to what she was, which could be dangerous in this new situation. And... and I've learned a lot about ghosts here, some things that really make me worry."

He took a deep breath, and solemnly intoned, "Chiaki-kun, I don't want to say this, but as an onmyouji, I have to. I don't think your mother can remain the way she is any longer. Either she has to be convinced to move on into her afterlife, or I should exorcise her before it's too late. I want to help her, Chiaki-kun, but she doesn't trust me anymore!"

Chiaki's mouth went dry. Send her away to the afterlife? Exorcise her? He couldn't imagine doing anything like that -- not to his mother. How could he do something so cruel to the woman who, even after death, had stayed so close? Sure, it had always been kind of strange having a dead mother around, but...she'd always been there. How was he supposed to...?

And the way Yadoru talked about it, like it was something he had to do -- well, he could always just ask his mom to go home, right? Chiaki could talk to her. They'd always been able to talk, even if it was a little weird. Surely Yadoru's judgment was being clouded by all of his encounters with malicious spirits. Chiaki's mom wasn't like that; Yadoru just couldn't see it.

"I -- I don't want to exorcise my mom," Chiaki said flatly, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "I-it's...it doesn't have to come to that. She's my mom. I can talk to her. I bet if I talked to her, I could get her to just go back home, you know, i-if I asked." Yadoru was never interested in talking things out, it seemed -- he was all action, all the time, always right away. "S-she's my mom. She wouldn't hurt me. I..." He hesitated, swallowed a little, as if nervous. "I th-think you're overreacting a little, Chiba-kun."

Up until that last part, Yadoru agreed entirely. He was willing to negotiate with spirits when they were in a right mind to do so, but his experience in this Academy was that very, very few of those spirits were even capable of recognizing themselves or what they had become, or even what they had lost. So many of them just weren't capable of thinking like humans anymore, which meant that exorcism was the only option. Yadoru didn't like it, even if it did let him show off his powers as an onmyouji- his brother so rarely needed to use his powers, and here, Yadoru was always so drained!- and Chiaki did raise some good points about being able to negotiate.

Then he said that Yadoru was over-reacting. The boy frowned, then turned to the window, trying to wrestle down his first response. How dare he talk about something that he had no idea what he was talking about? How dare he say that Yadoru was over-reacting when he hadn't seen the ghost's reactions to someone other than her 'dear boy'? "You can't get her to go back home," he quietly answered, "her anchor is you, now. She risked dissolution away from everything to find you, and I'm touched, I really am! I don't want to exorcise her either! But that means she's been in this place for some time now, and she was obsessed with you when I talked to her. You can talk, but... at least carry a protective talisman! She might not be the same spirit that you knew back in your own home anymore!"

"A-and how would you know that? You didn't know her before," Chiaki argued, shrinking back a little against his bed. "If she came all this way in the first place, then she can go back, can't she? She'll have to. I-I'm not -- exorcising her would be like putting her to death all over again! I won't kill my own mom!"

The voice that rang out from Chiaki's throat startled even the boy himself. He quieted a little, drawing his knees up against his chest on the bed, an unhappy expression on his face. He didn't like conflicts -- he didn't like fighting. But Yadoru was just so... "S-she wouldn't hurt me," he insisted. "You don't know her. You don't -- it's not like you always know everything." His voice dropped to a mutter at the end there, an inflammatory remark of the sort that was never intentionally uttered by him. But he couldn't help but feel like Yadoru was imposing, somehow.

...so that's how it was, was it? Yadoru felt a flash of frustration, angry and insulted that Chiaki would dare say things like that. Yadoru was an onmyouji, this was his job! He knew things like this, and Chiaki was daring to put his personal feelings in front of experience and centuries of tradition!? It was humiliating, but tears started to well up in the young sorcerer's eyes; he'd thought that Chiaki could understand, but no, he wanted it his way. That's how it always seemed to be, and now Yadoru knew why he wasn't supposed to tell anyone about who he was. It was just begging for situations like this, for ungrateful people to think that they knew better. If he'd never gotten attached to Chiaki in the first place, he wouldn't have hesitated in this matter. But he had, and what had it gotten him?

He turned to the door, and shot over his shoulder, "She wants you to remove the barriers so she can bother you some more. Since I don't know her, you might as well, nothing bad could possibly happen. And... and don't bother talking to me in class, Aoki-kun." And with that, the onmyouji left, leaving the door open as he stormed away. Let the boy's mother take care of him, since he clearly didn't trust Yadoru's opinion any longer!

Chiaki was stunned silent. He'd only been trying to stand up for something he believed in, and -- now he'd lost a friend over it?

It had happened so quickly, Chiaki wasn't sure what to think -- do -- say -- any of it. The sound of the door slamming shut behind Yadoru rattled in his head, and he dropped it into his palms, letting out a muffled, distraught noise. Had he -- been wrong here? Was it too much to ask to have his mother and his friend? Maybe he'd gone too far. Maybe he shouldn't have questioned Yadoru like that. Maybe --

No, enough maybes. What was done was done. Chiaki decided, somewhere in the back of his mind, that it wasn't over yet. He'd just let Yadoru cool down and try to talk to him, later. For now, there wasn't much he could do. Except...

He looked out the window. The late afternoon sun blazed brilliant orange over the campus, blanketing everything in its warm glow. Chiaki absently chewed on a fingernail as he looked over the campus. Maybe it was time to go looking for his mom. If he proved himself right -- maybe he and Yadoru could be friends again.
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