'Miasma' and everything within it is my creation, and thus, by law, also my property. Please do not take any elements of this story - the plot, unique terms, unique settings, and especially the characters themselves - for your own use without proper credit and permission from yours truly. Everything you read here is original unless stated otherwise; elements I may borrow (quotes, historical references, etc.) will be given due note at the end of each chapter.

Although primarily a fantasy, this story also contains violence, graphic imagery that may be disturbing to some, and situations/references that may be unsuitable for some others. Should you decide to go ahead and find some of the content in the later chapters offensive in any way, do keep in mind that you have been warned in advance. Thank you.

M i a s m a


There was nothing except total darkness.

It was absolute, overpowering. 'Am I dead?' she thought. She surely hoped she was. She hoped the darkness meant forever, that she would never again have to open her eyes and face life. She hoped it was all over.

But it wasn't. She knew it couldn't be that easy. True, she was 'dead' in a manner of speaking, but here…she was very much alive. How ironic; the doctors there would do their duty and try fruitlessly to bring her back, but they would fail…because she was here.

Where was 'here'? She scoffed at her own mental question, although it surprised her a bit that she could. 'Here' was nowhere, 'here' wasn't even supposed to exist. 'Here' was unreal, as far as most people would be concerned. And she had hoped against hope, up to her very last breath, that by some miracle she would not have to end up here.

A few feeble rays of light cut through the darkness, making their way to her deep brown eyes. She turned to the source: the light rays had marked their paths clearly, radiating outward from a trapped globe of light enclosed by a human fist.

The light, feeble though it was, allowed her to see the face of the person causing the darkness. He was young, probably not even twenty, and deceivingly looked like any other mortal in her world. He would blend in with the crowd unnoticed if he wanted, although his appearance coupled with the charming sparkle in his blue-green eyes gave him a kind of charisma girls would fall for.

But she had learned long ago never to judge a book by its cover.

"The Guardian of Light," she murmured softly, awed at how easily, effortlessly, he was able to control it. "You…you are Keiku, aren't you?"

The boy regarded her with a look of surprise for a moment, before he nodded and smiled, as though impressed. He opened his hand to release the globe of energy dying to escape, and when he did so the whole room was suddenly bathed in light.

She squinted at sudden brightness, as her eyes had already adjusted to the dark. It wasn't a very large area, just a simple square room of gray stone. The whole room itself was empty, and the strange thing that bothered her the most was the fact that there seemed to be no way in or out. There were no doors or windows, no openings in the walls, ceiling, and floor.

She stared at the wall. 'If I can blast through…what lies behind it?'

"They may look like they're made of stone, but in truth this whole room is pure solid diamond," a smooth voice sliced into her thoughts. "You just have to look a little closer, Ana-san."

She whirled around, surprised. "You know my name!"

Keiku blinked. "You knew mine," he stated evenly. "I think it's just fair."

"But…" Ana shifted her gaze to the stone – or diamond – floor. As much as she hated to accept it, here she was. And unfortunately, here, she was alive.

"You are…one of Rouken's Guardians, right?" she asked tentatively.

The boy stared at her behind a shock of coffee-brown hair with a curious look in his eyes. "You know quite a bit more than I would have expected. How did you – ?"

"So you know the legend?" she cut in. "About the two sorcerers?"

"Yes, I do..." he answered slowly, as though unsure of where this conversation was going. "What of it?"

"Well..." Ana looked him in the eye. "You and I both know that I might not make it out of this place alive, so if anything happens to me...well..."

Keiku raised an eyebrow questioningly.

She sighed. Here she was, practically about to ask him to betray his own team! And how could she even trust him? They had met less than five minutes ago, only knowing each other's names. How could he trust her?

But the more she thought about her situation, the more she became convinced that she had no choice. And she had little time.

"What? Is there something you want me to know?" he asked.

She took a deep breath and let it out quickly. This was going to be difficult.

"I'm not sure if there's even anything left for you to know. You were spying, weren't you? When I was still alive in the other world…you would always send spies and watch everything I would do."

Keiku turned away, avoiding her gaze. "It wasn't always me."

"But you know everything now. There is nothing left to disclose. You have it all."

"True," he admitted. "But they were Rouken-sama's orders. We just followed him."

"You don't mean to tell me he robbed you of your free will, do you?" Ana questioned.

He seemed to ponder on this for a moment, before answering. "There are times I hate the guy," he mumbled, running his finger along the smooth wall. "But what can I do? I'm just a kid."

"I thought you were over a hundred years old."

"Over three hundred, to be exact," he admitted with a lopsided smile. "But it doesn't matter. I'm still the youngest, still the 'kid' to everyone else. So you'll understand if my words and opinions hold…a bit less water than everyone else's."

Ana straightened up, a little more at ease. "So..." she started casually, though she didn't exactly feel that way. "Whom do you fight for?"

Keiku looked away from the wall and at her. "Come again?"

"Whom do you fight for?" the woman repeated.

"...I'm not really anyone's bodyguard...I fight for myself."

Ana's face broke into a smile of relief. This was starting to get a little easier. But the hardest part was still to come, and she figured now was as good a time as ever to get it over with. "So...can I ask a favor from you?"


Ana held back a flinch from his almost incredulous tone. "Just one favor, a small one...please? Consider it a last request…before I die."

"…Technically, you're dead already," Keiku told her.

"I know, but if I lose this final battle...I'll die again." She looked him square in the eye, their gazes level. "And this time, it will be for good."

Keiku looked at her closely. 'Why should I do something for you?' he seemed to be thinking, and he looked like he was about to say it aloud when he paused, perhaps forced into a second thought when he saw the tears in her eyes that were threatening to fall any second. "Well…it depends," he replied, doubting his own words.

Sensing his hesitation, Ana pulled something out of an inside pocket of her white kimono. She placed it in his hand, saying, "If I don't make it out of the fight alive, please...give this to my daughter. That's all I ask." She paused for a while, as though unsure whether or not she wanted to let the object go. But gradually, she released it.

Keiku examined the object on his palm as soon as Ana took her hand away from it. It was a piece of jewelry, in fact...a necklace of tiny interlocking gold chains and a diamond pendant cut into a pear shape almost the size of an acorn. If it weren't for the jewel, the whole necklace would have weighed just about nothing in his hand. "Your daughter?"

"I trust you know her."

"Of course, I know Ayami. Not personally, but I'll be able to find her," he answered a bit reluctantly. "It will take some time though..."

"As long as she gets it before her turn to fight Rouken comes...after mine..." She let her voice trail off on purpose. 'I know this is the only way to save her...' She could tell the boy didn't really want to do it, but she didn't want her daughter to die. Surely he would understand that.

Or would he? He worked for Rouken, whom she knew to be a dark sorcerer heartless and cruel enough to not even care.If he could stomach working for that kind of person, how much different could he be?

…But what was it he had said? He only 'fought for himself'?

Keiku was staring at the glittering pendant in his hand. She knew he probably didn't need the extra trouble, but she was hoping he could make an exception in this case. She knew it was her fault…she should have given the necklace to her daughter long ago, so that none of this would even have to be happening anymore.

"Is this a family treasure?"

"It's…much more than that" she confided, beginning to regret making her request. "But yes…you could say that, I suppose."

He looked up at her. She felt the tears were back in her eyes, burning, one of them gliding smoothly down her cheek and landing on the crystal floor with a splashing sound that echoed in the sheer silence. Ever since their conversation had started, she had come to terms with her fate. She already knew how this would end. But…

"I'm sorry...if it means that much to you, then okay..." He swallowed hard, as though he knew there was no way out once he would give her his word. "...I'll do it."

Ana forced herself to face him, tears freely streaming down her cheeks now, unrestrained. He probably had no idea how much this meant to her, and to her daughter. "Thank you..." she whispered almost inaudibly.

It wasn't long before the ground began to shake. Cracks snaked through the extremely hard stone walls with loud reports, and bits of diamond crumbled from the ceiling to the floor. The force was enough to sweep both of them off their feet, and she was barely able to brace her hands against the hard floor as she fell.

Something appeared on the wall in front of them...it looked somewhat like a pulsar, a dying star, but it was spinning very slowly and had streaks of blue and purple, like an aurora. From it, an aged man stepped out and into the room. He was dressed in thick, dark robes with ancient symbols woven into the cloth – some of them were familiar, most of them not, but all seemed to glow unnaturally. In his right hand he held a large ornate golden staff taller than he was.

'Rouken', Ana thought, eyeing the man. 'So we finally meet.'

An exceptionally beautiful woman followed through the portal, holding a large quartz crystal bathed in an eerie yellow glow. Her long, straight hair shone like black silk down to her waist, where a belt of linked golden disks decorated and otherwise simple, albeit sleek, blue dress. Their eyes met and the other woman's gaze was solemn with a hint of sadness, almost apologetic. Ana greeted her with a slight bow.

Rouken scanned the place with narrowed eyes, and his gaze fell upon Keiku. "You. Guard the portal."

"Yes, my lord."

Rouken turned his dark green eyes to Ana. He sneered and his eyes glinted with intent. "I did not expect you to be here so early. Descendant of Mirasui...welcome to Miasma," he said, his voice dripping with thick sarcasm. "This is to be your eternal grave."

Ana met his eyes with no sign of fear or apprehension, though deep inside, her heart was beating much faster. "You killed my mother!" she accused bitterly.

"Yes, and her mother too, and her grandmother, and her grandmother's mother...the list goes on. These hands are more bloodstained than any of your clan's ever will be. My curse killed you in your world, although it was sooner than I would have expected. And now that you are in mine, these hands shall kill you again."

She glared at him with all the hatred she could muster; the tears were now gone from her eyes. "You animal!"

"How about it, Ana? Bow to your superior, and I promise I will make it painless."

Anger coursed through her veins. "Never."

The sorcerer smiled in satisfaction. "I never expected less. You've inherited and mastered Mirasui's power, the only kind of magic I haven't been gifted with. But I wonder…is it enough? Is it enough to let you walk out of this room and this world...alive?"

"It was more than enough when Mirasui killed you," Ana countered, glaring at him. A strange blue aura started forming around her, and the enclosed room suddenly turned much colder. "Admit it."

"I'll admit nothing. I'll kill you, then I'll kill your daughter. And then I'll be on my way to sweet victory."

"I won't let you touch my daughter!" Anger strengthened the aura and spiked bolts of ice materialized out of trapped air, hurling themselves toward the sorcerer with dead accuracy and speed.

"When will you realize that your goal here is to kill me?" he taunted, blocking each of the ice bolts with his staff. "Once I'm finished with all of you, I can live in flesh again, in the other world...my own body, instead of just borrowing from corpses. You and your daughter are the last I'll ever have to deal with…my goal is already set. Isn't that wonderful?"

"Your idle chatter does little to distract me, and possessing the body of a deceased mortal is not wonderful," Ana replied coolly. Her eyes turned from brown to a pale blue. The temperature suddenly plummeted even more, and the air became freezing.

Specters of ice materialized out of the aura, making swerves and erratic turns in the chilly air.

"Bury yourselves in his heart," she murmured.

The spirits lunged forward, emitting undead screams as they cut through the air, blurs of blue and white against black diamond.

"Well. I believe you may be stronger than I thought," Rouken commented. He plunged his staff into the floor, strong enough to create minute cracks that radiated from its opposite tip. It glowed a bright gold, giving off sparks of lightning in random directions. His face darkened, and a red globe of energy swirled within the hollow green orb. "Impede."

The orb stayed intact, but the globe exploded, sending sizzling red bolts expanding in a nova. The spirits of ice vanished in blue light and vapor, leaving only small crystals of compact water.

A stray red bolt hit Ana in the arm. She gritted her teeth to keep from screaming as the pain pulsated throughout her body. It had a slow, steady rhythm, like liquid fire. Her ears were filled with that demented laughter…Rouken's laughter.

'He's insane...'

The sorcerer's head was thrown back, mouth wide open in hysterical mirth. One hand held his staff proudly, the other on his waist...

'He's certain he's going to win...'

Ana looked at the other woman, the one with the glowing crystal. Her head was down, and her hair covered part of her face – it was difficult to tell what she was thinking, or how she felt.

Keiku stood by the portal and was staring straight ahead, the pendant in his hand concealed by his fingers closed into a fist. His eyes had dimmed and he had paled...

'They're all insane...'

She shouted and brought her arms straight and forward, parallel to the floor. A whirling orb of blue appeared between her hands and burst out into an ice spear that shot ahead, leaving ripples of light in the air, floating.

Rouken whirled the golden staff around his finger with incredible speed. Before it flew out of place in his hands, he grasped the ends and stabbed the air in front of him. "Kuro Rai!"

The orb turned misty black and produced an arc of black lightning. It collided with the spear and went straight through, cutting at an difficult angle made possible only by speed and timing, so that it never left the spear until its shape and body ended, leaving, from the ice spear, only a cloud of dust and frost.

Ana saw the Kuro Rai coming for her, even faster and crackling with electricity. Quickly she brought her arm around and over herself. Her aura expanded into a solid sphere of tightly packed ice.

'Please...' she begged herself. 'Let this work...'

She felt the impact of the bolt hit her shield...the ground seemed to shake and for a moment she thought she was falling. She saw the sphere disappear, thinning out from the back and thickening in the front, wrapping itself around the lightning snake, covering it in a layer of ice.

There it lay floating in the air, suspended in both time and space. Then, it crashed to the ground, bursting into minute specks of ice.

Ana looked into Rouken's eyes. She saw...surprise, mixed with mild confusion. Gone was the laughter, the easiness in his face. For the first time, she saw something different. Fear? No, it wasn't that. Amazement? Not that either, that term would be too much...

Maybe it was respect...respect for her power, her lineage, even. For her strength? It was possible. Respect from someone like Rouken was about as easy to earn as respect from a raging tiger, and to Ana, it made her feel special.

But her aura was gone. There was no way she could make that shield again in such a short period of time.

The pain...it had subsided, but it was still there.

"Well," Rouken finally broke the tense silence. "It seems I severely underestimated you."

She did not reply. She looked at the woman with the crystal again who, upon seeing her, turned the other way.

Ana put a hand over her bleeding arm and winced. She didn't know how much longer she could keep this up. Unless...

All of a sudden, the thought of snow entered her mind. Then it went away. She blinked, distracted.


Blizzard. Immense cold. Deadly wings of wind and blinding snow. Images of them all flashed in her mind, impossibly fast. What was happening? What was this voice in her head?

"But then again," Rouken interrupted her thoughts. "You haven't even given me a scratch, which is what I can't say for you..."

A drop of blood escaped her wound and hit the floor.


Against her will, she imagined herself buried alive, trapped in an avalanche... 'no.' What was going on?

And all of the sudden, all too quickly, the sorcerer's solemn expression broke and he burst into peals of insane cackling.

The cold seeped through Ana's skin and chilled her to the bone. The laughter was so loud...it was deafening, almost. She wondered why the other two in the room didn't seem disturbed by it. Maybe they were used to it.

It made her nervous.

'Snow…' The voice kept calling her…insistent, tense…what was it…?

Screaming demons of ice. Comets streaking through the sky. Snowstorms that raged and raged. Images in her head that flashed, as though teasing her.

"You and your daughter are as good as dead!" Rouken finished.

Something inside her snapped, and she knew what it was.

Snow...Mirasui...the cold future...all in his hands...whether she liked it or not.

"No!!" she shouted in defiance.

The whole ceiling seemed to disappear. Directly under it was a fog of blue and green and white...a swirling mass of light and dust that spiraled out from a deep blackish-purple center.

Rouken stepped back, gripping his staff tightly. "What?!"

Ana automatically felt her arms raised to the heavens. She felt the change, the new fresh power surging through her blood. The wound on her arm healed itself, and her eyes were of pure sapphire blue, pupil gone.

The words seemed to form themselves faster than she thought of them, as she muttered the incantation. "Union of Nature against which none can prevail...fury of wind and earth and ice...behold the hail..."

By the thousands they came, all coming from the aura hanging low under the ceiling, the stones were solid and compressed, and did not melt. Bits of crumbled rock within shells and shells of solid ice packed by time danced in the roaring whirlwind.

Rouken stared at the hailstorm in slight awe. The hailstones were going for him, through cloth, through skin, through tissue…stolen mortal flesh succumbing to the forces of another, gifted mortal. She thought for a moment she had finally gained his fear, and that maybe, just maybe, she would have a chance...

But then he smiled.

He swung his golden staff into a large arc, then back the other way. The paths crossed and the wind sucked itself into it, like the way air would be sucked in a vacuum.

Ana's eyes widened. 'No…what is this...?'

The storm itself swirled and swirled into the vacuum…it seemed to take forever, but slowly, slowly, the bluish-green aura thinned out as the dancing hail followed a haunting path and spiraled into the vortex created by her enemy.

The last of the hailstones went into the vacuum, and with them the aura disappeared.

Ana fell to the floor in shock. She had no more power left...she had used it all up in that last, desperate stand against Rouken…and yet, it had still failed. She felt weak, almost paralyzed...

The vacuum itself grew smaller and smaller, compressing itself into a tiny black jewel within the sorcerer's left hand. Rouken's expression was hard and unforgiving as he looked her in the eye one final time. "Die, mortal."

Ana saw the jewel aimed for her heart. Wordlessly she closed her eyes in defeat and tried not to think about the burden she had just passed onto her daughter.

The jewel exploded into bits before coming in contact with her skin, sending out a nova of frost and frozen bolts. For a few seconds the room was filled with a dark, eerie cerulean glow...then returned to normal.

Keiku grimaced and turned away from what was left of Ana. It was difficult, though...the pools of blood were on the floor, countless streaks of red painted the walls harshly. And the corpse...

How ironic that this was, or used to be, the woman he himself had spoken to just minutes ago. This used to be the woman who faced Rouken one-on-one, and never surrendered. This...cadaver…used to be the woman who, just moments ago, had summoned the hailstorm out of an aura, a feat Mirasui herself had never dared to try.

Rouken turned without a word and entered the pulsar-like portal. The woman followed him, eyes nailed to the floor tensely.

Keiku took one last look at the body, against his will, then entered the portal, clutching the necklace as a shiver crept up his spine...


"Watch it."

"I'm sorry," Keiku mumbled after almost crashing into another man. He was taller, slightly leaner and carried in his gaze a kind of wisdom that the younger Guardian had often learned from. He was dressed all in black, and a side of his face was deliberately covered by his hair – the side with a scarred eyelid closed over an empty eye socket.

The new room was in fact not a room but a hallway, with a soft black carpet lining the floor and teardrop topaz chandeliers hanging low from the ceiling. Behind him, neglected, the pulsar still rotated slowly.

"So. How was it?"

"Terrible," Keiku replied bluntly, deciding to be honest.

The man in black gave him a knowing smirk. "I told you it would be. I was surprised when you volunteered."

"It seemed...like a good idea at the time."

"Sugihachi," Rouken called to the man in black, who turned his head at the deep commanding voice. "Close the portal."

The finger movements were so quick Keiku didn't even catch them. The pulsar reversed its spin, then disappeared.

Rouken walked away indifferently, as though nothing happened. The woman bowed. "Thank you, Desuki-san," she said, then ran to catch up with the sorcerer.

Keiku had his eyes on the spot the portal used to be in. The necklace was in his hand, with the chains twined around his fingers. 'Ana...' She seemed so enigmatic even now, when she was already dead, for the second and final time. It seemed like she had so many secrets...and she knew so much about the legend...

'Still, I made a promise to her...'

Desuki had already started walking toward the other end of the hall when he called out. "Sensei?"

The other man stopped and turned around. "What is it?"

"You got some…extra time on hand?"

A dark, pronounced eyebrow raised in question. "That would depend..." He answered slowly. "Why?"

He fidgeted uncomfortably, shifting his weight from one foot to another. He knew it would sound insane, but... "Can you link a portal to the upper world?"

The eyebrow shot up even higher. "And...why would I want to do that?"

"You wouldn't. But…" Keiku felt the weight of the pendant in his hand...would it be right? Would it make a difference? He was tied to the promise he had made. "I have something to do up there..."


This story is one of those ideas-that-never-went-away, and despite many attempts on my part in the past to ignore it or put it aside, it refused to remain unacknowledged. One day I just gave up, and in the middle of Biology class began writing this prologue on several sheets of intermediate paper.

Why did I choose a manga theme? Well I've always envisioned this story as an anime, and if only I knew how to draw I would be turning this into a real manga. Sadly, however, that isn't the case, so I'm keeping the story up here until I meet someone who can draw and is interested in working with me, or just leave this as a novel when it's finished – although I'd pretty much prefer the former, I'll go with whichever happens first, meeting a manga artist or finishing the story. So don't be surprised if some Japanese elements (honorifics, fighting moves, some references to ninja culture, etc.) pop up throughout the story; just giving you all a bit of a heads-up before the story proper begins.

With that having been said, enjoy the rest of the story.