"Please," Yuki's broken voice finally arose. "Don't make me see this."
"Do you think you're special?"
The voices then all cackled together, amused at a joke only they knew. Their glee made Yuki even more anxious. Up until this point, he had seen bits and pieces of this day. Those fragments were never enough to entice to find out the truth of that day. And he never intended to do it in the future either.
And here he was. Face to face with the haunting visions.
The voices hung over him. They tried to push him.
"Don't you want to live?"
"Don't you want to get on the other side?"
"Aren't you a bit curious?"
He stood stuck in the same spot. His palms, sweating. His eyes, hazy.
Quickly, he realized he was having a full-blown panic attack. He couldn't breathe. He took in sharp gasps for air. His fears trampled at the little courage he had left. "Mama. Oh my god. Mama."
The three voices loved seeing his despair. They gnawed at his wounded soul.
"Awwww, widdle Yuki is sad."
"Widdle Yuki wants his mommy."
"Widdle Yuki is too scared."
Yuki, weakened by his reawakening trauma, crouched down to his knees and tightly wrapped his arms around his legs like a frightened child. He buried his face into his knees, waiting for everything to pass him by.
But, there was one problem.
This was a memory so it would play on whether he liked it or not.
The two children were heading towards the direction of the smoke. The closer they came, the stronger the stench of burning wood. Asuka covered her nose and pinched Yuki's nose with the other.
She explained, to the already tearful boy, "My mommy told me smoke is bad for our body."
Little Asuka led him through by the nose. Abruptly, she stopped. "Sakura-chan!" In a split second, she was gone. Little Yuki had no idea his guide possessed freakish speed. All he thought was she vanished into oblivion.
"Oh no." He cried, swerving sharply behind a tree.
The older Yuki felt it. There was a strange aura, reverberating through the shadows. Trees were snapping in half. Swarms of birds rushed, trying to escape from that Qi. Both Yukis were struck by the sight of silver serpents in the sky. They slithered in a frenzy, which reminded Yuki of the bizarre vision he had at school.
Little Yuki cowered in the safety of bushes while the forest flew into chaos.
A cloaked figure leaped from tree to tree. Shortly behind him, there were multiple groups of men and women giving chase.
"Get that corrupted soul at all costs!" A woman commanded. "The bastard is not worthy of facing justice."
Yuki peeked over the bushes and caught sight of the black hakamas. Quickly, he hid again.
It was the Exorcist Society!
If they were here...
Yuki looked for a better spot to hide behind.
If they were here, he thought, they could help Mama!
Although they terrified him, he knew they were his best shot at helping his mother. He moved away from his hiding spot to expose himself. Just as he was about to reveal himself, he was suddenly lifted off the ground. The cloaked figure had scooped Yuki away before the Exorcist Society could see him.
Tamashinigi clanged as it fell to the floor. It no longer glowed the vibrant blue. Instead, it revert back to its rusty form.
Asuka was overwhelmed by sadness and fear. It was as if there had an invisible lid on her feelings and now everything was pouring tears belonged to her younger self, who never had the chance to deal with her pain.
As the tears poured, Asuka had not noticed the flickering pink light traveling towards her. The light shined brightly before it revealed a beautiful woman. Her white hair hit the ground and extended for miles. Her kind pink eyes were cascaded by feathery white lashes. The silk garments she wore weathered and torn, but they couldn't destroy her regal air.
The mysterious women took gently steps towards Asuka. Once she opened her delicate lips, Asuka recognized the soft, motherly tone.
As soon as Asuka looked up, the woman bent down to her level and brought her into a warm embrace. "It's you." Asuka returned the hug. "You're the one who's been guiding me. You're the voice in my head."
The woman broke the embrace to gently place a hand on Asuka's cheek. She simply nodded. With her thumb, she wiped the streams of tears on Asuka.
Here was a stranger, caressing her face and Asuka didn't feel any alarm. In fact, she felt only comfort from this woman.
"Why are you here? How are you here?" The questions burst from Asuka.
The woman sadly smiled. "You're finally beginning to remember me."
"Remember? Have we met before?"
"Yes," she nodded. "Many years ago."
A sudden image came to Asuka's mind. She could vividly see a memory.
Her long white hair was stained by blood and her warm pink eyes were beginning to dull. Gently, the woman held Asuka in her arms. The woman's lips were oozing blood, but she continued to smile. She stroked Asuka's face with her cold hands. "Everything's okay." Asuka could hear how brittle the woman's voice was.
Sakura beamed. Soon, her smile wavered into a pitiful smile. She could hear the oncoming pain in Asuka's words.
"You died. I saw the tree. Someone killed you." Panic set in Asuka's eyes as flashes of images bombarded her mind. She saw the decaying tree. She saw the pools of demon blood.
Sakura wrapped her arms around Asuka again. "It's okay," she soothed her, by patting her back. "It's okay."
"No, it's not!" Asuka removed herself and stood up. Doubt set in. Could this really be Sakura? Her memories told her she was dead.
Sakura remained where was because of fear. She didn't want to agitate the already terrified Asuka. But, she had to be truthful. She had to for her once-little friend. "I've been dead for over a thousand years," she began to say.
"You mentioned a tree. Why did you associate me with it?"
Asuka uttered in a little whisper, "I heard your voice in it."
"I, like many of my kind, have been bound living things with strong Qi. That tree was my shelter, cage and vigil. When you met me, I was stuck. You were my first friend in decades."
"We were friends?"
Sakura weakly smiled as Asuka came back to sit next to her. Back then, Asuka was an even more curious child. She couldn't help but smile when she saw the curiosity remained in her. Sakura continued, "You used to visit me every week. Being a Seer, you had an easier way of sneaking from your parents."
Asuka couldn't believe what she was hearing. She used to run away from home? That was her cousin Ryu's M.O.
"I was a Seer?! Did I know I was a Seer?!"
"Not exactly. I didn't want to risk you getting caught."
Asuka grimaced as she thought of the Exorcist Society. Tomoyo and Yuki had told her that those people kidnapped Seer children. "How did I last this long without getting their attention?"
"I had to place a seal on you."
Wide-eyed, Asuka stared at Sakura with fresh eyes. This beautiful woman was emitting a bright silverish pink aura. Little orbs twirled and hovered over Sakura. Asuka had once seen something like this. When she exorcised the Gymnasium demon, it broke down into tiny particles just like Sakura was now. "You're disappearing?"
Weakly, she smiled. " I am," she admitted.
"Wait, why? I just got you back. Why are you leaving me?"
"Asuka," she kept her hand on her cheek. "Your memories are going to return. I've done my best to protect you from that day. I hoped the day you remembered would be further away."
"I don't understand." Asuka clutched her old friend's hand. "Why can't it be further away? You can stay in my head!"
"You've come across a power older than me. One that is dark and wretched-" Her legs began to glow as they disappeared. "I don't know how but that spirit is back to claim you. I can feel it here with us."
"What? Power? What power?"
Sakura smiled through her tears. "It's nice to see the Heir of the Black Lotus is just as pure as the first one."
"Lotus? You know the Lotus Clans?"
"The Sogas were our friends. They treated spirits and demons with respect but they changed after the first heir was-"
Sakura became stuck in a daze. "Sakura-chan?" Asuka grabbed her shoulders and shook her. It didn't snap her back. Her body continued to disintegrate. "I remember when that evil spirit stole her soul. It was cruel. It came in as a lover and left as an executioner. The demons were devastated too. That evil spirit threw everything into disarray. Harmony was broken by its selfishness. That thing-"
"Sakura-chan? Stay with me please. You can't go. Not like this."
"That corrupted soul-"
For the first time, Asuka saw hatred etched into Sakura. Even enraged, Sakura was breathtakingly beautiful. Asuka brought her hands to Sakura's face. Sakura's eyes were clouded by a distant memory.
"Sakura-chan," Asuka's voice broke into sobs. She finally had her friend back, but she was leaving her. And this time, it was staying permanent.
"Asuka? Do you remember the day you told me you loved him?"
By now, only Sakura's head remained. Asuka wiped her tears with her arm. Sakura was too far gone in her delirium so Asuka had to play along.
"I warned you. I told you it was impossible to love a creature like him. One twisted by darkness cannot match with your purity. You are rare. You are kin to us spirits. You who can cross to the Halls of the Forbidden. You who can cross to the Demonic Sky. And you choose him as your betrothed?"
"I love him. Isn't that enough?"
"Love will not protect the Black Lotus. We need you. We ALL need you. The White and Red Lotus are vultures, waiting to strike on the spirits and demons. They want to forge a weapon with the darkest intentions and tear us from our sacred land. The Lotuses promised my people peace and you took everything!"
"Asuka, you fool. I told you. I told you."
"I promise I'll wait. I'll right this wrong. I swear."
"I'll keep you safe. I'll guard you."
The delirium was in full force. Asuka could only watch as Sakura finally vanished.
"Asuka-chan, you won't be like her. Please, forget."
Asuka's dark brown eyes transformed into complete whiteness. Her blue Qi blasted from her chest. With a loud BOOM!, Asuka vanished from the darkness.