The drive home felt like forever to the twins. No one had said anything since leaving the school, and the air was thick with tension. Turning on the radio didn't help as all the local news stations were abuzz about the mass monster attack and possible terrorists in the forest. The other stations had nothing but bad music on them. As the adrenaline of the battle wore away, exhaustion and dread followed as they realize that they whole lives were about to be turned upside down.
"So you're a magician." Saya said, wanting to get this over with. Not how she wanted to begin the conversation, but Mai had made it clear that there would be no discussion of these "Avatars" until they had reached home.
"That is obvious." Mai said, not even taking her eyes off the road.
Saya bristled in anger. "Don't give me that stone cold authoritarian crap, auntie! That's not going to work after the shit we just went through." She spat. "You're a magician and you didn't tell us?"
"I wasn't aware my personal life was of your concern." Mai replied.
"Does dad know you're a magician too?" Kira asked, keeping Saya from saying anything offensive. "Is he one too?"
"Yes, he knows I'm a mage, and no, he's not. Your father never had much talent for it. Your grandmother, my mother, taught me around your age for as long as she could." Mai explained. "That included anti—fae spells and such."
Saya's heated gaze turned to Sai, who was resting to recover his strength. "And you? When were you going to tell us about being a mage?"
"I was sworn to secrecy! Seriously, I'm sorry about keeping this hush-hush, but I wasn't allowed to tell you."
"Great, more secrets." Saya grumbled.
"You're not one to talk, Saya." Mai admonished. "I'd say this is hardly any more blasphemous than going off to fight yokai after school."
Kira and Saya stiffened n their seats. "How…" Kira began to ask.
"You safety is my number one concern." Her hard jade eyes glanced at them in the rearview mirror. "You two are targets now, to both humans and nonhumans."
They pulled to a sow stop upon the curb. It was getting dark now, and their apartment complex was deathly quiet.
It was still a bit early, but their father met them at the door. The twins caught a glimpse of their father and aunt's auras; Takeo's a light brown and Mai's a bright golden yellow.
"Are you two alright? I was so worried!" Takeo crushed his children in a tight embrace before moving to his sister, hugging her in gratitude. Not even Sai was safe. As soon as he was done smothering his sister, Takeo yanked the unsuspecting student into a huge more akin to a sleeper hold, all the while shedding manly tears of thanks and relief.
It all felt hollow to Saya, who knew that her father's love was real.
"Come in, come in." Takeo said in a strained voce. "I've made some ea."
"Takeo, have you heard about how those monsters were smuggled into the city?" Mai asked as they went into the living room.
"One of your associates, Tamao, said that it might've been an inside job. I heard there's still some fighting going on downtown." Takeo wiped the swat from his brow.
Mai furrowed her brows and made to reply, but Takeo shook his head and motioned to the twins. They were sitting on the couch with Sai, who was separated from an agitated Saya by Kira. All three children looked tired, but Sai was the worst of the three, still recovering from fighting two mages and a nue back to back.
"Kira, Saya, I know you have a lot of questions, half of them probably pertaining to topics other than today's incident. But please, I'll explain everything in order, but you'll have to bear with me, okay?" Takeo pleaded.
Kira nodded and glanced at Saya, who also nodded but in a stiffer manner. Takeo sighed and sat down.
"Okay," He breathed, now really nervous. "Now where to start."
"Let's start with discussing why my niece and nephew were going off on their own and fighting yokai." Mai said in her stern teacher's voice.
"We didn't mean to at first. It started when we were attacked by an oomukade last week." Kira revealed, which shocked his aunt and father. "We were almost done for, but then Saya did this thing with her hands…"
Saya held up her hand and created a light orb in her palm.
"Yeah, that. After that, we started practicing with our powers, and then more yokai started popping up and messing with us." He went on. "During the first attack, we ran into Ayane, who saved us. Then Saya stumbled upon Shirai, our other friend that was being attacked by a crow tengu."
"The two other children you started hanging out with." Mai said, crossing her arms. "What made you think they were trustworthy enough to be around?"
Saya shot out of her seat in anger. "They're a hell of a lot more trustworthy than you are, that's for sure!"
"Saya, calm down!" Takeo scolded.
"Don't tell me to calm down! We spent two weeks being stalked by yokai, then we get attacked by terrorists at our own school, then we learn that our aunt and best friend are mages and military officers—"
"Actually, I'm just a junior member of the Hunter's Union…" Sai said but stopped talking upon seeing the burning rage in Saya's eyes.
"Shut up, Sai!" She yelled and held up her glowing hands. "You don't get to interrogate us like we're the ones in the wrong after all that shit!"
"Saya!" Kira stood up.
"No, Kira, she needs to hear this! You know what, auntie? I don't care about your magic, and I don't give a damn if you've been a mage for years now," She said confidently. "Because Kira and I can do our own now, and without any training either."
"That's not magic."
Takeo's abrupt statement brought Saya's rant to a grinding halt. Both she and Kira looked at their father with wide eyes.
"What did you say?" Kira asked.
Takeo took a deep breath and looked at the twins. "I said your powers aren't magical. They're abilities that you were born with. You've always had them. They…they were inherited…from your mother."
Kira and Saya both felt something lurch within them as they were told this. It sounded unreal coming from their father's mouth, but they knew he'd never lie about something like this.
"Kira, Saya…you two aren't completely human. You're demigods." Takeo revealed. "And that means that your mother wasn't human…she was a god."
At that moment, the lives of Kira and Saya Asakura were changed forever.
The tengu were ancient and powerful monsters who lived mostly separate from humans, often living in remote communities far from human habitation, guarding ancient shrines and mountain regions they called home. People thought of the crow-like kotengu when the name comes to mind, as they are more commonly seen of the species. But only those well-versed in Nipponese folklore will know of the more powerful tengu—the daitengu.
Yura appeared at the bottom of a flight of stone stairs leading up to an old temple dedicated to the Sun God in a flash of light, wisps of energy clinging to her from her little quick travel from the ley line portal as she ascended the steps to the temple. The kotengu, large humanoid crows with their bodies covered in black feathers and large wings, watched her curiously and cautiously. Yura paid them no mind. She did not care about the lower rabble when she was here to see a king.
The daitengu of the abandoned temple was no different from his kin. He stood around 12 feet, tall and powerful with red skin and two large wings. His eyes were narrow and hidden behind a mask that sat atop his large nose. He was sitting on a pile of stones with a mandala staff clad in the robes of a monk, legs crossed as he meditated.
"Lady Yura," The daitengu intoned, his steely gaze settling on her. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"Lord Muramasa, I apologize for the abrupt visit, but I come with an offer. I require your assistance in taking care of a blight that has fallen upon our realm." Yura said, bowing to the daitengu.
"A blight?" Muramasa hummed curiously.
"Yes, one that was born from the humans. Lately there has been some disturbances occurring in our land. Half-bloods have been attracting lesser yokai to the town of Makura and causing all kinds of trouble."
"I'm aware of these odd events. The sudden influx of yokai to the nearby town, as well as the growing population of half-bloods in our land." Muramasa said. "I assume that this is what has you riled up?"
"Among other things. I've also learned that there are foreigners stirring up trouble on Nipponese soil, though for what I cannot tell." Yura said. "Whatever they are here for, their very presence upsets the spirits of the land, and insults our ancestors by bringing foreign spirits onto our shores. The sheer audacity is sickening."
Muramasa looked at Yura, noting how agitated she was getting by the second. As one of the last remaining nurarihyon, she was crucial in the yokai hierarchy as a leader and director of spiritual forces in the land, protecting wayward strays from human persecution and disciplining any yokai that got out of line. Yura was one of the few female nurarihyon who was born in Nippon, and though she was a capable leader, Muramasa noted her disdain for humans and their unions with the gods, which led to the birth of half-bloods, or as the humans called them, demigods.
"You seek assistance in eliminating the foreigners." He stated.
"Not just them, but the half-bloods as well. These half gods have always used their abilities to hunt and kill us and nothing's changed from the so-called Age of Enlightenment. The humans have become emboldened by their existence and hunt more of us every day. Their presence alone attracts weaker yokai, causing humans to slay them, drawing the attention of stronger yokai who in turn kill more humans. Even some of your tengu have been killed by half-bloods." Yura said passionately. "In the past, humans wouldn't dare raise a weapon against us, and now they seek to dominate us just as more western barbarians infest our sacred land. I will stand for this insult no longer!"
"I agree with your viewpoint, my lady, but the humans have powerful magic and technology on their side. Start a war with them and you risk the loss of many yokai lives."
"This is not a war, Lord Muramasa, this is an extermination. If the humans raise a hand against me, then they'll die too, but my quarrel is with the invaders that continue to make a mockery of the land of our ancestors. I already have many of the kappa and kitsune clans on my side, as well as many of the rural yokai out in the countryside. I've even obtained the support of two other daitengu, and I come here seeking your assistance as well."
Muramasa stared at Yura silently for several minutes before closing his eyes. "I will not join you, Lady Yura, but I will not stop you either. Just be careful of the humans. When pushed into a corner, they are at their most dangerous. The half-blood children even more so."
"They're children, Lord Muramasa." Yura smirked. "They possess raw power, but have no means to properly use it."
"Very well. Should any of my tengu seek to join you, they're free to do so. But I implore you to take heed of my words, my lady." Muramasa stressed. "Do not underestimate the humans. They can be a formidable force when faced with a common enemy."
"So can we." Yura said darkly.
The world of Terra was protected by six mighty gods known as the Primals, who were the embodiment of the strongest entities of the natural world: they were the gods of the Sun, the Moon, the Sky, the Stars, the Earth and the Ocean. Legend said that the Primals were born from the Great Spirit, the creator of the universe who created the Primals to watch over and govern the natural laws of Terra.
The Primals were genderless beings who looked nothing like humans, and were the physical embodiments of the domains they represented. They lived apart from the mortals that worshipped them, but also watched over them in various forms. Most commonly, these gods like to take on human form to walk among mankind unnoticed. Why they do this is a mystery that is still being debated to this day.
Because they disguised themselves as humans—be it male or female, for gender had no meaning for the Primals—the gods often fell in love with certain humans and from the unions, a child was born. A child that harbored the attributes of both mortal and god. These children born from the union between man and god were called demigods.
Kira and Saya always wondered what kind of person their mother was. They knew little about her, only that they inherited her hair and fair complexion, getting their green eyes from their father. Anything else was kept secret by Takeo. Kira wondered if she died while Saya thought their mother just abandoned them with their father and that was that. It was a viewpoint she gained after constantly seeing other children with complete families.
They were both wrong.
Their mother was a god, and they were demigods. Now they understood why their father never talked about their mother, he probably had no idea who she was until the twins were born. Demigods possessed great power that often drew the attention of monsters the older they got. Monsters hunt demigods either as food or out of spite.
Despite this, this new discovery brought up a lot of new questions too.
"Our mom…is a god?" Saya gaped, still unable to believe it. Takeo nodded.
"Yes. She had went by the name of Ammy, but I had a feeling that she may have been someone else entirely." He confirmed.
"A god…our mother." Kira breathed, his eyes as wide as they could be. "Gods above…"
"Take a deep breath, Kira. I know this is a lot to process, but…" Takeo said.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Saya demanded. "We've spent thirteen years wondering who our mother was, and you just left us hanging thinking she was dead or some other stupid shit like that!"
"I'm sorry, Saya, but your mother made me vow not to reveal your true nature until your powers started to develop. In this day and age, there are a lot of monsters and humans that seek to use demigods as weapons or worse. I didn't want to put you two in danger."
"You know about the recent attacks on people with above-average mana reserves happening all over the country. Your father took a big risk to protect you both." Mai said. "The life of a demigod is hard, and he did his best to make sure you two had at least the semblance of a normal life. At least respect him for that."
Saya clenched her fists and gritted her teeth, but she nodded. She learned enough from her grandmother to know about how powerful demigods could be. History was full of them, from Joan of Arc and Boudicca to Emperor Akitsu and Rama. She also read stories of demigods who spent their entire lives being hunted by monsters both human and nonhuman. Factions that used them as weapons in wars and conflicts. Demigods were almost guaranteed to live non-ordinary lives, and now that burden was placed upon Kira and Saya as well.
That wasn't enough for the twins, but given their situation, they could leave this for another time. Right now, there were other important things to get some answers about.
"Okay, so we're demigods, right, that's cool, but maybe you can shed some light on what's happened today." Kira looked at his father. "First off, what's an avatar?"
That was clearly the question Mai and Takeo had been dreading, as they visibly shifted in discomfort. Sai, who remained silent for the entire exchange, knew that he was going to learn something way above his pay grade.
"Uh, yeah, of course we remember." Kira said.
"Baba always told us that story when she was taking care of us." Saya said. "It's our favorite."
The Tale of the Seasons was a fairy tale that Kaede Asakura had told her children, and later her grandchildren. The story goes that an old sorceress is visited by four sisters, who each in their own unique ways are kind to her; the first by encouraging him to reflect and meditate, the second by bringing her fruit and flowers and revitalizing her garden, the third convincing her to step outside and embrace the world, and the fourth by encouraging her to be thankful for what she has. The sorceress gives the four sisters great powers in return for their kindness, and as the embodiment of the four seasons, they go throughout the world spreading their gifts.
"I love that story growing up, but what does it have to do with us?" Kira asked, dreading the answer.
"Because that story is true, at least to some degree." Takeo revealed, shocking the three children. "There are four people in the world with immense magical powers born of the four seasons. They are the avatars, and within them are sacred sources of power that continually absorb and emit natural energy."
"And two of those avatars..." Kira whispered. "Are us?"
Takeo nodded, his expression solemn. "We've been studying the effects the powers have had on your, and how your auras would subtly increase during specific seasons. From what we've learned, Kira is the avatar of autumn, and Saya is the avatar of spring."
"Commonly, an avatar is born with this power, which remains attached to their soul from birth until death." Mai said. "Following an avatar's death, the power moves to find another host. Possibly at random."
"'What does that mean, 'possibly at random?'" Saya asked angrily.
"It means I don't know." Their aunt's voice was sharp and impatient. "No one does. We're not even sure how much of the fairy tale is even true. What we do know is that an unmeasurable sum of power lies within you two, and our enemies want that power for their own selfish ends."
"You mean those people from earlier." Saya said. "What do they want from us?"
"Those people from earlier are from the Phantom Society." Sai said, finally getting the chance to speak. "They probably wanted an avatar so they could have the power to wage war on society."
"You seem to know them pretty well." Saya didn't mean to sound so harsh, but Sai went silent and hung his head.
"Leave him alone." Mai's eyes flashed. "A good number of the Phantom Society are defectors and traitors from all over the world. It's not unusual to have old acquaintances with them, but no one is proud of it."
Saya was about to make a snappy remark, but Kira loudly cleared his throat.
"Just so we're on the same page, are we talking about the same Phantom Society that's on the news? The same group that preaches wiping out the old order and all that stuff?"
Saya let out a noise of disbelief. "So what, the minute we start shooting laser beams around every asshole in the world crawls out of their hole to kidnap us? How the hell did we survive for this long?"
"Your grandmother place suppressive seals on you and Kira to mask your potent auras. This was to keep your powers from going out of control, since there was an…incident from when you were in preschool." Takeo explained, not looking at them. "But when you two got older, we couldn't remove them. It would have been like breaking a dam, so we had to wait until the seals started to break down naturally. To be honest, we thought we still had a few more years."
"I told you, brother." Mai scowled. "I told you we should've at least warned them."
"You did, Mai, so many times. But can you blame me for being selfish?" He stared up into his sister's eyes. "All I wanted was for them to have normal lives, even for just a while."
Mai looked away. "I know."
"But you lied." Saya growled, angry tears running down her face. "Normal? We weren't normal since the day we were born! Our mom, our powers, everything was just one big fucking lie! What else are you hiding from us?"
"Wait, you mentioned an incident in preschool." Kira cut in. "What did you mean about that? I don't remember anything happening in preschool."
Takeo took even longer to begin explaining that little piece of information, but eventually he found the courage to do so. It was clear that what he wanted to tell them wasn't going to be good.
"When you two were in preschool, a yokai attacked your class during recess. I don't know exactly what happened, but it had been attracted to your strong mana signatures and tried to attack you. Kira, you jumped in front of Saya to protect her and got hurt in the process."
Kira's hand unconsciously went to his left shoulder, where he had a faint pink scar. "I…I thought I got that in an accident when I was little."
"It was no accident, Kira. You were hurt protecting your sister. And I suppose the stress of seeing you get hurt on top of being attacked was too much for Saya, because not long after, your power exploded and caused serious damage."
"Exploded?!" Saya's eyes widened. "W-what, like a bomb?"
Takeo looked away and even Mai looked uncomfortable.
"Don't go quite on me! What happened?" She yelled.
"The explosion of your power destroyed the classroom and…killed everyone inside, even your teacher. Kira survived somehow, probably because he instinctively used his avatar powers to protect himself, but the strain had caused some unforeseen damages to your bodies." Takeo said. "Namely memory loss."
The twins looked at their father in horror. "H-How long?" Saya asked.
The pain that had faded a bit since the battle returned in full force as Saya finally reached her limit.
Kira and Sai were flung away from her as a black aura burst from her body. Even Mai was thrown back by the force of her niece's power. The living room was in shambles, the furniture shattered and swept against the walls. Clay figures smashed, certificates burned. Only Takeo remained untouched, standing in quiet repose. The table that stood between them lay split perfectly in two on either side.
"I…I killed them? I killed all those children? I hurt so many people, and I don't even remember it. How…how could you keep all that from me?!" The strength of her rage and sorrow wove about her like flower and caused the entire floor to tremble. Black energy whirled about her like a tornado, hot to the touch.
"Saya!" Kira yelled, slowly inching towards her.
"Takeo, get back!" Mai yelled.
Takeo slowly walked toward his daughter, ignoring the sting of her black aura against his skin.
"Saya, it's not your fault."
"It isn't. You had no control over your power nor the circumstances that led up to it. You are no monster. You're just a scare little girl who needs up. And I'm here for you."
Saya felt two big arms wrap around her and hug her body closer to his chest. Her vision was full of stars and everything felt hazy and dreamlike. Why did she have to find out like this? All she wanted to be was become a magician and learn magic, to train and become a member of the Sun Guard. To become Nippon's strongest mage. How could they accept her now? Her, a walking magnet for yokai and power hungry terrorists. It was so unfair!
"It's just…so damn unfair!" She cried.
"I know it is. But I'm here for you, and so is your brother. We're all here for you."
Something began to calm her down. A soothing voice in the back of her mind that felt familiar to her. She focused on her father's arms wrapped around her and that lovely voice calling her name. The black aura around her body slowly ebbed into a faint glow around her body that began to fade.
When Saya came back to her senses, she felt her father's arms still around her, but also something else. Something warm and sticky coated her arms.
"I'll…" Takeo's voice sounded weak in her ear. "I'll never let you two go alone. I'll never…"
Takeo fell back away from Saya, a red stain growing near his stomach as he collapsed to the floor. She barely realized what was going on until she heard Kira cry out.
"No…" She fell to her knees, staining her gym shorts in a pool of red. "Dad!"