"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel..."
-Polonius, "Hamlet" I.iii

Hoops of Steel
Part I

Seiji blinked at the sudden scene laid out before him.

A desolate wasteland, barren, flat, dusty and dark. It was so lifeless that there was not even a wind to stir the dirt.

Seiji stood there, naked, and stared at the beacon of glowing light that was Korin

His armor sat there, sat, although it had nothing to sit on. The faceplate was down and it was empty and it sat and stared at him. He stared back and realized, for the first time, how cold and empty his destiny was.

He didn't want this.

He wanted to be warm.

And the thought of warmth made him of course think of Touma. Somehow...Seiji felt that if he turned around right now....Touma would be there.

So he turned.

Touma WAS there but he was fully armored, and sitting on nothing, as Korin was. His faceplate was down as well, but his eyes were open and looking at Seiji.

Seiji felt so warm then, and it wasn't desire, or, rather, wasn't JUST desire. He started to walk towards Touma, haltingly at first, as though he'd forgotten how.

Touma closed his eyes...and some of the warmth disappeared.

Seiji tried to walk faster but things were still going slowly, as if he were learning it all over again.

Touma started to fade, and again the temperature began to drop.

Seiji was now fighting desperately, but it seemed as though he were struggling against thick mud, and he reached out his hand towards his rapidly dissipating love.

Touma faded completely from within the armor, leaving Tenku empty.

Seiji stretched his fingers and still fought his way forward as the last of the warmth died.

His hand barely touched Tenku's shoulder guard, and it shattered. Not collapsed, SHATTERED, like ice.

He blinked and turned back to look at Korin.

The light it had been radiating had been extinguished. It looked like nothing more than a battered piece of antiquity. A relic of a forgotten age.

Seiji awoke feeling very, very, terribly cold.

He threw aside jewel-toned sheets and made his way to the bathroom. The mirror gave him his reality back: sleep mussed blonde hair, not-quite-awake violet eyes...and...

His virtue blazed on his forehead and then slowly faded out as he stared.

Something to do with Korin? With the armors? Where did that dream come from and what did it mean? he wondered. He looked out the small window and noticed the first hints of dawn. Might as well stay up then...but first I think I'll go check on Touma.

It wasn't until he was half-way down the hallway that he recalled Touma had left the day before for his family's home in Osaka. He continued on anyway, needing to somehow.

He entered Touma's room, getting a vague feeling that he shouldn't be doing so. After all, how would I explain this to the other guys, should I be caught? I'd never live it down. How sentimental and foolish it would seem...I can't go a day without him... The last thought rang an odd chord through him.

But all oddity and sense of guilt vanished as he fully entered the room and shut the door behind him. Here, more than anywhere else, he felt at ease. Because this was as much Touma as it was possible to get without him really being there. There were the bookcases, so filled with books that some were stacked next to them, and piled on Touma's desk, next to his computer. A telescope stood at the window. Offbeat posters (like the one depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out) nearly covered the walls, and Touma's bed was as rumpled and unmade as it always was, rich navy thrown askew. It made him forgetful to look at it; as though Touma would walk in any minute and ask him what he was doing there.

The room, like Seiji, was merely waiting for his return.

This is nonsense. Utter silliness. What happens next, I sit and stare out the window and sigh helplessly until he returns?? Do I then throw myself into his arms and cling to him desperately and make him promise never to leave again? Honestly...

But still...there was a dark corner of Seiji that said the idea had its merits.


"HEL-LLLOOOOO!! Earth calling Seiji! Come in Seiji!! Whooo-oooo..." Shu waved a hand in front of his face.

"I'm sorry, Shu, what were you saying?"

"I was saying we were thinking about hitting the lake here in a bit. Do you want to come or do you want to sit here and stare off into space some more?"

"Given the alternatives, the lake sounds much more promising." Seiji tried to smile just a little, but he had the feeling it didn't come out right. Shin arched an eyebrow and Seiji frowned and resolved to pull himself together.

It wasn't just that Touma was gone. It was that damn dream. It kept coming back to him, like a nagging child tugging on its parent's trouser leg insistently.

"Okay well go get your swim trunks, buddy! Last one out there's a rotten egg!" And Shu took off. Shin shook his head as he finished up the breakfast dishes. Ryo dashed upstairs to get ready. Seiji resolved a course of action.

Damnit it may make me seem silly but I have to do SOMETHING...

He only barely managed NOT to jump as a hand fell on his shoulder. He almost wanted to check to see if he had shattered or not.

"Something wrong, Seiji?" Shin asked him.

"I just had an odd dream last night. I've been trying to puzzle it out."

"What sort of odd dream? A nightmare?"

"I'm not really sure. In any case, staring off into space will not help me sort it out. I think I should just leave it alone for the time being; if it comes to me, fine, and if not, then not."

Shin nodded. "Good idea. Forget about it and have fun at the lake with us. We'll see you down there in a bit, hm?"

Seiji nodded in reply and Shin left him to his own devices. Good...

He took his time changing clothes, gathering his towel and sunscreen. He took long enough that everyone had left the house by the time he got downstairs, which was exactly what he wanted.

He dialed the number Touma had left for them.

The phone rang once.

Seiji waited.

The phone rang twice.

Seiji was sure he'd pick up now.

The phone rang three times.

Seiji began to grow impatient.

The phone rang a fourth time.

Seiji began to worry.

Halfway through the fifth ring...

"Hello?" I never thought I'd be so happy to hear any voice in the world... And yet Touma's voice sounded...off.


"Seiji! How are you?" He was forcing himself to sound normal, which meant he didn't sound normal at all.

"Apparently not much better than you are," he replied.

"I just had..."

"A strange dream?" Seiji finished.

"Yeah. How did you...?"

"So did I. That's why I'm calling. I just...get a wrong feeling thinking about it. I'd feel better if you were home."

A slight laugh on the other end, which already sounded more like the usual Touma. It was a comfort. "You sound like a worried mother, Seiji."


"Honestly...I sort of get the same feeling. But I was thinking that it was just homesickness."

"Touma, you're home now." He was visiting the family grave site and the local shrine, staying in his hometown, honoring his ancestors. Someone had to. His parents had little time for such things.

"No...I'm not." Any other time, Seiji would've rolled his eyes at the sentimental tone, the soft implication that home for Touma was in Seiji's own arms. But now, after that dream, it was exactly what Seiji needed to hear. He wondered if Touma knew that. "I thought it was just that I missed you. That I missed all the guys. But...it doesn't feel quite like that."

"Come home, Touma. I know your duty to your ancestors, but..."

"I promise, as soon as I can. There's a train leaving early this evening, and I swear to you, Seiji, I'll be on it. There really isn't that much to do here anyway, and I miss Shin's cooking."

Seiji couldn't help smiling. No one was around to see it anyway. Touma's little jokes and the thought that he'd be home tonight left him little alternative.

"Good. Because without you here to help Shu finish it off, there's a lot left. Leftovers from dinner and breakfast have almost filled the refrigerator as is."

Touma laughed. "I promise that the second thing I do when I get home is to draw up a plan of attack for those leftovers."

"Second thing?"

"Well...I'll leave the first to your imagination..." Touma's implications and innuendos; the conversation was abruptly back on a normal track. It was suddenly, instantly, as though the dreams, his and Touma's, had never happened.

"I'll see you when you get home then. Will you need someone to pick you up?"

"No, I'll take a cab. You know Shinjuku traffic on a Saturday night..."

"All too well."

"Take care, Seiji. Try not to miss me TOO much."

"I shall do my level best."

"Good man. Later."

"Goodbye." Seiji hung up the phone, feeling much relieved. Still...it was silly of him to have called at all. But that dream just would not leave him alone until he did so. He still wondered about it, but it no longer had the same sense of urgency. He shrugged and headed down to the lake. The others would be wondering what was keeping him, and a lovely day like this shouldn't be wasted anyway.


Touma flagged down a cab and pushed his way inside, slamming the door shut hurriedly. He hated the hustle and bustle of downtown; everything was so much easier out at MiNasuti house, where you could move life along at your own pace. The city's pulse was like his own in battle: harried, fast, quick, living on adrenaline and an edge of fear. He didn't like the reminder. That was all over now. For good, he hoped.

He gave the driver the address and a stern glare when the man seemed put out about their destination. It wasn't like he had to go all the way up to the house. Touma anticipated walking a little bit, to clear his mind. All the way back, there had been that dream pursuing him.

It had eased off a bit after Seiji's phone call...And boy, Seiji's dream, whatever it was, must've REALLY been something to make him like THAT...but it had returned in force as the train neared the station. Now he was lost in it again...and he wasn't happy.

All he could recall now were vague flashes and sensations...

...he was lost in the forest, unable to find his way out and it was dark...

...Seiji, in Korin, glowing...a feeling of hope and love...

...Seiji reaching for him, to help him...but when Seiji touched him, he felt pain...

He stared out the window, not really seeing the city speed past him, his eyes lost in trying to figure the damn thing out.

He didn't see the car.

Of course neither did the cab driver...until it was upon them.

The world became a jarringly loud intensity...and then went black.


Chapter 2:.
.:Wisdom's Sacrifice Fiction:.