Something was definitely off.
Rin noticed that the moment he opened his eyes. He pushed himself off the ground and took a checking look around. Almost looked like the monastery they'd grown up at, all with the little yard, fence and buildings at their proper places. But how had he gotten here? Yukio was nowhere in sight, nor any of the others. He was all alone here.
If it wasn't for the white-haired .. someone. What was his name again?
"Call me Nox, boy", the creature said behind him and Rin span around on his heels, heart beating up to his nose. "So this is your.. graveyard? Interesting"
Nox ignored the confused looks the other gave him and started pacing. Yes.. this wasn't like the last one at all. The demon felt like grinning, but kept it to himself for now. Finally, no more darkness. No more tombstones covering the ground. No more mistletoe tree. No more masks. He'd taken it for granted that souls looked like that, but seeing this place now, he was almost relieved he'd been wrong.
"Hey boy..", he began again, quietly enjoying the harsh flinch he saw in the sanguine-haired half-demon as he spoke up. "Do you realise where we are?"
Rin shook his head, unable to form coherent words. Nox sighed. This was gonna be soo awesome. He'd expected the kid to snap, but this was ridiculous.
"The thing you picked up is not just a talisman. It belonged to a good friend of mine. A friend who happens to be your blood-related father."
The demon waited for a reaction other than being stared at as if he'd just grown a second head. Also, other than seeing his counterpart step back on wobbly legs and drop on his butt, eyes wide. Then he realised what he'd just said and saw his mistake. Being in here allowed him to access this kid's memories and knowledge; he should've known better. Making a note to keep this in mind, Nox went on.
"No, not who people told you is your father. Even if the guy was a devil in his own right.."
Rin still didn't seem to comprehend. So Nox decided to slow down a bit.
"This place is .. well. Let's call it your heart. Everyone has such a place inside them, but few ever go there. Some people have the power to come here out of their own free will. Can you follow?"
The other just nodded slowly. Alright.
"One of them was your father. He was a so-called Harmonixer, that is a person who can transform into a monster by fusing their soul with the ones they get from killing monsters. Still good?"
This time, the nod still came, but horribly delayed. Nox almost saw the cogwheels turn inside the youth's head and hear them creak from being underused.
"This talisman you got is the key to this place. Well, one key. There sure are more in the world. Every harmonixer has their own variation. My friend's aunt had this weird mirror. Her son was fond of a katana. As for my friend's father.. he owned the periapt before Yuri."
"Yuri..?", Rin whispered. He'd heard this name before. But it didn't make sense.. wasn't his mother's name Yuri? How much coincidence..
"Hah. They got it all wrong. Or maybe they bent the truth. Your mother's name Alice."
"Yeh. A good girl, if I may say. All blond and slim and pretty. She died after you guys were born. Oh, she was an exorcist too. Just so you know."
"What happened to my father..?"
"You will love this one. That Fujimoto-guy you consider your daddy killed your real father. I was there and saw it - well, more like.. Yuri used my powers at the time. Not a pleasant thing, I tell ya. Stabbed right through the heart. Yuri was dead right away. Then Fujimoto found what your father had been protecting; you and your brother. You were mere toddlers at the time. He wanted to kill you to break the bloodline, but he couldn't. Instead he decided to raise you guys as normal humans, can you imagine? What a fool.. He even sealed your fusion powers in that sword you carry.."
Rin seemed lost. At least according to the far-away gaze his eyes had taken. Nox shook his head. Oh well, enough information for today.
"I think you should go back now. Come visit any time you like - it's your heart after all. Keep that periapt with you, it's more valueable than your life"
The demon nodded at the talisman Rin still held in his hand. The youth looked at it, trying to process the new information. His life had just gotten a little bit more complicated, hadn't it? Damn.
"Hey boy, see that gate?", Nox then said, pointing at the very same gate Rin had used for ages when he left the monastery for school. Rin looked that direction, then back to the demon, nodding.
"Go there. Your friends are worried. Can you hear them?"
Rin! - Shiemi's voice.
Okumura! - Suguro.
Nii-san..! Wake up! - Yukio.
As he listened, they became even louder, repeating and echoing in his head. The distant feeling of his shoulder being shaken. Also, a dull pain on his left cheek. Absentminded he rubbed the sore spot and slowly stood, albeit without his usual grace. Confusion and exhaustion made him stagger as he neared the gate. Before he could pass though, he heard Nox again.
"Don't let them know just yet. Unless you want them to think you're crazy. Otherwise be my guest and go ahead."
"Who would believe me anyway..", Rin said, his voice quiet and shaken. Then he crossed the threshold.
Bright light blinded him.
"He's coming to!"
"Everyone get back. Let him breathe"
"Rin, can you hear me?"
Said one slowly cracked open one eye and groaned. His head felt like cottonwhool had replaced whatever was between his pointy ears. He didn't even try to use his legs; rubber all the way to the ankles. A nasty itchy feeling down his spine, along the tail; every hair stood from what he felt. At least his arms showed some enthusiasm and didn't give in as he sat up, looking around. So that Nox-guy had been right; he was back in the real world. Surrounded by worried looking friends, still inside the cave, still on that rock platform.
For a moment he wondered if all had been a weird dream, then felt the talisman in his hand. Not a dream then.
Also, his cheek still hurt. Absentmindedly he raised his free hand and touched the spot, only to find Shiemi suddenly running away, her head one red mess.
Yukio, sitting next to him, snorted with a smile as he looked after her.
"She was really worried and slapped you. Sorry, I didn't see it coming", the glasses-wearer said and offered his older brother a hand as he stood. Rin gladly took it and found it surprising he didn't fold in right away. His tail also was a lot smoother than it felt. Still, Yukio's eyes were on him.
"What happened?", the dreaded question came like a lightning bolt.
Rin found it difficult to answer the same, so he scratched his head and said he didn't remember. By the looks on his brother's face, the youth wasn't convinced, but didn't push further. Without asking he put his older brother's arm over his own shoulders and helped him down the stairs.
With that the field trip was over as soon as it began; sooner than any of them had anticipated. On their way home, Yukio noticed Rin was more quiet than usual. He tried talking to his brother, but the half-demon just avoided his questions and eye-contact until Yukio gave up. He'd drill him later, when they were alone. Maybe he was embarassed and didn't want to talk about it in front of the others.
But surely he'd open up.
When he'd dropped Rin in their common dorms, Yukio had gone to inform the director of the recent events, starting with the pested classroom. He was promised the problem would be taken care of and sent off with a smile and a wave, suspiciously quick too. As if Mephisto had something to hide - oh well, scratch that. The man always hid something. In the end, it might've been him who'd organised that coal tar invasion; just his style. He'd know Yukio would take the class on a trip. But that seemed pretty far-fetched, even to the youth himself.
Frustrated he hadn't made any significant progress, he returned to the dorms.
As he entered, he found Rin sitting on his bed, staring at the pendant in his hand, as if trying to figure something out. Yukio was about to ask, when the elder was faster.
"Say, Yukio.. If I knew something, but it was totally crazy.. would you believe me?"
"Of course, you're my brother. Whatever it is, you can talk to me."
At that, the elder's eyes softened a little.
"Even if it's .. really crazy?"
"Spit it out, nii-san."
Rin smiled, then shook his head. "Nevermind. Maybe I fell badly or something. Hit my head or so."
With that, he put the item into his pocket and crawled under the bed sheets, just to drop like a stone, his back to a frowning Yukio.
"Rin..", Yukio said, but the only reply was a, somewhat artificial, snore. Whatever his older brother had to hide; tonight he wouldn't get it out of him. Let him have his secrets for now then, sooner or later he'd talk. Yukio just hoped it wasn't something world changing which better sooner than later should be addressed and would get worse by his behavior. Actually, come to think of it, Rin usually behaved this way only if he was hurt and didn't want anyone to know. Last time he did that, he'd almost bled out before he'd even made as much as a sound. And even then Yukio had only gotten to him because Rin had fainted due to bloodloss.
Nii-san could be incredibly stubborn at times.
He would keep an eye on him. And don't he dare to be not fine.
The next morning Yukio woke to find Rin's bed empty. Now Rin wasn't an early bird - usually. There was still a couple of hours till lessons started. Yukio decided to first complete his morning routine, then look for his missing brother. He couldn't be far after all; students of the academy couldn't just leave the town without authorised personell to open the protective forcefield. Anyone attempting would experience the same feeling as running head-first into a wall - and wear the marks to show for it for the next few days. Unless Rin had forgotten about it and tried to run away, he'd be around somewhere at least. Even if he had forgotten, he'd be there and would highly likely return sooner or later anyway.
Why would Rin, of all, run away?
As Yukio progressed through his morning rituals, this question followed him. It was even still there when he approached the (new and temporary) classroom where the students already waited. To his dismay, his brother wasn't amongst the crowd. That little spark of worry started to kindle, but he tried to keep it out of his face. He could feel a small frown on his forehead tho, refusing to leave.
As they entered the classroom, with Yukio following behind everyone and closing the door as he did, he threw another glance over his shoulder, as if expecting Rin to come running at the last second.