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He Doesn't Believe in Psychics

Chapter Text

“That boy is dangerous.”

“Why even try to take care of him? You’re just going to end up dead.”

“He should’ve died with his parents in that wreck…”

“Everyone starts dying when he comes to live with them.”

“I’m not taking him in! I have a family to take care of!”

“Just leave him on the streets, it’s safer for everyone that way.”

 

It was hard to imagine anyone wanting to take in the youngest Arisato after learning what happened to people when he went to stay with them. Death after death after death; always shoved on the eight year old’s shoulders. Whether or not it was truly his fault clearly didn’t matter to the rest of the family; at that point most of them had had enough.

And of course, the only reason the boy was even thinking about it at the moment was because his great-aunt had died not three weeks ago, and now the rest of the family-and extended family-were trying to figure out what to do with him.

“Why can’t we just give him to the orphanage?!” One aunt exclaimed in exasperation, and he swore he could hear her facial expression and body language from the hallway. “It’s not like we’ll be responsible, right?”

He heard someone huff their disagreement, then speak up: “We are not condemning those poor children to death! Someone has to take him.”

“Then why don’t you do it?!” After that, he started to tune them out. It was the same two who argued every time someone new died. The only thing that differed was the amount of distress surrounding arranging another funeral, and the cost of doing so. Most of the time, they had to settle for something cheap and quick, since people died so often in that family.

Because he had started to tune the two yelling women in the conference room out, however, he didn’t notice someone else walking down the hallway.

“Excuse me,” the gentle voice nearly made him fall out of his seat in surprise, “I’m sorry to startle you, sweetheart. Do you know what they’re talking about in there?”

“Um…” He looked down at his hands, his heart still beating wildly in his chest. “Yeah. They’re talking about who’s going to take me in next.”

The woman blinked a few times and stood up straight, a small frown creasing her otherwise soft features. “I see.”

“Why do you want to know?”

Without skipping a beat, she turned her head down to him and flashed a bright smile. “I’m interested in becoming your guardian. You don’t remember me because the rest of the family has tried their best to keep me away, but I’m your mother’s sister.”

“Oh.”  

“You’re awfully quiet, aren’t you?” This newly found aunt sighed and took the seat next to him. “That’s alright, I think being quiet has an entirely different benefit than being loud and obnoxious like myself.”

He frowned a little bit and kicked his legs quietly. “Why are you so interested in me? Don’t you know what happens when I live with someone?” He sounded bitter… which was unsurprising, considering his current situation.

“Well, my dear, I would like to see what causes this.”

“You’ll just die.”

“So be it, then.” She shook her head and stood up, “I’m going to go in there and propose my idea, but before I go… my name is Mikoto. I think Arisa said your name was Minato?”

“Yeah.” Minato sighed a little bit. He was only eight, so he figured his opinion didn’t hold up to much against someone like Mikoto; but he found he didn’t really mind, anyway. “Good luck convincing Aunt Haruka to let me stay with you.”

Mikoto laughed. When she did, Minato noticed, she looked so much like his mother. It tugged at his still-raw emotions and made him turn his head away. “Don’t you worry, sweetheart! It will be a piece of cake for me.” And just like that, she left the hallway to negotiate with the rest of the family.

Not half an hour later, she reemerged with a broad, proud smile on her face. She was followed by Haruka and her sister, Yukiko, who looked… less than pleased with whatever had gone down.

“Good news!” Mikoto exclaimed happily and threw her arms up, “From now on, you get to live with me in Iwatodai!”

Judging by the expressions on his other aunt’s faces, Minato would venture to guess they didn’t agree with the whole “good news” thing. Haruka opened her mouth to say something in rebuttal, but eventually thought better of it and closed it again. Instead, she just sighed.

“We had this under control until you got here, Mikoto.” Yukiko didn’t seem to have the same inhibitions her sister did, and she crossed her arms. “You’ll just get him mixed up in your dark magic.”

“It’s not dark magic, Yukiko.” Mikoto sighed and shook her head as she held her free hand out for Minato to take, “I’m psychic, not a witch. You’re just upset because you can’t deny my existence any longer.”

Yukiko huffed--so Mikoto had gotten it right, then--and turned her head away. “Well, whatever. You’ll just die anyway, psychic or not. I’ll take you to get his things, and--”

“No need!” Mikoto smiled as she lifted Minato off the ground and into her arms, “I’ve already put his bag in the back of my car!” It was like she knew she was going to win the debate… Something about it gave Minato a warm feeling inside. “So we’ll just be going now; it’s a long drive from Kyoto to Tokyo, after all, and I’m sure Minato is very tired.”

Neither of the sisters said anything, so Mikoto took that chance to start toward the parking lot of the hotel the family was using to host their meetings. “There… I’m glad that’s taken care of.” She paused for a moment. “Would you rather walk?”

Minato shrugged. “It’s up to you.”

Mikoto sighed softly and closed her eyes for a moment. “Then I’ll just carry you until you tell me you want down, alright?” That seemed like a pretty good compromise to her, at least. “It’s a bit of a walk to the car, after all.”

“Okay.” Minato nodded a little bit and closed his eyes for a moment. Something about Mikoto seemed… safe. It was obvious the rest of their family didn’t trust her, but he wasn’t anything like them. They had made that painfully obvious.

Mikoto just hummed softly as she walked, a small skip to her step. She was much like her sister in many ways, even if her demeanor was slightly different. It wasn’t like every set of twins was absolutely identical in every way, after all.

“Is something bothering you, sweetie?” She asked after a short while. They were nearly to the car, so she had slowed her gait slightly. “It looks like you’re thinking about something pretty deep right now.”

“...How did you know?” He couldn’t keep the surprise off his face--or the words in his head, apparently.

Mikoto laughed and shook her head. “Just some intuition and a little bit of eye reading.” She said it so casually, it was like she did these sorts of things all the time. Maybe she did, it wasn’t like Minato really knew. “So what’s got your goat?”

“Nothing important.” Minato shook his head and turned his eyes away. He felt like Mikoto could see right through him if she wanted to… she seemed like that kind of woman. “I always look like this.”

“So you do.” Mikoto smiled and gently ruffled his already unkempt hair. “You must have had a rough life after your parents died, hm?”

Minato shrugged lightly. It was kind of a sore subject for him, still; considering the incident happened only ten months ago. He felt like he’d aged more than ten months, so maybe whatever Mikoto saw in his eyes was that too-early maturity that came with the deaths of multiple family members?

“You poor thing.” Mikoto kissed his temple gently and closed her eyes. “And on top of that, people are blaming you for every little nasty thing that happens, like you have a curse or something…” She clicked her tongue and shook her head, then sighed softly. “I disagree. You, Minato, are very special.”

“...I’m special?” Minato frowned over to Mikoto and sort of wiggled to get down. He could see her car--how he knew it was hers was beyond him--and wanted to walk the rest of the way.

When Mikoto did put him down, he nodded a little bit. “What do you mean by that?” He couldn’t see how he was “special”. He kind of agreed with the others… it had to be a curse.

“I’ll explain on the way home, alright?” Mikoto smiled and ruffled his hair again. “For now, just know you are incredibly special… and that you got that specialness from your mother. Arisa would be proud to know her abilities got passed down.”

“...I don’t think I understand.” Minato frowned, “What abilities?”

Mikoto stopped just before the car, that same knowing smile on her face from before. “To put it simply,” she said, “you’re psychic.”

Chapter Text

Minato just stared at his aunt for a long time after hearing her statement. Psychic…? There was no way! Sure, his mom had been psychic, but there had been no proof she had passed that ability on to her son…

“I can tell you don’t believe me, sweetheart.” Mikoto hummed and placed him in the back seat. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll explain everything to you once we get home. It will all make sense eventually, I promise.”

Minato bit his lip. “Okay…” He could believe her...for now. He still wasn’t sure what to think of Mikoto, considering she had come up to him so suddenly… “I trust you.”

Mikoto’s entire face lit up at that, and she kissed his cheek happily. “I’m so happy to hear you say that, Minato. I won’t betray your trust.” Though the words had been the same through every adult he’d ever met, Minato had a feeling he could actually believe Mikoto when she said it.

“Yeah…” He turned his head away, his cheeks a bit red from her sudden joyous outburst. “You… are going to tell me though, right?” He just… had to ask.

“Of course,” Mikoto nodded and started the car. “I wouldn’t lie to you. If you’re anything like your mother, you could probably see right through me!” She punctuated the end of that statement with a short laugh and a shake of her head. “Besides, respect has to come from both sides.”

Minato nodded and stared out the window as she started to drive. “I guess you’re right.” Even though all he’d been taught was that adults deserved respect no matter what, and children were just supposed to go along with it.

“We’ll work on that.” Mikoto sighed and turned onto the highway. “Why don’t you take a nap? It will be about 5 hours before we reach Iwatodai, anyway. It’s a long, boring drive; even if you’ve made it before.”

Minato’s only response was a small hum of acknowledgement and a nod. He would probably end up taking her up on that one… For being an eight year old, he sure was tired a lot. That included now, but he had been so high strung up until just recently, it hadn’t gotten the chance to set in yet.

Mikoto smiled patiently. “I’ll wake you up when we get to the house, okay? Just get some rest for now, and we’ll get to know each other better later.”

When she looked back into the rearview mirror and saw he was already soundly sleeping, she hummed softly to herself. “Sleep tight, little angel.”

 

-------

 

It was dusk when Mikoto pulled into the driveway of her little house. “Alright, here we are.” She unbuckled herself and looked back. Smiling, she hummed softly and put a hand on Minato’s knee. “Alright, sweetheart, time to get up. We’re here.”

Minato groaned and rubbed his eyes sleepily. “Mm…?” Had he really slept the whole ride there? How odd… He rarely even slept through the night. “Oh... “

“Good morning, sleepy head.” Mikoto laughed as she turned off the car and opened her door. “We made it without incident, and you slept the whole time!” She was surprised, but only a little. Minato had looked exhausted the moment they left the hotel.

Minato seemed embarrassed by that, and he carefully slid out of his seat to open the back door. “Do you want me to carry anything…?”

“No, I’ve got it!” Mikoto shook her head. She had already grabbed everything out from the trunk, anyway. “I will have to ask you to open the door for me, though. My hands are a bit full at the moment.”

“...Okay.” Minato nodded and went up to the front door. The entire house probably looked super weird to most people, but… he thought it was nice looking. Something about the eclectic decorations and oddly placed flowers made this house feel like… home.

MIkoto smiled softly as she stepped inside and carefully removed her shoes without her hands. “It’s small, but it’s home. I hope you don’t mind that it’s messy all the time; I never could get the hang of organizing everything properly.”

She laughed and beckoned Minato to follow her up the stairs and to a small, mostly clean bedroom with a garden view. “This will be your room! It’s small, so if you want to move somewhere else, you can, but I hope this will do for now.”

“...Thank you.” Minato nodded as Mikoto placed his bags on the bed and came over to ruffle his hair. “It’s nice.”

Mikoto smiled and lifted him into her arms. “I hope you enjoy living here, sweetheart. I’ll do my best to take care of you until you’re ready to go out on your own.”

Minato nodded again, quietly, and tentatively wrapped his arms around her neck. She sounded so sure that she wasn’t going to die, or get hurt… “You’re sure you’re not going to die?”

“No, but I don’t see the point in dwelling on what might happen.” Mikoto shook her head and set him down once they reached the kitchen. “I prefer to live in the now, regardless of my precognitive abilities. It’s much less stressful that way.”

“Oh.” He scuffed at the floor and pursed his lips. He didn’t know why that bothered him so much, but it did. Maybe it was his fear that Mikoto really would die if she wasn’t careful that made him so upset.

She noticed this and kissed his cheek. “My dear, there’s no need to worry so much about me! I’m pretty strong, you know.” She grinned as if she was about to say something stupid. “I could probably beat death if it came for me.”

“Are you sure?” Minato blinked a few times. She was joking, right? She had to be joking. Part of him wanted to laugh, but the other part of him wasn’t entirely sure if she had meant it as a joke. He laughed quietly anyway. “I don’t know.”

“I do.” Mikoto smiled and kissed his other cheek now, just to be even. “You’re going to lose all your hair by the time you’re ten if you keep this up.” She laughed at his frown and shook her head. “I appreciate how conscientious you are, but leave some of the worrying to me, too.”

Minato stopped for a moment. “...Okay then.” He would try not to worry so much… even if he figured that was virtually impossible. Maybe living here wouldn’t be as stressful as he had expected it to be…

Then again, it very well could be, if the fact Mikoto had decided to try and cut a tomato with one hand said anything about the upcoming years… He could be in for a long ride with her.

Chapter Text

Minato had expected to wake up one morning to find his aunt dead in her room, or to come home from errands to the little grocery shop to find her in the reading room, but that day never came. Four years came and went, and nothing happened.

Mikoto was pretty damn proud of herself, too. She liked to tease her now twelve year old nephew about one day just taking a long nap, and gleefully accepted the punch go the arm she got from it. It was a happy life, even if it was a strange one.

One day, though, while Mikoto was preparing breakfast and simultaneously trying to read some old American Literature (which wasn’t working), Minato remembered her comment from their very first day together about him being psychic. She had never expanded upon that…

“Um, Mikoto?” He cleared his throat as she struggled with turning the page and making sure she didn’t overcook yet another pancake. This woman was so not meant for multitasking… “I have a question for you.”

Mikoto looked over her shoulder briefly, then cursed softly as some of the pancake batter seemed to gain a mind of its own and spatter all over the front of her apron. “What’s up, kiddo? Are you going to question my ability to read and cook at the same time?”

“Um… no.” That wasn’t a can of worms he felt terribly comfortable opening at the time. She would probably just laugh it off and continue to make a mess of the entire kitchen, anyway. “It’s about what you told me before we came to your house four years ago.”

Mikoto stopped for a moment and slid the two semi-decent looking pancakes onto a ready plate. For the amount of time she’d spent making breakfast, one would have thought she’d have had more on there; but there were only five.

“Remind me again of what I said to you, dear.” She tried to recall, but with the pancakes and the book she was trying not to get batter all over, it was a little bit difficult.

“You told me I was psychic.” Minato rolled his eyes and rested his head on his arms. “And then you never explained it to me, so I’ve been confused for a while.” Though it was also partially his fault for not ever bringing it up after that first time. Whatever.

Mikoto laughed. “Oh, right. Guess I got a little carried away getting you all settled in and ready to start your life here, so I forgot.” Typical Mikoto.

“So why don’t you explain it to me now?” Minato lifted his head a little bit and blew the bangs from his face. “I’m still curious about what you meant, after all.” Anyone would be, if they were told they were something outlandish like that and then not given an explanation.

Mikoto finally turned off the stove and turned around, her brilliant smile illuminating her olive skin. “Oh, it’s the most exciting thing, Minato. I’m not sure where your specialties lay, but we can experiment together. I don’t remember if I told you, but your mother was a psychic.”

“...She was?” He had to think about his mother for a moment. It had been six years since her untimely death, and he only had a few years of memories to go off… But now that he really thought about it, she was a very odd woman as well.

“I see…”

Mikoto smiled. “I’m so pleased to know our gifts got passed on to you.” She paused for a moment to laugh and shake her head. “Oh, she was so worried you would never get to experience the wonder of a psychic’s world. She would be so proud to know that fear was unfounded.”

Minato bit her lip. His mom… He wished there had been more time to get to know her. All he knew of her--and his father, for that matter--was that she was sweet, loving, and selfless. He remembered her dying words, too, but he hated bringing that memory up.

“So you’ll teach me what I’m supposed to do, then.” He looked expectantly at his aunt, whose brown eyes were sparkling excitedly. “I’m not going to have to figure this stuff out on my own, am I?”

“Of course not!” Mikoto exclaimed and jumped up to pull him into a tight hug. “I’ll teach you everything I know, and help you until you get fed up with me. Even then, who knows? I might keep bothering you.”

Minato groaned a little bit and awkwardly squirmed away from her after a few seconds of his ribs getting crushed. “Well… it’s nice that I won’t have to figure this out on my own, at least.” Even if his aunt was absolutely insane and totally overbearing sometimes.

“I would never make you figure everything out on your own.” Mikoto smiled softly and smoothed his hair down. “I might act like a total nutjob, but I’m still your guardian. No matter what, it’s my job to protect you and make sure you grow up safely.”

Minato nodded slowly and looked down at his hands. “Thank you.” No matter how many times she reminded him, he was still in awe that she hadn’t died, and that she was still doing her best to take good care of him. Mikoto might be a single mother trying to balance her normal life with teaching a child and making sure he didn’t feel neglected, but he figured she was doing a pretty good job.

“Of course, my little angel!” She laughed and lifted him up off the stool finally to crush him in another bear-hug. “You’re so sweet, sometimes I feel like my teeth are going to fall out.

“Gross, Mikoto.” He huffed and smooshed her cheeks, which only earned him a chortle and a few snorts from his aunt. “You’re going to break my ribs if you keep squeezing like that…”

“Oh, jeez, sorry.” She laughed and set him down. “You’re so little. Just like your dad.” She hadn’t really gotten to know him all that well, but she knew he was a very petite man for his age. It must have run in the family.

She looked over to the neglected breakfast, then shrugged. “Hey, why don’t we go to the reading room? I’ll start teaching you how to awaken to your abilities and properly read a deck of tarot cards.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be making breakfast, Mikoto?” Minato also looked over to the neglected stovetop, book, and pile of sad looking pancakes. He’d probably end up taking that over sometime in the next hour or so. “...Well, I guess it can wait.”

“Perfect, let’s go do some learning before we eat!” Mikoto smiled and started down the hallway to the dim reading room, where she kept all her psychic tools and decks of tarot cards. She wasn’t exactly the most popular psychic in the area, but she did do a business.

The first thing Minato noticed was how.. messy the room was. The table had two or three silk cloths strewn over it in a somewhat aesthetically pleasing--albeit clearly unintentional way. There were chairs, but they were all over the room. One sat in the corner by the window; which itself housed many terrariums and two long, healthy bamboo plants, another was firmly planted by the door.

His attention turned to the shelves, which were just as disorganized and eclectically put together as the rest of the room. Books lay on top of books, decks of cards were placed semi-carefully between monstrous guides, and he swore he saw at least ten different statuettes of different types of cats; maybe more.

“I would apologize for the mess, but the energy in here is so nice as it is.” Mikoto smiled down at him when she noticed his interest in the shelf and pulled out a worn-looking deck of cards. “We’re just going to do a one card reading for you today, and we’ll see what to do from there!” Come sit with me at the table.”

Minato nodded and followed her over to the table that had first caught his eye. It was slightly lower than a dining table, yet too tall to be considered a coffee table. Maybe it was specially made or something? “So what do I do?”

“Just draw one card after I shuffle the deck.” Mikoto smiled at him as she began to carefully shuffle her cards between her hands. Once she was finished, she held the deck out for Minato, and he flipped over the top card.

She didn’t look down at it at first, insisting on Minato looking down and interpreting what the image was trying to tell him before she did anything. “So… what do you see in the card you drew?”

“...It’s the Fool.” Minato looked up at her, confused. “What does that mean?” He’d never learned about the tarot cards, just what they looked like from listening to Mikoto describe them for her clients for years. He’d tuned it out after the description of the image before…

Mikoto’s entire face lit up like a christmas tree, and she clapped her hands together excitedly. “Oh, what a wonderful card to have drawn. The Fool is both empty and infinite, a complete lack of potential and full of it at the same time.”

“...So what does that mean for me?” He wasn’t quite understanding it, but something in his heart seemed to change. Something told him this was right. He didn’t need to draw again, and he didn’t need a full explanation.

“Sleep on it. Think about it for the rest of the day, and come back to me with your answer tomorrow.” She smiled cryptically and put the card back in her deck. “Now let’s go back to our poor, sad breakfast. We’ll learn more later!”

Minato wanted to protest, but he kept his mouth shut. He would listen to what she had to say, and think about what the face of the Fool had to say about him. He figured he’d be thinking for a long time on that one.

Chapter Text

Minato spent the whole day in his room, thinking about what Mikoto had asked him to think about. He had the Fool card sitting in front of him, face-up on his desk. He’d stared at it for at least three hours now, and nothing was coming to him.

“What do I think it means…?” He frowned and put his cheeks in his hands. Why did Mikoto have to be so damn cryptic, anyway…? “I think it means I have no idea what I’m doing.” That’s how he had seen it at first, at least.

Now… he wasn’t so sure. He was getting frustrated, so he closed his eyes to think. That’s when a revelation hit him. He stood up almost too quickly and nearly fell over his chair, then turned and all but ran down the stairs.

“Did you figure it out?” Mikoto was already waiting for him in the parlor, a bright smile on her face. “You have the look of someone who just had their first psychic experience.” That excited her, really. She loved seeing that look of pure enlightenment.

Minato blushed a little bit, embarrassed at her knowledge. Did he really look that excited? “U-Um, I have an idea…” He wasn’t sure about sharing it, but Mikoto looked so… excited. She probably really wanted to hear it.

“Oh, wonderful! Let’s hear it, Minato.” She closed the book she’d been reading and clasped her hands on her knees. “Don’t be shy, it can’t be worse than what Airsa said when she had her first psychic moment.”

Minato blinked and sat down across from her. “Um… what did my mother say?” That was slightly concerning.

“She got the Lovers, so she came running down the stairs and yelled at the top of her lungs that she thought it meant she was supposed to be married within the next year.” Mikoto laughed and shook her head. “We were eleven.”

He snorted and shook his head. Somehow, he could see his mother saying something like that. She must have been a very funny person. “My mother must have been a very different person than I am.” Had he gotten his personality from his father…? No, his father was playful and sarcastic.

“Oh, that couldn’t be farther from the truth!” Mikoto laughed. “You and your mother are like carbon copies of one another. But I’ll tell you about your mother later, for now… what did you feel?”

He bit his lip and looked down at his hands. “Well… when I closed my eyes, I heard something… I think it was trying to tell me how to see the card.” He wasn’t sure if that was normal of psychics, but that’s what he’d felt.

“Alright, that’s normal.” Mikoto dispersed his fears immediately with an easy smile and leaned forward excitedly. “What did that voice tell you?” She wanted to ask what the voice sounded like, but that was too intrusive, even for her.

“It told me that the Fool was “My Card” and that it meant I was starting something new. It was going to be important.” Minato shook his head and looked up finally.

Mikoto blinked a few times. “Whoa… I had a feeling you were special; but that’s amazing Minato! To think, my sister’s son ended up being a Fool.” She was so excited…!  “You, my child, are destined for wonderful things in your life.”

Minato stared at her in confusion. “You… you think so?” He didn’t really understand. Mikoto didn’t sound like she was lying to him… And the excitement in her eyes told him basically everything he needed to know. Something big was going to happen to him in his lifetime.

Mikoto sensed his apprehension and smiled softly. “Oh, Minato… don’t worry your pretty little head. You’re not alone in this, remember! I’m your guardian and mentor, no matter what happens. I won’t let you get hurt.”

“Thank you…” Minato smiled a little bit at her and closed his eyes for a moment. He had been a little bit worried about everything, if he was being honest with himself. He often forgot he had Mikoto to guide him through everything, actually.

She laughed and stood up to give him a kiss on the forehead. “Worry not, my child, you will be alright! You can’t get rid of me.” Her loving smile turned into a teasing one and she jabbed him playfully in the side. “So let’s work together to make you the best version of yourself you can be!”

Minato nodded and rubbed his side a little bit, then stuck his tongue out at his aunt. “You suck.”

“So do you, so I guess we’re even.” Mikoto stuck her tongue out as well and stood up straight. “Anything else your psychic moment gave you?” There she went, changing the subject.This woman, sometimes…

“No, that was all.” Minato shook his head. “Was I supposed to get anything else?” Was he just weird, then? He felt like he was just weird. Actually, he was pretty sure he was weird.

“No, honey, it’s alright that you didn’t get anything else.” Mikoto shook her head and smiled. “I didn’t either. It was a quick second of clarity, and then back to nothing.” She shrugged. “So you’re perfectly normal in the realm of psychics.”

The fact that his aunt had just said “perfectly normal” made him smile. “Thank you, Mikoto.” It was the little things, after all. Mikoto was so good at helping him feel better… he wondered if his mother was this kind.

Mikoto hummed softly and gently ruffled his hair. “Oh, I do love your smile. It looks so much like your mother’s.” There was so much hidden within that smile; it made her incredibly happy and terribly sad at the same time. She supposed that was just how his personality was; cryptic, reserved, and gentle.

Minato noticed her staring at him and cleared his throat awkwardly as he stood up. “Um… I’m going to go for a walk, if that’s alright.”

“Alright dear. Just don’t run into any weirdos and get into a fight.” Mikoto laughed and kissed his cheek. “You’re too scrawny for a fight, and I don’t want to be paying hospital bills for three months.”

“I’m not going to get into any fights, Mikoto.” Minato stuck his tongue out at her and turned to go grab his shoes. “I’m just going around the neighborhood.” It wasn’t like he’d go into any shady alleyways unless he was dragged in there, right?

Mikoto smiled and kissed his forehead before he left. “Be careful! I’ll see you when you get home!”

Minato nodded and waved to her as he closed the door behind him. “Just a quick walk around the neighborhood.” He’d use it as time to see if he could figure out what caused that psychic moment… and hope he didn’t run into anyone weird.

As he turned to start down the port-side street, he closed his eyes. He had a feeling he was being followed already, but for now… it would be best just to ignore that feeling.

Chapter Text

Before long, Minato got the feeling whatever it was that was following him was malevolent, and he wasn’t going to lose it anytime soon. Maybe he should turn around and see what was going on…? No, he had to just find a way to get home before whatever this was caught up to him.

However, because he was lost in thought, the thing that had been stalking him since he left the house had come up right behind him. It wasn’t so much a “thing” as a person, though. Well, whoever it was came up behind Minato quickly and grabbed him by the arm without saying a single thing.

“H-Hey!” Minato turned around quickly and tried to pull away, only to stop when he came face-to-face with a boy about his age. “Were you the one following me…?”

“Mm-hmm!” The boy smiled, but Minato saw no joy in his eyes. Speaking of his eyes… they were terrifying. Never before had he seen two shades of blue in the same iris before, especially not two shades that contrasted so dynamically.

The boy stopped for a moment, then leaned close to Minato and studied his face. “Yes, you were the one I was looking for. Come with me!” He turned around to start walking down the street, but stopped when he was met with resistance.

“I don’t even know your name! You can’t expect me to follow you blindly.” He wasn’t stupid, after all. And if this kid was trouble, well… he didn’t know what to do. He was only twelve, and it wasn’t like he was telepathic. If he got into trouble, Mikoto wouldn’t know until the police got involved.

The boy made a face, but he turned around again and smiled brightly. “I’m Mochizuki Ryoji. Nice to meet you finally!” Finally… the way he said it gave Minato a chill down his spine. What did he mean by finally? How long had he been looking…?

“I don’t share your sentiment, Mochizuki-kun.” He frowned and turned his head away, then pulled his wrist free from Ryoji’s grasp. “You were following me down an empty street, came up behind me without saying anything, grabbed my wrist, and then started pulling me to god knows where without telling me what’s going on.” In short… he didn’t trust him.

Ryoji seemed to feel that distrust, because he pouted and adjusted the obnoxiously yellow scarf around his neck awkwardly. “Well, it’s not like I’m dangerous or anything. I got excited, because I’ve been looking for you for so long!”

“You keep saying things like that…” Minato took a small step back and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know, I just don’t trust you.” Was that wrong of him? To not trust this kid, who seemed innocent enough, but kept saying weird things to him?

“Come on, you can trust me!” Ryoji whined and he reached for Minato’s arm again, only to pout more when Minato took another step back. “Why don’t you trust me?!”

Minato frowned. Did he just… not get it? Even after he’d explained why he didn’t trust him so clearly? He could at least kind of understand getting excited… well, kind of; but he couldn’t understand just stalking someone and then claiming you’d been looking for them!

He’d expected Ryoji to get it by the look on his face, but by the look on Ryoji’s face… he did not. Never in his life had he met someone so incredibly dense… and his aunt had quite a few dense clients.

“It’s because you keep saying you’ve been looking for me. I don’t know you.” He looked around as discreetly as he could. Damn Mikoto for living in such a barren neighborhood! The only people who lived in the area were either old, fishermen, or stray cats. None of those things could help him.

Ryoji huffed when he said that, dragging Minato back to the conversation, and crossed his arms. “You do know me, though. That’s why I want you to come with me! We’re going to help you remember everything, and then you can come live with me!”

He threw his arms up excitedly and shot a bright smile to Minato. He didn’t even seem fazed by the fact Minato looked at him like he was absolutely insane. Which… he probably was. Actually, now Minato was pretty sure he was insane.

“I’m… not going to live with you.” He shook his head finally and started trying to find a way to get back to Mikoto’s house. “I’m fine where I am.” He actually liked living with his aunt: she was kind, understanding, gentle, and… she hadn’t died. That was the best part. He hadn’t lost someone else to whatever stupid curse he had.

Ryoji frowned at him now, and that frown was worse than anything else he’d done so far. Minato wasn’t any good at metaphors, but he had to think it was something like getting frowned at by a graveyard security officer at midnight.

“Come on, Minato--”

“How do you know my name?” Minato backed up again, and this time he couldn’t keep the surprise off his face. He didn’t even know this kid, and yet Ryoji knew his name?! Was he some sort of vessel for a pedophile or something…? “I’ve never met you before!”

Ryoji huffed and stomped his foot. “This is why I’m trying to get you to come with me. Come on, I can help you! I’m trying to make your life easier!” This was getting frustrating… and his frustration was becoming evident. “Why won’t you just believe me?!”

“Well, I’m…” Minato cleared his throat and frowned out at the sea. “I don’t know. Could you let me think on it?” That was the best he could do at the moment. He had already tried saying no, and saying yes felt like a terrible decision.

“...Fine, but I want an answer next week!” Ryoji didn’t seem exactly pleased with the compromise, but it was better than getting turned down outright. “We’ll meet out here again, okay? I’ll expect you to come see me.”

He smiled and turned around. “Okay then, see you next week!” And just like that, he was gone.

Minato watched as Ryoji disappeared down the street, then shook his head and let out a shaky breath. Strangers who came into the house for a reading and asked stupid questions were one thing, but strangers who claimed to know him and tried to convince him to go with them? Too weird.

“I should go tell Mikoto about this…” Of all people, he figured she would know what to do.

He took off running back to the house--that might not have been his best idea ever--and ran inside. It took a while to catch his breath, but he took that opportunity to take off his shoes and try to clear his mind.

“Minato? Is that you?” Mikoto’s voice came from the library down the hall. “Did something happen? You’re not hurt, are you?”

“I’m not hurt!” He called back, still out of breath. After another moment of trying to calm his breath, he went into the library and sat down at the edge of the couch.

“So what’s going on, dear?” Mikoto frowned and put the book she’d been reading down on the coffee table. “You look like you ran all the way here. Were you in trouble? You didn’t get into a fight or anything, did you?”

Minato shook his head. “No, I didn’t get into any fights.” He would’ve been a lot worse for wear had he fought anyone. “I… this guy followed me, and he claimed he knew who I was. He said he wanted to help me, so I had to go with him.”

“This guy wasn’t like… old or anything, was he?” Mikoto’s frown deepened with worry. When Minato shook his head, she sighed and relaxed just a little bit. “So he wanted you to go with him… did you get a name?”

“He said his name was Mochizuki Ryoji, and--”

“Do not go with that boy!” Mikoto’s demeanor suddenly changed, and her expression hardened. “He’s dangerous, Minato. You must stay away from him!”

Minato jumped a little bit at the sudden change in demeanor and nodded dumbly. “I-I won’t…” He hadn’t been planning on it, anyway, but the sudden sharp reaction had scared him a little bit. What was so bad about Ryoji that elicited such a scary reaction from his aunt…?

Mikoto stood up and moved to hug him tightly. “Oh, thank goodness you didn’t follow after him. Please, stay away from him as much as you can, Minato.”

Minato nodded slowly and squeezed her just a little bit. Now that the initial shock of getting such a strong reaction had gone down, he managed to calm down a little bit. “I won’t go near him, I promise.”

Chapter Text

Mikoto finally relaxed when Minato promised her he wouldn’t go near Ryoji. She had been so worried when he mentioned that name, but… “I’m glad you’ll be safe, my dear. I don’t want you to be hurt.”

“I won’t get hurt, Mikoto.” Minato stood up to give her a quick hug. He would just go for another walk next week, tell Ryoji his answer, and hopefully never see him again. As far as he knew, he could probably just stay in the house most of the time to avoid him, anyway.

Mikoto smiled softly and ruffled his hair. “You’re such a great kid.” She was proud to be able to watch him grow up and become an even greater person as he did so. “I’m going to go ahead and make lunch before my client gets here; do you want anything?”

“Oh, just a sandwich or something.” Minato shrugged and put a hand in his pocket. “Do you want me to help with the reading?” He’d been offering more than usual lately so he could learn what he was supposed to do. Mikoto was a pretty good teacher, too.

His aunt lit up at the suggestion and she smiled excitedly. “Yes, of course I do. Depending on the intensity, perhaps you could do it yourself? We have to find a deck for you, but for today we’ll use mine.”

He nodded and turned to go up to his room. He didn’t exactly look presentable to any clients, so he probably needed to change clothes.

Mikoto hummed as she started to make a few sandwiches. She was still anxious about the fact Ryoji had shown up so early, but Minato was a smart kid… she figured he’d be alright. “We can’t be worrying about that brat while we have clients coming this afternoon.”

She smiled to Minato when he came back downstairs and handed him a somewhat messily made peanut butter and honey sandwich. “Ran out of jelly. Honey and peanut butter go well together, though! At least, I think they do.”

“Mikoto…” Minato rolled his eyes and sat down on one of the stools. He didn’t really care what was in his sandwich, as long as it didn’t make him gag or anything. In fact, his aunt was right. Peanut butter and honey did go pretty well together.

She seemed pretty surprised by that revelation, too. “Huh. I should try this more often! Aren’t I just a genius, Minato?” She said it jokingly, and when he just stared at her, snorted. “So cold.”

“Yeah right.” Minato snorted and shook his head. “Don’t you have a client to be preparing for or something, Mikoto?” He was still slowly nibbling on his own sandwich, so he really didn’t have much room to talk. Well, it wasn’t like they were his clients.

Mikoto stuck her tongue out at him and washed the knife she’d used for the peanut butter. “Fine, fine, I’ll go set up the reading room. That means you have to answer the door if they come while I’m still preparing, though!”

Minato nodded and closed his eyes. “You make me open the door no matter what, anyway. I’ll just wait in the living room for when they get here.” Normally, he would’ve asked who was coming for a reading, but he didn’t feel like it today.

Mikoto disappeared into the reading room, and not one minute later, there was a knock at the door. “They’re already here…?” That was fast. Then again, Minato didn’t ever remember Mikoto’s appointment times. He never bothered.

Regardless, the knocking didn’t seem like it was going to stop, so he had to get up and go answer the door. “...Hello?”

Before him stood a boy who seemed to be only a year older than he was, as well as a girl his age. The boy had a bandage on his forehead, and the girl had bright blue eyes and blonde hair. “Are you here for Mikoto?”

“Yes.” The girl nodded and promptly started to push the boy into the house. “Well… he is. I am here to observe the experience.” She paused and looked Minato over. “I did not know she had a son.”

Minato shook his head and instructed both of them to take their shoes off. “No, I’m her nephew. She’s taking care of me.” He didn’t know why he’d divulged that information. Something about the look the girl was giving him said he probably had to.

“I see.” She smiled softly and nodded. “It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Aigis.”

Minato nodded. “My name is Minato. Nice to meet you too.” He looked to the boy, but he’d kind of tuned them both out.

Aigis noticed this as well and roughly elbowed him in the side. “Introduce yourself!”

The boy frowned, then looked to Minato and extended a hand awkwardly. “My name’s Akihiko. It’s good to meet you.” He didn’t sound like he really wanted to be there, though. Maybe Aigis had drug him there?

“Nice to meet you.” Minato shook his hand anyway and turned to lead them to the reading room. “This way.” He started down the hall and put a hand in his pocket. “Are you here because you want a reading?”

Akihiko shook his head. “No, Aigis made me come here.” He didn’t want to be rude, especially not inside the psychic’s house, but… “I’m skeptical.”

Minato wanted to make a face, but he could see where Akihiko was coming from. He was skeptical at first, too. “Well, maybe she’ll just do a one-card reading.” Or a three card. She usually did three card readings for skeptics, after all.

Akihiko seemed relatively pleased with that, and he nodded. “Oh, sure.” He didn’t know anything about this, actually. Only what Aigis had told him, and… with Aigis? That wasn’t much. He didn’t really care, though.

No, he was more interested in the boy in front of him, actually. Minato was unlike anyone he’d met; and he’d met a lot of people. He was… not much to look at, but his calm disposition and lack of emotion was intriguing.

Aigis seemed equally as interested, if the look in her eyes as they followed after Minato said anything. She was almost transfixed. Maybe she was interested in the way he walked? Or perhaps it was more his lack of interest in pretty much… anything.

Actually, when he thought about it, Minato was pretty boring at first glance. There was nothing special about him, besides the fact he was pretty cryptic and lived with a psychic aunt of his.

He was pulled out of his thoughts when he nearly knocked Minato over. He’d stopped, and so had Aigis, but apparently Akihiko hadn’t realized it.

“You’re about to walk right past the reading room.” Minato sighed and pointed inside the dim room, where a woman sat at a table. “Go in and sit down, I guess.”

Akihiko nodded and awkwardly stepped in after a glare from Aigis. He really didn’t want to be there. He wasn’t sure why, but he just… didn’t. Was it the psychic energy? No way. There’s no way psychics actually exist.

Mikoto seemed to sense his apprehension and stood up to greet him. “Hey, kiddo. Nice to meet you!” She held her hand out, and laughed when Akihiko was slightly reluctant to take it. “I’m Mikoto, and I’m not a witch.”

“O-Oh, I didn’t think you were a witch.” Akihiko shook his head and sat down finally. He had been paying more attention to Mikoto, so he hadn’t realized Minato had sat down beside his aunt. Was he a psychic too, then?

Mikoto smiled knowingly and sat down as well. “So you’re here for a short reading, then?” Akihiko nodded, and she pulled out her deck. “Would you like a one card reading or a three card reading?”

“I believe we should try a three card reading.” Aigis spoke before Akihiko could. Probably it was because she knew he would’ve asked for a one card reading so he could continue to be super skeptical about it. “He is very skeptical.”

“Oh, I see.” Mikoto nodded and cast a glance to Minato. “Then, would you like to do the reading, sweetheart?”

Minato nodded quietly and took the cards from his aunt. They were almost comically oversized for his small hands, but he shuffled them with incredible skill. He didn’t bend them, nor did he drop one the entire time.

Once he was finished, he placed the deck on the table and looked at Akihiko. “Cut the deck.”

Chapter Text

“Excuse me…?” Akihiko seemed taken aback by the sudden command, and he looked to Minato in surprise. “You want me to…”

“Cut the deck.” Minato repeated, an almost complete lack of emotion in his voice. “It works better when you do it.” He didn’t care to explain much more, and Akihiko wasn’t sure he wanted more of an explanation.

He reached forward and awkwardly cut the deck, then pulled his hand back and glanced to Mikoto. She was focusing more on Minato than on himself, and he figured he should be glad for that. Mikoto didn’t seem threatening on the outside, but there was probably some unseen danger. Somewhere.

Minato took the deck back and shuffled for a few more seconds, then fanned the cards out and held them out as best he could without dropping any. “Pick three.”

“Why can’t you--”

“You’re the one I’m doing the reading for.” He cut him off and gently gestured toward the cards again. “If I did it, it wouldn’t be right.” He’d figured that much out from watching Mikoto do her readings. “So pick three, and I’ll do your reading.”

Akihiko frowned and cautiously grabbed three cards. He didn’t know if he was supposed to look at them, but judging by the fact Minato had closed the fan of cards and held his hand out for the ones in his hand said he was supposed to leave them face down. Probably.

He handed the cards over, and Minato lay them out carefully on the table. Akihiko had to note the careful way he placed them all, and how evenly spaced they were. It was like an art… though perhaps it was.

Minato looked up after a short moment, and Akihiko swore he could see right through him. It was kind of creepy, and a little bit terrifying. He felt almost naked, though he knew there were still clothes on his person. Minato looked so much older than twelve right then…

The boy in front of him cleared his throat softly and flipped over the first card. It was… well, to Akihiko, it looked like a regular playing card. Just much more detailed and had swords instead of one of the regular suites.

“Your first card is the five of swords.” So he was actually right? That was crazy.

He looked up at Minato again, and he noticed there was a slightly different look on his face. He looked like he was kind of lost? He didn’t know how to describe it, but it wasn’t… well, it didn’t feel normal for someone like Minato.

He cleared his throat awkwardly when he realized he’d just been sitting there staring for a little bit too long and looked down at the card again. “So… uh, what’s that mean?”

Minato looked down at the card himself at that point and took a short moment to think. “You’re trying to push forward recklessly and gain new ground over something that happened to you recently. You need to pause, accept your current limitations, and grow more before you can advance.”

“Whoa…” Akihiko couldn’t help himself. That one card hadn’t really spoken much to him, but Minato had read into it and told him what he had been trying to ignore… Was this legit? “...Okay, next card.”

Minato nodded and flipped over the card beside the five of swords. The card now showed an image of an angel with a trumpet, and multiple people on the bottom half of the card. Again, Akihiko had no idea what it was.

“This is Judgement.” Thankfully, Minato was good at knowing when to explain things. “You will be face with a choice in the near future, as well as changes. This could redirect the path of your life completely.”

Akihiko blinked and looked up from the card to Minato. He sounded so certain… and Mikoto had smiled in approval. It must be true. What am I thinking…? There’s no way! But he wasn’t so sure anymore…

Minato looked to him, then turned the last card over and Akihiko swore he saw him almost smile. He actually knew this card!

“The Emperor, right?”

“So you know this one.” Mikoto spoke this time, but it looked like Minato had wanted to say the same thing. She looked to her nephew, who just shrugged. “Well, I’ll stop interrupting now and allow Minato to finish your reading!”

Akihiko nodded dumbly and looked back at Minato. Something had changed… again. He had a different disposition. Somewhat pleased, yet sullen. What was this kid…? “Okay, so what does this mean?”

“It means,” Minato picked the card up and looked at it closely, “that you will mature a lot as you grow up, and you’ll become a pragmatic person with time.” It was pretty normal, and Akihiko was going to say something about how vague that was, but Minato went on.

“You’ll become a protector, a benefactor, and a strong figure in many people’s lives, even at the cost of your own. You are strong willed, intelligent, and wise.” Okay, seriously? This kid was twelve. He was talking like a twenty year old… That was crazy.

“So…” He wasn’t sure if he understood what that meant. “So you’re saying I’ll become all these things as I grow up, then?”

“No.” Minato shook his head. “I’m saying you already are these things; they’re just dormant right now.” He turned the card around to show it to Akihiko. “This is your card.”

Akihiko stopped for a moment. When he looked at it, he kind of saw himself in it. Obviously, this man was way older than he was, but… the hair color was the same. So was the facial features. “This is… my card?”

Mikoto, who had decided to stay silent, already broke her promise and gently took the card from her nephew. “Yes, this is your card. As you grow up, you will realize what this means.” She smiled softly and set the card down on the table.

“That’s the end of the reading. You’re welcome to come back and get another reading, if you like.” She stood up and took the rest of the deck from the table. “Would you like a glass of water before you leave?”

Akihiko shook his head and stood up. “No thank you, ma’am.” He turned to look at Aigis, who seemed more than pleased with himself, and started out of the room. “Thank you…”

“Mm-hmm!” Mikoto giggled and gently shooed Minato out of the room after them. It was like she was trying to tell him something. Not that he could tell what it was, but she had that look in her eye.

He sighed and followed after the other two, a hand in his pocket. “So, are you still skeptical?”

“Oh, yes, Akihiko-san, are you still skeptical?” Aigis turned to him and looked for any sort of clue that he had changed his mind. She hoped he had, actually. She found psychics and their abilities to be very interesting, after all.

Akihiko bit his lip and turned his head away. “Well, uh…” He wasn’t sure. It had all sounded so convincing… There was no way such a young, scrawny kid who looked like he was too tired to lie had tricked him, right?

“...No, I’m not.”

Aigis lit up excitedly at that and clapped her hands together. “I knew you would change your mind if I had you sit for a reading!” Well, more like her sister  had suggested it, but she had believed it herself too!

Minato seemed to have relaxed a little bit and shrugged. “Good. It’s not like I was trying to trick you or anything.” He shuffled past them and started down the hallway. “They’re just cards, though. It’s nothing really special.”

Akihiko blinked and jogged a little bit to catch up to him. “So then… what makes it special when you or your aunt do it?” He paused for a moment. “...You’re psychic too, right?” He thought he was, after all the evidence had piled up.

Minato nodded, and Aigis seemed to get excited all over again. “How exciting!” To know someone her age that had these incredible powers?! That was super cool! She would have to spend more time with Minato. That… and she felt like she needed to protect him for some reason.

“I don’t really know what makes it different when we do it.” The boy shrugged just a little bit and stopped at the door. “I don’t think it changes much, though. You don’t have to be psychic to read tarot cards…” But it sure did help.

“Huh.” Akihiko sat down to put his shoes back on and looked up at him. “So you’re saying I could probably learn how to read them myself, then?”

“Yeah, sure.” Minato shrugged. “It just wouldn’t be as clear to you.” He found the cards almost spoke to him if he allowed them to, and it helped that he had precognition and clairvoyance as well. “If you wanted to learn.”

He nodded and stood up, then looked to Aigis, who was still all excitable about the fact they had met such a young psychic. “So if I wanted to learn, do you think you’d teach me how?” Part of him was genuinely interested in learning more about these cards, but mostly… he wanted to crack the code that was Minato.

“Sure.” Minato shrugged and opened the door. He looked outside at the too-bright afternoon and scowled at the sun for a quick second. Once his eyes adjusted, he noticed there was another kid in some sort of beanie with a mean-looking face.

Akihiko and Aigis noticed this kid as well, and they shared a look between them. Akihiko seemed to be more excited about this than Aigis was, as he waved the kid over with a smile on his face.

“Who is that?” Minato looked over to Aigis, and she just smiled a little bit.

“His name is Shinjiro-san, and he is Akihiko-san’s best friend.”

Chapter Text

The first thing Minato noticed about Shinjiro was how bored and somewhat angry he looked about everything. He had a disposition that suggested he shouldn’t be messed with, no matter who you were. Well… probably.

Actually, the moment Shinjiro’s eyes met with Akihiko’s, he seemed to become someone completely different. Not that Minato could tell, he’d just met the guy. And really, he hadn’t even actually met him yet.

Akihiko seemed set on changing that fact, though, as when Shinjiro reached their little group, he immediately pointed at Minato.

“Shinji, this kid lives with the psychic Aigis made me go see. He’s pretty nice, even though he doesn’t say much.”

Shinjiro scowled and looked Minato over a few times. “...Good to meet you, I guess. I’m Shinjiro. No need for honorifics or anything.” They probably wouldn’t meet again after this, anyway. He didn’t like people.

“...Nice to meet you too… my name is Minato.” Minato didn’t reach out for a handshake, since Shinjiro hadn’t reached out himself. Maybe he wasn’t interested in formalities, then?

“Hm.” Shinjiro nodded curtly and turned to Akihiko. “Okay, Aki, so now what? You suddenly care about this kind of stuff because some kid read your cards and you believed it?” The words were harsh, but his tone was teasing. He must be pretty good friends with Akihiko if he could say things like that.

“Are you trying to tell me something, Shinji?” Akihiko stuck his tongue out and shook his head. “No, he was just really good at what he did.” Which was another way of saying exactly what Shinjiro had said.

“Akihiko-san, was that not exactly what Shinjiro-san just said?” Aigis tilted her head and rose an eyebrow. “You seem to have a bad habit of re-wording his statements so they are not quite as embarrassing.”

“Shinji does it too!” Akihiko’s cheeks went red and he shook his head out of embarrassment. “Besides, shouldn’t you be watching Koromaru right now?” There he went again, deflecting anything off himself.

“My half-brother is watching him for me.” Shinjiro shrugged. “They clicked pretty quickly, so I decided to take a walk.” He hadn’t expected to run into Akihiko, Aigis, and some stranger kid, though.

“Shouldn’t you be with him, though?” Akihiko frowned. “I know he’s fine on his own, but what if something happened?” He was just worried, okay? There were some raw emotions concerning family he was still working through.

Shinjiro noticed this and sighed. “I think he’s fine, Aki. Last I checked he was laying down on the couch with Koromaru for a nap.” And that was, what… five minutes ago? There was no way he’d gotten himself into a bunch of trouble in that short amount of time.

“I believe you ought to recheck, Shinjiro-san.” Aigis frowned off in the distance, where she saw a dog and a silhouette of a boy were coming toward them. Behind the boy’s silhouette was one of a girl; a girl she knew to be her younger twin.

“Metis is also going to be joining us, it seems.” She seemed much more excited about the fact she could introduce Minato to her little sister than the fact Shinjiro’s brother was going to be joining them. Then again, she barely knew the guy.

Shinjiro grimaced at both of those statements and turned around, only to get knocked down by a shiba inu puppy. “Koromaru, weren’t you supposed to stay home?”

The boy who had been running after Koromaru came up to the group at that point, out of breath and a little bit frazzled looking. “I’m sorry, I was trying to keep an eye on him, but he ran out when I opened the door!”

“Sheesh.” Shinjiro sighed and stood up after pawning the now barking Koromaru off on the other boy. “I thought you were going to take a nap, Goro.”

“I was!” Goro awkwardly fixed his hair and huffed, though not as effectively as he could’ve. He was still terribly out of breath from chasing Koromaru around. “Then Metis came to the door looking for Aigis!” And everyone knew the story after that.

Aigis seemed at least mildly amused by the fact Metis had gone straight to Shinjiro’s house to look for her and shook her head. “I thought I told you I was taking Akihiko-san to Mikoto-san’s house today.”

“I was sleeping when you said it.” Metis’s cheeks were red, and she had a pout on her face. She had definitely not been asleep when Aigis had told her. She knew Aigis knew that, so she glared at Minato instead.

Aigis noticed this and shook her head. “Sister, this is Minato-san. He is Mikoto-san’s nephew.” At least she was trying to alleviate whatever problems there might have been between them? It wasn’t helping much, though.

Shinjiro and Goro seemed surprised at least, though. Goro more obviously than his brother, but it was still evident.

“I didn’t know Mikoto-san had a nephew!” In fact, though she was pretty well known among the community, nobody knew all that much about her personal life. “Are you on her sister’s side?”

“Yeah.” Minato shrugged and looked at Metis, who was still glaring daggers at him. “She’s taking care of me.” He purposefully left out the reason for her caring for him. It wasn’t like these almost total strangers needed to know why he was living with his aunt instead of his parents.

“So you’re just living with your aunt because you can?” Metis wanted to learn the whole truth. Either she didn’t give a damn about his privacy, or she was just really curious and didn’t know how to phrase her questions without making them hurtful. Minato had to guess it was the latter.

“Metis!” Akihiko frowned at her, and he didn’t seem fazed by the fact she turned her ice cold glare back to him. “You can’t just ask that of a person you’ve only met once. If he wants to tell you, he’ll tell you.”

Aigis nodded when Metis looked at her. “Yes, perhaps there is a reason we are unable to know why he is staying with his aunt at the moment.” She had her guesses, but she wanted to get to know him better before asking a bunch of questions.

“Thanks.” Minato sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He really didn’t feel like describing his stupid little curse or whatever it was. Or the situation that led to him having that curse in the first place. It was still painful.

He noticed that Goro was staring at him at that point and rose an eyebrow, which caused the boy to clear his throat and turn his head away. Maybe he was just trying to get a handle on the type of person he was?

“Um… I didn’t introduce myself.” Goro cleared his throat again and started to nervously play with Koromaru’s paw. “I’m Akechi Goro. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Oh, nice to meet you too. I’m Arisato Minato” Minato decided to smile a little bit at him. He hoped it would at least kind of calm the kid down. He seemed a little bit shy, maybe anxious about new people… He could understand that.

Goro seemed to relax a little bit and smiled easily. He was still mostly focused on Koromaru’s paw, though. Especially now that his hand was being licked incessantly.

Shinjiro absently pet Koromaru’s head and sighed. “We should get home, kid.” He ignored the incredulous look he was getting from the word “kid” and looked to Akihiko. “You too.”

“I’m not stupid, Shinji!” Akihiko rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I was going to go home right after the reading, but Aigis saw you, then you came over here. And now your brother and Aigis’s sister are here.” What a grasp on the obvious Akihiko had.

“No shit.” Shinjiro rolled his eyes. “Well, I’m going home.” It was getting late, anyway. And he had to make dinner, after all. “Come on, Goro.”

“Coming!” Goro waved a little bit to the others as he set Koromaru down and jogged to keep up with Shinjiro. Soon enough, all three of them disappeared down one of the side streets.

Aigis turned to Metis as soon as the boys were gone and smiled. “We should go home too, Metis. Labrys and Phaedra will get upset if we are home too late.” It was really just an excuse just to get Metis away from Minato so she wouldn’t ask any more questions.

“...Fine.” Metis puffed a cheek out and turned her head away. “Let’s go home then.” As long as she got to be with her sister, she’d be fine.

Aigis nodded and turned to wave at Akihiko and Minato. “Goodbye Akihiko-san, Minato-san. I hope to see you both soon!” She took her sister’s hand, and the two of them basically ran down the street in the same direction Shinjiro and Goro had gone.

Soon enough, it was down to just Akihiko and Minato. The sun was starting to go down, and it was shining off the ocean nearby.

“So, uh…” Akihiko rubbed the back of his neck. “Thanks for putting up with my stupidity today. And for the reading. Do I owe you anything for it?”

Minato shook his head. “No, it’s free.” The first one was always free, and Mikoto had said she didn’t charge people under the age of 18. He didn’t know why, but those were the rules with her. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Oh, okay then.” Akihiko nodded and looked off to the side. “I should probably go home before it gets too late, huh…” He didn’t know why, but part of him didn’t want to go. “I guess I’ll see you around?”

Minato looked up at him, and Akihiko swore he smiled for a second. “Yeah, I’ll see you around.”

Chapter Text

“So, have you made some new friends?” Mikoto seemed excited when Minato walked back into the house. “You were out there with those kids for quite a while.” Had she been watching and listening to their conversation through the window? Probably.

Minato shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know. I might only see a few of them again.” He wasn’t super interested in people, anyway. Sure, the group he’d met today had been interesting enough, but he just wasn’t sure he’d ever get to be “friends” with them.

“You should at least make an effort with them, sweetheart.” Mikoto sighed and smoothed down his hair. “Akihiko-kun and Aigis-chan seemed interested in you, at least! And besides, you really shouldn’t be spending all your time inside with your crazy aunt.”

“It’s not a big deal.” Minato sighed and shook his head. “I’m just not interested in people.” It wasn’t a lie, either. It was just that he was afraid to get close to people, too. It was understandable, considering his past, and the fact he had been told for so long he had a curse of some sort.

Mikoto didn’t seem too pleased with that answer, and she pinched his cheek. “You’re twelve, almost thirteen… you shouldn’t be inside all day, even when I am teaching you.” She could understand his inhibitions about getting close to people, but it still worried her…

Minato shrugged and put a hand in his pocket. “I don’t really want to go anywhere.” It wasn’t like there were a bunch of places a twelve year old could go without getting into trouble. It would be different if he went to school, but… he much preferred being homeschooled.

“We’ll figure something out.” She sighed and kissed his forehead. “I think having friends will help you, though.” She chuckled at the look on her nephew’s face and shook her head.  “Don’t look at me like that! Having kids your age around would totally help you feel better.”

“I know.” He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “I guess if they want to keep seeing me, I won’t ignore them.” That was the closest he would get to actually trying to make friends. Maybe, if he weren’t so scared of people getting hurt because of him…

Mikoto smiled softly and hugged him close. “Oh, my sweetheart.” She wanted to do so much more for him… Maybe she could. “I’m going to go out for a little while; will you be okay here by yourself?” She could take him with her, but she wanted this to be a surprise.

“Yeah, I’ll be okay here.” Minato nodded and gave his aunt a small smile. “You just go on ahead.” He’d probably just read or try to learn more about the tarot deck in the reading room. It’s not like he would get bored or anything.

She nodded and ruffled his hair with a bright smile. “I’m going to go, then. I’ll have my cell on me, so call if you need anything.” She kissed his cheek, turned around, and started toward the door. “Don’t get into trouble or burn down the house, okay?”

He snorted and shook his head. “I’m not going to burn the house down, Mikoto. Just go.” He would be fine on his own! He’d been left at certain family member’s houses for weeks at a time before, and he was only seven. This would be easy.

Mikoto nodded and opened the door. “See you later, sweetheart. I’ll be home soon.” She waved and smiled as she walked outside, then closed the door behind her. This would be exciting!

 

-------

 

Minato spent a good part of the evening sitting in the dim reading room, looking over the deck he’d used earlier that day. Each time he looked over a card, he felt something new. “There’s so many meanings to these cards…” He just couldn’t seem to figure it out.

“So what are you trying to tell me?” He sighed and stacked all the cards up face down. Maybe he could just… look at one card and see what the deck was trying to tell him? Mikoto usually did that when she didn’t know what her deck was trying to tell her.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. Ask the question, touch the deck, and flip over the card...

When he looked down, he saw the Wheel of Fortune, but reversed. If he thought, he could recall what Mikoto had told him about its meaning, but all he could think of when he saw the image on the card before him was: Something bad is about to happen, and I’m going to get caught up in it.

He bit his lip and flipped over the next card. The Tower, sitting upright. Disaster… He flipped over the next card. The Hanged Man, upright. Letting go... sacrifice… So many of these things just didn’t make sense.

He was pulled from his thoughts when the doorbell rang. They weren’t expecting a visitor… and Mikoto had left the door unlocked, so who was it…? And why were they here in the first place? The doorbell rang again, and Minato frowned as he stood up to go get the door. “I’m coming, I’m coming…” Sheesh, some people…

He shuffled to door and pulled it open just a bit. “Can I help you…?” Maybe it was just the fact he’d been freaking himself out with the cards just a moment before, but he was a little bit wary of this man who was standing in front of him.

It didn’t help that the guy looked like Jesus Christ, if he were Japanese, pale, and malnourished. And why wasn’t he wearing a shirt? He couldn’t have been older than maybe eighteen, really. If anything, he just looked like a weirdo. A suspicious weirdo, but a weirdo nonetheless.

“This is the house of the psychic Mikoto, right?” The young man smiled eerily down at Minato and shifted his weight a few times. “I hope I didn’t get lost on my way here.”

Minato frowned, but he nodded slowly. “She lives here, but she’s not here right now.” And he wasn’t totally sure he wanted to tell this guy to come back when she got back from whatever she was doing. He could just tell he wasn’t trustworthy.

“That’s fine.” He shook his head and chuckled. “I think I can learn what I want to know from you, after all.” He looked Minato over and smiled coldly at him. “It would be easier to talk to you if you opened the door more.”

Minato scowled and shook his head. “I don’t want to open the door any more than this, thanks.” Where did this kid get so much sass? Mikoto often said it came from his mother, but he figured at least part of it was due to how he was treated after his parents had died.

“I’m not asking if you want to open the door.” The young man frowned at that point and put a hand on his hip. “I’m telling you to open the door so we can talk.” It didn’t look like Minato had much of a choice.

Luckily, he realized this before things escalated, and he pulled the door open. Not that he was happy about it. No, actually, he seemed pretty pissed off; and for a kid, he had a pretty threatening glare. “Fine, let’s talk then.”

“Good.” The suspicious man chuckled and stepped inside. “I’m glad to know even children can be reasonable.” He removed his shoes and started down the hallway without waiting for Minato to follow after him.

Minato sneered after him and put a hand in his pocket. “This doesn’t look like talking to me.” His sharp tongue would get him in trouble one of these days… “And you haven’t told me your name yet.”

“You haven’t told me yours either, to be fair.” The man frowned and turned around. “So why don’t you tell me yours first, child?”

“Minato.”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked for my name,” Minato frowned, “so I gave it to you. Now you tell me yours.” He wasn’t going to say a word unless this guy told him his name. Even then, he wasn’t sure he wanted to say anything. This guy was a total creep.

The young man thought for a moment, then smiled in what was probably supposed to be a gentle way. “My name is Sakaki Takaya, and I would just like to speak with you for a moment.” He extended his hand, but when Minato refused to take it, frowned. “You are very difficult.”

“So I’ve been told.” Minato shrugged. “And what did you want to talk to me about?” If it was stupid, he was going to make Takaya leave. Or… he would try to make him leave. He wasn’t sure how well it would work.

Takaya sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “So impatient…” He shook his head. “I would like to talk to you about an opportunity that could get you out of this… dreadful place.” He gestured around him, a cold look in his eyes.

Minato didn’t respond, so Takaya turned to him and smiled. “Think about it. You could lend your powers to a much better cause. You could help the entire world, if you were just to come with me.”

“...No.” He didn’t even need to think about his answer. The feeling he got from Takaya matched the feeling he’d gotten from the cards earlier; and he knew better than to ignore his instincts. “Find someone else.”

Takaya frowned and took a deep breath. Maybe he was mad, then? “I see…” He took a few steps forward and looked down at Minato. “You do not seem to comprehend the situation you are in, child. Perhaps it would be more… prudent for me to make you see what I mean.”

Chapter Text

Minato instinctively took a step backward when Takaya walked toward him. “What do you mean, make me see…?” That didn’t sound good. Mikoto wasn’t home… He didn’t know anyone else in the area, either. He couldn’t call for help.

Takaya knew this as well, because he made quick work of grabbing Minato by the arm and pulling him roughly toward him. “I see you’ve realized the helplessness of your situation, then. You really ought to be more courteous.”

“I don’t see why…” Minato frowned and pulled himself free. “You just kind of showed up and demanded I listened to you.” He rubbed his wrist a little bit and turned his head away. “I’m young, not stupid.”

“So you are not.” Takaya’s voice was calm, but his face betrayed what he was trying to suppress. He was clearly getting upset. “You are becoming increasingly frustrating to deal with.” He took a deep breath and reached behind him for something on his belt.

Minato instinctively backed up more, his fight or flight instinct kicking in, and turned to run toward the door. He was small, and if what Takaya was looking for was a gun, he’d be harder to hit. He just had to make it outside before he managed to get his bearings…

He was lucky, but not quite lucky enough… Before he could get out the door, Takaya fired the gun; the bullet going through the worn wood of the door and grazing his arm. He winced, but that didn’t stop his body from moving quickly down the street.

“Mikoto’s going to be so mad…” If she made it home at all… what if that Takaya guy had killed her before going to the door? And what was that thing he was trying to force him into?

Minato had gotten so lost in thought he hadn’t realized he was about to run into someone until he did and they were both on the ground.

“Ow…”

The other boy shook his head and groaned a little bit, then blinked a few times. “Oh! Minato! How lucky of me to find you here!” So it was Ryoji, then… it was just one bad thing after another today, wasn’t it?

“Ugh… what do you want, Mochizuki-kun?” Minato frowned and put a hand over his wound. It didn’t feel deep, but he didn’t feel like bleeding all over his arm. “It hasn’t been a week yet.”

Ryoji pouted. “Well, no, but I wanted to come see you anyway. I don’t know where you live, but I could’ve figured it out with enough trial and error!” What a strange kid… “Have you thought about my proposition?”

“Yeah, I thought about it.” Minato frowned and looked behind him. He had a feeling Takaya would be following him, and he really didn’t want to be caught with just another kid… Especially one he’d been told to stay away from.

“Oh yeah? So what’s your answer?” Ryoji smiled brightly and clapped his hands together excitedly. He was clearly expecting Minato to agree to his idea, if the look in his creepy blue eyes said anything.

Minato bit his lip. “First, I have a question for you.”

“Oh, sure.” Ryoji almost frowned, but he just shrugged and smiled a little bit instead. “Go ahead!”

“Do you know anyone named Sakaki Takaya?” Maybe that was why Mikoto had told him to stay away from him? They might as well be working together, with how everything had been going that day.

Ryoji nodded, and that immediately set off Minato’s red flags. “I know who he is! I don’t know why that matters, though.”

“I’m trying to get away from him.” Minato frowned and bit his lip a little bit too hard. “If he finds me, I’m going to be in trouble. I’m not going with you, I just have to get out of here.” All of this was trouble… He was caught between a rock and a hard place.

Ryoji seemed to notice this, and though he looked incredibly frustrated and upset, he nodded. “I’ll come ask you again later, then!” He waved happily, then thought again and turned to give Minato a very unwanted hug before running off.

Minato bit his lip and rubbed his arm a little bit. “Ow…” The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and now his arm really stung. Was Takaya still chasing after him…? Had he given up and gone home, or did he still need to be on the run…?

The sound of footsteps behind him told him he needed to run, and he had better do it fast. There was no time to see who was behind him. If it was Takaya, he’d probably just get shot anyway. He assumed whoever was behind him was hostile and took off again, despite the searing pain in his legs and throat from running so much.

Finally, the threat seemed to be gone. That didn’t stop Minato from running straight into a much larger person than Ryoji was. He didn’t seem to notice either, until there was a hand on his shoulder.

“Minato! Are you alright?!” It was Mikoto, and she seemed worried. There was a box at her other hip, but she seemed more concerned with the fact her nephew looked like he’d just witnessed a murder and was bleeding from the arm.

“A-A….A man…” Minato coughed and took a shaky breath, “he came to the house, and told me to go with him… He had a gun…”  He was starting to shake now, the fear starting to set in. He’d managed pretty well when he had been dealing with Takaya, but now that it was over…? He was terrified. What would’ve happened had he gone with him?

Mikoto put the box down and pulled him close to her. “Shh, sweetheart, you’re safe now… He didn’t shoot you or anything past that little graze wound on your arm?” She gently pushed his bangs from his face and cupped his cheek in her hand.

“N-No, that’s all…” He shook his head and closed his eyes to take a deep breath. Mikoto smiled, and he wrapped his arms around her neck tightly. “Mikoto… I’m scared…”

Mikoto bit her lip and gently stroked his hair. “Oh, sweetheart, I’ll protect you.” Even if it cost her her life.

“Thank you…” Minato sniffled a little bit and wiped his eyes of any wetness that gathered there. Now that he had calmed down, he felt a little bit embarrassed. “Um… what’s in the box you have there, Mikoto?” He had been at least mildly curious since he’d seen it.

Mikoto blinked, then smiled softly and reached behind her to the box. “It’s the surprise I went out to get! I wasn’t going to show you until I got home, but you’re out here now so I might as well…”

She held the box carefully on her knee and opened the flaps to reveal two tiny fluffballs with ears and tails. If Minato had to guess, he would say they were kittens. “...Did you adopt kittens, Mikoto?” That seemed like the case. No pet store he’d ever seen gave such large boxes out for purchases.

“Yes! I know you’re allergic, but these little sweethearts were too cute…” Mikoto sighed and gently pet one of the kittens on the head. “Besides, it would be nice to have some other company at the house. Cats are fantastic pets for psychics, you know!”

Minato snorted and reached down to pick up the little tortoiseshell that had been looking up at him with wide green eyes. “How stereotypical.” But… they were ridiculously cute. He might be allergic to cats, but damn if he didn’t love them.

Mikoto giggled and gently picked up the other kitten. She was pure black with strikingly blue eyes and a look on her face that reminded her of  Minato in a way. “I saw them and I thought of you.”

“Oh, thank you…” Minato smiled just a little bit and cradled the kitten close to his chest. She purred softly, and he closed his eyes for a moment. Maybe Mikoto got them because he tended to get nervous and anxious a lot? “...Do they have names?”

“Not yet.” Mikoto shook her head and set the now empty box beside a trash can. “We can think of names while we walk home, how about that?”

Minato nodded. He was still nervous about running into Takaya again, but if he had Mikoto with him, it would be alright.

Chapter Text

Mikoto watched Minato carefully all the way back to the house, while still managing to keep the kitten in her arms from jumping away. It would be an understatement to say she was worried about him… He looked frazzled, to say the least.

“Honey, are you doing alright?” She couldn’t keep her worry in any longer. “You still look a little shaken up. Would you like to talk about it?”

Minato shook his head and just looked down at the kitten curled up in his arms. “No, I’m okay.” He thought he was okay, at least. Maybe he was still a bit nervous about things, but… it couldn’t be that bad, right?

“...Alright.” Mikoto frowned and shook her head. She didn’t believe him, but now wasn’t the time to be pressing him for answers. He was still upset, and she didn’t want to make him cry. Especially not after the kind of day he’d had.

She sighed quietly and pet the kitten in her hands. She had calmed down significantly and was laying on her back, her bright blue eyes darting every which way curiously. She would definitely be a handful at the house. “We need to name these little girls.”

“Oh, I guess we do.” Minato blinked and shifted the kitten in his arms so he was more comfortable. He hadn’t really thought about the whole name thing yet… what did one even name kittens?

Mikoto already seemed prepared with a few suggestions, though, and she smiled excitedly. “I think the one you’re holding should be Calliope.” She paused for a moment, then continued. “She was one of the Greek Muses, and it’s theorized that she was the mother of Orpheus; the master of strings.”

Minato thought for a moment and looked down at the kitten again. “Yeah, I like that.” She looked like a Calliope. It seemed like she liked the name, too. That was a good sign.

“What about the other one?” She was pure black, and… he was embarrassed to admit it, but the first thing he thought of was something like “Blackie”. He would never admit it to Mikoto, though he had a feeling she’d already figured him out. Stupid psychic abilities…

His aunt just smiled knowingly and looked down at the little black furball for a moment. “Something fitting for a black kitten... “ She hummed for a moment, her eyes closed. How she didn’t run into everything was a mystery, but Minato took it as a blessing.

“Nyx!” She exclaimed suddenly, making both Minato and Calliope jump in surprise. Nyx, on the other hand, still seemed relatively content. “We’ll call her Nyx. We have to keep up with the Greek theme, after all!”

Minato thought for a second, then nodded. “Nyx was the goddess of night before Artemis, right?” It fit a black cat pretty well. “It sounds like a good name to me.” He felt as though that didn’t really matter, though. A name only fit the cat if the cat liked the name.

Lucky for them, both Calliope and Nyx seemed happy with their new names. Calliope had snuggled into the crook of Minato’s arm and closed her eyes, and Nyx was back to trying to climb all over Mikoto.

“There, now that’s decided.” Mikoto smiled and stopped before the door of the little house. “Oh, how rude of him to shoot my door…” She sighed and shook her head, “Oh well… I’ll patch it up with something from the shed later!”

She threw the door open and allowed Minato to step in before closing the door behind them and letting Nyx down finally. “Alright, we’ll go out and get some cat supplies later this evening!”

“Why later?” Minato frowned a little bit and tilted his head. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do it now and get it over with?” That’s what he thought, at least. Maybe he was just weird, then…?

Mikoto just shook her head and smiled softly. “It would be easier to do it now, but you’re still recovering from that altercation this morning, and I don’t want to leave you alone in the house again. Of course… we now have two adorable guard kittens, but they probably won’t be able to do much to help you right now.”

She leaned down and pet his bangs, then kissed his forehead and closed her eyes. “I want to give you time to relax before we go out and do anything else today, that’s all.” It wasn’t good to push someone past their breaking point like that, and Minato had definitely had plenty of that in his life already.

“Oh, alright.” He nodded a little bit and went to go sit down in the living room. “Thanks, Mikoto.” Even though he got frustrated with it, it was nice to have someone who cared so much about his health and wellbeing.

Calliope decided to join him on the chair, albeit somewhat awkwardly. Her little legs weren’t exactly conducive to jumping yet, though it didn’t stop her from doing her best. She mewed a few times to get Minato’s attention, and then found a comfortable spot on his lap to curl up and sleep.

“I think you’re her favorite.” Mikoto leaned against the one open part of the wall and smiled softly. “That’s good, you need a little furry friend to keep you company all the time.” It would’ve been better had he found a human to keep him company while she was away, but... Calliope would do nicely.

Minato smiled just a little bit and gently stroked the kitten’s head. “You think so, huh…?” He wasn’t sure about the “all the time” thing, but having a feline companion was never a bad thing. He loved cats, despite his light allergy to them. “Well, I guess she’ll be a pretty good companion.”

“I think so.” Mikoto smiled and went to sit beside him. “You’re pretty introverted for a near thirteen year old, you know. Usually, kids your age are tired of sitting around in the house all the time and want to be out doing things!”

Minato just shrugged. “I don’t like people that much.” He didn’t care to get close to someone who was just going to die, anyway. He was still afraid he was cursed, so it was only natural he would want to put some distance between himself and others. He figured cats were good enough companions, and Mikoto had managed to evade death, so… there wasn’t much need for anyone else, right?

His aunt sighed and shook her head. “I know you’re scared whoever you try to get close to will end up dead, but you can’t keep living like this.” It was partially her fault for deciding to homeschool him, too… She just didn’t think he’d have enjoyed being around kids who were constantly asking questions of him that he didn’t want to answer. “Maybe we’ll see if those kids you were talking to earlier today want to come by more.”

Minato pursed his lips, but he didn’t argue with it. “Yeah, I guess…” He didn’t mind Aigis and Akihiko, but Metis kind of scared him, and Shinjiro… he didn’t seem like he wanted to be around people much. He couldn’t really figure Goro out yet, so he didn’t know if he wanted to be around him. “I don’t know where any of them live, though.”

“We’ll find out, then.” Mikoto smiled brightly and kissed his temple. “I’m sure we’ll be able to get some sort of information, especially if Aigis-chan and Akihiko-kun come back like they said they would.” It would be extra fun if Metis joined them.

“Aigis-san seemed interested in me…” At least, he figured that look in her eyes was interest. “I guess she’ll probably come by again sometime.” He just kind of hoped Metis didn’t follow after her. She was a bit intimidating, with that cold glare and sharp tongue of hers...

Mikoto seemed pleased with that idea, and she pet his hair. “I hope she does come by. It’ll be nice to see you with kids your age, after all.” He would probably find ways to get out of it, but for now…? She could enjoy the idea.

Minato just shrugged and looked down at Calliope, curled up tightly in his lap. He was far more interested in kittens who couldn’t ask him a bunch of stupid questions… but if it would make Mikoto happy to see him with people his age, he would at least make an effort to get to know Aigis.

He sighed a little bit and closed his eyes. “I hope I don’t run into any more weird people.” He was already tired of thugs like Takaya and weirdos like Ryoji, anyway… Even if he never saw either of them again, it would be too soon.

“I know, dear.” Mikoto sighed and kissed his forehead. “You’ll be alright, I’m sure of it. Just play with Calliope and Nyx for the night, and we’ll do some more tomorrow!” She had plans to find a tarot deck for him, anyway.

“Yeah.” Minato nodded and absently started to pet Calliope’s little head. For being such a young kitten, she was pretty soft. It was nice… cats were nice.

Well… mostly nice. Nyx was currently running around at the highest speed her little legs would carry her. It was pretty fast, too. She had a lot of energy, and would probably need a lot of play time as she grew up. She kind of reminded him of Mikoto in a few ways…

“You’re staring at that cat like she reminds you of me.” Mikoto elbowed him in the side and snickered a little bit. “Come on, I’m not that crazy!” Sure, she was pretty wild sometimes, but running around like that? Not her thing.

“Well, she is crazy like you are.” Minato shrugged and looked down at Calliope again, who had woken up and was now stretching and yawning. She seemed pretty mellow, for a kitten. Most kittens were rambunctious like Nyx, so a slower paced kitten like Calliope was a good thing for him.

“You two are going to get along very well.” Mikoto laughed and stroked behind Calliope’s ears. “She’s a cutie, just like you!”

Minato pouted and pushed her face away from him as she moved to kiss his cheek. “Ew, Mikoto, don’t get all sappy…” That was weird, even if they were the only two people in the house! He didn’t like being complimented like that; he never knew what to say in return…

“Don’t be so negative, Minato.” Mikoto sighed, but she gave up on her quest to kiss his cheek. “Well, I’ll let you relax with the kittens for a while. I’m going to go sit in the parlor and read for a while. If you need me, just holler!”

She stood up, ruffled his hair, and kissed his forehead before walking off down the hallway, Nyx hot on her heels.

He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, letting his thoughts wander. It had been ridiculously stressful for him for a good majority of the day… but as far as he was concerned, it had been mostly good. He’d gotten a furry friend out of it, after all.

Chapter Text

In another town, some three hours away from Iwatodai, a twelve year old Kurusu Akira was preparing to move. He’d been deemed “too troublesome” for his parents due to a minor problem at school, and so was being shipped off to who knows where to live with some man he’d never met and his daughter.

“Are you done packing yet, Akira?!” His mother called from downstairs, exasperation and… perhaps nervousness in her voice. He could never tell with her. “You’re going to miss the train, and I don’t want you getting there at midnight!”

“I’m coming, Mom!” Akira sighed and picked up the messenger bag he’d kept with some overnight things and stuff to do on the train. His room was completely empty otherwise, as all his boxes had been shipped out to his new home already.

He galloped down the steps awkwardly and stumbled as he reached the landing where his mother was waiting with her arms crossed loosely.

“Ready to go?” She sighed and smoothed down his ever-messy hair, then opened the door. “I’ll wait with you for the train, but then I have to come back home. I hope you don’t get into trouble or anything…”

He nodded quietly and gripped the strap of his bag tightly. “Yeah, I’m ready…” Or, as ready as he would ever be. He wasn’t sure sending a twelve year old by bullet train to another city by himself was a great idea, but he didn’t really want to argue. His mother was probably tired of his comments, anyway.

“Come on.” She put a hand on his back and gently pushed him through the door toward the car. “...Just this once, you can sit in the front seat. Your father doesn’t have to know.” She opened the car door and climbed into her seat, though she didn’t seem to care where Akira decided to sit.

Akira took her up on her offer and awkwardly slid into the passenger seat and buckled himself in. He couldn’t exactly tell, but he swore he saw his mother smile for a split second. It could have just been his eyes playing tricks on him, though. He never knew with her.

He looked at her, and he realized that she was smiling. Maybe it was because she was finally getting rid of her troublesome son…?

“I’m going to miss you, you know.” She sighed after a while and put a hand on his head. “You’re still my son, even if I get exasperated with you sometimes. And I know you’re a good kid… it’s just your father, he’s…”

She trailed off, and Akira decided not to ask why his father was so apathetic. It probably had something to do with his job… He was a busy man, and he probably didn’t want to deal with a child that could ruin his chances at promotions or something. Who knew, honestly.

“Enough about that.” His mother shook her head and started the car. It wasn’t a long drive to the station, so they drove in relative silence. There were a few attempts at a conversation from both sides, but they dropped off almost as soon as they started.

Eventually, they reached the train station. Akira shuffled out of the car and sighed. This was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Part of him wanted to ask his mother to go with him, but he knew she had things to do back at the house.

He walked with her to the right platform and wrung his hands around the strap of his messenger bag. His mother’s hand on his shoulder was comforting and upsetting all at the same time, and he was conflicted about turning around to give her a hug when the train came to a stop in front of them.

“Be safe, and be good.” She kneeled down and hugged her son tightly. “I’m sure you’ll be fine, sweetheart. You’ll like Sakura-san and his daughter, they’ll take good care of you.”

“Okay.” Akira nodded and squeezed her tightly back. The train would be leaving soon… he had to get there before it departed… “Um…”

“We’ll keep in touch, I promise.” She smiled sadly and kissed his forehead. “Now go, before we have to wait for the next train.” She pet his hair, stood up, and gently pushed him toward the train. “Good luck, Akira.”

“...Thanks, mom.” Akira waved a little bit and jumped onto the train just as the doors were getting ready to close. Thank goodness…

He sat down in the nearest empty seat and placed his bag on his lap. Now he just had a three hour train ride, and he’d be at his new home…

 

------

 

He didn’t know how, but somewhere along the line, he’d fallen asleep on the train. Luckily, he’d been woken up by the train coming to a stop, and realized he had to get off there. If he hadn’t, well… He might’ve been in a lot of trouble.

He yawned and stretched, then stood and shuffle off the train. The station was relatively quiet, though there were some people here and there. Most of the people there were actually coming off the train, so he decided to stand by a pillar and look around to see if anyone was waiting.

He was about to give up when he heard a little girl’s voice from a distance. “Sojiro, that’s him!”

He didn’t even have a chance to get startled, because soon after, a middle-aged man and his daughter came running up to him.

“You must be Kurusu-kun.” The man sighed and held his hand out. “I’m Sakura Sojiro, and this is my daughter, Futaba.”

The girl who had yelled earlier was now quietly hiding behind her father, and she only peeked out to wave awkwardly at him, then immediately hid behind him again. She mumbled something Akira didn’t quite catch, but the look in her eyes told him it was better not to ask.

“Um, nice to meet you Sakura-san.” Akira bit his lip and took Sojiro’s outstretched hand, then went right back to clutching his bag like a lifeline. “Please take care of me.”

Sojiro snorted and ruffled his already unkempt hair. “Yeah, just don’t get yourself put in jail or anything and we’ll be fine.” He sounded like he was joking, but… maybe he was under the impression Akira was a troublemaker as well? It was hard to tell.

“I won’t, I promise.” Akira shook his head. He’d do his best to not cause Sojiro any trouble; it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to go if he screwed this one up, too…

He just hoped Iwatodai would be kinder to him than his hometown had been.

Chapter Text

At some point, Minato had fallen asleep. He didn’t know when; but when he woke up, it was morning again. Nyx and Calliope slept on either side of him; Nyx on his leg, and Calliope by his head. They were warm, which Minato found comforting.

Calliope was purring. The sound and feeling, Minato found, was the most calming thing he’d felt in a while. It was on par with sitting by Mikoto and having her arm around his shoulders.

He yawned and stretched his arms sleepily. Calliope stirred, then draped her legs over his chest and put her head by his neck. She continued to purr, which made Minato felt even worse about getting up. When he really thought about it, though, he figured he could probably just lay in bed with them all day and not get in trouble.

He decided to close his eyes again and just enjoy the sound and feeling of Calliope’s purring before Mikoto inevitably interrupted the lazy morning with her usual insanity downstairs. She would probably drop a pan or something while trying to make breakfast, and it would startle one or both of the cats.

Or she would just quietly come upstairs and crack the door open, apparently. Of course, she always ended up doing the thing Minato least expected her to do. It was both amazing and frustrating.

“Oh, you’re awake.” She smiled and entered the room softly. For once, she was still in her pajamas. Her long, brown hair lay down, and her bangs were a mess. It looked like she had just gotten up herself, actually.

“I was coming to check on you and make sure you didn’t get sick or anything.”

Minato rolled his eyes. “I feel just fine, Mikoto.” Sleeping on the couch didn’t make people sick, he was pretty sure. And besides, he had two furry annoyances to make him feel better, anyway.

Mikoto smiled softly and sat down at the edge of the bed. “Good to hear. I’m glad the girls kept you company last night.” She reached down and gently pet Nyx’s head, earning her a tired purr and a flick of the tail.

She paused for a moment, and Minato recognized this as her “I forgot what I came in here to do” face. He knew this was that specific face because she made it more than any other face.

She sat like that for the good part of a minute, and Minato sat up in that time. Calliope had migrated from his shoulder to his lap, lay down, and continued to purr loudly. Nyx had now sprawled over his legs, with her head on his right leg and the rest of her body up against the wall.

“Oh!” Finally, Mikoto seemed to remember what it was she was going to say, “I came up here to tell you someone is here to see you!”

Minato gave his aunt a look and sighed a little bit. “So you left them standing at the door while you came up here?” He kind of hoped they hadn’t been waiting too long on him… and why hadn’t Mikoto let them in yet, anyway?!

Mikoto blinked a few times. “Uh… yes?” She thought for a moment and looked at the door of the bedroom. “I think I did. Should I go let him in so you can get the kittens off you and get dressed?”

“Yes.” Minato yawned and rolled his eyes. He loved his aunt, but sometimes… She just wasn’t all there. Apparently mornings weren’t her thing; and he’d have to agree with that one. “I can’t believe you left him out there after opening the door…”

He looked down at Calliope for a moment, shook his head, and gently moved her off his lap. She whined in protest, pawed his cheek, then hopped off the bed and wandered around the room. Nyx had already gotten up and stretched tiredly.

“At least the cats are easy to deal with.” He snorted and stood up to get dressed. He didn’t really feel like socializing, but if Mikoto had left someone outside who had wanted to talk to him specifically, so he better at least go see what they wanted. It was only fair to them, after all.

Once he had something resembling a decent outfit on, he smoothed down his frizzy hair and shuffled down the stairs toward the living room. “Did you let him in, Mikoto?”

“Yes! He’s right on the couch, dear!”

Minato sighed and poked his head into the living room. Sure enough, sitting on the couch, was… kind of the person he’d expected to be there.

“Oh, hey.” Akihiko lifted his head at the entrance of Minato and smiled awkwardly. “Sorry if I woke you up, I forget that not everyone wakes up early.”

He laughed nervously, and Minato could tell he wasn’t totally sure about being there. It was strange, considering his want to talk to him… or whatever. Actually, he wasn’t totally sure why Akihiko was at the house at all.

“Wha--don’t just stare at me waiting for me to say something!” Akihiko’s cheeks turned red and he stood up quickly. “I-I just came by to try and… get to know you better!”

He paused for a moment, as if sensing Minato’s disbelief, then rubbed the back of his neck and cleared his throat. “Okay… So Aigis told me to, but I kind of wanted to come by anyway. I guess it was just an excuse?”

“...Okay.” Minato shrugged and stifled a yawn. What was he supposed to say to that? He wasn’t exactly keen on getting to know anyone, even if they were interesting like Akihiko. Perhaps he was just paranoid, but he didn’t want to get close to someone and have them get hurt because of him.

“I don’t know what you want to get to know me for, but I guess…” he paused for a moment, “I could ask Mikoto if we could go somewhere together. Or you could come up to my room…” He shrugged again, awkwardly, and looked toward the hallway.

Akihiko smiled a little bit at the offer and nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, let’s do that.” He tried to keep the sudden excitement out of his voice, but Minato could still tell. “I hope it’s not weird for me to just.. Show up here, though.”

“Mikoto doesn’t have a problem with it.” Minato shook his head and motioned for Akihiko to follow him up the stairs. “She doesn’t have a problem with much, but I think she likes you.” He yawned a little bit and sighed quietly. Maybe he’d come off as too cold now…?

“Oh, okay.” Akihiko didn’t seem fazed; and if he did, he hid it well. Though, he seemed the type to have problems hiding his emotions properly, so perhaps he really was unfazed by the tone of Minato’s voice. “I can’t tell if you like me or not, though.”

Minato glanced back at him, an eyebrow raised curiously. “I’m not that hard to read.” At least, he didn’t think he was. Mikoto had a pretty easy time telling what he was feeling… but then again, she was psychic. What a stereotypical psychic, too…

Akihiko snorted, which snapped Minato out of his thoughts. “You say that, but I’ve never seen you make a face other than that one! It’s like your muscles are frozen in place or something, and only move when you talk.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve smiled before.”

“Okay, but not around me!”

Minato rolled his eyes and shook his head. “If you say so.” He pushed open the door to his room and gestured for Akihiko to go inside before him. “You can sit wherever.. There’s not much space up here, anyway.”

“...Got it.” Akihiko nodded and sat down on the floor, seeing as Calliope and Nyx had taken over the available chair and were in the middle of making it impossible to sit on. “I didn’t know you had cats. I didn’t see them the last time I was here!”

Minato hummed quietly and looked over to the kitten pile on the chair across from his bed. “We didn’t when you were here. Mikoto picked them up yesterday. Apparently cats are pretty good as psychic’s pets.”

Akihiko blinked a few times and looked back at Nyx and Calliope. “That so? That’s kind of stereotypical, don’t you think?” Or maybe he was thinking of witches… That could very well be it as well.

Minato almost smiled and shook his head. “Apparently… but she doesn’t mind. I think she’s a cat person.” He could consider himself a cat person as well, really. He really was a lot like his aunt in that regard, wasn’t he?

“Your aunt is weird that way, isn’t she?” Akihiko laughed a little bit and shook his head. “I guess that’s good, though. It’s kind of interesting that way!” He rubbed the back of his neck and cleared his throat. “I mean, I think so…”

Minato nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. “Yeah, it makes life interesting.” Mikoto really was a spice in his life. “...Anyway, you wanted to get to know me better?” That was what he came there to do, right?

Akihiko stopped for a moment and stared up at him, then nodded, his cheeks tinted pink. “Uh… yeah.”

“Alright,” Minato sat down across from him and leaned against his bed, “where do you want to start?”

Chapter Text

Akihiko blinked a few times. He was expecting a question, but not that one.. What did he want to start with? “Uh… how did you learn you were psychic?” He wanted to think of something more interesting, but that was the first inoffensive question he could think of.

Minato sighed. He had been expecting that question… “Mikoto told me when she took me in. I didn’t know what that meant until a few weeks ago, though.” He shrugged and looked away. “It’s still pretty new to me.”

“Oh, okay…” Akihiko nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. Now what was he supposed to do? That was the one question he’d actually prepared before knocking on the door… He really should’ve thought this through better.

He felt his cheeks go red when he noticed Minato staring at him and waiting for another question to be asked. Yep, he really needed to start using his head more. “Uh.. Do you like living here?” What a question.

Though he was pleasantly surprised when he saw Minato’s one uncovered eye sort of light up when the question was posed.

“Yeah, I do like it here.” Minato leaned back on his hands and closed his eyes for a moment. “Mikoto’s very kind, and she does her best to take good care of me.” He quietly added a thought to himself about her being the one guardian who hadn’t died, not wanting to freak Akihiko out.

“She probably seems weird to you, though… since she can read your mind and all.” He sighed quietly and shook his head. “And since she kind of… forced you into that reading earlier.”

Akihiko laughed and shook his head. “No, no… I don’t think she’s weird. At least… I don’t any more.” He ruffled his hair nervously and shrugged. “I dunno, I guess I was just biased when I came here the first time. Now that I’m not as… skeptical, I guess, I think she’s pretty great.”

“You’ve only seen her twice, though.” Minato tilted his head and narrowed his eyes just slightly. “...I’m not going to argue with you, though.” He had a pretty high impression of his aunt as well. It only made sense, though, considering how well things had gone since he came to live with her.

“Yeah, well, I like to think I’m a pretty good judge of character… after I get over myself, of course.” Akihiko crossed his arms and made a face, which caused Minato to snicker, then cleared his throat. “Hey! I’m being modest here!”

Minato rolled his eyes and allowed himself a quiet chuckle. “Right, right…” If he didn’t know better, he would say Akihiko was probably trying to put up a front or something.

He looked out the window and took a deep breath. “Did you want to know anything else about me?” He was starting to get a little bit worn out from the prolonged interaction… perhaps he needed to get out and talk to people more often.

“Uh, well, I’d like to know if you want to hang out again sometime…?” Akihiko mumbled and stared down at his hands out of embarrassment. “I mean… only if you want to, though! I’m not gonna make you do anything--”

“I’d love to.” Minato cut him off with a small smile and a shake of his head. “Mikoto said I needed to make friends… and I like you, anyway.” Did that sound weird? He hoped not… he wasn’t quite used to interacting with others yet.

“O-Oh yeah…?” Akihiko turned his head away and laughed awkwardly. “Well, that’s good… I was worried you didn’t.” Even though he’d been proven wrong not too long ago, he was still nervous. He’d never been this worried about someone’s opinion of him before, though… Maybe he was just intrigued by Minato, and that was why he wanted him to like him?

“I thought I told you before that I liked you.” Minato rose an eyebrow and shook his head. “Do you have short term memory loss or something?”

“N-No, you’re just… so hard to understand!” Akihiko huffed as he started to stand up and shook his head vigorously. “I know you said it before, but… you act like you don’t like anything, so it’s hard to tell if you’re not pulling my leg!”

Minato blinked a few times and cocked his head to the side in confusion. “...I see.” He hadn’t thought himself terribly difficult to understand, but… maybe that was because he spent so much time with Mikoto, who could read him like a book.

“...Well, it’s fine. I’m sure I’ll get used to it!” Akihiko smiled excitedly and clenched his left fist as though he was excited. Maybe he thought of this as a challenge? He seemed like that kind of guy, at least…

There was a short pause while Akihiko seemed to think through what he had just done, and then he turned to pet the kittens that were now napping on the chair they’d overtaken. “So, uh… I guess I’ve taken up enough of your time today, huh?”

“Hm?” Minato looked over at him and shrugged lightly. “It’s fine… It’s not like I do much during the day, anyway.” Most of the time, he was just reading, napping, or practicing his tarot with Mikoto. He had to say, he thought he was getting pretty good at deciphering what the cards were trying to tell him.

Akihiko smiled at that, and he paused in his petting of Calliope for a moment to look over at his newly made friend. “Well, I guess that gives me more of a reason to come by and see you, then?”

“...Yeah.” Minato nodded and pushed himself off the bed. “You know where to find me if you ever want to come back, I guess.”

Akihiko snorted and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I do. Maybe sometime we’ll have to get out of this house, though, too.” He was pretty sure that would make Minato a little bit uncomfortable, but he wanted to try it out at least.

“...Right.” Minato sighed and put a hand in his pocket. “You’ll have to make a pretty compelling argument to get me out of the house, though.” He didn’t really want to leave too often, anyway. Too many things could happen out there.

“I’ll take it on as a challenge, then!” Of course he would. “Someday, we’ll have you getting out of the house all the time!” Or, so he hoped… “...Maybe not all the time , but more than once every few weeks?”

Minato shook his head and looked down to hide his bemused smile. “Yeah, sure. If you want to challenge yourself that much, I’ll humor you.” He gently rubbed Nyx’s head as she moved from her spot atop Calliope and over to his bed, then looked toward the door.

“I guess I should get going now, huh?” Akihiko looked toward the door as well. “I know you don’t have a lot to do, but you’re already looking kinda worn out…”

Minato shrugged. “If you’re ready to leave, I guess I’m ready for you to go.” He wasn’t sure he was actually ready for Akihiko to leave yet, but if he looked nearly as worn out as Akihiko said he did, it was probably for the best he did go.

“Are you always this cryptic when you answer questions?” Akihiko snorted and started toward the door, ignoring the fact he would really rather stay and chat like this forever. Something about Minato was just so… magnetizing. Truly, he could sit in that room and watch him do nothing all day and still leave feeling like he had done something worthwhile.

Instead, he allowed Minato to open the door for him and walked down the stairs toward the front door. He kept his eyes forward, because he felt like he might ask to stay just a while longer to talk if he looked back for even a second.

As soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs, Mikoto poked her head around the corner and waved at them. “Are you heading home already, Akihiko-kun? You just got here!”

“Yeah, but I’ll probably be back…” Akihiko laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “I like your house, anyway.” Was that weird to say? He kind of felt like it was weird for him to say. Maybe he should just go before he said something else stupid.

Mikoto just giggled at that, and Minato turned his head away with a slight pink tint to his cheek. “Well, you’re welcome here whenever you want to come over, Akihiko-kun.” She stepped out into the hallway and put a hand on Minato’s shoulder. “Don’t even worry about knocking, you can just come in!”

“Mikoto!” Minato’s voice nearly cracked as he protested his aunt’s invitation weakly. It was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to win any arguments that might ensue from this, but he could damn well try.

His aunt shrugged off the protest--as was her like--and glanced at the clock. “Would you like someone to accompany you home, Akihiko-kun?”

“N-No, I’m okay.” Akihiko shook his head wildly and held his hands up. “I don’t live too far from here, anyway!” He opened the door and began to slowly back out; his eyes lingering on Minato still staring hard at the ground. “Um, I’ll… see you later, Minato-kun.”

“See you.” Minato mumbled and glanced up just as the door was closing behind Akihiko. He sighed and shook his head, then turned to go back upstairs. “Why are you like this, Mikoto?”

“Because you need to connect with people besides your crazy aunt, Minato.” Mikoto closed her eyes. “And Akihiko-kun is the perfect fit for you, whether you realize it now or not.”

Minato paused for a moment to look at the door, then shook his head and disappeared back into his bedroom. “...Whatever you say, Mikoto.”

Chapter Text

Many kilometers away in Tokyo, a young boy was preparing to move to live with his uncle and five year old cousin in Iwatodai. His parents were going to be travelling all over the world, and they wanted him to have a stable home, so… there he went.

“Are you ready to go, sweetheart?” His mother called from the living room as she looked at the clock. “Your father is getting anxious to head out so we can get to Iwatodai before dinner time!”

“Yeah, I’ll be out in a minute mom!” The boy called back after a short pause. Most of his things had already been sent to Iwatodai ahead of time so his room would be ready when he got there. All he had left to do was put together the few things he had left in this house, and he’d be good to go.

He zipped up his backpack and took one last look around his now empty bedroom. He smiled and started toward the living room and his mother.

“You look ready to take on the world, champ.” His father smiled brightly as he opened the front door. “Are you ready to go, then?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He nodded and giggled as his mother ruffled his hair. “How long is the drive from here to Iwatodai?”

His father shrugged. “I think about six hours from here. We’ll stop somewhere for lunch, and then gun it the rest of the way to your uncle Dojima’s!” He smiled brightly. “I think your cousin Nanako is really excited to meet you, Yu.”

“You think so?” Yu perked up when he heard that. He’d seen pictures of his little cousin before, but he’d never gotten to actually talk to her or see her in person before. As much as he hated leaving his parents like this, but he was excited about seeing Iwatodai and his other family.

His mother smiled brightly and hugged him tightly. “Of course, sweetheart. Apparently, she’s done nothing but talk about you since she learned you’ll be living with her soon.”

Yu smiled and adjusted his backpack on his shoulder. “Cool!” He glanced over at his father for a second. “I guess we should leave soon though, huh? Dad looks like he’s getting really anxious…”

“I just want to make sure you get there before it’s dark so you can put stuff away, sport!” His father shook his head, though he was still tapping his foot impatiently. It was obvious he wanted to get going as soon as possible.

His mother sighed and shook her head. “Well, let’s get going then. I’ll let Ryotarou know, and we’ll head out on our way!” She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to her brother before grabbing her purse from the coffee table.

Yu nodded and followed his parents out of the house and toward the car. He crawled in the back and buckled himself in while his father climbed into the driver’s seat and his mother locked the front door.

As soon as the whole family was in the car, his father started off down the street toward the highway.

 

-------

 

As predicted, it took them about six hours to reach Iwatodai from Tokyo. There had been a small stop along the way for lunch, but other than that it was a straightforward route. It was a mostly quiet ride, with the radio being the only noise between them.

Yu had fallen asleep a few times along the way, but something woke him up when they reached Iwatodai. At first, he had thought it was because his parents said something or they hit a bump, but… His mother was still listening to her audiobook and his father was driving, and the road was totally smooth.

“Huh…” He sighed and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. It was only about 5:30, and it was still light out, but for some reason it felt more like twilight.

“Hey dad, are we close to Uncle Dojima’s house?”

“Huh?” His father turned his head for a second, “Oh, yeah! We’re only about five minutes away. Did you have a good nap?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” It was kind of exciting to know he was getting so close to seeing his new home, though. It was like that news had driven off his drowsiness and replaced it with something between excitement and apprehension.

Finally, they did reach the house of his uncle. As soon as the car stopped, Yu’s father stepped out and stretched. “Honey, we made it! Time to get out of your book world!”

His mother looked up finally and blinked in surprise. “Oh!” She pulled her headphones out and wrapped them around the device she’d been using. “Well, Yu, here we are! Are you ready to go meet your little cousin?”

“Yeah!” Yu smiled brightly, momentarily forgetting his sadness about leaving his parents and sliding out of his seat with his backpack in tow.

“Hey, glad to see you made it safely!” A gruff voice called from the front door, and Yu turned to see his uncle standing in the threshold. Behind him was a little girl with two pigtails and wide, brown eyes.

She must be Nanako . Yu thought as he waved to his uncle. She’s so cute ! She looked kind of shy, though. Maybe she wasn’t used to new people, then? Who knew.

“Hey Ryotarou.” His mother smiled and gave her brother a hug as his father tried in vain to ask Nanako for one of his own. “I hope we didn’t keep you two waiting too long for dinner!”

“Not at all, Nanako was just helping get stuff set up when you guys pulled into the driveway.” Ryotarou shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “So we don’t really have anything ready yet. If you want to eat with us, we’ll put together something quickly, but I understand if you guys need to get home soon.”

Yu’s mother smiled and shook her head. “No, it’s alright! We can wait for something to eat. I’m sure Yu would love that too.” She motioned for her son to finally join the rest of them on the porch. “He’s a little bit nervous about this whole thing.”

Yu blushed when his mother mentioned that and looked up at his uncle. He’d met Ryotarou a few times before, at birthday parties and other family gatherings, but that didn’t make his uncle any less intimidating. He was a police detective, after all.

Instead, he focused on his little cousin, who was now staring at him with her wide eyes.

He waved a little bit and offered her a small smile. “Hi, Nanako! I’m Yu. It’s nice to meet you!” He tried to sound as friendly as possible, just in case she was afraid of him for some reason…

“Hi…” Nanako lifted her hand from her father’s jeans and waved slowly at him, though she didn’t smile. “Are you gonna live with us…?”

“Yeah.” Yu nodded and shifted his weight. “I hope that’s okay!”

She nodded and finally let go of her father fully, only to turn back into the house. It looked like that conversation was over…

“Come on inside,” Ryotarou pulled Yu out of his stupor with his voice, “we’ll get dinner started so Yu can get all set up in his room.”

Yu walked through the door first, followed closely by his parents, and looked around the living room curiously. It wasn’t anything special, but it felt homey at least. Even though he’d only just walked in, it felt like home.

“C’mon, sport, let’s find your room.” His father smiled and started down the hallway, motioning for his son to follow after him. “Your uncle said it was at the end of the hall!”

Yu nodded and followed after him, a small smile on his face. Maybe living somewhere without his parents wouldn’t be so bad….

Chapter Text

“Hey, Minato, have you done a one-card reading lately?” Mikoto called from her reading room. “I remember you talked about wanting to learn more about your cards a little while ago.”

Minato poked his head in from the hallway and shrugged. “Not recently, no.” He was thinking more about Akihiko and Ryoji than anything else lately, actually… “Maybe I should do one today, then…” It couldn’t hurt, right?

He stepped into the dim room, followed closely by Calliope, and grabbed one of Mikoto’s decks carefully from the bookshelf. “Are you cleaning up in here then, Mikoto?” It was rare to see her in the reading room without her messing with her cards or reading a book.

“Oh, no, I’m just looking for something new to read.” His aunt laughed and shook her head. “But I guess I do need to eventually clean this mess up…” Now that she thought about it… It really was a bit of a mess.

Minato rolled his eyes as he sat down at the reading table. “I’d suggest doing it soon. It’s going to get dusty and gross in here if you don’t. Then your clients will want to go somewhere else because it’s gross in here.”

“Harsh, Minato.” Mikoto put a hand over her heart as though she’d been wounded and shook her head. “I suppose I will get this place cleaned out soon, then!” She laughed. “I’ll leave you to your reading, sweetheart. Call for me if you need me!”

“Thanks Mikoto.” Minato nodded at her and looked down at the deck for a second. The slightly worn black, silver, and white card backs seemed to stare back up at him. It almost felt as though they were having a conversation, though nothing was being said.

He sighed and began to carefully shuffle the cards between his hands. Once he was satisfied, he set the cards back down and drew one off the top.

He hesitated upon flipping it over and setting it down, but he couldn’t quite understand why. Part of him wanted to ask Mikoto about it, but the other part of him told him this was something he needed to do alone.

Eventually, the part of him that wanted him to do it alone won out, and he set the card down face up. He didn’t, however, look at it. He kept his hand carefully over the image and closed his eyes for a moment.

“What are you waiting for?”

The sudden voice startled Minato, and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Whoever the voice belonged to, they were clearly young. He didn’t remember Mikoto saying anything about visitors that day… had he fallen asleep?

He looked around the room once his nerves were back under control, but… there was nobody there.

“Are you going to answer me?” The bodiless young voice asked. “I don’t want to keep asking you things if you’re never going to say anything back…”

Minato could almost feel the pout in the voice, and he closed his eyes. I must be going crazy… But he didn’t see a reason not to respond to this… this thing in his head, so he might as well give it a shot and hope Mikoto didn’t think he had developed some sort of hallucination.

“Um…” He paused for a moment, “Who or what are you, exactly?” The fact he had to say that made him feel as though he were suddenly the main character in a horror movie, and whatever this thing was was about to come and rip his face off…

That was probably what made his surprise that much more palpable when the image of a young boy manifested in front of him. If he wasn’t sure he was still awake, he would’ve pinched himself to make sure.

The boy smiled, something Minato found eerie and unsettling, and rested his elbows on the table, with his head on his hands. “We’re connected. I’m a part of you; the part tied to the psychic realm. I’m that annoying voice in your head that tells you you’ve experienced something before even when you think you haven’t.”

Minato was silent for a long moment, his eyes locked onto the bright blue eyes of the boy. Any words of response he could have said were stuck in his throat, as if the boy had silenced him with some sort of spell.

“Don’t worry, I already know what you’re thinking.” The boy smiled again and closed his eyes. “It’s all right, you don’t have to understand everything about be right away. I’m always with you, so we’ll get a lot of chances to get to know each other.”

That statement seemed to snap Minato out of his stupor, and he found himself frowning. “If you’re always with me, why did you wait until now to show up? And what’s your name?” Did he have a name? He hoped so…

“Oh, I guess I forgot to introduce myself.” Obviously ignoring the first question, the boy laughed. “My name is Pharos. You don’t have to introduce yourself; I already know who you are.”

Minato sighed. “Right… but you didn’t answer my first question, Pharos.” For some reason, the name rolled off his tongue easily, like he’d said it a million times before. He knew he hadn’t, as the name ‘Pharos’ was quite… strange , but it felt familiar somehow…

Pharos shrugged at the persistence of an answer and shook his head. “It’s not important.”

“...Alright, sure.” Minato narrowed his eyes, but he figured it was better not to press the issue any further.

He suddenly remembered the fact he was supposed to be doing a one card reading and looked down at the image to avoid Pharos’s piercing gaze. The pierced boat floating calmly down the river eased his nerves if only by a little, and he sighed.

“That’s a good outlook, don’t you think?” Pharos sang softly, as if to remind Minato that he hadn’t gone away just because eye contact was broken. “It looks like you’ll have some respite for a while.”

Minato sat quietly for a moment, then hummed his assent and carefully replaced the card in the deck. When he looked up, Pharos was gone.

He sighed as he placed the deck carefully on the shelf and straightened a few of the nearby books. “...I hope you’re right.”