Fumikage Tokoyami had never exactly been the most rational person. He was the type to act on his impulses rather than consider the consequences, and it had bitten him in the ass quite a bit in the past. Never to this degree, though.
Fumikage tried to quiet his breathing, but it was hard to do when his heart was still pounding from running and fear alike. Why, why, why had he assumed that delinquent was there alone? Now he had the whole group after him, and he doubted hiding in the alley was going to help for long.
Already, he could hear them running through the streets, looking for him. How many were there? Ten? Twenty? Fumikage wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he didn’t stand a chance. His quirk might have given him an intimidating appearance, but it didn’t exactly help in a fight.
There was only one thing to do, then. Well, technically, there were a number of things he could do, but one of them was the most likely to have a good outcome.
Wincing, Fumikage nipped at the skin of his finger with his beak, breaking the skin and drawing blood. He quickly brought his finger to the alley wall, using the blood to draw the circle drilled into his head throughout his childhood.
He was fast, but not fast enough. A brick, thrown by one of the delinquents chasing him, hit his shoulder as he was finishing the circle, jerking his hand to the side. He’d just have to hope the circle was good enough, because he was out of options now.
“Dark Shadow!” Fumikage yelled, and dark smoke began pouring from the hastily-drawn circle. The crowd of boys entering the alley hesitated for a moment, but pressed forward all the same. Fumikage felt the bite of brass knuckles against his cheek for a moment, and then Dark Shadow appeared with a roar, his shadowy bird form pouring out of the summoning circle and lashing out against the gang in the alley. The spirit made quick work of those within reach, knocking them out with ease.
“Let’s get out of here!” one of the few delinquents still standing shouted, and those who still could scrambled to flee the alley.
“A wise decision,” Dark Shadow said.
As the last of the delinquents left the alley, Fumikage’s vision began to fade, darkening with frightening speed. His legs felt shaky underneath him, and he distantly felt himself stumble against the alley wall, like it was happening in a dream. An arm—Dark Shadow’s—tried to pull him upright, and Fumikage fell fully unconscious.
When Fumikage woke up, everything felt strange. His whole body felt numb and distant, like it had fallen asleep, and he couldn’t feel his legs, period. He frantically looked around for a clue as to what had happened. He was in a different alley than Dark Shadow had beaten up the delinquents in, but in the same part of town, judging by the graffiti here. The alley was strewn with boxes, loose garbage, and—
Wait. That was him.
Fumikage was looking at his own body from the outside. It was seated against one alley wall, staring up at the opposite wall, but when Fumikage made a panicked noise (because really, what else could you do when you realized you weren’t inside your body?), its gaze snapped to him.
“Ah. You’re awake,” Fumikage’s body spoke, his tone unusually serious.
“Wha—who are you? What happened?” Fumikage asked, his voice sounding different than usual to his own ears.
“There was an issue with the summoning,” the stranger in his body said. “The smear you left on the circle corrupted the ritual. When I tried to catch you as you fell, this happened.”
“Dark Shadow?” Fumikage asked, and his body solemnly nodded.
But if Dark Shadow was in Fumikage’s body, whose body was Fumikage in?
He lifted his hands to look at them, and dark, shadowy claws responded. He looked down at himself, and saw a void.
“Did we switch bodies? ” Fumikage managed to ask, and Dark Shadow gave another too-serious-looking nod.
“Unfortunately, I have not found any way to undo the effects of the corrupted summoning yet,” Dark Shadow said. “I assure you I will continue trying to find a solution, young Tokoyami.”
“It’s my fault anyway,” Fumikage said. “Man, my mom’s gonna be pissed .”
“Right. Your mother,” Dark Shadow said, and he somehow sounded even more stiff and formal than he had before now.
“Yeah, what about her?” Fumikage asked.
“We will need to return to her and your home, and I believe traveling the streets in our current state may draw some… undue attention,” Dark Shadow said. “My true form usually elicits fear in the hearts of all who see it, except for the Tokoyami family, of course.”
Fumikage took a second look at the body he was currently inhabiting, and had to agree that it was, from an objective standpoint, pretty terrifying.
“You may have a point there,” Fumikage conceded. “You have any idea how we can draw less attention?”
“Of course,” Dark Shadow said. “I fear you may find it unpleasant, however.”
“More unpleasant than being stuck in this alley indefinitely?” Fumikage asked.
“An excellent point. It is, at least, worth attempting.”
It took them about fifteen minutes to figure out how to get Fumikage in Dark Shadow’s body safely nestled inside Dark Shadow in Fumikage’s body—and man , making that distinction was going to get confusing fast . Fumikage didn’t have control of his human body, unfortunately, but he at least looked like himself and could experience what Dark Shadow was doing with it.
He really hoped his mother would know a way to fix this.
Dark Shadow was able to follow his directions and get back to the Tokoyami house without running into any further trouble, thank every power that be. Now the only trouble was…
“Fumikage Tokoyami! You come home an hour late, and—did you get punched in the face again? You know what I said about picking fights!”
His mother was waiting by the front door for him to get home, it seemed.
“My apologies, Mrs. Tokoyami,” Dark Shadow said, bowing his head in apology. It was unusual enough to derail his mother’s lecture before she really got into it, at least.
“Mrs--?” she questioned. “Fumikage, what happened to you?”
“Hi, mom,” Fumikage said, poking his head out of Dark Shadow’s side. His mother jumped at the sight.
“You got Dark Shadow involved in a prank with you, now?” she demanded. “That’s too far, Fumikage! Summoning Dark Shadow is for emergencies only!”
“I know, I know,” Fumikage said. “It was an emergency, though! I was gonna get beat up by like, twenty guys, so I summoned Dark Shadow to help, but the circle got messed up.”
Fumikage’s mother stood in shocked silence, looking between the two of them like she was trying to piece together what was going on. Dark Shadow took this as his cue to step in.
“The corrupted circle has bound me to your son’s body, and him to my own. I assure you, I will do my utmost to remedy the situation,” he said, sweeping into a low and dramatic bow. That was apparently enough of a shock for the whole situation to register in his mother’s mind, and Fumikage saw tears building in the corners of her eyes.
“Fumikage, what have you gotten yourself into this time?” she asked, the anger gone out of her voice, replaced with fear. He would have preferred her to start yelling again, honestly.
“I hoped you would know how to undo it,” Fumikage said. “All the family records of Dark Shadow, they have to have something, right?”
“It’s worth checking,” Fumikage’s mother said. She walked back to the living room, with Dark Shadow following behind. The book that documented their family’s history with Dark Shadow was hidden inside the piano, and Dark Shadow waited by the doorway to the living room as Fumikage’s mother retrieved it.
“You can sit down,” she told him. “This may take a while.”
Dark Shadow obediently sat down on the sofa as Fumikage’s mother began leafing through the book, at first slowly and thoroughly, but then with growing urgency.
“Nothing,” she said at last. “There’s nothing like this in the book.”
“This situation is quite unprecedented,” Dark Shadow said.
“It sure is,” Fumikage’s mother said. “Looks like we’re going to have to experiment.”
The first thing they tried was summoning Dark Shadow away from Fumikage, using the proper summoning circle engraved on the end table. However, that had no effect on either Dark Shadow or Fumikage.
Mrs. Fumikage tried again, with a blood circle, with lit candles, with offerings. None of it worked. Then desperation set in, and she began trying banishing spells.
None of them were exactly sure who would be banished by them, and in whose body they’d leave, but it was a moot point because none of the banishing spells worked either.
“That’s all I’ve got,” Mrs. Fumikage said, collapsing onto the couch. “Dark Shadow, any ideas?”
“None that we haven’t tried already,” Dark Shadow said.
“So we’re… stuck together for the foreseeable future?” Fumikage asked.
“That appears to be the case,” Dark Shadow said. “My deepest apologies for allowing such events to come to pass. I have truly let down the Tokoyami family.”
“It sound like it was more my son’s fault than yours, Dark Shadow,” Fumikage’s mother said, shooting a glare at Fumikage as she did. He shrunk back to hide behind Dark Shadow’s shoulder.
“So what do we do?” Fumikage asked. “I have school and stuff.”
“Of course now is the first time in your life you worry about school,” his mother said. “Dark Shadow, would you be willing to take on Fumikage’s role and continue his education until we get this all sorted out?”
“It would be my honor to do whatever I can to alleviate the situation I have caused,” Dark Shadow said, bowing his head.
[1 year later]
“As you all are in your final year of middle school, it’s time to begin thinking about your futures,” Fumikage’s teacher said. “More specifically, it’s time to begin planning which high schools you’ll be applying to.”
UA UA UA
Would you be quiet?
“I have some papers I’ll be giving out after class, information on some of the schools in the area and their application processes.”
UA! UA! UA!
I am trying to listen to your teacher, cease your distractions!
“Please come collect them on your way out and spend the weekend looking over them. I want everyone to come in on Monday with a list of their top three schools. Class dismissed.”
While the other students rushed towards the teacher’s desk, Dark Shadow took his time packing away Fumikage’s school things into his bag, all the while doing his best not to respond to the boy’s whining. After a year of being forced to share a body with the newest in the Tokoyami line, his patience for the child’s antics had faded somewhat. Some days he thought his continued attempts to reverse the botched ritual were more for his sake than the boy’s own.
Finally, once the other students had collected their papers and left, Dark Shadow walked to the front of the classroom and collected two of the packets—one for Fumikage to look through, and one for himself.
Sure enough, as soon as they were out of the classroom door and in the hall, Fumikage burst from their shared body and snatched a copy of the paper from Dark Shadow’s hands.
“Hero schools… c’mon, where’s the hero schools,” he said, rifling through the pages as Dark Shadow made his way to the exit.
“We will not be attending a school for heroics,” Dark Shadow said.
“Aw, c’mon, why not?” Fumikage whined.
“First, your actual quirk is useless for hero work,” Dark Shadow said. “Having a bird head is not especially useful for fighting the villainous.”
“Well we’re not going to get in with that quirk, sure, but look at us!” Fumikage said, moving in front of Dark Shadow, forcing him to look at the weakened form of his own body that the youngest Tokoyami now inhabited. “Using your power, I’m sure we could be a great hero!”
Ignoring his argument, Dark Shadow continued listing his reasons.
“Second, the situation we are in now is temporary,” he said. “Eventually we will be separated, at which time the ‘quirk’ you were relying on for heroics will be no more.”
“Is it, though?” Fumikage asked, his mood taking a rare dip. “We’ve been stuck like this for a year, now. Shouldn’t you or mom have figured out how to fix it by now, if it could be fixed?”
Of course Dark Shadow had thought the same thing, hundreds of times, but it was a thought he refused to entertain.
“Third, I have no interest in heroics, or in acting as a protector for anyone outside of the Tokoyami family,” Dark Shadow said. Usually this was where Fumikage started whining in earnest, which is why Dark Shadow has timed it so that he made the argument shortly before walking out into the sunlight, where Fumikage would once more take shelter inside the flesh body Dark Shadow currently inhabited.
But this time, he asked, “Why?”
“Why what?” Dark Shadow replied, stopping short just before the doors to the school.
“Why are you so loyal to our family when you don’t give a shit about anyone else, I guess,” Fumikage clarified.
“Language,” Dark Shadow’s scolded, walking out of the school. Fumikage flinched at the sudden, bright sunlight and retreated to Dark Shadow’s body.
On paper, the answer to Fumikage’s question was simple. All spirits were bound to protect something or other, and Dark Shadow was bound to the Tokoyami family line; serving them was not a matter of choice. Conversely, he owed nothing to those who he was not bound to.
And yet that answer felt unsatisfactory, and Dark Shadow could not stop turning the question over in his mind.
Over the course of the weekend, Fumikage made his way through the list of schools, quickly marking UA as his top choice and Ketsubutsu as his second. With great deliberation, he picked a third school in the nearby area that wasn’t heroics-focused.
“If you’re really so dead-set on not going the hero route, I guess I’ll have to go along with it,” he said, with more maturity than Dark Shadow had come to expect from him.
Which left Dark Shadow, in the body with legible handwriting, in the position of filling out the official report for their teacher.
Fumikage’s pick for non-hero school was on the list, of course, as was the school Mrs. Tokoyami had attended, which offered some studies in the dark arts not advertised to the public. Several other schools in the area were also under consideration. Dark Shadow could weigh the benefits of each school perfectly, of course, but however he ranked them, something seemed to be off. He shifted the order and changed out the schools countless times over the weekend, but they never felt right.
The question Fumikage had asked him was eating at his mind like a caterpillar eating a leaf, slowly but surely wearing down his certainty over not pursuing education at a hero school. Logically, the decision was sound, but not every decision could be made with pure logic alone. Even Dark Shadow had to acknowledge Fumikage’s dedication to the idea of becoming a hero, and the disappointment that would be sure to follow if he lost out on this dream, as he had already lost out on living a normal life.
That was what made this situation so uncomfortable, Dark Shadow finally decided. He had already taken so much from the boy: his body, his life, his privacy. Even though none of it had been intentional, it had still happened because of him. Was he truly going to take the boy’s dreams away now, too?
Sunday night came and forced a decision. The form needed to be filled out and handed in the next morning, and there was no more time for careful deliberation. A decision had to be made.
As third choice, he wrote in Mrs. Tokoyami’s alma mater. It would be a useful school to attend, but one that did not especially interest Fumikage or himself. As second choice, he wrote the non-heroic school Fumikage had picked. And then, again, he hesitated.
Despite his own reluctance, his purpose on this plane was to serve the Tokoyamis’ interests, specifically Fumikage’s. He may have disliked being saddled with the boy, but he was a child, still learning. And if what he wanted to learn was to protect himself and others, to do good in the world, what right did Dark Shadow have to take that from him?
As first choice, Dark Shadow carefully wrote UA .