What happened last time: Yuri caught the fever in her attempt to find Mitsukake, but was saved by him, like Tasuke, he promises her that he will join Miaka as soon as she comes. Yuri then decides to wait for the news of Suzaku’s summoning before she returns to the palace.
Yuri had been counting the number of days that had passed since she left Mitsukake and hide away here, at this isolated village near the border. It had been many days now, surely Miaka had enough time to go back to the palace and prepare the ritual.
Suzaku should be summoned already!
“Suzaku, please come to us quickly!” she prayed again.
Instead of travelling back to the capital she had continued to travel away from it until she ended up here. This village was the closest establishment to Kotou in Konan.
She did not know why she came here, instead of starting to go back to the palace. Somehow she had a feeling of dread, even though she was sure that Suzaku would be called out soon.
Since she arrived here, she had stayed in the temple and spent almost all of her days praying to Suzaku.
The people of this village naturally did not know her real identity, they just thought of her as a traveller who decided to rest a little. The fact that she was a woman alone was rather strange, but as she carried a sword they decided that she must be an unconventional woman in every aspect, which was not impossible.
Sometimes she would leave the temple and talk to the local villagers, they were very friendly- even to a stranger like her. She was especially pleased to hear about their views on the emperor. Most of them regarded Hotohori as a very good emperor, and all seemed to love and respect him greatly.
“What of the Empress?” she simply couldn’t resist the temptation to ask them this one day.
“We know little about the empress other then the fact that the emperor loves her very much. If that is the case,” a man had shrugged carelessly, “Then she must be a virtuous woman.”
“I suppose that will always be an empress’ role.” Yuri thought. “I really have no importance other then to bear a son. Unlike Hotohori, no one but him would really care if I die. They’ll just expect Hotohori to elect another.”
Walking out of the temple she saw a bunch of young girls giggling to each other, some were probably only a few months younger then her. As she never told anyone about her marital status, these girls greeted her like a following conspirator.
“Look at this!” one giggled.
A bunch of clay dolls were in front of them with a stack of paper, each girl was holding a pen. Taking a doll Yuri held it up to examine it closer, she saw that it was actually two dolls adjoined together, a man and a woman. (1)
“It’s a lovers doll, do you want one, Yuri?” one offered.
“What are they?” Yuri asked in confusion.
“You write your name on a piece of paper and then stick it onto the girl doll, and then you write the name of the man that you love and stick that onto the boy doll. After you do this, you must bury the lovers doll somewhere in secret.”
“It will let you be with the man you love forever, and make him always love you.”
Taking a pen Yuri followed the instruction.
“And now you just need to bury it…oh!”
The doll made from strong clay suddenly broke apart when Yuri was sticking the names on, the two pieces slipped through her finger and hit the ground, shattering into many pieces.
“Don’t worry about it, there’s bound to be one that will break…” one of the girl said with forced cheerfulness. “We have a lot of spares. This one seems very stable.”
“No, it is alright…” she whispered as she picked the pieces up. “I plan to go back to the temple anyway.”
Why did that happen? Even though it was a childish game she could not help but to feel a hint of fear at what just occurred.
Could it be that I will not be reunite with Hotohori as I had hoped? She thought in shock. Could it be that my betrayal made him stop loving me?
“No! I won’t believe this!” she yelled loudly.
She had to force herself to consider the possibility, after all, she did leave him out of the fear of seeing him hate her. Throughout her journey she kept pretending that everything would be well as soon as Suzaku was summoned.
But what if he was so angry at her that nothing could pacify him?
Closing her eyes she felt tears trickling down again, she had thought that he would forgive her as soon as everything was well but the fear that she was wrong began to erupt.
Maybe that was why she came here, instead of going back to the capital. Because it seemed that until she went back and see Hotohori, she could pretend that he would forgive her and everything would be alright.
“What if…” she whispered these words again.
The only reason she would doubt Hotohori’s love for her was because she loved him too much.
Mercifully, sleep soon took over.
Her dream started very pleasantly. At first she was reliving through her own wedding. She was in that elaborate gown with the string of pearls in her hair, Hotohori was standing beside her, holding her hand tightly.
The faces of the advisors changed to the numerous unknown faces of the people of Konan. The two of them were carried in a litter and she saw many people throwing flowers towards them.
“Wave at them,” Hotohori whispered into her ears. “The acknowledgement of the empress will make them very happy.”
Nodding she did so, and almost wept at the cry of joy that greeted her because of that simple action.
Smiling she turned to Hotohori but unlike her real wedding, he was no longer there. Every thing suddenly disappeared and she was left alone in a deserted room with only a mirror in front of her.
By chance she looked into the mirror, instead of her wedding gown she was now dressed in the garbs of a priestess, the robe she had once saw in some illustrations among the ancient scrolls in Hotohori’s private library.
“Is this what I might have been?” She asked softly, fingering the trailing blue bands…
Blue instead of red?
“The costume of the priestess of Seiryuu? Why…”
“So we finally meet, Yuri, my priestess.”
This was only a dream but she still almost screamed when she saw the figure. Standing only a few paces away from her was Seiryuu, the god of Kutou, the country that was threatening destroy Konan.
“Seiryuu?” she repeated dumbly. “What is all this? Why do you call me your priestess?”
“Because that is what was meant to happen. You arrived in this world almost three years ago…”
‘Yes but I arrived in Suzaku’s kingdom, in Konan...”
“Do not interrupt me again.” the god said, but it was not said unkindly, “There is very little time left in this dream. (2)
“You were meant to arrive in Kutou so you could summon me, but through a twist of fate you ended up in Konan, and even became the empress.
“Remember what happened the day you came to this world! Remember that book that took you here!”
It was the day of her eighteenth birthday but as usual she was spending it alone, she thought about asking some of her colleagues from the office but decided against it, she did not know them that well. (3)
Someone she made herself a recluse, she knew that if she wanted to she could easily mingle with many other young people at her new workplace. There were actually two men who wanted to go out with her.
If she asked them to accompany her, they would gladly do so, but somehow she did nothing. It seemed that she was too paranoid of turning into her mother.
She spent a long time wandering around the town, admiring these fine objects she could not afford to buy just yet. Although she did change into a new dress that she brought this morning, a soft lilac one with that red ribbon in her hair.
Suddenly, without any warning, it began to rain.
The nearest shelter was the library, so she naturally ran in there.
It was in the library when she first felt the book calling to her. It seemed ridiculous even as she recollected years later but that was what she had felt. The voice would grow dimmer when she approached the library, when she tried to leave the voice broke into such a loud scream that she was forced to step back into the library.
Secretly she made her way into the locked room and took the book down. It was the right book because that voice ceased as soon as she closed her hands over the spine of the book.
“The book of the universe of the four gods?” she read the title out softly, “What a strange name for a book.
“This book is about how a young woman receives the power of the god Seiryuu…”
“So I was meant to be your priestess all along, that means I didn’t actually need to leave Hotohori.” Yuri said sadly. “It makes sense though, when I arrived Konan was not on the brink of destruction. But Kutou…”
“Few people knew of what had happened in Kutou. When you arrived the emperor of Kutou was a different man. The last emperor had many children, but when he finally died at a very old age, it was to his youngest son that he gave the country to. Naturally all the others were angry, there was a fierce civil war that ended when the victor among all the other brothers took the throne by force and threw his brother into the dungeon.
“His younger brother, the rightful emperor of Kutou, managed to escape and is now hiding and planning revolts. He would have been a peaceful emperor like your husband- his birth in this war loving country was almost like a miracle. That was why he received the throne, as his father realized that he had a chance of ending the war and corruption that the country had long been tied with.”
“What could I have done if I had I been there?” Yuri asked.
“You would have prevented the usurp, then the Suzaku priestess would never have come as she would not be needed. It is too late to change that now but you must still summon me.” Seiryuu suddenly turned around, and whatever he saw made him frown. “Time is running out, priestess. Come to Kutou as fast as you can and summon me. Otherwise I fear both Kutou and Konan will be destroyed.”
“You would ask this of me? How can you ask me to go and do something that will result in my own death?” she said angrily.
The god met her eyes without flinching as he replied, “I ask this of you in order to save my own life. If Kutou is destroyed, then I will cease to exist.”
Yuri nodded, she did not blame Seiryuu one bit as it was natural for someone to want their life to be preserved instead of another’s.
“I do not wish to die, surely you can understand that if you have the same fear.” She reasoned. “Must I summon you? Can Suzaku not…”
“Unlike you, the priestess of Suzaku will not be able to make the right wish for Kutou. And even if she does, it is impossible, as Suzaku cannot be summoned anymore.” There seemed to be a slight bitterness in the god’s voice.
“Why?” she demanded.
“The emperor of Kutou and his celestial warriors prevented this due to trickery. They stopped all the ways for Suzaku to be summoned.” (4)
“Then I will go to Kutou.” Yuri declared out. “But I am not doing it because I am meant to be the priestess of Seiryuu. I am only doing this because it is the only way to save both Konan and Hotohori.”
“Nonetheless your wish will end up helping Kutou.” He stretched his hand out to her and pressed it against her forehead for a few seconds, before releasing it. “This mark will let everyone in Kutou know that you are my priestess, my chosen one.”
Turning to look into the mirror again, she saw that a picture of a dragon had been imprinted onto her forehead. (5)
“There is one more thing that I want to know.” Yuri called out as she felt the darkness around them beginning to lighten, a sign of the dream ending. “Is this why I cannot bear a child? Because I am not meant to stay in this world?”
Seiryuu nodded. “You cannot stay with him, Yuri. Have you not realized why your appearance changed so little over the two years?”
She sank onto the ground and buried her face into her hands, sobbing openly. So they would force her to leave him no matter what…
Was the dream only a dream? Yuri asked herself as soon as she woke up. Sitting up she saw that she was clad in the plain robe that she had brought instead of the elaborate robes of the Seiryuu priestess.
She was brushing her hair when she remembered the last bit of her dream, automatically her hand rested on her forehead.
On the table was a small basin of water that was meant to be for her toiletries, half-afraid, half-eager, she leant over it to use it as a mirror.
It was there, the mark of Seiryuu, as she guessed it would be.
“I am the priestess of Seiryuu, what an ironic fate.” She muttered bitterly, “I who became the empress of Konan, Suzaku’s country; the wife of one of the seven celestial warriors of Suzaku, was sent here for this purpose!”
She would go to Kutou and summon Seiryuu, as both Konan and Hotohori would be saved. Yuri was fully aware that she would die to achieve this but somehow it seemed that she no longer cared. Because it seemed that either way she and Hotohori must part, so her best option was to make him safe at the expense of her own life.
Kutou was a much more stronger country then Konan, and she knew that when the battle began Hotohori would ride out in the very front. He would willingly die for his kingdom.
There was no way for them to remain together. Even in the unlikelihood of Konan winning she still could not remain here.
Until Seiryuu reminded her of her appearance she had not understand the true significance of it. She was eighteen when she came here, and now at twenty, she still looked exactly the same as she was two years ago. Her hair had been waist length, and it still remained that long even though she never once cut it. (6)
If I stay here I will have to watch Hotohori die before me, and I will outlive him by so many years. I can never give him a child either…
The best thing for me to do is to summon Seiryuu, she realized very sadly. Dying is my best option as I will not be able to live with the pain of being away from Hotohori in that lonely world I had come from, or even just from knowing that he would be making love to another woman and have a child with her!
At that moment, she knew what her three wishes would be.
Perhaps she knew what would have happened all along, as she had took the clothes she wore the day she found the book. Her original reason of taking them was that they might be discovered if she left them in her quarters in the palace.
Now she was not so sure. Maybe it was fate all along.
She put on the lilac dress and then slipped the pair of stilettos on. It felt so strange for her to wear these cloths again. She seemed to have adjusted to the custom of this world a bit too well as she felt that she was dressing too immodestly by wearing a dress that has just one layer, and had no sleeves with the skirt reaching only to her knees.
In the past two years when she was the empress, she rarely wore a gown that did not consists of at least two layers, with the shortest length up to her ankle, and all the sleeves at least reached past her elbow.
“Surely, no one will be able to recognize the Houkigou in this outfit.” She said rather sourly as she quickly cloaked herself. “Even the whores in brothels wear more then me right now.”
Closing her eyes she began to plait her very long hair, then she grasped the braid in her hand tightly, must she cut this too? She was only the empress, not the emperor, so it was not likely for anyone in Kutou to recognize her when no one in Konan did.
But what if they did and used her as a hostage…no, she could not endanger Hotohori in anyway. Her greatest wish was for him to be happy, and only Seiryuu could grant it now.
Taking the dagger she sliced it through the braid neatly. Watching it fall to the ground she had an urge to cry again.
She had always been vain of her long hair since her childhood, it was something that connected her with her dead mother. When she tied her hair with the ribbon in the same method her mother had taught her, she could pretend that it was her mother’s fingers that were weaving through her hair.
When she was a child she had been forced to cut her hair once. Miaka’s mother had demanded so: “If I must have that whore’s child in my house then at least make her cut her hair so she doesn’t look like a clone of that whore!”
Her hair ended up as short as a boy’s and she spent many days crying herself to sleep, holding the braid in her hand. Her vanity towards the length of her hair was not because of the result of her appearance, it was because by having long hair she could bear her mother’s death more easily.
Her mother’s hair was like her’s in everyway: the length, texture, style. When Yuri’s hair was short she was so afraid that she would forget how to tie her hair the way her mother taught her that she practised with her only doll every single day and night until her hair grew long enough again.
By that time, her father had moved out so Miaka’s mother had no way of making Yuri cut her hair again.
Then in Konan, Hotohori had always been fond of touching her hair, and he had often told her how beautiful she looked with her long hair.
“I should give this to him,” she said to herself as she picked the long braid up. Her hair now only reached to her shoulders, to make her looked even more different she swept it into a high pony tail, securing every single strand with the white ribbon.
Later on, when she looked at her reflection in the river she had to admit that she looked very different from Houkigou. But this woman wasn’t Houki Yuri either.
She was someone else, this Yuri was not an empress or the lonely girl who clung onto her mother’s memory for many years. She was a young woman who no longer cared for anything else now, as she knew that her life would soon end.
This Yuri was the priestess of Seiryuu.
1 These dolls came out in volume five and I just suddenly thought it’ll be a good idea to write about this, even though Nuriko said it’s played by girls in the city, I think it is possible that it might have been done by girls all over the country.
2 I really don’t think that Seiryuu is a cruel god although he did ate Yui. But technically the priestesses were meant to make that sacrifice, so the point it, I’ve made Seiryuu into quite a kind god as well, a bit like Suzaku. I think it’s just the current king of Kotou who was cruel, and I guess some of the warriors of Seiryuu. (on a side note I actually like Soi quite a lot.)
3 This whole italic bit is a flashback. Yuri used to work in various jobs at her early and mid teens, a few months before her eighteenth birthday she got a job as an O.L, office lady.
4 Presuming that by this time the warriors of Seiryuu also took the two other sacred objects of the two other gods.
5 When Yui was calling out Seiryuu she had a picture of a dragon on her forehead, I tried to see if Miaka had a picture of a bird on her forehead when she first called Suzaku but I haven’t find it yet. But anyway, later on in Kutou, Yuri was escorted to the palace immediately due to that mark.
6 Another thing I understand now as I re-read the manga is the time difference thing. Before, I actually thought that if someone stayed in the universe of the four gods for two years, they will age by two years although when they return to the outside world, only six months would have passed. Apparently what would happen is that even though someone (eg Yuri) stayed in the book world for two years, she would only physically age as if two months (outside world time) had passed.