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Together the two of them walked back to join the rest, happy because they had finally made peace with each other even though neither of them could be said to be in the wrong.
Looking at Hotohori, who was actually smiling, Kotsuki suddenly felt as he did in the garden all these years ago: that here was someone who would help him and listen to him without blaming him for being weak or for being troublesome, as his mother and full blood brother had often done.
“Aniki, even though I am the emperor, I feel as if I am your subject just by standing next to you.” He admitted. “This is because I am only the people’s current ruler, while you are their eternal ideal. My advisors often compare me to you, especially those who had served you when you were the emperor.”
“And the irony is that I gained that by abandoning my duty. When I was living as Saihitei, these same advisors often criticized me.”
“But why?” Kotsuki found himself so drawn to these words, that he even forgets about the speaker’s identity and relationship to him. He felt as if he was a child discovering a new twist in his favourite story. “They always say that you rule the kingdom…
“Kotsuki, do you know what the main duties of the emperor are?” Hotohori was affected as well, it was as if he was in the village of Konan again, with his brother begging for a bedtime story, which would sometimes happen. This was the family that he had always wanted. “It is to rule his kingdom the best as he could, yes, but it is also to provide an heir for his people as a means of security. (5)
“I married at the right age, but I never provided the kingdom with an heir. Yuri seemed to be barren and when such a thing happens I should elect another concubine. But I love Yuri so much that I could not do such thing, even if that meant putting my kingdom in a slight danger.”
“I must produce an heir then as all our other brothers are dead.” Kotsuki decided without much enthusiasm. “But I…It is ironic, aniki. The one woman I love perhaps in the same way as you love Yuri, is one of the women I cannot marry.”
“One of the women you cannot marry?”
“Her name is Chinatsu, do you recognize that name?”
At this name Hotohori nodded. He did not remember any other of his concubines other then these two twins who were elected even though they were only twelve, because they were Yuri’s maids and his beloved had love them like her own sisters.
Nonetheless both she and her sister had been his concubines, and so they were almost his property for that time. Of course, when the emperor died then all the concubines were free to leave the palace if they wish, although some stayed as they had nowhere else to go. Many concubines actually married very easily as their stay in the palace made them very desirable wives- provided that they were not too old. (6)
However the mother of the future emperor was demanded to be a virgin, even in name as well.
“It might not be an impossible thing, Kotsuki.” Hotohori offered kindly. “After all, everyone knew that I only love the one I chose to be my empress and took no interest in any other concubine.”
“I really do love Chinatsu but I…I have been afraid.” Kotsuki admitted. “She thinks that I don’t love her enough to try and marry her but the truth is, I love her too much that I rather her think that I don’t want to marry her instead of I might not be able to marry her.”
“Because you hope that by letting her think that she might end up loving another. It is selfish, like my desire of letting Yuri live by dying.”
“Then what should I do?”
For the first time Hotohori put his arms around his brother to pull him into a hug.
“You don’t need me to tell you when you already have the answer.”

Yuri was pleased to be able to meet Chiharu once again. Her other maid was now married to one of Kotsuki’s officials: an intelligent young man who became one of the officials only a year ago.
He was considered as one of the rising stars of court, and as a result, he had been privileged enough to be allowed to live in the palace for most of the time, although he still had his home to return too. He had been the son of a rather successful merchant, so he could expect a comfortable surrounding if he ever leave the palace.
Chiharu was naturally very happy with this arrangement, as this meant that she could see her beloved twin whenever she could, as well as having the opportunity of being free from the rules of the palace, which could be rather strangling at times. (7)
Today, she had said goodbye to her husband, and was starting to prepare herself for finding her twin sister in order to learn about what the celestial warriors plan to do today, as she was like Chinatsu- they were both very eager with the hope of seeing the empress they had served.
Unlike her twin, the cut of her clothes were more fine, as she was the wife of one of the emperor’s official. But the similar thing about the two twins was that they both used very elaborate decorations to dress their hair: the last things Yuri had gave them.
She was arranging her hair when she noticed the red ribbon in the half opened drawer- her mistress had been so fond of tying her hair with a single red ribbon.
“Chinatsu…” she began to greet her sister only to suddenly pause as she saw the figure that followed Chinatsu in the mirror.
Half of her hair fell down along with numerous hair pins as Chiharu stood up from her seat very abruptly to kneel in front of Yuri.
At this Yuri almost laughed, she had almost forgotten about all these rules in this world. She now recollected how everyone would bow to her as soon as Hotohori announced that they would be married in one week’s time.
“I never stopped wishing that I could see you again…mistress.” Chiharu whispered even though she was crying, while her tears made her sister began to cry again.
“I miss you two too.” Yuri whispered, returning their embraces tightly. “Not because you two were my maids and served me…but because I loved you two as my younger sisters.”
“What of your half-sister? The priestess of Suzaku?” one of them asked curiously.
Yuri’s face darkened as she began to explain what had happened, and much to her surprise, the two of them understood her perfectly and assured her that she was not wrong at all.
“Like Kotsuki and his other brothers.” Chinatsu summarized the situation perfectly. “You do not become siblings just by sharing a parent.”
The three of them spend a very long time about all that had happened, the two younger girls embracing Yuri in happiness as she told them about her two children, while Yuri in turn, offered congratulations about Chiharu’s husband and tried to comfort Chinatsu.
The knock on the door made them frowned, as none of them wished to be disturbed at all.
“Who is it?” Chiharu commanded, as this was her husband’s private chamber after all.
“It is I, Hotohori. I heard that Yuri is here.”
At her husband’s voice, Yuri quickly got up to open the door for him, hoping that he would not be very upset due to the talk he had with his younger brother. No doubt it was some painful part of his past.
“Hotohori…” Yuri began but she immediately stopped at the sight of the man who stood behind Hotohori.
The emperor.
She was wondering whether she should kneel down when the emperor bowed to her instead.
“You are the priestess of Seiryuu, and you are my brother’s wife, therefore it is I who must pay respect to you.” Kotsuki said softly, before he turned to the two kneeling figures behind Yuri. “Chinatsu…I wish…I wish to announce my desire of making you into my empress before my council. If that is not disagreeable to you…then I would like you to come with me now.”
The object of his affection only bent her head even more down, and her voice was shaking, he suspected that it was due to tears.
“You majesty…I was the concubine of your brother so therefore…”
“But everyone know that the only woman my brother ever…” at this the young emperor was actually blushing slightly. “Well, it is not an uncommon knowledge that with the exception of Houkigou, he touched no woman at all.”
“If your advisors consent, then you would marry me?”
“You know that I want to marry you.” At the shock of her head he sighed, and began to explain.
As he finished speaking, Kotsuki half knelt down to embrace the woman he loved. She was openly crying by this time, and her body continued shaking even though the man who she loved was holding her against him, something she had dreamt of for so long.
“I believe they would let me, because after all, no one could make my brother elect another concubine, so I think my radical actions might not be frowned upon so much. Most of all,” he stated firmly, “I don’t want what happened to you to happen to other girls. Being selected to be the possible wife of a man who does not want you at all.
“I am not blaming you in anyway, aniki, because I know why you had to bow down to tradition, for the same reason I was prepared to. But the difference is that I already have someone who I want to marry.”
“That is all I want.” Chinatsu whispered. “I can be happy as long as I know that you want to marry me.”
“You will come with me then?” at her nod Kotsuki gently took her hand into his, then turned to Chiharu, “Will you accompany us as a witness?”
Hotohori smiled as he and Yuri watched Kotsuki depart with the two girls that had once been her maids. Chinatsu was still holding onto Kotsuki’s hand tightly, while Chiharu placed an arm reassuringly on her twin’s spare hand.
“I think they will let him marry her.” Hotohori told Yuri as he slipped his arm around her waist. “In time of peace…it is easy to break rules. Although…” he added this as an afterthought as they began to walk to the library, where they believed the others were. “That is often why peace get replaced by war.”
“But you believe that Chinatsu will be allowed to become the empress?”
Hotohori nodded. “Yuri, don’t be offended but an empress really only have one duty, and that is…”
“I know what it is.” She said with a slightly bitter smile, but she gave his hand a squeeze to let him know that she was not angry with him.
“Kotsuki have an advantage.” Hotohori explained, “His predecessor, myself, did not have any children. The people would really be happy as long as Kotsuki produces an heir, as that is all they wanted in a peaceful kingdom. They are not so concerned about the background of the empress as long as her past is not that tainted, which Chinatsu’s isn’t. Knowing them, they might even make it into a romantic story.
“If they would not be unhappy, then that would not matter that much, as officials would not complain as long as the people are relatively happy, and provided that the emperor did not act too radical. And as I said before, in time of peace it is easy. Unlike others, he does not need to make peace by treaties of marriages. That had happened before.”
“I want Chinatsu to find happiness with the man that she loves as Chiharu and I have.” Yuri stated. (8)
At this word Hotohori suddenly stopped walking and gathered Yuri into a tight embrace. “Yes…we are happy even after all that which had happened because we are together.”

Mitsukake could understand why Hotohori might be angry at the way he had adreesed him, but he simply couldn’t help it. It was true that as Ju-An and Seishuku, the two of them had been best friends. But they were now at this world again: where he was nothing but a doctor, while Hotohori had been the emperor…his emperor.
“Oh, you are all still here.” Hotohori said softly as he entered the room with Yuri, who was still clad in the robe of the priestess of Seiryuu, although Chiharu had offered her finest dresses for her.
Looking at Yuri in her formal robes, Chiriko couldn’t help but to flinch slightly due to guilt. He was the first celestial warrior the empress had found when she left the palace, and he had promised that he would go to the palace immediately. If he had, then he might have spared her so much pain.
“I am sorry.” He whispered.
“For what?” Yuri frowned, she never found out that he actually did not keep the promise that he had made.
As Chiriko began to explain, Hotohori turned toward Mitsukake. His expression darkened into disgust as the other automatically thought about kneeling then turned to Ryoen, who was the only other person in the room besides Yuri who was not affected by the fact that he was once the emperor of Konan.
“Does the past erase the present completely?” he wonder out aloud.
“Hotohori-sama…” Mitsukake began, hoping to explain.
“I always hate the ‘sama’ people would attach to the end of my name- if they would even call my name.” Hotohori began, his voice very soft. “It successfully reminds me that I am and will remain being the outsider.”
“The outsider, but you did so much…” Chiriko protested, temporarily breaking free from his conversation with Yuri.
“I did do much, but they were acts done alone. It was bad enough that I couldn’t travel with all of you after the failed attempt of summoning Suzaku because of my duties, then I am constantly being reminded of how I am the outsider by being addressed as ‘sama.’
“I know how all of you addresses each other, and none of you attaches these strangling suffixs. They might be a sign of respect, but they also mean that you regard the person as being so different from you that you do not consider them on the same level as you. It is a barrier.
“The worst bit is that I had believed that the celestial warriors would not treat me as if I am the emperor. I had hoped that they would be my friends.”
Mitsukake suddenly remembered the moment when Yuri had died. Even though the emperor had been surrounded by so many people, he seemed so lonely when she was not there, as opposed to the time when he embrace her: even he could tell that the two of them were meant to be together.
How lonely he must have been, he realized, as the emperor he was expected to come up with a solution when he was only a young man as well. He and the rest of the celestial warriors were to be blamed as well, Hotohori was right, they made him as an outsider.
Everyone else was regarded as a friend, so it didn’t matter whether they were a bandit or a young child, but whenever thought of Hotohori, they never stopped thinking of him as any other but the emperor.
Didn’t Tamahome, Nuriko and Taisuki teased each other the whole time, with even Chiriko, Chichiri and himself joining in at certain times? But whenever Hotohori was concerned, they showed nothing but respect to him.
They had managed to use respect to excluded him completely. They were wrong because Hotohori was a celestial warrior of Suzaku, so they were all meant to be equal- as he said, he expected them treat him as a friend.
“I am so sorry…Hotohori.” Mitsukake admitted.
“I am no longer the emperor of Konan,” Hotohori stated, “So I hope that this time I can truly be one of the celestial warriors of Suzaku, as Seishuku was to the others. I suppose that is the only reason that I might not like my name sometimes, because of the sama attached with it.”
He was going to speak more when a loud cry of pain suddenly interrupted his speech. Clutching to his heart, he sank onto the floor. (9)
“What is wrong?” Yuri quickly demanded, kneeling down to put a supporting arm around him, but much to her shock- he actually slapped her hand away.
“That…that woman who disguised herself as that maid in Kutou…it must be her.” he managed to pant out. “I…I don’t know what she did but Yuri, don’t touch me as it might harm you.”
“But I...I can’t just watch and…” she protested.
“Maybe my power can help him somehow.” Mitsukake suggested.
He went to place his hand over Hotohori’s brow, but this action only made Hotohori scream even more painful, and even more loud. He lashed out with his limbs again, but this time, it was out of an instinct due to the pain the other’s hand brought.
“Aniki…please!” Ryoen implored, as he went forward to grab his brother’s arms, after Hotohori struck Mitsukake’s face. “We are…”
“Mitsukake and Nuriko…I mean Ryoen, don’t touch him at all!” Chiriko quickly yelled out. He even got up to grab Ryoen and started to drag him away. “I think as the celestial warriors of Suzaku will cause him pain if we touches him in anyway.”
Hotohori managed a weak smile as he nodded, “That is true. When Yuri held me it did not hurt, but when Mitsukake and Ryoen tried to touch me, the pain worsened so much.”

Far away, Miiru narrowed her eyes, so they discovered this quicker then she had expected. She had originally intended for him to suffer greatly due to them not knowing that it was them that brought him more pain.
Undaunted, her lips curled into a thin smile as she dangled the blood doll in her hand. She would move onto the next part of her plan then.

In Konan, Hotohori screamed once again, the pain in his body had worsened even though the other three celestial warriors were some distant away from him. Whatever curse was put on him, it even resembled a standard disease, it would worsen.
“How do we heal him? There must be way?” Ryoen demanded to Mitsukake once again. “You are the doctor, you should know!”
“I heal sicknesses, not curses!” Mitsukake had to force his voice to be calm because hw as panicking as he fixed his gaze onto Hotohori.
His whole body was now thrashing and Yuri barely manages to hold him down. He didn’t want her to even come to contact least the curse was contagious, but there was no other way as someone must restrain him, and the three others would only make the matter worse.
“Hotohori…please!” Yuri was whispering, her tears falling onto him. For a brief second, only a slight instant, that managed to calm him down a little. “I know how much it must hurt but please, hold on while we try to find a way to cure you!”
He couldn’t even speak, but could only nod. As the latest spasm of pain came over, his head was thrown back and in the process, his long hair fell to one side, revealing his ears- which was bleeding on one side.
Suddenly, Mitsukake remembered what had once happened with a patient. Much to his surprise then, his power was not effective in anyway. Later on, they discovered that the person was sick due to being possessed by a demon, who managed to enter from his wounds.
He had managed to save that man by sucking the being out from the wound.
Eagerly, he began to tell them the story.
“It will work! It have to work!” Yuri said excitedly.
“Yes, but Yuri, it is dangerous!” Mitsukake pointed out. “And you can’t do it and hold onto him at the same time!”
Yuri’s reply was interrupted when Hotohori suffered another wave of pain, this time it was even worse- his body could barely respond to this attack. Yuri tried to hold on but was shoved away from him due to the way his body was shaking.
“I will do anything because I simply can’t bear to see him like t his!” Yuri whispered very determinedly, her hand tightly clenched together. “I am not afraid of what will happen as long as I can save him!”
At this declaration the others turned to Hotohori instead, and they all gasped, because he had managed to control his possessed body. His face was very pale and screwed up in pain, while his fingers seemed to be white due to how tightly he was clenching them.
But the important thing was he had managed to dominate his body’s instinct of shaking madly due to the pain.
“Yuri, do it. I will…I will be able to endure the pain because that is what you did for me.” Hotohori declared out. “That day when you died…when my vision was taken away from me it seemed my hearing was as well because I never heard you make any noises at all, although I knew what had happened later on…If you could do that, then I can endure this pain.”
Clasping his hand into his, Yuri nodded and leant forward, while Hotohori closed his eyes and forced his body to stop moving in order for her to suck the poison out.
But it was not easy at all…
“Aniki, why don’t you do something?” Ryoen suddenly screamed out.
Initially they all thought he meant Hotohori, and this naturally made both Mitsukake and Chiriko turning to Ryoen, frowning rather angrily. He was already doing so much more then what they believe that they could have done themselves.
But Ryoen was not looking at Hotohori, he was looking and addressing Rokou instead.
The slightly elder man had hunched to a corner due to the shock of what was happening, and no one could really blame him. But it was at a moment when you had to accept all that was happening and find a way to do something.
“How…how can I do what you want me to do…” Rokou whispered. “I am not like you, I am a normal being!”
“Aniki, you don’t need to be like me to do this!” Ryoen snapped, not realizing that he continued to address the other as his brother, what he was not fully sure of. “Why can’t you help Yuri?”
“You want me to…whatever that thing in there…”
“I know you are afraid but I know that you can do it!” Ryoen continued. “If you don’t help him…if you don’t even try then I swear, I will hate you forever even though you are my brother!”
Wordlessly, the other man stood up and his face was equally pale as Hotohori’s. Ryoen immediately cursed himself, as he felt that he was being a bit too harsh. After all, he himself was rather afraid at whatever the thing was in his brother.
Rokou walked to Hotohori and Yuri, who was still trying to suck the poison out. Without saying a word, he grabbed Hotohori, forcing his body to be still.
It was obvious that he was not used to doing such a thing, as his own body began to shake. But nonetheless, he continued.
With Hotohori’s body finally being almost completely still Yuri was able to lean forward and began to suck whatever that possessed his body out properly.
A moment later Yuri bent back, gagging. Turning her face away from Hotohori, she spat the blood out. Almost immediately, Mitsukake grabbed one of the daggers lying on the shelf and stabbed the small pile of blood.
He knew that he was successful when the blood disappeared, and was then replaced by a bright red light.
Exhausted, Hotohori leant back toward the wall, before Yuri threw her arms around his neck to embrace him tightly. As he pulled her closer, he suddenly felt something heavy in his hand. Unclenching his fingers, he smiled.
“Nuriko…this is yours.”
Stunned at his brother addressing him by his other name, Ryoen held out his hand to accept the object.
It was one of the seven stones that the celestial warriors of Suzaku must find, and this one contained the memories of Nuriko. (10)

The doll made from blood broke, leaving Miiru with nothing but a small pool of blood in front of her. Greatly angered, she raised her hand to brush them away.
Her hand halted in midair, looking down she saw that a hand had pierced right through her body.
The act of killing was so swift that she didn’t even have time to speak, even though she parted her mouth in the attempt of forming out a name.
Was it her Rin’s? Or was it Tenkou’s? No one would ever be able to answer this question now.
Smirking, Tenkou used his clean hand to gather the small pile of blood up to make use that they were not mixed with Miiru’s blood in anyway. She turned out to be absolutely useless in the end, and he was certainly not going to let her death, the only thing she did right because of the slight satisfaction it gave him, to ruin this new plan.
“Everyone underestimates the power of a person’s blood,” he said softly, “This little amount will be enough to torture the priestess of Seiryuu even more.”


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