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Chapter Eight

The seven celestial warriors of Suzaku had come up with a plan for those who stayed in Konan. They would meet in the cottage that Chichiri had once stayed in when he spent that period of his life in meditation, provided that they finished their business before the others’ return from Sairou, as that would be quicker.
Leaving the palace of Konan had been a rather tearful event due to the farewells, but it was something that had to be done. The past would always exist, but one could not live in it forever.
Yuri had took great comfort in knowing that both her maids were now very happy, as Chinatsu would soon be the empress of Konan, while Hotohori was equally happy that Kotsuki had find happiness by being able to be married to the woman that he loves. That was the only way he could live the maximum happiness despite his role’s demand: to be the emperor was to always be lonely, the only way to ease the pain slightly was by having someone who would be beside you to support you.
As for Nuriko…he and his brother has achieved the understanding they never had in their past life.
“You will always be my aniki, but you don’t need me now!” Nuriko had told Rokou sincerely, “You are as strong as me! You even did what I could not do. The past is not the present, but the past will always exist. Therefore, you will always be my aniki, even when I leave this world. I will never stop thinking of you as my aniki.”
The five of them had arrived in the cottage with little difficulty, although they were all worried about Hotohori, who insisted on only resting when they arrived, instead of spending more time in the palace.
“This is more important!” he had pointed out, which was not untrue, but his main reason was probably not wanting to live in the past too much by remaining in the palace of Konan. “We really need to see the rest, and talk about what to do.”
Nonetheless, he was forced by everyone else to lie on the makeshift cot Yuri had quickly made for him the moment they arrived in the cottage.
“You have to rest, Hotohori, considering what happened to you.” Mitsukake stated, using his authority as a doctor.
Entering the cottage, Nuriko found Yuri kneeling beside her husband, her hand resting on his forehead. Even though she was still dressed in the ceremonial robe of Seiryuu with the shinzaho around her hair, Nuriko felt as if he was at the village of Konan once again.
It was on the eve of his brother’s marriage, as traditional the bridal couple was meant to spend the whole day separated. Ryoen…now Nuriko, had been asked by his elder brother to deliver something to Yuri. He had an opportunity of being close with his future sister, but he had thrown it away.
“I gather that you and aniki had a difficult time? The two of you haven’t really explained what had all happened.” Nuriko finally said quietly, making the woman turn around to face him.
Yuri nodded, “It had been hard. A lot of things had happened and…” here she paused and spread her hands wide as a gesture of confusion. “Why do I feel as if I am trying to convince you that the reason I agreed to your brother’s proposal is because I love him, not because I wanted to have a roof over my head?”
“So you remember that too…” he muttered softly. “Actually, I need to talk to you about all that had happened.”
“What Ryoen did?”
He nodded this time. “I…I want to try and explain. You see, as Ryoen… my brother and I…since we were little, we had been very close. He had his friends while I had mine, but there was still always this deep closeness the two of us shared. I suppose it’s also due to the fact that we were siblings, so we shared a same home, unlike friends…”
“Then I came and all of a sudden your brother is completely occupied by me, even when you are at home.” Yuri finished, “I don’t blame you that much for it, although it did upset me a lot. But I think the frustration is mainly due to the fact that you really thought that I was marrying him for a mercenary reason, and you continued to believe that even after everyone else was saying that it is obvious how much I really love him.”
“I know I am wrong now…but you have to admit, it was very strange for me when I did not have my memories.” Nuriko protested. “He saw you for what I believed to be the first time, and immediately asked you to marry him.”
“Then how could I have agreed to marry him for a mercenary reason when it did not seem that he was that well off?” Yuri pointed out.
At this logic, he could only sigh again. “I really am sorry.”
Much to his surprise, his sister in law actually smiled and even stood up to place her hands on his shoulder with true sincerity.
“That is all I want, Ryoen…Nuriko. I can forgive you for everything.” At his confusion, she began to explain, but not managing to keep the slight bitterness out of her voice. “Sometimes we make mistakes that are our fault, even though we cannot be fully blamed for it. At such a mistake, the only thing to do is to apologise, instead of pretending that it never happened.”
“Have you committed such a mistake?”
She nodded for the second time. “So has Miaka.”
Miaka? Nuriko would have tried to work out what Yuri meant had she not walked out of the cottage, at this he quickly ran after her, as his apology was only half completed.
He found her talking to Mitsukake softly, probably asking after Hotohori’s condition. Chiriko was sitting beside them, reading a scroll with great concentration.
“He only needs rest.” Mitsukake reassured Yuri, before he resumed his original task of examining the herbs in his hands. “I know you feel bad about what happened with the possession but it really wasn’t your fault.”
“You apologised, and that is the main point, isn’t it?” Nuriko pointed out with a sincere smile as he repeated what Yuri just said to him.
Smiling in relief, Yuri nodded and sat down with Nuriko. She knew that she should be worried about all that would come, but right now she was happy. Even though her companions were the celestial warriors of Suzaku, they made her feel as if she truly was one of them- that she had a right to be here.
This must be what it would feel like to be the priestess of Suzaku, Yuri thought, the quest would be hard, but it would not always be that bad due to her companions.
But the greater the happiness you have, the greater the despair you would receive, her subconscious reminded her.
Her reveries were interrupted by Nuriko, who shifted himself in order to look at her in the eyes.
“I…I explained my actions as Ryoen, but I also need to explain myself as Nuriko.”
“You resented me, I knew that.” Yuri said softly, recollecting the numerous times the other celestial warrior glared at her. She had regarded these emotions as being natural, as she believed the other to be a woman.
She only discovered Nuriko’s true gender shortly before her death, and by that time she was in so much pain that she didn’t care at all.
“There were only a few women before it was my turn to see the emperor,” Nuriko began explaining, referring to the day when Hotohori was meant to be electing an empress out of the one hundred concubines. “Then an official told us that we were all to go to the quarters we had been assigned to, because the emperor had already chosen the one he wants.
“It’s silly but at that time I had lived as a woman for so long that I really believed that I am a woman. So I was in love with the emperor, or rather, I believed that I was in love with him.
“But I didn’t start to really dislike you until you left the palace, because Hotohori…aniki was so upset. I blamed you and believed that if I was so lucky to have his love, I would never do anything that would cause him such pain. I…”
“Nuriko, you said that the past is important, but I do not think we should let some past become a chain either.” Yuri interrupted him gently. “Some memories should be let go. Not buried…because they can never be buried…but be accepted and therefore forgotten.”
Nuriko nodded, unable to describe the vast amount of relief he felt at her suggestion. Why was it that he felt so guilty due to the negative feelings he had towards her? It was not completely abnormal, but when he gained his memories, and recollected how he had treated her, he felt as if he had committed a crime!
“What do you feel about me now?” Yuri asked curiously.
He paused a bit before he spoke: “At the end of my life as Nuriko, before we all left this world, I admired you for your courage, at what you dared to do. Now, I wish for you to be as an older sister whom I can love.
“In fact…can I call you neesan?” (1)
At her nod, Nuriko felt that he had got rid of his burden at last, as he finally made peace with Yuri. (2)

Unlike the shinzaho of Genbu, the shinzaho of Byakko was obtained with relatively little difficulty. That was why Miaka; Tamahome; Chichiri; Taisuki, were either in a cheerful mood as they headed back toward Konan, or felt a bit better even after all that had happened in Konan- before Chichiri and Taisuki got their own stones.
Miaka and Tamahome were extremely happy, as they had obtained Tamahome’s stone due to a procedure that brought the two lovers nothing but great happiness. In order to summon Suzaku, as well as gaining Tamahome’s stone, Miaka and he must understand the maximum emotion that Suzaku was in charge of, which was love. (3)
In order to do this, the two of them finally became one entity. Now the two of them were riding on a horse together, Tamahome with his hands around Miaka's waist tightly, while she leant back, smiling in great content as she finally had all that she wanted. After what they did, the two of them had decided that they would marry as soon as they arrive back in Tokyo. (4)
"This is what I wanted for so long!" Miaka giggled, squeezing Tamahome's hand, ignoring the other’s good natured teasing.
"I really am glad that they are still so happy together." Taisuki commented out to Chichiri, who was recollecting the woman who had been his fiancée, whom he vowed to immediately be with as soon as he returned. He was not so much a fool as to waste a second chance when he knew of it.
Taisuki could not forgive himself for what he had done yet, even though the others assured him that he completely redeemed himself due to the part he played when Chichiri was attacked.
"The most disgusting bit is actually not because I tried to force her," Taisuki said once more, his voice now very quiet to prevent the pair in front of them hearing, "But it is because it is done due to a possessive jealousy. I always regard Miaka as a little sister...the type of sister who depends on me. I like that as I am the youngest in my family and my sisters have always dominated over me.
"Then when...when that man..." he paused slightly and shook her head, "I don't want to say his name yet."
"I understand," Chichiri assured him, "I think I'm not ready to be reminded of what he did either."
"After he went, I saw Tamahome and I was just so angry that he didn't look after Miaka, and as a result I didn't think he deserve her, I felt that I actually had the right to judge because I regard her as my younger sister. Likewise, I did that disgusting act due to the fact that I believe I am only doing this for the best of her." (5)
"Loving someone too much is not always a good thing," Chichiri said rather sagely, "I killed one who is my best friend due to loving her too much."
The two of them exchanged a slight smile before they caught up with the others, determined to not worry Miaka. They all truly adore her as she was the one who never once distrusted them, as well as helping them to make the right choice. Taisuki doubted that any one else in her situation would not hate him after what he did, while Chichiri was sure that he would never find the courage to not fight with the one who had been his best friend if Miaka was not there. (6)
"What is it?" Taisuki cursed when he almost collided into Tamahome, making his already small control over his horse even thinner. (7)
"A person is there..." Tamahome whispered, nodding toward a corner surrounded by bushes.
Nodding in understanding, Chichiri began to chant some sort of spell.
"Who is it? Who is it?" Miaka asked eagerly, trying to lean forward to see the hidden person.
Chichiri suddenly frowned, and he actually got off his horse to walk toward the bush.
"Chichiri, what are you doing? That is dangerous!" Taisuki hissed, pulling out his fan.
"It will not be, because I sense the aura of a celestial warrior of Suzaku, although it is not very strong." Chichiri explained.
Without warning, he banged his staff down, making the leaves part way to reveal the person hidden in there.
He was lying on the ground, his body slightly wounded as part of his cloth was stained due to blood. At the sudden light, he tilted his head, making his hair fell to one side of the face in a long cascade of pure raven black, as the ribbon that usually gathered it back had been broken.
"SEISHUKU!" Chichiri chocked out. "Why are you here? Where is Yuri?" (8)
Sighing, Seishuku sat up, one hand resting on his brow, while the other was pressed over one of the wounds in his stomach.
"I don't know...I don't know anything. All I remember is that I asked Seiryuu to let me go with Yuri, then the next thing I know is that I'm here and then I saw him...Tenkou. He...he attacked me but did not kill me, as he said that he intend to torture me even more by what he would do to Yuri." at the mentioning of her name his voice quickly changed to one of deep worry. " you not know what happened to Yuri at all?"
"We have heard nothing of Yuri-neesan at all!" Miaka said worriedly. "We presume that you’ll be in Kutou with her.”
Seishuku shook his head furiously, and brought his fist down. "So once again I let her travel alone...once again I fail to help her at all."
"It isn't your fault that this happened." his priestess assured him. "Beside, I’m sure that Yuri-neesan is fine, Kotsuki told us that the new ruler of Kutou is a very good man and that everyone in Kutou really loves Yuri."
"I suppose that assures me slightly but I am still really worried about her- especially as she is alone." unclenching his fist he grabbed the object next to him, and as he held it towards him, they saw that it was the sword that Taitsukun had gave him.
The sword was also holy in a way, not everyone could hold it- at least not those who possessed evil thoughts. (9)
Initially, Chichiri had been rather suspicious at Seishuku's appearance, because he was sure that Seiryuu would let Seishuku accompany Yuri. He was perhaps the only one who was fully certain that Seiryuu was not a bad deity at all, despite what he had done to Yuri, as well as the crimes his people had committed. What happened with Rin also helped to make him a bit more cautious. (10)
But then he saw Seishuku touching and holding the sword, so he was certain that the man in front of them was really the last emperor of Konan, as well as one of his best friends in his new life.
"I only hope that Yuri is fine." Seishuku was muttering, and the sincerity in his voice along with his obvious love for his wife made it very hard to believe that this was someone else acting as Seishuku.

Even though the cottage that Chichiri had stayed in was isolated, there was actually a small field of flowers beside it. Yuri found herself drawn to these wildflowers, and singing softly as she began to pick them. The strangest bit was that the lyrics of the song suddenly came to her, making it appear as if she already knew the song, although she was certain that she had not heard it before.
Yet she felt a deep sadness that seemed personal as she sang it. She told herself it was because the words were like a reminder for what had happened to her and Hotohori, but somehow that did not seem to be the true explanation. (11)
"I would be able to say that I was happy to sacrifice my life for him
If it was the only way to protect him
I can show him a smile for even as my breath is fading away
This calmness can never be taken fro me
Not even by whatever destiny I have
When the pain reaches to the very heart of me
I’ll be looking at you
My love for you will remain eternal even when my entire body rots out." (12)
She shivered slightly as she ended her singing, which made her decide to continue her flower picking in silence. She much preferred the memories of what was certain.
Smiling, she saw herself as the empress of Konan, picking flowers with the help of her maids, who stood behind her with a basket each as she selected the flowers she preferred and carefully cut it. She didn't usually spent much of her time picking flowers as the royal gardeners was responsible, but there were a few times when she wanted a change in her schedule and so she would end up in the garden with the most abundant number of flowers.
Once, Hotohori had finished court early and he had went up to her, embracing her from behind even as she was holding a bunch of flowers next to her breast...
A pair of arms surrounded her, but she was unafraid because she knew who it was.
"Hotohori, are you feeling better?" she asked gently, tilting her head back to look into the face of her husband.
"Yuri, I miss you so much!" he whispered as he turned her around to hold her against him tightly, as well as kissing her very passionately.
She couldn't help but to giggle at this. "You only spent a day resting!"
"A day?" Seishuku repeated with a deep frown. "Yuri, it had been many days as the last time I saw you was when we were still in Tokyo!" (13)

As soon as they arrived at the cottage, Seishuku had insisted on going to find Yuri, as he knew that she was here. They naturally let him as they could all understand his need of seeing her.
The rest found Chiriko and Nuriko sitting in a spot behind the cottage, completely unaware of their arrival. Once everyone exchanged greeting, they told them that Mitsukake was inside the cottage.
No one noticed the figure lying at one corner of the cottage.
"So Yuri is here?" Tamahome immediately asked.
"She is." Mitsukake stated simply. "Chichiri, I need to talk to you about Hotohori."
The other immediately agreed and even allowed himself to be pulled away from the rest, as the three of them were best friends. "Ryoen...Nuriko should come as well."
"No, their conflict is already solved," Chichiri did not regard this as strange as he thought that Mitsukake meant that Nuriko had finally understand his brother's actions due to the regaining of his memories, that being the main barrier between the siblings. "It is more related with you...and I...
"Chichiri, haven't you realize that we always treated Hotohori as the outsider because of his position as the emperor?"
At this Chichiri couldn't help but to feel a deep pang of guilt as he realized the accuracy of this statement, and he too, began to try and think how Hotohori must have felt.
"To be honest, I never realized how painful it must have been for him whenever we call him 'Hotohori-sama' due to respect, until he made me see that..."
"Wait a moment!" Chichiri immediately looked up at this statement: "You said that..."
"When I saw him with Yuri, I had called him Hotohori-sama and he..."
"You met him already?" Chichiri frowned. "That's strange, I was sure that he did not head this way."
It was Mitsukake's turn to frown this time. "Hotohori had been with us ever since he arrived in Konan with Yuri a day or two ago."
"Who...who is Seishuku then?" Chichiri demanded, his voice no longer hushed.
It was this that finally caused Hotohori to wake up. Sitting up he greeted his companions, wondering why some of them were looking at him with such a strange expression that seemed to be a mixture of shook and horror. Was it because they were all seeing him as the emperor of Konan again? This would make sense if it was only Tamahome and Taisuki, but strangely enough, Miaka was amongst them as well.
Then they heard Yuri scream.
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