*Before I begin, I want to make some things clear. I have never read or watched this section of Fushigi Yuugi. This is just how I imagine it. This is the aftermath of Nuriko defeating Ashitare. It takes place between after Ashitare is killed to when they bury Nuriko. I'm just assuming all this stuff so please don't flame me. Ok, I lied. I've read about this on websites, but what I meant was in the manga. And just as a warning, there is swearing and violence. Also, this is a four-part story. This section is from when Nuriko is about to die to when the others find out that he's dead and a little more after that. Enjoy. ^v^

Willowy Meditations

Chapter One

He lay in the snow, blood pouring out of his wound. It would kill him eventually, he mused. But as long as Miaka, his beloved Miko, still lived, nothing mattered. At last, he could join Kourin. Kourin, my adorable younger sister, I've waited forever to join you. He closed his eyes, tears slipping out and splashing on the snow.

"Nuriko! Nuriko, don't leave me!" he heard Miaka cry in the distance. I'm not leaving you, he thought to himself. I'll be back later. Just watch. He opened his eyes slightly and saw Miaka.

"Miaka." he whispered. Suzaku, she was so beautiful. He thanked the Beast God for Miaka not being there when he was pierced by that damn beast of Seiryuu. Ashitare, you are about to take my life, but at least I have killed you. You will not be able to harm Miaka or any of my friends ever again.

Miaka buried her face in her hands. "Nuriko, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Nuriko, you can't leave me! Not now!"

Tamahome jumped out of the bushes and landed next to Miaka. He stared for a moment at Nuriko's mangled body, and then knelt down. "Miaka, what happened to Nuriko?"

She lifted her tearstained face. "Ashi-Ashitare killed him! Tamahome, what are we going to do? We have to find Mitsukake so he can heal Nuriko!"

Nuriko felt his spirit leaving his body. So this is what death is like, he thought to himself. Then he remembered. No! I can't leave now! Not until I tell Miaka! He dove back into his body and pain wracked through him. "Miaka." He raised his left hand and Miaka took it and placed it against her soft face. He could feel her tears running down her eyes and dampening his hand. "Miaka, I never told you this, but." he struggled to sit up so he could tell her like a true Constellation. Tamahome got behind him and helped prop him up. Nuriko sighed softly and closed his eyes again. When he opened them again, he saw Kourin in the distance. She smiled and waved cheerfully at him.

"Ryuuen!" she cried and ran up to him. "You're so big now! I haven't seen you for so long. How's everyone? And big brother?"

"Kourin, they're fine. But I haven't seen Rokou since I've joined Miaka and the other seishi. Kourin, how is it up there?"

Miaka and Tamahome looked at each other worriedly. Who was Nuriko talking to? They couldn't see anyone but the three of them. "Nuriko, are you all right?" Miaka asked.

Nuriko looked at the two of them. "Miaka, what I was going to say before," he paused for a moment. "Ever since I cut my hair, I've decided one thing. That I would protect you to the death. But it seems like I haven't succeed, because I'm already dying and we haven't even found the Genbu Shinzaho. I'm sorry, Miaka. I've failed you, haven't I? Please don't be angry with me." The blood stopped flowing from his wound and Nuriko began turning white. He raised his face and shut his eyes. Light came from Kourin's body and bathed over him. "Kourin, wait just a bit longer. I'm coming."

Miaka grabbed Nuriko and hugged him close to her, ignoring the blood staining her clothing. "Nuriko! No, don't leave us! I'm not mad at you for this!" She choked and tears poured down her face.

"Miaka, I realized that day that the one I loved wasn't Hotohori. It was you, you know? You with your cheerfulness, optimism, courage, and faith in everyone." He looked at Tamahome. "You're lucky, you know that? You get to have the girl I love. Treat her well or I'll haunt you for the rest of your life." Nuriko laughed for a moment. Kourin, I join you now. "Say goodbye to everyone, Miaka.." He sighed his last breath and closed his eyes. His hand slipped from Miaka's grasp and hit the snow.

"Tamahome!" Miaka cried and buried her face in his chest.

Tamahome struggled not to cry, but it was difficult. Nuriko had been one of the best friends he'd ever had.

******

Tasuki jerked his head up. Nuriko! "Mitsukake, didja sense tha'?"

Mitsukake nodded.

"Let's go back. Somethin's happened to Nuriko!" Tasuki took off running in the direction Miaka, Tamahome, and Nuriko had taken.

Tamaneko leapt onto Mitsukake's shoulder, and he followed after Tasuki.

******

Chichiri and Chiriko were riding on their horses when Chichiri sensed something was different among the seven seishi. "Chiriko, we have to turn back, no da. Something's come up!"

Chiriko looked up at Chichiri. "Chichiri, I think something's happened to Nuriko," he said worriedly. "I just got a flash of him."

Chichiri nodded. "So do I. Let's head back, no da. He guided his horse and turned it around, then told it to gallop to where he sensed Miaka, Tamahome, and Nuriko were. Nuriko couldn't be dead. He couldn't!

******

Hotohori slept in his room. He turned in his sleep and dreamed. White light surrounded him. He shaded his eyes and tried to look into the light. A figure stepped into his view and bowed before him.

"Your Highness, I come to say one last thing."

Hotohori ran up to him. "Nuriko, what are you doing here?"

He smiled. "I come to say goodbye, Your Highness," and he vanished in the light.

Hotohori jerked awake and sat up in bed. No. It couldn't have happened! Nuriko couldn't be dead! He picked up the picture of the eight of them gathered together and gently stroked Nuriko's face. It was impossible! Nuriko was too strong to get killed. The dream had to be false. It couldn't have happened!

The door slid open and a young woman stepped inside. She bowed before him. "Your Highness, I bring you your breakfast." She raised her face and Hotohori gasped. Nuriko? What was he doing here?

"Nuriko, why aren't you with Miaka?" he demanded.

Nuriko set the tray on a nearby table and bowed again. "Excuse my rudeness, Your Highness, but I am not Nuriko. My name is Houki."

*****

Nuriko floated up the sky. He landed softly among the clouds and stepped onto the grass. Suzaku was here. He closed his eyes and tried to sense his God. Kourin came up from behind him.

"Ryuuen, are you looking for Suzaku? He wanted me to lead you to him. C'mon!" She grabbed his arm and pulled him after her.

Nuriko smiled. Finally he was reunited with Kourin again. "Kourin, I'll race you to Suzaku!"

Kourin grinned at him. "Silly, you don't know where to go! You'll never be able to win 'cause you'll go in the wrong direction!"

Nuriko smiled back and scooped his sister to him and hugged her. "Kourin, you don't know how much I've missed you. Suzaku, it was all my fault you died. If you hadn't been chasing after me, you would still be alive."

Kourin hugged him back. "Don't worry. It's ok. I'm not mad, and if I'm not mad, you shouldn't. Come on, Suzaku's waiting!"

Soon, Nuriko found himself standing in front of a palace. There was a flash of red and Suzaku descended upon him. "Welcome, Nuriko, to my palace."