Phoneix From the Ashes

Chapter 1

by Bottou-chan


Author's Note:

#1: This story is a sequel to "The Onsen Encounter" () so if you haven't read that, you might want to do so first, as several bits within this story refer to happenings in that story.

#2: This story deals with stuff after the end of v. 33. If you don't know what happened to Joker, Kurei, and Koganei by the end of the manga, and don't wish to be spoiled, it's best to go read something else. ^_^

#3: All the spoiler-free people gone? Good.

#4: This story started developing after v. 29 came out... needless to say, I was extremely disappointed with the way Joker was disposed of. Even though he was just a minor character, there was so much care and planning put into his introduction and subsequent appearances, that it seemed to be a clumsy way of disposing of him. If he died from a gaping stomach wound and/or blood loss and/or a raging infection, I can take it. But sacrificing himself to dispose of someone who, for all intents and purposes, had already been "killed" by Kurei? The only reason to resurrect Kadotsu after his death was to make Joker exit stage left. It couldn't have been something as simple as preventing the Joker/Koganei rematch from ever happening... it had to be something else. I waited in vain for him to come back, but he was gone with the wind... My issues weren't limited to the plot, either. (a) The black hole's depiction was totally not like a black hole; (b) A black hole couldn't be created in the manner described; and (c) Joker isn't so self-sacrificing as to launch a suicide attack in the first place. ^_^ So... this fic is to give the remnants of the Uruha a somewhat happier ending!

#5: Oh, yeah... and Fuuko angsts over her lovelife. I heard there was a lack of Fuuko romances... ;oP

Enjoy!


The trees outside the school windows were slowly dissolving into their fall colors, and the air had a distinct autumnal nip to it--- but inside Nashikiri High School, no one had any eyes for the changing of the seasons, as everyone's focus was on the practice examinations for the upcoming University entrance exams. At least, Yanagi was a good student and wished to score well, and Fuuko was always willing to be competitive. Domon wasn't too concerned, as he was expecting to stay at home and help with the family floral business for a few years; and Recca wasn't quite sure what his path in life was. Perhaps he would also inherit the Hanabishi family business--- Shigeo was well-known locally for his fireworks, and while not extravagantly profitable, it was established enough to plausibly earn a living with. Though Recca had been creating fireworks himself since childhood, his grasp of textbook chemistry was severely lacking, and he was in a dilemma.

"I mean, any idiot knows about magnesium burning in the presence of oxygen, or adding copper for a green color--- but those equations! Diagramming those reactions! I swear, they make it so difficult and boring. Maybe I should just skip college totally."

Yanagi smiled brightly, looking up from her newspaper to listen to his complaint. "But I think it would be really positive if you were to go to school and learn the book part, too. I'm sure you'd be able to use that knowledge to create beautiful things that you couldn't have otherwise."

"What Yanagi means is, 'You won't blow yourself up so quickly through dumb random experimentation'," translated Fuuko with a wicked smile.

"I think Recca should stay at home, if that's what he wants," offered Domon earnestly.

"See, Domon knows there's no shame in not wanting to go to college right off," said Recca, beaming at the unexpected support from his friend.

"Absolutely," agreed Domon, nodding sagely. "I mean, it's important to know what you can and can't do. Like, you could beat Mikagami in a fair fight, flame versus sword--- but there's no way you can touch him if the weapon happens to be a standardized test."

Recca's expression darkened. "He has nothing to do with this!" Mikagami had graduated and had received a scholarship to a prestigious university overseas. "It's not like you're going anywhere, anyways."

Domon shrugged. "Someone has to help Mom, but I'll probably go after a bit, just to learn about how to take care of the business properly."

Fuuko grinned. "Listen to us! We sound so old and serious," she said lightly, and the others laughed in agreement, but the smile faded from her face as she stared unseeingly through the window.

The happenings at the Urabutousatsujin III seemed a lifetime ago. Even the more recent Tendoujigoku events seemed like a hazy dream. The dull routine of reality had dominated their lives. There had been some excitement of another sort during their spring shugaku-ryoko (had it only been a few months ago?), where they had unexpectedly run into the remnants of Kurei's Jyushinshuu during a detour at a hot spring resort. There had been no fuss, no fight, nothing at all like that… yet just seeing him had opened her emotional wounds and rubbed them raw.

They had only been able to speak twice. The first time had been cut short by Mikagami's abrupt arrival. The other had been a cryptic dance of evasion and equivocation. The only thing he had been blunt about had been telling her to live her life and hold her head proudly. There was a promise of a future meeting… the prospect of a chance future encounter. That hope of being able to lay to rest all her uncertainties and figure out their new relation to each other, after the disappearance of Kurei, the destruction of the madougu, the cessation of reason for enmity--- that hope had driven her for the days and weeks after their meeting. Yet Raiha had made no effort to contact her, and as the weeks melted into months, doubt began to take over. Perhaps he had meant none of what she thought he had meant, with his careful words as only his way of letting her down gently.

She clenched her fists, her nails biting little half-moons into her palms. Well, if he was going to be like that, she didn't need him. She was capable and dependable, and didn't need someone who wasn't. Her gaze drifted slowly to Domon. He had always been there for her… a true friend. He had saved her life on more than one occasion. Even when she had abused him terribly, he had stuck by her side, whether she wanted it or not. Though he would never have her natural intelligence, and she would never have his oni strength, they shared a kindred spirit.

His perseverance was beginning to pay off.

Yanagi had returned to her newspaper, and Fuuko's thoughts were interrupted by her startled, "Oh!" as she read something that surprised her.

"Look at this," said Yanagi, turning the paper around so that Recca, Domon, and Fuuko could view it. "This article--- and the photograph."

The headline read: "CHARITIES RECEIVE RECORD-HIGH DONATIONS FROM KOKOM CORPORATION."

The article explained that Mori Tsukino, the wife of the late billionaire philanthropist Mori Kouran, had dissolved the Kokom Corporation upon her husband's death, and had spent the last several months working on setting up grants, donations, and endowments for a wide variety of charitable organizations. Though Mori Kouran had had a major fortune during his lifetime, it was only a fraction of what had been invested in his various businesses interests, in land and real estate, and other interests. Mori Tsukino had no desire to keep the fortune; there was nothing to keep her in the world. The newspaper reported that both her husband and her adopted son had been lost at the same time, and she had no other children who would inherit her holdings. So she wished to dispose of them personally during her lifetime, to ensure that they created the greatest good in a way she saw fit. She herself would be retiring to a Buddhist abbey, where she would spend the rest of her life in contemplation and meditation.

"She seems… genuine," said Fuuko. "Hard to imagine someone like that actually married to Mori Kouran!"

"Hard to imagine someone that nice actually staying with Mori Kouran," grinned Domon.

"Hard to imagine someone like that actually surviving Mori Kouran," said Recca darkly.

"But look at the picture," insisted Yanagi, poking it her with finger.

"She looks nice. Kind of old, but motherly."

"Who are those blurry people in the background?"

"Um. I think that one's a woman. Hey! It's that cutie, Neon!"

Fuuko's breath caught. "On the other side of Mori Tsukino--- it's Raiha."

Recca looked skeptical. "Do you think Raiha and Neon pressured her into going through with this?"

"But that doesn't make sense," objected Fuuko. "They would be better off controlling Mori Tsukino as a puppet, and reaping the benefits themselves. Why would they want to totally dissolve the Kokom Corporation? It's like they're----"

Her knees suddenly felt weak, and she was glad she was sitting perched on a desk. Mori Tsukino had been protected and was being put in a nice, safe place where she would be happy and not have to worry about the tedium of running a corporation. Neon and Raiha, the two most likely candidates to care for Kurei's mother in his absence, were distancing themselves from both the fortune and their ward at the same time. Mori Tsukino was not the only one severing ties… Neon and Raiha were removing the last threads that had kept them in Japan.

Where would they go next? Without Kurei, without the Uruha, without the madougu, there was nothing to keep them here. They would find adventure elsewhere. Where, exactly, Fuuko had no idea. But Japan was now too tame, too normal, too boring for them to stay longer than they had to. There were too many interesting places out there beckoning, places where strong people with intelligence, savvy, and confidence could have an adventure.

She hadn't seen him in months, but now it felt as though he was truly going to disappear.

Fuuko felt sick to her stomach.