Chapter Fifty-Three

This was something that she had realized the moment he kissed her, but it was still hard to contemplate the idea. Amefuri? In love? 'With . . . with me?'

"But," he continued, and this time she heard something so solemn in his tone she could almost feel it herself. He had long since let go of her wrists and backed away from her, allowing her to step towards him in concern. He looked very sad. "I don't think you feel the same way at all . . ."

"Oh . . ." Oh? Oh? That was all she could think of? She all of a sudden felt incredibly stupid for even giving any response at all, let alone something as careless as 'Oh'. But what was she supposed to say? 'You're right, I really don't like you that way, but let's still be friends! That sounds so heartless right now . . . What am I . . .?'

Before she could even think of anything her legs turned and started to hurry off, her trot turning into a run. She left Amefuri behind as she passed by the buildings around her, and she didn't even care where she was going to go. She just wanted to be anywhere but there; she didn't want to reject him and hurt him.

'Anywhere is okay,' she thought as she had begun to run on the outskirts, the loose sand beginning to swirl around her. She started to feel a sort of biting chill along her arms and legs; now that there were no buildings or lights to protect her, she was starting to feel the cold of the desert. 'I just need . . .'

But while things were cold, she was also feeling unusually hot. Her skin was sweating, but for some reason she didn't think it was because she was running. The more she kept going -squinting her eyes to finally see the dark outline of the mountain- the weaker she felt. The throbbing on the back of her head was starting to make her dizzy.

'Almost . . . almost there,' she thought. This was it. This was where she was going to run to, to go. Suzuno was tired, but she was starting to feel excited at the same time, relieved. She wanted to see Tatara's face so much, more than anything in the world at the moment. It was an exciting anticipation, a desperate emotion.

The Haunted Mountain before her was starting to gain more detail in its features, forming trees that stood along the hillside and that cave that led all the way to the center. She remembered that was where Tatara slept every night for several long years before they had met.

When she was so close she could see the vines stripped along the edges of the cave and the dull, pasty color of gray rocks she smiled meekly in relief, but only before she fell in exhaustion. In an instant Suzuno's body gave way to an unknown source, her legs crumbling underneath and her head spinning. She reached out for something within the cave to catch her fall and pulled on a thick cloth.

"Su . . .!" The deep yet surprised voice immediately made her calmer. Both had fallen against the ground, her head lying against his lap and her hand clinging to the sleeve along his arm, beginning to hug him and pull him close. She heaved a heavy sigh and closed her eyes, ignoring the cold outside.

"You're crying," he said in an almost worried tone, hearing the sniffles and noticing the flowing icy river running down her cheeks. In response to it she only pulled on his clothing more so she could bury her face in his chest and hide the tears. He didn't seem to resist, but only stay there as she continued to sob like a child, waiting as long as it took.

It was dark outside. It was cold outside. She felt sick and tired and weak and emotional and unsure of what to do and everything just didn't feel right. Things were just all wrong. Things were just confusing. But she could take all of that . . . she could take it if the man who was holding her was always by her side.

". . . You're here . . ." she said softly, her voice choked up. He didn't seem to reply to that, but she felt him move from underneath her to stand and pick her up. Tatara held her like he always seemed to, only this time she noticed something more. Her head was lying close against the collarbone of his torso and with every step he took inside the cave, she felt his soft breathing. ". . . You . . ."

"Don't talk," he instructed her, though it wasn't in the least harsh. She complied with his request and waited for a while. Underneath her eyelids was a complete darkness, but at the same time she wasn't scared or worried. She wanted to cry more so badly, but being near him alone was making her fears go away.

It wasn't long until Tatara reached the small area of his room and laid Suzuno down against a nice patch of greenery in the corner. He was inside previously, so there wasn't any need to worry about lighting; the lamp on the ceiling was already lit, the tiny flame burning.

Tatara kneeled down beside Suzuno and pressed his palm against her forehead for a moment, then he wiped the sweat off along with the tears lining her cheeks before reaching into a pocket at his side. As he worked, he spoke.

"What are you doing out here in the middle of the night?" he asked, the unease in his voice evident. Gradually Suzuno opened her eyes to meet with his, but he immediately averted to open a small jar he had taken in his hands. "And you're not well either . . . You have a fever."

"It feels like it," she replied. She had relaxed her body enough where she didn't need to breathe heavily when talking, and she was glad of that. She had definitely felt like resting after such a marathon to get away from Amefuri. Still, even then her head was pounding again like when she had woken up and her tears, though slowing down, hadn't completely stopped. "I just remembered yesterday . . ."

"Yesterday?" In one hand he poured out tiny, tan colored pills, all of them perfectly round with a hard coating. She had guessed they were for her for swallow, but instead she kept talking.

"I asked for you to wait, and you said you would . . . the night we got here to the Capital. And when I woke up, I just didn't feel like waiting anymore."

"I see," he said, deciding to look back up at her. Somehow he felt it was a lie. He put the jar aside on the floor and took her hand, giving her the seeds. "Danko's grandmother in Midoru gave these to me in case you caught fever again. They work, so try and take them. Sorry that I don't have any water."

"That's okay," she said as he stood up. She watched his swift yet perfect, graceful movements and a blush rose to her cheeks. Only now, for some reason, she wasn't in the least embarrassed. In fact, she was rather pleased to be feeling this way. A thought rose to her mind, one that distracted her. 'This . . . is this what Amefuri feels when he looks at me? Could he possibly feel this good . . .?'

Love. It was an amazing feeling to have, that was for sure. But as wonderful as it was it also had to be the most painful of them all. What if there was a moment when someone wasn't with the one they loved, or perhaps if they were rejected? Now that she thought of it, perhaps saying something directly would have been better than running. 'It was almost as if I had deserted him.'

When Suzuno noticed Tatara looking down at her she quickly threw the pills in her mouth dry and swallowed. They felt thick and rough going down her throat and she coughed heavily, but she vaguely laughed the warrior wouldn't worry. "They taste terrible . . ."

Tatara didn't say anything about that and instead smiled softly at her blunt words. Feeling tired again Suzuno laid her head against the vine-covered wall behind her, breathing in deeply then exhaling to try and relax. Her heart had calmed since the moments earlier back at the Capital, but in other ways she felt unsettled. "Amefuri . . ."

'Why now?' she thought, and suddenly she felt like she wanted to cry again. She bit down on her lip to try and resist it, but somehow she knew they were going to come anyway. 'I . . . I like you Amefuri, I really do. But it isn't like that. So why did you say that to me now . . .?'

"And why did I enjoy it so much . . .?"

She knew she found it more than welcoming, the idea of intimacy between the both of them. That was what made it so terrible and unbearable for her to think about. She didn't want him the same way he wanted her, but when he finally did something she didn't resist. She was practically leading him on, playing around with him! 'It's so wrong . . .!'

"Are you alright?" Tatara asked, looking down towards her. He had listened to her muttering about things he didn't understand, then before he knew it, fresh new tears were falling from her eyes. She covered her face with her hands and balled her knees to her chest as if she were trying to be as small as possible. "Suzuno . . ."

"I . . . Tatara . . ." she said in a wavering voice, though it was muffled. He kneeled down by her side and made sure to listen intently. As she talked her words became even harder to understand so he took on of her hands in both of his, squeezing it tightly for a small amount of comfort. Still, she refused to open her eyes. "I don't hate him . . . But I don't love him either . . . I don't know what to do . . ."

"Do you love Suzuno?"

'So, that's what this is about,' Tatara thought to himself, keeping his focus on the Priestess before him. When he let go of her hand to pull her into a small, reassuring hug she fell into it, crying just as much as she did before. His chin rested atop her head as she sobbed loudly, and a small frown formed along his face.

'I've seen her cry before . . .' he thought, patting her back a little as if pampering a small child, 'but it was never as bad as this . . . Amefuri must have really confessed to her.'

When he thought of it, many things came to mind. First, he felt almost sorry for Suzuno; unlike Amefuri, who was relieving himself of something he had hidden inside, she had bear the pain of rejecting him full-out. The Priestess, if anything, was a sensitive girl who did not like to hurt other people. She had grown strong over the course of the journey they had so far, but all the same she was still a teenager. Still a girl . . . 'Suzuno . . .'

At last her crying seemed to cease, and when he loosened his hold on her to let her sit up she didn't move. She only clung onto him tighter, like a child in need of their parent. It surprised him, but he didn't move away. He held her closer again, his arms wrapped completely around her figure and keeping her close. He closed his eyes and smiled softly.

'The next time you cry like this, I may not be able to comfort you,' he thought. He listened to her breathing as if slowly evened out, and her once forceful grip began to loosen against him as she drifted off into sleep. As soon as he knew she had completely fallen asleep a leaned closer and planted a small kiss on her forehead. 'Because . . . Like Amefuri, I think I . . .'

X x x x x x

Okay, so there's another sort of romantic chapter. XD I'm so sorry that I'm terrible with romance these days! But now that Ame-chan has gone out and said it, it's time for things to start rolling among the three. Yay!

Speaking of Ame-chan (And even Higashi), I'm starting to realise Watase-sama and I are fond of prostitutes. There's Soi from the Seiryu Seven, then there's also the newest Genbu warrior (Just revealed a couple weeks ago in the new Genbu Kaiden chapters!) Iname. She's an older, more mature woman, either a prostitute or the owner of a brothel. She has hair power (no joke)! And then there's Ame-chan:D

But now the crying chapter and sad thingy is finished. So difficult! T.T And also from now on I'll have to write all the chapters out again . . . Even if I update pretty sporadically I'm always five or so chapters ahead in my writing (For this story, at least) but right now I don't even have the next chapter done yet!

Well, I hope everyone liked it. I'm honored I got so many reviews for this chapters! –Loves- Oh yeah! And I also drew some pictures of some of the characters (As well as two sexay mystery characters) at my deviantart account. They're not perfect, so please bear with me! T.T

I hope I'm not dissapointing everyone with their designs (But I think I've gotten better with Ame-chan; I even drew those freckles I totally forgot about until I re-read the beginning of the story, but only a little!). doesn't let me put up links though, so my username is Hatsu-chan and it's the first picture in my scraps section!

RabidMantisGirl-Yes, thank you! XD And now that I see your design I think that it's probably a better interpretation. If you ever come across a picture of Shigi from Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden, it's more what I had in mind. But yours is way more original!

Suzuno Oosugi- Thank you:D Gosh, I luv you so much! –Hugs- I think since this last chapter was more Suzuno x Amefuri, this one deserved to be Suzuno x Tatara. And I'm really excited about revealing Amai's love interest too . . . it's going to be fun:D

sesshomaruobsessed- Ack, I never even noticed before! Soi and Amefuri . . . XD That'd be cool if they were related sometime in the future! But I never thought of it before. I did realise they were prostitutes though when Iname from the Genbu Seven came about. O.o It's fun to see that everyone is enjoying Ame-chan's love so much!

Queen of the Paperclips- Gotcha:D Well, I hope you liked this chapter more. Tatara and Suzuno's relationship has progressed very slowly, but it makes me happy how it's working. Things will move faster though! More Tatara x Suzuno-ness to come soon!

Hotohori Fan- lol, yes:D Ame-chan has never fallen in love before, mostly because being with someone has never meant anything before. But now it's changed! Poor guy though . . . T.T But I want to make him happy in the end! I'm still sort of figureing that part out, but it'll work! XD –Concentrates-

Sifradel- Thank you so much! Yup, Ame-chan has taken it all out, and things are going well:D Well, not for the characters but for the story. I'm excited about their relationships in the future!

Nahrali- Thanks so much for so many reviews! –Loves- And you inquired about a lot of things too! Yes, this is an original story. XD I've sort of just been writing as I've gone along for about a year and a half, and it's fun! And I think you're the first person to inquire as to why Suzuno hates Takiko. :D There's a good reason for it, and it'll someday be revealed! Not until later though. And Toroki really is Toroki, no fakes. Every warrior that's revealed in this story is final!