Thanks to: general zargon (Fubuki and Hishigi will get what's coming to them in the sequel. Shinrei has to change because he plays a pretty big part too.), Guest (I'm flattered that you are taking the time to read through this fic. You came just in time for the end), magicalnana (It won't be overly long. A few years yes but it's to give Yuya time to get a bit stronger and ensure their kids are old enough to have a basic conversation), Azure shine (Believe it or not, I hate Fubuki for the purposes of this fic but as far as villains go in the manga, he's pretty phenomenal. He and Hishigi are the prime example of what happens when noble intentions go wrong. I know he redeemed himself at the end which is great but he still spent years being an amoral butthole), ThunderxShadow (I agree, the thought of anyone harming a baby is abhorrent to me which is why Fubuki is evil. He and Hishigi have no respect for life as evidenced by the thousand of rejects Shihoudou has had to bury. They will get theirs eventually.), heaven's-myth (Things will work out in the end. I'm happy you enjoy my writing.), Rinfantasy (A few years. Probably about five or so. There are going to be all sorts of team-ups in the sequel), lmamc, Almecestris (Glad you enjoy it so much), J Luc Pitard (Thanks for hanging with me to the end and giving me such kind reviews. Lots of stuff coming up in the sequel and I hope you enjoy), kyoandyuya (Thanks for reading and the lively discussion. I know it's sad but things will be looking up eventually. I did this epilogue on a brighter note. Also, all will be answered eventually but if you guessed the original Crimson King, you are on the dot.), Kurohime-san (I can't imagine Kyo laying down his pride for anyone but Yuya. Usually in shonen manga the romance can be kind of ambiguous but Kyo pretty clearly loved Yuya and she him. Maybe it's because Kamijyo-Sensei is a female but the romance was actually believable. I'm glad you enjoyed the fic and don't worry about lurking, we've all been there.), and Jackson (On the one hand, I'm flattered the last few chapters were so engaging but on the other hand I'm really sorry you missed your stop. I'm happy you enjoyed the story and that Kyo's confession wasn't OOC. Though these past few chapters were rough, things will eventually look up. As always, I really enjoyed your review.), V EPSILON (Thank you so much for being patient and sticking with this story. I am so happy that you enjoyed it an hope that the sequel is up to snuff. Reviews like yours are encouraging because I know it is hard to wait for an author to update. I appreciate the faith in my promise to continue.)
Japanese Note: Geta are a type of shoe and a shakujo is the type of staff Akari wields.
Midori no Me
"You know why I am here?" that eerily calm voice asked and Sakuya suppressed a shiver.
If Fubuki was imposing then Hishigi made her feel as if something cold and scaly was perched in front her, silently picking her apart and judging whether she was worth devouring. The white-haired Elder was intimidating at the best of times but his right-hand man was something else entirely. At no point in their acquaintance had she ever been able to get a clear read off of that single cold blue eye - she sometimes wondered what he was hiding beneath his half mask and white fringe - and now was no exception.
The seer had opened the door at his brief knock and the man on the other side merely looked at her before voicing his question. She knew what he was asking and nodded, walking past him and allowing him to shut her door quietly.
"Follow me," he said in that soft voice, like a doctor trying to calm his patient down before operating on her. It was the sort of tone that was insincere in it's attempts to soothe because the speaker knew he was going to inflict pain at some point.
If Fubuki was larger than life and brutal, it could be said that Hishigi was the opposite - a black shadow that hung in the background and said as little as possible. The dark man was the epitome of polite and distant in all aspects of his dealings. He generally avoided the world outside of his lab and dodged physical contact with the living at all times - as if touching the warmth of another person would remind him that he himself was still alive.
As he herded her to their destination, she pondered how she would control the outcome of their sinister order. Sakuya knew that they wanted her to seal Kyo's memories again and she would, there was no other choice, but she was fairly certain that she could control how he would regain them. She had been relatively new to the process the last time but now she had an idea of how she could disrupt their plans this time. Her unavoidable duty was sobering but she held a small light of hope in her breast that Kyo's feelings for Yuya would allow him to prevail...with a little bit of help from her end.
Though the miko was not happy about what they were going to have her do, she had to hide a tiny smile of anticipation. In a life where control had been taken out of her hands for most of it, she was happy to rebel against her masters in any way, no matter how small. If they thought Kyo would fit neatly into their schemes, they would have to think again. She was mostly sure of the means she would use to pull off her little act of defiance and she was content to bide her time and wait.
Sakuya had never forgotten her long ago vision of Kyo standing in opposition to the king and she looked forward to seeing her more recent one come to fruition. That of Kyo standing tall with a bright red cross and yin-yang symbol emblazoned upon his back.
It was the mark of a king and she could not wait to see how he would carry out his coup.
Yuya stared at the tall man with the golden hair and deep tan and tried to place him. She didn't know why but she was certain that she had seen him once before. As she turned his features over in her head, matching them against the people she'd met over the years, he noticed her watching him and gifted her with a broad smile that lit up his golden eyes and immediately put her at ease.
"I've met you before. A long time ago," she said softly and he nodded before turning his gaze forward once more.
"I was a friend of your brother's once. He was a good man and his life was cut short far too soon. I visited the two of you once but you were very small. Nozomu loved you a great deal and I could not stand by while someone he cared about - as well as your unborn child - were in danger."
It was so odd to hear a member of the Mibu clan - which she was convinced was made up of nothing more than cruel monsters - saying something other than how inferior and worthless she was. His kindness was so genuine and unexpected that she had to look away and bury her head in Kyoshiro's chest. She smiled to herself at the strangeness of her situation.
Yuya was being gently carried by the man who had killed her brother, then attempted to kill her once and Kyo multiple times. Next, she was being helped by a massive man who was one of the Mibu's top soldiers and a friend of the same man Kyoshiro had executed. Shinrei's odd moment of gentleness and his sparing of her life was icing on the cake. It was one big circle of weird and she was too tired to think of how screwed up her life was right then.
"Taihaku-San, is there any way to retrieve Sakuya from the tower?" she heard Kyoshiro ask and turned her head to look at the large man once more.
His face was grim as he replied, "I don't thing going back is wise. I am already risking a great deal to bring the two of you out of here. However, I was given a letter to pass on to you from Sakuya. Here," he reached beneath the animal printed scarf he wore and withdrew a piece of paper which he handed over to the younger man before holding his arms out for Yuya.
Kyoshiro silently handed her over and she watched as he used his newly freed hands to open the message and quickly scan it's contents. Whatever it contained, it wasn't pleasant and she felt a surge of pity for him as his face paled and then took on a sad expression.
She didn't need to read minds to know that Sakuya wasn't going to be making the trip with them but the miko's lover confirmed her thoughts when he said softly, "Sakuya says that she is not going to be able to leave with me. According to her, she has had a vision of the Elders using her to seal Kyo's memories once more."
Yuya's breathing halted for a moment and she gripped Taihaku's arm for strength. It was bad enough that her husband had been taken from her and now she had confirmation that he was going to be sent back to square one yet again. It boggled the mind how insidious one group of people could be. She felt tears gathering in her eyes at the thought of Kyo forgetting her and what they meant to each other. The idea of the Mibu wiping away the significance of his sacrifice didn't bear thinking about.
"However," Kyoshiro continued and she blinked back tears as she listened, "she says that she has a plan to insure that things are not a repeat of the last time. According to her, Yuya is key and she asks that I protect her with my life."
He looked at her with assessing blue eyes and she squirmed a bit, uncomfortable beneath that steady gaze. She had no idea how she could possibly be so vital when she wasn't particularly powerful but as he watched her, she could see him turning over what he knew about her in his head.
"Sakuya is a very wise woman, Kyoshiro. I'm sure she knows what she is doing," Taihaku said and the younger man slowly nodded.
"We are almost at our destination. Hopefully Shihoudou will be willing to help us."
They left the narrow path they had been traversing and the head of the Goyosei brushed aside the foliage covering a small cave opening before bending way down and ducking into it. He covered the top of Yuya's head with a large hand to keep her from bumping into the stone and Kyoshiro followed.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the cave and she stared in amazement at how huge it really was. The light from outside was limited but it was enough for her to tell that the edges were a good thirty feet or more away.
"I'm going to hand Yuya over to you from here on," Taihaku said and Kyoshiro retrieved her from his arms while the big man walked over to an old sconce set into the wall.
She heard the sound of a flint being struck and then the cavern was bathed in the warm glow of fire. Removing the torch from its bracket, he walked over to the far side of the cave, illuminating an opening that went even deeper into the bedrock. The flame on his torch danced an flickered and she stared at it, hoping it would continue to burn and keep the darkness at bay.
Yuya wasn't sure how she knew they were no longer alone but she heard something akin to a sigh off to her right and turned her head, letting out a squeak of surprise at the eyes watching her intently from a distance of a few inches. Even Kyoshiro took a step back in surprise and she wondered what kind of skills a person had to have to sneak up on the samurai.
The poor lighting made it hard to ascertain the color of the person's eyes but she could tell it was a female judging by the breasts wrapped in bandages that she saw. The other woman wore a sandogasa, a striped cloak tied with pom-poms, short shorts, and had a bare midriff with the beginnings of a cherry blossom tattoo peeking out of the top left part of her tiny pants.. Her long legs were bare except for bandages wrapped around her calves and geta and she sported a sheathed sword.
The two women stared at each other for a long moment before the stranger smiled and said, "Is this little human morsel what you wanted to smuggle out?"
"Yes, Shihoudou-Sama," Yuya noted the respectful suffix he attached to her name and wondered who she was.
"This brat doesn't look like much. No ki to speak of and her reflexes are slow," she turned to look at Taihaku and shrugged, dismissing Yuya.
"Though she is a normal human, don't sell her short. She is the wife of Demon Eyes Kyo and she is also carrying his child."
"Really?!" the odd woman swung her head towards Yuya again and reached out to pinch her cheeks, turning her head this way and that to get a better look.
"So, that little red-eyed brat finally grew up and put the short sword between his legs to use, eh?"
Yuya blinked at her vulgar wording but said nothing and the other woman grinned as she turned and marched off towards the opening leading off into whatever tunnel she came from.
"I'll take it from here Taihaku. An old geezer like you should get back to your post before you are missed. By the way...," she was cut off by a commotion from the hole and Yuya smiled as she heard a bevy of familiar voices.
"Move your fat butt, Bon," Benitora complained.
"Make me, kid," Bon replied, voice laced with amusement.
"I wish they'd stop fighting," came Sasuke's calm tone.
"Agreed," Akira replied with equal coolness.
"I found these rats wandering my halls and brought them along in exchange for them telling me what was going on above-ground. They said the piece of crap, Demon Child was back and that they were his crappy friends. Since I was bored, I let them tag with me and dropped your three freaks off at your gate, Taihaku," Shihoudou said.
Taihaku's words of thanks were drowned out by Benitora's loud "Yuya-Haaaan" and then he and Bon were flocking around her, stroking her hair and asking her if she was alright. Sasuke tentatively reached up, gave her hand a tiny squeeze and whispered a soft "Nee-San" before withdrawing.
Akira said, "It is nice to see you in good health, Yuya-San," before moving his head around and frowning as he asked, "Where is Kyo?"
The reminder that her husband was gone, combined with their kind concern, was too much and she couldn't hold back a sob. There had still been a sort of numbness around the loss of her other half but seeing the people who had traveled with the two of them for so long undid her and she began to cry in earnest.
"Forgive me, Yuya-San," the blind man said, looking distinctly uncomfortable at her display of emotions.
"Looks like something really bad must have happened," Bon murmured.
"A lot has happened," Kyoshiro said, "but we need to leave. I'll explain on the way."
As one, the men nodded and she watched through bleary eyes as Taihaku handed the torch over to Benitora.
"Time to go, kiddies," Shohoudou said before running off ahead of them into the bowels of the cave.
"That woman has too much energy," Bon said with a sigh before taking off after her.
Yuya met the head of the Gogosei's gentle eyes with her own watery ones and he nodded in encouragement before saying, "She'll get you out safely. We will meet again someday, Yuya-San."
"Thank you," she said and he smiled before turning and exiting the cave.
Aside for the occasional screams of its inhabitants as they fought and murdered each other in accordance with the kill-or-be-killed rules of the forest, Aokigahara was eerily quiet no matter what time of day it was. There were no animals or insect noises to break the still air - most wildlife having long since been driven away or devoured in desperation - and the atmosphere grew even more heavy and oppressive as the sun set. It was not the sort of place one ventured into and that went doubly so when night fell.
However, the gentle chime of metal on metal sounded, breaking the silence of the forest and the inhabitants paused in various acts of violence, listening and shuddering. They knew the meaning of the sound and as one they abandoned what they were doing and fled deeper into the woods, running from the melody of rings sliding against each other and the metal shaft of a shakujo.
The melodious sound alternated with the thump of footsteps and as the owner of the staff neared the ruined Hell Gate, they paused and let out a low whistle. Long, gloved fingers reached up to play with a piece of pink hair before flicking the strand over a narrow shoulder and gliding down to rest on a cocked hip.
"Well now," the person said in a husky voice, "Isn't this just an interesting turn of events. Looks like I'm late to the party."
The figure continued on through the opening, punctuating each step with a jangle from the shakujo. Curious about what sort of power had broken the unassailable gates and hoping to meet up with old and valued friends after four years of separation, the person continued on to a place they hadn't visited in quite some time.
Can't believe this part of Kyo and Yuya's story is over after eleven years. Thank you so much for sticking with it and reading it. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time out to read and review. I'd like to ask anyone who has followed this fic and not commented yet to consider leaving a review (even if English isn't your first language) and let me know your thoughts. What did you like? Where can I improve in my writing? I'd really appreciate it because encouragement is always needed when writing. I don't get paid for this (I wouldn't expect to of course) so knowing that this story is being enjoyed is what I thrive on and, as always, I'm trying to become a better writer.
Thank you again for hanging in there and I'll see you in the sequel.
P.S. The Prologue for the sequel, "Kurenai Kioku" (Crimson Memories), is now up.
P.S. Good lord, I looked at the manga and realized that Akari is freaking tall! The more I see of him, the less feminine he is. O_O