Author: Anonym aka Yen
email: y_no_m@yahoo.com
site: http://www.geocities.com/y_no_m

Disclaimer: YnM belongs to Youko Matsushita-sensei.

Phoenix
YnM Fanfiction by Anonym aka Yen

"Uh-" It was the only sound Tsuzuki could make. His throat seemed to be in an invisible vise. In front of him, Kouchin was a mere three steps away. She moved languidly, confident that he couldn't resist. Sheer panic possessed him, and it showed in his face, for Kouchin stopped and looked at him with amusement.

"Relax, Asato-chan," She said teasingly. "I'm not going to eat you. I have something much better planned."

When her arms wound around his neck, his knees almost buckled. The unseen force that paralyzed him was also keeping him upright.

Waaah! What is wrong with me?! Tsuzuki managed to squeezed his eyes shut when her finger touched his mouth.

"Kouchin!" His eyes snapped open at the shout and just in time to see Kouchin roll her eyes ceilingward. She looked exasperated.

"She has the lousiest timing," Kouchin said just at the doors swung open, and another woman came marching into the bath.

"Kouchin." The newcomer paused then placed both hands on her hips. "You promised to help with the ceremony," she said sternly. Tsuzuki blushed even redder when she looked at him narrowly, saying, "You can play with him later."

Kouchin turned towards her. "Hello, Neesan!" She said cheerfully and without shame said, "Just give me fifteen minutes more."

Tsuzuki's jaw dropped.

***

Suzaku's head was beginning to ache. "Kouchin, I'm serious. There isn't time for this." She gestured at Kouchin's latest toy. "He can wait."

"But Neesan..." Kouchin looked pleadingly at her.

This girl... "Don't make me come in there to drag you out," she warned. "The others will be arriving soon, and preparations are far from complete."

Kouchin sighed dramatically. "What else isn't ready." She finally sounded resigned and began walking towards Suzaku but not before giving the stranger a look of regret.

Suzaku waited until Kouchin was out of the water before saying, "The menu."

"... You want me to take care of the food?!" Kouchin exclaimed. She looked ready to jump back into the water, but Suzaku had grabbed her arm. "That's Shikaze's part," Kouchin complained.

"You know Shikaze has not been feeling well," said Suzaku, pulling Kouchin along with her to the door. "And Taimou is already too busy."

Kouchin was dragging her feet. "Why don't you take care of the food, Neesan..." She trailed off delicately and looked innocent when Suzaku glanced back at her.

"All right. All right. I'll take care of the menu." Kouchin said gaily, then suddenly smiled so sweetly at Suzaku. "On one condition."

Suzaku stopped and turned to her. "What condition?"

"Well..." Kouchin tapped her finger against her chin. "I don't want Asato-san over there to think I'm a bad host for leaving him alone all of a sudden."

***

Sometime later, Tsuzuki found himself walking a few paces behind the woman whom Kouchin only introduced to him as Neesan. Right now, she was giving him a tour of Kouchin's residence, a quiet tour.

"Uhm..." Tsuzuki's was looking down at his feet, feeling very awkward about everything that had just happened to him. He snuck a peek at the woman walking in front of him, then lifted his hand to his chest to make sure again that Byakko's letter was there. I should get out of here...

***

"Excuse me, Neesan."
"Yes?"
"Can you please tell me where Suzaku-sama is?"

Suzaku stopped and turned around to face him. "... You are looking for the Phoenix?"

He was still nervous, but at her question, he straightened and looked at Suzaku seriously. "Yes, I am looking for the Phoenix."

She folded her arms. "Why?"

He was startled at her interrogation. "... I have a request of Suzaku-sama."

She was curious. "What sort of request?" She asked.

"... I need permission," he said slowly.

"For what?"

"... I cannot say..." He again looked flustered. "Gomen nasai," he apologized softly. He looked like he wanted to say something further.

Suzaku frowned. "I know where the Phoenix is-" She broke off when his face lit up eagerly. His eyes were bright with excitement.

"Please!" He stepped towards her. "Please tell me where Suzaku-sama is!"

When she hesitated, he hurriedly took out a parchment from his clothes and showed it to her, saying, "I have a message for Suzaku from Byakko."

Byakko?! She reached for the letter and paused when Asato looked like he was going to pull it back. Then after a moment, he relaxed and placed it in her hand. She examined it, recognizing the seal on it.

... What has he to do with the White Tiger? She broke the seal, not noticing the look of alarm on Asato's face.

***

Dearest Suzaku-neesan:

Please grant me a favor. The one who brings this message to you is Tsuzuki. He's the one I've been telling you about. He's the one I chose to be my master. Please help us convince Souryuu to let me remain as Tsuzuki's shikigami. Genbu gave his blessing already, but we also need your approval. Please, Neesan!

Love, Byakko

... Tsuzuki... Suzaku looked up from the parchment to stare at the man infront of her. He was also staring back at her, shocked. ... This is Tsuzuki.

***

... She opened it... Tsuzuki's eyes fell on the open letter in her hand. She broke the seal and read it... ... Is she-

"Suzu-chan." Someone said behind him, and he turned slowly to see a pot floating towards him at eye level. ?!

"Daion," she said pleasantly, "I'm not a sparrow."

The pot replied, "I know, but Suzu-chan sounds cuter." It stopped right in front of Tsuzuki's eyes, black painted eyes staring at him unblinkingly. "How about you, young man? Which sounds nicer? Suzu-chan or Suzaku-chan?"

Tsuzuki fainted.

***

"Neesan, what did you do to him?!" Kouchin looked at Suzaku accusingly. She was sitting on the bed with Tsuzuki's head pillowed on her lap. He was still unconscious.

Suzaku pointed at Daion, who was on Tsuzuki's chest. "It's his fault. He scared him."

Daion hopped in protest and backed off from Kouchin who looked like she was going to smash him into bits. Luckily for the little pot, Shikaze was nearby to scoop him up into her arms.

"I'm sure this is all an accident," Shikaze said placatingly. Beside her, Taimou, who was holding Tenkou, asked, "Who is he?" She gestured at Tsuzuki.

Before Kouchin could answer, Suzaku sighed loudly and said, "He's the shinigami who mastered Byakko."

... Kouchin stared at her then down at Tsuzuki. "... He's the one Souryuu-sama is so upset about..." Shikaze remained silent, looking confused while Taimou's expression was as always unreadable.

"This will be interesting," Daion commented. Tenkou gurgled happily, sounding as if she agreed with him.

***

"Where are they?" Kijin looked up at his father who had uttered the question. They were in the foyer of Suzaku's residence.

"Perhaps they are at the shrine." Said Rikugou who had came along with them. Behind him stood Byakko, who looked worried, tail twitching. Souryuu's keen eyes fell on the nervous White Tiger. He was about to say something to him when Genbu tutted softly and said, "I'm hungry." At his companions' pause, he looked up at Rikugou, sighed theatrically and looked away.

Rikugou glared at his teacher while Souryuu made a small amused sound. Kijin smiled behind his sleeved arm while Byakko perked up, a grin playing on his lips.

"Welcome, gentlemen." All turned to see Taimou walking towards them, her movements so fluid that she seemed to glide across the mosaic floor. "The others await at the shrine," she said, gesturing for them to follow her.

"We're not going to eat first?" Genbu asked, shuffling after her. Following him, a still irrirated Rikugou looked ready to pounce on the small old shikigami.

Taimou glanced back at Genbu, her head tilting slightly. "Food has been prepared and is at the shrine. Kouchin desires that we eat under the stars tonight."

All the men paused. It was Rikugou who asked the obvious question, "Is Kouchin going to sing tonight?" All males, even the most powerful shikigami in Gensoukai, was susceptible to the Siren's song. Once under her spell, they were completely helpless.

Taimou was slow in answering. "... She might."

Kijin had a pained look on his face. "She made me dance." Byakko looked very embarrased. "She made me play with a ball of yarn." Rikugou looked like he had a severe headache. "She made me hug him!" He complained, pointing at Genbu who looked back at him with a cherubic expression.

On the other hand, Souryuu looked calm, and Genbu didn't look like he minded Kouchin's singing. Kijin exhaled loudly, "Kouchin only asked father to serenade mother. (I think she's afraid of him.)"

Still pointing at Genbu, Rikugou added, "He was too deaf to hear her song."

Byakko looked grumpy. "I still think Neesan put her up to it."

"Kouchin's gift was the most entertaining..." Taimou commented and didn't have to see to know that the three younger men were glaring at her.

"So," Genbu broke through the silence that followed. "Souryuu, what gift did you bring this year?"

"My presence," Souryuu answered. Behind, Rikugou grimaced while Byakko muttered, "Remind me not to invite him to my birthday. He always brings the same thing." Kijin chuckled softly at that, then asked Taimou, "Just us again this year, Taimou-dono?"

"Yes," the blank-faced shinigami replied, "after the servants finished the preparations, Suzaku ordered them to leave the estate for the evening. They will return at dawn." Unlike the other Shinigami, Suzaku's name day was not a lavish occasion. It was unusual especially since she was one of the Four Gods.

Byakko looked uncomfortable as did Souryuu and Genbu.

***

"You look as lovely as always, Neesan!" Byakko gave the protesting Suzaku a tight affectionate hug.

"Byakko, I'll singe your whiskers if you don't release me this instant!"

"Good evening, Kouchin-dono," Kijin greeted the siren respectfully. Kouchin smiled at him brilliantly, then turned her attention back to baby Tenkou whom she was holding in her arms. Tenkou looked happy to see her brother.

"She recognizes you already, Kijin," said Taimou.

"Shikaze, Daion." Souryuu looked suspiciously at the pot in his wife's arms.

"Souryuu," Shikaze said warmly while Daion made a click - clacking sound. "Hullo, Souryuu," Daion said, "You look the same as always." It didn't sound like a compliment.

At the banquet table, Rikugou was seriously considering pouring a large jug of sake on Genbu, who was happily piling his plate with food. They were in Suzaku's shrine. It was on the rooftop of the mansion. The shrine was a raised dias with two adjacent irregular triangles inscribed upon it. Both triangles shared a common side. One triangle was smaller. The other was larger.

***

"What...?" Kijin's eyes were wide, and he lowered his chopsticks slowly. "Neesan will sleep three days..." Beside him, Rikugou looked curious. "Is this about the renewal ceremony?" He asked.

On the other side of the table and facing him, Genbu beamed with pride. "That's right, dear only student of mine."

"Renewal ceremony?" Repeated Kijin.

"About every 13,000 years, the Phoenix must renew itself," said Rikugou.

Kijin blinked. "... I thought that was only folklore. Isn't it only every half a millenium?"

"It is not legend," Suzaku answered. She looked tired. "But the cycle takes such a long time that it becomes legend. ... It becomes more difficult each time."

"We're here for you, Neesan," Byakko said reassuringly, placing his hand on her." At his touch, Suzaku smiled thankfully.

Genbu waved his cup at her. "I shall take my place by thy left hand."

Souryuu tilted his head. "I in front of thee."

"And I, your right hand," Byakko finished.

Kouchin began to recite.

Fire Wind Earth Water
One strengthens
One weakens
One extinguishes
Four Sides
Two Triangles
One World

***

It worried Kijin that he could only watch. Beside him, Rikugou was also just watching. The Four Gods had positioned themselves on the dias. Souryuu took the point of the larger triangle while Suzaku stood opposite him on the smaller triangle's point. Genbu stood on the point left of Suzaku while Byakko stood on point right of Suzaku. Behind, Kouchin, Taimou and Shikaze had formed another triangle surrounding Suzaku. Kouchin, facing Byakko held her biwa and was playing a song. Taimou, directly behind Suzaku, held Daion. Shikaze, facing Genbu, held Tenkou in her arms.

Above them, the stars twinkled, silently witnessing the full moon reach its zenith and Suzaku turning into her phoenix form. Holy flames began to burn so brightly that night turned into day.

Kijin shouted, vainly trying to shield his eyes. Beside him, Rikugou had turned away. Then, they heard her death cry.

***
**
*

I am life & death

Suzaku could see her ashes. She could see the faint pulsing underneath. Her body was being regenerated. By dawn, it would be ready.

She saw Byakko worriedly poking his hand into the glowing ashes, yowling and pulling away when embers flared up and burned him.

She saw Souryuu reprimanding Byakko for his foolishness then telling him to remain still while he looked at his injured hand.

I am giver & receiver

She saw old Genbu shaking his head. The renewal ceremony had drained him, and he thanked Rikugou who came up to him to give him some sake.

She saw Kouchin take out her biwa and began to play again. She received warning looks from the men and blinked when Taimou whispered into her ear, advising her not to sing. Daion floated from Taimou's arms to land beside her ashes. The little pot seemed to glow in time with her regenerating body.

She saw Kijin taking Tenkou from Shikaze and asking his mother if she was all right. Shikaze just smiled and nodded at him.

I am alone

Sadness enveloped her. There could only be one Phoenix at any given time.

Neesan, please don't leave me

Puzzled and glad of the distraction, Suzaku searched for the source of the plea.

Neesan, please forgive me

... Tsuzuki?

*to be continued*

This part was not easy to write.