Fushigi Yuugi:

Life As It Is


In the dark of the night, it echoed, "AHHHHHHHHH! I-IT HURTS! HELP, SOMEBODY!" And the screaming continued, carried by a voice of sheer anguish.

Tasuki was the first one conscious. ' 'Hurts'? KOA?!' By meaning to check on the woman slumbering next to him, he ended up tangling himself in his sheets very gracelessly. He looked like a gigantic, dirty diaper. After ripping the fabric to smithereens, he finally was able to focus on his room-mate. She was already set with her gear, glaring at his mess on the floor. "Come on, Tasuki!" she screamed over the shrill screeching and dashed off to the door. Still wary and angry he was with her, but he followed suit nonetheless.

The entire village gathered in the central point. Though it was clearly the middle of the night, the group who were present all had their weapons at the ready and their eyes alert with fierce energy.

That is, except for Chichiri and Jem. As if that wasn't enough to prove that the scream belonged to the water bearer's hut, the monk added a cry of his own, "GUYS, QUICK! Her body's glowing over here, you know!"

The elementals eyes suddenly gleamed over with fear. In a rapid kick of their heels, they raced to their sister's hut at a speed that looked as though they were straining themselves to meet. The wooden plank of a door slammed open thanks to Arashi. Tasuki gasped the most out of the group.

Jem's body was pulsating and glimmering. She looked like a humanoid ripple, with eyes of fear and a mouth of an opera singer. Chichiri had actually taken to a seat behind a barrier, since pieces of her body - which looked like nothing more than sprays of water - were flailing around the space. They couldn't be particularly harmful, but it made sense for him to shield himself when he wasn't sure of what was flying around the room. Still, if only droplets, the water that separated from her body was actually making his barrier shake.

"Koa!" Enzeru shouted, "Was she giving off any signs?!"

"N-N-No," the Earthen Maiden stuttered, "I-I had no clue this was going to occur. And at such a time..."

"We need to at least get her away from the village."

"What?!" All but Koa stared at the Fire-Fighter, as if she had gone mad.

Enzeru simply glared back at them, "If she's not near any kind of natural flowing water, she'll havta create her own. By becoming one! Arashi, can you send her to a nearby river of canal?"

"I wouldn't know where one was." Arashi answered with spite.

"Arashi, now is not the time nor place." Koa cooed, grabbing hold of her sister's arm. She more so performed the action to anchor herself from the reality of the situation.

"Well, I wouldn't! I don't leave the village on a regular basis, for long extents of time."

"Then I guess my leaving comes in handy, since I know where one is. It's up by Konan--"

"NO! We aren't going to have anything else to do with those people!"

"Hey! Two of them are right here!" Tasuki bellowed.

"And one's trying to help, y'know!"

"Hey, you traitor!"

"EVERYONE, PLEASE LISTEN!" Mikomi ceased the squabble. Once the focus was on her - excluding the Water Elemental, who had been wailing but gone unnoticed for the past few minutes - she continued, "There is a river closer than that one. It's up by the border pass of Konan and Kouto. It's a little risky, but Jem needs us all right. NOW!"

"...Or ya know...there's that river." Enzeru scratched the back of her head, guilt written on her face.

"Then let us hurry! She needs to be reimbursed by her element soon or we might lose her."

While the Wind sister summoned her elemental connections to move her elder sister with ease, Tasuki regarded how they functioned. He never would have guessed that this was what was entailed for someone who honed an element. He never had to go through something so...disturbing to become one of the Suzaku. Not that our journey was a piece of cake. And hadn't Jem been one of the oldest; how come this was happening to her? Did this mean it was going to happen to everyone? That dream I had... Wouldn't it only burn for Enzeru, not Koa? Perhaps that was who he dreamt abou-- No, that was impossible. He hadn't known her by then, and he was so sure it was Koa's voice...

Chichiri too needed time to observe and recollect his thoughts. He had awoken to the sight of a bright light illuminating the room. He wouldn't have guessed in a million years that it was actually Jem's body! But to learn that it was indeed the radiating pulse of his room mate caused many more questions to arise – one's he so badly wanted to be answered. He wasn't stupid; he was aware that it wasn't appropriate to bring them up now. Instead, he offered protection to Tasuki, and the other sisters who couldn't help Arashi.

The group left the hut in two groups of two's and one group of three. With Mikomi as her guide, Arashi carried Jem's body on a strong lift from the wind until they made it to the river. Luckily, it wasn't a 'baby'; the trail of water was roughly the width of the village's radius. Miss Arashi was able to sigh lightheartedly when she witnessed how secluded the spot - that Mikomi had chosen – was. The animals had deserted the space by a five meter diameter, so the land seemed bare. After a quick scout, Jem was about to be placed in the river. She wasn't sure how far to place her, so Arashi began to simply drop her in with diligence, and that was when there was interference.

"Stop, y'know!" The monk broke his concentration and the shield.

"Wuh-What?" The call made Arashi panic, and lose her sliver of gentleness when holding her sister with her power. Jem's body, at the same time, began to twitch uncontrollably, which did nothing to aid the problem. As her body began to plummet, Chichiri performed a chant and caught her just as her back grazed the miniature waves of the river.

"She can't go into the water like that, y'know!"

"But she is water! She'd be fine!" Arashi defended, feeling a twinge of pain at the idea of her being incompetent.

"She may be powered by water, but if you were to just put her in the water while she's shaking like that, there's no way she would be able to survive, y'know! Look at her face; she doesn't look like she'd know how to use her power to help her breathe underwater!"

"He's right, Arashi!"

"Be more careful!"

"Don't be too rough with her!"

She twitched. "Alright, fine! You stay with her then! I'm going back to bed!" And with the swish of a twister, Arashi was gone.

The remaining four bystanders simply watched as the blue-haired monk removed his wrap around, his mask and stabbed his staff into the ground. Just before he was about to perform a special sutra, he turned to the others and said softly, "How long will this last?

"A-About a twelve-hour time span. Possibly longer. But no less than...twelve hours." Enzeru answered.

"Alright then. You all should leave. I can promise you; you're not going to like what you see."

Immediately, Koa and Enzeru grabbed for the youngest and led her away from the tiny clearing. Once they were out of sight and ear-shot, Chichiri looked back at the girl. She looked like a fish, struggling without air. His heart ached at the sight of her distraught position. "Alright, I have a way to help you Jem," he spoke to her in a bias tone, "But don't get mad at me. I'd help you whether you did or you didn't, but I'd like us to be friends still when this is over, y'know? ...Hooah!"

The cloak encased her frame like a leaf being forced to dance to the tempo of a strong breeze. He never though the life of someone he cared for would be so effected by this element again. Maybe life had him spiritually bound to it; maybe that was the reason he had picked her for his Blood Oath… And so, the treatment began...

!~*~! With Arashi... !~*~!

If there was one thing she could not stand, it was being told that she was useless. That was her understanding of the situation at the river; that she was about to harm her sister instead of helping her. Her fist met with the large thicket known as her wall before she finally succumbed to her feelings. 'If he hadn't stopped me, would I have...' No, she wouldn't have! If something had happened to Jem, there were four sisters to jump in and save her... well, none of them could actually touch her, but...

When the acceptance ceremony is taking place, it is the most dangerous time to make contact with the person experiencing the change, especially if you're an elemental. The power that is already inside the element's host is being amplified, or more so, restructured to match the person's body and share the connectivity with the rest of their power's sources. To mingle with an elemental while being one yourself meant having the ceremonial host's power reach out. The powers become especially greedy when tapping into the core of their source.

If it had been Koa's time, or Mikomi, the two could touch each other. The other three sisters were not so lucky. Should two elements collide at such a period of growth meant causing a catastrophic disaster. So if she had dropped Jem into the river that was wider and deeper than the terrain of their village, they would have lost her. And Arashi would have been the murderer.

Another punch to the thicket, then a kick and a body slam. A long, steady sound of rage rumpled past her lips before tears began to blur her eyes. It was ridiculous! That's all it was. She wasn't so stupid. Besides, if he hadn't said something, then Mikomi or Koa or even Enzeru would have! These Suzaku men were nothing but trouble! A burden to their lives! She would not allow another one to step into their small town, or so help him, he will lose all the air that surrounds him!

!~*~! With the Group of Four... !~*~!

No one said a word as the small group made their way home. They had even taken to the trees, just to be sure that their wasn't a possibility. Unfortunately, the trip seemed shorter in comparison to the journey there, and the silence that loomed made the situation incredibly pessimistic. But then again, what was there to be positive about?

"Um," Mikomi whispered, "Tasuki?"

The three teens were surprised to hear her speak, and to someone out of the group, no less.

"Y-Yeah, squirt?" He answered gently.

"Do you think...Jem will be okay?" Her eyes pleaded, staring hopefully into his soul.

'Uh… this is some kind of creepy.' He thought warily.

'Tasuki,' Koa whispered in his mind. He twitched but showed no other sign of fear; he was getting better at this, 'She's probably asking you since you're an outsider.'

'I'm still an outsider, after being her for two nights now?!'

'My mistake. I should have worded that more carefully. She is asking you, since you are unfamiliar with Jem's…current condition. Since you were Jem and Arashi's doctor when you first arrived, and since you are a biased person, she's asking to your trained and yet untrained eye if you think she'll survive.'

'SURVIVE?!'

'Just answer the young girl!'

"Ah!" The shout had shaken his senses. Blinking a handful of times, he tried to regain his wits before returning his focus to her. Seeing that she hadn't lost her hopeful and still hopeless exterior, he smiled kindly and said, "I mean, yeah. I've never seen a human spring before, but I bet she'll be just a human again in, what did you guys say? Twelve hours? Yeah, just wait twelve hours."

The three girls stared, sighed, and giggled.

"Hey! What's so funny?!"

'Thank you.' Koa somehow thought about while she held her stomach.

"Thank you Chibi-suke!" Mikomi hugged his waist and skipped off to bed. Enzeru, still choking on her laughter, waved herself off after the youngest.

"Huh? Hey wait! Only Koa calls me that—No! NOT EVEN SHE CAN CALL ME THAT! HEY! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?! I'M TASUKI, NOT WHATEVER THE HECK YOU GUYS SAID~!"

"Oh, hush up." The laughter subsided, and the Earth maiden tugged on his ear, "You've done something nice today. Just leave it at that and go off to sleep."

"Humph." He grumbled and let her lead him back to bed. As they re-entered the hut, Koa crawled onto her cot like a new born kitten; she looked as she was ready to take on the world, but wanted a bit more time being caught up in warmth. Tasuki took to the sheets laid for him as well, but he simply sat down like an angry pup. Koa felt the leer, and waited until she was cozy before saying anything.

"Yes, Tasuki?"

"I—" – 'Oh, she's—I mean you're not getting out of this one!' – "—have more questions."

"Wait until tomorrow, okay?" Her voice was so…breathy. He had never seen her so…relaxed and…dare he say, she looked positively submissive!

"It's is tomorrow."

"No, it's merely dawn. Give a few more hours of rest, and then I'll—"

"Koa! I want answers! Stop ducking me!"

Their eyes met, and a fierce war raged. Suddenly, Koa prompt her head up in her hand and laid on her side, facing him, her tough exterior reinstated, "Your friend is going to have question too, correct? Even more, I'm sure. Instead of repeating myself again, I'd like to do it all at once, alright?"

She snapped like a shark at her last word. As easily as it was to tease her about her subtle innuendo, the mountain symbol-bearer dropped his head and let it slide over.

"Is this…what's going to happen to you?"

"What did I—"

"Is this what you were talking about…before we went to sleep? That's you're gonna go through something like…this?"

There was a strong pause. Every second made both of them more uneasy.

"I promise to answer all your questions in the morn. Please get some rest. You'll want to have all your energy to 'freak-out' accordingly, correct?" With that slight gesture of a joke, she dozed off. He slowly followed suit, again.

!oxo! Just Outside… !oxo!

She knew she had to tell Hyou. She had to! Jem's body was experiencing her acceptance; the first acceptance ceremony of the village! Hadn't she promised to tell him if anything strange started happening? This was—well, for them it was quite normal, but it wasn't the ordinary, so—strange! Her mind was screaming to call to the village. After all, not only was she supposed to answer to Hyou, she was supposed to report back to the village Elder – Koa's Father – at least two hours ago. Her neck was already on the cutting block.

Did she have what it took to risk it all?

…If she told Hyou, he would report it. And if he did? They would force the girls home, and Koa would be locked away for half of a year. During such a time, it was clear that the others were…well, for lack of a better term, Jem had started a ripple affect. Shortly after her, it would be Enzeru's turn, she was sure. It would commence in order by age, that was the only clear fact. With that being the case, to be gone from the lives of her sisters for half a year's time, she would miss Enzeru's and Arashi's acceptance ceremony. After all the…dare she say, crap Koa stood up against and still had to live by, and how the others never truly met their other blood related family…

Quietly, she snuck into Arashi's futon. She would rather sleep there in silence, with some sort of comfort, than on a random rock or in a tree!

!oxo! Sunset, Later That Day, With Chichiri… !oxo!

He had been watching over the Water Mistress for roughly twenty hours. Hadn't he been the lucky one, that he hadn't needed to use copious amount of magic in the last year or so. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to stand for as long as he was. However, the factor of pride made it not a smidgen easier. He knew his limits; he had only three hours left inside him, or he would probably be drained…for who knows how long.

Looking at her through mask-free eyes, he could see clearly the chaos that was her body. To say she transformed to the epitome of Water was somehow not enough for him. There wasn't a real way to describe her current state to him. All he could grasp with words, was that she was…transforming…perhaps transforming into Water? He couldn't say. But somehow, he had unexplained faith. He just believed, for no reason, that it would be okay.

That is, if this procedure would end sooner rather than later.

And as if Christmas came around early, the blue-haired monk's wish was granted.

A geyser formed in the middle of the river, under her body, and soaked the bottom of his cloak as a way of breaking through his barrier. With a masculine grunt, he tried to press onward, using what minimal strength he had remaining. Somehow, the force of the unexplainable –another unknown factor – geyser seeped all of the fabric now, and began to fill the orb. He had no choice; he had to release her! If he didn't…

With a grimace, he slowly edged out of his spell. Unfortunately, the water forced him to separate from his target. The act sent him flying backwards and into the trunk of a tree. His head made contact with the bark quite painfully. He figured some of his blue locks were turning red right about now.

While he adjusted his mind set, a pair of ocean-tinted eyes began to open. As consciousness sluggishly consumed her, the uplifting ray of water began to drop her into the river's current. She heard a muffled sound – something like a voice…maybe that childish one she heard before? – call to her, but it was too late; the sound only registered once she had been embraced by the river.

In three blinks, her surroundings became apparent to her. She was in…water?... How in the world… Oh no! She hadn't been able to master her under water breathing yet! She could open her eyes and see the creatures of the deep with no worry of eye damage, but breathing was always a hindrance to her. She never attempted to perfect the ability, but the again, she never expected to wake up six feet deep in a river! Frantically, she swirled and swam like an otter to the surface.

Or so she tried, until all her muscles participated in a unified spasm. The result being a frozen Jem. She couldn't swim either?! How was she gonna survive? The pressure on her lungs was getting stronger, thanks to her worry, and her mind was so clustered, she couldn't communicate with her sea creature friends! Sure, they swam around her, looking her over and what not, but she couldn't ask them to push her to the shore!

Was this really how it was gonna end? Her life was…over? Well, it would be she guessed, in three, two, one… 'Bye, guys! Don't cry over me…'

"…Huh? Wait!… I-I… I can talk underwater?! SWEET!" she cheered, illuminating with joy. An obvious extra tidbit was that she could clearly breathe underwater now, too! Smiling as bright as pearls, she gazed around at all her friends excitedly, "Hey guys! Can you help me get to the shore? I need to get home!"

By a second's delay, native fish of the current swam to meet her, tucking under her arms and nudging her back. Like the force of one they swam. And in no time at all, she was freed of the river. Unfortunately – perhaps it was because she was new to this power – the fish assumed that by saying 'get me to the shore', she meant get on the shore. So they threw her quietly forcefully onto the ground, and swam away leisurely like it was of the norm.

"OW!... 'kay, I clearly have work to do."

"JEM!" A chipper, weak voice called. She tried to move to look at the person, really she did, but she just…she didn't know why, but even out of the water, she couldn't move a single fiber of her body!

"…Ch…Chichiri?" Okay, so she could move her mouth –duh- but it hurt a lot to do so.

"Hey…how are you feeling?"

"I-I…I feel fuzzy."

"…Fuzzy?" She could almost hear him tilting his head.

"And I can't move." She added, "Well, except for my mouth." Chichiri didn't respond immediately, which made Jem somewhat nervous. Did he think it was strange? He must have been with her since the ceremony started… He saw her when she looked deformed and frightening. With a cringe, she tried to roll over, to get a clearer view so she could see his reaction, or to just get away. She was able to get her limbs to twitch on command, but that was the apparent extent of her strength for the time being.

The monk saw this and panicked, "H-Hey! Don't move around like that, you know? You just said you can't move!"

Her eyes tightened. Now she was being scolded. Oh no, so much for—

To Jem's surprise, she was suddenly uplifted. At first, she believed that Arashi had arrived, to save her from the awkwardness. But the hands she caught sight of on her hips and shoulders were clearly not feminine. Her eyes opened wide, and though her outer shell was still, her blood coursed rapidly and her heart beat fiercely. "Chi-Chichiri…!"

"Don't worry, y'know? I'll take you back to the village myself, you know." Declared the monk as he waited for no form of protest. In a second, they were off. In a second, her heart skipped a beat.

"Oh you don't have to carry me like this. I could…make a wave carry me ov—oh, I might drown everyone…Oh! Call Arashi! She could fly me over!" She felt her spirits rise at the idea.

"…You don't want me to carry you?" He looked at her through his mask. She sweat dropped nervously.

"It's not that. I mean you stayed by my side all night… You deserve a rest." Her comment ended on a sourer note.

"Oh, I see." He nodded, "…But it's okay, y'know! It makes more sense this way, y'know?" He cheered and continued to march onward.

Somehow, in a strange way, in a way she knew she wasn't suppose to feel, she was oddly touched by his concern…and then somewhat offended by her idea being shot down.

!oxo! Later That Day, In The Village… !oxo!

"WAAHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"OH, NOT AGAIN!" screamed all village citizens who hadn't screamed first.

"G-GET…OUTTA HERE! ACK, NO!" With attitude like that, it was clearly Arashi.

This time, when they gathered, they had no enthusiasm. They all yawned while marching over, weapons once again at the ready, but that was all they offered.

So unconcerned were they, that they let Mikomi open the door.

"…It's just Sei'ki." Jem somewhat hissed. From her perch on Chichiri's back, she looked about as aggravated as a bee in a honey comb; she was more so burning with embarrassment. To retaliate, Arashi quipped, "I thought Enzeru held the power over fire, not you're face." A tongue was shown to her as a poor counter.

" 'It's just Sei'ki'?" the Thundress cried, "That's mean Jem! And here I was, so happy to see you!" And she cried and cried.

"…And I thought Jem controlled water." The Wind mistress mumbled to herself this time.

"Oh, please forgive her, y'know," Chichiri piped up, "She's not feeling well, you know? She was actually in the middle of a nap when Arashi called us in, you know?"

"…Is that all?" Enzeru smirked. She received a tongue display too, and a flick on the nose.

"…WOW!" Sei'ki squealed. Everyone covered their ears in protest, "ONE OF THEM TALKED TO ME! IT'S SO COOL!"

"Hey what about me?" huffed Tasuki.

"WOW THEY BOTH TALKED TO ME!" Tasuki felt proud of himself.

"Oh, he's not that special." Koa sighed.

"HEY!"

"Well anyway, what are you doing here?" Mikomi questioned, tilting her head.

"I'm here to tell you that Hyou wants me to tell him about Jem's…special time. He let me stay so I could tell him when something happened, and boom! Something did! Plus, I think we need the elders' help, to get Jem's body movin' again!"

'We?' thought the others.

Jem's hands tightened onto Chichiri's shoulders then. And Tasuki had heard Koa's immediate reaction; 'NO!'

The Suzaku exchanged glances, nodded, then Chichiri whispered back to the Elemental on his back, "Hey, Jem?"

"Huh? Yeah?" she whispered in return.

"Maybe now would be the time to follow through with what we told the Emperor." A breeze blew by unnoticed…

"Yeah! We should call that Mitsukake gu—"

"TRAITOR!"

"Oh, Arashi, SHUT UP!" Enzeru whined. It wasn't just her ears that were ringing.

"We are NOT inviting any OTHER Suzaku here! I SWEAR it on my LIFE!"


Author's Notes:

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Jem! To everyone, really! May your winter season be as joyous as you have earned it to be!

Blessed be, to all!