Summery; Warning; Disclaimer: See First Chapter.
The final chapter is upon us! It would've been out a LOT sooner, but fanfiction was giving me problems...damn them. Anyway, it's all better, since I can actually UPLOAD documents, so here we are!
The final chapter...
Wow. This was actually supposed to be longer, but this is how it turned out. It's been a pretty good ride, huh? Oh, just in quick reference to the previous chapter, kiramira pointed out that Kiore should've known that Chichiri didn't stab her. Well, that's what I thought too! I kept typing, going "Come on! You should know it's a trap!" But the way I look at the whole thing, Kiore ONLY has her senses; she's come to rely so much on them she can't believe that they might be wrong- it'd be like saying she could be wrong about so many other things, ya know? (No da!) So she feels she can't trust anyone at all at this point, and she puts total belief in her senses. Not herself, persay, but the senses themselves. I can't really understand it either, but I just thought this is the way she might act in that situation. I don't always have to agree with my characters! As long as you guys don't hate her...
Whew, I've babbled on long enough! Sorry 'bout that. Anyway, for those who actually read this, continue on!
Please review if read. No flames.
"Chichiri!" Kiore shot awake, and rubbed her aching head. "Damn Suboshi…drugging me to keep me quiet…" Groaning, she stood on her unsteady legs and winced as a pain in her neck shot through her body. "Ow! What the…" She touched her neck, but there was no apparent wound. A sick feeling overcame her and she gasped, realizing what she was sensing.
"So, I see the bond was stronger than I anticipated," Nakago commented, turning slightly as Kiore rushed out of the tent.
"Chichiri!" she shrieked, seeing the Warrior bleeding to death on the ground.
"Is this the real one?" Tasuki whispered, and Nuriko nodded hesitantly.
"Nakago, what did you do?" she demanded, turning on the general. "You're a monster!"
"I'm surprised you can still see me clearly enough to face me," he informed her coolly, and she froze in her tracks.
"That potion was only temporary. It should be wearing off about now," he mentioned, and she dropped to her knees as her sight indeed began to slowly fade into black once more.
"No…" she choked out, tears running down her face as her eyes faded back into their paleness and world of darkness. "Nakago – I'll give you my power if you let them all live," she said suddenly, rising to her feet. "I'll do whatever you want, just let Mitsukake heal Chichiri and let them leave unharmed."
"Kiore – you idiot! Don't do it!" Tasuki shouted, but she ignored Suzaku's protests.
"Well, Nakago?" she asked shakily, unable to keep her composure in face of her loss.
"All right," he nodded, and glanced at Soi. She nodded back and disappeared into the trees, and Nakago dropped the wards.
"Mitsukake!" Nuriko urged, but the doctor was already at work to save Chichiri's life. His palm glowed briefly over the wound, before it closed up and the doctor sat down heavily.
"He's alive," he sighed, and Kiore slumped to the ground in relief.
"Don't worry – we'll come back," Tasuki promised, as Nuriko heaved Chichiri onto his shoulder and helped Mitsukake up as well.
"No, you won't," Nakago smiled coolly.
"What are you doing?" Kiore cried, as lightening bolts struck the Warriors once they had entered the trees.
"I said they could leave here unharmed – this camp," he informed her. "The forest is not part of our camp, is it?"
"Nakago…you bastard," she said, her voice dropping to a monotonous quiet. "You'll pay for killing the Warriors of Byakko, and you'll pay for everything you've done to all of us!"
"Get back!" Nakago ordered, surprising his troops. Kiore's robes and hair began to float around her as she hovered in the air, her eyes glowing a blinding white. A white haze surrounded her, and she outstretched her arms as she rose higher above them.
"Warriors of Seiryu," she began, her voice not her own. "You have committed your last heinous act of your lives, because you will all die here today."
"Byakko," Nakago realized, narrowing his eyes.
"What the hell is goin' on?" Tasuki demanded. The others were at a loss for words as a figure surrounded in white with golden eyes and streaming white hair descended from the clouds above the priestess and appeared to speak in her ear.
"That's the god Byakko," Chichiri said weakly.
"But she doesn't have the Shentso-Pao! How can she summon him?" Nuriko wondered.
"Perhaps it's a figure of speech," Mitsukake said thoughtfully, as Kiore was enveloped in the light of the god. "It seems that the Shentso-Pao is really the heart of a pure priestess."
"Retreat!" Nakago suddenly ordered, and his troops and fellow Warriors ran away with hesitation as the light began to glow even brighter around the apparition and priestess.
"We should probably get going too," Chichiri thought, as Nuriko quickly began to drag him away.
"What the hell was that?" Tamahome demanded, glancing up at the sky. Bolts of white light streaked across the clouds above them, and the mountains beyond seemed to glow as well.
"The god of Wind, Byakko, has descended to earth through his priestess," Chiriko said calmly. Miaka and Tamahome's jaws dropped at this news and they stared at the teenager.
"Holy crap," Tasuki breathed, as the sphere of light enveloped the entire Seiryu camp and decimated everything within it. "Is that really Kiore?"
"It's the power of Byakko," Chichiri informed them tensely, trying to see past the blinding light to find Kiore. The light abruptly vanished the next moment and revealed Kiore was still hovering in the sky, her arms outstretched and eyes glowing, only a white tiger was standing behind her, curled around her legs protectively.
"The Beast Spirit of Byakko – the White Tiger," Nakago muttered, and whirled to face a frightened Yui. "Yui – summon Seiryu, now! Or we'll all die!"
"If that blind woman can do it, surely you can," he sneered. She stared up at him for a moment before nodding, and crossed her hands over her breasts as he muttered a spell. A dark light enveloped Yui as she rose into the sky as well and a gigantic Blue Dragon wrapped it's coils around the priestess, it's fangs bared at the serene-looking Kiore. One hand now rested on the Tiger's head and the other rested at her side, but she gazed calmly at the ferocious-looking enemy.
"This isn't going to be good," Nuriko managed to croak out, as the two Beast Spirits faced each other, their priestesses drawing in their power. Kiore was now dressed in a white robe with black embroidery, slippers, and a thin circlet on her forehead, while Yui was garbed in blue and silver.
"I've had enough of Seiryu and his Warriors," Kiore said suddenly, breaking a long silence, and they got the feeling it was Byakko speaking as well. "I rule over the Wind, and as the second god embody purity and protectiveness. This young woman has suffered much because of me, and she is more than worthy to summon my power."
"War and Water is my domain, Tiger," the Dragon growled, not even bothering to use Yui as a vessel. "I may be the last god created, but my spirit protects those who fight!"
"And that is why you are destined to lose, Seiryu," Kiore said, her voice returning to normal. "I fight to protect those I love and care about, while you fight for the sake of war. Someone like that can never accomplish justice, no matter what they do."
"Enough, priestess!" the Dragon barked out and a sudden rush of water, as sharp as daggers, hurled itself towards Kiore. Instead of inuring her, however, it impacted against a shield of wind and the air could be seen swirling around her as it absorbed the water into it. "Damn you…"
"I do not want to kill the child," Kiore said, once more in Byakko's voice. "Release your possession of her, Seiryu, and then we will do battle!"
"She is a priestess – she is meant as a sacrifice for my power!" Seiryu argued, tightening his grip around Yui. "The girl shall not be freed."
"Then so be it," Byakko said sadly, and Kiore swept her arm towards Seiryu and Yui, her fingers outstretched. A beam of light flashed briefly from her hand as a vortex of wind formed around her before she released it at Yui. The Dragon growled angrily as the vortex split into blades of air, injuring Yui and Seiryu through her. "Once more, Seiryu – release the priestess and shall do battle."
"Never!" the Dragon said defiantly, and suddenly squeezed Yui even tighter. She cried out in pain and Kiore flinched as well.
"Seiryu, let her go!" Kiore ordered, the Tiger now in front of her and appearing ready to charge.
"Do not try to order me, woman!" Seiryu sneered. The Tiger leapt forward but was an instant too late, as Yui disappeared into the Dragon's great jaws.
"Damn it!" Nakago cried, collapsing to the ground.
"What's going on?" Tasuki asked nervously, as the Suzaku Warriors backed away from those belonging to Seiryu.
"A Warrior's life is connected to his priestess," Chichiri said grimly. "If the priestess dies, the Warrior will. Seiryu just absorbed Yui to gain her power."
"And now is absorbing theirs as well," Mitsukake finished in disgust. Kiore remained still as the Tiger returned to her and watched dispassionately as the Warriors of Seiryu shot into the sky and surrounded the Dragon before disintegrating into the Beast's body. The Dragon roared triumphantly as he grew even more monstrous in size, stretching across the sky and making Kiore seem like an insect beside him.
"No more chances, Seiryu," she said quietly, and closed her eyes calmly. The Tiger regarded her for a moment before padding toward her. The Warriors gasped as the Tiger seemingly merged with Kiore, and the god Byakko appeared where Kiore was.
"This young woman was more courageous than anyone I've ever encountered, Seiryu," the god said, his voice echoing in their ears. "She sacrificed her soul to empower my return to this world, in order to put an end to you!"
"But…how did she….?" Tasuki stuttered. "Her Warriors are dead!"
"A priestess does indeed control her Warriors' lives, but even more importantly, their souls," Byakko informed them. "This young woman gathered the spirits of her fallen comrades to her and I have been filled with their love and compassion, as well as her desire to protect those she loves. With these, Seiryu, you shall be killed."
"You will never defeat me, Tiger!" the Dragon roared. The god remained slightly taller than a regular human but calmly faced the enormous Dragon, and the Suzaku Warriors could feel the power of the two gods clashing.
"Should we get out of here?" Nuriko suggested, but Chichiri shook his head.
"Byakko is protecting – no, Kiore's spirit is protecting us," he corrected himself, and Nuriko stared in amazement when he saw his friend's eye was filled with tears.
"You will die, Byakko!" Seiryu roared, and rushed at the god who was emanating an aura of serenity and peace. As their powers collided a light blinded anyone who saw it before the Dragon was pushed away, while Byakko appeared to be calm as ever.
"It will not be as easy as that, Seiryu," the older god admonished the creature. "You have lost all pride as a god, and have lowered yourself to something rank and evil. For this reason alone it is my duty to ensure you never do harm to a living being again."
"You cannot hurt me!" the Dragon sneered. Byakko remained still, and suddenly disappeared from the sky.
"Where'd he go?" Tasuki gasped, but snapped his jaw shut when the god reappeared directly above Seiryu, looking down on the Dragon.
"I control the air, and everything in it," Byakko said by way of explanation. "A creature such as you has no hope of defeating a god who is filled with the pure power of a priestess."
"So high and mighty, Tiger," Seiryu said, trying to snap at the god's feet and finding him just out of reach. "I shall soon remedy that, however!"
"I warned you, Seiryu, and you refused my mercy," the god said calmly, and pressed his palms together in a gesture similar to what Chichiri used. His hands began to glow, and as the light stretched outward is seemed to pulse in rhythm with the wind around it. Byakko was soon encased in the sphere, and Seiryu howled in pain as the light began to touch him.
"Damn you, Byakko!" he raged, before he too was enclosed inside the light. The four young men stared at the sky in awe and then dived to the ground as an explosion shook the sky, seemingly coming from within the light and expanding in a wave around the area. The light suddenly flared bright and died suddenly, leaving the Warriors trying to get used to the sun, a dark light compared to what Byakko had emanated.
"B-By-Byakko!" Tasuki stammered, backing into a tree in shock as the god, now becoming transparent once more, appeared before them with the Tiger standing at his feet.
"Do not fear, Warriors of Suzaku," the god said with a gentle smile. "Suzaku is a just and righteous god, and I have no quarrel with one such as he. I have come here to honor the wish of the young woman known as Kiore. She sacrificed her life to protect you, willing to live in the eternal blindness of her spirit rather than allow you to die."
"So…she's…" Nuriko managed, but Byakko interrupted him with a shake of his head. He moved his arms and a shimmer began to glow, and Kiore was suddenly held in the arms of the god.
"She has sent herself to the place where all priestesses who sacrifice themselves go," Byakko explained. "As a sacrifice, they must enter an eternity of what they fear the most, but the sacrifice can only be pure if willing and desired with the whole soul and heart. This young woman wished for me to tell you that she is glad to have met you – and to tell the monk in particular something." The god fell silent and his eyes locked onto Chichiri's. Chichiri's eye widened when the contact was broken and he took a shuddering breath. "The young woman's spirit will return with me to the world of the gods, where she shall one day find peace."
"Can we bring her back to life?" Tasuki blurted out, and Byakko regarded him in both surprise and amusement. Chichiri seemed like he wanted to say something but was unable to get the words past his throat.
"There is way," the god allowed, cradling the form of her spirit closer to him protectively.
"Let me guess – one of us has to take her place," Nuriko said stiffly, the words coming out before he could stop them. Apparently, being in the presence of a god affected more than was thought.
"Not quite," Byakko shook his head slightly. "The young woman must have a strong link to this world – to another soul, to be exact. It must be stronger than her will to protect, and strong enough to sustain her soul for as long as she lives."
"I wish to try," Chichiri said suddenly, much to the surprise of the oblivious Tasuki and unsuspecting Mitsukake. Nuriko rolled his eyes at their surprise and sighed, crossing his arms over his chest firmly, but didn't say anything to object.
"I will allow it, young Warrior of Suzaku," Byakko said finally, and motioned for Chichiri to come nearer. "Close your eyes," the god commanded. "Your spirits shall do the rest."
The other Warriors watched in amazement as Chichiri closed his eye and seemed frozen to the spot in front of Byakko, who continued to hold Kiore's body as a father would hold his child.
"Where is this place?" Chichiri wondered, finding himself floating in a world of pitch-black darkness. Feeling his feet hit something solid he took a tentative step forward and looked around frantically for Kiore. "Kiore? Where are you?" he called, moving around blindly. He paused when he heard a noise, and attempted to head in the direction it was coming from. As he grew closer the noise became clearer, and he realized it was someone crying – or laughing. His eye widened in shock when he saw Kiore sitting on the ground, her knees pulled to her chest and encircled by her arms.
"Kiore…?" he began hesitantly, and took a fearful step forward. "Kiore!" He tried to say something else, but stopped when he realized she was saying something.
"…loved him. The darkness may envelop my sight but not my heart," she said quietly, almost as if reciting a prayer. "I'd die a thousand deaths to protect them. I'd die for all eternity and suffer constant darkness to protect him."
"Him?" Chichiri repeated, and stepped forward to rest his hand on her shoulder lightly. She seemed not to notice his touch and his brows furrowed in confusion.
"Chichiri…" she whispered, and he froze in shock. He had suspected she cared for him, but to realize he was the reason she had sacrificed her soul was something else entirely. Chichiri dropped to a crouch next to her and embraced her tightly, pulling her to him in desperation.
"Kiore, please, wake up," he pleaded softly. "Kiore…what do I need to do?" He racked his mind for an idea, but her voice suddenly penetrated the daze.
"I love you, Chichiri," she whispered to herself, and he almost slapped himself for his stupidity.
"Kiore – Kiore, I love you," he told her firmly, and bent down to press his lips against hers. "I love you," he murmured, and her clouded-over eyes suddenly cleared as they widened.
"What the hell?" Nuriko yelped as Byakko suddenly released Kiore as her body floated towards Chichiri. He returned to reality in time to catch her and she woke from the darkness to find herself embraced by Chichiri.
"What…happened?" she asked, looking around in amazement. It took a moment to realize she could actually see what was around her, and her fingers touched around her eyes tremblingly. "Byakko…"
"This young man's love was strong enough to bring you from the darkness," the god said firmly. "This connection will sustain you for as long as you live, and you will not return to the other side if you continually strengthen this bond. The bond is the reason you sensed his dying presence, and how he could sense you so clearly through Seiryu's wards."
"Oh, yeah, he could, couldn't he?" Tasuki realized in surprise, and Mitsukake nodded wisely.
"Live a long life, priestess, and remember that I shall remain with you in spirit for the rest of your life," Byakko promised, as he faded into the wind.
"Chichiri…" Kiore tried to finish but couldn't, and buried her face into his chest instead. He held her closer and pressed his cheek against her hair, and they were completely oblivious as Nuriko dragged the thick-headed Tasuki away from them.
"Honestly," Mitsukake shook his head in amusement as he followed the pair, leaving the couple alone.
The group returned to Konan to recuperate from the adventure and to plan their next move, and Kiore took the opportunity to share her story with them.
"That's amazing," Miaka said, her eyes wide as they finished telling the others what had happened. Even Hotohori's jaw was hanging open in a very un-emperor-of-Hong-Nan-like way, while Chiriko was frantically taking notes as they talked.
"So, that's what that light was," Tamahome realized, and rubbed his forehead. "So, do we still summon Suzaku, or what?"
"Of course!" Miaka said firmly, jumping to her feet with a determined grin on her face.
"And Byakko will support you as long as I do," Kiore added, Chichiri's arm securely around her. The monk had never looked happier to his friends, and had stopped wearing his mask for good.
"Yes!" Miaka cheered, and put one foot forward. "Then we move out! But first – a feast!"
Chichiri and Kiore watched in amusement as Miaka rushed off out of the room, chased after by Tamahome. The others ambled out of the room at their own pace, leaving them alone. Kiore suddenly turned to the window as something began to make noises on the wood, and her eyes widened in surprise as she gazed at it.
"Chichiri…what's that?" she asked.
"It's rain," he told her, smiling at her childlike curiosity that seemed to emanate from her ever since she had regained her sight and was able to see everything once more. He also harbored the idea that the god Byakko was housed in her spirit as well, and it was his own inquisitiveness as well.
"Really?" she checked, and her lips turned into a smile as she suddenly hugged him tightly.
Anyone who asks what Byakko told Chichiri mentally gets slapped. I thought it'd be obvious! Anyway, there's the end. I told you I'd change things around and such! I hope this was satisfactory for you guys - now, read my TasukixOC fic! And review!
I just want to thank all my reviewers and readers for their immense help, and especially Kyae Sohma for being such a great beta to work with. Yay for her, because this would've taken longer if not for her.