A/N: This fanfiction does not quite follow Suzaku Hi Den; I got the idea for this and laid out its foundation before I read the novel. So some events will contradict. Besides, I personally felt that Suzaku Hi Den didn't show much of a growing relationship between the two. Houki doesn't like Hotohori, Hotohori tries to be nice to her and breaks her heart instead, Houki jumps in front of Hotohori and, with her great love for him, is able to hold Tendou's blade. Doesn't anyone else see how that seems so rushed?
Disclaimer: I do not own Fushigi Yuugi nor the characters used in this story. But gosh, what I would give to be able to draw as beautifully as Watase-sensei...
Credits: To Twilight Sazuka for beta-reading.
All of Eikoden – perhaps even all of Konan – believed that it was love at first sight. Even some of the Suzaku Warriors, who knew Saihitei best, assumed that it was love at first sight. I don't know how such rumors managed to be created, especially since it wasn't love at first sight. I doubt that it may be love at all.
To me, it seemed pretty evident that he doesn't love me. For one, he loves the Suzaku no Miko, Miaka. He's constantly worrying about her and I wouldn't be surprised if he talks to her more than he talks to me. Second, he was being pushed by his advisory body to take a wife. Third, it's a time of war and he needs an heir. He probably picked a random girl from the harem out so that his advisors would stop bothering him about an empress. It was also a spur of the moment thing, we met – in person, that is - and a few days later, he asked for my hand. It's odd that he didn't just send one of his advisors to fetch me and demand my marriage, but he is a very lenient and kind emperor; he probably just felt bad for me and decided that it would make me feel better if he came in person and acted as if he loved me.
I turn around and face him, who just walked onto the balcony I was standing on. "Yes, Your Majesty?"
He frowned and walked closer to me, "I wish you would stop addressing me as that in private. I completely understand the need for formality in public; in front of the advisory body and the people, but... I wish that you would call me by my name when we're together in private."
"Saihitei," I corrected myself, "Is something the matter?"
"Nothing – I was wondering where you were. You weren't in the study or the bedroom and the servants had not seen you for a while."
I smiled; it was so like him to worry and fuss over every single person. I'm sure that if he could, he would declare that all the money in the national treasury would go to the citizens. "I'm alright. You should retire to bed; it's late."
"And shouldn't you?" he answered, "Besides, it's cold out here."
"I'm fine," I insisted, "I want to stay here a while longer to think."
"What are you thinking of?" he asked, leaning onto the rail like I did and looked out at the stars.
"Nothing of any great importance."
"It must've been important if you stood here in the chilly night thinking about it." He caught me there.
"I was thinking of my village," I lied. I did not think that Saihitei would be very pleased to hear that I was questioning our marriage. Even if he knew that we did not marry simply out of love, he would not be pleased to know that I was thinking of such.
He looked at me for a moment, seeming to ponder something. I could not look him in the eye after lying to him. "Your eyes tell otherwise," he commented and urged me to tell him truthfully what I was thinking of.
"I was thinking of..." I paused, not quite knowing how to refer to it, "…us." As I absorbed my eye line to the suddenly fascinating rail, he looked at me with an interested and curious expression on his face.
"What were you thinking about specifically?"
I conjured up another lie. "Nothing, really. Just all the events that led to this day."
"Are there so many odd and interesting memories to keep you up?"
"Do you doubt that we have not had enough events to keep me thinking for a few hours?"
"I have no doubts about that. But you don't normally stay up and reminisce in the bitter cold."
"I would hardly call this night bitter cold. It is only a light breeze. It was quite warm and sunny this afternoon," I tried my best to veer off the subject without arising suspicions.
"Yet, it is enough to get a young woman sick, nonetheless," he lightly reprimanded, "Will you not come inside?"
"I like the starry sky much better."
He smiled and walked back into the room, coming out a few minutes later with a beautifully embroidered shawl that he carefully placed around my shoulders. "There, now we can stay up all the night conversing about your contemplations."
"How much is there to speak of? We both remember the events full well. It is rather late, maybe I should retire to bed." I did not like the direction our conversation was taking at all. It made me feel odd; talking about the events that led up to a loveless marriage - or rather, a marriage with unrequited love. I do love him, because he is always so kind and charming; always thinking of others, even those whom he did not personally know and had no relations with. Truly, I could see why every girl in the harem was so keen to win his favor.
I turned around to leave and go back into the room, when Saihitei grabbed my arm. "Houki, stay." Yet, as soon as he had taken my arm, he let go of it, "I apologize. I implore you to stay, if you will."
"I will." I sighed inaudibly and returned to my position. Request or not, he was the emperor, after all.
"Are you...uncomfortable talking about our past?" There was so much hurt in his eyes that I could hardly refuse him.
"No. Do you remember how we first met?" I asked to emphasize my point that I did not mind at all.
"Yes," a smile crept onto his lips, "You were screaming and crying like a lunatic. Not quite a good first impression and yet, it was love at first sight. Or rather, third; after you stopped howling like an animal and after I had recovered from the shock of your physical similarity to Nuriko."
I looked at him with a surprised expression on my face, "Did you really fall in love with me then?"
"Yes. Not nearly as grandly as Xu Xian and White Snake, but I'm positive that it was love right then and there." It seemed that I was staring at him in bewilderment, so he asked me, "Houki? Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine. It's just that…I always thought that…you only married me because you needed an empress and an heir."
Now it was his turn to be surprised. "Did you really?" he cried out in shock. I nodded mutely. He took hold of my hands in his. "Houki, I never married you out of necessity. I married you because I love you." He paused to ponder a thought, "Houki, did you...did you marry me only because I was the emperor and I had asked you to?"
I fervently shook my head, appalled that Saihitei would think such. But then again, I could not be any more surprised than he was when I questioned his love. "No, if you were any other person, I still would have married you. You're... Well, if I listed all your qualities, it would take forever, much like your conferences with your advisory body."
He smiled, both at my declaration of love and my joke, "Then I'm glad, Houki, that our feelings are mutual."
"Saihitei," he corrected firmly.
"Saihitei," I continued, "Your advisors were pushing you to get an empress around the time we met. Did you not marry me out of necessity at all?"
He shook his head, "When I met you, I was very firm in my belief, after realizing that Miaka did not love me, that I would not take an empress. My advisors begged me, but I still would not do it."
I turned away, "Because you loved Miaka and Miaka only?" It wasn't so much that I was afraid he still loved Miaka. Rather, it was because it is only human nature to feel slightly jealous when someone you love, especially your husband, speaks of loving another person, even if it was in the past.
He scowled for a second, supposedly angry that I would dare mention such. However, it disappeared in another second and he responded, "No. I never loved Miaka in the first place. I loved the ideal of the Suzaku no Miko which I had created. She would be the perfect woman; kind and considerate, intelligent and witty, someone who could completely understand me and my pain, a woman with beauty and grace... At first, I thought that person was Miaka, because she was the Suzaku no Miko. However, I later realized that it was you who had the qualities of the Suzaku no Miko that I envisioned. Miaka may be the Suzaku no Miko, but you are my Suzaku no Miko. So never question our love for each other. Perhaps we have not shared as many heartfelt moments as Tamahome and Miaka, but our love is equally strong." And with that speech, he embraced me fully and pressed his lips onto my own.
Note: Xu Xian and White Snake are the main characters in the famous Chinese legend, White Snake Lady. Basically, White Snake is a supposedly evil spirit who is actually goodand falls in love with a man named Xu Xian. Xu Xian loves her too, but does not know that she's an evil spirit because she uses her human form. However, he later finds out her true identity. But he loves her so much that he decided to accept the fact and still stayed with her. Anyways, sappy love story, tragic ending. Think Romeo and Juliet – except that they're Chinese.
A/N: Upon re-reading this one last time before submitting it, I think it's horrible and way too cheesy. And I'm wondering why I'm even uploading it... But the Hotohori x Houki fandom needs more fics. I think it's so sad that a canon pairing has less fanfiction than a wildly impossible pairing like Tasuki x Hotohori.