Summary: A rewrite of my former fanfic, to match my current style and preferences. A young woman may be destined for something more and Chichiri seems to be caught up in the story of her life.
Disclaimer: Don't own it if you recognize it. I do own OC, plot, etc.
As said above, it's a rewrite, so I'm still basing it off the former plot. This chapter is shorter than usual for me - think of it as pilot and test all in one. I hope you all enjoy this version and please let me know what you think!
It was nothing new, after all. She should have expected her luck would catch up with her. Karma, fate, whatever you wanted to call it - it seemed to be out for her. Several months had passed since anything had happened and it was high time for her life to take yet another unexpected turn.
Reiko groaned as the alarm went off an hour before she had to get up. "I must have set it too early last night," she thought blearily, managing to turn it off before she developed a headache from the constant buzzing. Taking a moment to collect her brain, she tried to breathe and realized her allergies had only worsened in the cold weather and she was congested as hell.
Muttering under her breath, she reluctantly left the haven of her warm bed to brave the run from her bedroom to the bathroom in her bare feet, unable to remember where her slippers had gone. Weighing herself after brushing her teeth, as was her routine, the twenty-five year old groaned again, louder, at seeing she had gained back a pound.
"I keep trying," she complained, turning on the shower and tossing her pajamas on the floor while waiting for the water to warm up. She was only a few pounds overweight, but being only 5'3" and having a curvy figure to being with, she felt she didn't need any extra fat on her body. She got into the shower quickly, goosebumps on her fair skin from the cold air. Ten minutes later, she reluctantly got back into the foggy bathroom, drying off and wrapping the towel around herself while she towel-dried her chestnut brown hair vigorously, squeezing her gray eyes shut to avoid getting water in them. Glancing at the clock she had on the shelf, she groaned when she saw she still had three hours before work.
Heading back to her bedroom, only a few steps down the small hallway, she turned on her music player and nodded absently in time with the music as she dressed, a forest-green cable sweater with a loose folded neck going over her head, tugging on snug denim flared hip-huggers and heeled black boots preparing her for the cold weather. Braiding her hair loosely, she brushed stray strands out of her eyes, fixed silver hoops in her ears, and headed down the hall for some breakfast. She lived in a small apartment on the third floor of a complex in the city, able to call the small space her own as long as she paid the rent.
Reiko turned on the local news to listen to as she made some scrambled eggs, so used to cooking them she hardly paid attention as they finished, sliding them onto a plate and sitting on the couch with a fork and a cup of instant coffee on the table. The place was dismally bare - her boyfriend of three years and broken up and left her a month ago and she hadn't had the will to fill the gaps his things had left.
The rest of the time was spent amusing herself by channel-hopping and finishing her breakfast. Realizing she finally could leave without arriving for work ridiculously early, she deposited her dishes in the sink, killed the television, and grabbed her heavy military-style coat as she headed out the door, purse on her shoulder. Making her way down the flights of stairs, she reached her cobalt-blue car without incident and slid into the seat, shivering.
"It's fucking cold," she complained to herself, turning the car on and hoping it would heat up sooner than it normally did. No such luck, of course, and she drove halfway to her destination with numb calves. She had a job as an assistant manager at a fashion boutique in town, the employee discounts the only thing that allowed her to afford her current clothing. The drive was uneventful, the car warming up as soon as she pulled into her parking spot.
Mumbling to herself about it, she strode into the store with numb fingers, glad to see the heat was working again after being broken for two days. "Morning, Nanaki," she called, waving to the girl behind the counter. The girl smiled and waved back, busy counting her register for the day. Reiko went to the employee room at the back of the store, coupled with the storage, and picked her way through the boxes to hang her coat up, rubbing her hands together to get feeling back. Her office was in a cubicle near the back door, so she was able to keep an eye on shipments and employees on break, was rather dingy, but she sat down in the chair and turned her computer on with a sigh, ready for the day's paperwork.
Business was never bustling in the suburbs - she still wasn't sure why the company had built the store, unless they hoped that being the only boutique for fifteen miles would attract people. The day went by slowly, interrupted only by her ex calling to demand his television back.
"It's in the dumpster by now," she told him sweetly, having attacked it on the pavement with a baseball bat, after pushing it from the window, and leaving it for the garbage men. Hanging up on his swearing with a grin - making him mad always brought a smile to her lips - she rolled her eyes when she heard several teenage girls arguing over which guy liked which girl more. Several cynical thoughts went through her head before she ignored them. She put a hand to her forehead when a strange symbol suddenly flashed in front of her vision, making her dizzy.
Blinking rapidly, Reiko shook her head after a minute. "What the hell was that?" she wondered, before sighing and turning off her computer monitor. She looked up, unable to ponder the question any longer, when her assistant manager strode in, looking smug.
"Spending too much time staring at the screen?" Chiya asked with a short laugh. "Poor kid. Be glad you didn't have to listen to that last bunch, they were a piece. We still on for tonight?" she continued, peering at the young woman expectantly.
"I don't think so. I've got a major headache coming on, and Shoren is still making a fuss about his crap," she told the women with an apologetic smile. Although younger by Chiya by ten years, they got along well - something Reiko was grateful for, as the woman could have made her life a living hell if they weren't friends.
Chiya made a face, somewhere between disappointment and disgust, before shrugging. "Okay, it's your call. Geez, you're boring, you know that? Nanaki just left, so you know - she isn't feeling real well. It figures, everyone's coming down with it here," she added, referring to the flu strain that was sweeping through the area with unusual speed.
"All right, call in someone if you can't handle it for a few hours," Reiko suggested, straightening in her chair and running a hand through her hair. "Maybe I'm coming down with something, I dunno."
"You do look a little flushed," Chiya agreed, narrowing her eyes. "Think you should go home and get some rest? I can close up, it's okay."
"You sure?" the young woman asked, feeling her own forehead and frowning. Her friend hauled her to her feet, steering her towards the back door and her coat hanging nearby.
"I'm positive, Reiko. Go get some sleep and if I get sick, your ass is mine," Chiya informed her cheerfully, as the manager pulled on her coat with a sigh of defeat. The assistant manager waved teasingly as Reiko trudged out the back door to her car, shaking her head at it all.
"I don't think I'm sick," she muttered, having taken her temperature and finding it normal. Other than a headache she felt fine and she frowned, curling up on the couch and turning on the television. She had gone home as ordered, changed into her lounging pajamas and made some ramen, and was now enjoying being home early.
Nothing caught her eye and she groaned. "Why is there always crap on TV?" she demanded to no one, getting up to put in a movie. She had been working through her unopened ones she had acquired during Christmas and was halfway through, thanks in part to the two weeks she spent at home after being dumped.
In ancient China, a small pond in an even-smaller town found itself being invaded by a self-proclaimed 'wandering monk', who was settling himself down on its banks, a fishing pole in his hand. Three years had passed since his fateful encounter with a demon named Tenko and his companions and he was more than happy to return to what he called a normal life.
Twenty-eight years of life had taught the monk many things, one of which was to take advantage of the peaceful moments in life that he managed to find. "This looks like a good place to fish, no da," he remarked to himself, dropping his line into the water. Helping him relax, as well as meditate, he was pleased to have some time to himself after another visit to Ligé-San Mountain. Sighing deeply and concentrating on the calming silence, his eye popped open in surprise when his line was suddenly tugged away from him.
"A bite, no da!" he cried, easily retrieving the pole and pulling. The monk hadn't even been sure fish had existed in the pond when he had chosen it to fish in, but he never really gave that much thought anyway. He never ate what he caught, but the capture was half the enjoyment to the monk – he considered it a match of wits between himself and the fish. And while the fish often won, it was no small pleasure to the monk when he succeeded at reeling in a particularly-difficult catch. Unfortunately for his 'killer instinct', this fish was no match for the monk and he surveyed it with disappointment before tossing it back in.
"There you go, no da," the monk nodded with a grin, his mask lying beside him, along with his usual hat. The Warrior remained there for several hour and nothing else was attracted by his bait the entire time. Finally deciding it was time to call it a day, he snapped his fingers ruefully and began to gather up his things.
"Consider yourself lucky, fish!" he called to the pond, putting his hat on. "I suppose none of you were destined to be my dinner after all, no da!" He laughed at this last joke, resigned to the fact he wasn't fated to catch his own meal that night, and shouldered his things. He turned from the pond and began to head back to the village he had seen on his way to fish. Replacing his mask easily, the monk once more put a smile on his face as he headed toward the huts.
He soon found an inn that was willing to house a broke monk in exchange for a blessing of the establishment, which Chichiri happily provided. However, the meal offered looked less-than-appetizing; unable to refuse when he wasn't even paying, he managed to eat once he had concentrated on several prayers to Suzaku to prevent him from dying from food poisoning. Enjoying the company around him for a time, the monk finally decided to retire to his room, the heat of the day having worn him out.
Climbing the stairs, he paused to listen to the laughter floating up to reach his ears and mixed emotions grew within him. He was mostly content with his position in life – especially the quiet aspect of it after returning from a visit with the bandits – but never objected to company, human or animal.
"Oh darn, Tama must've stayed at Ligé-San Mountain," Chichiri realized. He shook his head, noticing the absence of his usual feline companion. Although Tama normally traveled with Chichiri, it wasn't unusual for him to stay with Tasuki for periods of time – although whenever he did, the monk always took a while to get used to it.
Hearing more laughter as he mounted the stairs, he was also well aware of a gnawing loneliness that had begun to grow inside him as the years passed, made worse by the finality of Taka and Miaka's return to the modern world and basically the end of his adventures as a Celestial Warrior of Suzaku. Not that he regretted his choice of profession, or the peace that usually accompanied him, but Chichiri was as human as most people and sometimes found himself longing for a certain kind of companionship through his long travels – thoughts which he quickly forced from his mind.
He was a monk, after all! No da!
Chichiri woke from a sound sleep later that night, a strange feeling in his stomach making him groan quietly. After making sure he wasn't just sick from the inn's cooking, he climbed out of bed and quickly dressed, deciding he didn't need his mask before quietly exiting the building and making his way to the edge of the village. Closing his eye in concentration, he traced the strange feeling to a certain spot near the lake he had fished at and began to make his way there cautiously. As he picked his way through the forest, he kept his senses concentrated on the power. He soon realized with surprise that it didn't quite feel like an evil presence, but more like loneliness and confusion. Anger was also there, the emotion growing strong before fading away again, only confusing Chichiri further.
Reaching the source of the power, the monk felt it abruptly disappear and looked around suspiciously. He was unable to pick up any strange sensations at all anymore, but that only caused his worries to deepen. He remained still for several long minutes, trying to pick anything up at all, but not a trace remained. It was as if he had dreamed it all and if he knew he didn't sleepwalk, he could almost believe he had dreamed it.
Turning his back to the pond, Chichiri stiffened as he suddenly felt a growing power behind him. Dropping his things, he turned around to see a greenish-blue light emitting from the water. It illuminated the ripples and caste an eerie shadow on the rest of the area, which suddenly seemed to darken to a pitch-black. The stars and the moon above suddenly seemed to go out, the only source of light in the black void coming from the strange glow.
"What the…daa!" the monk yelped in surprise, finding himself being pulled toward the power as if it was a magnet. Before the Warrior could use any of his spells, he had disappeared into a flash of light.