Journey to Trust – A Hidden Paths Side Story by roku kyu

Disclaimer: The characters from Fushigi Yuugi are the creations and property of Yuu Watase and related enterprises. I do not own them and do not make any profit from this fiction other than my enjoyment in spending time with them.

However, the plotline for this story and all original characters DO belong to me and may not be used elsewhere without my permission.

Background Note: This is a companion piece to Chapter 7 of "Hidden Paths on a CloudCast Night". People unfamiliar with that story may still be able to understand this vignette with the following brief chapter notes. WARNING: Spoilers for Hidden Paths and OVA 2: Hidden Paths takes place ten years after the initial events in Fushigi Yuugi. In this scene, Miaka has fled into the ShiJinTenChiSho with Tasuki. Chichiri had cast a spell while under attack from demons that erased Miaka's memories of Tamahome/Taka (who'd been caught in a fiery car explosion) but also erased her memories of Tasuki and her entire history in the ShiJin. Tasuki is trying to disguise her as a boy so that they can flee safely through the ShiJin to a place called the Sanctuary. Got all that? Then let's go!

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He gripped the ivory-handled razor and stepped behind her, grasping her hair and twisting the auburn tresses gently above her neck. She bowed her head, quiet and obedient for the moment…and he caught his breath, frozen in place.

She doesn't know, he scolded himself. She has no idea what that gesture means to a bandit like me. Baring her neck, exposing herself submissively to his whim—he could kill her with a single swift pass of his blade, or merely hold the razor edge against the soft skin of her throat and force her to submit to his basest desires.

Of course, he wasn't just a bandit, and she a helpless captive. She was his priestess, and he would cut his own throat before harming her in any way (except for that one night, whispered the tiny, evil voice in his head). But she didn't know any of that. She had no memory of him or his seishi brothers, so her gesture was either one of either incredible stupidity…or profound trust.

That thought shook him deeply. She trusted him, at least at this moment—the very moment in which he was going to betray that trust. His hand began to tremble, so he moved swiftly, slicing through her hair so that it fell away from her neck, its thick waves caught like a skein of silk in his fist. He laid the long tresses aside on the nearby stump (resisting the temptation to bring them to his lips), and went on cutting her remaining hair even shorter, the blade dancing and hissing through the strands until she had only a tight cap of auburn curls framing her face. Wordlessly, he handed her a mirror from his shaving kit, bracing himself for her outcry of dismay.

She lifted the mirror and leaned forward into the tree-filtered light, turning her head from side-to-side as she examined her shorn locks. Suddenly she looked up into his (miserable, guilt-ridden) eyes, and flashed a brilliant smile, the same smile that had tugged at his heart from the moment they'd first met.

"I like it!" she exclaimed with her usual enthusiasm.

Her gratitude struck him like a blow to the chest, and he looked away quickly, fighting back the urge to shout or throw something. She didn't understand—how could she?—that what he'd just done was strip her of all choices, burning her bridges behind her. She had to stay with him now, she had to depend on him to pass her off as a boy, because if she ran off on her own, her obvious femininity combined with her short haircut now labeled her as a criminal—or a whore.

In her own world, short hair on women was common and even desired; while in the dance club, he'd noticed enough admiring glances directed at Yui to realize that boyish locks weren't a stigma in Miaka's world. But in the ShiJin (their world now), shorn locks on a woman were a sign of criminal disgrace, although a man was free to wear his hair any length. Nakago had protected Yui from public censure, and had even flaunted her "difference" as proof that she was the Priestess from Another World, but Tasuki knew that without an army behind him, he'd be hard-pressed to afford Miaka the same level of protection.

He realized that Miaka was beginning to look at him anxiously, so he flashed her a grin full of fake confidence. "Glad you like it, Miaka. Listen, I gotta get rid of this hair; ya know, destroy the evidence in case anybody's trackin' us." He grabbed up her shorn tresses and strode off, stopping only to snatch up his coat before sprinting deep into the woods.

Once he was safely out of her sight, he stopped, uneasy at leaving her alone for even a few minutes. Cursing under his breath, he snatched the tessen from its holster as he dropped Miaka's tresses onto a damp patch of earth near his feet.

"Rekka—" Tasuki stopped, yielding to a sudden urge. Placing the tessen on the ground, he gently picked up Miaka's hair once more. He rubbed the silken tresses between his fingers, holding them up to his face, inhaling their slightly perfumed scent (remembering the feel of her hair against his cheek that night when he had locked his arms around her.)

This was crazy. This was insane. Why would he want any reminder of that night? Yet his hand strayed to the cord around his neck and slowly withdrew a small silk bag from where it had rested beneath his shirt.

His baraka, his luck, as the Kel would call it, the bag was a sort of talisman of small items, each of which held deep meaning for him. He gently tugged open the bag and withdrew the contents. A scrap of paper, a protective mantra written in Chichiri's hand. A tiny scarlet pinfeather, glowing even in the dim forest light. A small copper coin with a hole in the center—a single mon, almost worthless except for the fury on Tamahome's face when he discovered it missing from his extensive collection. Tasuki smiled sadly, his fingers absently stroking the coin. Tama. You were always…

He pushed those thoughts aside with an effort, and reached into the bag for the last remaining items. A few sparkling beads from a favorite but now broken necklace and—there it was! A boy's hairclip, still trailing a few strands of chestnut hair that glowed with a pinkish light.

Chiriko.

Tasuki opened the clip and tried to catch the loose strands, but a sudden breeze whipped them out of reach. He stared after them as they floated up into the breeze, feeling strangely upset (Relax, Tasuki, you can just pluck some new strands from his reborn head when you reach the sanctuary! he scolded himself), before grabbing up a lock of Miaka's hair and fastening it into the clip.

There.

He pushed the lock of hair into the safe confines of the bag, shortly followed by all of his other treasures, then finished the job with a quick "Rekka Shin'en" for the remaining locks on the ground. Moving quickly away from the acrid scent of burning hair, he soon arrived back at their campsite, relieved to see Miaka sitting quietly on a stump, using his shaving brush to dust bits of shorn hair from her arms.

His shaving brush. A strange feeling swept over him, and suddenly he wanted this, wanted it so badly, this scene of simple domesticity. He wanted to stride up, catch her from behind, bury his face in her short but still fragrant hair, claim her lips and feel her tremble beneath him—

It was like a shock of cold water hitting him, that memory of her trembling beneath him, her eyes wide and filled with tears…No!

No. Not again. Not ever again. He'd never touch her, frighten her, make her quake in terror. Instead, he would protect her while keeping his distance, and maybe when he completed his mission and escorted her safely to the Sanctuary, maybe then he could breathe again, knowing that he'd earned her trust. Fairly.

She must have heard him, because she turned around, looking confused at his strange silence. So he stepped out of the trees and smiled at her, keeping his heart firmly in his control.

"Okay, Miaka, there're a few more things we need to do to make you look like a boy…

Fin

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Author's Note: (4-18-07) Okay, a short little vignette (un-beta'd due to lack of time—sorry!), but here's the somewhat silly reason for its existence—I'm still dreadfully behind on Hidden Paths Chapter 17, but I can't let Tasuki's birthday go by without acknowledging it by posting! Unfortunately, due to having just returned from Japan this past weekend, I'd forgotten completely about the significance of April 18, with all of the jet-lag and drag and all that jazz.

Tasuki- (looking cautiously out from behind a post) So you forgot about me this year, huh, Roku?

Roku- (contrite) I'm sorry, baby! If I'd had enough time, I would've written something really good for your birthday—

Tasuki- Like in past years, when you either barbecued my friends, gave me a case of raging food poisoning, or cut off certain VITAL PARTS?

Roku- Yeah, yeah, those were pretty funny, but I'm afraid that I didn't have time to write anything like that this year!

Tasuki- (raising his sake cup) So here's to you forgetting my birthday EVERY YEAR from now on, Roku!

Roku- (grumbling) Spoilsport!

Back to reality: There is a second reason that I wrote this vignette. From the time that Miaka joins up with Tasuki in Hidden Paths, their scenes are almost exclusively from HER point-of-view. This little side story enables me to give a brief glimpse into Tasuki's thoughts—thoughts we haven't seen since Chapter 3.

Anyway, one last good thought—I'm now inspired to work harder on Hidden Paths 17, so hopefully it won't be long before I post a real (aka 15,000 word :P) chapter on this site.

I'm glad to be back home and back here with you all! Have a great week!

Ja ne!

Roku