Introduction and Disclaimer: The Shinzahou Chronicles
"Darkness cannot exist within light."
(Sukunami Taka, Eikouden animated series)
I'm sure every man and his dog has probably fixed on Sukunami Hikarias the focus of fanfiction, and for that reason I was loath to do much with her to begin with. After all, she is a literal blank slate in canon terms. However, in the end, there seemed to be so many possibilities that I buckled and gave in to myself...with the self-set challenge of writing a story in which the girl in question steers well clear of the mary-sue trap.
(As a rule, I'm too cruel to my characters to mary-sue them - but there's always a first time...)
So here we are. The Shinzahou Chronicles.
My slight caveat is that although I own and have read some of the novels, Eikouden is (are) not among them. I have only had the animated episodes to refer to, and to be quite honest, I'm pretty sure at times I'm contradicting things in that, too. I know that the implication is in the animated Eikouden that Chichiri and Tasuki haven't seen each other in a long time, and that Chichiri's spent the ten year gap travelling. Artistic licence comes into play here - though I've taken a lot of Eikouden principles for my continuity, those are things which I have amended. Basically this is because the events in this story have a chronological connection to the events/ending of Shichikon Den. (I'll say no more on that subject, though any readers of both will realise what I mean as soon as they finish the prologue...)
Yes, the four dead Seishi are still dead. . Or rather, they're in their reborn forms (Reishun, Eian, etc) although I've not decided whether or not to use them yet. Tasuki, Chichiri, Miaka and Tamahome are still very much alive and kicking however ;) and will play a part in this story
However, there are a lot of interesting possibilities in the Shijin-Tenchishou for a new legend - a Miko-free legend - and as Suzaku no Shinzahou, Hikari is a perfect target for them to rotate around.
I'm not sure how many Chronicles Hikari's story will extend through at the moment. Five, I think. I have a lot of ideas but no real concept of chronology for them at present - so I guess we'll see...
Fushigi Yuugi is copyright to Watase Yuu and the world's concept as well as any original FY characters belong to her copyright or the writing copyright of Watase Yuu and Nishizaki Megumi. Any other characters are of my own creation and their concepts are copyright to me in all ways except when their lives cross into the world created by Watase Yuu. They are not to be reproduced anywhere without permission.
The Meihi tribe, their language and appearance are entirely of my creation also, and ditto goes for them in terms of fan-fiction re-production.
Volume One: Densetsu no Hikari
Almost sixteen years have passed since Mayou and Taka last left the Shijin-Tenchishou, believing that peace had finally come to Kounan and that the legend was over once and for all. For sixteen years, the world of the book and the real world have remained separate, and in a small apartment in a Tokyo suburb, a young girl has grown up completely oblivious to the fact that before she was born, her presence helped save people she doesn't even know exist.
But she's about to learn, fast.
As much as Hikari is sure life isn't fair in the real world, it's about to become ten times tougher when, after a violent argument with her father she finds herself in the Restricted section of the National Library. With a flash of red light, she is transported into the world of the book - but the world she sees is devoid of all life - an abandoned shell of what was, once, a thriving southern state.
Believing she's trapped in some kind of strange dream, Hikari is horrified to discover the sleeping skeletons of people long dead within one of the abandoned houses...what is this place, and how can she wake up? But her adventures are only just beginning, for Suzaku's light draws her back to the world of the SuzakuShichi Seishi and, with a horrified jerk, she realises that not only is this not a dream but that her presence in the Shijin-Tenchishou might be the only thing that can save everyone from disaster.
In the Eastern territories, a desperate Emperor has begun to set in motion the wheels of the world's destruction, surrounded by the impassive former slave Hyoushin and the clever priest Kikei as he struggles to bring peace to his war-shattered land. Long-dormant magic is being awoken, and in the midst of this, a young soldier begins to discover that he is more entwined with the fate of his country and its magic than he ever imagined.
As Kutou's Emperor seeks to locate holy relics of the Azure Dragon, Chichiri realises that Hikari's appearance in the book world is not a coincidence - and that the power of Suzaku no Shinzahou may once more be required to bring peace to not only the south but the entire plane of existance
But right now Hikari's main concern is finding a bath and getting the hell out of this world without television or electricity in time to go to her friend's party.
The people of Kounan are doomed...
The Royal Palace
So, another dead end.
The man sat back on his heels, gazing at the floor with a mixture of frustration and resignation.
"No matter how hard I pray, I can't come to find him." He whispered, getting slowly to his feet as he extinguished the torches in the chamber one by one before withdrawing from the darkness and swinging the doors shut behind him. In the blackness, the tarnished figure of a golden dragon glinted briefly in the glow of the outer hall, but it was gone in an instant, and the young man sighed, shaking his head.
"Seiryuu can only be summoned with the contribution of a Miko and the seven Seishi." He murmured. "But the Seiryuu Shichi Seishi are dead. The Miko has gone. And Kutou...Kutou..."
He faltered, remembering the report he had received only that afternoon, of a civil uprising not more than ten miles from the Kutou capital city. It had been this story for far too long, he mused bitterly, as he moved swiftly and silently through the halls of what had once been Kutou's hallowed royal palace, but which had become, over time, little more than a glorified military barracks for the army-controlled government that attempted to keep order. Since the war against Kounan, any vague semblance of stability had crumbled and many of the tribes and peoples that the former regime had annexed had seized their chance to break free, having taken the warning of the Hin slaughter as a sign that if they did not act, they might not live to regret it.
In this world, Kintsusei had grown, the son of the former Emperor and yet, in so many ways, the opposite. A child born of a concubine and never recognised by the man who had ruled over the Eastern lands, he had grown up estranged and alienated from the royal court, and this alone had preserved him from the massacre that was to follow. As a boy he had sought only one thing - to be able to protect and heal the country his father had spent so long wounding, and to that end, he had become a soldier in the army at only fifteen - another unknown, shifting among the ranks governed by the fair haired, blue eyed Hin known to all and sundry under the Celestial name of "Nakago".
At the memory of the former Shougun, a faint, melancholic smile touched Kintsusei's lips. Some people called him a devil, but to the young Prince he was an angel of retribution, brought to avenge all the evils his debauched, perverted father had wreaked on his unfortunate people. While the Emperor had lived in luxury, abusing both his concubines and his manservants alike, Nakago had taken control, and ruthlessly, decisively rid the palace of the entire corrupt government in one fell swoop.
Kintsusei had been present, when the event had taken place. It still lived with him now, how the great man, fair hair flying and blue eyes cold as ice, had vaporised the former Emperor as if he had been nothing more than dust.
And the son had watched, as his father had died, and had felt nothing but relief that maybe now, Kutou could finally be saved.
But Nakago had left Kutou, and he had not come back. He had been slain in battle, fighting against Kounan's forces in some unknown, alien land and Kintsusei had not seen him again. Without his strong guidance, Kutou's fragile military status had collapsed, and the country had suffered nothing but torment since. Kintsusei regretted bitterly that he had not been there to fight - even die - to defend the Shougun's life. Nakago had been, in the end, the only one strong or brave enough to challenge the existing hierarchy of power. And though he had dispatched so many people with so little emotion, he had always commanded his men with honour and conviction - in a way that Kintsusei dearly wished to emulate himself.
"I am Emperor of Kutou." He murmured, glancing at his hands as he did so. "By default, as the only blood survivor of my father's tainted family line. But even so, I don't feel that way, and I will not take an Imperial name so long as that's the case. I feel...more like a Shougun, not a King, even if I am expected to rule here. I am a soldier, not a Prince. That's just how I've always been - my father made it that way, and I will not be the kind of failure he was. I will somehow find the power to do what Nakago was killed trying to do - to unite the four lands must surely, finally bring everyone to peace? If we are all one nation - all under one governing class - then there is no dissention, no cause to fight. And there will be no more need for civil unrest. Kutou's wounds run deep, but if I can unite this land with its brothers, surely...surely I can heal those wounds."
He sighed, gazing up at the sky, where the stars that marked out Seiryuu's seven constellations glittered overhead.
"What would you have me do, Shougun?" He murmured. "What would you do...if you were here? You never feared anything - and me, I fear so much. There is so much uncertainty, that I don't even know who I can trust within my own council. Assassins may be lurking around every corner...and I must be strong and decisive. I must not let this country fall into any more disrepair than it already has. I will achieve it, somehow - I will do what you and your Seishi brethren died trying to do. I will save Kutou - you have my word!"
The Eastern Village
A gentle breeze blew through the southern lands as the lone figure stood, staring out across the landscape, lost in thought. Around him, the sound of children laughing and playing went unnoticed, as the village children enjoyed the sunshine that so often touched the Kounan countryside. A land more contrary to the war-torn Kutou could not be found, for since the coming of the Miko, Kounan had gained the stability its struggling neighbour still sought to claw back, and for many of the younger village members, there had never been any other way than the peaceful, gentle existance of daily community life.
As he stood there, taking it all in, noone paid him any heed. He was, after all, an enigmatic, unique kind of man, and his ways and behaviours were now so normal to his neighbours that noone even batted an eyelid. Even in his simple, rural attire, it was impossible for him to completely blend in, for although the red mark of Suzaku that adorned his knee was very rarely, if ever seen these days, the cruel, winding scar across his left eye told of a past steeped in tragedy and pain. And yet, even the youngest village children did not fear him, for it was well known in the surrounding mountain area that there were few men with as kind or even a heart than Ri Hou Jun.
At length he frowned, breaking his reverie as he contemplated what it was that had attracted his attention that morning. The sensation had been fleeting, yet vivid and compelling, and something about it had set his spiritual senses on edge.
"Almost as if...something was coming." He mused, more than half to himself as he made his way slowly back towards the comfortable structure that had been his home from home for some years. Built on the ruins of a charred out farmstead, it now stood in the centre of a modest, if richly fertile estate, the ash and destruction of the fire years earlier having given new life to the soil around the whole area. Herbs of all varieties grew in the resultant lots, as he had drawn on the knowledge and memory of a lost, dear friend, seeking, as ever, to heal the wounds of those around him. That, he remembered, had been the initial drive to rebuild the burnt village, and in time the once abandoned land had become populated again, people drawn by the promise of cheap, good land and the potential shelter of Reikaku-zan's legendary bandits. Though there was no official local authority, Hou Jun knew that his Suzaku calling meant that he had unconsciously assumed the position of village elder, and that, through his connections to the mountain bandits, the people in the Eastern Village lived in peace and security, safe from external attack
"But then, what I felt just now...what was it? That's the question. It's been so long - are we going to have to fight again, so soon, when everything seems so much at peace?"
"Are you talking to yourself again?"
A droll voice interrupted his train of thought and he turned, a rueful look flickering in his good eye as he registered the speaker. She was flame haired, with well-defined features and a firm chin that told of a strong, resolute character beneath her striking appearance. Her bronze eyes flickered with amusement, and to all appearances she seemed like an average, gentle village woman, but Hou Jun knew that, should anyone cross her or dare to hurt her family, she would be a more formidable foe than any man, swift and unafraid with her fists as much as with her sharp tongue.
It was an interesting combination, he reflected now, his calm coupled with her fire, and yet, over the course of the past several years, their bond had strengthened into something that very little would ever be able to break down. Though she could frighten some of her burlier male neighbours, she had never yet frightened him, and he offered her a smile as he moved across to speak to her.
"That depends on whether anyone else was listening, you know." He said lightly, and she shook her head in obvious resignation.
"You have an answer for everything, as always." She reflected with a sigh. "So what is it this time? Something on the wind? Some kind of evil spirit about to shoot out of the mountain to eat us all? You might as well tell me now, because I know what it will mean - as it ever does. You traipsing off into the wilderness with that idiot brother of mine, looking for trouble."
Hou Jun eyed his companion for a moment. Then he laughed, shaking his head as he held out his hands to hers.
"You have known me for far too long, Aidou." He said softly. "But I'm not going anywhere, not at the moment. Since Suzaku was last summoned, and since Reikaku-zan and everything else in Kounan was restored to its proper state, everything has been quiet. But...I don't know. I thought I sensed something, that's all. I can't place what...and I don't even know that it's danger. Just that something is going to...happen. A wind of change, if you like, blowing in from the East."
"More like the scent of war." Aidou said pragmatically, taking him by the hand and leading him inside the house, shutting the door behind her. "The East is far enough away, and nothing to do with you, even if you do have Suzaku's mark. You don't have to save Kutou too, you know - you're only a warrior for Kounan, and not even that these past six years. I realise that this...this anxious rabbit behaviour is part of the man I married, however..."
She paused, eying him meaningfully, and Hou Jun held up his hands in mock surrender.
"I did say I wasn't going anywhere." He reminded her mildly. "Not at present, anyway. It's just..."
He shrugged, then bent to roll up the leg of his trousers, pursing his lips as he took in the vivid red slashes that marked out the Suzaku character on his knee.
"I didn't actively make it appear...but something sparked my power inside of me." He admitted. "It just made me think, that's all. That something's happening."
"Then I suppose you will be going to see Shun'u next, won't you?" She asked. "And seeing whether or not he's noticed anything. Which,by the way, he won't have...because he's still as much of an idiot now as he was the last time you fought for Suzaku."
"There's no need for me to go to the mountain right now." Hou Jun shook his head, rolling down the fabric as he did so. "Like I said, it's a vague sensation at the moment. I'll need to have more to tell him, before I start causing trouble for him on Reikaku-zan."
He grinned sheepishly.
"Even after all this time, my senses are still pretty sharp, you know." he reflected. "Taiitsukun said we'd always have those things, even if we didn't always need to use them. And it is true. It's all still there...just in case."
"I suppose that's just what I get for marrying a Suzaku Seishi." Aidou rested her chin in her hands, but the glimmer of affection in her eyes belied her brisk tones. "You're still Suzaku's man, even though you're mine."
"A one eyed Suzaku sacrifice, perhaps." Hou Jun's eye glittered with amusement, his lips twitching into a grin as he saw his companion's face flush red at his words.
"Shut up." She ordered. "I haven't called you that since the last time you decided to take off around Kounan putting people's lives back together - and with good reason, too, since whenever you become Chichiri, you almost get yourself killed. Don't bring back words to taunt me now - I was worried about you, that's all. I don't like it when you go away to fight - you know that. I don't want you to not come back, so whatever this is, it had better stay a random feeling and nothing more than that. You have responsibilities here, you know, and this village - didn't we rebuild this village as a permanent place to live?"
"Oh, Aidou." Hou Jun's gaze softened, and he shook his head. "Listen. I'll always come back here, you know - no matter what I have to do for Kounan. You...this place...this is my home. My roots are here, and they'll always bring me back. Didn't I promise you that, when we first began to rebuild this place?"
"You did." Aidou agreed quietly. "But it's hard for a woman, when her husband goes off to war. And not just on her, either."
Her gaze flitted across the room, to where a small girl was curled up on a vividly patterned stretch of fabric that had, in times of conflict been an enchanted kesa, scraps of paper spread out around her as she studiously copied out a sequence of characters time and time again. At her side, a boy of maybe four years her senior kept a close eye on her work, occasionally correcting her scribings with all the authoritative knowledge of a well-meaning twelve year old. Despite himself, Hou Jun laughed at the scene.
"I won't be abandoning them either." He said quietly, shaking his head. "You know me, Aidou. Do I lie to you? I won't put myself in any danger if it can be prevented. Suzaku No Miko won't come back to Kounan, anyway...so you shouldn't start to worry before you have to. I'm staying put for now. Really."
"Really." Aidou echoed, eying him pensively for a moment. Then she nodded, shrugging her shoulders.
"All right." She relented. "I know you mean it, anyway, even if it doesn't work out that way."
"Papa? Papa, I wrote it right this time."
As if sensing his gaze on her, the small girl scrambled to her feet, pushing her brother aside as she hurried forward clutching her scrap of paper, reddish eyes glowing with pride as she thrust it forward into Hou Jun's hands. A strange sensation stirred in his heart as he took it, glancing at it, and then down at the eager, hopeful young maiden who stood gazing up at his scarred face with not even the slightest hint of fear. His smile widened, and gently he ruffled his fingers through her dark copperish hair.
"You've been practicing." He said softly, running his gaze once more over the characters on the sheet before setting it aside. "You've remembered well everything I've taught you, Mei-chan."
The girl beamed.
"I'm going to practice some more." She said importantly. "So then I can write long things, like you can."
With that she skipped off across the room, back to where her brother had lost interest in the writing lesson, turning his attention instead to sharpening the blade of his knife.
"You know, its all very well, teaching them to read and write so young, but there are a thousand other things Meikyo and I could be doing right now that would be much more useful to her and to me." Aidou reflected. "I don't wholly understand your obsession with words, to be quite honest. Granted, Eiju might have use for them as he gets older, if he's going to work in the city, but there's still the farm to think about, when all's said and done - writing won't tend the herbs. Besides, she might be small for her age, but Mei-chan is pretty enough even now and one day someone will want to take her for a wife. She won't be much use to them if she doesn't know how to do anything but ink characters on bits of parchment!"
"Well, I don't see why she shouldn't learn, you know." Hou Jun said evenly, a smile on his face as they crossed familiar territory. "It won't hurt her. And if you have chores that need doing, I can help you with those. Let the girl write, if it makes her happy."
He glanced back down at the roughly scrawled characters, and his eyes glittered with pensive emotion.
"Suzaku Shichi Seishi." He murmured, reading her clumsy words out loud, then, underneath, two characters that he knew only too well. He smiled, nodding his head as once again the sensation stirred deep in his soul.
"Chichiri." He breathed.