The Shinzahou Chronicles
Introduction and Disclaimer


"Anata wa kitto watashi no yuuki, anata wa kitto watashi no hikari."

(Surely you're my courage, surely you're my light.)

Chijou no Seiza - Eikouden opening theme.

The final part!

Everything is about to be resolved - one way or another.

But of course, before it can be, there's got to be your average helping of betrayal, death, blood and vengeance piled into the equation!

I do owe readers one small apology. I did say at the outset that this was a new and miko free legend. But I lied. It's not. :P :) I did say Hiki wasn't Suzaku no Miko, though, and that wasn't a lie. She was never going to be that. My apologies for the slight deception. In truth, it wasn't a deliberate act. When I wrote the prologue to Densetsu no Hikari, I hadn't thought this far ahead. It was only as I got into the second story I realised how it was going to go. By which point it was too late to edit the original intro lol.

In the end of the last story, Hikari's true purpose has been revealed. But of course, it's more complicated than it seems at first sight. She is, after all, still Suzaku no Shinzahou. :)

I'd like to think Hikari's grown up some since the start of the story. How to end this part has been on my mind a little, too - hopefully the conclusion is satisfactory :) And of course, Hikari isn't the only important character. A lot of people will show their true colours in this story. One or two major characters might (will...) even die for the things they believe. Such are the casualties of war. Before I began, I estimated four or five named character deaths overall. I'm now fairly confident that there will be five. This includes any deaths in prior stories - so Jin and Bachisu are both already accounted for. That leaves three...for this story. (Unless I randomly decide to kill someone else on a whim, that is!)

I'm not saying who they are...but it will become clear. I will only say this - that one character who I was going to kill in the end I couldn't do, because I was too soft on them. LOL :) (You can try and guess who that is, if you like…)

Part five is called Suzaku no Unmei - Suzaku's Destiny, or the Fate of Suzaku. Obviously, of course, it's talking about Hikari this time around. But as I already said - it's not just about Suzaku any more. Consequently, the title also refers to Kounan, I suppose, and the destiny of the people there, too.

Slight explanation on Hyoushin's manner of speech in the prologue - in case anyone hasn't realised yet, Hyoushin did not learn to speak fluent Kutou dialect until he came under the Emperor's wing. He simply picked up bits and pieces during his seven years of slavery. Aoiketsu was born only a few months after his first meeting with Kintsusei, so Hyoushin's language skills are still somewhat flawed at this point. Even in the actual story timeline, 18 years on, Hyoushin still naturally speaks with a Meihi accent. He has to make a conscious effort to eradicate it from his speech, but sometimes it still comes through. It's a sign that he's speaking a little more according to his true feelings, when he lets his concentration slip and speaks in his natural manner. But at the point of the prologue, his Kutou dialect is still in the process of being learnt. Obviously, the reason he speaks so formally as a rule is twofold – partly to keep himself distant but also because he's learnt his dialect largely from being at court and in the company of politely spoken people. This explains why he has the vocabulary he does. I've tried to keep to the same manner of error as he used when Kintsusei first saved him - when he made the decision to only ever speak Kintsusei's language from hereon in. But if you find his speech somewhat bizarre, this is not me having a complete grammatical brain meltdown. It is deliberate. I hope it's also comprehensible. I think so, anyhow.

And yay - at long last - I get to write a little about Kaiga Ruiren-sama! (a little glimpse into Aoi's mother's heart...hehe). Her name means "Tears of love" essentially. I guess this gives a glimpse as to why...;)

Not much more to say except thank you for coming on this journey with me!

Watase Yuu is the owner of FY and the characters, not me!! Any added characters (ie Hyoushin, Aoiketsu, Shishi, Miramu, etc) are of my own creation, except for when they tie in with Watase Yuu's world – they are based on concepts and frameworks entirely unrelated to any other source. (This includes all reference/character biography/fleshing, background and detail given to the Byakko Seishi "Toroki" and "Amefuri" although the concept of Byakko Seishi belongs to Watase Yuu.)

My interpretation of Toroki and Amefuri are unique to me and are not to be duplicated in any other source 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.

(And the same goes for any other OCs I happen to have thrown into the mix!)


第五巻:朱雀の運命
Volume Five: Suzaku no Unmei

Prologue


The Imperial Palace of Kutou
Eighteen Years Earlier

So this was what it meant to have his freedom.

Hyoushin rested his hands against the sill of the chamber, gazing out at the palace surrounds as he took in the bustling servants and harried envoys, all bent on their own particular errands. In the months since he had been in Kintsusei's company, his entire world had been turned upside-down, and he had found himself transformed from slave to Emperor's companion almost overnight.

When the Priest had first come to the barracks, and knelt before his young friend, Hyoushin had expected their connection to be severed completely. But the fifteen year old boy had had other ideas, and had said, firmly and plainly that if he was to be Emperor, it was only on the agreement that Hyoushin would come with him, and act as his protector.

For Hyoushin, the whole situation was somewhat imcomprehensible. Kintsusei, the soldier who had saved his life now wore the ring and title of Emperor of Kutou, the only surviving son of the butchering, sadistic Shoukitei. Under him seethed an Empire racked with deceit and uncertainty, a world in which many were still beaten as slaves. And yet, despite his elevation to power, Kintsusei had not forgotten about his companion. Even when the Priest had pointed out the potential reaction to an Emperor who chose a Meihi over a trained soldier for his bodyguard, the boy had been firm.

"It will be Hyoushin, or I will not consent at all." He had said quietly. "He is my choice, Kikei. I have helped to teach him. I will continue to teach him. He will be loyal to me where others may well not be. I know what betrayal means - I've seen it from every angle throughout my life so far. But Hyoushin is not like the greedy, corrupt members of Kutou's noble council. He is a man who will not betray me, no matter how high the offer. So I will have him and no other...if he consents to the favour I ask of him."

Since that day, Hyoushin had had his own quarters both within the palace and the military barracks. And even though he knew that many of the men around him both disliked and mistrusted his ghostly, ethereal appearance, somehow inside his battered heart he knew that Kintsusei did not.

"I have placed my faith in this man." He thought to himself, as his gaze rested on the heart of the Imperial quarters. "I do not understand why he has decided this way, nor do I know whether he still seeks only to repay a debt to my people for the deaths of so many. But whatever his reasons, thanks to him, I am free. I am no longer a slave to Kaiga Gin...and as such, I will do whatever my Emperor asks of me. Even if all the people here despise me, I shall not care at all so long as I am doing Kintsusei-sama's bidding. He has shown me kindness and mercy. I will repay him with my loyalty until death."

"Kokizu?"

At that moment, a voice pierced his musings and he started at the faint sound, turning back towards the doorway as he registered the presence of the widowed lady that stood watching him. She was wrapped in heavy robes, her swollen stomach almost concealed by the fine fabric, but Hyoushin saw beyond the finery to the frailty of the woman who now stood before him. He frowned, eying her impassively as he sought to suppress flickers of unpleasant memory, and Ruiren managed a faint smile.

"I'm sorry." She reproached herself. "It's 'Hyoushin' now, isn't it? Such the Emperor has named you - much better a name than the one I've used."

"Not trouble me either way, my Lady." Hyoushin said softly. "You may call me which you will. In the end, it serves same purpose."

"Indeed." Ruiren sat down in an empty seat, gesturing for him to join her. "Are you busy? Or may I speak with you?"

"I have no duty this moment."

"Good." Ruiren smiled, meeting his amethyst gaze as he came to stand before her. "Because there are things I want to say to you alone, and there is little time in which to do it. My son will soon be here...and I don't yet know whether my strength will hold out enough to bring him safely into this world. I pray to Seiryuu that he will give me that strength - but I don't deserve to have a God answer my prayers. A wife who betrayed her husband...a woman who stood by and let hundreds of innocents be hurt because of her fear. I want to apologise to you, Kokizu. You are the only one left to whom I can."

Hyoushin frowned.

"Owe no apology, Ruiren-sama." He said softly. "I not think was ever beaten on your orders, nor ever asked anything beyond ability. Is true you received same evil from Lord Gin at times...you are not who needs to give apology."

"Even if you're right, I still want to give it." Ruiren said quietly. "To be stripped of your family, your identity and your culture...to lose even your name, and the language you grew up speaking...it has always hurt me, knowing that I was somehow complicit to this and yet there was nothing I could do."

"Nothing indeed." Hyoushin said frankly. "Had you help any escape, Lord Gin would hunt, torture, kill them all. And you yourself also. As I said, Ruiren-sama...you acted in only way you could. Making agreement with Lord Nakago was only thing you could. And because of it, my life is saved. I should thank you for mercy, not listen to you regret."

"You have always spoken so evenly, and without hate or malice." Ruiren sighed. "I tried to treat those of you who served me as people - that's why, in absence of your own names, I gave you ones of my own. I did not like it - I do not like it. When Gin gave the order for the slaves to be slain, I tried to prevent it. But I...I am weak and he pushed me aside. In the end, I wanted to save them. But I...I condemned them. You alone survived...you alone can hear those regrets."

"Then I accept on behalf of all." Hyoushin said softly. "For them, maybe, death is their freedom. And now Lord Kintsusei is Emperor, things in Kutou change. I have faith in that. Is...not like his father."

"No, indeed." Ruiren smiled ruefully. "The son is possessed of a kind heart and a just mind. Even as such a young boy - he will one day be a fine King. And he has been generous towards me, even though I cannot prove my story. Not yet."

She brushed her fingers against her stomach, then,

"Maybe soon." She whispered.

"In which case, you are better to resting, Ruiren-sama."

"I know." Ruiren admitted. "But the truth is, Hyoushin, I don't believe I have enough in me to deliver the boy safely and recover my own health. I'm not strong - not now. And I...I'm not afraid of that. With all I've allowed to happen, I don't deserve to have the chance of a life myself now. But I want to bring the boy into the world. I am sure...it is a boy. I just...I believe that he is. That he will be Nakago's son - and somehow he can continue what his father began. To free Kutou, to help bring peace...this is my hope. Even if I can't see him do it - I must trust that he will."

"Indeed."

"This is the other reason I want to speak to you." Ruiren raised dark eyes to the Meihi's amethyst ones. "And not as an order, Kokizu. I ask this as a favour to a dying woman, for the sake of the Shougun under whom you fought, and through whom you gained your freedom."

"What is favour, Ruiren-sama?" Hyoushin frowned. "I am not following."

Ruiren patted her stomach again.

"When he needs me, I won't be here." She said softly. "The Emperor has assured me that the child will be well supported - there will be nurses and maids on hand to take over my duties, should I succumb. But that is...not enough. I need...I want him to grow up with the spirit to protect Kutou. And...to be strong and proud of that spirit. I want my son to make a difference where I could not - where I was weak, I want him to be strong. This is why I am putting all my strength into bringing him into this world. He is my last hope."

"I see." Hyoushin pursed his lips.

"As the Emperor's ally, you are as close to this matter as anyone, now." Ruiren continued. "And I believe you care about saving Kutou, too. I have heard you speak so - that you wish to ensure all slaves are freed and all of Kutou live together in peace. Well, my son will be the embodiment of that - his father was at least half Hin, and I am of noble Kutou stock. As a man of tribal birth yourself, I'm asking you to help my son. To guide him - teach him. Make him learn the things he can't learn from his father - but also, the things he needs to know to be himself. Will you do that for me, Hyoushin? Will you ensure my son is educated as he should be, and trained, and brought up to put Kutou top of his priorities?"

"If he is Shougun's son, Ruiren-sama, I think he would not have other priority." Hyoushin said evenly, and Ruiren nodded.

"But he will need guidance." She said softly, reaching out a fragile hand to grasp his pale one. "I know the Meihi are peaceful people. And I know you have suffered - I know better than most what you have suffered, although I will never speak of it, to you or to others. With you I feel a connection - I married Gin the same month you were brought to the estate, and we both began our suffering together...you a boy of ten, I a naive idiot of sixteen. Yet here we both are, seven years on - both still alive after all the bloodshed. That must be a sign that there is something we can yet do. This child...I'm sure I'm alive only to deliver him, for Seiryuu's sake - for Kutou's sake. And you - you for the same end - to help fix the mess that Nakago could not fix in the end."

Her expression became sad, and Hyoushin knew that, despite the fact it was almost three months since the Shougun's death, and even longer since he had been in her company, his companion still held the Seishi's memory fondly in her heart.

"We both understand what world this boy is being born into." She continued with a sigh. "Please, Hyoushin - will you promise me to guide my son as best you can towards Kutou's salvation? I have such faith that he will be strong, just as the man who sired him was. And I cannot give him anything as a mother, except the heritage of the Kaiga family. You, on the other hand..."

She paused, offering him a smile.

"You have strength and courage beyond anyone I have ever known." She whispered. "To suffer so much and yet still speak to me so fairly...even for your young years, Hyoushin, you are the one in whom I wish to entrust my son's future. You are becoming a fine soldier even now, and you have blossomed in strength since you entered the Emperor's company. I have no doubt that as time goes on, you will become stronger. My son will need that - and Kintsusei-sama, despite his kindness and his battle wisdom is still a boy. You are now a man. Will you undertake my task? Will you grant this last request of a dying woman?"

Hyoushin was silent for a moment. Then, slowly, he inclined his head.

"I will do what I can for sake of Kutou." He said quietly. "But also for Ruiren-sama's sake. I told you - I have no ill will towards you for past. And I not focus on it. I will look to future - and if I can help guide boy, I will. It is in my interests to do, after all. He is son of Shougun...one of Kutou's protectors."

"Yes." Ruiren nodded, relief flooding her gaze. She held out her hand, glancing at the ring that glittered on her middle finger, then she slipped it off, holding it out.

"I may not speak to you again like this, so I wish you to know this now." She said quietly. "This...was Gin's. It signifies the overlordship of the Kaiga family...I took it from his body, after Nakago slew him. I wish my son to have it...even though he is not a Kaiga by birth. I hope that it will give him strength to be a leader and a captain in his own right - to heal the battered image of the family into which I married."

She looked rueful.

"And also, because I have nothing else to give him, except life." She added. "Will you keep it for him, and when he is old enough, let him understand that it was from me? Perhaps through it I will be able to watch over him somehow - and I do want him to know that I didn't leave him because I did not love him. He will lose his family just as you lost yours, Hyoushin - so I think you of everyone can understand why I want him to know I loved him...even before he was born."

"I understand." Hyoushin took the ring, glancing at it, then slipping it into the folds of his clothing. "I will ensure child receives it when is old enough to comprehend its significance."

"Thank you." Ruiren smiled. "The Emperor is lucky to have you on his side, I'm sure of that. Kokizu or Hyoushin - it doesn't matter if you're called Little Scar or Heart of Ice...either way, neither one truly represents the kindness that must live deep within you. I know my son will want for nothing, with you as a mentor."

"I hope I live up to expectation, Ruiren-sama." Hyoushin said gravely. "But I will do my best."

"Then there is one last thing I must say, before I retire." Ruiren clasped her hands together in her lap. "I do not know what will happen when my son is born, or whether I will breathe after he takes his first gasps of air. I am determined he will live - and if that takes every drop of my strength, so be it. I will do what is necessary. But I wish...to give him his name."

She sighed.

"I know that you will not, in this climate, be able to publicise the truth of his heritage." She admitted. "Even to be the son of Kaiga Gin is less controversial and dangerous than acknowledging him as the son of the Shougun. But one day, he must know. And I wish...to name him so...so that one day he will understand the secrets in his past."

"What name would that be, my Lady?"

Ruiren smiled.

"Aoiketsu." She said quietly. Hyoushin frowned.

"And in Kutou's dialect, this means what, exactly?" He asked quietly.

"Ah yes...I forgot that even though your spoken language has considerably improved in the last few months, your written language must still be limited." Ruiren offered him an apologetic look. "It's easy to forget, when even in this short space of time you seem to understand far more clearly our language - and also use it with far more fluency and confidence than you ever did before."

"It is Hyoushin's language. So my language, now." Hyoushin agreed. "I am trying best to learn it right. But I do not know...what this name means. I am sorry, Ruiren-sama. I am still Meihi - I do not understand."

"Don't ever apologise - to me or to anyone - for being Meihi." Ruiren said softly. "That's nothing for you to be ashamed of. Kutou's indigenous folk were the ones who sinned against you, not the other way around. You should have pride in your heritage - even though Gin tried to have it beaten out of you. Promise me that, Hyoushin - that you won't lose your pride in who you really are, even if you can't ever go back."

Hyoushin stared at her, momentarily startled, and the young woman smiled, the gesture lighting up the natural beauty in her tired features.

"Promise me?" She repeated, and slowly, the Meihi nodded.

"I will try." He said quietly. "But now, I must be...in Kutou's language. I am still learning, thanks to Emperor's kind tuition. I will master it, but writing is difficult. For time being, Ruiren-sama, would you explain to me why you choose to name your son so? Aoi is blue, correct?"

"Yes." Ruiren nodded. "The name...it means "Blue Blood", Hyoushin. And so the boy's will be. The blood of Seiryuu - of a Celestial Warrior."

"I comprehend." Hyoushin nodded his head. "And I will ensure he is so named, Ruiren-sama. You have my word."