The Red Willow

All right, so I'm back on a Fushigi Yuugi kick, and aside from my slash anthology I haven't actually done a story. Now, if you are a straight laced, cannon romance person, you might not like this… and don't get me wrong, I love Tamahome and Miaka, they are just so over done! So… this will end up being NurikoxMiaka, and it will be believable. It does contain character death and other assorted things, so it will be rated M for good measure. It might, or might not contain lemon, we'll have to see where my insane little mind takes me. Yuu Watase owns these guys… not me… though I do own a piece of Nuriko… a cel from his death, which is like my most prized possession and all. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Fly Away into the Night

A dark figured stood at the edge of a mirror, watching the sad scene unfold. A tragic car accident, the frantic woman calling out a name over and over… he hadn't gone by that in years, but when it mattered to her, that was what he was called. There was no salvation this time, and the man who'd made it through time to be with her was gone, leaving her alone with a three year old.

"So cruel…" the figure muttered, and even after all the pain she'd been forced to endure, the Suzaku no Miko still didn't get her happily ever after. Miaka was still calling for Tamahome, when she finally shut the mirror off, knowing that the grieving widow was calling to Suzaku to help fix her husband, and it was too much to watch. Taiitsukun turned to see the figure behind her, the lovely young man marked with the symbol of the willow. Tragedy had struck him as well; his reincarnation had been killed, much like his sister had been, releasing his spirit back to Mount Taikyoku. The old goddess could see that he was upset, no doubt he'd heard from Nyan-Nyan what had happened to Taka.

"You have to bring him back, you did it once before. Her heart is calling to us, Miaka shouldn't have to be in pain." The ex-cross dresser crossed his arms over his chest and looked at her hard, "she wasn't supposed to have to loose him!"

Taiitsukun gave a heavy sigh and nodded, "I know, but I have no control over the other world. The moment Tamahome decided to follow Miaka into to her world, I lost all grip on his fate. He was Taka Sukunami, and he perished in an accident. There is nothing I can do to change that."

Nuriko let out a sigh, his heart was hurting worse then he ever remembered it, and he didn't even techniqually have one. "But she's alone, she's our priestess, and she doesn't have a warrior with her. Poor Miaka…" he muttered, floating closer to the mirror. "Everyone else is alive, Chichiri, Tasuki, His Highness now… can't someone go to her?"

The ruler of the Heavens looked to the fallen warrior and shook her head. "The other priestesses left without their warriors, in fact, Yui didn't even have any left. Miaka was lucky to be born under the star of Suzaku, for they all loved and lost but her. It is part of what it means to become a priestess. She managed to hold onto her love longer then any of the others. She has Yui, and Hikari, somehow she'll be fine."

Ryuuen wasn't so sure about that, he'd felt her despair, even Chichiri had returned to the mountain for a time because of it, before going to find Tasuki and let him know what happened. Her heart was calling for them, and he'd always been the one to comfort Miaka when Tamahome went and did something stupid. He frowned then looked to Taiitsukun, "send me to her."

The old woman raised her wrinkled face to look at him, doubt on her face. "If I send you, you will be part of that world. I will no longer rule over your fate. You will never see Korin again…"

Nuriko let out a sigh and nodded, looking to her, "I know that, but I can't ignore her. She's without Tamahome; I have to go to her… I'm the only one that can. Everyone else is bound to this world, but I'm stuck between it. I was going to be reincarnated anyway, put me there."

The controller knew that the Suzaku Warriors were closer then any before or after them, their devotion was more then she could have predicted. "Very well, the vale between worlds has already been transgressed, the banishment of Tenkou and the two of them deciding to live there has made it possible for you to follow, but I can not control where you will end up, and with who."

Nuriko nodded, "I understand…" There was a flash of red light, then darkness, before his brown eyes opened again…


One Year Later…

Miaka Sukunami stood in a graveyard, Keisuke, Tetsuya and Yui behind her. The blond woman was holding Hikari, the small boy gripping tightly to his 'aunt.' The brunette knelt down on the grave and gently brushed all the dirt and grass away, placing the red roses in the vase at the base of the monument. Her brother moved to light the incense and leave the warm buns Miaka had made. They were all quiet, even the toddler, as the Priestess of Suzaku wept for her fallen warrior.

It broke her heart, coming to see her husband, and every time she did, she prayed that her friends would come. It had been a year, and while Yui and her family were amazing, there were still times that her apartment was unbearable and she didn't think she could stand living for another minute. Once their business was finished, the widow stood and wiped her eyes. She looked to her big brother, you pulled her into a hug, and they started to walk down the path. The Miko never did pay attention to her surroundings, so it surprised her with Keisuke stopped and looked up at a hill on the edge of the cemetery's grounds. "Look at that Miaka, have you ever seen a tree like that?"

The broken woman looked up and saw a huge, beautiful tree that she honestly didn't remember ever seeing its equal. It was a drooping willow, but the leaves weren't the light green they normally were, but a deep, nearly blood red. She slipped away from her brother and started toward it, up a little used road since the graves at that hill where the oldest and no one came to pray there. Tall bushes full of flowers lined the old brick walk, then markers and shrines having fallen into disrepair. She didn't know why, but she needed to see that tree. The others were calling after her, telling her it was dangerous, and to come back, but it wasn't like the Priestess ever listened to those warnings anyway.

The road wound up to the top, and she was winded by the time she made it to the tree, thought she was surprised to find that she wasn't alone. Under the tree was a thin man, his hair was long and loose, hanging just below his shoulders, and was so black it shone purple when the sunlight streamed through the branches of the great willow. He had a hand resting on the bark of the tree; his head was bowed as if in prayer. She could see he had a red tattoo on the side of that hand, right where his thumb met his index finger. She couldn't make out which kanji it was, but there was something familiar about the way he stood, so calm and still… and strong.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know there was anyone up here." She turned to go when a voice cut the air, it was soft and feminine, but had a distinctively male tone to it. "The people around here call this Suzaku's Willow. You aren't really from around here, are you?"

The truth was, she wasn't, they'd buried Taka in his family plot, so he could watch the stars in the place he grew up. She didn't know much about it, other then the times she came to visit her husband and his remaining family. Though, she really didn't seem to be listening, and she walked closer to the man, reaching out to lightly touch his shoulder. "This isn't Suzaku's willow," she whispered, looking to soft, brown eyes she'd missed so much as the boy turned to look at her. It was Nuriko, she didn't know how he was here, but someone had heard her prayers. He turned, he was wearing a black jacket and red dress shirt, with the first couple buttons undone, and dark blue jeans. He looked at her and smiled a bit, reaching out to her and hugging her close. He had full memories of his whole life here, but also his past life, a gift to Miaka from Taiitsukun for all her suffering. It really was him, clear down to the beauty mark under his eye. She balled his shirt up in her fists and cried, and he just stood there, his fingers resting on the back of her head, lacing through her russet locks. She couldn't believe that Nuriko was here, the only being with enough grace and strength to ever really be called Suzaku's Willow. "But how… you're really here? Do you remember me?"

The man didn't let her go, and made a noise of disbelief. "How could I forget about such a crybaby glutton? I remember everything, like Taka had after we destroyed Tenko… so don't worry. Taiitsukun sent me here, though it took me awhile to find you. My name's Akio Yanagi now, my ancestor planted this tree. I came to visit it, but didn't expect to see you here. The girl I died for in a past life."

Miaka looked up at him with tear stained features, but for the first time in along time, she actually smiled. "Akio, which way is it spelled?"

The man laughed a bit, "bright hero, my mother had a little bit of an obsession with samurai… her favorite was from the Edo era, and named Akio. Bright hero of the Willow, seems to fit…" He shrugged and looked back at the tree. "I'll tell you all about it later, but why are you here? I thought you lived in Tokyo."

Miaka sighed and pulled away, walking to the edge of the walkway and reaching up to touch the delicate leaves of the red tree. "Taka is buried here."

Was all she said, and the former warrior sighed a bit. "Don't worry Miaka, I promised to always take care of you, that's why I'm here. You won't be alone, not anymore." He was surprised when the young woman spun around and ran at him, throwing her arms around his neck. He blinked and they both tumbled to the ground, his back hitting the trunk of the tree. "God Miaka! I'm not super strong anymore… be careful with me, you don't want to break me already, do you?"

The priestess blushed, looking down at him from her new seat on his lap, and hugged him anyway. "I'm sorry, I forgot… I'm just so happy you're here. You were always the one with me, no matter what, when you died I was never the same."

Akio pushed her back gently, looking at her with a gentle expression, "I know," he whispered, reaching over to take her wrist and pulling her sleeve down. He wasn't surprised to find his bracelets there, she'd been allowed to keep them like Yui retained Nakago's earring.

Miaka blinked and looked at the bracelets, then went to take them off to give them back, but he stopped her. "You keep them, their yours now."

The miko watched him for a moment, before taking one of them off and slipping it over his hand. She looked then at the tattoo, and smiled again. "Still marked I see…"

He laughed a little and looked at the beautiful bracelet, "it's my last name, what did you expect." His eyes went up to the hand she was inspecting, seeing the kanji for willow there. He'd had it done the moment he'd turned eighteen.

Miaka's face screwed up like always did when she was thinking, then she looked back at him, a small pout in her face. "Doesn't that keep you from getting a job?"

Nuriko let out a snort, "please, do expect someone like me to have a simple job? I'm a famous fashion designer, but leave it to a girl like you not to know anything about that. You know MARK designs? That's my company…"

The priestess blinked and smiled a bit, "so are you still gay?"

He let out an exasperated sigh and smacked her lightly on the side of the head. "I was never gay to begin with! At least call me a bisexual or something, I don't even cross dress now!" He leaned in a bit and gave her a rather sexy look, "I chase girls now, are you surprised?"

Miaka blushed, looked down at the very beautiful man she was pressed against, not even realizing what a compromising position they were in until she heard a gasp and turned to see Yui standing there. She didn't have Hikari with her, she must have gotten worried or something. "Oh my god Miaka! You came to see your husband's grave and your sitting on a new guy's lap already!"

The brunette nearly jumped away from Akio, then pointed. "Look, doesn't he look familiar!"

Yui tilted her head a bit and squinted her eyes, leaning forward to study him. "Yeah, I saw him in a fashion magazine, so it's ok that you jumped him because he's a male model?"

"Fashion designer actually," the man piped in, and Miaka shook her head.

"No, no, really look at him, pull his hair back a bit." She moved to start man handling him a bit and Nuriko frowned at her.

Yui bent over a bit and really looked at his face, then blinked. "Hey, he's one of your warriors, isn't he? I remember him from that picture… the gay one, right?"

Akio jumped up and pointed a finger, "I am not gay, in a past life I was a cross dresser, I never said I didn't like girls!" He glared at Miaka when she started to actually laugh, her hand going to her mouth and her hand going across her stomach. Yui nearly got tears in her eyes at the sound… she'd started to believe that they would never hear it again.

"Yui-chan, this is Akio Yanagi, formerly the Suzaku Seven's Nuriko. I was on his lap because I forgot he didn't have his powers anymore, and before he would have just caught me flying full force at him… but without his super strength we both fell over."

The Priestess of Seiryuu smiled softly and nodded, "it's amazing, you know? Even after they were killed, or defeated, they always came back for you Miaka. Love really is more powerful then hate, Suzaku will always win over Seiryuu. None of my warriors ever really came to my call, and one even loved you best of all. You're lucky…" The blond said the words with no malice at all, she wasn't jealous, just still trying to understand why she could never have had such a relationship with her warriors as Miaka did with hers.

Miaka tapped her finger to her lips, "hey that's not true Yui, Suboshi loved you more then all the others! He even gave up Amiboshi to be by your side. While he was a jerk for what he did to Tamahome, those two weren't really bad… just confused."

Yui nodded a bit, at the time she had been too blinded by Nakago to really understand, but now she did… "Yeah, your right Miaka, you'd better savor it, since it doesn't happen very often."

The Suzaku no Miko put her hands on her hips and frowned, "I still don't think you're really my best friend Yui! Come on; let's go get the others. Go on ahead, I'll be along in a few minutes." She watched as Yui ducked back under the trees and left her alone with Nuriko. She turned and smiled a bit, "I haven't laughed in a really long time, but there is something you should know, before we go back down to the others."

Akio nodded a bit and tilted his head, more then willing to listen to whatever she needed to say. He did wonder what it would be about, probably something about Taka. "That's fine, you know, you can tell me anything."

Miaka turned away from him, looking up at the big tree. "That night, in Hokkan, I was spying on you and Tamahome. The night before you died, I heard you tell him you loved me as a man. Is that why you came to me? That day you wouldn't tell me, then the morning after you rode away… I lost Hotohori, Mitsukake and Chiriko, and while I cried for all of them, your death was the hardest. I loved you too Nuriko, it wasn't exactly like I did for Tamahome, but I couldn't stand the fact you were gone. If you're going to do that to me again, and be reckless and die… then leave right now. I couldn't stand loosing you again, not after I lost Taka."

She expected to hear footsteps away from her, but she didn't, and arms embraced her from the back, pulling her against his chest. "I will do whatever you want me too… I gave up the other world, Korin, His Highness, everything for you. I won't leave you again."

Tears started to fall down her cheeks and she nodded, turning in his arms and hugging him back. "Thank you Nuriko, I can always count on you."

Akio nodded, not minding when she called him his old name, and he started to guide her down the hill. "Come on, I want to say goodbye to Tama-kins too…"