Hello all! ^_^ This is my first attempt at writing a Fushigi Yuugi fanfic - I'm finally branching out from Sailor Moon fanfics. This is fairly short (30 KB) compared to my SM fics, but I didn't feel that it needed to be any longer. If I get a favorable response to it, I may write a sequel someday, but this fic is meant to stand on its own. There are major spoilers in here about Nuriko's past and just in general (up to Episode 30). So, if you don't want to read spoilers... {sigh} I tried to stay true to the general history given for Nuriko, but I did take a few liberties with it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this fic - I tried my best! BTW, if you like what you read (or if you didn't), I'd really appreciate it if you would drop me a line to tell me. Thanks!

Disclaimer: None of the characters in this fic belong to me - they all belong to Watase Yuu and all those wonderful people who created Fushigi Yuugi for us to enjoy. ^_^

Sacred Trust
by Renée-chan

For the first time in his life, Cho Ryuuen was scared. No, he was absolutely terrified. He felt his aniki's arm tighten around his shoulders, and he leaned into the embrace, needing the comfort. He grabbed onto Rokou's arm and peered over at his mother. He had only caught one glimpse of that thing in her arms, and he didn't want to see it again. But there was some small fascination with that ugly, wrinkled, little thing... He tugged Rokou's arm and his aniki knelt down to look him in the eyes, "What is it, Ryuuen-chan?"

Ryuuen's lip trembled and he pointed over at their mother. He gave a little whimpering noise. Rokou smiled a little and picked him up to carry him to their mother - which was quite a feat for a five-year-old. He stopped a few feet from his parents and called softly, "Okaa-san, Otou-san."

They looked up and smiled at their eldest, beckoning him closer. Rokou walked over and held his little brother up to peer at the new addition to the family. Ryuuen frowned at the baby, then turned around and clutched at his aniki, "Niichan!" Rokou held him tighter and smiled, "Ryuuen, you're a niichan, too!"

Ryuuen sniffled slightly and pulled back to look his brother in the face. Rokou almost laughed, his little brother must've thought he was absolutely bonkers. He walked back over to his parents and pointed down at the baby, "See, Kourin-chan is my imouto, but she's yours, too. So, you're her onii-chan, just like I'm yours!"

Ryuuen narrowed his eyes to stare at the baby again. He reached out a hand, which Kourin abruptly grabbed. Her eyes snapped open and she stared at him. He smiled hesitantly, "My 'mouto-chan?" She gave a little giggle and squeezed her eyes shut. Ryuuen had to laugh at her antics. He wriggled to get out of Rokou's hold and then moved closer to his mother. She smiled down at him, "Do you like your little sister?"

Ryuuen smiled and nodded his head up and down, then noticed that his sister wasn't moving. His face took on an alarmed look and he grabbed at his sister's hand, "'Mouto-chan??" Rokou laughed, "Don't worry, Ryuuen-chan, she's just sleeping. Babies are boring for a pretty long time - when you were little that was all you did, too. Sleep and eat," he made a disgusted face, "But now you're a lot more interesting."

Ryuuen stared at his aniki, it had been hard to follow all those words, and he wasn't sure if he liked some of them. At least his imouto wasn't mean to him. He turned back to her and silently made her a promise, I'll be the best onii-chan, ever. You'll see. He watched her sleep for a while, then he began to feel a little tired, himself. He yawned and his eyelids fluttered shut. Otou-san picked him up and carried him back to his bed. When Okaa-san put his imouto down with him, he thought he might burst with pride. She smiled, "Now, you'll take good care of your imouto, ne?" He nodded and snuggled closer to her. A few moments later, he joined her in sleep.

"Nii-chan, I can't keep up!! Matte!"

Ryuuen turned and frowned, "Kourin-chan, hurry up! We're late for dinner! Aniki will yell at us!"

Kourin forced her tiny legs into a run, "Sorry Nii-chan!" She panted a little as she reached him, "But you're almost four, and I have trouble keeping up!"

Ryuuen watched as his imouto tried to catch her breath. He scratched his head, as he had seen his otou-san do many times. He took a deep breath, "I'll carry you the rest of the way - but you have to promise not to tell anyone!"

Kourin gave him a look of pure gratitude, "I never tell! You know that! But I don't get why it's such a big deal, anyway."

Ryuuen lifted her up with one hand and put her on his shoulders, "I just don't want aniki to get jealous, that's all."

Kourin giggled from her perch on his shoulders, "Aniki's stuffy. He's too old," then she leaned down to hug him, "Not at all like my Nii-chan!"

Ryuuen laughed as he started running back towards the house, keeping her steady with one hand. He took the back way so no one would see him. He knew that it wasn't normal for a four-year-old to be able to do what he could do. He looked down as he saw a red glow under his shirt. He was lucky that Kourin was too busy enjoying the ride to see it. He pulled the neck of his shirt tighter. He didn't know what the red character meant, but it wasn't normal either, so he didn't want anyone finding out about it. It was the only secret he kept from his imouto-chan.

Seeing the house around the corner, Ryuuen stopped running and lifted Kourin down from his shoulders, "End of the ride, imouto-chan!" She giggled and threw her arms around him, "Arigato, Nii-chan!" With a cry of dismay, Ryuuen realized how filthy she was - they couldn't show up at the dinner table like this! He dragged her around to the well and pulled the bucket up - yet another thing he shouldn't be able to do. He lifted the bucket down from the well and dipped his sleeve in the water. He started scrubbing Kourin's face and hands, ignoring her protests, "It's cold, niichan!"

Satisfied that she was clean, Ryuuen scrubbed his own face and hands, then peered into the bucket to check his reflection in the water. He sighed, "I suppose that's the best I can do... Come on, imouto-chan." He took her hand in his own and led her into the house.

Rokou immediately rounded on him, "Where have you two been? You were supposed to be back here an hour ago!"

Ryuuen looked down at his shoes, "Gomen nasai, aniki."

Kourin piped up, "Aniki, there was a royal parade in town! The Empress was there with her younger son. It was really neat! You should have been there!"

Rokou frowned slightly, trying to look older than his eight years. He shook his head slowly, "All right, just try not to let it happen again. I worry when you two disappear like that."

Ryuuen looked up, "Hai, aniki. I'll remember next time."

"Rokou, Ryuuen, Kourin! It's time for supper!" their mother called from the kitchen.

Rokou peered at his little brother, "Ryuuen, did you get hurt?"

Ryuuen immediately placed a hand over the red character on his chest, "No, aniki! Just dirty, really!" He grabbed Kourin's hand and ran off towards the supper table, leaving a bewildered Rokou behind.

Later that night, Rokou went into the room that Ryuuen and Kourin shared and woke his little brother up. Ryuuen blinked blearily up at him and scrubbed his eyes. "What do you want, Rokou? I'm tired."

Rokou sat down on Ryuuen's bed and looked into his brother's eyes. He frowned, "What I saw on your chest, today - it wasn't blood, and it wasn't dirt. It was a red character, ne?"

Ryuuen blushed and hung his head, wondering how Rokou had figured that out. He whispered, "Hai, aniki."

Rokou put a finger under his little brother's chin and pushed his head up, "Do you know what that means, Ryuuen-chan?"

Ryuuen shook his head, then paused, "Well, I know that the character is 'willow', if that's what you mean..."

Rokou cocked his head to the side, thinking, "Well, that's one more piece of the puzzle, but no, that wasn't what I meant. Ryuuen, has anyone ever told you about the seven seishi of Suzaku?" At his brother's bewildered look, Rokou began to explain, "Suzaku is one of the four deities. The others are Genbu, Byakko, and Seiryuu. Suzaku is the protector of Konan. It is said that in the time of Konan's greatest need, seven seishi will appear to help Suzaku no Miko to call on Suzaku. The young prince, Saihitei, has the character for 'Star' on the left side of his neck. That means that he is the Suzaku Seishi Hotohori. Since the Empress discovered that, they've been teaching the story of Suzaku in school in the hopes of finding the other Seishi."

Rokou paused in his telling to watch Ryuuen's reaction. His hand had gone to his chest - where the character was - and was clutching his shirt. His facial expression was akin to shock. Rokou put a hand on Ryuuen's shoulder, "If that really was the character of 'Willow', then that means you are also a Suzaku Seishi, Ryuuen - Nuriko."

Ryuuen was staring straight ahead, but his mouth formed the word in barely a whisper, "Nuriko." A red glow began to emanate from the spot on his chest that contained his character. Rokou pulled open his brother's shirt to get a better look at it, "That's the character for 'Willow', all right."

Abruptly, the glow stopped and the character disappeared. Ryuuen clutched at his brother's arms, "Aniki, please don't tell anyone! Please!!"

Rokou's face had gone white when Ryuuen grabbed him. In his haste to silence his brother, Ryuuen had forgotten to hold back his strength. He let go of his brother and hung his head, "Gomen nasai, aniki." There were tears in his eyes. Rokou pulled him into a hug, "All right, Ryuuen. I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to. But, eventually, Nuriko will be needed - don't forget that."

Ryuuen's hand crept back to his chest as he whispered, "I won't forget, aniki. I can't possibly forget."

Rokou held him like that until he fell back asleep.

Kourin clutched at Ryuuen's hand, crying hysterically, "Niichan! You can't leave me! I don't want you to go!!"

Ryuuen tried to comfort his imouto, but to no avail. He turned pleading eyes on his parents.

His mother bent down next to them and spoke soothing words to Kourin, "Kourin-chan, your onii-chan is five years old. He's a big boy, now. He has to go to school. Try to be a brave girl - you can go next year."

Kourin merely clung harder to Ryuuen, "Don't wanna go to school! Want my niichan!!"

Rokou crossed his arms impatiently, "For crying out loud! Why don't you just let her tag along for today?"

Their father frowned disapprovingly, but Kourin was already smiling and jumping up and down with excitement, "I'm going to school with niichan!"

Their mother stood up and looked over at her husband, "It wouldn't hurt for one day..." Finally he capitulated, "Ryuuen, you make sure that you keep an eye on her. If I hear that she disrupted the sensei's teaching..." He didn't need to complete the threat. Ryuuen nodded vehemently and wrapped an arm around Kourin's shoulders.

Rokou grabbed him by the sleeve and dragged him out the door, "Come on then! We're late as it is!" Ryuuen protested this rough treatment, but did nothing to stop his brother's headlong rush - his Seishi heritage was still a secret, after all. He concentrated on hanging onto Kourin as he was dragged along. The truth was, he'd be happy to have his imouto along with him - he was a little scared of going to school. Since the sensei knew so much, they might figure out that he was a Seishi and take him away - and he didn't want to be separated from his imouto.

Rokou finally stopped in front of a large, impressive, temple-like structure. He pointed at a group of small children gathered at one end of the yard, "That's your year group, mine's in the other yard. This is where you'll gather every morning before you go inside. Try to stay out of trouble, OK?" With that parting comment, Rokou disappeared behind the school.

Ryuuen started to tremble, he wasn't sure he wanted to go through with this. He heard a small, quavering voice at his side, "Niichan?" He straightened abruptly - he had to be brave for Kourin, "It's OK, imouto-chan. Let's go see what they're doing over there, OK?" She nodded her head and tightened her hold on Ryuuen's hand.

He walked over to the other children, quickly identifying the adult in the group. He walked over to him and introduced himself. The man looked flustered and frowned, "Girls aren't supposed to be schooled here."

Thinking he was referring to Kourin, Ryuuen pulled her closer, "I'm sorry, sir. She's my sister and she was afraid to stay home alone. She's only four and she's not much trouble - she's not even here for school. Sir."

The man frowned again, "Yes, well," he looked flustered, "Isn't that somewhat inappropriate clothing for you?"

In a sudden flash of insight, Ryuuen realized that the man thought he was a girl - his face took on a look of pure anger, "I'm not a girl!" At this point all activity in the yard had stopped to watch the spectacle of a five-year-old yelling at a sensei.

The man's eyes narrowed, "Are you trying to make a fool of me?"

Ryuuen's eyes flashed and his character began to glow, "No! But I'm not a girl!!"

The sensei's eyes widened as he saw the red glow under Ryuuen's shirt. He grabbed the front of it and tore it open to reveal the glowing Willow character. Ryuuen, in his terror, threw the sensei across the yard and clutched at his shirt to close it. Kourin began to scream. Ryuuen stared about wildly, desperately looking for an escape. Several of the other teachers began to walk towards him. He grabbed Kourin's hand and backed up against the wall of the yard, eyes full of fear.

The other teachers circled around them, cutting off their escape route. Ryuuen felt tears start to slip out the corners of his eyes - this was exactly what he had feared might happen if he went to school. Everything was going all wrong! Suddenly, he saw Kourin jump in front of him. She spread her arms out and stared down all the sensei, "Stay away from my Niichan!!"

Ryuuen quickly got himself under control and pulled her back behind him, "Kourin! Don't do that! You'll get in trouble, too!" She struggled, trying to get out of his grip. Meanwhile, the other sensei had picked himself up and herded the other children out of the yard. When he came back, he walked straight up to Ryuuen, "All right, boy. Enough of this - and stop blubbering! You say you're a boy, act like one!"

Flustered, Ryuuen swallowed his tears, "H-hai, sensei."

The man nodded in approval, "I am in charge of this school." At this news, Ryuuen shrank even further from him, "I will not tolerate such behavior here, Nuriko. Even if you are a seishi."

Ryuuen's mouth dropped open in horror, and the tears began to fall a second time. He felt Kourin's arms wrap around him and he pulled her close. He stared at the sensei and managed to get out a desperate plea, "Please - I don't want to leave my family! Please don't make me leave!"

The man frowned and gestured for the other teachers to leave and go about their business. He knelt down next to Ryuuen, "What did you think was going to happen here?"

Ryuuen shook his head in fear, "Please, sensei..."

The man smiled a little, his whole demeanor changing with his facial expression, "Easy, little one. I'm not going to hurt you, and I'm not going to steal you away from your family, OK?"

Ryuuen nodded jerkily and sat down against the wall, pulling Kourin into the crook of his arm. He scrubbed his face and tried to regain his composure. Finally he spoke, "My aniki told me that since the Prince is a seishi, the Empress wants to find the other ones. I don't want to leave my imouto-chan, so I don't want anyone to know I'm a seishi. I thought that if anyone found out, they'd take me away!"

The man nodded slowly, "I understand, Ryuuen. But understand this - it is the job of Suzaku no Miko to gather the seven seishi of Suzaku, not the Empress' job and most certainly not mine." He smiled slightly, "Suzaku no Miko has not yet appeared, so there is no reason that you can't lead a normal life here. I won't tell anyone your secret, and we'll make up some excuse to give the other teachers for this morning, all right?"

Ryuuen beamed at him, "Thank you, sensei! Thank you so much!"

"There now," he said, "Why don't we all go in to class?"

Kourin tugged on his sleeve, "Me too, sensei-sama?"

He smiled and put a hand on her head, "You too, little one. For a girl, you're very brave - the least I can do is let you sit in on my class. Who knows, maybe you'll pick up something, ne?"

She smiled, "Hai, sensei-sama!"

He laughed as he stood up, "Just sensei is fine, little one. What is your name, by the way?"

She jumped up and tugged on Ryuuen to get up, "I'm Cho Kourin - Ryuuen and Rokou are my aniki."

"Well, Kourin and Ryuuen, I have a feeling that you two will keep me on my toes this year," he smiled and led them into the school.

Over the next year, Ryuuen's sensei got so used to having Kourin in his class that he began to include her in the lessons. Both she and Ryuuen showed an amazing aptitude for learning and strong desire for knowledge. They were a pleasure to teach and valuable assets to the class. Fortunately for them both, their family had never found out about Ryuuen's infamous first day at school.

At the end of the year, the sensei formally asked Kourin and Ryuuen's parents if they would enroll Kourin in the school - even though it was a boys' school. She had utterly charmed all the sensei, was always polite and willing to help, and had a voracious appetite for knowledge. They recognized the honor being given them and immediately agreed to enroll Kourin in school. Being as she had already been through the first year, the sensei recommended that she continue on with her brother, rather than be held back to be with those her own age. Ryuuen was beaming with pride at his imouto's accomplishment.

The sensei had also privately taught Ryuuen, trying to teach him the importance of his seishi heritage. He taught Ryuuen how to focus his chi to best use his power, and taught him about the honor of being a seishi. He taught Ryuuen about his responsibility to his Miko and to Konan, and about the other six seishi of Suzaku. Ryuuen once asked him if he was a seishi. The sensei had laughed, "No, but my great grandfather was a Byakko Seishi. We still honor his memory. It is my honor to pass his knowledge on to you, Ryuuen."

Ryuuen was beginning to understand exactly how his sensei felt. He understood more and more that it was an honor to be a seishi, and a great responsibility. Not everyone had his exceptional strength, so it was his responsibility to protect them - to use his abilities to help those who weren't as strong.

Over their next few years at school, Ryuuen and Kourin very quickly began to dominate the social hierarchy. The novelty of Kourin's gender, and her easy-going nature made her an immediate favorite with all the other students. Ryuuen also gained his own popularity - especially with the younger boys. He could always be counted on to protect them from the bullies of the school - his exceptional strength making him something of a legend. And Ryuuen and Kourin's devotion to each other was what attracted people to them most of all. Everyone wanted a piece of their relationship - that warmth and closeness.

With their sudden popularity and aptitude for learning, Ryuuen and Kourin outshone their older brother in a heartbeat, and he was very much aware of this. Never a day went by when he didn't try to find some fault with what they did or how they did it. Eventually, they began to ignore him. Rokou began to feel more and more depressed over this - he still remembered a time when Ryuuen had clutched at his hands in fear over a thunderstorm, times when he had looked to Rokou for comfort...

~Niichan! I'm scared!~
~It's OK, Ryuuen, I'll protect you...~

Now the only time he heard that precious word - Niichan - was out of Kourin's mouth directed at Ryuuen. He wanted to ask their parents to intervene, to make his younger siblings include him, but he knew there was nothing they could do. Instead he settled for tagging along behind them and keeping an eye on them. And on one bright, sunny day in March, it was a good thing he did...

Kourin looped her hand through her older brother's arm, "What do you want to do, today?"

Ryuuen, startled out of his thoughts, said merely, "Ne?"

Kourin giggled and snuggled closer to her brother's side, "It's your birthday! Don't you want to do anything special? I mean, you did hit double-digits, you know."

Ryuuen smiled, "Yeah, I guess I did. It's about time, isn't it?"

Kourin frowned a bit, then stopped walking, placing both hands on her hips, "All right, just what is going on here, Cho Ryuuen?"

Ryuuen abruptly turned to face her - he couldn't think of any other time in her life when his imouto had called him by his full name. The anger on her face looked more like mock anger, but he couldn't be sure... He shrugged and looked skyward, subconsciously placing his hand over the spot where his character appeared, "I don't know, Kourin. I've just been feeling kind of weird, today. Sorry."

Kourin walked back over to him and leaned her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and allowed the rapport to build up between them. They'd discovered, over the years, that if they really concentrated and listened, they could meld their minds together and hear each other's thoughts. By herself, Kourin could often pick up on other's emotional states, but Ryuuen's thoughts were the only ones she could hear. After a moment of silent communion, they pulled away from each other, each smiling. Kourin gave him a quick peck on the cheek, "Wo ai ni, niichan."

Ryuuen smiled back at her, "Wo ai ni, imouto-chan."

Kourin slipped her arm through her brother's and they began to walk aimlessly about the city, this time sharing the contemplative mood. Kourin wondered out loud, "Niichan, if you go off and have adventures when you become a seishi, will you take me with you?"

Ryuuen laughed, "Like I could leave you behind if I tried?"

Kourin giggled, "Good, I just wanted to make sure. I don't ever want to be apart from you."

Ryuuen pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head, allowing a pleasant silence to fall over them both. Kourin suddenly jerked her head up, "Niichan! It's a royal procession! Do you hear the music?"

Ryuuen nodded, "But where's it coming from?"

Kourin stared around, trying to figure out which part of the city the procession was in. She focused her thoughts and tried to pick up where people were the most excited. Suddenly she pointed off to the right, "There!" She smiled slyly at her brother, "I'll race you!" then took off.

Spluttering for a moment, Ryuuen protested, "I wasn't ready!" and raced off after her. Within half a block, he overtook her, turning around to wave and stick his tongue out. She laughed and waved back, not noticing the frantic gestures of a carriage driver approaching from the street. By the time she turned her head, the horse was already upon her. She didn't even have time to scream before her voice was silenced forever.

Ryuuen stared for a moment, utterly dumbfounded as his world ripped apart around him, "KOURIN!!!!!!!!!!!" He raced over to the scene of the accident, gathering his imouto's broken and lifeless body in his arms. The carriage driver raced off, not wanting to be held responsible for the tragedy. Ryuuen didn't care - the damage had already been done. He cradled Kourin's body closer to him, stroking her hair, kissing her cheeks, screaming her name, reaching out his mind to where he knew hers always was - nothing helped. Nothing brought her back. He clasped her tightly to him, sobbing helplessly in the middle of the blood-covered street.

Rokou arrived just in time to see Ryuuen collapse to his knees near Kourin's body, sobbing brokenly. He allowed his brother a silent moment of grief, then stepped closer, "Otouto-chan?"

Ryuuen didn't hear him, just kept sobbing out Kourin's name. Rokou put a hand on Ryuuen's shoulder, "Otouto, please. We have to take her home."

Ryuuen whipped his head around to face his older brother, "Leave us alone! You aren't taking her anywhere!!!" A wind picked up, tossing his shirt around to reveal the violent red glow of his seishi character, "You're always bothering us! Can't we have some time alone???"

Rokou's eyes widened, Ryuuen could kill him and he knew it - unfortunately, at this moment, Ryuuen didn't know it, "Ryuuen-chan, Kourin is dead..." he swallowed a sudden lump in his throat, then pressed on, "She's dead, Ryuuen. We have to take her home."

Ryuuen character blazed brighter, nearly blinding his aniki, "She isn't dead!! She can't be dead! She said she never wanted to be apart from me! She wouldn't leave me, she wouldn't!!!" With that last scream, Ryuuen gathered up Kourin's body like the scant handful it was and raced away from the scene of the accident. Rokou stared after him a minute, then began the long walk home.

When Ryuuen had finally returned home, his parents were desperately worried about him. When they saw him walk in the door alone, they rushed over to him, "Ryuuen-chan, where's Kourin? Where's your imouto?" Rokou peeked out from behind the doorway, "Otou-san, okaa-san, I told you the truth - he had her body last time I saw him!"

Their mother immediately hushed her eldest child and turned back to Ryuuen. He had a dreamy expression on his face, and the oddest smile adorned his features. He whispered to them as he placed his hand over his heart, "She's in me! She's always been in me! She is me, and I am her. We can never be separated - Never! We'll never be apart..." He wrapped his arms around himself, slowly humming Kourin's favorite song.

His father shook his shoulder, "Where is her body, boy?"

Ryuuen looked up at his father, a bewildered expression on his face. He pointed to himself, "Right here, otou-san. Right here."

His father turned to look at his wife, "What lunacy is this? How can we give her a proper burial if we don't have the body?" Ryuuen slowly walked past him and up to his room. He laid down on Kourin's bed, clutching her pillow and blanket tight against him as he fell into a nightmare-haunted sleep.

Several days passed and Ryuuen showed no signs of improvement. He kept insisting that he was Kourin. His parents told him to forget Kourin and get on with his life - that was the point of a funeral. To put the dead to rest. The only good thing to come of the whole mess was that Ryuuen's old sensei found Kourin's body. Ryuuen had made her a mausoleum out of boulders near her favorite lake. It was difficult to get into it, but he managed and retrieved Kourin's body for burial.

The day of the funeral, Ryuuen was nowhere to be found. In truth, he sat quietly in Kourin's closet, her clothing and possessions spread out around him. He picked out one dress after another, looking for her favorite. He finally found it and held it up to the light, smiling slightly.

~Niichan, if you go off and have adventures when you
become a seishi, will you take me with you?~

He held the dress up in front of him, looking himself over in a mirror. He stripped off his own clothes and began to put on Kourin's dress, "Of course you'll come with me, Kourin - we're one person! How could I leave you behind?"

He slowly unpinned his hair and watched it fall from the tight bun. He slowly shook it out and began to gather it up into a hairstyle that Kourin had always favored.

~I don't ever want to be apart from you.~

Once his hair was done, Ryuuen pulled out Kourin's meager supply of makeup and applied some to his face, "We'll never be apart, Kourin - never again."

He sat back and looked in the mirror, slowly turning his head from side to side, "Look, Kourin! I'm you! I'm you..." For the next few minutes, Ryuuen practiced speaking, slightly raising the pitch of his voice and adopting the feminine form of the word "I", "atashi". When he felt ready to face the world, he stood up, carefully folded his hands into his sleeves and walked out of Kourin's closet.

Once he walked into the room, he looked about at Kourin's things - his things, now. He made her bed and straightened her school books. He heard a commotion in the hall and his mother rushed into the room. He raised an eyebrow, and in his new voice, asked, "Okaa-san? Can I help you?" He felt a moment of pride when he realized how like Kourin he sounded.

Her mouth dropped open and she stuttered, "K-K-Kourin???"

He tilted his head and smiled, heart soaring - he had fooled his own mother. He lightly fingered the quilt on his bed and turned his head to look out the window. It was then that his mother understood. She grabbed his chin and forced his head around. Inwardly, Ryuuen swore - he'd forgotten about that little mole right under his left eye! Unfortunately for him, his mother hadn't.

She slapped him. He stared up at her, his eyes full of tears. She was crying, herself, "Ryuuen! What are you doing? Do you want to shame our whole family??"

Ryuuen hung his head in confusion, "I'm not Ryuuen - he's dead. Don't you remember, Okaa-san? He died in a carriage accident a few days ago. I'm Kourin! You told me to get ready for Niichan's funeral, so I did! What's wrong with that?"

His mother rushed from the room, crying the whole time. Ryuuen spent another moment looking about the room, then carefully loaded up the trunk with Kourin's clothes and carried it downstairs, I'm a Suzaku Seishi. I, Kourin, am Nuriko. I'll be able to find a place to stay that's away from here. Maybe I'll stay in a court and learn to become a Lady. Kourin would like that...

His parents and his brother tried to stop him from leaving. They told him he wasn't feeling well, and that he needed help, needed to forget Kourin. He turned an icy gaze on them all, "You tell me to forget. I can't forget, I can't ever forget. Since you seem so determined to push away your daughter's cries for help... I'll just leave. You don't want me here, and you don't need me here. Maybe we'll meet again, someday. Sayonara, otou-san, okaa-san, aniki. Sayonara." With those last words, Ryuuen turned his back on his family and his life. As far as he was concerned, Cho Ryuuen was dead. But Kourin, Kourin would live on.

~Wo ai ni, niichan!~
"Wo ai ni, imouto-chan..."

C&C? Always welcome... so long as it's constructive. ^_^