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 except for my own enjoyment in spending time with them.

Musical Selection: "Fallen Embers" by Enya from the CD "A Day Without Rain", copyright 2000, Warner Music UK, Ltd.

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EPILOGUE. Once, as my heart remembers... (Tasuki, Miaka)

The Imperial palace stood dark and quiet, its corridors lit intermittently by the faint glow of oil lamps. A figure walked quietly through the darkness, pausing every so often to stare out across the courtyard and look up into the moonlit sky. His progress was slow and uncertain, as if he were unsure of where he was going or what he was doing. The flames of the lamps barely flickered at his gentle approach, their dim light reflecting faintly in the brilliant flames of his hair.

His amber eyes searched the sky, seeking the mystical moment that had flared briefly in his heart hours ago--that feeling of oneness with all his fellow seishi and miko. He scanned the skies again for some trace of the tiny, sparkling comet that had left in its wake feelings of comfort and peace and hope--but it was gone, vanished into the darkness, its magic as ephemeral as a dream. And he was lost again, restless, his heart dimly seeking, waiting, yearning…

He looked up, suddenly realizing that his slow progress had brought him nearly to her door--but why? There was that moment earlier this evening, down by the pond, but he couldn't remember exactly what had happened, let alone analyze why. That strange yearning again, a yearning that seemed to be directed towards her, a yearning that she seemed to share--but that wasn't right, was it? Why would she yearn towards him? She had Tamahome; hell, Tamahome was her whole world, as she had made abundantly clear time and time again. No, the yearning in her eyes was only his stupid mind playing tricks on him. It was only his own pointless dream.

****

She woke with a start, her heart pounding in her chest. She reached out into the darkness, fumbling for her last book of matches, striking a precious match to light the lamp beside her bed. She glanced at her watch, noting that she had only been asleep for about an hour. So it hadn't been that long, then; not long since that moment in the moonlight, that moment she couldn't explain…

She walked to her bath chamber to splash cold water on her face and returned to her bed, sitting up against the pillows and pondering the last two days. She still felt traces of the melancholy that had gripped her ever since their return from Mount Taikyoku. The training for the Shinzaho mission must have been rigorous and stressful to have the effect of suppressing her normal optimism. Of course, Taiitsukun's warning to her to keep distance between herself and Tamahome did nothing to lift her spirits. Tamahome, however, had taken the news well ever since he realized the reason behind her rejection of his marriage proposal. He had assured her that he was willing to wait, and he was confident that he would make her "the happiest bride ever!" These words should have filled her with joy; they did fill her with joy! So why this strange nagging feeling of regret tinged with grief?

What had Taiitsukun done to them during their session on Mount Taikyoku? All of the seishi seemed subdued, saddened after their return last night. She had seen tears standing in Nuriko's violet eyes today, while Hotohori and Chiriko had kept to themselves. Of them all, Tamahome had seemed the most normal, but she had caught him more than once staring off into the distance with a faraway look in his eyes. Chichiri and Mitsukake radiated quiet concern, although Chichiri had disappeared in the afternoon, not returning until long after nightfall.

And Tasuki… Suddenly she felt something inside her clench at the thought of her fifth seishi. He had participated in some horsing around with Tamahome and Nuriko, even provoking their ire a few times, but there seemed to be something half-hearted in his efforts. She was accustomed to his optimism and enthusiasm matching or outstripping hers, but that hadn't been the case today. Nuriko was right--when Tasuki grew quiet, everything around the Suzaku seishi seemed quiet.

****

Standing outside her chamber, he saw a light appear, shining in a thin line under her door. So she was awake, too. A strange urge gripped him: an urge to knock on her door, beg entry, sit beside her, and…cry. Sob out all his pain and confusion, weep buckets over his inexplicable sense of loss, storm and rail in her sympathetic presence over the unfairness of fate in doing…what?

"Yeah, Genrou," he breathed to himself. "Really build up her confidence in your ability to protect her. Yeah, you crying like a baby would really make her feel secure in your care! She'd be real happy to count you as one of her celestial warriors if you did that--dumbass!"

****

As if drawn by a mystical force, her eyes turned to the photograph that rested on her bedside table: the photo that had been mysteriously waiting for her upon her return last night. She looked at the picture of her seven seishi lying in a circle on the ground, each one apparently relaxed and happy in the grass. She must have taken this picture sometime over those forgotten eleven days, so in spite of their shared melancholia, she and her seishi must have had some good times as they traveled back and forth between the palace and Mount Taikyoku. The photo was hard evidence of that fact. Why, then, did she feel regret and sorrow when she gazed at it, as if she were looking at some fast-fading happy dream, a dream that was slipping from her grasp?

Her eyes turned to those of her first seishi and true love: Tamahome, smiling a warm, loving smile at her. But her gaze kept shifting from his midnight hair to the bright, fiery hair beside him. Tasuki again. With that look in his eyes. Half-serious, half-smiling, his eyes locking with hers, seeming to promise...something.

She gasped as her dream rushed back into her mind, the dream that had awoken her just scant minutes ago. She closed her eyes as the images caught her in their grasp once again, images as disturbingly vivid and real as the room around her.

She felt strong arms surrounding her, cradling her in a grip both passionate and tender. She turned her face towards her lover, expecting to meet grey eyes, only to encounter the fiery gaze of amber eyes alight with desire. That desire ignited an answering conflagration of passion within her. In her dream, she was bold and uninhibited as she pushed him back, tasting the sweetness of his lips before moving down to kiss the slight hollow at the base of his throat. She nipped at him lightly, inhaling the fragrant sandalwood scent of his skin.

He moaned softly as she moved her hands lightly over the long, lean lines of his body, caressing him, exciting him, holding him strong and hard in her grasp. His eyes turned to meet hers, cloudy with passion and soft with love. Once again, she felt the warm satin of his skin beneath her fingertips, felt the pulse in his throat beat rapidly against her lips, felt herself shiver in delight as his long fingers gently stroked and caressed her in return. She looked up to see a flush spread across the bridge of his distinctive nose as he gasped and trembled in her embrace, his hands tangling in her thick cascade of hair. She drank in the intoxicating rush of power that filled her as he surrendered to her, feeling overwhelmed with tenderness as he gave himself to her…

Her eyes snapped open, and she stared once again at the photo in her hand, unaware of the look of wonder that had stolen over her now flushed features.

"Miaka no baka!" she whispered. "What on earth are you dreaming about?"

How could she possibly know these things about him: the look in his eyes, the taste and scent and…feel of him?

"Stop right there!!" she scolded herself. This wasn't her--and it wasn't him! He wasn't the type to surrender to a girl; if anything, she could picture him pushing her back, seizing her lips as he pulled her body into his…

"Stop this!" she hissed at herself, dropping the photo back onto the table. "I love Tamahome! Tamahome is the one I desire!"

She grew angry with herself for her subconscious infidelity. Striding into her bathroom, she once again splashed cold water onto her face, trying to cool her flushed cheeks and slow her racing heart.

****

Suddenly, out of nowhere, his nose tickled, and he sneezed.

"Someone's thinkin' about me," he grumbled.

Maybe her? His heart beat faster with hope but subsided in the face of reason. "Nahhhh…get real, Genrou! Why the fuck would she spend a moment's thought on you?"

****

Miaka looked up as she re-entered her bedchamber, thinking that she heard a soft sneeze outside her door. Could it be him? But why? What would he be doing standing outside her door? Even if it was him, did she really want to open that door? What would she do? Invite him in, beg him to stay, start crying over this inexplicable feeling of loss that haunted her?

He would hate that; he always scowled when he saw her crying, her useless tears reinforcing his contempt for girls. But maybe…maybe he would hold her, and she could lean her head against his chest, surreptitiously inhaling his scent, checking to see if he really did smell of sandalwood...

"What is wrong with you?" she demanded of herself, shocked at her thoughts. She quickly got back into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin.

****

He stood in front of her door for a moment longer. Lifting his hand to knock, he paused as a thought came to him. What if she wasn't alone? What if Tamahome was there with her? He nearly gasped at the pain that suddenly lanced through him, not understanding the intensity of his feelings.

"Yeah, Genrou," he sighed to himself once more. "What are ya gonna say to them? 'Sorry to interrupt, guys, but, uh, do ya wanna play cards or somethin'?' You're a fuckin' genius, Genrou."

Shaking his head, he turned and continued on his way back to his own chambers, his footsteps slow, almost reluctant as he left her behind.

****

She suddenly turned her face into her pillow and began weeping, feeling once more as if she had just lost something.

****

He slowly opened the door to his chamber, his heart quickening at the thought of what awaited him there. He both anticipated and dreaded what he was about to see--and there it was. Still there, still waiting silently for him, its blue button eyes seeming to mock him with its incongruous presence in his room. It had been there last night when he'd returned from Mount Taikyoku, his heart raw and aching from whatever trials that babaa had put them through. He'd been fighting feelings of anguish and loss, and for some reason, the sight of Miaka's bear-doll in his room had been the last straw.

He had fallen to his knees before the strange object, not understanding what it was doing in his room but somehow overcome by its presence there. He pulled it close and inhaled the alien scent of its soft fur… and the floodgates had opened. He'd wept uncontrollably, the sobs racking his body, his breath coming in harsh gasps. He didn't understand it--he only knew that his heart was breaking, and he feared for his sanity, because his heart was shattering, and he didn't know why, he didn't know why!

All he could think was that he hadn't cried so hard since he was a child, a little boy of four or five, terrified when his sisters, laughing, had taken turns holding him under water for fun, forever instilling in him a fear of putting his head underwater--a fear of water that would keep him from learning how to swim. And the child had cried, not only because he was afraid that they might kill him out of carelessness, but because he finally understood that he would never be part of them. Their casual cruelty told him that he would never really belong with them, never be a part of their family--that he would forever be alone.

For some reason, this doll brought back that feeling of loss, of being forced back into his solitary existence. At the same time, the bear had brought strange comfort to him: vague, unformed memories of someone caring for him, someone loving him. He hadn't understood it--he'd just clutched the bear to his chest as he cried, exhausting his tears until he heaved with dry sobs, sleep finally mercifully overtaking him in the midst of his unexplained grief.

Even tonight, the tears started in his eyes at the sight of the bear, but he didn't want to go through that again. So he averted his eyes as he walked past to his bath chamber, to splash water into his face and change into his sleep clothes. He closed the door to his bath chamber, deliberately placing a solid barrier between himself and the bear.

****

She finally regained control of herself, wiping her tears and pushing her hair out of her eyes. For the third time, she went to her bath chamber, splashing water into her face over and over until her agitation cooled, and she once again felt like herself. Her sanity returned, her breaths slowing until they were calm and steady. Finally, she remembered the role she had to play in this world, and most importantly, her all-consuming love for Tamahome. He was handsome, heroic, tender and loving--and he was her entire world.

She returned to her bedchamber, her steps strong and resolute. Reaching out to snuff the lamp, she caught sight of the photo which still lay on her bedside table. She picked it up, her eyes once more meeting the gaze of her fifth seishi--and she set her jaw.

"You're my friend," she informed him firmly. "Just a good friend--and that's all you'll ever be."

Satisfied with her behavior at last, she turned the photo over and tucked it against the back cover of her school textbook. She closed the book and placed it in the bottom drawer of the wardrobe, where it would remain until they returned with the Shinzaho and summoned Suzaku. Returning to the warmth of her bed, she blew out the lamp and pulled the covers to her chin, finally drifting off into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

****

He emerged from his bath chamber, clad only in his sleep trousers, shaking the last droplets of water from his long bangs. He pulled on his sleep shirt...then stopped to look once more at the unexpected guest in his bed. Tapping his fingers against his chin, he frowned as he tried to figure out how Miaka's bear had gotten into his room. Perhaps he'd kidnapped it as a joke or something. Well, the joke would be on him if Tamahome ever found out that he'd been sleeping with the bear. In any case, they were getting ready to depart to seek the Shinzaho, and Miaka would probably want the bear back so that she could carry it around in her pack, as she had during their earlier travels together. He would have to return it to her--and it would be best if he just snuck it back into her room without her knowledge. That would be an easy task for him, giving him a chance to brush up on his bandit skills.

Tasuki reached out and lifted the bear to his face, once more inhaling the scent of alien material that was not cotton nor wool nor silk. That scent reminded him of Miaka and the otherwordly items she often carried with her. Suddenly, his heart contracted with the same inexplicable grief that had haunted him since their return from Mount Taikyoku. Fighting the tears rising in his eyes, he swallowed the lump in his throat. He snuffed out his lamp, still clutching the bear in one hand.

He climbed into bed, hesitating as he realized that the bear remained in his grip. Should he just toss it across the room, retrieving it in the morning to return to Miaka's chambers? He hesitated one moment more...then quickly pulled the bear into his chest, tucking its head under his chin.

"Just one last night," he whispered to himself. "It can't hurt...for just one last night."

He closed his eyes, wiping impatiently at the tears that escaped him, and finally drifted off into a quiet, dreamless sleep, the bear still resting against his heart.

Fin

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Author's note: Oyasumi nasai, Gen-chan. Jinkei, mataauhimade. Sainara.

(1-7-04) Today marks my two-year anniversary as a fanfiction author, as well as the two-year anniversary of the debut of White Stones in the Moonlight. It's a bittersweet experience, posting this Epilogue for the second time. The sad part is having to leave this, my first-ever multichapter work of fiction, for good, as well as having had to eliminate the last two chapters, an in-depth analysis of White Stones as it relates to canon Fushigi Yuugi. This elimination was necessary due to policy against chapter-length author notes.

The sweet part, however, is seeing White Stones back on the main page after so long, and gaining a few new fans for this dated work. Thank you to all of my long-time supporters, and thank you to all of the new reviewers - I really appreciate your input!

Here's some information for the "newbies:" The stories I mentioned in the "old" author notes (included below) are all up and running. The sequel to White Stones is called "Hidden Paths on a Cloud-Cast Night," and promises to be even more exciting, complex and action-packed than its predecessor. The White Stones "prequel" featuring Chichiri's early brushes with black magic is entitled "Bridge Over the Abyss" and is also considered a predecessor to "Hidden Paths." The rollicking send-up of White Stones is called "Casting Stones," and it's a giddy, silly ride for those who have had enough of Roku-angst. :P

Finally, for those of you who want to read the two "lost" chapters--the Final Author's Notes and Ananlysis of White Stones--I hope to have them posted within the next two weeks on the following website:

Media Miner .org Featured Fanfics

The link will be posted under my Personal Profile at this site. Thank you once again for making the process of writing and publishing "White Stones in the Moonlight" one of the unforgettable experiences of my life.

Ja ne!

Roku

Old author's note from "the first time around":

(5-9-02) Sighhhhh… so hard to say good-bye. As I said last week, writing this fanfic and communicating with all of you has been one of the great experiences of my life. Thank you for all of your excessively kind and wonderfully lengthy reviews. But it's only a brief good-bye for now, since I plan to rejoin Tasuki and Co. very shortly, once for some giddy fun, and then for a more serious look at Chichiri's earlier years. I'm going to go into more detail about these upcoming fics, but first…

Congratulations to both Bashou-chan and Dimps-chan and Aikido-chan for nailing Chiriko as the one other person who knows the truth about the forgotten eleven days. No, he didn't escape the spell, but remember that he did record all the events in his scrolls. However, he isn't very likely to tell the other seishi, understanding that he'll only cause them pain, not to mention screw up Suzaku's plan. Hopefully, he'll get the chance to talk it over with Chichiri, but they're going to be very busy with the Shinzaho quest, so…who knows? Of course, he will be riding with Chichiri once they split up in Hokkan to find the Shinzaho, so he may get the chance then.

I also have to give credit to Kryssa for guessing Miaka's brother Keisuke, who is the current reader of The Universe of the Four Gods. I totally forgot about him, Kris! And when you think about the Enchantment chapter - Gaaackkkk! Maybe we'll say that he left for a bathroom break during that section… O.o;;; And Mikka, who guessed Tama-neko - yeah, he knows, too, I guess. But if he tries to tell anybody about the initial assault (you know, by doing charades, like when he was trying to let Tamahome know about Nakago's capture of Miaka in Hokkan), Mitsukake's most likely going to drag him off to be fixed!

Next time, I'm going to post some author notes as promised, just so that you understand that I didn't mean the last chapter as some kind of, to paraphrase Nuriko, mind-fuck of all my readers. Here's the thing, though - I'm going to post TWO author's notes instead of one, the first entry to be restricted because of its content. This first entry (I think that it will have the designation of Ch. 24) will be a frank discussion of the inspiration for this story, and as such, it will contain material suitable for only the mature and less-sensitive reader. I'm very serious about this, guys! This section will discuss a couple of NC-17-rated fanfics, plus some thoughts on the role of rape in the FY anime, particularly OVA 2. I will quote from certain scenes, so pleeeeeaassssse, if you think this may offend you, pleeeeaassse skip to the second author's notes (Ch. 25). And as for my under-15 readers, I highly recommend skipping this section! (Roku-chan glares, then sighs…and throws her hands up in the air!)

The second set of author notes will tie in aspects of White Stones to the canon anime, which was the whole intention of this storyline in the first place. For example, Chichiri's explosion of grief at Mitsukake's death, when the two had barely exchanged two words in the whole anime series. Didn't make sense to me at the time, soooo… I MADE it make sense. Stuff like that. PG-13 material.

Finally, the Future Fics section.

First thing up will not be FY-related - it's actually the first fic I ever wrote, being only one chapter in length (yeah, more than 6000 words - you guys know the length of my chapters!) It's an Inuyasha fic, written as a side story to Becky Tailweaver's marvelous Inuyasha epic "The White Dog." She gave me permission to use her characters and to post "Dandelion" (that's the title) as a side story to TWD. She is reallllly a very, VERY nice person, as well as a HUGE talent. So this fic will probably go up the week after next, to feed my junkie need for reviews as I prepare the new FY fics.

The next fic will be a send-up of White Stones in the Moonlight, making fun of plot-holes and pretensions in this story, as well as making fun of me and… perhaps YOU! It will involve the cast of FY trying to stage a production of White Stones in a major theatre, while interacting with a rowdy audience composed of reviewers and my own original creations, Mom and Dad. Actually, I'm their original creation! Expect insanity and bad taste! Oh, and if you, as a reviewer, object to being mentioned in this manner, just drop me a line and I'll be sure to respect your wishes!

The other fic will be more difficult and complex. This is the story of Chichiri's earlier brushes with black magic, and also involves a crossover from Doctor Who. The great majority of you have no idea who The Doctor is, so I'll try to fill you in on this complex and fascinating character. The Doctor is half-human but his other half is from an alien species known as Time Lords. Time Lords are sort of historians of the universe and they frown on interference in historical events… but the Doctor has an insatiable need to meddle! I think you'll like his character - if you liked Chichiri in Chapter 5, Exorcism, part II. The Doctor travels through space and time - he moves through alternate universes the way we move between shops in a mall. So The Universe of the Four Gods wouldn't make him blink at all. As for his character, he's quirky, clever, a real trickster who hides tremendous power under an innocent façade. After I had written Exorcism, I looked at Chichiri and Nuriko and said, "My God, that's the Doctor and Benny!" (his faithful female companion - no, not THAT way). So I thought, since the Doctor's such a big influence on the way I portray my Chichiri, why not have him be an actual influence on Chichiri's character? Well, we'll just have to see how this story turns out… and it's necessary that I get this story well under way, because I REALLY need to flesh out my White Stones Chichiri, since he plays a huge role in…

The White Stones Sequel. No title yet. (Yet Another White Stones?… nahhhhhhhh) This coming fall. Takes place after OVA2 and accepts (nearly) everything from the search for the first Shinzaho through the end of OVA2 as canon. Chichiri, Tamahome, Miaka and… Tasuki. And maybe all the rest, too; I have to let it all percolate through my brain over the summer, but already, scene after scene from this story is starting to play through my head. I have to tell you guys--this story is getting REALLY big and REALLY complex. It may well make White Stones look like a little prologue by the time it's over. Sighhhhhh. I just really have to make you all work, don't I? It's my sadistic streak, I'm afraid.

Well, I'm pretty sure that THIS set of notes was longer than the damn epilogue. So I'll put an end to it, and just tell ya…

Till next time! Ja ne!

Roku