An idea I had, after reading Alcestis' fics. The story starts after the end of the battle between Seiryu and Suzaku in the Fushigi Yuugi series; the story diverges from the original series during this battle, when Miaka makes her wishes.
It began with a word, as these things often do. It began in the middle, with a wish, a betrayal, a promise, a loss. It began on the torn asphalt rocks of her world, amidst the clouds and dust cast up in the wake of Seiryuu's summoning and Nakago's demise.
It began with Kaijin.
The echo of Miaka's third and final wish hung on the air. She had uttered it quietly, for Suzaku's ears' alone. The wish was a whisper between them. Miaka had closed her eyes as she said it, so she would not see the expression that crossed the phoenix god's face.
She could have turned back then, and not sealed her last wish at all. That is what she would think, anyway, much later, after sleepless nights and tears and the death of a loved one.
If she had opened her eyes she would have turned back. Would not have said it.
But she kept her eyes closed as Kaijin rolled off her tongue (the word that heralded the beginning of the end, the beginning of sorrow, the end of her old life. Had she known, of course she wouldn't have said it. But she thought she was being clever.)
So she spoke Kaijin with her eyes closed and her mouth open and then, only as the echoes of Kaijin were faded did her eyes open, too.
She saw her world shifting, and that was when fear struck. She saw the phoenix-god's eyes, red, like the heart of the fire, angry and sorrowful and shocked as she hadn't known a god could be shocked. Miaka's heart raced. She wanted to shout she was sorry, wanted to reach out, to touch the god of fire and love and all things pleasant, to cry, to beg forgiveness.
But her whole world was fading. She was spinning, lost in a blind vertigo, the towers and landmarks of her world falling away. She cried out, a thin whimper lost to the blackness. She was drowning, squeezed in a vacuum -
And then it ended, and she on firm ground; she had crashed to earth on the cobbles of a back street in Eiyou, Hong-Nan's capital. She did not know where she was, of course,
The loss of Suzaku's power within her – the sudden hollowness she felt as she crouched on her hands and knees, gasping – it was surely the worst feeling she had ever known.
And she looked up, up into the gray Hong-Nan sky, and she felt herself start to shiver, uncontrolled, violent shudders that seemed to rattle her organs from somewhere deep inside. It was not just the loss of power that terrified her. It was the lack of connection she felt with everyone, everything from her home world.
She was trapped.
A hand touched her arm and she shivered, turned to face the man who stood by her, gasped sharply.
"Do I know you?" he said, and her heart constricted.
Her voice, despite her best efforts, quivered and dipped.
He blinked slowly, eyes clearing, head shaking as though waking from a dream. "Miaka Yuuki," he said, and his voice shook slightly. "I'm glad you're here."
She smiled and kissed him soundly. He would never have to know about the silent tears she shed later, in the privacy of the room he set up for her in his own small house in Eiyou. He would never have to learn of the betrayal that had flashed through Suzaku's eyes as she sealed him, of the horrible, aching loss that still filled her sometimes, when she was drifting off to sleep. Perhaps it would have soothed her conscience to tell him, but she found she could not force the words out. After two months, she stopped trying. Had she loved Tamahome less, it might have been all right, but she was frightened. She could not risk seeing Suzaku's look of betrayal channeled toward her through Tamahome's eyes.
These tears we cry
After Tamahome's death, Miaka walked as though she expected rocks to fall from the sky. In the first week after the incident, she bore a perpetually dazed expression, not quite heartbroken. She simply could not bring herself to believe that that cold thing in the ground by the emperor's palace was Tamahome's body.
She slept for a long time.
When she awoke two months later, everything was gray. Faster than she could follow, they drifted away from her, her seishi. They were not cruel, but their lives were bright, candleflame red against the cold that Hong-Nan had become. And she, devoid of life, could only watch with a numb envy as they set about rebuilding their ravaged world.
She left them, left them because she could no longer endure the forced bright smiles they wore around her (smiles like the ones she had worn once, if she could only recall it). Her day of departure was moist and heavy with rain. The world was in pieces, and she had only a coat, a knife, and a few dried bean cakes.
She scraped her knees on rocks slick with mould. Droplets leapt from the leaf-tips to catch in her hair. She stumbled onwards, away from the city, and Hotohori, and all the others she had left behind. She wanted to die. Her seishi wouldn't let her, of course. They would send a rescue party after her, because she was their burden, their silly little fool.
No rescue came.
The air was silent, blazing with sunlight. She stumbled, half-starving across the high mountains. The bean cakes were long gone. The hilt of the knife chafed into her thigh. Hunger was all around her, driving into her from all sides, lancing, pounding, nauseating hunger. She began to see people, the ghosts of friends she knew were alive, but never the one she wanted to see. She saw Nuriko, Chiriko.
"Where is Tamahome?" she asked. The echo of her voice shivered on the rocks.
They said nothing, but they accused her with her eyes. She ran from them, ran until her ankles gave out, and the cold of the air was transecting her flesh. She pressed her lips against the chill rock, silent and begging for death. Into the frost-bitten earth she sobbed, but no gods remained to hear her weep.
The sun sank low in the sky. As the moon roused itself, so did the shivering thing on the rocks of Hong-Nan. This Miaka had a dry face and dead eyes that blazed in a white face.
"I will not die," it said.
She found an injured squirrel and killed it, hands shaking so hard it was almost her own hands she sliced. She drank its blood with disgust and then with greed because it was the only thing sustaining her against death when the god of love had abandoned her. Then she wiped her mouth and walked on.
She came upon a road and then another. She avoided the worst parts of town, for past voyages through the Universe of the Four Gods had dulled her naiveté to manageable levels. She said little to other travelers and they, sensing hidden grief or terrible power, hurried past her without conversation.
She walked, guided by memory.
Bandits caught up to her on the twentieth day, and she fought them with knife and tooth and claw. They took everything she had not lost already, but they couldn't take her pride. She screamed but would not speak. They trapped her and used her but they could not keep her caged for long. When morning came she surprised the man who brought her food and held his own sword to his throat.
"Are we in Kutou?" she said. They were her first words that week.
"Yes," he said.
She hit his head and took his coat and the spare coins he had in his pocket. Her forearm had been sliced in the struggle. She bound it with strips from her underclothes and made it into the forest.
She could not walk the roads, so she kept to the shadows of the trees. A day passed.
She was weak, very weak. The pallid light brought forth her ribs, and her lips cracked and bled.
"Tamahome," was a word she murmured in her fevered sleep, the sleep in which she tossed back and forth on the hard ground of Kutou. She pulled her bandage off and saw streaks of red up her arm.
She was finally dying.
She stared up at the glacier-blue eyes that were surely still part of her dream. She saw Nakago's gold hair whisper in the wind as he looked down to make sure that the chi he had felt was truly hers, not illusion.
"Ironic," he said, pulling the coat back to stare at her arm, "how the priestess of the phoenix cannot keep death at bay."
She whispered two words.
"I will not kill you, Suzaku no Miko," he said, standing back, looking down from very far away.
Her plea turned insistent.
"Beg as you like," he said, turning her sword blade idly in his palm. "Did you come here alone?"
She bent her head, a glimmer of tears at the edge of her vision. "Please," she said, "I deserve to die."
He looked down slowly, and the glitter of ice in his eyes made her flinch. He knelt, and she struggled to her palms, the pain arcing up her forearm.
"Sleep," he said coldly, and something like a blue haze drifted over her eyes.
i. I like reviews. I don't really care what they say, so you can tell me this is sheer and total crap and I won't be too offended - after all, most of it was written at 3 in the morning.
ii. I'm also rather fond of Nakago, so you will probably see more of him.
iii. I've also already finished this story, so asking me to update may have some effect.