Episode Eight: The Crashing of Waves

"Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body." -Virginia Wolfe, The Waves

~O~

A face full of petals was what I woke up to, draped over a tree branch. Branches were cutting into my arms, poking me uncomfortably. I was most likely going to have a bruise the shape of the branch I was hanging on imprinted into my abdomen.

Red petals were everywhere, my cheek brushing against them. I groaned, and tried to pull myself onto the branch.

"That you up there, kid?" Kurogane's gruff voice floated up.

"Uh-huh…" I moaned in response. There was a trick to pulling oneself onto a branch—a trick I seem to have forgotten. My grip slipped and I dropped through the branches roughly, landing with a very unladylike grunt on my butt.

"Owwww…" I complained, rubbing my back.

A hand offered itself in front of my face, Fai's smile following it as he leaned down. I grasped it uncertainly and allowed him to pull me up and lightly brush petals off my shoulders.

Kurogane was examining the area around us, and looked at me momentarily, "You're almost as bad as the princess, kid."

Ah, the fainting. Right. "It's not like I ask for it to happen," I grumbled, brushing the rest of the branches off my clothing.

"Yeah Kuro-tan! Ri-Ri is sick! You have to remember that!" Fai added from my side. He turned to me and remarked quietly, "You still have some on your back!" He moved to brush them off, but I jumped away the moment his hand made contact with my back. I gave a quiet hiss of pain, cringing at the sensation. It felt like a hot iron was being pressed into the small of my back.

The blonde gave me a questioning look and I chuckled tightly, "I must have hurt my back when I fell!"

He seemed to accept it and joined Kurogane, "We're lost, aren't we? I hope the others are okay…" He remarked, looking over the landscape. Seemingly growing bored with that, he turned to Kurogane, teasing smile at the ready, "You're angry, aren't you!"

"Since the demon wasn't actually a real demon?" I questioned, grasping at my back, "Actually what was it?"

"A tornado!" Fai exclaimed as Kurogane kicked the tree. "That is to say," He turned solemn, "Wasn't that country a bit strange?"

"What?"

Fai continued, "There were a lot of warm climate trees growing in that place, with really large leaves," He was smiling softly, but it was unsettling, "So it was considerably hot there."

"So what?" Kurogane took the bait.

"You have to consider this," I added, "The people living in that place were all light and fluffy. Isn't it strange for residents of the country to be like that? They weren't suited for that climate at all." I trailed off. Not to mention quite terrifying.

"While the others went away I had asked about their history." The way Fai smiled when he was like this gave me the creeps. "And even though they had said that they had always been living there, and that their houses had been destroyed by the tornado, they weren't always there." He continued, "Also, even though Sakura-chan's feather was so close by, Mokona didn't notice it."

I was starting to remember this, "Right," I said slowly, "They had said it fell from the sky..."

He nodded, "And then they just gave it to us, but-"

"If they had just been carrying it around Mokona would have sensed it." I finished. The reality of this was dawning on me. "For it to be that inconsistent…"

"Someone's plan?" Kurogane muttered.

"Perhaps." Fai responded softly while turning back to us. "Even if Sakura-chan could really hear the voice of the tornado, I feel their cute demeanor was quite skillfully deceiving. After all, Mokona changed after we found the feather, right?"

I sucked in a breath, so that whole place…maybe I was afraid of those things for good reason…

"You're not surprised," Fai remarked, turning to Kurogane.

"There have been times I've felt someone has been watching us. Ever since we started this journey, all the time." The ninja replied flatly.

"I just put it off as Yuko." I turned to Kurogane, "I'm not nearly as perceptive as you, but now that I look back on it, something has always been off. But how?"

"A place like the nothingness of the dimensional witch. That place was quite amazing." Fai offered.

The Void.

I tensed. A shadow pulled away from the wall, a smoky figure taking form—shaping into a man. He was old, but his large physique was rather intimidating. His slightly gray hair was slicked back, combining with his monocle to remind me slightly of a hawk. A hawk that was honing in on its prey.

"Why didn't you say anything to Syaoran-kun?" I looked up as Fai turned back to annoying Kurogane. That place…that man…

"Even if I said something, it's no use." The ninja grumbled.

"Ah, Kuro-sama's so nice!"

"Don't decide that on your own," He responded flatly.

Running footsteps. I looked around sharply as men surrounded us.

"Who the hell are you? Underlings of the Yuuka District?"

Oh dear.

"This is a shrine!" Shouted one, "This isn't a place for things from the Yuuka District!" I felt one grab my arm in what felt like a vice. This wasn't happening, my back was screaming, we were in an unknown place, and I'd just been dropped out of a tree. I saw red. Whipping around, I grabbed his arm and twisted sharply. The man screamed as the bone snapped, stumbling away.

I backed away, perturbed, I had just broken his arm…when all he did was grab at me.

They drew swords and I could feel Kurogane's pleasure, "Just remember, you guys drew first, so don't go complaining afterwards." They charged. Okay, now I had reason. My skin charged and my magic ripped towards the men, relishing in the feel of letting the volatile substance out of my body.

A bolt struck the ground, opening a fissure that one of the men fell into and trapped himself between the walls, Another struck the tree, making them men who had hidden behind it jump away in fear.

Soon they were all on the ground around us in moaning heaps.

"That was so cool, Kuron-pyuu! Ri-Ri!" Fai was crying from behind us.

"I didn't see him doing anything…." I muttered and Kurogane twitched beside me. He swung his sword down at the blonde, who promptly caught it in his hands, moving it to and fro.

"You look like an idiot," Kurogane deadpanned.

"I couldn't get in the middle of you two!" Fai chuckled.

I smiled softly; surely, not these people…but then I realized just what we had done while staring at the men scattered around us. Several tried to get up and soon they were rushing us again.

"Stop." I turned

A man came walking towards us through the men, "Souseki-sama!"

"How did they break through the kekkai?!"

"Somehow they got in!"

The men were in an absolute frenzy compared to this supposed "Souseki". He had his long hair tied back, his glasses resting on the edge of his nose with a calm smile on his face. Something about him set me instantly at ease. I relaxed, allowing my charged skin to relax, my back no longer burning.

Fai chuckled, "We didn't break through it. We just landed inside of the kekkai from Mokona's mouth…you'll be confused if I tell you more."

I raised an eyebrow, "I think you confused them telling them just that."

The blonde responded by shrugging slightly.

The man answered with a smile, "No matter what, our men were violent towards you. We are very sorry." He bowed to us while his men exclaimed in shock. One could make the argument that we were quite violent in return…

"It's okay!" Fai answered. He grabbed Kurogane and I by the shoulders, "This guy looks very aggressive!" He turned to me, "And she's so cute, of course you wanted to steal her away!" He grabbed us both again, "How could you not mistreat us?!"

Cute? I'll kill him, I swear I will. I shoved him away, scowling.

"How dare you?!" Kurogane shouted at the "ditzy" blonde who waved him off easily.

Souseki turned towards me, "You are not from Shara Country?"

I scratched my head, "Heh, no. We're travelers…"

The men around us muttered, I caught something along the lines of "suspicious…" "Two men and one woman..? How improper…" I ground my teeth together, even though this Souseki guy may be against violence, his men sure were encouraging me to be rather violent towards them.

"There are two-no, three others!" Fai finished for me.

"That pork bun isn't a person." Kurogane muttered.

"So you have companions? Where are you to meet them?"

I chuckled uneasily, "That's kind of the problem, we don't exactly know where they are…we still have to find them."

"Well I'm sure they're trying to find you as well," I smiled in response, knowing they probably were. Sakura was most likely worried out of her mind. "If that's so you should find a place to rest first," He clapped his hands together, "Why don't you stay here?"

"Boss!"

"You can't let those suspicious people stay here!"

Souseki turned towards his men, still grinning; "We met by fate. How can we call this a shrine if we don't help them out?"

"Wha—!"

"What kind of place is this?" Fai questioned.

"It's a shrine," I answered. I should know well enough.

"A place to worship gods," Kurogane supplied.

"No," Souseki offered, "This is a shrine that protects people, not gods." He continued, "Let's get you cleaned up, shall we?"

~O~

Souseki led us through the shrine, the mood shining brightly on the courtyard as we passed through.

"It's really a beautiful place," Fai said softly, "Not only the buildings, but the air in this place is so fresh."

"This shrine has been protecting this country for a long time," Souseki replied.

"From what?"

The men from before were still trailing behind us and started to speak up in the forceful manner that I had gotten used to.

"From everything! It protects us from enemies, diseases, and other things!"

"The people who protect this shrine are Souseki-sama's family!" One cried proudly.

"Every generation there will be people with great power!"

"Similar to Shinto shrines and Shinto priests." Kurogane offered.

I cocked my head, "Huh?"

He sighed, "People who serve god and protect the shrines."

"So you have those in Japan too?"

"We have shrines, but not priests, instead we have maiden princesses."
"That's who sent Kuro-tan away?" Fai ventured.

"Uh-huh."

"If you don't know about Shara shrines you must be from very far away…" The men were creeping up on us again and I stiffened. I shouldn't have worried; Kurogane silenced them all with a glare as Fai responded with a bright, "That's right!"

I felt a tingling in my neck the same time as Fai looked up again, our eyes met and he nodded imperceptibly.

"Something feels weird." I murmured.

"How come?" Souseki blinked.

"Not only around this place," Fai pointed towards a door ahead of us, "Over there."

I raised an eyebrow as he continued, "Is it a kekkai again? Besides that, there is an even stronger force!"
"Protecting something that's inside? "I offered. Fai nodded again, smiling down at me.

Souseki looked at the three of us, "Your swordsmanship, your spiritual skill, and your intuition…" Souseki gestured to each of us. Spiritual skill? I guess that's what they call magic here. "You are not ordinary travelers, are you?"

He looked down, "Maybe this is also fate." He opened the door Fai had pointed out, I could see seals hanging throughout the room, "Let me explain it to you, the things that are happening now."

We walked through the room to see a large statue of a man sitting in the center. "Let me tell you the story of this statue of Yasha."

Something was off…I watched as blood started to drip down from the statue's scarred eye. I took a step back, eyes wide. What the hell?

"Every fall, when the moon is at its zenith, the statue of Yasha seems to be in pain and he will shed tears of blood." Souseki told us, his calm demeanor never faltering. "This is the time when the Suzuranichiza, who reside in the Yuukaku District, return each year from travelling. The day that they return each year, something happens to the young generation of our tribe."

"Every year starting which year?" Fai questioned softly.

"It was long before I inherited this temple. Form the writing of the founder, my great grandfather, a record already exists that lead him to believe there was a relation between Suzuranichiza and the Yasha's shedding tears of blood. Ever since they started to reside here, odd things have occurred." Souseki looked towards us, "My great grandfather had a theory that it could be related to the guardian of the Suzuranichiza, the Ashura statue."

"Ashura…? Isn't that the god of war?" Kurogane questioned while staring at the statue.

"It is," Souseki answered, "The god of war…and bad luck. Yasha manages the dark and the road to hell. My grandfather believed that Yasha sheds tears of blood to warn us of Ashura's bad luck."

I shivered—the whole thing was too creepy for my tastes.

"Souseki-sama," One of the men called out, "it's time for the ceremony."

"I'm going now." The bespectacled man answered, and turned back towards us, "I believe there must be a reason that travelers such as yourself have come to this shrine at this particular time." He smiled at us, "Before you meet your friends, please stay and rest here." With a parting nod, he left.
"So this statue," I started, "For whatever reason, is giving a warning by crying?"

"I wonder if there is any other reason for that…" Fai murmured, staring at the thing in question.

One of the men from before came into the room, "I'll escort you to your room now."

I nodded quickly, "Thank you." Taking one last look at the crying statue through the closing door, we walked away.

~O~

I stood in the washroom, getting ready to take a bath. I hissed slightly as I pulled off my dress, the fabric sticking to my back. I turned around to look at it in the mirror; I must have cut it on the fall down…

I froze when I saw it, the color of the same symbol being burned into my skin, my back, the skin smoking and charred under his ministrations. The skin around it was tender to the touch, the skin swollen from being burned. What happened to me? I recalled going to the void, but so much of it was fuzzy, like an out of focus lens had been placed over my memories.

There was a knock on the door and I pulled my robe on hurriedly, "Y-yes?" I answered, voice quivering.

"Ri-Ri?" Fai's voice floated through the door, "I found you some towels, we wouldn't want you to catch a cold!"

I nodded, then realizing he couldn't see that, I called out, still trembling, "T-thank you…"

The door opened and the blonde stepped in. Scrambling, I desperately pulled my robe tightly closed.

"Don't you have any shame!" I shrieked, blushing to my roots, "You don't walk into a washroom when there is a lady present!"

Fai laughed, "It was a risk I was willing to take! You aren't mad at me, are you Ri-Ri? Am I making you nervous?"

"Are they really? In no particular order you are travelling with someone who's whole country was killed on their account, they practically gave the order, someone who personally killed a quarter of their population because they were bored, someone who nearly destroyed space-time because of their own selfish desires, and someone who would kill all of you instantly if given the order. "

I blinked slowly, "Yes, I suppose you are." I turned shaking back to the sink. What the hell happened to me?

I felt a soft, warm hand on my shoulder, "Are you alright?" He murmured softly.

I nodded, "Yes, I think so." Lies. Utter lies. I was ready to hyperventilate. The person I was taking comfort in was the source of my uneasiness. How does that work?

"Remember that conversation we had about lying about how we truly feel?" He sounded slightly amused and I found myself giving a chuckle.

"I remember you shrinking from doing things like this." I teased slightly, relaxing under his touch. I turned towards him, making sure that he kept contact with my shoulder. His hand was warm on my skin, the sleeve of my robe slipping off my shoulder. For some reason I always thought his bare touch would be cold, just like him. "Why is that?" I asked softly, keeping my eyes on his.

The air seemed so close, the steam of the bath filling the air, making us seem so much closer to each other than we really were. The last world we were in, Fai had held in his arms and I hadn't felt so close to him as I did now. The things this man did to me…

"You shouldn't worry about me," He responded, equally soft. His other hand stroked my hair and I found myself leaning into his hand, nuzzling it softly.

"You worry about me, "I countered, finally looking into his eyes. He looked troubled, still smiling down at me. "You came in here, knowing something might happen, because you were worried about me."

He shook his head slightly, seemingly absorbed with the strand of my hair he held in his hand, glistening darker in the soft light, "It isn't the same. You shouldn't worry about me."

I raised an eyebrow, "I'll worry about you if I want to."

His smile tilted, "I wouldn't expect anything else from you,"

It was then, with him actually smiling at me with some tenderness, that I realized the situation we were in. My robe was halfway down my arm, leaving me almost exposed. The room full of steam, the distance between us had been downright indecent. I squeaked and pushed him towards the door.

"Out! Out right now Flourite!" He chuckled as I pushed him to the door.

He stopped at the opening, "It's good when you smile, Ri-Ri."

I flushed even more, if that was possible. How could this man, albeit flakey as he was, be as horrible as the man in the Void said? I couldn't believe it.

I take no responsibility for my next actions, it must have been the steam, my being disoriented, or some magic he was working, but in that moment I decided it would be a great idea to place my hands lightly on top of his shoulders and pull myself up. Doing so I lightly brushed my lips over his and dropped down off the balls of my feet.

The both of us stood there in a moment, shock paralyzing at us at the incredibly idiotic, stupid, thing I just did. Then I shoved him out into the hallway and slammed the door shut.

Some things you just don't have to deal with right away.


Soo, super quick update. I'm quite proud of myself, honestly. So...a bit of a filler in the beginning, but we get some plot in at the end ;)

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