Disclaimer: Fushigi Yuugi belongs to Watase.Y & the respective companies.
Scroll 9 - Byakko no miko – Rozsa （第九章：ロサ）
Across the desert plains of barren
Roamed a lost soul
The zeal of Calamity in her has crumbled
The last spark of Animosity had passed away
By foot, she goes to a destination unknown
Gazing in the vast empty space
Oblivious to heat of the sun, the chill of the night
Locked in the solitude of her own prison mind
"So, it is true," Subaru watched the dusty shriveled woman roaming in endless twists and turns. "Lita has lost her mind. So, it was worth coming back here after all."
"Yes and no," Tokaki halfheartedly answered. "I could kill Lita if I have the chance."
"Her name is Li… Karasuki," Kazuko repeated for a thousand times, "And she needs our help."
"Help?" Tokaki gloated, "She's better off where she is right now."
"Karasuki, Lita, whatever," Tokaki interrupted. "This is the same demoness who killed my family, Subaru's, Amefuri's and Tatara's. Not to mention, she tried to kill you and us many times. Therefore, give me one damn good reason why we should help her."
"Isn't the reason obvious?" Kokie said, "Without Lita… I mean, Karasuki. We can't summon Byakko. Without Byakko, Kage Kemono will remain undefeated."
"Humph!" Amefuri grunted. "I say we tied her up and go to Mt. Taikyoku as soon as possible. Anyway, Tatara is already there. Don't you want to see him, Kazuko?"
"Yes, I do," Kazuko swallowed to keep herself steady. "But first, Lita… Karasuki has to agreed to come with us on her own freewill."
"Look at her," Tokaki sighed in frustration. "Does Lita… Karasuki, want to come with us? Hell! We can't even call her Karasuki properly. She's still Kage Kemono's Lita, Kazuko."
"Still, we have to try, we got to try," She pleadingly at the reluctant seishis.
"I don't know, Kazuko," Amefuri shrugged his shoulders. "Every time I look at her, I feel taking out my dagger, stab her heart or spill her guts out." Shielding his eyes with his hood. "And the motivation will get stronger if we stay longer in this heat."
"Why not you guys return to the tents and stay there?" Toroki suggested. "Kazuko and I will watch over her. If anything happen, we'll just holler."
Tokaki bluntly nodded his head and left. Subaru silently followed. Amefuri let out a deep sigh and walked away. Kokie handed Toroki some water sacks and went after them. Toroki smiled slightly and gave Kazuko an encouraging pat on the head. Glancing at Karasuki, she knew that they had a long way to go before they could summon Byakko.
And this worried her.
Master Kagemono, the leader of the Kage Kemono, sat on his cold stone throne this tiny skulls laced spear and a globe sealed with a hawk's claw on the other. As always, Lady of the Harp sat by his feet was a white-cloaked woman, her face concealed by its cape. In her hands, she held out a harp made from the finger bones.
With his face still down, the purple-caped stranger reported the latest incidents of the Byakko miko and her seishis. Master Kagemono said nothing as he tapped his fingers menacingly on the crystal globe. When the purple-caped stranger finished, Lady of the Harp strummed the strings. The hollow bone structure of the harp gave a mournful cry and her ghastly pale lips parted to speak
"As foreseen by the Guardian Byakko, Lita has become Karasuki, destined to strength the Miko, Kazuko through times of peril. Lost she is now and soon will find her way."
"The Lady of the Harp has spoken," Master Kemono stood up. "Arise, Crimdon. With your army, go to the desert and bury Karasuki in the sands."
"Yes, my Master," Crimdon acknowledged and dematerialized.
"Lady of the Harp," Master Kemono stroked his globe, "What bringing of the Genbu Miko and Suzaku Miko? What hearsays of Amethyst in his task?"
"My Lord, the Genbu Miko and her seishis are approaching the southern borders of Hokkan in search of bandits who claim to have the Necklace of Genbu. The Suzaku Miko's task of finding her seishis is still incomplete. Whereas Amethyst…" her mouth curled. "Has much to learn in dealing with the Seiryuu Miko."
"Nevertheless, this creature has the brains of an insect," Waving his hands over the globe. "Now, what amusement should I put upon the Byakko miko and her seishis? Sairou cease to be their homeland. Yes, let Sairou vanished from their eyes forever!"
Lady of the Harp played and sang. Her voice stirred up ominous mists around the crystal rims of the hawk's claw. Voiceless shadows moved back and forth harmoniously to her song, lifting it up to the surroundings and beyond, stretching deep into the horizons.
Out in the opened air, Kazuko and her seishis instantly heard the dreadful song. Their faces turned towards the faint green lands of Sairou, for a chill had slipped through them, hollowing out their body and leaving them empty and frozen. Watching in fearful silence, long shadows drew together and took shape. Towering, the shadow spread its robed arms loosely upon the land as it lifted its hooded head at the miko (maiden), two thin lines of red fire glimmered from within. A laughter, low and evil, thundered in the dark skies.
"Hark thee, Byakko Miko
Providence's blessings you have
Gather the seven you have
Acquire the mirror you have
Thus, Sairou serves her purpose.
Under the shadows, she stays
Away from the sun, she will
Neither will Miko nor her seishis
Set foot upon her soils ever more!"
"You dirty bastard!" yelled Toroki, shaking her fist, at the shadow. "Kazuko, use the mirror! Let's show it what we can do."
"I can't!" Kazuko stunned at the Mirror's stillness. "I don't feel its presence."
To try a power unknown
Given to you without the lessons"
"Shut the hell up!" Toroki continued to yell against the shadow's mocking laughter. "Shut up!"
"Toroki!" cried Kokie, running up towards her. The others were running behind him. "We can't defeat it with words. To win it, we must join our power…" Spinning around, he asked, "Where's Karasuki?"
Standing in the shattered piles of charred bodies and puddles of blood, stood a little girl. Her red hair was flapping in the dusty wind like hell's fire. Mixed emotions burned viciously in her green eyes as she took in gulps of air. Her jade black armour was stained with scarlet blood that dripped down slowly, glistening in the light. Her rescuer, Master Kemono, stood in front of her, smiled and parted his night black lips.
"Are you afraid of me, child?" He spoke for the first time, so seductive and charming.
"No." She said against the dryness of her throat.
"Are you afraid of them?" Pointing his spear at the corpses.
"No, I hate them!"
"Yes and you have every right to hate them. From now on, I shall be your father, mother and mentor. I shall teach you in the ways of magic and the sword. I shall teach you to be strong." He opened his arms. "Come with me."
The child went into his arms and he whisked her away into a place, one where dark solitude and emptiness existed. Master Kemono cared for her as he said he would and taught her many things. Training her in mind and body, molding her to merciless and brutal, keeping Anger and Hatred for the Byakko believers burning and alive in her heart. To the child, Master Kemono was the Navigator of her life, the Keeper of her yearnings in righting the wrongs she suffered. In time, Master Kemono named her Lita and she had kept that name ever since.
Now, the girl, almost grown, stared at her palm; still seeing ruby blood stains on it and smelling the foul stench of it. She couldn't bear either one of them. Then, she heard ghastly voices echoing all around her, wailing and screaming her name. Pale glimpses of vaporous figures merged out of the sandy surface, faces drawn and haggard, mouths twisted in agony. Together, they harshly cried out.
Lita… Lita... Lita…
Murderess… Demoness… Witch…
Taboo Child… Pagan… Hell spawn…
"Go away!" she curled herself, pressing her ears, desperate to shut out the horrendous voices. "You are all dead. This is an illusion."
Lita the Hell witch…
Lita the Demoness…
Lita the Murderess…
"No!" Screaming into the rough sands, "I'm not Lita!"
"Then, are you confessing to be Karasuki?" questioned another voice, husky and commanding. She looked up and saw high lengthy man cloaked in purple, with golden hair poking out from it folds. The man removed his veil, revealing a clean shaved face, hard yet humane. Coffee eyes studied at the lost girl rather sympathetically.
"At least, you remember me," Crimdon bend down and held Karasuki's chin up. "Lita… or should I address you as Karasuki? Who shall you be?"
"I don't know…" Her lips quivered. "I don't know who I am."
"Shameful, isn't? Even little insects know their own names."
"Master Kemono wants me dead, doesn't he?"
"He wants Karasuki dead, if there is such a person," Crimdon stood up, glancing at the dark shadow hovering over the far lands of Sairou. "Doesn't matter to me, lost one." Noticing a gigantic rolling wave of wind and sand approaching them. "You have company coming. The task still stands, lost one. Choose one side or be torn apart between both."
Within his cloak, he dematerialised, leaving the lost girl to herself.
Ensnared in spinning swirls of the sandstorm, Kazuko and her seishis trod on, shielding themselves. They had no idea where they were or heading. Beneath the weak chi barrier that Toroki and Kokie created, Kazuko prayed for some miracle. Forcefully, they covered themselves with the tent cloths and stayed till the sandstorm died down. Buried under tons of sand, they crawled their ways out, gulping in the air as soon as they reached the surface. As all feared, they were in the middle of a barren nowhere.
Still, they plucked up their remaining strength and walked on. Then, Tokaki spot a hunting eagle scouting the land. Ahead of them, was a camp, a sight for sore eyes! For these desert people were known as Rozsa, gypsies skilled in trading and hunting. Though crafty and money-minded, it was never in their nature not to help weary travellers. With welcoming arms, they invited the group in, bathe, clothe and fed them. Despite their generous kindness, the group, in silent agreement, introduced themselves with their original names.
At night, the Rozsa gypsies were celebrating a feast for their newfound friends, throughout, they sang songs, dance and told tales of the old & new. Kazuko was fascinated by their fables of their ancestors, the fights they won, the hardships they overcame, the women they fell in love with till one of them, an elder with crooked teeth, sang a song.
I sing of a song sung by my forefathers long ago
From a time long forgotten
Remember in fragments
Like dry leaves blown in the North Wind
I sing of Tsuonie Karasu
Born from his peasant mother
Taught from his priestly father
Youth and strength in his arms
Swiftness in his feet
The Wind is in his raven flowing hair
The Grass shone around him in abundant beauty
Upon him marked an ancient symbol
A star of a mythical beast guardian
Many suns awake and moons sleep
This fair youth grew
Till came a mysterious Maiden
Who came from neither from here nor there
A flower so shy and serene
A soft summer's breeze
As light as silk petals
With her hand, whiter than the clouds
She beckoned him to come with her
To find the stars marked with the same symbol as his
In lights and shadows, the two wander beneath
Crossing lands and sea, they found 6 more
Completing the circle with their love
Together in hand, they summoned the beast guardian
To ask his blessings upon their uniting
Their wish was too great for the guardian to give
And the Maiden had to return to the world she belonged to
In their last moments, they gave their final farewell
In great sorrow, they departed
Many suns and moons pass
Kin and friends lay in their graves
Yet, Tsuonie Karasu still dreamt of her without fail
Upon his very last breath, he said
"If she had wed another man and bear his offspring
And is happy, I will share her joy"
With this, he was laid to rest
In the land of his birth
Friends and all those who have hear this song
Do not let your hearts be sadden
For this is what they say
His soul went to the world of the Maiden
There, they became one
In the falling ivory snow
And his other name
As given by the Maiden herself
"Tatara…" whispered Kazuko. Then, she remembered passage from the Byakko scroll.
Like two breezes
The two will untie again
By beads of the sea
The falling snow brings them together
Now the cycle spins again
Or turn elsewhere?
"The first part was meant for Tokaki and Subaru," Kazuko reflected, "The second part… the falling snow brings them together… there, they became one in the falling ivory snow… Now the cycle spins again…"
"Kazuko," Toroki tapped her on the shoulder, "What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing important," Kazuko looked away, her eyes dampened.
"You miss him, don't you?"
Toroki moved forward and allowed Kazuko to cuddle into her arms. "There now," Patting her head, "All will be well, in its proper time and place."
"Hey, old man," A man spoke. "What's the name of this beast guardian?"
"Byakko, I believe," the elder uttered. "The guardian that the people of Sairou worshipped." Shadows darkened his face. "If the land still exist."
"Ay!" agreed another. "Sairou has fallen in the shadows and bizarre dark creatures have lurking around." Tossing a dry stick into the fire. "Wouldn't recommend going out in the night alone."
"Not to mention the bandits."
"Bandits?" questioned Amefuri. "Here?"
"At the other end, behind the Hokkan-Sairou Plateau. Dangerous barbarians, some say cannibals," the elder spat tobacco juice onto the ground. "Get caught by them and that's the end for you."
"Bandits," Kazuko looked at Toroki. "Could Karasuki be?"
"Karasuki?" The elder frowned at her. "A friend of yours?"
"Yes, we were travelling together but we were separated in the sandstorm."
"Separated, you say," Chewing on his tobacco leaf. "Then, pray hard they didn't capture your friend though the chances are pretty high. I suppose you all are intending to look her, no?" Clucking. "Tomorrow, you best get going. The sooner you find your friend, the better."
Laden with provisions, weapons and horses, the Miko and her seishis travelled through the next day, and the next, following the map the Rozsa gypsies lent to them. None of them volunteered to guide them as they felt they should mind their own business. They all said they were happy to lend a hand to them but there was uneasy atmosphere glooming around them. Kazuko could understand them well enough. The Rozsa gypsies probably knew they were from Sairou and did not wished to be associated in any way. Before she left, the elder, who sang the song of Tsuonie Karasu, handed her a note, which read.
Danger is chosen in the Chosen
Beware of what you choose
"I can't believe I'm doing this," Tokaki muttered under his breath. "Rescuing Lita!"
"You are not the only one doing this," Amefuri grumbled. "We don't even know where she might be or if she's still alive."
"She is," Subaru answered. "I sense her presence."
"Hush!" Kokei pointed at the ground. "Hear something?"
The sand granule rustled and shook, rubbing each other as they sunk lower in the recesses of the underworld where nothing could grew. Hot air burst out of the soil with violent hisses, and whole area began to churn. The seishis quickly rode their horses away as far as possible. Kazuko snatched up the Mirror of Byakko and gripped it tightly. Something was about to happen, something was coming out of the sand and she had no idea on how to stop it.
Then, something monstrous was rising from the depths. With a thunderous surge, it broke free into the daylight, a hulk creature with gigantic claws twisting and groping. Crusted with rocks, its muddy scaly tail propelled itself upward. Stretching to its full height, its head was a spiky mass with two blood red eyes blinking. Thick worm like tentacles slide out from its slimy mouth, with suckers the size of a man's head. Drooling with saliva, the monster towered over them.
"Shit!" Tokaki cursed. "What black magic they have used this time."
"It has come for us," Amefuri's eyes glittered coldly. "And I don't wish to be its next meal."
"Same here," Tokaki looked steadily at the creature. "Seems like we have some similarities."
"This is what we do," Kokie took charge, "Tokaki and Amefuri, you take its right. Nesan (Toroki) and I will take its left. Subaru, see that Kazuko is safe."
"But I…" Kazuko protested.
Kokie didn't seem to hear her. "Let's go!"
The four charged and spilt in two groups, attacking the monster from both sides. Sweeping its massive tail, the monster waved tons of sand, forcing them to jump off their horses and on the ground. The horses were caught trapped in the spinning sand, then, wrapped up in the monster's tentacles as it quickly ate them. The sounds of crushing bones and the horses' shrieking made Kazuko trembled intensely. Swinging its claws, the monster swiped the seishis away, knocking them all over the place. Subaru held Kazuko tightly as she nimbly jumped to a safer place.
Rolling over, Kokie held out his bow. Drawing back the string, he let it slip free. In the midst of flying sand, the arrows sped away to bury deep into the monster's belly. It shuddered, hammered back at the force of the blow. Toroki released her chi energy and sent it, into the area where the arrows had struck, staggering the monster backwards. Yet, the monster steadied itself and with its claw, drew out the embedded arrows and crushed into splinters. Its tentacles lengthened themselves and hailed down at them. Both siblings jumped back, disappearing in an avalanche of sand and dust.
Tokaki, with his teleportation skills, appeared and disappeared, time and time, slicing the tentacles with his spear. In a writhing mass, the tentacle pieces dropped, oozing out foul-smelling lime coloured blood. Enraged, the monster spit out spikes from its grotesque head. Tokaki spin and twirled his spear to defend himself. Amefuri, using the creature's blood, created razor sharp darts, hurling them at the coiling tentacles. The darts pierced the tentacles mercilessly. The monster shrieked sharply and shielded itself with its claws. Rotating, the monster threw out another avalanche of sand upon them. Lifting its claw, the monster flung them down. The ground shook and threw the seishis off their feet.
Kazuko viewed the battle in growing horror. Holding the Mirror, she stretched it out in the direction of the monster. To her immense devastation, the Mirror continued to be a cold and lifeless object in her hands. The shadow's words came back to haunt her.
To try a power unknown
Given to you without the lessons!"
"Subaru," Kazuko panicked. "I can't use the Mirror! It won't response to me!"
"Maybe the Mirror of Byakko is not able to work unless all 7 of us are present," answered Sabaru, trying to find the most logical reason she could think of. "It's definitely a bad time it has chosen. Come, we have to get further away."
The monster once again flung down its massive claws, a white shield of light materialised and blew the monster a few steps away. The blood red eyes glared at the shining light. Toroki gnashed her teeth and the monster continued to pound her barrier shield. Kokie and Amefuri added their chi energy as well to his sister's barrier. Tokaki grasped his spear tightly, waiting for the right moment but the monster poured down sand, dirt and spikes, creating blur shroud to protect itself. He could hear his friends gasping whenever the monster pounded them with its tail or claw, flattening them to the point that they were unable to move everywhere.
"Before it strikes us again," Toroki yelled. "Everyone spread out. I'll stay behind."
"Are you insane?" Amefuri felt his knees weakening. "You'll crush to death."
"Any better ideas?"
"No but if we go, you won't be able to endure and the blood vessels in your arms will burst under such strain. It's no point for you to lose your arms for a creature like this!"
"Hell! Don't try to act cool!"
The monster roared in glee at the sight of its helpless meal. Drawing itself to its full height, it launched forward for the final blow. The seishis either shut their eyes or stare at the face of death. Then, there was an eerie silent broken by a loud roar at the denial of its pleasure.
"TATARA!!!" Kazuko cried, hugging Subaru. "He's here!
"Tatara? Where?" Kokie spin his head around.
"Over there!" Amefuri pointed excitedly.
Enclosing and tightening were bulky vines, coiling themselves around the monster's claws, belly and tail. Tatara was standing a few meters away from its massive figure, white chi energy was emitting from his body, his symbol shining brightly on his left hand. The vines grew constantly, bundling the monster into a mummified object. The monster tossed and turned, trashing its great body all over the place, exposing a small area of its eyes.
"Now! Tokaki!" Tatara signalled. "Finish him while my vines hold on to him."
"Cover me, Toroki," Tokaki replied with renewed strength. Swift and agile, he jumped up and went directly at the creature's head. With his spear, he plunged it down deep into the unprotected eye, into the flesh. Jerking it, the spear went further into the brain. The monster was shaking into the state of collapsing. Yet, it yanked itself into straight position, trying to shaken Tokaki off his balance. However, Tokaki was prepared for this, kept himself steady and landed safety onto the ground.
"Our turn," Toroki grinned. Enlarging her chi energy, together with Kokie and Amefuri, she let out a laser blast that penetrated into the monster's wound, bursting its internal organs to bits. From within, the monster exploded into smithereens. Black dust fell upon the golden sands and vaporised away.
"We won!" rejoiced Amefuri, hugging Kokie and Toroki by surprise. Subaru ran straight into her husband's arms and held him so tightly. Tokaki said nothing but returned his wife's affections. Kazuko ran forward too. Half crying, she embraced Tatara. His arms were warm and comforting.
"You are back," she sobbed. "I miss you so."
"So have I," Tatara answered, fondling her hair gently as he wiped her tears. "I would prefer a smile to tears."
"Gomen (sorry), I was so afraid I lost you," Kazuko weakly smiled. Tatara still looked the same as he always did. Silver moonlight hair, grey eyes, fair and gentle as he was. The royalty appearance seemed to fade but he still maintained his charismatic charm.
"Well, that's something we both shared."
"Tatara!" Amefuri hollered. "When did you come back, you moron!"
"Yeah," agreed Tokaki. "What a timing you chose to return!"
"Next time, come earlier!" Toroki teased. Kokei playfully nodded.
"Sorry," Tatara apologized. "Taiitsukun insisted that I remain at Mt. Taikyou till my wounds are healed. Nyan-Nyan was the one who kept me informed about your whereabouts. Her latest news was you were travelling in the desert, towards the Hokkan-Sairou plateau."
"Yes, we are going in search for the bandits. We believed that Karasuki might be captured by them." Kazuko answered. An unspoken resentment filled Tatara's eyes.
"To get the last Seishi, huh?" He looked up at the sky. "Well, we better get going before the sun sets. From the directions given by Nyan-Nyan, we aren't far away."
"That's correct, Emperor of Sairou," boomed a voice, echoing all around the seishis. "And that's the end of your journey."
Suddenly, merging out from the sands came sinister disfigured trolls, armed with their axes and turtle shell shields. They licked their lips at the smell of human flesh, snarling, they advanced nearer. Quickly, Kazuko was pulled into the rampart of her seishis. She could their chi energy rising immeasurably.
All of them but none was hers.
Rode high above the trolls, a purple-caped stranger approached them. Removing his veil, Crimdon glazed upon the Byakko group. Stroking his golden hair, he said.
"So we meet again, Byakko seishis."
"You!" Tatara shouted. "I recognise you. You are the one who rescued Lita the other time."
"So, it's Lita, isn't it?" Crimdon smirked. "Shouldn't you address her as Karasuki?" In mock laughter, he continued. "Though Lita is a Byakko seishi, you all don't seem to accept her yet. In any case, she doesn't appear to know who she is."
Fixing his coffee eyes on Kazuko, "Byakko no Miko, What do you think?"
"Lita or Karasuki, she's a Byakko seishi whenever you like it or not!"
"Oh?" He amusingly smiled. "Do you accept her because she's a Byakko seishi? Even though she had killed thousands of innocent people, including women and children, will you still welcome her with opened arms? Don't forget she had killed the families of your seishis." Bending forward. "Tell me honestly, Miko. Would you kill her if she isn't a Byakko seishi?"
"Frankly, Miko. The reason you haven't kill her is that you need her powers so that you could use the Mirror of Byakko. It is simply obvious that you are incapable of using the Mirror without the presence of all the 7 seishis. The reason you were able to use it was because you need to unseal Lita's Byakko power that my Master has sealed years ago. Isn't that the truth?"
"No, it isn't like that!"
"Isn't like that?" Crimdon laughed again. "Then, what is it? Let me tell you what's the reality. As soon as you summon Byakko and defeat my Master, Lita is still going to die. That's the only reason you all kept her alive or she still is… ooo... Have I told you? The last time she was seen was some ravenous uncivilised rug rats had captured her… I do wonder how long she will last?"
"What's your game, you talkative twig?" Amefuri yelled.
"Nothing much, just to put in some of my views on this matter," Crimdon clicked his fingers. "I personally have no interest in you but my desert trolls are famished and dying for the taste of human flesh. If you do manage to escape, I shall wait eagerly for your presence and perhaps the Miko may be able to use the Mirror and by the way," He paused. "My name is Crimdon. Lucifdeu Crimdon." Laughing, he dematerialised.
"I sure love to bash his face to a pulp," Amefuri cursed.
"Who wouldn't?" Tatara approved. "I'm counting a hundred trolls."
"Too many for us to handle," Toroki added. "I have enough chi energy to last but most of them were used for that sand monster."
"Same here," Kokie analysed. "Right now, the Mirror is useless."
"I could teleport everyone out…" Tokaki said.
"Too risky," Subaru interrupted. "You could kill yourself in the process."
"So, we are running out of options?" said Tatara, holding Kazuko's hands tightly.
Then, strangely, Toroki sensed incredible chi energy coming somehow not far. Frowning, she looked up. Flying down, came fiery arrows.
"Shields up!" White energy barrier emitted through her, encircling the entire group just in time.
Fiery arrows hailed down onto the trolls, striking down like pins. One by one, they fell while others ran about in total chaos with fires burning upon their backs. Within rapid seconds, 5 russet caped figures charged towards to frantic trolls. With blinding slashes of their weapons, they swiftly sent the trolls to their deaths, their wails rang appallingly and deafening that the seishis were had to cover their ears. Gradually, the wailing died down and the Byakko seishis stared blankly at their unexpected rescuers, who were still holding their weapons.
Then, 2 more russet caped figures rode towards the, one taller and the other smaller in built. Spontaneously, the 5 riders made way for them. The taller one dismounted down from his horse and helped the smaller one dismounted. Kazuko, curious at the familiarity of the small one, walked forward.
Likewise, the small one, slightly taller than Kazuko, walked towards her. Tailing her, was a small cat-like creature. When the two were no more than a foot from each other, they stopped.
Then, the small one removed the hood, revealing a young girl, roughly the same age as Kazuko. She had cropped caramel hair, pointed face, and turquoise eyes clouded with a tint of sadness. Apart from the russet cloak, the girl was dressed in huntsmen clothes, armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows slung across her back. Kazuko gaped at her for a long time.
"Hello, Kazuko Somekawa. Don't you recognise me?" asked the girl in a rather tomboyish way, grinning.
"Oh my stars," Kazuko exclaimed. "Yumi!"
To be continued: Book 2 – Genbu no miko （第二巻: 玄武の巫女）Yumi Kunoda (弓美濃田) arrived at the land of Hokan only to learn that the most of the population had died from a mysterious plague and the remaining survivors were living at the city known as the 'Prison City'. Though Taiitsukun had told her that she would find the 7 Genbu seishis in the Prison City, Yumi had to unravel dark untold secrets of the Genbu monastery and pieced them bit-by-bit to identify them with time running against her. For without the Genbu seishis, she could never leave the Prison City alive…
To see the map of Sairou, go to: http://ayakreuz.tripod.com/fybyakkomap.htm