Author Fangirling: Hello, readers! Remember me? From forever ago? It's been a long absence, but I was attacked by a pack of plot bunnies and found myself writing again.
This is going to be another epic, using the majority of the original cast at some point or another. It is AU, but you can assume everything holds true from the original series until changes start at episode 44 of the anime. I have also made use of several elements from the Eikoden OVA (for those who have not seen it, Mayo is not an OC, but was the rather unlikable main character of that OVA-but perhaps her unlikability is why she was so much fun to write). I really liked Eikoden for all of the fanfiction material it introduced, but I found a lot of other elements stupid and just ignored them. As long as you've seen at least the original anime (preferably to the end), then it should not be too hard to follow, but it is worth noting that Boushin-Hotohori's son-was introduced in the first OVAs-and the manga, for that matter.
I dedicate this fic to all the fans who, like me, have thought too long and too hard about Fushigi Yuugi. Expect fairly consistent updates-I'm thinking weekly. Happy reading (and reviewing)! -Appa
The legend said that that a priestess was to come from another world and summon Suzaku with the help of her seven celestial warriors, and that Konan would be saved.
The young emperor Reizeitei—Boushin-could tell there was more to it than he was being told.
He grew up being told about the valor of his father, the previous emperor, who was also the celestial warrior known as Hotohori. He was remembered for being gallant—but he was only that: remembered. As far as Boushin understood, he fell in battle taking a final stand against the Seiryuu warrior Nakago, after which the fighting ended and peace terms were arranged. The terms meant Kutou could occupy Konan as it pleased, and not interfere with its politics so long as additional taxes were paid to Kutou.
That was in the past, and he could only rely on what he was told to try to understand it. The present was clearer: Konan was not quite the flourishing country his father would have remembered, his father's murderer was now the emperor of an occupying country, and Suzaku—the savior of Konan—had never been summoned. Boushin was a child, but smart to figure out that if the legend was true, then something had gone wrong.
His mother and his cabinet of counselors tried to protect him by keeping him ignorant. It was a strange thing to do when he was already seated on the highest throne of power in the country and attending regular meetings to discuss matters of great importance. He had only recently become active in the conversation—or at least comfortable enough to voice any opinions. Regardless of the responsibility they carried together, outside of the chambers and halls where they discussed the country's affairs, the counselors treated him as if they were doting uncles.
Counselor Shu was among the oldest. "Your Highness's profile resembles his so much," he would dab a handkerchief to his wrinkled eyes. "It's so beautiful it moves me to tears."
"Please, Counselor Shu, that's not necessary…"
One of Boushin's favorites was Counselor Chou. He was his—as well as his father's—sword play instructor. Though he had grown a jolly gut in his age, he was still too fast for Boushin to best.
"Not bad, Your Highness," he'd smile. "But not quite as fast as your father. You are getting closer."
"I'm not a Suzaku warrior, so I do not have that advantage," smiled Boushin proudly as he wiped away his sweat.
"Enough of this Suzaku business," Counselor Chou's mood soured. "You are fine relying on your own strength." Boushin had already figured out that Counselor Chou was not the right person to go to for questions about the legend of Suzaku.
The youngest of the counselors was Counselor Ou, who had only joined the cabinet three years before, making him rather inexperienced compared to the rest of the veterans—especially considering he had never been posted anywhere else. Though he was usually quiet, the others all favored his opinion when he voiced one, saying that he probably knew best what Boushin's father would have wanted. But how would he know that? Boushin would wonder, somewhat irritated. He would have only been a child when my father was alive.
The other person with the most influence was Boushin's mother, Houki. She was a fair-minded and regal empress, but would not hold back any tenderness for her son. When Boushin wanted to know more about the past, he knew she was the one most likely to tell him.
"Mother," he asked her one night as she stroked his back, settling him off to bed. "If my father was one the legendary warriors, then he must have met the priestess in his lifetime, didn't he?"
"Yes, he did meet her. I met her, too. It was about ten years ago, before you were born."
"You did? Then she was here! What was she like? Why didn't she summon Suzaku?"
"Boushin," her tone fell, "summoning Suzaku was not a simple task. She traveled very far trying to accomplish it, but the war was outside of her power to stop."
"But the war is over. Why couldn't she summon Suzaku after the war? We still need his power to stop these droughts and blights—and get rid of our occupiers so that the tax burden can be lifted!"
"She isn't with us anymore."
"Why? Did she go back to her world?"
"No, my darling. She died."
Boushin felt his stomach sink. "W-Why can't we just have a new priestess? If the other one failed, maybe she was never the priestess of legend at all. Maybe there are new warriors to find!"
"Boushin," she spoke softly and sternly at the same time. "Before your father went to battle, he said that Konan should have relied on its own strength rather than Suzaku's. Suzaku only grants three wishes, but the enduring strength of Konan is found in its people."
That was her way of telling him that was all he would get to know for the time being. Not from her, anyway. That didn't stop him from looking through books to see what was written about the legend, and when he had rare moments to himself, he would visit the shrine of Suzaku, where he would always be alone with his imagination.
Except, to Boushin's surprise, today there was someone else in the shrine.
"Your Highness," said Counselor Ou, who was just as surprised to see him. With a bow, he asked him if there was anything he needed.
"Counselor Ou, what are you doing here?"
"I'm taking care of the shrine. Even while Suzaku is not here, it does not seem right to let it feel that way."
"Of course Suzaku isn't here. He was never summoned."
"That's because he was sealed."
"Sealed? Then can he be unsealed?"
"I don't know."
You don't know anything, Counselor Ou.
Another time, Boushin was in the imperial library looking for whatever records he could find, but the plentitude of seemingly meaningless text made his search difficult. A set of records from the year of his birth looked promising, but they were frustratingly out of reach. Another hand appeared above his, however, and pulled a book down for him. Counselor Ou was at his side and tried to smile, but glanced away when the boy made unsmiling eye contact. "These shelves weren't made for short people."
Boushin didn't appreciate that comment, and immediately said something to be taken seriously. "If there is some possibility of unsealing Suzaku, we must find out what that is!"
"Even if that could be done," the counselor frowned and began to walk away. "It would be impossible to summon Suzaku now."
"How do you know that?" snapped Boushin in a less patient tone than he usually took with his cabinet. "I don't think it's impossible simply because the priestess died!"
"Your Highness, please do not let this matter trouble you."
Boushin held his tongue. It would still be some time before he would have enough influence to shape his cabinet, and still some before he would have enough power to make his own decisions. Emperor or not, he was still a child.
"Hey, Sakaki. Wait up!"
Mayo tensed at the sound of her name. It was another annoying teacher feigning concern for her and trying to look good. Actually, he was the only one, but it was easier to feel irritated than to feel grateful. "What is it, Coach?"
"It didn't seem like you had your head in the game today. Are you feeling alright?"
"I'm fine, just a little tired."
"Oh. Up late studying?"
"No, my parents kept me up."
"Oh," his smile fell. "Arguing?"
"That's difficult," he struggled. "Would it be helpful if I said anything?"
"No, they'll just get mad at me," she turned. "Thanks for your concern, but I'm fine."
"If you say so. You can always come to me if you just want to talk, okay?"
"Alright, Coach. I'll be sharper in the next game," she feigned a smile, hoping that would be enough to make him go away, but he followed her out of the school grounds. "Do you not have work to do tonight?"
"No, I wrapped up early. I've got a get-together with some friends."
"Oh," she said, but somehow it made her angry to think that teachers might have their own lives. As she suspected, their interest in their students' lives was only skin deep. "Have a good time."
"You too, Sakaki. Have a good night."
Sure I will, she mentally retorted.
Keisuke went on to the station, and from there across town, watching his old university out the window, and then watching Yui's university go by before reaching his destination.
"You're late, Keisuke," she groaned at him when he walked out of the station.
"It's not as if you two would mind, I'm sure!"
"Knock it off," Tetsuya jibed, and the three continued on their way. They stopped in front of the public library, which had already closed for the night. The air was frigid and still. As if it were routine, Tetsuya set up a stick of incense in the parking lot, and the three silently watched it burn. Once it was extinguished, they continued on to a casual restaurant and started chatting again.
"It's already been four years," Yui sighed and stared off. "I still feel like I'm in junior high school every time we come back."
"Yeah," agreed Keisuke. Miaka felt further and further away each time they commemorated the anniversary of when she went into the book, and he could only picture her being stuck in junior high school forever. Though he and Tetsuya followed everything as it happened, it was not as if they could tell anyone else what had happened to her. She had been reported missing, and after the police searched in vain, the case was dismissed. Yui, Keisuke, and Tetsuya were the only ones who could confide in each other about the Universe of the Four Gods.
"You still have it, right?" she asked.
"I haven't let it go anywhere," Keisuke answered. "The library isn't going to come looking for it."
"Have you read it at all?" asked Tetsuya.
"Well, not really. Would you?"
"Well, yeah! It makes you wonder what the others are doing! And—oh," he smiled sheepishly and looked over to the girl at his side. "Never mind."
"It's alright. I asked because I was starting to think that I was curious too… but not that much."
"Nakago's still around, probably."
"Nakago," she scoffed and shook her head.
"Do you want me to take a look?"
"No. I don't think I want to know after all."
"Still, the book is about a series of four gods being summoned by four priestesses. At this rate it will never end," Tetsuya sighed. "Do you think maybe things happened out of order? According to the timeline inside the book, it happened every hundred years or so, but you and Miaka were there at the same time. I wonder if you weren't supposed to go until later."
"What, you think I was supposed to be a priestess ten years from now? I get the feeling that once you graduate high school you're not priestess material anymore!"
"What would that imply?"
"Not what you're implying, Keisuke."
"Then I guess that means you've retired."
"Happy to. It'll never leave me, though," she looked down to her plate. "The time has just flown by. High school was a blur, and empty. I'm grateful you two have always been there for me."
"I'm glad we were too," Tetsuya took her hand, and she shot him a fond smile. He and Keisuke had both become her best friends, and thankfully the fact that she and Tetsuya were dating didn't exclude Keisuke much. The thought of love driving friends apart was something that still made her shudder.
Another day, another set of problems to address. Only being a child, it was forgivable if Boushin wasn't listening. He knew he should have taken an interest, but was preoccupied thinking about how much simpler it would be to solve Konan's problems by figuring out how to fulfill the legend. Suzaku was sealed? Was he sealed when the priestess died?
"Your Highness?" Counselor Shu asked.
"Were you listening?"
"Yes… I… trust your opinions on this matter."
The counselors looked to each other with smiles and shrugs. "Perhaps you would like to take a rest, Your Highness. We do not have much to discuss today."
Boushin merely agreed. He wandered to his room, then idly strolled through the garden, his mind awash with everything he knew about the legend. A priestess from another world, seven warriors to serve her, a ceremony, a sealed god…
A sealed god, a dead priestess, and at least one dead warrior who left behind a country at war.
That was where his mind would stop. Frustrated, he crouched down at the water's edge, next to the pavilion on the pond. It was not a regal spot for someone of his status and he risked getting his robes muddy, but he craved a different perspective. While watching the water at that angle, he heard a pair of footsteps approaching the pavilion, and a couple of voices. One belonged to his mother, he was sure of that much.
"He went to the shrine?"
"Yes. He's likely there often."
"Oh my, he's so curious."
"Yes, he is."
"Thank you for keeping the shrine a nice place for him, Chiriko."
Boushin put a hand to his mouth to keep from yelling in shock—he had heard that name before. Very slowly, so as not to make a sound, he peered up over the floor of the pavilion to see who was speaking on the veranda.
Not even an hour later, Boushin approached him.
"Your Highness?" the young man looked to the boy. "May I help you with anything?"
"Counselor Ou," he said in a low voice, gathering his confidence. "I demand that you tell me everything about the Priestess of Suzaku and the Suzaku warriors." Boushin's fist shook with fear that he had said something wrong, as he was usually careful not to. However, even for all the information kept from him, this much he felt sure about. "After all, you're one of them yourself."
Counselor Ou stared at him for a moment, then down to the floor with a frown. "I was."
I was right! "It's not as if you're not one anymore if you were before. Now please, tell me everything."
"Yes, I demand to hear everything!"
"Is something the matter here?" Counselor Shu joined them with a smile, having heard Boushin's rarely raised voice from around the hall.
"Oh, Counselor Shu," the other looked to him with just as light of a smile. "His Highness has found me out."
"Oh, did he? What gave you away?"
"I'm not sure about that myself."
"I don't believe that's important," the young emperor asserted, a bit irritated that this wasn't a surprise to anyone. "The truth makes itself known eventually, and I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to delay it."
"The truth comes in good time, Your Highness," counseled the older man. "We did not want to bother you with something that is of no consequence now."
"That is precisely why I should bother with it now, before Suzaku is completely forgotten!" he began to lose patience. "I understand that you may have been trying to protect me, but I am ready to know what happened. I am ready to fix it for the sake of my people!"
By this time, more of the cabinet had wandered in at the sound, and they looked to each other with mixed expressions. Boushin continued, "Counselor Ou, this is why I am ordering you to—ow!" He was cut off by a shot of pain through his ear, as Houki had come up behind him and pinched him.
"Your Highness, have I not taught you not abuse your power?" she hissed. "Apologize to Counselor Ou."
"Mother! I'm not doing this for my own sake, I'm doing it for Konan!"
"You're only doing it for your own childish curiosity."
"Then you're not going to take him seriously?" said Counselor Ou. The room became silent.
Houki frowned and stepped away from Boushin. "Your counselors and I will discuss this."
"I believe His Highness and I are the only ones concerned," Counselor Ou once again silenced everyone, but only temporarily.
"Chiriko," Houki said firmly, "Come with me."
Boushin waited. The counselors, always on tight nerves when the royal family was upset, made passing comments either telling the boy not to worry or to leave it be, or even offering to tell him other stories. Normally, he would have felt guilty to make his mother angry, but this time he felt strangely satisfied. After all, he was right—there was something he had a right—a responsibility—to know.
Despite this satisfaction, he automatically stood at attention when his mother entered his bedroom. Counselor Ou and a few of the others were behind her. "My son," she said, "Your counselor has something to tell you."
The young counselor didn't look like he had much to say as he stared at the floor. "Your Highness," he did say, "I will take you to find out what happened."
In his boyish excitement, Boushin barely kept from jumping up in glee. "Then let's hurry and go to the shrine! I want to hear everything!"
"No, Boushin," Houki almost broke into a giggle, "You'll be gone much longer than that. You're going to meet the other surviving warriors."
Out of the palace…?
"Of course, I'll be leading your parade of guards," Counselor Chou confidently said, but Counselor Ou quickly shook his head.
"No. Only His Highness may come."
The counselors present instantly broke into a heated argument, and even Houki had to raise her voice to be heard. "I have already decided to allow him to go! There will be no more discussion!"
"But Your Highness, surely you wouldn't risk—"
"I trust him!" she retorted. "And I respect the warriors' secrets. It is an honor meant only for His Highness—for Boushin."
"Mother," he looked to her with wide eyes. "Is there more that you did not know?"
"It sounds that way," she turned her head from the young counselor, who shyly continued to stare at the floor.
"I'm sorry, everyone," he said in a low voice. "It is only because His Highness has so ardently ordered this."
"And," Counselor Shu continued, "because he is the only child of any of the Suzaku warriors."
"That we know of, anyway," added Counselor Chou. "Make sure you inform Master Chichiri and Master Tasuki that they are still welcome here—there is no need for them to be so silent!"
"I will inform them."
"Honestly," the stout one put a hand to his forehead. "We all know it's hopeless now, but there is no need to pretend nothing ever happened. Please allow this His Highness to know the story, and then let's all move on."
In the days that followed, Boushin bubbled with excitement and was especially attentive to his tasks, eager to please everyone. He counted down the days and playfully imagined how exciting life outside the capital would be, and how he would get to see the Suzaku warriors bravely ward off danger. Maybe even quiet Counselor Ou would surprise him with his valiance!
Houki smiled while watching him parry around his room with a pretend sword wielded against imaginary enemies. "I'm pleased to see that you are willing to take care of yourself. You will need to be very aware of your surroundings while you are traveling alone with Chiriko."
"Of course, Mother."
"Boushin," she said sharpened her tone to get his attention. "Assume that you will need to take care of yourself."
At this he stopped. "What do you mean, Mother?"
"We are all very proud of Chiriko and pleased to have him as an imperial official," she tried to force a smile over a frown. "However, he is not quite as capable as he once had the potential to be. Are you surprised?"
"Well," he paused, "No, he never did seem like the most competent official."
"If you didn't mean to call him slow, then what did you mean, Mother?"
Defeated, she sighed. "Chiriko—you can call him that—was only a few years older than you when the priestess came to our country. When his mark appeared, then he was a child prodigy—he passed the first two levels of the kakyo exams before he had even turned twelve!"
"Yes, he did! But his personality changed when his mark disappeared. He wasn't even close to how bright you are. Suzaku was sealed, and with him, the warriors' powers," her gaze sank, but she continued in the same bittersweet tone. "So as not to waste the others' sacrifices, Chiriko continued studying after the war—he had to work as hard as a normal person would to pass the exams. He spent seven years studying before he passed the final level and was allowed to join the imperial officials, and we all took great heart in having him here."
"…Even if he wasn't competent?"
"But you just said he wasn't as bright anymore."
"What I meant is that he is not quite as sharp," she retorted, ignoring that it sounded exactly the same. "That is why you need to look after yourself as well."
"Very well. I won't call attention to myself, I will avoid anyone who looks like trouble, and I won't speak to anyone one I do not know."
She had a wry smile, sarcastically wondering how she managed to survive her own childhood in such a dangerous place. "It is your country, my son, so I hope you can enjoy it. After all, your father did love it," she trailed off, and then looked to the door when a servant appeared, whom she beckoned in. The servant was carrying a long, wrapped item on a tray. Houki carefully picked it up and presented it to Boushin with two hands. "I would like you to take this with you."
The boy had an inkling what it was before unwrapping it, but he was still dazzled when he saw the shine on the red sheath. "This is my father's sword! I've seen it in the shrine of Suzaku!"
"I believe he would like you to have it," she said and felt her eyes tingle on the brink of tears. "He must be so proud of you."
"He would be, you mean."
"No. I'm sure he's always been watching you."
The day to leave soon arrived. Two horses had been prepared and stocked with traveling supplies, and Boushin was given a new outfit—a commoner's outfit, he was told, and while the counselors found it regrettable he should wear it, Boushin hid his excitement about the new and different attire. The bags on the horses looked exciting, too—so many of them! They must be going to very ends of the nation! Maybe even to the rumored Mount Taikyoku he had heard about!
The horses already had a lot to carry, but Boushin was proud to be carrying the sword himself. He had the idea of carrying it inside of sack so that it would be safe from anyone else's eyes, but he was nervous that the amount they carried would draw attention anyway.
Perhaps what really bothered him about the number of bags was how long of a journey they implied. They never had discussed what the length of the journey would be.
Counselor Ou—or Chiriko, as Boushin was trying to get used to calling him—was also dressed in less than his usual fine robes, and mounted his horse first as the cabinet lined up to see the emperor off. Counselor Shu was crying, and others were telling him about customs and habits of the inhabitants of Konan outside the capital.
"Common people are not so mystifying," joined Houki, "Their lifestyle is only different from what you are accustomed to in the palace. Despite the harsh conditions, they have joy."
"Mother, you're here."
"Did you think I would not see you off?" she smiled. Boushin's heart instantly felt heavy. It was the first time he had ever left his mother, and he wasn't sure when he would see her again. Without managing a word, he ran to embrace her and bury his face into her dress. She stroked the back of his head, and then pulled him away to look down to his face. "Go and learn, my darling. Learn about your people and their past, and the country you have inherited. Just promise me you'll come back safely."
Boushin only nodded.