It was a nice day, and the Suzaku group decided a nice picnic was in order. They found a nice shady spot near a river and an abandoned temple.
"When I was younger, my sensei's used to tell me ghost stories about this place," Hotohori remarked as they set up the blankets.
"Ghost stories?" Tamahome asked.
"Yes. In my grandfather's time, a religious group built this place and was using it for worship. But the religion was outlawed in that time, so my grandfather sent soldiers to arrest them. They resisted and were killed fighting the soldiers. Legend says that their angry spirits haunt this place."
Tasuki shivered and grabbed some roasted meat. "That ain't a good story ta tell a man before he eats y'know."
Hotohori smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry. No one has ever actually seen any ghosts, and there's never been an actual report of super natural activity."
"Good!" Miaka said emphatically through a mouthful of rice.
After lunch was finished, Miaka began braiding Nuriko's hair, Hotohori and Mistukake began dozing off and Chichiri was attempting to teach Tasuki how to fish. Tamahome was dozing off too when he noticed Chiriko heading towards the temple.
"Hey, Chiriko, where'ya goin'?" he inquired, jogging after him.
"I wanted to see what the temple was like," The young genius replied.
Tamahome followed after, a little curious himself. They soon found themselves in a great hallway that once had many beautiful tapestries hanging on the walls. Scraps of cloth could still be seen on the hooks.
"You who eat with the emperor," a floaty voice called out, "pay the price for entering here!"
"There!" Miaka said proudly, putting the finishing touch on Nuriko's hair. Nuriko reached up a hand and felt the slightly lumpy braid.
"Hmm, not too shabby, Miaka."
"Hey! It's a perfectly good braid!"
"I never said it wasn't!"
Miaka spied Tamahome and Chiriko returning from the temple. "Tamahome, I did a good job on Nuriko's hair, right?" Tamahome nodded absently as the two headed for Hotohori. Miaka frowned.
Chichiri felt an uneasy presence and dragged Tasuki back towards the main group, frowning. Hotohori stirred sleepily and blinked up at the two as their shadows blocked the warm sunlight.
"Tamahome? Chiriko?" he murmured.
Tamahome raised his hand and suddenly struck straight down at Hotohori. The emperor rolled to the side, jumping up and grabbing for his sword, which he had left a few yards away.
"Yaaahhhhhh!" Tamahome yelled as he and Chiriko rushed after Hotohori.
"Tamahome!" Miaka screamed as Tasuki attacked him with his tessen. While Tamahome was engaged with Tasuki, Nuriko slipped behind him and knocked him senseless. Chichiri used a pressure point on Chiriko and the young boy slipped quickly into unconsciousness.
"Wha-what happened!? Why did they attack us!?" Miaka rambled, staring down at Tamahome with tearful eyes. The others shook their heads disbelievingly as Chichiri began meditating and chanting.
"They've been possessed, no da. We'll have to exorcise the spirits before we can be around them safely."
"And how do we do that?" Nuriko asked, putting his hands on his hips.
"The stories were true after all!" Mitsukake murmured in astonishment as he proceeded to heal Tamahome from Tasuki's attacks.
Chichiri shrugged and answered Nuriko's question. "I don't know, no da. We'll have to do some research."
"Well, what're we gonna do wit' 'em while you do that? They'll wake up soon," Tasuki growled.
"We can put them in the imperial dungeon. Only Nuriko or Chichiri could break out of there," Hotohori replied. The others nodded and began carrying Tamahome and Chiriko back to the palace.
Nuriko dried himself off from his bath with an exhausted sigh and looked out to the garden longingly. "Well, why not? Some fresh air'll do me some good." And the purple-haired senshi strode out in his traveling pants.
He paused at the sound of someone crying and he peeked through the ferns to see who. Miaka was sitting on one of the stone benches, sobbing quietly to herself.
Poor Miaka. It must be hard seeing Tamahome like this, again. I'd better go talk to her, he thought, preparing himself to let his presence be known. Just as he straightened, Hotohori stepped into view and sat down next to Miaka. Nuriko stilled instantly. He didn't want to burst in on the two of them, but...he didn't want to leave the two of them alone either.
The young, slender man hid in the bushes and watched silently.
"Miaka," Hotohori said comfortingly, drawing the girl into a warm embrace. Miaka cried in his arms, until she regained control of her emotions.
"I'm sorry Hotohori. I-I'm just-"
"You're upset. It's all right for you to cry. I'm here, and I always will be," Hotohori replied softly, tilting her head up. "Because I love you," he said before kissing her softly.
Nuriko stiffened in anger and bit down on his braid to keep himself from giving himself away.
When the kiss ended, Hotohori stroked Miaka's hair once, a sad smile on his face; then he stood up and wished her good night before returning to his chambers.
Miaka stared after him, and Nuriko noticed brand new tears forming in the priestess' eyes. She lifted a trembling hand to her lips before rushing off to her room.
What the-? Nuriko thought in concern and followed quickly after.
When he reached her room, he could hear her sobbing anew. He could make out the broken words, "Ta-ma-ho-hom-e, I-I'm so-sorry!"
Anger rushed through Nuriko and he clenched his fist, looking for something he could punch to relieve it. Finding nothing, he began walking resolutely towards Hotohori's chambers.
Upon reaching them, he threw open the door, sending it flying into the koi pond with his tremendous strength.
"Nuriko! What on Earth are you doing?" Hotohori exclaimed in shock.
"Did you know that Miaka's in her room, crying her eyes out because of you!?" Nuriko demanded, pointing angrily behind him.
Hotohori's eyes widened in surprise. "Crying? Why?"
"Because you kissed her you moron!" Nuriko yelled throwing his hands into the air and stomping the floor, denting the marble considerably.
Hotohori's eyes narrowed in anger and he shifted his arm so his sword was accessible. "Be wary of how you speak to your emperor, Nuriko. Just because you are one of the Suzaku Seven does not mean you can insult us."
Nuriko dashed forward and snatched the sword from his belt and tossed it, scabbard and all, into the koi pond to join the door.
"I could care less if you were Suzaku himself! Since Tamahome can't say it right now, I'll say it. Don't kiss Miaka again," he snarled.
Hotohori took a step backward to get out of Nuriko's reach. "You say this out of jealousy," he stammered.
"No!" Nuriko shoved the taller man with a finger, sending him stumbling back onto his bed. "I say this because I care for Miaka! Can't you see that each time you kiss her, you hurt her?"
Hotohori gaped, trying to find something to say. "What?" He said finally.
Nuriko crossed his arms furiously over his bare chest. "Miaka cares for you. A lot. But she loves Tamahome. She's not yours to kiss!"
"But she never told me not to," Hotohori replied, sounding ridiculous, even to himself.
"She shouldn't have to!" Nuriko snapped. "She doesn't want to hurt you, and she doesn't know how to say 'no' without hurting you. So she lets you kiss her, which feels like a betrayal to Tamahome. Then she cries herself to sleep for cheating on the man she loves." He paused to catch his breath and let Hotohori digest it all. The emperor said nothing; he merely gazed stunned, off into space.
"Face it, Hotohori. She loves Tamahome. Why don't you leave her be?"
"And can you not see that I love her? Why don't you leave me be?" Hotohori replied immediately.
Nuriko's heart stopped beating for a long, painful moment before his anger rose once more and sped it up again. "I do leave you be. I don't grab you and kiss you whether you want it or not. Maybe I should, since it seems to be the only thing you understand! Suzaku knows that I'm strong enough to just take you if I wanted to!"
The slender man watched, seething, as Hotohori's eyes grew wide at the implication of the senshi's words.
"Yo-you wouldn't dare!"
Nuriko was too angry to think, and before he knew it, he had grabbed Hotohori's face and kissed him, pressing his lips against the other man's punishingly. Hotohori grunted in protest; Nuriko ignored it and pressed even closer, forcing Hotohori's mouth open with a firm squeeze on the jaw so he could plunder the soft recesses as he had so longed for Hotohori to do to him.
A low groan, his or Hotohori's he couldn't tell, brought Nuriko halfway back to reality. He pulled away and stared at the other senshi as he tried to regain his breath. When he didn't say anything, Hotohori spoke quietly, gold eyes dark with emotion.
"I could have you executed for taking such liberties with my person."
Nuriko blinked, his temper still running fairly high. "Fine. Execute me then. Just leave Miaka and Tama-baby alone," he said, and left.
It wasn't until he reached his quarters that the full impact of what he'd done hit him. Terror washed through his body and he collapsed to the floor as his legs gave out.
I-I kissed him! Oh God's, he'll have me executed for sure! No one can get away with that!
A tear gathered in one, burgundy eye, then fell like snow melt onto his pale, delicate hand. Soon sobs wracked his slim, slender body as Nuriko grieved for his foolish life and his foolish heart.
Hotohori had a very hard time falling asleep that night. His mind kept showing him how Nuriko had looked, half dressed and furious, burgundy eyes glowing with anger, long beautiful hair shining in the lamplight of Hotohori's chamber.
And his lips still felt the ghost of Nuriko's against his, firm, yet supple, not soft and timid like Miaka's; and his mouth would not forget the taste: spicy, salty, and fruity, from the melon salad Nuriko had eaten for desert.
When he finally did fall asleep, Hotohori's dreams were filled with images of Miaka fading away, and he and Nuriko embracing passionatly.
It was late morning when Hotohori awoke, almost noon. His mind still swam with the events of the night before as he prepared himself for the day.
The more he thought about it, the more he realized that Nuriko was right about Miaka. I'm not doing her any favors, wooing her while she and Tamahome love each other. I must talk to her.
His mind made up, Hotohori strode resolutely to Miaka's quarters. He opened the door quietly, in case she was still asleep. Miaka was sitting on her bed, studying her English book, and she looked up at the sound.
"Good morning, Miaka."
"Good morning, Hotohori," she replied, setting her book down. Hotohori could see the wariness in her eyes, and her guarded movements drove the truth home further.
"Miaka, I wish to talk about what took place last night."
"What?" She blinked.
"I must apologize. I should not have kissed you like that."
"Hotohori," she began. He held up his hand and she closed her mouth.
"It was wrong of me to take advantage of Tamahome's current situation. I had not realized how much I was hurting you by doing so. I will not do it again. I want you to tell me if I begin actin g more familiar than you are comfortable with, all right?"
Miaka nodded, a little surprised. "O-okay. Hotohori, what brought this on?"
Hotohori smiled wryly. "Last night I had my eyes opened rather forcibly. I just wished to set things right."
"Oh." Miaka's stomach gurgled. "I'm starving! Do you think lunch is ready yet?" she asked hopefully.
Hotohori laughed. "Let us go see."
Lunch was a pleasant meal of fresh fruit and cool drinks. Miaka brought out a little of her chocolate, of which Tasuki had grown particularly fond. Chichiri and Mitsukake however were down in the dungeon, working on restoring Tamahome and Chiriko to normal.
"Hey, where's Nuriko?" Miaka asked, looking around the table.
"I dunno. He wasn't here for breakfast either," Tasuki replied around a mouthful of chocolate. A small ball of lead grew in Hotohori's stomach.
"I'll go look for him," he said standing up and leaving. Miaka and Tasuki exchanged puzzled glances before shrugging and fighting over the last piece of chocolate.
Hotohori opened the door to Nuriko's quarters only to find that the young man wasn't there. Nor was he in the gardens. The lead ball grew heavier.
"Where in the world can he be?" he muttered to himself as he strode quickly towards the courtyard.
As he passed the large pond, he caught a glint of purple out of the corner of his eye and he halted. There was Nuriko, sitting at the pond's edge, knees drawn up, head resting on knees, arms encircling his head, hiding his face.
The sight dug little claws into Hotohori's heart and tugged him forward hastily. If the purple-haired boy heard him approach, he made no move to acknowledge him.
"Nuriko," Hotohori said softly. The smaller man jumped and looked up with wide eyes.
"Y-your Majesty!" He sounded frightened, which was not something Hotohori could easily grasp. Nuriko never got frightened. The claws tightened on Hotohori's heart.
"Tasuki said you missed breakfast as well as lunch." Damn! That did not sound as warm as I had intended.
"Oh." Nuriko looked down at his hands, which were nervously tearing up a small rock. Hotohori watched awkwardly for a second or two.
"Nuriko, what is the matter?"
Nuriko forced a high, nervous laugh. "Matter? Nothing's the matter. I'm just waiting for the executioner to arrive. Or were you planning on doing that yourself?"
Nuriko began shaking like a cherry blossom in the wind. Hotohori sat down next to the shivering senshi.
"Nuriko, there's not going to be an executioner."
"There isn't," Hotohori protested. Nuriko shook his head and continued shaking, drawing his knees closer.
The claws dug so far into Hotohori's heart that they were touching. He reached out and drew Nuriko into his arms, comforting him with soft sounds and tender hands.
Nuriko was so astonished that he held himself stiff for several moments, almost forgetting to breathe. Then he let himself melt into Hotohori's arms.
"No one's going to hurt you," Hotohori murmured. "I won't let them."
"B-but I kissed you," Nuriko mumbled miserably. Hotohori tilted his face up and studied him intently. The emperor shook his head slightly before covering Nuriko's mouth with his own. Nuriko's surprised lips remained parted, allowing Hotohori to slip inside. Hotohori explored every nook and cranny, slowly, drawing out the sensations.
He finally pulled away with a smile, golden eyes locked with burgundy. Nuriko stared, a bewildered little grin playing at the corners of his mouth.
"Now I've kissed you. There will be no more talk of executions, understand?" Hotohori tapped the end of Nuriko's nose playfully. Nuriko nodded mutely.
"Come on. There might still be some lunch left for you," Hotohori said, helping Nuriko to stand up.
Nuriko laughed. "After Tasuki and Miaka? Probably not."
Hotohori laughed in agreement. "You're probably right."
However, there was some left, and after Nuriko finished eating, they went down to the dungeon to see if Chichiri and Mitsukake had made any progress.
"Well, If we take them back to the temple, we might be able to seal the ghosts back into it, no da."
"The thing is, we're not sure that the ghosts will stay there," Mistukake added.
"Couldn't you send the spirits on?" Hotohori inquired. Mitsukake shook his head.
"If we performed the proper ceremony, it should. Unfortunately, it'll only work with their religion, no da. And we don't know what it is, no da," Chichiri informed them.
"Well, maybe there's a clue at the temple," Miaka said. Chichiri and Mitsukake exchanged looks.
"There might be, however, there might also be other spirits waiting to possess someone else, no da. "
"But if we know about it, won't that make it harder for them to possess us?" Nuriko inquired. Chichiri nodded reluctantly.
"All right then. Let's go."
Tasuki shook his head emphatically. "Nunh unh! No way! I ain't goin' to someplace that's haunted!"
"Fine, then you can guard the possessed," Mitsukake replied over his shoulder as they filed out.
Tasuki glanced at Tamahome and Chiriko, who glared at him with pupil-less eyes. He shuddered and jogged after the others. "Hey! Wait fer me!"
At the temple, the six searched for any kind of clue to what ceremonies might have taken place. Tasuki and Nuriko searched together, quickly getting discouraged.
"This is a waste of time," Nuriko muttered, batting irately at a tapestry.
"Yeah. This ain't getting us nowhere," Tasuki growled in agreement, slouching against the wall.
BAP! BAP! "Owwww!"
Chichiri stood over them with a comical scowl, brandishing his staff warningly.
"This is important, no da!"
"Ah, gerroff!" Tasuki swiped at the monk, missed, and hit a carving on the wall. He howled in pain and began sucking furiously on his hand to dull the pain. Chichiri shook his head and chided Tasuki.
Nuriko ignored them and watched with interest as the small carving slid in and to the side. Behind it lay a small scroll.
"Hmmm," he hummed as he unrolled it. "This looks like a ceremony of some sort." Nuriko yelped as Tasuki and Chichiri popped their heads over his shoulders.
"It does, no da! Hey! We found it!" Chichiri called to the others. Nuriko pulled warningly on Chichiri's ponytail, making the monk lean backward to look up at his fellow senshi.
"Who found it?"
Chichiri laughed nervously and waved his hand deferentially as Hotohori and Miaka came over to investigate the parchment.
"Chichiri, do you think that this is the proper ceremony?" Hotohori inquired, peering at the symbols.
Chichiri took it and studied it for a moment before nodding. "I believe so, no da. I'll study it further tonight. Tomorrow I should be able to exorcise the spirits, no da."
The others cheered and returned to the palace in optimistic moods.
Nuriko sat in the garden, looking at the sunset, humming a soft tune to himself. A rustle of cloth accompanied by a slippered footstep caught his attention and he turned to see Hotohori standing behind him, a soft smile on his lips.
Nuriko smiled too, closing his eyes in contentment. "Hello."
"Good evening, Nuriko. You look happy."
"Just glad that Chiriko and Tama-baby will be normal again soon. How's Miaka?"
"To be honest, I wouldn't know. I have a lot of paper work to do, so I have not seen her since we returned," Hotohori admitted, sitting down next to Nuriko on the wide stone table.
"Have? You didn't finish them?" Nuriko inquired curiously.
Hotohori shook his head."No. I saw you sitting out here, and I suddenly felt like joining you," he replied, gazing up at the purple and pink clouds.
"Oh. It is a beautiful sky tonight," Nuriko commented, swinging his feet lightly. After a moment or two of peaceful silence, he saw Hotohori shake his head in amusement.
"What was it you told Miaka? When she discovered your secret?"
Nuriko blinked and looked away, flushing. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Something akin to 'love transcends the sexes', I believe?" Hotohori inquired lightly, enjoying himself judging by the cat's grin he was wearing.
"Oh that," Nuriko waved his hand flippantly. "Well sure. I mean'love conquers all'..." he trailed off as he started to fidget with his braid.
"Hmmm." Hotohori closed his eyes and lay back, arms behind his head. "I agree."
After a moment of quiet, Nuriko giggled to himself.
Hotohori cracked open an eye. "What is so humorous?"
"Do you remember what you said when you found out I was a guy?" Nuriko asked with a grin.
"Hmmm...no not really," Hotohori replied with a mischievous gleam in his eye and a mirroring grin.
"He he he! You said, 'impossible! A man as beautiful as I!?'," Nuriko laughed.
"So I did," Hotohori admitted warmly, picking up the end of Nuriko's braid and toying with it. "I have to say, my opinion hasn't changed."
"What, that you're beautiful?" Nuriko teased, half-leaning over the dark-haired man. He stilled as Hotohori's golden eyes locked onto his, glowing in the light of the setting sun.
"No, although, that is a fact," Hotohori chuckled. "I meant that I still think you are beautiful." He tugged lightly on Nuriko's braid, bringing the senshi's blushing face closer.
"Yo-ahem-you do?" Nuriko asked, trying to be nonchalant.
Hotohori nodded, closing his eyes momentarily.
"Liar. You don't even pay attention to me," Nuriko huffed quietly, looking away.
"Is that what you really think?" Hotohori asked in the same quiet voice, brushing the soft, amethyst bangs out of Nuriko's eyes. Nuriko nodded reluctantly. Hotohori sighed, sat up, gathered Nuriko in his arms and lay back down again. "Nuriko, I may not talk to you much, but that's because I spend most my waking hours talking to people. Dignitaries and advisors. There are few people I feel comfortable enough with to not talk. You are on the top of the small list."
"Yeah, but you talk to Miaka all the time," Nuriko mumbled, trying to ignore how good it felt to be held in Hotohori's arms at last.
"Hmm mmm. Doesn't that tell you anything?"
"No," Nuriko sulked.
Hotohori chuckled. " It means that I'm more comfortable with you than Miaka."
Nuriko hmphed. "Oh sure. But you love her, right?"
Hotohori didn't say anything, and the last vestige of sunlight dropped below the horizon. Worried, Nuriko propped himself up and peered down. "Hotohori?"
"I don't know," he replied quietly, eyes closed.
"What do you mean you don't know? You just professed your undying love to her last night!" Nuriko pressed an accusing finger into Hotohori's chest.
"Nuriko, I still love her, but I think it's more platonic than romantic. I've been alone all my life, and I latched onto the Priestess of Suzaku as a savior from that. I'd always assumed that we'd love each other. I'm not sure if the Priestess had been some one other than Miaka, that I wouldn't love her instead." He paused, staring into the lavender sky.
"Last night...I believe I was trying to reassure myself that I did love Miaka. The thing is," he looked at Nuriko, "when I kissed you this morning, it felt more natural than any time I ever kissed Miaka. "
Nuriko sat there and blinked. "But, but you've never any interest in me before," he protested, firmly stamping down the hope building within that he might finally be reaching Hotohori.
Hotohori sat up and looked Nuriko directly in the eyes. "I thought I loved the Priestess, whoever she might have been. I ignored every girl in my harem. Then, when I found out that you were a boy-"
"Don't 'boy' me. I'm a month older than you," Nuriko interrupted flippantly.
"The point is, as Emperor, I have an obligation to continue the family line. You wouldn't be able to provide me with a son," he finished apologetically.
"I could if Miaka uses one of her wishes to make me a woman," Nuriko replied through a small laugh, trying to keep the tone light. Hotohori took Nuriko's chin gently in hand and gazed into the burgundy depths of his eyes.
"I like you just the way you are," he said softly before kissing Nuriko chastely. When he pulled away, Nuriko fish-mouthed in disbelief.
"But if you still want to be a woman, that's fine too," Hotohori said as he stood up. "Good night."
The next day, Chichiri happily declared that he could perform the ceremony, but it had to be performed in the temple and Tamahome and Chiriko had to be present.
The senshi exchanged looks.
"An' how're we supposed ta get 'em there without fightin' 'em ev'ry step o' the way?" Tasuki demanded, flicking a breadcrumb at Chichiri. Nuriko chuckled softly behind his hand as the monk calmly tossed a grape smack into the bandit's eye.
"Patience is a virtue, no da," Chichiri admonished the growling redhead. "I was about to explain, no da. Mitsukake, you can use your power to put them to sleep, so we can carry them to the temple, no da."
"But they won't sleep for long," the healer warned.
"That's all right. We just need them asleep long enough to retrain them, no da. I'll carry Chiriko, Nuriko can carry Tamahome, no da."
Nuriko looked at the cheerful monk and nodded. "All right. Sounds like a plan."
"What about the actual ceremony?" Miaka inquired curiously. "What do we need to do for that?"
"Uh...n-no da..." Chichiri laughed nervously and scratched his head.
Hotohori pinned him with a warning look. "Chichiri, tell us."
"As far as I can tell, no da, we have to be in a clothe-less state," Chichiri replied humbly.
"No da! Don't' yell at me! I didn't write the ceremony, no da! According to the scroll, all participants must be clothe-less for purity, no da."
"Even Tamahome and Chiriko?" Miaka asked. Chichiri nodded.
"Hell no. I ain't doin' it. Not wit' Miaka an' Nuriko there," Tasuki asserted firmly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"But-" Miaka began, but she stopped when Hotohori held up his hand.
"Chichiri, who do you absolutely need in there with you?"
"Nuriko, Tamahome, Chiriko me, no da, and someone to hold Chiriko."
"I will hold Chiriko," Hotohori replied. "Tasuki and Mitsukake may stay outside with Miaka."
"But Hotohori-" Miaka started, only to be hushed by Nuriko. She pouted for a moment but agreed to follow the emperor's plan.
"All right then, no da. Mitsukake, Nuriko? Would you accompany me to the dungeon?"
In the cell Tamahome and Chiriko snarled at their visitors and tried to claw them through the bars.
Mitsukake held his palm out and his character glowed. Tamahome and Chiriko slowed down and their eyes drooped. Soon they lay slumbering on the floor.
"They'll be out for maybe forty-five minutes," Mitsukake told them.
"Right," Nuriko said, lifting Tamahome easily onto his shoulder as Hotohori cradled Chiriko to his chest.
"Quickly, to the temple, no da."
The three ran to the temple, Chichiri in the lead and Hotohori slightly behind Nuriko.
"We don't have much time, no da," Chichiri huffed as they raced into the temple. "Strip yourselves down quickly, before they wake up, no da," he instructed, already shucking his robes off. Hotohori and Nuriko wasted no time in joining him. Nuriko forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand, instead of gawking at either Hotohori's or Chichiri's finely formed bodies.
"Here, help me undress them, no da," Chichiri said, moving to Chiriko. Hotohori and Nuriko worked on Tamahome, Nuriko choosing to stick safely to the upper half of the body.
"Chichiri, start the ceremony. They are beginning to wake up," Hotohori said tersely, taking hold of Chiriko's hands and preparing for the struggle.
Nuriko stood up and held Tamahome before him, pinning his arms to his sides. Chichiri held the scroll in front of him and began reading aloud in a strange tongue. Tamahome groaned and lifted his head. His eyes fell on Hotohori and he began struggling against Nuriko, trying to get at the young emperor.
"Chichiri! Hurry it up! I don't wanna hurt 'im!" Nuriko called out, tightening his grip on Tamahome.
Chichiri's voice rose dramatically and he shot his hands forward. A white energy-ball burst from his hands and passed through the four senshi.
Nuriko felt a strange sensation, as if the skin of his soul had been cleaned with sparkling water. Tamahome went limp in the strong senshi's arms as the white energy drew out a dark red mist. A dark orange mist was drawn away from the still sleeping Chiriko. Then the mist and energy dissolved into nothingness.
"It's done, no da," Chichiri sighed in relief. Tamahome blinked and looked around.
"Wha- what's going on?" he asked blearily as Chiriko moaned and fluttered to life himself. Then Tamahome noticed his clotheless state, Nuriko's arms about him, and Nuriko's lack of clothes as well.
"YAAAAHHHH!" the mercenary yelled, scrambling away from the smaller man. "NURIKO!!"
"Calm down Tama-baby. I wasn't doing anything to you," Nuriko held his hands up placatingly.
"You call that doing nothing!?"
"Tamahome!" Chichiri said sharply. "You were possessed no da. Nuriko was only restraining you so I could exorcize the ghost, no da."
"That's no reason for being naked!" He blinked at Chichiri, then whipped his head around to stare at Hotohori who was helping a slightly groggy Chriko get dressed. "You're all naked!"
"Well duh!" Nuriko responded, tossing Tamahome's clothes into his face.
"It was the only way the ceremony could be performed," Hotohori explained as he handed Chichiri's clothes to the monk before starting on his own. Tamahome grumbled but did not argue. Chiriko picked up the scroll and blinked at it, rubbing a small hand in his eyes to clear the sleep away.
"Umm, Chichiri, this says all the participants have to be nominated, not naked," he told the monk through a yawn.
"Chichiri!" Tamahome growled. Chichiri laughed nervously, then ran through the doors of the temple, still holding most of his clothes in his hands, Tamahome hot on his heels.
"Hey wait!" Chiriko called then shook his head and began reading the scroll again.
Nuriko sighed and finished dressing, but was having a hard time tying his sash. He couldn't get the ends even. Hotohori plucked the cloth from Nuriko's frustrated hands and told him to turn around. Fighting a faint blush and happy smile, Nuriko did as he was told.
Chiriko glanced up from his scroll and smiled quietly to himself.
When Hotohori finished tying the sash, Chiriko rolled up the scroll and approached the two.
"Shall we head back?"
"Yeah, I'm starving," Nuriko replied, sweeping the boy onto his shoulder and striding out the door. Hotohori followed behind them, a content feeling washing over him as he watched the feminine senshi and the young boy walk before him.
"One of the days I'll have my own family. And I hope you'll be part of it," he murmured to himself as the winds caught amethyst tresses and danced with them in the soft sunlight.
Kiyomisa: Yeah I know that Miaka and the others didn't show up to much. Whaddya want from a Nuriko/Hothori fic? I just got tired of Hotohori acting like such a jerk to Nuriko, Miaka and Tamahome. He gets better as the series goes on, I admit, but...*shrugs*. Anyways, questions or comments? Constructive Critisisms (please I need them!!) E-mail me at Soakm@netscape.net or Kiyomisa13@hotmail.com. Thank you!
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