Archiver's Note: Minor time shifts are denoted by a horizontal rule; Major time shifts by the bar divider.
Author's Note: There's a major spoiler about Nakago's past in the last section.
Chapter 3: Seriyuu's triumph, Suzaku's tears - Part 1
She watched the four boys eating, keeping a close eye out so no one attempted to poison anyone. The last thing she needed was a repeat of last night. Genbu ate his food slowly, savoring each bite. A thoughtful look rested on his dark features. Genbu always seemed to be off in his own little world.
Byakko ate his food slowly as well. His attitude was more, this is my food and I'm proud to show it's mine, because you can't take it. The other reason was because the god went ballistic if there was even a tiny stain on his immaculate white clothes.
Seriyuu gulped down his dinner in huge bites and never left the table without a fourth helping. Not that she minded. They had plenty of food, now even more so since the four kingdoms were plentiful. They had rich venison from the west, sweet water from the north, savory fish and ripe fruits from the south, and delicious rice from the east, among other things. She wished the dragon would take it slowly though. It was much more attractive.
Suzaku ate the fastest yet it took him the longest to get done. The god would rather play then eat and if he couldn't play he'd torture his brothers. Right now, thankfully, the boy was eating. His chopsticks were a blur as he devoured everything on his plate and then some.
"Taiitsukun-sama, guess what," Seriyuuseikun said in a pause from his eating.
"Taiitsukun-sama, guess what," Suzakuseikun mocked. Seriyuu shot a glare at his brother then looked back at her.
"One of my seishi was born. Can I go and see him?"
"Hai? Which one?" Suzaku asked.
"Hai! Miboshi! The midget!" Suzaku burst into a fit of giggles, " he's probably so small his parents were wondering if he was a human or a mouse!"
"Shut up! Taiitsukun-sama tell birdbrain over here to shut up!"
"Taiitsukun-sama tell birdbrain over here to shut up."
"Stop copying me!"
"Stop copying me!" Seriyuu reached out and swiped at his younger brother. His fist connected with the redheads jaw and Suzaku went sprawling.
"TAIITSUKUN-SAMA! DID YOU SEE WHAT HE DID TO ME?!" Suzaku wailed. He ran over to her side and hugged her. Then he batted huge, tear filled eyes at her.
Taiitsukun sighed heavily. It had been at least two hundred years since they had picked their seishi. But gods aged differently then mortals. Normally they gained an age every three hundred years or so. But with each new seishi's birth they gained an age or two.
It really all depended. Genbu was into his late thirties if judging by human standards. Although he had turned more into a snapping turtle then a god turtle. Byakko was in his mid twenties, he seemed out of it lately. That was probably due to the fact that his miko had summoned him twice already and he was weak.
Taiitsukun wiped at her eyes irritably. After the third time...the human in him would be gone and he would be a tiger. He would still maintain his personality...but he would no longer have the power to change unless one of his brothers helped him. Genbu had the opposite problem, since the unfortunate death of his miko, he didn't have the power to change back into a turtle...something he was none to happy about.
Then there was the gruesome twosome. Suzaku and Seriyuu, orgionally twelve and thirteen, now twelve and fourteen. She had hoped with the arrival of the new seishi, the dragon would grow up some. She must have been crazy to think that.
"Can I see him Taiitsukun-sama?" Seriyuu repeated.
"Hai, but remember Seriyuuseikun, you must not interfere with his life in any way."
"Hai, hai. I know. " The boy changed into dragon form and started to leave the table.
" What do you say Seriyuu?" Byakko asked. The dragon rolled his eyes.
"Arigatou Taiitsukun-sama and you oh wise Byakko-sensei. "
"You're welcome," Byakko said. Taiitsukun shot him a stern look but otherwise didn't comment. A faint ghost of a smile was on the tiger gods face but his eyes were so distant.
"Tell me how you're midgets doing…that is if you can find him!" Suzaku yelled. Seriyuu stomped out of the room, making the bowls on the table shake.
"Can't you grow up?" Genbu muttered. " You don't have any more sense then the mortals."
"Hai? Well at least I wasn't too slow to eat my miko." Without warning a wave of black chi caught Suzaku in the chest knocking him back through three walls. Taiitsukun waved a feather away from her plate then calmly sipped her tea.
"Suzaku hurt! We fix Suzaku! We cure Suzaku!" The old woman winced as the voices filtered into the room. The only reason she kept the Nyan-nyan's around was because Suzaku absolutely adored them. They were his playmates. Once she had caught sight of them all taking a nap in the summer grass, with the phoenix cuddled in the middle. It had nearly melted her heart. That, and that only was the reason she kept the critters. That and the frightening thought that, with all the chi they had in them, even she wasn't sure if she could destroy them.
Seriyuu followed the running brown haired man on silent feet. This was Miboshi…he could sense it…yet he didn't look like Miboshi. He looked quite handsome actually. His shaggy brown hair fell loosely around his shoulders and his green eyes peered out from under dark lashes.
He had been born twenty years ago…but the dragon hadn't bothered to visit him then. Children were weak. He didn't want to see his seishi weak. He wanted to see them strong.
Miboshi collapsed against the wall outside of a temple and slid down to the ground. He panted as he tried to catch his breath and through his heavy breathing were small whines like he was trying to keep from crying. Seriyuu crouched beside him and watched him.
"The inheritance was mine," the man snarled, clenching his hand into a fist, " Father said it was! Damn the man for dying without putting me in the will!" Angry tears poured from his green eyes and the young seishi punched the ground.
~What are you going to do?~ Seriyuu asked him mentally.
"What am I going to do? What can I do?" The dragon's eyes widened. The human could hear him?! He hadn't meant to do that. Taiitsukun-sama had said not to influence them…but…but asking wasn't influencing…was it? " The only thing I can do is kill him, but…." The young man trailed off and his eyes widened.
He jumped to his feet and went inside the temple. Seriyuu followed him in and sniffed gratefully at the incense in the air. He loved that smell, it was almost as intoxicating as wine.
"Can I see Monk Jai please?" Miboshi asked respectfully. The first monk nodded and gestured for him to stay. Seriyuu curled up next to his seishi in wait.
~Why do you want to see Jai?~
"Jai knows the dark arts. He promised to teach me…and I will take him up on it. I will get my lands back from my brat of a younger brother." Well that explained a lot. Younger brothers got everything. The attention, the love…the freedom. It really wasn't fair.
A black cloaked monk entered the room and looked at Miboshi.
"Did you bring anyone with you?"
"Come with me my son." Seriyuu followed them down the halls then up a narrow set of stairs into a cramped room, filled with scrolls. The window was set on the east wall and looked out over the sleeping village.
" What do you want this time? A love charm? Poison?"
"To learn the dark arts."
"Ah…to defeat you're brother no doubt." Miboshi blinked in surprise and the monk waved a hand.
"Don't be. I know all." Seriyuu snorted, he knew all…sure. He'd probably just heard it from a rumor.
"Will you teach me?"
"Hai. What do you wish to learn?"
"Something to kill my brother without putting the blame on me."
"How about getting you're lands back?"
"I can't! With my brother in the way…"
"What if you were your brother?" the monk asked. The seishi paused.
"I can teach you a power that would make you greater then Seriyuu himself." The dragon's eyes narrowed. That wind bag had better watch what he said since he didn't know what he was talking about.
He watched as the lesson progressed. It was sort of boring actually and the dragon found himself falling asleep. He awoke with the acrid sent of blood filling his nostrils. His eyes opened and he saw Miboshi, lying dead on the ground, a knife through his heart.
It was strange though. Seriyuu didn't feel like he'd lost a seishi. He saw the familiar soul flit out the window and followed it. It flew around in the darkening night. A young man on horse was traveling far below. The horse snorted with fear and rolled its eyes.
"Woah," the man soothed, " just a little more ways to the temple. We have to find that idiot brother of mine before he does something dangerous again."
~Idiot am I?~ the soul hissed. It twisted down and entered the young man. He sat straight and still in the saddle…and soon the dragon sensed Miboshi again. The seishi jerked the horses reins around forcefully and kicked it into a gallop, laughing triumphantly in the wind.
Seriyuu smiled and went back to the tower. The monk was there, hunched over a scroll.
"The fool," the monk muttered, " you can't possess people, that's just a fairy tale. The real power is in the blood. With this spell I shall be greater then Seriyuu. I shall be a god!"
OH…REALLY? The dragon said, appearing before the monk. The man dropped the scroll and terror filled his eyes. THE HEAVENS ARE CROWDED ENOUGH AS IT IS THANK YOU…AND THE LAST THING I NEED IS ANOTHER YOUNGER BROTHER.
"I…I'm sorry my lord! I didn't mean it!" The monk fell flat on his face and trembled. Seriyuu curled his tail about himself and loomed over the human.
TAKE OFF YOUR COWL.
DON'T MAKE ME REPEAT MYSELF. The monk did as he was told and Seriyuu grinned, although in dragon form it looked more like a snarl.
GOOD…YOU'RE BALD…HAIR GET'S STUCK IN MY TEETH. The monk screamed once, then was silenced. Seriyuu licked his claws and smiled. That was a good snack. He loved the taste of frightened humans…even if they were a bit fattening.
Byakko lay on the top of Mount. Taikyoku. It was a flat peak, hidden in the clouds that humans never saw and only Taiitsukun-sama and his brothers could get to. He propped his chin on his fist and stared across his western lands. Soon he would no longer be a man. He would be a tiger, succumbing to his beast. He had taken this for granted, liking the tigers animal strength and easy grace. Now he wished he could have staid a man more. He wouldn't be able too much longer.
Something warm curled by his side. He knew who it was and didn't bother to look down. Instead he wrapped his free arm around his youngest brother and pulled him against him. Suzaku rested his head on the ground and gazed toward the south.
"This may be the last time I'll be able to hold you like this Suzaku," Byakko said, fighting hard to keep the tears from his voice. The red head twisted his head to look at him.
"That's ok!" he chirped, " You're still Byakkie-kun when you're a tiger too and when you can't hold me I'll hold you!" The white haired man smiled at his brothers words and kissed the top of his head.
"Hey! I made a rhyme!"
"Yes you did."
"Wait 'till I tell it to the Nyan-nyan, they love rhymes." Byakko winced. He would hear that rhyme echoing in his head for years to come if Suzaku told them. They'd never shut up about it. He wasn't about to tell his brother this…. The Nyan-nyan could do no wrong in the phoenix's eyes.
They were silent for a while and the tiger watched the goings on. He couldn't bear to watch his seishi…not with knowing…what would happen. Instead he watched the farmers and the other poor people. Watching their dreams as they slept. He found a little boy having a nightmare and absently reached out and soothed it. The boy smiled and relaxed and the tiger smiled softly.
"Hey Byakkie-kun, can I come with you when you're summoned? I'll stay invisible. Please?"
"No Suzaku. It's not for you to watch." He didn't want his youngest brother to see him weakening. To see his power fading.
"Please Byakkie-kun," Suzaku begged, fixing adorable eyes on him, " you don't want to be alone…do you?" He sighed…he was more then trapped in those eyes.
"Hai, you can. But you have to stay invisible and not a word." The boy giggled wildly and Byakko glared at him sternly. " Not a word Suzaku."
"Hai…not a word," he giggled again, " a sound maybe. I'll screech so loud half you're seishi will wet themselves." Byakko tried to glare at his brother but couldn't keep his lips from twitching into a smile. " You're miko'd probably pass out from the shock of it and the other seishi would go running for the hills; with the pervert in the lead."
The white haired man couldn't help it. He tossed back his head and laughed.
"You little brat," he said when he had enough breath, " you should be punished for even thinking that." He began to tickle his brothers ribs. The phoenix writhed and squirmed, trying to get out from under his fingers, giggling all the while.
"Stop! Stop! Please!"
"Do you give?"
"Hai! Hai! I give!" Byakko stopped and grinned down the youngest. A wicked grin flared on Suzaku's face. " I give revenge!" he reached for him with outstretched fingers. Byakko rolled to his feet and bounded away.
"Ah, ah, ah, little one," he said, shaking his finger at him, " you have to catch me first. In human form."
"I will then!" Suzaku said bouncing to his feet.
"You can't even keep up," Byakko said, flicking his hair over his shoulder.
"Wanna make a bet?" The phoenix launched himself in the air and flew at him. Byakko laughed and ran.
Suzaku yawned and opened his eyes. He had finally caught Byakko and they had fallen asleep on a drifting cloud. His brother was still asleep, eyes closed tightly against the morning sun. The redhead reached up to tickle under his brothers chin.
A loud purr rumbled deep in Byakko's chest. Then he rolled over right on him. Suzaku gasped.
"Ack! Get off Byakkie-kun! You're squishing me!" The man remained still for a minute or two. Then rolled off again. The redhead sat up, gasping for breath.
"That should teach you to interrupt a cat nap," Byakko said, tweaking his nose. Suzaku grinned and was about to say something. When a clear voice lifted into the air.
"Kaijin!" Byakko winced and began to descend. No! Suzaku thought. This was happening too soon. She was calling him too soon! It wasn't fair.
He followed his brother silently though, knowing Byakko wouldn't listen to reason. He saw the miko and her seishi gathered together. Byakko's white symbol glowed on the girls forehead.
Suzaku knew Byakko was still invisible to the human's eyes. He reached out and touched his brothers arm. Telling him with his eyes that it was going to be all right. Byakko smiled, then focused his attention back to his miko.
"I wish me and Tatara will always be together, I wish to stay here." Suzaku smiled…that was sweet. He liked that miko. She loved so much to want to stay in this world rather then hers.
Byakko floated down and appeared before them. He looked sad again, his eyes were down cast. THAT IS THE ONE WISH I CANNOT GRANT, GOMEN NASAI. What? That wasn't right! It couldn't be right!
"B…but…" the miko stammered.
I CANNOT, Byakko repeated.
"No! You have to!" The brown haired seishi came to his miko's side.
"Suzano, it's all right. If he say's he cannot. He cannot. Let it be."
"But Tatara, I don't want to leave you. I love you!"
"I love you as well, but we must…" he paused, and a tear slipped from his eyes, " We must part…and we must be strong."
"Tatara," she sobbed. Suzaku shook his head. No, they couldn't be apart. Not when they loved each other that much! It wasn't fair! If Byakkie-kun was going to lose his humanity then he should lose it for a good cause. He alighted by his brothers side, still invisible and tugged on his sleeve.
"Byakkie-kun," he said in a voice only his brother could hear. " What are you saying? You have to keep them together! Can't you see how much they love each other?"
"Hai brother. I can see…it breaks my heart but I can do nothing. The laws of heaven won't allow it."
"WHO CARES ABOUT THE LAWS OF HEAVEN!?" Suzaku screamed, he clenched his fists, trying to control himself, " Can't you see? They're in love. Love conquers everything, you have to show them that. It isn't fair that they should hurt. Please Byakko, I'll help! I'll give you my powers and together maybe we can…."
"Hai…but what would you give to your miko? Are you going to leave her stranded? With nothing?"
"B…but I don't have a miko yet and I…."
"You will brother and you will love her. You will want to give her all you have."
"No I won't I…"
"You forget, I know you little one. Gomen nasai, but this is the way it must be. Even together our powers would not be enough. They should have never have fallen in love."
"You can't help love," Suzaku whispered. The tiger didn't comment to that. The miko made her final wish. Suzaku turned…his brother wouldn't want him to watch the draining of his powers.
"Good bye Tatara…goodbye," the miko's voice whispered, then faded away.
"Suzano," Tatara cried. Tears streamed down the gods face as he heard the seishi cry. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It shouldn't have happened that way!
Strong but gentle teeth latched themselves on the back of his neck and he found himself being carried up into the air. Byakko set him down on the cloud and laid beside him.
Suzaku looked at his brother. He was a tiger now and his face was expressionless. But his eyes showed his agony. He stroked the tigers fur gently.
"You're still beautiful Byakkie-kun. Not even heaven could take that away from you," Suzaku whispered. He climbed between Byakko's paws, wrapped his arms as far as they would go around his neck, buried his face in his fur and cried. The tiger purred softly in comfort and curled himself around the boy. The cloud drifted lazily on.
Seriyuu scowled at the little boy. This was Ashitare? He didn't even look like he did. All the years he had waited for a new seishi and this sniveling boy was all he had? It was late at night at the stupid human had gotten lost in the woods. These were dangerous woods as well.
The dragon watched, not because he was concerned, but because he was dead bored. Home was not a place he wanted to be. Taiitsukun-sama was mad, Genbu was snappish, Byakko was sleeping and Suzaku was playing tag with the Nyan-nyan.
The howl of a rogue wolf echoed through the night. The boy gasped and put his hands over his ears. The dragon snorted, oh, real smart move. He was thrilled to be blessed with such an intelligent seishi.
Golden eyes flickered like two lamps in the moonlight. The wolf came closer to the boy. Seriyuu watched the confrontation with interest. Maybe this could actually be exciting. The boy backed up a step, then turned and ran.
Ugh. What an idiot! There was no way he could outrun a wolf. The wolf charged after him. His animal muscles moving with smooth grace. Seriyuu followed in dragon form a few feet above the wolf.
He watched the boy run and tasted his fear in the air. What a coward. His seishi should be strong not pathetic. There was nothing he could do except watch. In the words of Taiitsukun-sama. Don't interfere. He scowled. If he didn't interfere soon he wouldn't have much of a seishi to interfere with.
The boy tripped then, sprawling into the leaves and the dirt. The wolf leapt at him and the boy screamed in fear. Seriyuu sighed in frustration. This was not going well at all. The animal clamped onto the boys throat. Blue light flared around them both and the dragon watched curiously. The boy and wolf were…changing, melting into one another. Their pained screams combined into one painful howl that seemed alarmingly human…yet defiantly animal.
When the light faded, the familiar Ashitare stood there. Although a much smaller version. Part man and part wolf, and hungry.
~Hungry mortal? Hungry for what?~
"I don't know," the boy/wolf whined, " I'm scared."
~Don't be. Food will take away your fear. Just eat something.~
"I don't know what to eat."
~What's the first thing that comes to you're mind?~
Suzaku stood straight up, staring out the window. He could feel it, deep down in the very core of his being. It had happened, finally, it had happened. He clapped his hands together and shrieked.
He darted out of his room and into the west wing of the mountain. He flung open the door to his brothers room and tackled him with a flying hug. Byakko started awake and glared at him sleepily.
"Nani? This had better be good."
"YAY! BYAKKIE-KUN! I FELT IT! HE'S HERE! THE FIRST ONE! HE'S HERE! I WANNA SEE HIM! CANNI? CANNI? HUH? CANNI?"
"The first what?"
"SEISHI!" Byakko yawned and stretched.
"Well let's go ask Taiitsukun-sama."
"Aw. Do we gotta ask that old bag?"
"Hai, we do, and if you don't lower you're voice I'm going to tell her you said that." Suzaku walked beside the tiger impatiently. He was walking so slow. He wished he would hurry.
Taiitsukun-sama was in her room, brushing her long white hair. She turned to them as they came in.
"Nani?" she asked.
"HE'S HERE! HE'S HERE!" Byakko glared at him and Suzaku lowered his voice, " My first seishi. Can I see him? Canni Taiitsukun-sama?"
"He's just a baby now. He won't have power until he's much older."
"I don't care, I still want to see him. Canni? Please?" He snuggled up to her side and batted her eyes at her.
"Fine, you can go. Would you mind going with him Byakkoseikun, just to make sure he doesn't do anything?"
"I wouldn't Taiitsukun-sama," Suzaku said.
"I know you wouldn't, not intentionally anyway. But sometimes you can be a bit too…"
"Enthusiastic," Byakko put in.
"Can we go now?"
"Arigatou Taiitsukun-sama! Wo ai ni! Comon' Byakkie-kun!"
Suzaku dove out the nearest open window he came across, this time not waiting for the older tiger. He changed into a phoenix on his way down, tucking his wings tightly against him.
"Slow down Suzaku!" Byakko called, " he's not going anywhere!" Suzaku reluctantly braked, spreading his wings. He hovered impatiently in the air, waiting for his brother. The tiger bounded down to him and the two descended together.
"Is he going to be a little baby? An infant? I don't want to scare his parents."
"No. He was born months ago. I sensed it."
"How come I didn't?" Suzaku asked, a frown in his voice.
"Because you're not that powerful yet."
"Oh. Someday I will be though." He stopped outside the house, it was sunset and there were still a few men working outside. Byakko used his powers to silently open the door. Suzaku changed into boy form and went to where his instincts were telling him the seishi was.
He was lying in his own little room in a little wooden cradle. Suzaku kneeled beside it and peered down at him. His blue hair was messy all over his head and small bangs curled over his forehead.
He folded his wings behind him and concentrated. He felt his power surround him.
"What are you doing Suzaku?" Byakko asked. He ignored the older god until the transformation was complete. His wings were now gone and he looked like any other mortal.
"Nothing…" he whispered. Byakko's eyes were wide.
~How…how did you do that so easily?~ The redhead shrugged.
"I don't know. I've always been able too." He turned his attention back to his seishi. " Konnichiwa Chichiri no da," he said, gently stroking the baby's cheek with a finger. It was so soft, like a cloud was. The young seishi moved and his eyes flittered open. He didn't have the scar now and both eyes were a curious clear brown.
"Konnichiwa little one."
"Washuu," the baby gurgled, " bssuhabbb." Suzaku smiled.
"Your kawaii. Can you speak yet?"
"I don't know…is that a hai or a no?"
"Hai yi yi," the baby said and giggled. Then he lifted both chubby arms into the air. " Up papa up."
"I'm not you're papa, but I'll lift you up." He lifted the boy out of the cradle and held him. Chichiri grabbed a fistful of his hair and pulled.
"Kablubb!" he announced cheerfully.
"Ow. No kablubb. Hair."
~ Is this the one you spoke so funnily to? No…da wasn't it?~
"Noda," the baby said, then giggled, " noda, noda, noda, noda!"
"Byakko," Suzaku whispered, " sh."
~Oops. Gomen, did I do that?~
"Do dat? Do dat noda?"
"Gomeen noda. Har noda. Papa noda."
"No…no, no da," Suzaku whispered, shaking his head.
"Na noda," the baby mimicked. " putdown noda." Suzaku put the baby on the floor. Chichiri crawled over to Byakko, sat down and looked up.
"He can see you?"
~Babies can see anything. That's what makes them so special.~
"Seshal noda. Seshal kittycat noda." He reached out and seized Byakko's tail. Suzaku stifled his laughter as the tiger tried to pull his tail from the seishi's tenacious grip.
"I think he likes you Byakkie-kun."
~Kindly remove you're seishi from my tail before I'm forced to bite him.~
" Bife noda!" the seishi crooned. Then he jerked Byakko's tail forward and bit it.
~ITAI!!!~ The tiger roared.
"It tie noda! Chich bife tall noda! It tie!!!"
~GET HIM OFF!~
"Geff off noda!" the baby giggled, " geff off it tie daaa!"
"Comon Chichiri. You've gotta let go."
"My tall noda! My!" Suzaku finally managed to free his brothers tail. Chichiri's little face screwed up.
"He looks like he's eaten something sour. What's he trying to tell us?"
~Maybe he's hungry.~ The clueless gods soon found out exactly what the seishi was trying to tell them when he let out a full, healthy, wail.
"Ah! No! Sh Chichiri! Sh!"
~Change back to god form you moron! Hurry!~
"I can't do it under pressure! I have to concentrate! Give him back your tail!"
The baby cried harder and louder.
~Gomen! Gomen! Here!~ He held out his tail for the seishi but the baby wouldn't take it. The door opened and a lantern lit the room. A woman stood framed in the doorway.
"What's wrong little Houjun?" Then she looked at Suzaku and screamed. The boy winced.
"I…I can explain I…." The woman scooped up her baby in one hand and with the other snatched a broom from the corner of the room.
"THIEF! KIDNAPPER! GET OUT OF HERE!" The woman cried, beating him over the head with the broom. Suzaku yelped and covered his head.
"Byakko help me!"
"Byakko won't help you in this house little vermin! This is the south! Suzaku rules here! So get out!" The woman punctuated each word with a slap with the broom. He backed into the corner and hunched down. She switched the broom to the handle and started jabbing it into him.
~What do you want me to do? Anything I do will kill her!~
"What's wrong?" came a mans voice.
"THERE'S A THEIF IN HERE WHO TRIED TO STEAL OUR BABY!"
"No! No! It's not like that!" The woman stepped aside and the man came up to him. Hands on hips.
"You're a young thief, explain yourself boy." Suzaku looked up fearfully. The mans face was shadowed by the kasa on his head.
"Ano…would you believe I'm Suzakuseikun and I'm just checking up on my seishi?"
"No," the man said coldly.
"Didn't think so." He saw Byakko's energy come up behind the man and suddenly the kasa fell off into his lap.
~Do something with that!~ Suzaku gripped it and charged it with chi.
" Bye Chichiri!" he called. Then he slipped the kasa over his head and disappeared into it. He popped on a tree by the house and concentrated again. The chi formed around him, vanished and he was himself again. He flapped his wings experimentally. Suddenly he was tumbled from the tree by a cuff from Byakko.
"Don't you ever do something that stupid again," he snapped.
"I won't. I won't. I can't give this back to them," he said, examining the kasa, " Maybe Taiitsukun-sama will find some use for it."
"Hai. Right after she kills you."
Seriyuu found himself returning to the mortals home more and more often. It was so much better then the chaos back home. Besides, he liked to check on his seishi from time to time.
Miboshi was doing well. He was currently in the body of a farmer…at least that's what the man used to be. Now he was a murderer, who hid in the day and killed at night. Gaining blood and other things to learn more dark spells.
Ashitare was becoming a terror. Running through the woods, half naked and stealing children in the night to eat. He was becoming stronger…if not more intelligent. That was fine…not all his seishi could be smart.
He sensed another seishi, not too far from him. He went to where the energy was and felt a sense of pride. Nakago, the most powerful of all. He was a boy and yet Seriyuu could still feel the energy in him. He was running through the grass, along with other boys in his tribe, laughing and generally having a good time. Seriyuu changed himself into boy form, still invisible, and ran with them. He joined his seishi at the front and saw the light in the boys blue eyes. Oh yes, this one was going to be strong.
There was a yelp from one of the others. Nakago stopped and the other boys stopped with him. Seriyuu turned to see what had happened. One of the boys was lying on the ground, nursing an ankle.
"What happened? Fall and hurt yourself?" one of the boys asked.
"Hai, I twisted my ankle."
"Can you walk?"
"Hai…I…I think." He got painfully to his feet and hobbled a few steps.
~Leave him behind,~ Seriyuu thought, ~he's weak. He doesn't matter.~
"Lets leave him," another boy said, " he can get back to camp on his own."
"Hai," others chorused. The injured boy looked downcast.
"You can go ahead," Nakago said, " I'll help him."
"Comon'. He's weak! If you stop and help him you won't win the race."
~Hai Nakago. He's not worth it. If he can't do it on his own, he isn't worth it!~ The human ignored him and let the other boy lean on him. The other boys shook their heads and ran on ahead. Seriyuu snarled in disgust. He was strong in body but weak in his spirit! He shouldn't be helping this boy, he should be leaving him!
"Don't worry about it. Lets go to the healer so she can look at you're ankle, ok?"
"I like that one," a voice said from behind him. The dragon turned to see the redhead standing there, arms folded. " He's nice."
"He's weak," the dragon snapped.
"Nuh-uh! Ashitare is weak! He's just a doggie after all! I could defeat him just by throwing a bone at him."
"Could not birdbrain!"
"Geez, for someone who's sixteen you still act like a five year old!" Seriyuu roared in anger but phoenix wasn't affected.
"You know Seriyuu, there's this ingenious little plant that grows around here. It's called mint. You should really go eat some. You're breath is terrible!"
"GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY BIRDBRAIN!" Suzaku laughed, changed into phoenix form and darted into the air. Seriyuu chased him, trying to fry him, but the birdbrain kept dodging out of the way. He halted at the southern border, glaring heatedly at his brother.
Suzaku landed and began to preen his feathers into place. Glaring at him wasn't having any affect. He turned and began to stalk away.
"Ooh, look, I'm in the lizards country," the twelve year old said. Seriyuu turned his head and saw Suzaku's talon resting over the border. " I'm in your country, I'm in your country," the red bird sang. With a sudden movement Seriyuu lunged, attempting to bite his foot off. Suzaku jerked it back just in time and cocked his head at him.
"You really are getting slow lizard breath." Suzaku made a few hopping steps further down the border line, using his wings as balance. " Look! I'm in you're country!" he chirped, hopping over the line, " Now I'm out of your country. In you're country! Out of your country. In your country. Out of your country. In you're coun-" his annoying voice was cut off when Seriyuu stepped on him with a claw. The dragon smiled. Why hadn't he thought of this before?
"TAIITSUKUN-SAMAAA! SERIYUU'S STEPPING ON ME AN HE WON'T GET O-" Seriyuu released his foot and laid on his brother. The smaller phoenix was crushed under his weight. Seriyuu listened with a smile to his brothers muffled whining. Then dropped his head between his claws and sighed happily. Ah peace and quiet. He laid there for a long time, enjoying the sounds of nothingness. His eyes slid half shut as he basked in the sun.
He woke to the sounds of war. They were far from here, but were clear to his ears. Smoke and blood filled his nostrils and he could see the soldiers in the distance. They were attacking a small camp. Nakago's camp.
He got up, took his brothers foot in his teeth, threw him up in the air and batted him over the border with his tail. Then he went to where the fighting was. The tribe was being gutted. The bodies of dead men and children hung everywhere. Women's screams echoed through the smoke filled air as well as the cries of dying men. He changed into human form and went to where his seishi was.
He was standing there, in utter shock as soldiers raped his mother. He wasn't even doing anything. Seriyuu was annoyed. The boy had the power to kill everyone of these men and he wasn't even using it! He was weak.
~Do something!~ he commanded.
"No!" the boy cried, tears streaking down his face.
~DO IT NOW!~
~ DON'T YOU DARE DEFY ME!~ He stormed in front of the boy and slapped his hand on the boys forehead. ~Do it, or your mother will die.~ he hissed.
"NO!" the boy screamed. Seriyuu watched as the symbol flared to life on his forehead. He stepped out of the way and folded his arms to watch. The boys hands lifted, blue chi snapped around his fingers. The men and his mother screamed in pain. Then were no more.
Seriyuu's eyebrows lifted. In killing the soldiers he'd killed his mother as well. How ironic. Ah well. Parent's weakened humans anyway. The boy was crying. He still hadn't gotten it. He still wasn't strong.
The dragon let him be captured by soldiers and watched as he was taken to the emperor. The Kutou emperor…now there was a weak man. Ruled by his wants…rather then his strength. He was a greedy man however and greedy men tended to rule for a long time.
"Are you sure he's a Seriyuu shichi seishi?" the emperor asked, a look of disgust crossing his face.
"Hai sir, we saw the kanji on his forehead before he killed the soldiers."
"He's so pretty, he looks like a girl rather then a boy…. We'll keep him." a greedy smile curled the emperors thin lips.
Hai, the emperor would make Nakago strong. Would give him the hate he needed. He would hate all…love none and do whatever he was told. The perfect seishi.
Seriyuu smiled and went back home.
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