Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Ain't making any money. Don't sue.
Archiver's Note: Minor time shifts are denoted by a horizontal rule; Major time shifts by the bar divider.
Chapter 3: Seriyuu's triumph, Suzaku's tears - Part 4
The streets of the capitol were alive and bustling with activity. People crowded in the streets. Buying, selling, talking and living their lives. The sun shone down, splashing everything with its noon beauty.
Suzaku walked through the streets in mortal form. He seemed to prefer living in his country more and more often lately. It was much more preferable then staying in Taikyoku. If it weren't for Taiitsukun-sama and the Nyan-nyans…he wouldn't go back to the mountain at all.
For some reason he still couldn't get over what Seriyuu had told him about sacrifice. His older brother was wrong. Sacrifice wasn't part of life…or love. Giving his powers to the miko was different. That someone should give up something for someone else wasn't fair. It couldn't be right. The dragon simply didn't know what he was talking about.
He was currently following a small family. It consisted of a woman, a man and a young girl just entering her teenaged years. They were new to the city. They looked around at everything with wide, curious eyes and talked excitedly amongst themselves. He liked them.
"It's so big Mother," the girl said, " it's twice as large as our village!"
"I think it's more then that."
"Hai, much bigger. It makes sense that there would be more inns. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any…" the man grumbled.
"I'm sure there's one around here somewhere dear."
"Too many buildings. I don't like it."
"I do!" the girl said brightly, " you can buy anything in the world and there's so much to see." She clapped her hands together and laughed. The parents smiled.
"I haven't seen you this excited since you met that young man at the festival last spring," the man said, " Miko? Muko? Something like that."
"Myo Father. Myo Juan."
"First name as well? You like him then?" the woman asked.
"Hai. He probably already has a girl though."
"Why would he want anyone else when he could have someone like my daughter?" the man asked. The girl smiled.
"You're so sweet father." Suzaku smiled. He liked the girl, she had a lot of spirit. She looked across the street and gasped. " Mother! Father! Look! An inn!" She started to dash across the street. She nearly bumped into a horse and rider making it's way down the street.
The horse started and reared, sharp hooves flashing down at the girl.
"Shouka!" her parents cried. Suzaku's eyes widened. He had to do something! He raced toward her and grabbed her out of the way. The horse knew Suzaku wasn't human. It's ears laid back and it reared again, throwing off its rider.
"Woah, calm down," he said to it. He brought a little chi to his hand and reached out to touch the horse, attempting to calm it. At the scent of magic the animal went wild. It's ears pressed tightly against its skull and it lashed out with its hooves. Then it leaped forward, tearing through the crowd in a wild gallop.
Suzaku let the girl go. Her parents ran up to him. Hugging her and thanking him profusely. He gave them a nod of acknowledgement, then took off after the horse. He had to stop it. If he didn't, someone could get hurt.
The crowd had parted for the horse, but it wouldn't part for him. Flying over them would be much easier, but he didn't have the time. He shoved through them the best he could.
The horse screamed over the roar of the crowd. Suzaku shoved through a remaining knot of people and he stopped dead still. He was too late. A little girl lay on the ground; there was no way she could be alive. She looked familiar…very familiar. His heart jumped into his throat. Nuriko? He thought.
"Kourin!" a childish voice screamed. Nuriko dashed into the street and lifted his sisters mangled body. He held the young girl against him and cried. Suzaku stood there numbed…. The part of his mind that was a god was shocked at the sight of such a young death; the human part was stunned by death period. Only the phoenix part of his mind was operating. Run! It screamed, Run from death! Run back to life! Fly! Suzaku choked on the lump in his throat and backed up a step or two. Then he turned and ran.
He pushed people out of his way, unseeing and uncaring. He went as fast as he could in mortal form; his heart feeling like it was about to explode in his chest. Something warm was streaming down his face. Blood! His mind shrieked. The human inside of him knew that they were tears but he was too panicked to care. He ducked into an alley, out of the sight of mortals, changed himself into his phoenix form and launched himself into the air.
He went high and fast, flying as far away from the scene as he could. When he could no longer sense it, he relaxed, letting his numbed mind take over. He drifted through the air, letting the wind carry him where it would. The scene passed lazily below him. He thought of nothing but the feeling of the sun on his back and the wind through his feathers.
The feel of Seriyuu's chi brought him out of the stupor. He was coming a bit too close to the eastern border. Gracefully he banked and headed back the way he had come. The last thing he needed to do was to provoke his brother.
He flew to Mount. Taikyoku and looked at the top. It was empty today. He stretched out his talons and landed on the flat peak. Then laid down, folded his wings and peered over the southern land.
His mind was slowly coming back to focus now and he almost wished it wouldn't. With focus…came realization. He had been naïve. Seriyuu was right, everything required sacrifice. Because he had chosen to save that girl…Shouka…another life was lost. A life that was as dear to his seishi as his seishi was dear to him.
It wasn't fair, it wasn't right…but neither was life. Things lived and died, nothing changed. It was an ever repeating cycle. What did love matter? Eventually it would be lost, forgotten…gone. Eventually it would die…as humans did…. He got to his feet and adjusted his wings to fly off the mountain. He just wanted to go into his room. Sometimes he wished he could have been made with a shell like Genbu.
~Suzaku-sama…~ a voice whispered. He paused for a moment and listened, hoping to catch the sound again. ~Suzaku-sama.~ it was a different voice this time…yet he had heard it before.
~Suzaku-sama…don't leave us.~
~We need you Suzaku-sama.~
~Suzaku-sama…I need you to take care of my sister. To take care of me.~
~Help us Suzaku-sama.~
~True love is eternal Suzaku-sama.~ The phoenix looked back. He knew them…all those voices were…were his seishi. Even the one he hadn't met and the one who hadn't even been born. They couldn't understand. Love wasn't eternal. Love was life and death destroyed it.
~You should never give up hope Suzaku-sama.~ That voice wasn't one of his seishi…but he recognized it. The twins…Seriyuu's seishi. Their parents had been killed before their eyes. Love should be gone…but…they still loved one another.
He turned back to facing the south. Love…it always lived on. There was nothing you could do to stop it. It could be stopped for a while, death could smother it with black flames…but it would rise from the ashes anew and carry on to the next generation…and the next….
He changed into his man form and stood, spreading his wings slightly to the sun. Life wasn't fair. Life was brutal. Through all the things his seishi would encounter…at the end…it would all be right, because love conquered all. No matter what Seriyuu said…love was eternal…because he was Suzakuseikun, the phoenix…god of fire and love…and he said so dammit.
The twelve year old struggled to hold the squirming baby in the crook of his arm, while trying to keep a curious one year old from hurting himself and cooking a meal at the same time. He wasn't being very successful.
"Brobber…dat?" the one year old asked, pointing to the fire.
"That's a fire. It's hot so stay away."
"Hot?" The one year old crawled toward it, sticking out his chubby fingers.
"Got him!" a six year old, cried, grabbing Shunkei away from the flames.
"Arigatou. Where were you Chuei?"
"Me an' Gyokuran went out to get some fish for supper…she almost fell in the water though."
"Fish?" Suzaku chuckled at the befuddled look on Tamahome's face.
The baby he was holding gave a short cry and renewed her struggles. The boy put a hand to his head. Then he set the girl on the floor.
"Gyokuran, you look after Shunkei and Yurien. Chuei, you stir the rice…I'll clean the fish."
"It's not dirty big brother," the five year old said, hugging Yurien to her, " I cleaned it for you. I put it in the stream and washed it nice an' good."
"Hai, that's why she almost fell in," Chuei put in.
"Pweety fishy," Shunkei said.
"Hai, it is…it'll taste good." The seishi set the fish on the table and got a clean knife. He concentrated and put his knife to the scales.
"Big brother no!" Gyokuran cried. Tamahome jumped and nearly dropped the knife.
"It's too pretty to cut!"
"If I don't clean…cut it how will we eat it?"
"I don't wan't to eat it! I want it as a toy. Chuei said…"
"Chuei…" he said, in an exasperated tone.
"Gomen but it was the only way she would come with me."
"What was the only way?" a new voice broke in. Tamahome looked up and smiled.
"Father!" Chuei yelled, running up to him, Gyokuran not too far behind. His father lifted him and enveloped him in a big bear hug. He set the six year old down, lifted the girl and gave her a peck on both cheeks. Then he set her down, scooped up Yurien and Shunkei in either arm and sat down at the table with them.
"Tell big brother not to cut the fish father!" Gyokuran begged, tugging at his tunic.
"Would you like to have fish for supper? Or just plain old watery rice?"
"Wice!" Shunkei crowed, Yurien babbled in agreement.
"I'd rather have fish," Chuei said.
"What about you Kishuku?" The twelve year old grinned and began to clean it.
"I'd rather have all the money in the world so I can buy nice presents for you."
"What would you buy me?" Gyokuran asked, leaning forward eagerly.
"I'd buy you a palace by the sea."
"All the ponies you could ever imagine and pretty fish too."
"Pwetty fish!" Shunkei cheered. Yurien giggled.
"Oh really?" Gyokuran said, stars in her eyes, " Arigatou big brother."
"What about me?" Chuei asked.
"I'd buy you a huge farm. Nothing but rice fields as far as the eye can see…and a harem of women to run it for you."
"As long as they're not girls…girls are icky. Except for Gyokuran," he added quickly.
"And Yurien," the oldest girl said, folding her hands on her hips.
"Hai, Yurien's not icky…but she's not a girl yet…she's just a baby."
"Buy me! Buy me!" Shunkei yelled. Tamahome was silent a moment.
"I'd buy you and Yurien so many toys you wouldn't know what to play with first."
"What about Father?" Chuei asked.
"Ahh…I would like a nice, quiet house…no pesky children."
"I'm not a Pesky, I'm a So," Gyokuran said.
"Hai! Me too," Chuei said. Tamahome laughed but didn't bother to correct them. He dumped the fish meat into the rice and wiped off his hands.
"What would you buy Mother?" Gyokuran asked softly. A hush settled over the room and Suzaku frowned. He sensed that their mother had died not to long ago. He focused his attention on his seishi, wondering what he would say.
Tamahome was silent for a long moment, stirring the meal.
"I would buy her the biggest tomb I could find."
"As big as the palace?" Gyokuran asked.
"Bigger! So big that Suzaku'd see it and know someone special rested there."
"All the way from heaven?" Chuei asked in a hushed whisper.
"Hai…all the way from heaven and Mother would look down on us and be proud of us."
"I think she already is," their Father said, " what would you buy Kishuku?"
"I mean for yourself." The boy was silent for a long time. Then he shrugged.
"I don't know."
"Buy yourself a kingdom!" Chuei said.
"A wife!" Gyokuran said. Tamahome wrinkled his nose.
"A wife? Why would I want a wife? Girls are too much trouble…especially some little sisters I know."
"Hey," the girl said, stamping her foot.
"I'm joking. You know you and Yurien are the most important girls to me."
"Pwetty fish," Shunkei agreed.
Dinner was a rather complicated affair. The man and the seishi concentrated on feeding the younger of the siblings while the other two had miniature food fights when their elders weren't looking.
After the meal the man sat back and sighed heavily.
"Family is the best thing you could ever have," he told his oldest, " never forget that."
"No Father…I won't."
"Speaking of which…it's been a long time since you've been to that master of yours. He must be concerned."
"Hai…I'll visit him next month…or maybe the month after."
"How about tomorrow morning?"
"I can't go then!"
"Chuei can't watch over everyone himself!"
"I'll watch over them Kishuku…"
"No buts…you're a Suzaku shichi seishi…you have to be prepared."
"You said family is the best thing, so shouldn't that be what I look to first?"
"Hai…our family…our neighbors family and every other family in this kingdom who are depending on you to bring them peace." Tamahome sighed.
"Hai father…if you say so."
Suzaku yawned and stretched his arms over his head. He'd slept in a tree by the house in man form. He winced and rubbed the crick in the back of his neck. If his beast form wasn't so big he would have slept in the tree like that. It would have been much more comfortable. Next time he was either sleeping on the ground or going back to Mount. Taikyoku.
He yawned again and flapped his wings a few times to shake out the sleepiness. Then the door to the house opened and Tamahome came out. Suzaku waited until he had passed by, then changed into mortal form, and jumped down from the tree.
He youthened his appearance and followed behind his seishi. A group of boys, hanging around a house, noticed the twelve year old.
"Hey look! Monster boy's awake!"
"Where ya goin' Obake? Gonna terrorize the capitol?"
"I'm going to visit my master!" Tamahome growled, the bright red symbol glowing vividly on his forehead.
"Oh no! The monsters mad!"
"I'm not a monster! I'm a Suzaku shichi seishi!"
"Ooh a seishi! I'm scared. Hide me from the seishi!" one of the boys said, ducking behind his friends. The other boys laughed. Suzaku calmly walked up to Tamahome and put an arm on his shoulder.
"You'd better be scared," he told the boys, " he is a seishi and so gifted with powers to seriously hurt you guys."
"But he wouldn't," one of the boys said.
"Have you ever considered why he's a seishi and you aren't?"
"Because I'm normal."
"Because you couldn't cut it. He's going to be honored one day as one of the seven warriors who fought at the miko's side. His name will never die…and where will you be I wonder?"
"The same place as you!" Suzaku grinned but didn't say anything to correct him.
"Who are you?" Tamahome asked. The phoenix grinned.
"So Kishuku…but my friends call me Tamahome."
"What frie-" the boy was cut off when Suzaku glared at him.
"Do you want to come to my masters with me? I'm sure he won't mind. "
The two started away from the boys. The seishi symbol slowly faded from the boys head. Suzaku remembered when he had found him. The one soul he had liked above all the rest in that pond.
"They always make fun of me like that."
"They shouldn't. You’re a shichi seishi."
"Do you believe that? Truly? I mean about the legend and everything?"
"I don't think they do. I do though." The conversation stopped as they reached a house. Tamahome knocked on the door politely, then opened it a little.
"Master?" he called.
"Ah Tamahome, come in."
"I brought a friend."
"He can come too." The dark haired boy pushed open the door and ushered Suzaku inside. An old man was sitting at the table. He had long white hair brushed back from his face and a white beard as well. He looked to be in his fifties but Suzaku had the feeling that he was much older then that.
"Where have you been? I've been worried about you."
"I was taking care of my family."
"Hai, I heard. Gomen nasai Tamahome."
"Arigatou." After a moment the old man turned his gaze to him. Suzaku blinked in shock. He knew that man!
"It's the pervert!" Suzaku yelled, grinning wildly.
"Nani?" Tamahome asked.
"Tokaki! The pervert! You have gotten old."
"Do I…know you?" the man asked. Suzaku shook his head, realizing what he'd just said. He tried to hold back his laughter. He didn't want anyone to catch on.
"Tamahome…welcome back." The fiery haired god looked at the white haired woman standing in the doorway. She was almost as old as the man was if not the same age. She looked to Suzaku and smiled. " Who's your friend?"
"Tori Kijutsu," the young seishi said.
"You're the sexy lady! Subaru! I remember you too. What are you doing here with Tokaki?"
"I…I'm married to him."
"MARRIED?! YOU TWO?!" Suzaku couldn't take it any more. He fell over in a fit of laughter. It was just too funny. Byakko had to see this. He picked himself off the floor and dragged himself outside, weak from laughing.
"Hey Byakkie-kun! Come here! I've gotta show you something!" he yelled in a voice only his brother could hear. There was nothing for a moment. Then the white tiger bounded down from the clouds and landed with a graceful thump beside the phoenix.
~What is it?~ the tiger asked him. Suzaku walked inside, his brother beside him. The three seishi eyed him strangely. He knew that they couldn’t see the tiger.
~Tokaki and Subaru.~ Byakko said in a slightly annoyed voice. He sat and looked at them; the tip of his tail flicking irritably. ~Is this what you wanted me to see? I don't really care.~
~NANI?! Buh…buh…. Muh? Them?!~
~ I knew that!~ the tiger snapped, and concentrated on grooming an invisible spot off his shoulder.
Byakko couldn't believe this! Subaru and Tokaki married? It was strange. After giving his powers to his miko he'd ignored the seishi. He had become annoyed with them for making him the way he was. He didn't pay attention to their lives at all.
He laid down and stared at his the two. Wondering why in the world they'd decided to get married. He remembered the first time they'd met.
The young man sat on the hill, staring over the land. The dying sun gave his white hair a reddish tinge. He poked at the ground with a stick and sighed heavily.
"Why me?" he muttered to himself, " why do I have to be a seishi? It isn't fair."
"Life isn't fair," a woman said coming up behind him. The man looked back.
"Subaru," he said.
"Tokaki," she said, sitting down beside him. He winced.
"Don't call me that. My name is Kyo."
"Your Tokaki now, whether you like it or not you’re a Byakko shichi seishi."
"Hai. When it's over can I go back to being Kyo again?" The woman put a hand on his shoulder.
"Who knows what will happen before it's all over. Nothing is definite."
"Seishi don't have to be celibate do they?" Subaru looked slightly taken aback.
"N…Nani? No I don't think so." Tokaki buried his face in his hands and his shoulders shook slightly. " What's wrong?"
"I'm going to miss my old life. All my friends…" he broke off.
"Sh," Subaru said, pulling his head to rest on her shoulder, " it'll be all right. You can always go back to the..." her voice trailed off as his head moved down to rest against her chest.
"Whoo! These ARE real!" Tokaki said, any trace of sadness gone.
"HENTAI!!" The woman yelled. She squirmed out of his sudden tight embrace and leapt to her feet. " I can't BELIEVE you were just using me!!"
"We haven't even GOTTEN to the using part baby! But if you want to skip to that it's fine with me!" He jumped to his feet. She reached out to smack him. He fizzed out of existence only to appear right beside her.
"Teleportation is my seishi ability. Think of all the fun we could have with that!" Subaru glared, then her face changed and a sweet smile broke over her features.
"Oh really. You shouldn't say such things…I've never…you know…done it…before. Maybe you could teach me." Tokaki began to drool.
"Really?!" he asked, sliding closer to her.
"NO!" Subaru snapped and shoved him down the hill.
Ever since that incident they had always been at each other's throats. It was amusing to watch and he had secretly stuck them in a few situations just to see what they would do.
Then he remembered one particular incident that could have been an indication. He hadn't thought about it much then. Now that he thought back, their marriage didn't come off as such a surprise.
It was a month or two before the summoning would take place and Tokaki and Subaru were in Subaru's home village near the Kutou border. Kutou's emperor had been threatening to overtake the western borders and expand his kingdom. The seishi had been sent there to help stop it.
Subaru jumped and yelped, causing several people to stare at her. Her head whipped around to glare at her companion.
"Tokaki can't you be serious once in a while?!"
"Can't you relax once in a while? You're too tense babe."
"I am not tense and don’t call me babe!"
"You are tense babe. Don't worry about it, I'm sure everything will work out."
"You can say that. You don't even have a home village…" Tokaki winced and looked away. A softness came over Subaru's face.
"Gomen nasai, Tokaki. I don't know why I said that."
"Don't worry about it and don't worry about your village either. I won't let any of Kutou's bastards take it over."
"I know we've never been friends. I guess you're not so much of a pervert and I…well I'm starting to lo-"
"Woah! Check her out!" Tokaki said, cutting her off. " She is hot!" Subaru frowned as her fellow seishi rushed across the street in pursuit of the other woman. She sighed and turned away.
"Forget it," she muttered to herself.
"Hey babe! Where are you going? The inn is that way."
"I'm not going to the inn Tokaki," she said through clenched teeth, " and don’t call me babe!"
"Your not mad at me are you?"
"Hmm…let me think. Now why would I be mad at a pervert who has to touch every woman he sees? I simply don't know." He didn't answer. Instead he grabbed her from behind and pulled her against him.
"I don't touch every woman. Just you."
"What about that 'hot' girl?"
"She's hot…but your sexy. I like that better."
"It's all about looks with you isn't it?" He took her chin in his hand, tilted her head back and kissed her gently.
"It's different with you Subaru. You make me feel like no one ever has." She closed her eyes.
"If only I could believe you."
"You can Subaru. I-"
"Tokaki-sama! Subaru-sama!" a new voice interrupted. Tokaki let her go and they both turned to see a villager running up to them. He stopped, and tried to catch his breath.
"What is it?" Subaru asked.
Byakko shook himself out of the reverie. He looked at his seishi thoughtfully. He looked deep inside for the anger he felt before but he couldn't find it. He didn't exactly love his seishi. He never had in the first place. He doubted that any of his brothers really did, with the obvious exception of Suzaku.
The seishi did reflect on the god. His seishi were bright, intelligent, and even with age; beautiful. In other words…just like him. The tiger stood and stretched. He gave his seishi a final look. Then turned, he needed to check up on one more.
Before he left he looked at his brother who was watching his seishi training.
~Suzaku?~ The redhead looked back at him.
"For what?" Byakko just smiled and left.
The sun was beginning to set when Suzaku walked Tamahome back home. The seishi was tired, but he seemed happy.
"When the miko comes I'll be ready," he said and reached down to pick a pebble off the side of the road. " I'll be the best I can be. I won't let anything harm her."
"I'm sure you won't. Are you proud to be a seishi?"
"Hai, very proud. Do seishi get paid?" Suzaku chuckled.
"No, I don't think so."
"I think they should. If Suzaku were here right now that's what I'd tell him."
"Really? You wouldn't be scared at all?"
"Not even a little?"
"Nope." Tamahome tossed the stone down the street and dusted off his hands. " I wouldn't be scared at all. I'd just tell him we should get paid." The phoenix grinned. If Taiitsukun-sama ever found out what he was going to do she would chi blast him into next week. But it was well worth the risk.
He dropped his mortal guise. Tamahome looked over at him, did a double take and his jaw dropped.
"You wanted to say something?" Suzaku asked, winking. The boy didn't say anything for a long moment. Then screamed and fell to his knees.
"Gomen nasai! Gomen nasai! I didn't mean it! Please don't kill me Suzakuseikun-sama!!"
"I'm not going to hurt you. Get up." The boy shot to his feet. He looked like he was about to pass out. The eighteen year old smiled. " Would you like to fly Tamahome?"
"N…nani? F…fly? How?" Suzaku grabbed the boy and launched himself into the air. The twelve year old yelped and went perfectly still. The phoenix leveled out, flying a little above the village so Tamahome would get used to it.
"Don't drop me!" he squeaked.
"Don't worry, I won't. Trust me." After a minute or two Suzaku felt the boys racing heart calm a bit.
"Suzakuseikun-sama? Can I…can I ask you something?"
"Why are you doing this? I…I mean why are you being so…nice?"
"Because I want too. Are you afraid Tamahome?"
"H…hai. A little." " Do you want to go faster?"
"Hai!" The phoenix beat his wings against the air, rising higher. He couldn't go too high or the boy wouldn't be able to breathe. He waited until the town was a large speck. Then he folded his wings back and dove through the air, holding on tightly to his seishi.
He waited until the town was a large speck. Then he folded his wings back and dove through the air, holding on tightly to his seishi. Tamahome spread out his arms like wings.
"Enjoying yourself?" he called to him.
"Hai!" Suzaku laughed and opened his wings slightly sending them into a spiral. The redhead watched as the ground came closer and closer. He opened his wings to their full extent and swooped down, skimming only a few inches above the hard road. He pulled up and shot into the forest. He expertly dodged tree trunks and branches, also sending every other bird and animal in the woods diving for cover.
They flew for a while. It was obvious the boy was having the time of his life. He saw Mount. Taikyoku rising in the distance. The phoenix blinked, he hadn't realized he'd carried him that far.
He went to the top and landed, gently setting the boy down. Tamahome stumbled a bit but soon righted himself.
"Wow, you can see just about everything from here." Suzaku looked to where the boy was watching. The dying sun bathed everything with a reddish glow. Overhead was dark and star or two appeared.
"This is where I live." Tamahome looked up at him.
"Don't you live in heaven?" The phoenix shrugged.
"I go there sometimes, but I like to stay down here."
"Want to go in?"
They entered the mountain and were immediately surrounded by little girls.
"Suzaku's back!" a Nyan Nyan cried.
"A seishi! Taiitsukun-sama is going to be mad."
"But we fix madness!"
"Hai! We cure madness!"
"Aren't they cute?" Suzaku asked.
"Hai…cute," Tamahome said, inching back from them.
"He stay with us?"
"I don't know if Taiitsukun-sama would let me."
"Let you what?" Suzaku yelped as the old creator floated toward them. He shoved the seishi behind him and spread his wings a little to cover him better. The Nyan-nyan grouped around him and smiled innocently. He mimicked their expressions.
"Konnichiwa," they said together. Taiitsukun-sama narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
"Suzakuseikun, are you hiding something?"
"Who me? No."
"Not hiding anyone Taiitsukun-sama," a Nyan-nyan put in.
"Any…one? Who did you bring up here?"
"No one Taiitsukun-sama. Don't you believe me?" he batted big, innocent eyes at her. She glared and folded her arms.
"I can see his legs Suzakuseikun." Suzaku sighed, so much for trying to hide him. He folded his wings and brought the young seishi in front of him.
Tamahome's eyes lighted on the old, grumpy creator. A high pitched scream erupted from the mortals mouth and he wrapped his arms around Suzaku's legs.
"IT'S A MONSTER! DON'T LET IT EAT ME!"
"Put him back Suzakuseikun."
"Aww, can't I keep him here with me?"
"Hai Taiitsukun-sama. We keep?" The woman shook her head and glared at him.
"No." Suzaku wrapped his arms around the boys shoulders, rested his chin on his head and looked at his creator imploringly.
"Please? I'll take care of him really well…and the Nyan-nyan will help."
"Hai! We help! We help Suzaku! Please Taiitsukun-sama?"
"No. It's too dangerous here. What if Seriyuu finds him? How well do you think he'd survive a chi blast?"
"From a god? You know that he has become the most powerful of the four of you."
"I know Taiitsukun-sama…but I'll be careful. I won't let Seriyuu touch him."
"Why do you want him here Suzaku?" The phoenix held the boy tighter.
"I want to save him. From all the bad things that will happen to him in the mortal world."
"Save him from life?"
"Hai. He'd…he'd be happy here. He'd get everything and I'll make sure nothing bad ever happens to him."
"What about when the miko comes? You're going to have to let him go Suzaku."
"What if he doesn't want too?"
"Why would he want to go out into the dangerous world when he can have everything here?"
"Well…I…he's different. It's his duty. He would understand. I'm going to keep him with me Taiitsukun-sama." The oracle sighed and nodded.
"All right. You have my permission."
"I do?! Arigatou!"
"Perhaps you should send a gift to his family." Suzaku frowned.
"Hai…they are going to miss him and he will miss them as well."
"But…we can be his family."
"Genbu thinks with his head, for planning. Byakko thinks with his eyes, for balancing. Seriyuu thinks with his strength, for fighting…what do you think with Suzaku?" The phoenix closed his eyes. It wasn't right, his heart told him so. He didn't want his seishi to suffer…but perhaps he would suffer more if cut off from his family…his home.
He put a hand on Tamahome's forehead, the oni sign glowed brightly under his hand. Suzaku gently reaching into his mind with his chi. He replaced the memories of the last part of the day and replaced them with a sweet dream. Then he told his mind to sleep.
He caught the boy as he fell and gently lifted him.
"You do well Suzakuseikun," Taiitsukun-sama said, an unchararistic smile brightening her face. For a moment he saw some of her old beauty. He went over to her and kissed her cheek.
"I'll be back," he said.
It was night now, the stars shone sleepily in the darkening sky. He flew back to the village and gently placed his seishi on the ground before his house. He leaned against the house and closed his eyes.
~Chuei. Your brother is back.~ There was silence for a moment. Then the sound of running feet.
"Father! Father! I think Tamahome's back!" The dim light that was filtering through the window flared brighter. The door slowly swung open and light poured outside of it. Tamahome blinked in the sudden light, yawned and slowly sat up.
"Kishuku!" his father said, scooping the twelve year old up and hugging him tightly. " Where have you been? We were so worried!"
"I…I don't remember. I think I got lost…"
"Well, it's good that you're home."
"Hai," Chuei said, " we missed you! Gyokuran said you'd gotten eaten by a tiger!" Tamahome smiled.
"Of course not. I'm a Suzaku shichi seishi!" Suzaku smiled and flew into the night. It was the right thing to do. Taking his family away would have been something only Seriyuu would do. Suzaku paled as he realized what he almost did. Almost…but didn't.
One thing was for sure. He was going to have a difficult time finding the right miko. He needed someone who would be worth Tamahome's protection. Someone the seishi could love as he did his family. His family couldn't go with him when he was with the miko…but perhaps she could be his family. Then Tamahome would never be alone.
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