Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, ain't making any money…
Author's Notes: Time has passed. The seishi are as old as when Miaka and Yui entered the book. Also there are time jumps in this chapter…but not as major…just a few weeks or so.
Chapter 4: The Choice of a Lifetime - Part 1
The old woman watched him sleep. It was time-time for him to fulfill his role as one of the four and choose. Even at nineteen he was still so innocent in sleep. He was in man form, laying on his stomach. His arms provided a pillow for his head and his face was hidden by a brilliant red wing.
She hated to wake him, but she had too.
~Suzakuseikun.~ she called to him. He didn't respond. ~Suzakuseikun!~ she tried, a bit louder this time. He still slept away. ~SUZAKU!~
~Hrumph…ish nosz morning yet and I hafta feez deef…feed the sing birrds…~ the red head called back sleepily. Taiitsukun sweatdropped. Was he impossible on purpose?
~Suzaku you have to wake up.~
~Okay goof morzing night night…~ he lapsed back to sleep again. Taiitsukun sighed.
"We try Taiitsukun-sama?" a little green haired girl asked.
"Hai, but I doubt you'll get anywhere," the oracle said, and handed the girl the mirror.
"WAAIII! RISE AND SHINE SUZAKUUUU! WAKEY WAKEY! UP UP! WE RUN! WE PLAY! WE NYAN-NYAN!"
"Who? What? When? Where? How? I didn't do it!"
Taiitsukun glowered at the Nyan-nyan.
"Are you done yet?"
"Hai, hai Taiitsukun-sama! We done! You can remove hands from ears now."
~Suzakuseikun. Come to the top of Taikyoku.~
~But it's the middle of the night!~
~Do you see that dash of light to the east of you?~
~It's called a sunrise. Get over here.~
Taiitsukun went to the top of the mountain. Seiryuu was already there, hovering just above the peak in dragon form. Byakko was lounging on the peak, cleaning his paws. The only one to wait for was Suzaku.
"INCOMINNNNG!" a familiar voice crowed. A red blur went swooshing over the top at lightning speed. Then the blur became a man. Suzaku went a bit further, flew up into the air, arched back and dove back toward the peak, head first. He righted himself not a moment too soon and landed with a thunk near the edge.
"Good morning Taiitsukun-sama!" he said, giving her a peck on the cheek.
~Suzaku?~ Byakko said.
~If you don't lower your VOICE. I'm going to seriously thing about clawing you.~
"Now listen to me carefully," Taiitsukun said, " and no interruptions," she said, glaring pointedly at Suzaku. " Today is the day when you bridge the gap between worlds in order to find your mikos."
"Really? When can we go? When can we…" he trailed off when she gave him a frustrated look. The phoenix smiled sheepishly, " Gomen Taiitsukun-sama. I'll shut up now."
" This is important, listen carefully. When you go into the other world, you will automatically assume mortal form. You may still have some of your chi but that is only, only to choose your miko. If you use it for anything else then you will have to wait a few more years until you are able to choose."
" Why?" Seiryuu grumbled.
"Because I said so."
"So we can pick anyone we want?" Suzaku asked.
"Hai, but she must be of an appropriate age. In other words no one younger then twelve or older than thirty."
"How much time do we have?" The old woman shrugged.
" Indefinite…your seishi are at their destined ages…they will remain so until both miko's are chosen."
"How do we know how to choose a miko?"
"Full of questions aren't we bird brain?"
"How else do you expect me to find out?"
"You will know," Taiitsukun interrupted, " Since Byakko doesn't have enough chi to return to that world, one of you will have to help him."
"I will!" Suzaku chirped.
"Why is he coming?" Seiryuu growled.
"You think I trust you two alone?" If the circumstances were different she would have. But even though the fight had been a couple years ago the dragon still bore a grudge and Suzaku…as forgiving as he was…had a quick, fiery temper. Byakko would be there to make sure they spent their time searching for their miko's rather then fighting each other.
~Will I still have my chi Taiitsukun-sama?~ the tiger asked her privately.
~Hai. You may also use it to create illusions of money, clothes and any other things they may need to blend in with the crowd.~
~They're lucky. I had to go with Genbu as my gaurdian.~ Byakko twitched, ~He was either sleeping or pressing me to hurry.~
~What does it matter? You never paid attention to him anyway.~ Byakko flicked the tip of his tail and lowered his head in a tiger grin.
~True…true…. He got so mad too.~
"Can we go now Taiitsukun-sama? Can we? Huh? Huh?" Taiitsukun smiled at the phoenix's enthusiasm.
"Hai. You can go, but you need to open a portal for Byakko."
"I'm going," Seiryuu said. He pulled himself further in the air. He stilled in the air, lips pulled back in a snarl and claws stretched. Blue lightning snapped from the clouds that had gathered above him.
The three on the peak sweatdropped.
"He can't do anything without fanfare can he?" Suzaku said.
"It's his way," Taiitsukun said with a sigh. The dragon curled in on himself, moving faster and faster as if he was chasing his tail. Then in a bright flash of blue he was gone.
Suzaku rolled his eyes and changed into his phoenix form. He pushed off from the mountain, and dived down through the air, wings tucked close to his body. He swooped close to the ground then started back up again. When he was just a little above the mountain he leveled himself out.
"Suzakuseikun, stop playing around!" Taiitsukun ordered.
~All right. All right. Just having a little fun," the bird said.
Suzaku hovered in the air, concentrating. He wove his chi around his body, making sure to weave it tightly so it would create a stable passage for Byakko. Then he shot ahead. Stroking his wings against the air, he moved faster and faster, letting his chi trail out behind him. He waited until everything was a blur then closed his eyes.
~I WILL CROSS OVER THE THRESHOLD. I AM SUZAKUSEIKUN. OPEN!~ There was a deafening roar in his ears as he exited the real world. The space between worlds was dark and cold…only a god could pass this way. It would kill any normal being. He didn't like it. It was too empty, too alone. He flew as fast as he could, keeping his eyes closed against the dark.
There was another roar and he slowed himself down and landed. He opened his eyes and shivered. The twenty eight constellations were painted in this room, as well as his three brothers and himself. He hated this tomb. Years ago…before even Genbu's miko had come… they had combined their powers to seal an evil man in here. The malice hung in the air, and the phoenix shivered again.
There was a flash of red and Byakko stepped through the painting of the phoenix on the wall. As soon as he stepped in the hatred in the room intensified. The fur on the tigers back rose and he hissed savagely. The hatred pressed against Suzaku. Since he was no longer in his god form it was harder for him to fight it. He gulped and backed up against the wall.
Byakko hissed again and batted at the air, claws unsheathed and chi flaring around his paw. The feeling subsided and the redhead breathed normally.
~Let's get of here,~ the tiger said, fur still on end.
"Hai." The two left the tomb. Once outside in the warm sun, the phoenix collapsed against the wall, relived. Seiryuu was there as well, arms wrapped around himself as if to ward off a chill. The rival brothers shared at glance that was, for once, in agreement.
Byakko sat between them and began to groom his fur back in place.
~He seems even stronger then when I came…and Genbu said the same thing when he came with me.~
"Will he break free?" Seiryuu asked.
~I'm not sure. If he does, it won't be for a long while…~
"I hope he doesn't," Suzaku said.
"So do I."
~So do we all.~
"I don't want to go into the city!" the dragon roared.
"Well I do!"
"Well I don't!"
"I'm the oldest so I get to choose where we go!"
"You're the stupidest so I get to choose where to go!"
"Take that back!"
"Never!" They super deformed, a purely human gesture, and began batting each other's hands away.
"Bird brain!" Byakko sweatdropped. Apparently with their humanity also came their immaturity. As much as it was amusing to watch, he was getting bored with the constant arguing.
~We don't have to travel together. I just have to travel with one of you.~ The two gods stopped fighting and looked at him, still chibi. Seiryuu abruptly turned to his normal state and brushed off his clothes.
"Of course." Suzaku grinned and did as well.
"Maybe you should travel with lizard breath."
"Well it makes sense for you to travel the one who is more apt to get into trouble."
Byakko looked between the two of them. Well he had to choose one and what Suzaku said made sense.
Suzaku walked toward the massive city in the distance. It seemed strange to be walking instead of flying, still it was an enjoyable experience. Byakko was trotting beside him, looking bored.
"I still don't see why you decided to travel with me, I don't get into trouble."
~Oh? And who nearly got blasted into oblivion? Who interfered more then he should have? Who created the Nyan-nyans? It wasn't Genbu or Seiryuu, and it definitely wasn't me…~
"Nyan-nyans aren't trouble."
"They are not. They're cute."
~That's the point.~
The phoenix sighed, Byakko would never understand. They continued to walk in silence. After a while he saw a young girl playing in her front yard. He stopped to watch her; she was about five or six with long, dark brown hair.
"Konnichiwa," he said to her. She looked up at him, brown eyes wide.
"What a big kawaii tiger! Did he escape from the zoo?"
~Kawaii? Maybe. Beautiful, of course,~ Byakko purred. Suzaku laughed and shook his head.
"No. He's mine."
~Yours?~ the tigers tone was deadly.
"Sh…play along. Please Byakkie-kun?" he asked quietly. He pouted and looked down at the tiger with wide, innocent, eyes.
~Fine.~ Byakko grumbled.
" Can I pet him?" the little girl asked.
"Hai." She carefully approached the beast and touched his head.
"He's so soft."
"I know. Especially in the head."
~Watch it.~ The redhead giggled.
"What's his name?"
"Byakkie-kun…and I'm Tori Kitjutsu. Who are you?"
"Tsukino Uta. " She petted Byakko some more; then reached in the pocket of her overalls and pulled out too thin colorful sticks.
"Would you like a pixy stick?"
"Uta-chan," a woman called leaning out the door, " who are you…" She saw Suzaku and her eyes widened. " Get over here now!"
"Now young lady." The mother stormed up to her, grabbed her hand and dragged her forcefully away. "Don't you ever talk to strangers! You hear me? He could be a kidnapper for all you know."
"No. I'm not. Really."
"Hai. He's nice Okaasan."
"Get in the house," the woman said.
"Now." The little girl went to the door and looked back at him.
"Goodbye Tuskino-sama," he said with a grin, and gave a mock bow. The girl giggled and disappeared inside the house. The woman glared at him, her eyes narrowed.
"You should move along," she said coldly. Suzaku spread his hands and took a step toward her.
"I'm harmless…really. I wouldn't hurt her."
"I'll call the police!" she said, taking a step back. He didn't get it. What had he done? The best thing to do was just to leave. He bowed his head and walked away. He was just being friendly, what kind of world was this?
~I think I know the problem little one,~ Byakko said after a while.
~You saw what the woman and the girl were wearing.~
"Hai, I noticed it."
~Their clothes and yours are entirely different.~
"But their females…"
~Look over there,~ the tiger said, looking across the street. Suzaku did and saw a man working in his yard. He was wearing different clothes as well.
"I guess you're right."
~Of course I am. If I changed the look of your clothes maybe you could fit in. Do you have any preferences?~ Suzaku grinned.
"Something in red."
Seiryuu sighed in frustration. There were so many mortals around and he didn’t know where to begin. He couldn’t help but be a little overwhelmed by it all.
The dragon shook his head out of that line of thought, overwhelmed? Him? He was a god, what reason should he have to feel this way? His current state was probably getting to him. The dragon gritted his teeth; he hated being mortal.
Perhaps he should try to decide what he was looking for in a miko. He didn’t care what she looked like and she couldn’t be too powerful. He didn’t want someone with the strength to fight him as he tried to devour her. The last thing he wanted was to end up like Byakko.
He needed someone who could pull his seishi together. They generally followed Nakago’s orders but occasionally they followed their own. He needed someone who could unite them to one common goal. He snapped out of his thoughts, mind made up.
Suzaku walked down the streets of the city, hands in his pockets. This world was strange…but he was slowly getting used to it. Byakko wasn’t around to watch after him though. The tiger had decided to alternate between him and Seiryuu, since Seiryuu sometimes got frustrated with humans and flew off the handle.
Fortunately though, Byakko had given him some of this world’s money before he left. So the phoenix could do pretty well on his own, at least he hoped so. Suzaku stopped by a shop window and stared at his reflection in the glass, noting the strange clothing he was wearing. He had on a white tunic they referred to as a T-shirt; a red bird was painted on the front and also the word phoenix. He also wore pants called jeans made out of a strange material and odd shoes they called sneakers. He didn’t know if they were in style in this world or not. All he knew was that he looked good.
A sharp beep erupted through the air. He jumped and turned, staring at the strange…things whirring down the road. The mortals called them cars. He didn’t like them much. They were too fast and too loud…almost like Seiryuu. He chuckled to himself at the thought and continued walking.
He hadn’t had much luck in finding a miko yet. Nobody seemed to be exactly what he wanted. He wanted someone who could fit in with his seishi. Someone who could become a part of them and love them like her family. That’s what he wanted for them…and her, but he couldn’t find anyone that fit that.
The other problem was adjusting to his mortal body. He had never been in mortal form this long before and he never realized how much work it was. Normally he ate once a week; more because he liked too then he needed too, and he’d been able to go years without sleep. Now he had to eat multiple times a day and sleep every night. It was slightly frustrating since it hindered his search. He approached a small shop and grinned, well at least there was one consolation.
He opened pushed open the door and approached the counter. He looked through the glass at the food they offered and licked his lips. This stuff was so good.
“May I help you?” a woman asked. He looked up and grinned.
“Konnichiwa.” The woman smiled and folded her hands on her hips.
“You again Tori-san? You know eating all this ice cream isn’t healthy.”
“But it’s so good.”
“Hai…but it’s fattening.” The redhead grinned and shrugged.
“So?” The woman chuckled and shook her head.
“What will you have today Tori-san?”
“What haven’t I tried yet?”
“Chocolate, coconut and broccoli sushi twist,” she said, making a face at the last one. He looked down at the flavors thoughtfully. Chocolate didn’t look like anything edible…not that he’d want to eat it anyway and the broccoli sushi twist seemed to have tentacles sticking out of it.
The bells above the door rang and he looked back over his shoulder. Two children had walked in and were coming up to the counter.
“Konnichiwa Yoru-san.” The boy said.
“Konnichiwa Kesiuke, Miaka. What brings you here?”
“Okaasan wanted to know if you minded baby-sitting,” the blond said.
“Okaasan wanted to go shopping and she didn’t want Miaka to eat all of the food.”
“ Hai. I’ll watch you. Ice cream's on me.”
“Yay!” the little girl cried and clapped her hands. Suzaku smiled, she was cute.
“I want a vanilla cone with sprinkles please, “ Keisuke said. Yoru-san filled his order and the boy plopped down on a booth by the window.
“What do you want, Miaka?” the woman asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t see,” the four year old said, trying to jump up to peer through the glass. Then she looked up at Suzaku with big hazel eyes.
“Can you lift me up?” His smile widened, she was just so cute! He complied and lifted her.
“Oooh. I want chocolate and strawberry and coconut and rocky road and that green stuff with the slimy things.” The woman sweat dropped.
“Only two flavors Miaka,” Yoru-san said. The little girl sighed dejectedly.
“I can’t afford it.”
“I’ll pay for it,” Suzaku said. The girl looked up at him with huge sparkling eyes.
“Waiii! Arigatou!” she squealed, and wrapped her chubby little arms around him in a hug. His heart started to melt. This child was adorable. “I’ll have one of everything!” Miaka chirped.
“A...ano…Tori-san…are you sure you want to pay for that?”
“Hai. Make that everything and three scoops of strawberry with a scoop of coconut on top.” The woman’s sweat drop grew considerably larger.
Suzaku sat across from the four year old, chin propped up on his hand, watching her eat. For a little girl she had a voracious appetite. Different ice cream flavors were smeared all over her face and there was a speck of strawberry on the tip of her little nose.
When she was done she licked her fingers and looked at him, hazel eyes shining.
“Are you going to finish yours?”
“Hm?” He blinked and looked down at the bowl of half melted ice cream in front of him. He’d been so wrapped up in watching her, he’d forgotten he’d had it. He smiled and pushed it over to her. Miaka devoured the ice cream then clutched her head in her hands and fell off the seat.
"What's wrong?" Suzaku asked, jumping to his feet.
"Oh she just ate ice cream too fast." Yoru-san said calmly, " she'll be all right in a minute or so."
"Itai, my head," the girl moaned. Suzaku lifted the child from the floor and sat her on the seat beside him. She rested her head against his arm. He sighed deeply. He liked her. She was so cute and innocent and trusting.
A few seconds later she sat up right and smiled brightly.
"Itai all gone! Can I have some more?" she said, looking at him hopefully. He sweatdropped, then laughed. Her enthusiasm was catching.
"Come on Miaka, we have to go, Okaasan is waiting outside," Keisuke said, coming toward his little sister.
"I don't want to," the little girl said, her lower lip trembling a bit.
"It's almost dinner time…"
"Oh! Ok! Bye bye!" She hopped off the seat and grabbed her brothers hand.
Suzaku watched her go with a smile on his face. Maybe she could be his miko, the thought was worth considering.
Another day he woke to find a furry face staring down at him. The redhead grinned.
"Ohayo Byakkie-kun, how was it with Seiryuu?" The tiger sighed.
~All right. He calmed down a bit but he's so boring to watch. He never says anything.~
"Seiryuu has no sense of fun," Suzaku said, getting to his feet and stretching a bit.
~How could you sleep on the streets?~ the tiger asked, as they began to walk. Suzaku shrugged.
"No where else to sleep, besides indoors. I don't like sleeping indoors…it's too stuffy." Byakko showed his disapproval with a twitch of his tail.
~But it's so dirty.~
Suzaku frowned and brushed off his clothes. " I guess."
~Have you found a miko yet?~
"No…but I'm considering one."
~It takes a while to find just the right one. I wanted one with who was a good judge of right and wrong, balance…and of course who could complement my beauty.~
Suzaku grinned. " Beauty's a thing for you isn't it?"
~Of course. All mikos should be beautiful…it reflects well on the god.~
They walked for a bit in silence. His brother was right though, it would take a while to find the right one, though beauty wasn't the key thing on his mind. He wanted someone who was full of love. Someone who could help his seishi, just as his seishi would protect her. He needed someone with a bright outlook on life that could cheer them up, even in the darkest times. Knowing the power of the Seiryuu seishi, Suzaku also knew that there would be dark times indeed. But where could he find a girl like that?
Suzaku stopped by a playground. A few children were playing in it. He smiled as he watched them. Children were so carefree and innocent, he almost envied them. A child detached herself from the others and flew at him top speed. Suzaku stumbled a bit as a little brown haired girl wrapped her arms around his leg.
"Ohayo!" Miaka squealed, " it's good to see you again!"
"You too!" he said, just as brightly.
"What's your name?" she asked, looking up at him.
"I'm Yuuki Miaka…that's a big neko!" she said, letting go of his leg and carefully approaching Byakko. " Can I pet him?"
Byakko sighed. ~Fine. But just this once.~
" Okaasan says in some places nekos are a deli…deli…yummy treat. I should try some."
"Nani?" Before he could stop her Miaka leaned forward and bit the tiger on the ear.
~ITAI!~ Byakko roared ~GET THIS LITTLE PEST OFF ME BEFORE I BITE HER!~ Miaka yelped and scampered back. Suzaku picked her up and hugged her.
"Don't yell at her Byakkie-kun! You'll scare her!"
~The little brat bit me,~ the tiger grumbled.
"The big mean tiger's going to eat me!" the girl wailed.
~Don't tempt me.~
"Don't worry, I won't let him eat you." Miaka looked up at him with big hazel eyes, sparkling with tears. Something tugged at his heart as he looked into her eyes. It was almost as if he could see a little bit of her soul…. A small voice inside of him was saying that this girl would someday be his miko.
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