Sequel to 'Nightflower' in which Tasuki not only has
to deal with what he almost did, but with the
revelation of Chichiri's past.

Song from Key the Metal Idol OST.

Warning:  Major spoilers for the second OVAs,
particularly episode 5.  Angst and sap.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll Be Here for You
By Sakata Ri Houjun
Lyrics by Sario Kijima

**********************

Despite what they said, I couldn't seem to apologize
enough.  I knew that they'd forgiven me, even Tama and
Miaka, but the shame I felt wouldn't go away.  I
didn't know what was worse, the fact that I had hurt
the one person I was supposed to protect or breaking
the heart of the man I loved.

Chichiri knew I wasn't in control even though he was
aware of the feelings I've been harboring for Miaka.
Would things ever be the same between us?  He seemed
really disturbed when I made mention of the water...

"Tasuki, what kind of water was it?" Chiriko inquired.

"It came out of nowhere...  It was really weird..."  I
stood while trying to recall the way the water seemed
to be alive.

Suddenly, a huge wave exploded behind Miaka and washed
over everyone.  The inn was filling with the swirling
water that was holding us immobile.

"This is it!" I shouted over the roar of the water.
"It's the same water!"

Nuriko attempted to move.  "Water, is this water?  Even
I can't move."

"It seems alive," Hotohori commented.

I looked over to see Miaka trapped in a giant bubble.
Chiriko was gripping onto Mitsukake.  Where was
Chichiri?

My lover gasped as he pulled his head from under the
water, his hair plastered over his face.  "Hikou!"
The name was torn from his throat.  "Show yourself!
Hikou!"

~Tatoeba aite no tsumi o kaburo koto ga
 Korekara takusan, takusan aru ka to omou

 If you're to cover the sins of another,
 There'll be many, many of them
 I'm sure of it~

Another bubble formed in front of us all.  Inside two
men stood at the edge of a raging river.  "Why?" one
of the men in the illusion asked.  "Why did you betray
me, Hikou?"

I recognized Chichiri's voice even though the younger
man in the bubble didn't look quite like my lover.
This younger Chichiri glared angrily at the other man,
holding his wrists in his hands.  "Give her back to
me!" he screamed.

The other man glared back.  "Houjun!"

I glanced over at my lover to see his horrified eye
transfixed as the illusion continued.  The other man
slipped, falling into the river.  The younger
Chichiri, called Houjun, held his hand, but then let
go.  Pulled into the rapids, the man screamed Houjun's
name as he was swept away.

"Stop it..."  I heard Chichiri's sob.  He threw his
head back in agony.  "Stop it!"

The illusion ended, but a rush of water burst from the
wall and crashed into Chichiri.  It sent him smashing
into another wall where he laid still.  I clenched my
fist in frustration because the water was preventing me
from going to him.

"Chichiri!" commanded a voice.  "No, rather Houjun."
The figure of a man wearing long, flowing robes with
ribbed wings sprouting from his back appeared.  "Eight
years ago, that was how you killed me.  That's why I'm
taking everything you hold dear away.  I'm taking the
Suzaku no Miko.  If you want her back, come and find
me."

Next to me, Tama struggled against the water, finally
managing to lift an arm from the current.  "Miaka!" he
cried.

"Taka!" she screamed in return.  Water surrounded the
bubble, and Hikou disappeared, sending the bubble
through the roof and into the dark sky.  Then, the
water quickly receded, freeing us all.

~Sore o, ne, akira me mitomeru koto wa nai
 Sore ga otona ni naru koto nara nara, nakute ii

 Speaking of which, you know, there's no need to give
up and accept it
 If that's what if means to be an adult,
 Then I'd rather not become one~

Water drained from the hole in the roof as the other
seishi and I gathered around Chichiri's crumpled form.
 I never did unclench my fists.

"No good," Hotohori said softly.  "He's unconscious."

I looked over at Tama.  "How's he doing?"

"He's still a basket case," Nuriko replied, peering at
Tama who hadn't moved.

"I see that."  I sighed and knelt next to Chichiri.
"Do what you can to snap him out of it.  I'm going to
get Chichiri upstairs."  I scooped up my lover and
stood up.  He never did mind my carrying him; I didn't
either.

~Kimi no koto wa itsudemo miteru
 Kimi no koto wa watashi ga dakishimeru

 I'll always be watching over you;
 I'll be the one to hold you tight~

I reentered the room we were in only a short while
ago.  I laid him on the bed and gently removed his
mask.  Looking at his slack face, I began to trace a
finger down his scar.

"Chiri, you never told me about your past.  I had no
idea."  I leaned over his prone body to kiss his
unmoving lips before proceeding to remove his wet
clothing.  I had just pulled the blanket to cover his
perfect body when Mitsukake arrived.

"Is he awake yet?"

I shook my head.  While Mits walked over to the bed to
get a better look at Chichiri, I dragged a chair over
for him.  He sat down just as the others arrived.
Tama was trying to pull away from Nuriko's unyielding
grasp.

"Wait, will you, Taka?"  Nuriko halted his exit again.

"Let me go, Nuriko!" Tama protested.  "I have to find
Miaka!"

"I know how you feel, but we can't go yet."

"That's right," Hotohori agreed.  "We don't even know
where they're at."

I watched them argue.  Tama finally gave up, but he
didn't seem to be too happy about it.  I turned back
to the bed.  "I bet Chichiri knows, but he's still out
of it.  Hey, Mitsukake, why not use your powers and
wake him up faster?"

He closed his eyes at my request.  "Chichiri's heart
was wounded more than his body.  It's best for nature
to take its course and for him to wake up on his own.
For his sake..."

~Hitoribotchi da nante, omowanaide ite
 Kanashii namida ni wa kuchibiru o yosete

 "On your own" and all that...  Don't even think it
 I'll touch my lips to your sad tears~

"I can't fight him..."  I blinked back at Chichiri's
soft voice.

"You're awake."  Mits sounded as surprised as I felt.
"Are you in any pain?"

Chichiri's eye was still closed, his long hair lying
flat on his face.  "You saw...  How I murdered my best
friend..."

I felt the tears stinging the backs of my eyes as he
described the events leading up to the scene in the
illusion.  I knew he had been engaged before, he told
me on the night we first made love.  I also knew he
lost her, as well as everyone else, to a flood.  But I
never knew about Hikou.

"At that time, the flood washed away the people I
loved...  My family...  My beloved...  But with Hikou,
it's different."  Chichiri's voice broke as he turned
his head away from us.  "I can't bring myself to kill
him again.  I can't..."

All I could do was fucking stand there, clenching and
unclenching my fists.  Chiri never told me.  Why
didn't he tell me?

Mitsukake began to talk to Chichiri, but I wasn't
really listening to his words.  I was watching my
lover.  I hated to see him like this.  I actually
preferred his damn mask as opposed to this wounded
man.  I wanted to run to his side and hold and kiss
away his pain.  Suzaku, please help him.

~Nemurenai toki wa denwa oshite kite
 Kimi no iyagaru koto wa kesshite shinai

 So, on those times you can't sleep, give me a call
 I'll never do anything you don't want me to~

"Don't suffer alone," Mitsukake's words came back into
focus.  "We're here for you.  We all want to help.  I
know it's going to be hard to reopen that wound, but
don't you think it's time?  Time to set you and your
friend free?  You see that, don't you?  I believe you
do."

"Chichiri, forgive me."  Tama stepped towards the bed.
 "All you do is save me and we all need you.  I'll go.
 Tell me where to find them."

Chichiri remained silent for a moment, lying still.
My heart beat as we waited for a response.  Finally,
he sat up in bed and opened his eye.  "I will go.  I
will."

Mitsukake stood up, a smile on his face.  "Take all
the time you need.  We'll be waiting.  Come and get us
when you're ready and we'll fight together."

~Furimuite...
 Aishiteru

 Please look back to me...
 I love you~

One by one, the others left until it was just me and
Chichiri alone in the room.  He just sat there,
staring straight ahead.  I sighed and turned to go.

"Gomen."  His voice was so soft, I could barely make
out his words.  I froze in my tracks and looked over
my shoulder at him.

He stared at me, his face so sad and pained.  "I never
told anyone before."

I grinned.  "Don't be.  Just get dressed."  I closed
the door behind me.  I looked down the stairs at the
way the others went and thought about following as
well.  But I knew that Chichiri would try to do this
alone.  My place was with my lover.  His pain was now
my pain and I wasn't about to let him face this alone.

I snuck outside and crept to the balcony.  I leaned
back against the wall, next to the door and waited.  I
wondered if I had been wrong in assuming that Chichiri
would go off alone, but I knew my lover better than
anyone else did.  He wanted to spare us his burdens.

~Sabishisa ni osare taorose ni mattara
 Kodomo no yo ni ogoe de naite mogaite

 Prompted by loneliness, if you feel you're about to
fall
 Crying and fussing like a little child~

After a few long moments, I heard his shakujo rattle.
The door opened and he walked outside.  I uncrossed my
arms.  "You know where they are, don't you?  I'm going
too, no matter what you say."

I walked up beside him and looked down in guilt.  "I
have to because what Hikou did to you was what I was
going to do to Tama.  The thing is...they don't blame
me for any of it."  Chichiri and I had talked briefly
about this before.  I had been confused about how I
felt about Miaka even though I loved Chichiri.

"It caught me off guard.  I always thought of Miaka as
a sister, but I'm a man too..."  I shuddered at the
memory of what I almost did and closed my eyes.
"Still, I never thought I'd stoop so low.  I don't
mind dying.  If it's for those two, I don't think I'd
mind..."

Chichiri sighed, putting his hand on my head.  I
glanced over to see his smile.  "No one is ever really
complete, no da.  That's why no one can successfully
live alone, no da.  I understand, Tasuki.  We'll save
Miaka, together."  He meant more behind his words and
flashed a small smile back at him.

At that moment, Tama appeared out of the darkness.
"Make that three, not two.  I'm going."

Chichiri laughed.  "I may not be able to save you this
time, no da."  He lifted his shakujo to remove his
kesa and teleport us to where Hikou was.

~Asahi o mitara inru yo ni, "kyo mo yorashiku" to
 Yowayowa shikute mo egao no mama de ite hashii

 Upon viewing the sunrise, you say to it:
 "Please watch over me today, as well"
 Even if you're uncertain, I'd like for you to keep
smiling~

Standing outside a massive limestone cave as rain
poured over us, I looked about in confusion.

"Where are we?" Tama asked.

Chichiri stared into the cave calmly.  "Near where I
used to live.  Hikou always used to hide in these
caves when we were children."  He moved into the
entrance.  Without hesitation, Tama and I followed.

He stopped short of the main cavern and held out his
shakujo.  The cave vibrated when he sent a blast of
his ki across the pools of water on the floor.  Rock
formation broke apart as the water sprayed us and
Hikou, who glared angrily at Chichiri.

"Hikou!" Chichiri commanded, meeting the glare with
one of his own.  "Let Miaka go, otherwise..."

"otherwise you'll do what?" Hikou mocked.

Chichiri ignored the comment.  "My friends who serve
Suzaku mean more to me than life itself.  To protect
them, I will kill you first!"

~Kimi no koto wa itsudemo mamoru
 Kimi no moto ni ii koto kitto aru

 I'll always protect you
 To you, something good will surely happen~

"Interesting," Hikou shrugged.  "you'll have to do it
before your lovely Miko drowns."

Tama burst forward in a run, yelling to Chichiri to
simply watch over Miaka and to leave Hikou to us.  I
responded by slamming my tessen into the water,
sending flames towards Hikou.

Hikou leapt back, commanding a wall of water to rise
in front of him.  The water shielded him, deadening my
fire.  I cursed as he opened his arms, firing wave
after wave of speeding water at Tama and me.  The pain
was sharp and the both of us were knocked to the
floor.  I was vaguely aware of Chichiri calling out my
name.

Hikou raised his arms, preparing to fire at us again.

Chichiri leapt in front of me.  Glowing with red
light, he summoned his ki.

Hikou thrust his arm forward, sending a torrent of
water towards us.  Chichiri let loose an enormous
blast of his ki, which smashed against the wave.  The
water dissipated, and Hikou staggered back from the
force.

"That was...wow..." Tama breathed in amazement form
behind me.

I had seen Chichiri's power so many times before, but
he never ceased to surprise.  "No shit, man."

~Arikitari da nante iwanaide ite
 Kokoro o tsuyoku mae ni dashite agetai dake
 
 "It happens all the time" and all that...
 Don't even say it
 All I'm trying to do is be upfront with my feelings~

Hikou stood upright again, glaring at Chichiri.  Miaka
screamed, "Hikou, stop it!  Chichiri's your friend!
Can't you see how this is hurting him?  Can't you see
that he loves you?"

"Silence!" Hikou snarled.  He threw his arm upward
again, summoning an even more powerful wall of water.
As it splashed over him, Miaka began to cry out again,
her words echoing those in my heart as I looked at my
lover.

"If you were his friend, you'd understand that!"

~Ashita wa kyo yori kibishii to omou kara
 Kimi o sasaeru hashira ni naritai

 Because tomorrow, compared to today,
 Will be much worse, I think
 And so, I'd like to become the pillar that support
you~

Chichiri watched Hikou, holding his shakujo
outstretched and glowing with red ki.  "Hikou,"
Chichiri smiled.  "Don't worry.  This time I'll save
you."  With a movement of his hand, Chichiri
teleported away.  I glanced about in confusion until I
noticed Chichiri's kesa billowing before Hikou.

"Tasuki!" he yelled at me, his voice piercing my heart
with its pain.  He was in the water wall.  "Burn my
kesa!  Concentrate everything on burning my kesa!  If
you do that, we can break through the barrier and your
flame will reach inside!"

I froze, knowing what would happen if I did as he
asked.  I grinned, surely he must be joking.  "What
the hell are you saying?  If I do that, you'll die
too."

"Hurry!" Chichiri screamed.  "We don't have much
time!"

I didn't want to do it.  I glanced down at my tessen.
Could I sacrifice my lover for a greater good?  My hand
was shaking.  "But..."

"My body can't take this pressure very much longer!"
he cried.  "Do it!  Tasuki!  Do it now!"

I couldn't stop shaking as his words brought back
memories of Chiriko's death.  The boy had asked me
back then to do the same thing, to kill him with my
fire, and I had been unable to do it.  "This happened
before..."  I shuddered at my own cowardice.  "it's
all happening again."

I couldn't kill the one I loved.  "Kuso!  Kuso!"

I could feel my legs buckling.  I squeezed my eyes
shut, only aware of my own heartbeat.  If I killed
him, I wouldn't be able to go on.  "Nooo!" I screamed.

~Sono namida...
 Aishiteru

 Those tears of yours...
 I love you~

Within my mind, I recalled the night we confessed our
feelings for one another, not long after returning from
Miaka's world.  I didn't want to say goodbye to him
and he didn't want to wander alone.  In the one
decisive moment in which we could have parted ways and
lived our separate, lonely lives, we kissed and knew
we could never be apart again.

"Tasuki!"  I looked up at Tama, pulled from my
tortured thoughts.  His eyes were full of
determination, just like when he faced me on the
stairs.  He had been willing to die to prove his love
and devotion to Miaka.  I realized that Chichiri was
doing the same thing, not just to protect Miaka, but
me as well.

I gripped my tessen tightly, coming to a decision.  If
Chichiri was willing to die for us, then I would
respect his choice.

~Koware yasui no wa
 Kimi ga junsui dakara

 As for why you're so fragile
 It's because you're such an innocent~

"Run Tama!"

I felt my power surge through me, fueled my love and
pain.  "Lekka Shinen!"  My fire reached out and began
to burn Chichiri's kesa as Tama ran with all his
might.

Holding my tessen in front of me, I concentrated,
letting myself become the flames I controlled.  All I
could hear was the roar of fire in tune with my
heartbeat as it consumed the kesa.  Then, I could hear
another sound, Chichiri's heartbeat beating in time
with my own.  My eyes snapped open as I latched onto
that pulse.

We were connected and nothing could tear us apart.
"Hakurou-ren!" I yelled, sending more power to my
flames.  The barrier broke open with a burst of light.
 I could see Hikou, Chichiri holding his friend by the
shoulders.  Hikou was screaming as tears were falling
from my lover's face.  I fell to my knees, feeling my
control slip.

~Jubun o kaeru koto o
 Osore naide ite

 When it comes to making changes in yourself
 Don't back away~

Tama let out a yell as he rushed into the gap.  With
all his strength, he delivered Hikou a stunning blow
through my flames.

"Impossible...  How could I be killed by these mere
children..."  Before Chichiri's horrified eye, Hikou's
solid body burnt away.

The bubble imprisoning Miaka popped and Tama ran to
catch her.  As she coughed, Tama turned to me with a
grin.  "Miaka's okay!  We did it, Tasuki!"

"Yeah, we did." I muttered, my whole body weak, my
eyes on Chichiri.  "I thought we all were going to
die, you jerk.  I'm beat."

~Ikiteru'n dakara; ikiteru'n dakara

 Because you're alive; you're alive~

Chichiri glanced up at me, his face sad, before
falling to his knees in the water.  He reached beneath
the surface and pulled a translucent hand from it.

"Why?" Hikou whispered roughly.  "Why aren't you
letting go of my hand?"

"I promised I wouldn't let go this time," he replied
quietly as a sad smile crossed his face.

"We'll all be reunited...in heaven?  You're still such
a nice guy.  That's why she loved you."

"Hikou, don't"  Chichiri tried to stop his friend.  I
stood up on shaking legs and moved closer to my lover.

"Did you really believe that she betrayed you?"  Hikou
closed his eyes as he used the last of his power to
conjure another illusion.  Inside this bubble, a young
Hikou grabbed a girl in his arms, kissing her with a
fierce passion.  When he let her go, she fell to the
floor.

"It hurts and there's nothing I can do about it.  You
know how I feel about you!"

"I didn't mean to take her away from you," Hikou
murmured.  "Just once...I wanted to hold her, feel
her lips, and her warmth.  She was a virtuous girl.
She couldn't marry you because she felt she didn't
deserve to be with you, once she had been kissed by
another man.  It was only once...

"Yes, I was the one who wrecked it all.  I deserved to
die, but I was jealous and had let a bitter demon
posses me.  And for such a fool as I, you were
hurt..."  Hikou glanced at the bubble again.

~Nemurenai toki wa denwa o shite kite
 Kimi no iya gara koto wa kessite shinai

 So, on those times you can't sleep, give me a call
 I'll never do anything you don't want me to~

I watched as Hikou fell into the churning water.
Chichiri, Houjun, was laid out on a rock in the midst
of the flow, desperately trying to pull Hikou from the
current.  A jagged tree branch from upstream came
sailing towards them, and violently tore out Houjun's
eye.  In shock and pain, Houjun let go of Hikou's
hand.

I winced at the pain Chichiri had to endure that
fateful day.  So, that was how he received his scar.
My heart broke as I turned my head.

"Your scar," Hikou continued.  "if she was to see it,
she's be hurt too."

"At that time, I should have held on!  No matter what!
 I should have held on!"  I looked back up as
Chichiri's voice broke, fresh tears running down his
cheek.  "When I saw you, lying lifeless in the water,
I couldn't move.  If I had the powers I have now...  I
could have saved you...  Somehow..."  Chichiri broke
off into sobs as I clenched my fists.

"We were young.  Could best friends really be so
quick to mistrust one another?"

"What are you saying?"  Chichiri's voice rose in
panic.  "You are my best friend, even now.  I love
you.  I have always loved you."  He clung fiercely to
Hikou's hand as it slowly dissolved away.  "Don't go!
Hikou!"

Hikou's hand shattered into droplets of water and his
body disappeared as Chichiri howled in anguish.  The
echo reverberated through the cavern as I felt my own
tears fall.

~Dakara ne...
 Furete ii?
 Dakishimetai, sono senaka

 So, please...
 May I reach out to you?
 I want to hold you, hold on to you~

Chichiri sat in the water, absolutely crushed as I,
Miaka, and Tama looked on, silent.  Water ran from
Chichiri's hand and dripped into the pool as Hikou's
voice faded away.  "To water, I return.  Houjun,
forgive me.  Kudasai..."

Nothing was said for awhile.  All we could do was
watch as Chichiri cried.

"Chichiri..." Miaka breathed, uncertain as how to
approach him.

He looked up at her, tears still falling, but a smile
on his face.  "He's at peace now and so am I."  His
voice broke and I went to him.

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as he wept
openly into my chest.  "Yeah, he did seem happy to
have finally told you the truth."  My hands rubbed
circles on his back.

I looked up to find Miaka and Tama backing off towards
the entrance of the cave.  "We'll give you two some
time alone..." Tama whispered nervously.

I chuckled softly.  Well, let them think what they
wanted to, Chichiri was what I cared most about at the
moment.

He clung to me, desperately, as he shook.  "Gomen,
Tasuki."

"What do you have to be sorry about?  You saved
Miaka."

"But you saved me.  Ai shiteru, Tasuki.  I didn't want
to put you in that situation."

"Demo you would have done the same for me."  I pulled
him away to gently kiss him.  I felt more tears fall
down his face.  "Why are ya crying?"

He smiled back at me.  "you could not have forgotten
what Miaka told you on the stairs, no da."

I smirked.  "Demo, you're no girl."

"Hai.  Demo, I will still cry in sadness and in joy.
Ai shiteru."  He took my hand and intertwined our
fingers.  "We are connected until the day we die and
even beyond then."

I wiped away my own tear.  "Kuso.  Now ya got me
started."

~furimuite...
 Aishiteru

 Please look back to me...
 I love you~

*************

The End