By: A.J. Matthews
The guys looked at each other. Tasuki and Chichiri were staring at the red mark on Tamahome’s forehead.
“I’d better call Hotohori, Nuriko, and Mitsukake. Chiriko’s probably with him,” Tamahome said quietly. He walked to the bedroom, and quickly phoned them.
Tasuki looked at Chichiri.
Chichiri struggled to get to his feet and couldn’t stop from falling down again.
“Aw, shit!” Tasuki said. “Damn it, sit down!”
Tamahome walked out of the bedroom and ducked instinctively as a fireball headed his way.
“Hotohori will kill you if burn this place down, Tasuki.”
Tasuki put his tessen down and looked at Tamahome.
Chichiri was still laying on the ground. He flushed slightly. “Tasuki?” he whispered.
“Hai?” Tasuki glanced over to Chichiri. “Oh.” Tasuki walked over and helped Chichiri get back on the couch.
The others arrived in fairly quick succession. Nuriko looked around.
“What is it?” he asked.
Chichiri had his face in his hands.
Tasuki realized that he was holding Chichiri’s mask, and walked over to him. “Here,” he said quietly.
Chichiri put the mask on and looked up. He tried to get off the couch again. Tasuki pushed him back down gently.
“Chichiri sprained his ankle this afternoon. Mitsukake, can you do anything? You’re the only medical expert here.”
Mitsukake gave Chichiri’s ankle and knee a thorough examination.
“OUCH! That hurt, no da!” Chichiri said in pain.
Tasuki glared at Mitsukake.
“Be more careful,” he growled, brandishing his tessen.
“Ok, Tasuki.” He hid a grin. It was obvious that Tasuki liked Chichiri a lot. Chichiri seemed to like Tasuki as well. As a test, he squeezed Chichiri’s sore ankle a little too hard.
Chichiri nearly jumped off the couch in pain. Mitsukake stopped him before he fell flat on his face.
“Stop, no da!”
“What are you doing to him, Mitsukake?” Tasuki said, scowling. He walked over and sat next to Chichiri to make sure it didn’t happen again.
“I think I squeezed his ankle a little too hard. Sorry, Chichiri.” He reached towards him.
Chichiri looked at Mitsukake suspiciously and tried to hide behind Tasuki. He peeked out.
Chiriko, Nuriko, Hotohori, and Tamahome were trying not to crack up. They found this very hilarious.
Tasuki frowned at Mitsukake. “Can you heal him, already? And no funny business this time.” He looked at Chichiri, who looked nervous.
“I promise, Chichiri, if he hurts you this time, I’ll flame him.”
“Ok, no da.” Chichiri sat still as Mitsukake took a hold of his ankle.
This time, he felt a different kind of warmth in his ankle. It felt strange.
When Mitsukake was done, he let go and wiped his brow with a cloth. “Try using your ankle now, Chichiri.”
Chichiri tentatively flexed his ankle. “It doesn’t hurt any more, no da. How?”
Mitsukake looked at Tasuki, who nodded.
He held up his large palm, which had a red mark on it, as well.
Chichiri gasped. “Another one? Does everyone here have a red mark too, no da?”
“Hai,” said Tasuki. “We all found them in different ways. And then we found each other. It looks like you are the seventh one so far, Chichiri.”
Chichiri’s eyes glazed over and he went limp. Tasuki looked at him and saw his dilated eyes.
“Not again...” Tasuki said.
“Gather the seven warriors…” Chichiri murmured. “The circle must not be broken.”
Nuriko peered down at him. “I think he’s cracked.”
“No, he did this earlier,” Tasuki said. “While he was out of it, he called me ‘Tasuki’. I never told him my nickname, and I bet you all didn’t either.”
“Seven signs the circle. Gather the warriors… ” Chichiri said in a strange voice.
Chiriko peered at Chichiri. “Fascinating,” he said. “I wonder what it means.”
“Protect the circle. Don’t let it break again!” Chichiri’s voice was starting to rise in volume. “We only have one more chance. We must not repeat the tragedy. He must not win. Tasuki, help me make the circle.”
“Too late, Chichiri!” Nakago crashed through the glass balcony door. He landed right next to Chichiri. With one swoop, he was grabbed Chichiri and flung him over his shoulder.
“Tasuki…” Chichiri’s voice whispered. “Hands must touch and hearts must reach across time. Don’t repeat the tragedy we had then.”
Nakago cradled Chichiri’s body to himself.
Tasuki jumped to his feet. “Let him go!”
“Time has run out for you, Suzaku warriors! I may have lost Suboshi and Amoboshi, along with Tomo, to you, but the others are on my side!” He caressed the side of Chichiri’s limp face. “I knew you would be mine eventually,” Nakago purred. He leaned his face toward Chichiri’s.
Chichiri had just opened his eyes. He whispered, “No…” as Nakago kissed him. A single tear rolled down his cheek. He began struggling hard.
Tasuki was in a rage. “Lekka Shie-” He cut it off when Chichiri was moved directly in front of the flame that was starting to shoot out. “You cruel devil! Let him go now!”
“Why me, no da?” Chichiri asked as he kicked and fought to get free. “What do you want with me?”
“I want what I have coveted for centuries, Chichiri.” Nakago looked down at the boy. This Chichiri wasn’t as powerful as he had been the last time we fought. “You.”
Chichiri looked scared. “That voice…”
“Yes. It’s me, Chichiri.” Nakago smiled evilly. “I’ve been following you for years, Chichiri. You aren’t as powerful now as you were the last time we fought.”
“What do you mean, no da?” Chichiri’s eyes met Tasuki’s. In that instant, memories flooded through Tasuki.
He remembered a battle with Nakago. Miaka and Yui had been massacred by Ashitare. As each Suzaku warrior fell, so did a Seiryuu warrior. Amiboshi and Suboshi were the only Seiryuu warriors who did not fight them.
Chichiri stood beside him. “This is all because he wants me.” Tears were rolling down his cheeks.
“Don’t even think about it, Chichiri.”
Hotohori, Mitsukake, Tamahome, and Chiriko were dead.
“What if the others…” Chichiri choked back a sob.
Tasuki took Chichiri’s chin in his right hand. “Chichiri, I love you too much too lose you now.” He kissed his lover softly, who did not hesitate to kiss him back.
Tasuki shook his head and refocused on the present. “Chichiri!”
Nakago cracked Chichiri on the back of the head. He fell limp and unmoving.
“No more memories for you, my sweet.” He nuzzled Chichiri’s unconscious body. “The spell will be broken soon. And you will be mine forever.” He laughed evilly
Tasuki looked at him in confusion. “What memories?” he demanded. “What spell?”
Nakago laughed. “You haven’t fully remembered your past lives, have you?” He focused, and two blue bubbles appeared. Miaka and Yui were in each of them.
“Allow me to fill you in. Centuries ago, I attempted to claim Chichiri for my very own. He was with you, Tasuki…” Rage leapt across Nakago’s face. “I could not allow that to be. He deserved so much better.” He smiled evilly then, as he cradled Chichiri to him. “So I set a trap for all of you. It was soon after Miaka and Taka had returned to Miaka’s world, after Taka destroyed the fake Tamahome.”
“How could I have known that they would come back? So, with Seiryuu’s power, we managed to take human form again. I also did not foresee Amiboshi and Suboshi, along with Tomo, turning against me.” He frowned. “But, everything went according to plan. All of you were trapped. I offered Chichiri a deal; he surrender and I spared you.” Nakago rolled his eyes at Tasuki’s growl.
“Tasuki was furious with me for that one. The others forbid it. Chichiri would have come to me, if you had not guarded him yourselves. So I had to have all of you killed. Miaka and Yui were the first to die.” He laughed. “I earned Taka’s undying hatred for that. Then he died, and the rest of you followed one by one. Finally, there was only Chichiri left.” His teeth clenched.
“The loss of his lover gave Chichiri more power than I had imagined. He used that newfound power to cast a spell, to send everyone to a new time and place, where the battle would be fought once more. He had hope to avert the tragedy of that time. If he lost then, he was to be mine, and mine alone. If he won, he won his freedom.” Nakago laughed evilly. “But I had a distinct advantage. I knew who I was, and who I waited for. I’m amazed that you all hooked up as friends, even here in this world. I was afraid that Chichiri might not have been reborn. I found him and followed him for years, wherever he went. His latent Seishi powers were able to stop my spying. I lost track of him for a while. Then, he suddenly showed up here in Kyoto. What a marvelous surprise!”
“So we are…?” Nuriko looked at the others in shock.
“You were the Suzaku Seishi, sworn defenders of Miaka, priestess of Suzaku. But that was a lifetime ago. None of you have your power anymore, except for Tasuki and Chichiri.”
The group exchanged glances. Nakago was definitely wrong on that one. Each had some special ability that made him (or her, in Miaka’s case) different.
“I knew who he was instantly. I’m quite amazed you didn’t put the pieces together yourselves. But then, he’s only been here for a week.” Nakago smiled down at Chichiri, who hung in his grasp limply.
“I don’t believe you,” stated Chiriko. “Why didn’t we have any clue?”
“You did. Déjà vu flashes, perhaps? Strange images of the past, lost memories…”
At his words, Nuriko, Chiriko, Tamahome, Mitsukake, Hotohori, and Tasuki gasped. They remembered the strange feeling they’d had when they’d introduced themselves to one another.
“By the way, you can have the Priestesses back.” Nakago gestured, and Miaka and Yui fell from the bubbles.
Tamahome leapt and caught Miaka, while Mitsukake caught Yui.
Tasuki frowned and looked at Nakago. “But why did you kill your own priestess?” He blinked his eyes in surprise. He didn’t know where that had come from.
“She betrayed me…” He shifted Chichiri up higher. “Time for us to be off.” He smirked at Tasuki.
Chichiri moaned softly. “Shin'ai, Tasuki. Matsudai.”
Tasuki gasped. Chichiri had just said that he loved and believed in him. Forever.
Hotohori and the others exchanged a look. None of them dared to attack Nakago because Chichiri was in the way.
Nakago sprang lightly to the balcony railing, clutching the motionless Chichiri. “Find us if you can, Tasuki. By then, Chichiri will be mine.”
A blue light enveloped them and they began to disappear.
“I swear I’ll find you, Chichiri!” Tasuki yelled. “You won’t get away with this, Nakago!”
“I already have…”
Tasuki sank to his knees and pounded the floor as Nakago and Chichiri disappeared. I’ve failed him again, he thought, as tears ran out of his eyes. “Damn you, Nakago!”
To be concluded...