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A Fushigi Yuugi story
By Aaron Bergman

Disclaimer: Fushigi Yuugi belongs to Yuu Watase, Flower Comics, Shogakukan, Bandai, Studio Pierrot, TV Tokyo, Movic, Viz, Pioneer, and others, I'm sure. No infringement is intended.


What is the border between fantasy and reality?

Are what we consider bedtime stories simply windows into another dimension?

Are authors inadvertent gods, creating and destroying without ever coming to know that what they write of is real? That where they write of exists? That those who they write of breathe even as they do?

How true are the words printed on a page, or carved onto a stone tablet, or spoken to a audience enraptured by the verbal tapestry spun by the tale's teller?

And what happens if just one thing, just one character, was to differ from what was recorded on those pages or stone tablets or listeners' memories? Would the rest of the story change too? How much would it change?

And what would happen to the story, bent out of its shape like water-warped wood? Would it crack under its own weight, or be made stronger for the trial..?


Part One


"And the journey west actually represented -- anyone? Anyone?"

Matsura listened to the soft snores of his best friend as his own eyes glazed over from sheer boredom. The teacher droned on about someone that might have mattered two thousand years ago, not noticing that nearly everyone in that class had sunk into a stupor not unlike that of the living dead.

"--The growing up that -- anyone? Anyone?"

Ordinarily, Matsura would've given Akira a nice, sharp kick just for enjoying himself while others suffered around him, but after all the studying the two had done last night for today's test, Matsura could see why his friend would need some sleep. His own belief on the subject was that sleep was for the weak and those with nothing better to do, but Matsura knew that his own opinions didn't rule the universe.

"--The Monkey King had to do. And this mission was given to him by -- anyone? Anyone?"

"Mmm… Food…" Akira mumbled. The teacher stopped droning suddenly, and Matsura frowned. Crap! Figures that he'd give himself away!

Matsura tried to reach his friend and wake him up, but thanks to the new seating arrangements he was out of luck. The girl that had been put into Akira's old seat, right next to Matsura, gave him a strange look as he slid almost under his desk trying to reach Akira with one foot in time.

"Hamburgers… yes…. Spaghetti… nummy…. No way, man, yuck… hold the anchovies…"

"What was that, Tanaka-san?" The teacher slowly walked down the aisle to where Akira sat with his head pillowed on his open textbook, and Matsura knew he was already too late. Matsura straightened up quickly, hoping that the teacher hadn't noticed his attempt to wake up his friend.

"No, come back… can't live without you… gimme my food…"

The teacher slapped Akira's desk with his pointer. "Wake up NOW, Tanaka-san!"

"GIVE ME BACK MY FOOD!!!" Akira rose from a full slumber to a textbook-perfect stance that his instructors would have wept in joy to see. Or he would have, if he hadn't gotten tangled up in his desk on the way.

He fell ignominiously on his ass as the rest of the classroom broke up into laughter. If anything, the teacher seemed to get even angrier as the room swelled with hilarity.

"Tanaka-san…" The teacher loomed. "That's it! If you don't want to learn what I have to teach, you can teach yourself! I want a report on ancient Chinese legends on my desk by this time day after tomorrow, and your grade will depend solely upon that! You will not disrupt my class further with your undisciplined behavior! Out in the hall!"

The teacher directed with his pointer to the door, and Akira slumped out of the room. Then, the teacher glared about at all the students. "I should hope that taught all of you a lesson!"

The room was silent.

"Well," the teacher said, mollified. "That settles that. Now, I want you to pay attention as we turn to page…"

Matsura's attention walked back to his notebook, where he was dismayed to find doodles of his friend Akira being humiliated by the teacher. Quickly ripping it out, crumpling it up, and eating it, he sighed in relief. Akira won't find that set of pictures. His stomach rumbled in protest, and he grimaced in pain. That is, unless he's hiding in the toilet tomorrow…


Akira rubbed the back of his head where he'd smacked it as he walked beside Matsura. "Aww man, why does Tendou-sensei have to be such a jerk? Remember how he made us both teach the class last week?"

Matsura sighed. "That was your fault, as I recall. He made us do it because you were talking to me in class. Why do you have to be such an idiot sometimes? Why do I always get in trouble right along with you? And explain to me again why I'm being dragged along to the library?"

"All part of my brilliant strategy to one-up that jerk." Akira held up one finger and nodded. "If I can get a report on a Chinese legend from a book written in Chinese, then that bastard'll have to give me some respect." He draped one arm over Matsura's shoulders, drawing some strange looks from the other passerby. "And you -- buddy, pal, chummer -- are the only person I know who can read Chinese."

Matsura elbowed his friend as he slipped out from under Akira's arm. "If I'd've known that reading Chinese would mean getting dragged into one of your stupid schemes, I'd've learned Swahili."

Akira clapped his hands twice. "Such is fate. It's your own damn fault for learning too much for that fancy-schmancy entrance exam into… what was that school called again? Yoshicookie?"

"Yotsubadai, moron." Matsura shrugged defensively. "Besides, what else is there to do at our school? I'm not interested in girls” Well, not too interested he added mentally, "and I'm not obsessed with sports and martial arts, unlike you."

Akira poked his friend in the side. "Butterball. You'd better start working out, else who knows what opportunities you'll miss." Then, he started leering suggestively. "And I'll bet I know why you're not interested in girls. After all, how many tentacle doujinshi do you have of the Sailor Moon characters?"

"One. And I picked it up because the artist who drew it is mainstream now. Good investment. Maybe I'll use it for blackmail someday."

The two teenagers traded friendly insults all the way to the library. To all appearances, they were the best of friends. Who was to know that one of them was only half-joking?


Matsura looked up at the imposing facade of the library. He said, "Why did we go all the way across town to this library when there are at least three closer?"

Akira started up the steps. "Because my older sister used to work part-time here. I know a secret." He nodded to a pretty girl with short blonde hair. She sauntered past him, nose in the air, and his face sagged in exaggerated sorrow before he turned around and shouted, "Come on, slow-poke! Get a move on!"

Matsura sighed again. "Some days he drives me nuts," he commented in the tones of long-suffering to the blonde girl.

To his surprise, she responded with a smile and a friendly wink. "Yeah, I have a friend like that." Matsura watched her walk away before a shout from Akira, who was already at the top step, dragged his attention away.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming! Jeez!" Matsura sprinted up the steps.

As soon as he reached the top, Akira nudged him with his elbow. "So, what did she say to you?"

Matsura took refuge in ignorance. "What did who say to me?"

Akira sighed in exaggerated exasperation. "The babe, the babe! What did she say to you?"

"None of your business." The two stood in the impressive foyer of the massive library. Matsura did admit to himself that this library looked a bit more impressive than the ones closer to home. After rubbernecking for just a bit, he added, "So, where do we go now?"

"Follow me." With a cocky grin, Akira turned right and walked into a hallway clearly labeled "Restricted." Matsura reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Where are you going? That sign says 'restricted!'"

Akira shrugged his friend's hand off. "Don't worry about it. Mika said that nobody cares if you go back there. They have old books they can't identify in that room, and I was thinking that…"

Matsura crossed his arms across his chest. "That was your first problem: You thought. I do the thinking around here, my muscle-bound friend, and I think this is a stupid idea!"

Akira grinned. "Whassa matter? Chicken?" Then, right there in the crowded foyer, Akira put his hands in his armpits and started waving them back and forth. "Bawk, bawk, bawk!"

Matsura looked around, morbidly certain that everyone was watching Akira humiliate both of them. Suddenly fed up, he threw his hands up in the air and walked right past his friend. "Fine. But if we get in trouble, you're taking the heat."

"Fine by me. You know I would've anyway." Akira hurried to catch up. "Anyhoo, to finish what I was saying, I thought that maybe we could find an old Chinese book of legends and translate it."

Matsura stopped short. "I'm amazed. That is the makings of a good idea. Maybe you aren't just a muscle-bound idiot."

Akira stopped with his friend. "None of the ladies think I am." He grinned again, this time mischievously.

Matsura smacked his friend in the back of the head. "When aren't you thinking about girls? What would you do if we went to an all boys' school?"

"Never stop thinking about 'em; and probably study harder and get good grades."

Matsura shook his head. "You are hopeless." Matsura started up the stairs, with Akira thumping along behind him.

Then, he heard Akira's steps stop. After a moment, his friend said in a hushed voice, "Did you see that, Matsura?"

Matsura turned around. "See what?"

"The b…. Oh, never mind."

Matsura turned back around and started up the stairs again. He called over his shoulder, "Now you're getting left behind, y' slowpoke!"


The door swung open on silent, still-greased hinges. For a moment, the two friends stood there and looked at their shadows. Then, Matsura started rummaging around the wall near the door. "Gotta be a light switch here somewhere…"

Akira, who had come prepared, pulled a flashlight from his backpack. "'Fraid not, old-timer. This room isn't wired for lighting." He handed the flashlight to Matsura. "Let's start looking."

The two stuck close together, looking closely at the book spines revealed in the flashlight's cone of illumination. Then, Matsura's foot bumped something, and he turned the flashlight down to reveal a book. He bent down and picked it up, reading the title from the faded, tattered strip. He sounded out the kanji silently.

Akira looked over his shoulder. "What does it say? What does it say?"

"Four Gods Heaven Earth Book."

Akira smacked one fist into an open hand. "I knew it! Paydirt."

Matsura cracked the book cautiously, respectful of its probable age. He dropped it in panic when light started seeping out from between its pages. "What the-"

Before he could finish the sentence, both of them were gone.


Random images assault me young woman with long hair pulled back in braids throned royalty dressed to befit the station but such a sad expression young woman who is also young man masked one who hides behind the mask firebrand fighting for freedom the healer and the cat together boy and old man standing side-by-side finally young woman reaching for me mouthing…


Akira awoke with the taste of dirt in his mouth. "That suuuucked…" He wasn't surprised to find out that his voice sounded gravelly; he felt as if he'd swallowed enough of the stuff to a rock garden, albeit a small one.

"No kidding…" Akira moved his head. A sharp twinge of pain and the sight of Matsura lying next to him were what his effort rewarded.

He stood up quickly and looked around, ignoring the minor pains that assaulted him. What greeted his eyes definitely wasn't a library.

It was a pastoral countryside, actually very pleasant to look at. Cows were grazing in the distance, there were rolling hills all around, trees were scattered around the area, bandits were swarming up from an ambush…

He looked again.

"Bandits!" Akira nudged his friend with his foot. Only getting a muffled moan, he kicked again. "Get up, Matsura! Bandits, seven o'clock!"

"Bandits?"

Akira said wryly, "I'm pretty sure that they're not Chinese acrobats."

Matsura sat up suddenly and saw the ragtag bunch that was running their way. "Bandits!" He got to his feet, then winced. "Damn! I think I twisted my ankle."

Akira said grimly, "Don't worry about it. I don't think we could outrun them anyway."

The two waited as the five bandits surrounded them. Finally, their job done adequately, a man that towered almost a head over the other bandits stepped forward. "Okay, little boys. This is our road, so pay the toll you owe us for letting you breathe while you walk it."

Akira shrugged and chuckled nervously. "N-no problem. How much are you charging?"

"Two silvers apiece. I like the way you look, kid, so I'm goin' cheap on you."

Akira reached into his front pocket and pulled out his wallet. "What's that in yen?"

"What the hell's a yen?" The bandit chief and the young man looked at each other steadily for a moment, then Akira handed the chief a thousand-yen bill. The chief looked at it, examined it, peered at it closely, then blew his nose on it and threw it on the ground. "Thanks, kid, but I mean hard coin. You'd better have some."

"Um, sorry?"

The chief grinned. "Wrong answer, boy." He motioned, and the four other bandits started moving in closer. Akira, knowing it was hopeless, moved into a stance suited for taking on multiple opponents. Matsura, who hadn't fought anyone since the fourth grade, looked around desperately for something, anything that he could do to help. The bandits all chuckled nastily at their obvious panic as the circle closed around the boys.

Then, a rock to the side of the head dropped one of the bandits to the ground, staining the dirty neckerchief wrapped around his head with red, and all the bandits turned to look at the person who threw it.

She stood on a slight hill perhaps twenty feet away, silhouetted against the afternoon sun. Casually tossing another rock up and down, she said, "Perhaps you bandits should learn to fight someone who could defend themselves. But then, if you did fight someone who could, you'd get your butts kicked, right?"

As she talked, she walked down the slight rise. Akira was struck by her casual beauty, emphasized by the fact she was wearing men's clothing. Her long black hair was braided into a tight queue that hung down in front, thumping against her chest in time with her steps.

The bandit chief audibly choked in rage for a second, then shouted with terrifying originality, "Oh yeah?! Well, me and the boys can beat the shit out of one stupid little girl! Get her!"

The woman pegged the rock at the bandit chief, who swatted it aside with his sword. In one smooth motion, she wrapped her queue twice around her neck, then threw the first bandit to reach her over her hip. She ducked under the sword swing the next bandit tried, then slammed one elbow into his chest, just below his pectorals. His ribs audibly snapped, and he fell down hard, screaming.

The next was the bandit chief, and he kept her at a distance, having seen what she'd done to his minions. She wove and ducked around his sword swings, waiting for an opportunity.

The last bandit, not about to get into a fight against a madwoman, turned back around and charged the two teens with his club over his head. He yelled as he swung down at Akira, then yelled again as Akira stepped out from underneath the club.

Akira spun around the bandit and kicked him in the ass, helping the bandit on his way to the ground headfirst. He gave one groan as he tried to heave himself up, then collapsed face-first into the dirt.

Akira turned his attention back to the fight between the stranger and the chief, only to find it over. The woman posed triumphantly for a moment over the fallen body of her adversary, then bent down and ripped a pouch away from his belt. She weighed it appraisingly and smiled. "Well, I didn't make out too bad. Speaking of which…"

She walked over to where the two teens stood. Akira was surprised to find that the woman he'd taken to be maybe twenty-five or so was only a few years older than himself. She had a tattoo on her forehead too, the kanji for 'Demon.' He wondered what kind of girl would get a tattoo like that, and shuddered slightly.

She held out one hand and gave a smile that was no doubt meant to be friendly. "I just saved your life, kid. You'd better be willing to reward me."

Swallowing at the implied threat, Akira fished out another thousand-yen bill and handed it to her. The woman looked at it, examined it, peered at it closely, then blew her nose on it and dropped it on the ground. "That ain't money!"

Defensively, Akira said, "Yes, it is money!"

"Where?"

"Japan."

The woman walked past the two teens and waved her hand dismissively. "Never been there. Aw well, you win some, you lose some." She started down the road, and Akira shouted at her.

"What's your name?"

Without turning around, she shouted back, "Tamahome!" Then, she disappeared around a patch of woods that the road bent around.

Akira turned back to Matsura, who hadn't said a word all throughout this. "What was that all…" That's when he realized that he could see through Matsura, as though his friend were a faded stained-glass window; a window that was losing all its color even as he watched.

Matsura reached out, mouth working silently, and suddenly certain that his friend was going to disappear and leave him behind, Akira lunged for him, only to watch Matsura vanish just before his hands closed.

Akira slumped to his knees and cried, ashamed at his own weakness but unable to help himself. "Where am I? How am I going to get home?"


Matsura awoke, sure that it had all been a dream. "Damn, something must've hit me pretty hard, Akira…"

Akira didn't answer. Matsura looked around and found himself alone in the room filled with old books. For one anger-filled moment, he was sure Akira had abandoned him, but he squelched that thought. Akira may be kinda flaky sometimes, but he wouldn't ditch me if I'd actually hurt myself…

He saw the book that he'd picked up lying open on the ground. As he bent down to pick it up and put it back on the shelf, he saw that the page it was open to was half-empty. He shrugged. Handwriting. Authors were sloppy back then, I guess.

Then, he saw something move on the page out of the corner of his eye, and he watched in fascination as a kanji formed on the page with perfect brush strokes from an invisible pen. That's impossible!

He picked up the book and started reading aloud. "Suzaku no Miko sat in the middle of the road, weeping for her lost world…"

 

To be continued.


Author’s notes: Yes, I rewrote this thing AGAIN. It seems like every time I want to write a new chapter in Fushigi Yuugi, I look at the old ones and I'm just not satisfied with 'em. Call me picky, but I think this thing could be a LOT better, y'know? Hopefully this is the LAST time I'll ever have to revise it…

Yes, the teacher at the beginning, with his "--Anyone? Anyone?" is from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Why do I choose to translate "Oni" as Demon instead of Ogre? Call it personal reasons. Maybe I'm just reading the wrong materials, but Oni from Japanese legend seem like demons to me, rather than the original historic references to ogres, which are more like monstrous men in European legends.

Yes, I do know that "Miko" translates as "Priestess" or something similar. That glitch at the end is intentional. And don't bother asking me what other Seishi I'm gonna change. I don't know myself, yet. If I change either Nuriko or Chichiri, though, my mom would kill me…

Yeah, my mom likes anime. Don't I have a cool mom? ^_^

Aaron Bergman
iamfanboy@hotmail.com

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend."
-Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time

Part 2
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