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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.


PART SEVEN


The old woman was never quite sure if she'd created the story, or if the story had created her. It was a circular thing, she rather suspected; a bit of this, and a bit of that, all mixed together to form what some would call reality and others fantasy.

Most of the time, it didn't matter; she lived just as if she didn't know the truth of it all, meddling with the occasional hero there and teaching the occasional priest here. But at moments like these…

It became of overriding importance to her, because she didn't know how much she should, or could, influence her own story. The future of it was partly set in stone — graven into the heart of everything around her — and partly fluid, wearing away at that stone, forever in unpredictable motion.

The old woman unrolled the scroll in her hands part of the way again, staring at the words she knew should be there and weren't. Once more she tried to recite the words that she'd once known by heart, only to find that, once more, they fled away from her, leaving only the taste of ashes behind.

Giving it up as a lost cause, she turned to her mirror and bade it silently to show her the young man that her thoughts rested on so heavily of late. It complied, revealing him to be still tossing and writhing, twisting his blankets into a ransacked turmoil. Voices drifted through the mirror, their speakers out of sight.

"He's been like this for two days."

The old woman filed away that information and frowned. He fights the seal, then… or SOMETHING fights the seal, at least…

"Will it… take away our powers, too?"

"…I don't believe so. If what the priest said is true, it should only stop him from being able to use the powers he 'filters' for us."

"And if it isn't true?"

"…"

The old woman waved one hand at the mirror, sending it into darkness. I do not understand this. She glanced at the mural on her walls and spoke aloud. "Will he be the phoenix of this world, bringing light and a new birth to us all?" After a moment, she nodded. "I will bring him to me, so that I may see for myself. And along the way, I shall test his mettle…"

She disliked intervening so directly, but some times it just couldn't be helped.

A disquieting thought remained, however. Will he be as a phoenix to us… or a match tossed onto our funeral pyre? Or…

…Both at the same time?


Miki was still laughing about the kiss when the girl stepped out of the shadows and held out one arm. She stopped short and stared at the stranger. "Who are you, pray tell?" The girl had on a uniform that Miki recognized belatedly as being the girl's uniform of her little brother's school, and the tips of her short hair were dyed blonde.

From behind her, a voice said, "We're the ones who ask the questions." It was a very scary sentence to hear. It was spoken in a way that made it obvious the speaker had practiced it over and over, striving for to be the most intimidating, frightening thing that a person could never hope to have directed at them.

The fact that the speaker had a very squeaky soprano voice totally destroyed any possibility that Miki could be anything but amused by it.

The girl who'd stopped Miki spoke. "We want to know what you were doing in Matsura-sama's apartment for four hours, twenty-three minutes, and six seconds."

"Huh?" Miki stared, slack-jawed.

The girl with the squeaky soprano voice stepped into Miki's view. She was wearing the same uniform as the first girl, and her hair was pulled up into a ponytail that hung down one side of her head, nearly covering her left ear. "You heard us. You were in Matsura-sama's house for a long time, and his parents left the house at six forty-seven yesterday afternoon. We want to know what you DID to him while there weren't any adults there, pervert!" Both girls blushed.

Suddenly possessed by the urge to giggle insanely, Miki struggled to keep a straight face. Matsura has a fan club? She considered it a major triumph that she didn't so much as grin when she said, "I snuggled up next to him, read a book with him, and then he gave me a good-night kiss. Get your minds out of the gutter, girls."

Both girls flushed even brighter and the one with the squeaky voice pulled what looked like a bicycle chain out of her pocket. "That's it, you bitch! We were gonna go lightly on you, but…"

Oh, shit… Miki got ready to run. I haven't fought anyone since grade school…

Another girl in the same uniform suddenly put herself between Miki and other two. "No, wait! I know this girl!" She turned to Miki, who eased out of her about-to-run stance. "You're Akira-chan's older sister, aren't you?"

Akira…chan? For just a moment, Miki KNEW that it had to be some twisted joke that the universe was playing on her. Matsura she could see having a fan club, sure; he wasn't so bad-looking and his glasses made him look dignified rather than geeky, not to mention the eyes behind them…

She shook her head to get rid of THAT chain of thought as quickly as possible and back on the track.

But her little brother having a fan club?

After taking a closer look at the two girls, one of whom still had her bike chain out, the sickening certainty that it wasn't a joke crept over Miki…

"Yes, he's my little brother." And you can have him if you want him… stupid jerk, getting himself stuck in a magic book… Miki caught herself grinding her teeth and stopped.

All three of the girls sighed and said in unison, "Akira-chan…"

And Miki gagged.

The third girl pointed one finger at Miki. "We don't like you. But because you're Akira-chan's older sister, we can't touch you… but if you go near Matsura-sama again…"

Something in the girl's tone of voice pissed Miki off. She set both hands on her hips and said, "You'll what? If you girls don't even have the courage to approach him, then you don't have the right to be near him!"

Miki pushed past the girls, too angry to want to show the snippet of fear she still felt.

She was almost out of earshot before she heard one of them ask, "What's her name, anyway?"

"I think it's Miaka."

"No, it's Miki!"

"Miki." There was a short pause. "Miki-sama… you're so cool…"


It was at times like these that Tamahome realized how much she had yet to learn.

Breaking a stack of bricks? No problem. Jumping so far the untrained would find it ridiculous? Did it every day. Catching a sword blade between her palms and snapping it in two? Just a matter of technique.

Keeping a young man's pale face — shiny with sweat as he writhed in the grip of a pitiless dream — from disturbing her meditation, on the other hand…

It wasn't that she couldn't drive Akira out of her thoughts, it was that she couldn't keep him out; just as she was about to reach the perfect void, a vision of him would prick it like a bubble, leaving her more and more frustrated with each failed attempt.

For two days, Akira hadn't opened his eyes, spoken, or done anything other than breathe softly, and it was starting to drive all three of his Warriors a bit crazy. Hotohori had engulfed himself in the affairs of his empire, as if to distract himself, and Nuriko had taken to waiting by Akira's bedside, leaving it only for the most basic of needs. She even slept in that hard wooden chair she'd taken from… somewhere.

And Tamahome had started practicing as soon as her minor injuries healed, but…

Finally, Tamahome just gave up and stood there, wanting to scream in frustration.

"Your technique is good, but your focus is lacking. Why are you so distracted?"

At the sudden intrusion into her private, hatefully self-pitying moment, Tamahome whirled around.

An old woman was there, serenely sitting cross-legged on two feet of empty air. She smiled and said, "Tell me, Tamahome, does the young Summoner of Suzaku trouble your thoughts?"

Tamahome stared mistrustfully at the old woman for a moment. "Who are you?"

Then, long-buried childhood memories rose unbidden to the top of her mind… her mother before she died, telling stories of gods and heroes… and always in the middle of these stories were…

"Yes, I am Tai-Yi Jun."

Tamahome fell to her knees in obeisance.

"Oh, get up you silly girl, I haven't got time for such nonsense! Age has its honors, but I'm no god or empress to be groveled to, just a very old woman."

As Tamahome rose to her feet, a grin slowly crept its way across her face. She sounds just like my old master…

"And what are you grinning about?"

Tamahome replied airily, "Oh, nothing…"

Tai-Yi Jun glared suspiciously at the martial artist for a moment, then sighed. "I don't suppose it matters. Tamahome, I must ask you to bring the young Summoner of Suzaku to me upon Mount Daichi. It will be a long journey, and there will be many trials along the way, but you must do it. The fate of the world rests in your hands."

Tamahome looked down at the ground for a moment, not sure what to say, and when she looked up, Tai-Yi Jun was gone.


The young priest reeled against an ornate gargoyle, gasping for breath as he released the final weaves of the spell. "Don't you think doing all three at once was a bit much no da?"

Although she was speaking inside of his head, the young priest preferred to think of the old woman's voice as being heard by his ears… after all, what young man would want to think about an old woman in his head? "It is necessary. I live outside the story, and thus cannot touch it directly… which is why I need you."

The young man said softly, "The question is no da… do I need YOU?"

For long moments, the old woman was silent. "Yes. You cannot stand on your own just yet; there is still too much pain within your soul. Until you accept what you did…"

The young man snarled, "I DID NOTHING!!" Then, his face shifted. "I did nothing no da… but what I had a RIGHT to do no da…" He ran one finger down the scar on his cheek slowly.

"…And that is why you cannot be a Warrior now. You would never be able to fulfill your duties to them." Once again, the old woman paused.

"I want you to follow him from afar. I'll be testing them; I want you to make sure no one interferes. Do not meet the Summoner… just yet."


Akira woke up alone.

His eyes flew open and he sat straight up in bed and tried to figure out what the feeling was that made him want to shake in fear; a ghost-feeling that reminded Akira of how Takai's grandfather described the leg he'd lost… panting in terror, Akira looked at his arms and his legs, wiggling all his fingers, making SURE that they were still there…

A door slamming into the wall broke his reverie, and he looked up to see Nuriko standing at his bedside, with Tamahome and Hotohori close behind…

And Akira knew what he'd lost.

Oh, he could still feel the three standing in front of him, vaguely (he closed his eyes and knew where they were standing) but the increasingly vivid connection he'd started to share with his protectors was gone. Akira shook his head, feeling bereft and abandoned. He'd never felt anything like that before in his life; and now that he didn't have it any more…

"Akira?" It sounded like both Tamahome and Nuriko speaking at the same time, and the teenager opened his eyes again.

"Y-yeah?" Akira cursed himself for sounding so… weak, but he somehow couldn't muster up the strength to speak louder.

Now it was Hotohori's turn to speak. "Are you all right? You've been sleeping for two days! We were worried for your well-being…"

He glanced at each of them in turn, noticing the desperately worried expressions on their faces, and he didn't know what to say. How can I describe this? How can I tell them? This is… impossible… Akira looked down at his hands. "I guess I'm fine, really," he lied. "So, what happened?"

Nuriko sighed in relief. "Thank the gods. After you collapsed, a strange priest came and put some kind of seal on you. He said that you were using power that you shouldn't be and that it might hurt you no da."

Akira stared for a moment. "No… da?"

The suddenly flustered woman shook her head. "…Never mind."

Tamahome stepped forward, giving a sidewise glare to Nuriko. "Anyway, Boss, it's about time you get some sleep. We've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

Despite being told that he'd slept for two days, Akira still felt exhausted. He put his head back and closed his eyes, but before he fell asleep he asked, "What's going on tomorrow?"

Hotohori's voice chased him down the bottomless pit of sleep that engulfed him. "We're going to see the oldest woman in the world, Tai-Yi Jun. She wants to meet you, the Summoner of Suzaku…"


The Emperor brushed impatiently at his humble (in his own opinion, at least; Tamahome thought he looked too much like a foppish merchant and made a private bet with herself about how many bandit gangs would try to rob them on the way to Daichi) robe as he impatiently waited for his advisors to finish speaking.

"We will NOT be going on this tour of my realm unescorted. Our fellow Warriors, Tamahome and Nuriko, as well as the Summoner himself, will be accompanying us. A large escort would only attract attention, and would thus be detrimental to our safety."

"Yes, but…"

Hotohori cut him off with one sharp gesture. "We WILL do this as we have set forth. Our decision," he paused, studying his nails for a moment, "is final."

The advisors bowed their heads in unison, but one spoke up. "Your Majesty, no matter how casually you may be dressed, your elegance and beauty cannot be disguised."

Hotohori laughed and poked that advisor's hat. "You try to flatter us, but since there is only truth in what you say, we shall not rebuke you."

Tamahome almost fell over. Please serve mine with a little less EGO next time…

She turned her attention back to Akira, who was standing near the horses. He was watching them warily, a suspicious glint in his eye, and they were returning the favor freely.

Tamahome walked up behind him. "What's the problem, Boss?"

Akira jumped, then turned around slowly. "Ah, er… nothing… no problem at all… heheheh." He chuckled weakly, then jumped again as one of the horses behind him gave a scornful snort.

Tamahome smiled. "Aw, do you not like horses, Boss?" As she walked past Akira, who turned to watch her, the martial artist dug a carrot she'd filched when she'd heard they were going to be riding to Daichi-san.

Tamahome offered it to the nearest horse, which was brown with white spots, and the horse sniffed at it delicately before taking it between two large off-white teeth. She looked over her shoulder at Akira. "See, nothing to…"

Something bumped her off-balance, and Tamahome glanced back in that direction to see that one of the other horses had butted her and was waiting with an expectant look on his (her?) face. "Er… Sorry, I don't have any more."

The horse gave what Tamahome would swear was a disbelieving sigh and then started sniffing at her clothes, searching for more treats. The brown horse managed to look a bit embarrassed at her (or was it his?) compatriot's behavior even as the carrot disappeared with a final crunch.

Akira swallowed. "Uh… I had a really bad experience with a horse, once… Plus, I don't know how to ride them."

Tamahome grinned as she patted the side of the disappointed horse's head, scratching under his (her, perhaps?) left ear. "Eh, no problem, Boss. Just hop on behind me and hang on." She shifted her features into the sort of deadly glare she'd used when she needed someone to rapidly agree that, yes, paying debts on time and in full WAS preferable to being tied to a large stone and then tossed into the river. "But be careful WHAT you hang onto, Boss. Do you understand me?"

Akira had such a terrified look on his face that Tamahome laughed out loud. "Just kidding, just kidding! Well… MOSTLY kidding." She glared briefly before losing her control and laughing again, clutching her stomach and sagging to the ground.

"What's all the laughing about?" Nuriko stepped next to the horses and dropped the small mountain of luggage she'd been hefting in one hand.

Akira looked at Tamahome, who was almost curled in on herself, and sighed. "It started with horses, I think… Who knows where it went from there?"


They were almost out of the city before trouble started.

Akira, lost in a reverie brought on by Tamahome's warm back, was jarred out of it by the sudden feeling that someone wanted to kill him. He jerked his head up and started looking around at the suddenly abandoned streets, trying to find out where that sudden feeling had come from.

"You feel it too, Boss?"

Hotohori reined his horse in closer to Tamahome's. "W— I do not like this, Tamahome." He touched the hilt of the sword at his side as if to reassure himself that it was still there.

"Well, well, well, Tama-chan. Looks like you've been doing well for yourself, huh?"

After the voice spoke, a score of men stepped out from the buildings and alleys around the four travelers. They were armed with a motley assortment of weapons, from simple clubs to odd-looking polearms, but all of them looked competent enough with what they were holding. Last to step from the alley was…

Tamahome glared at the portly figure of her old Boss. "Get lost, you bastard, before I break all your tin men and beat you to a bloody pulp."

Although he waved one hand in a conciliatory fashion and gave a wide grin, Akira could almost see the hate coming from the fat man towards Tamahome. "Now, now, now, Tama-chan, is that any way to treat the man who took you in and gave you a job, when most men would only have laughed at you and put you in a whorehouse?"

"As I recall, Boss," she put such sarcasm in the word that Akira couldn't help but grin, "You tried that too, until I broke a few arms here and there."

Akira rummaged through the belt pouch that he'd picked up back at the palace. Let's see that fat bastard laugh this off…

The grin slid off of the fat man's face, and his thugs readied their weapons at the note in his voice. "Listen, you bitch, nobody goes against me and lives."

Tamahome shrugged casually. "First time for everything."

"That's i—"

Akira interrupted. "Yo, Mr. Potato Head!" For the first time, the fat man looked at him…

Just in time to receive a cobblestone square in the middle of his face.

"Your men taught me somethin' important, and I figured I'd share." Akira grinned at the sight of the fat man staggering backwards, landing heavily on the ground. "You oughta talk less, or you get blindsided by a rock every time!"

Whether or not he heard Akira's advice is debatable, because he slowly collapsed onto the street, his full length slamming into the cobblestones.

One of the thugs standing next to him looked up from the prone body and snapped his chain taut between his two hands. "We're gonna get you for that!"

Tamahome sighed and looked at all the thugs. "How many of you know me?"

Almost all of them nodded briefly, and more than a few lowered their weapons slightly.

"And how many of you think that you can actually take me, especially when I've got three friends who are as good at fighting as I am?"

Now, all of them looked away, and Tamahome nodded herself.

"That's about what I thought. Now, if you don't want me to jump off this horse and beat the shit out of you, you'd better run. NOW."

Seconds later, the street was empty except for the still unconscious figure of Tamahome's former Boss. Hotohori looked over at the martial artist.

"Who were those people?"

It was Akira who answered. "The scum of your city, Hotohori; they were all criminals, thugs, and gangsters."

"How do you know them, Tamahome?"

Tamahome looked sad as she glanced at the sky. "I was one of them, Emperor; I came to this city for opportunities, but only found blood and pain." She paused. "When you're on the bottom, there's no way to get up except to step on everyone else as you claw your way to the top…" Tamahome gave her horse a nudge then, sending her into a walk. "And once you get there, you tend to forget that the lumps of flesh under your feet are human too."

Akira looked over his shoulder at Hotohori, who looked… deep in thought.


Akira had insisted on taking his own turn at watch that night, despite the loud protests of Nuriko, the logical protests of Hotohori, and the silent protest of Tamahome. Now, he was wondering if they all might've been right after all.

"Argle." Akira stood up and paced around, then staggered and almost fell. "I still feel kind of weak…" He smacked himself on the cheek. "Come on, be a man!"

Suddenly, someone grabbed his shoulder. "Oh, Akiiiiiraaaaa…"

"YAAAHH!!" He flinched away and nearly slammed headfirst into a tree. Akira shook his head when he saw that it had only been Nuriko, who had that distinctly female half-amused, half-scornful look on her face.

"Whadja do THAT for?"

Nuriko shrugged. "How was I supposed to know you'd freak out like that?" Her smirk took up half her face for a moment, then she stopped smiling. "You don't look so good. What's wrong?"

Akira debated lying again, then sighed. "I just feel really sick and… out of sorts, that's all. It's no big deal, though. I've felt much worse before."

Nuriko smiled. "Well, then, I know just the thing!" She leaned in close to Akira, who caught a whiff of a flowery perfume. "Deep inside these woods, about a mile that way, is a natural hot spring that is famed for its healing powers. A half an hour in that and you'll be feeling much better."

Akira looked doubtful for a second, then shrugged. "Yeah, a hot springs does sound pretty good, if only to get a hot bath or something… but what about my watch?"

She moved back away from Akira and made a sweeping motion. "Don't worry, I'll take over for you… but you owe me a watch sometime, okay?"

Akira nodded, grinning. "Thanks!" As he started walking in the direction Nuriko had pointed, she could hear him saying, "Man, a hot springs… does that sound great or what?"

Nuriko smiled slyly. "And now for part two…"


Akira tossed his shorts onto the small pile of clothing and eased into the hot springs with a sigh, feeling the mud squelch gently between his toes. "Aaahhh… this was JUST what I needed." He started humming a pop tune, never noticing the slight bubbling in front of him…


Tamahome didn't want to wake up.

For one thing, she'd already STOOD her watch; sleep was necessary for travel, and she was determined to get as much of it as she could.

But by the third tree root that hit her head, Tamahome wasn't sleepy any more.

"WHAT?!?" Tamahome wrenched her foot out of Nuriko's grip. Why was she dragging me? she asked herself, but it no matter what the answer, it wouldn't change the fact that Tamahome was, right now, angrier than she could remember being for a long, long time.

Nuriko put a hushing finger to the martial artist's lips. "Akira wants to talk to you in private. He says to meet him at the hot springs over in the woods."

"Wha..?" Tamahome looked skeptically at Nuriko, then looked around the campsite. Hotohori slept on, undisturbed by Tamahome's shout, and he was… snoring lightly? The Emperor… snores? "Are you SURE he said that?"

Nuriko shrugged. "Do these eyes lie?" She blinked the objects in question.

Tamahome muttered to herself, "Quite often…" then added a bit louder, "Oh, all right." As she started for the hot springs, she rubbed the already-forming knot on the back of her head and sighed. "It's not like I'm gonna be able to get back to sleep any time soon…"

As she walked, she smiled, remembering Akira's problems with the horses today. Even though she hadn't had a lot of actual experiences with horses herself — her master had taught her how to take care of and ride horses, but the only one in the village where he'd lived had been a rather elderly stallion with a taste for carrots — she really liked them. They were easy to get along with, as long as you didn't treat them too much like stupid animals. But poor Akira…

He really was afraid of them. When Tamahome had reached down to help him up, Akira had fallen underneath the horse somehow, then almost hit the poor thing in the stomach with his head. When they'd stopped for lunch…

A wild shout from ahead of her brought Tamahome out of her reverie and she started. "That sounded like…" She broke into a run. What could POSSIBLY happen to him at a hot springs in the middle of the night? It isn't as if any big snakes live around here…

She broke into the clearing, barely managing to stop before falling into the hot springs… and there was no Akira.

Tamahome gave a second look around the empty spring, sure that she just hadn't seen him the first time, certain that it was just a silly mistake… but Akira still wasn't there.

That's when she noticed the faint bubbling coming from the center of the spring. Tamahome gasped. "Is he drowning?" With nary a second thought, she leapt into the spring headfirst.

Akira poked his head up just after she splashed into the water. "Wow, a gold coin! Lucky…"

Tamahome splashed to the surface and glared at Akira, sputtering warm water from her mouth. "I thought you were drowning, Boss!"

The teenager laughed. "I may have bad luck with water, but not THAT bad of luck…" he held out the gold coin. "I just felt something with my toes, and took a dive for it!"

Tamahome kept looking angry for a moment, than chuckled herself and started splashing for the shore. "Well, if you're all right, then I'll leave you alone, Boss."

"Wait."

As much as she hated to admit it to herself, her heart skipped a beat at the serious, mature note in Akira's voice. She turned around slowly to see Akira watching her, a serious expression on his face. "Yeah, Boss?" She tried to sound casual, but her heart wasn't in it.

Akira looked up at the sky. "We don't really know anything about each other, do we? I mean, we're from two different worlds, I guess…"

He looked down at the water and started blushing. "Yeah, uh… what I'm kinda trying to say is.. er… I don't know if it's right for me to feel this way about you; I… dunno if this is love or not, but…"

He looked back up at Tamahome. "I'm pretty sure that I love you."

It was hardly the most romantic way to declare it, but still Tamahome felt a warmth creeping up her neck that had nothing to do with the hot spring. "I… er… uh…" Suddenly, Tamahome turned around and fled as quickly as she could, scrambling out of the water and into the woods.

Akira sighed as he watched her retreating. "I guess that she doesn't love me, after all…"

"Don't say that, Akira. Speaking as a woman, I'd have to say that she just doesn't know how to deal with her emotions right now."

Akira turned around to see that Nuriko had stepped out of a hiding place. "Wha… what are YOU doing here?!"

Nuriko ignored his question and snapped her fingers ruefully. "Damn. I was so sure for a second there that she'd take her robe off and join you…"

"NU-RI-KO…." Akira started towards her slowly, an angry expression on his face. She eep'ed.

"Oh, dear me, gotta go back to my watch… Whatever was I thinking?" She turned around quickly, but the turf slipped out from under one foot and she slid backwards, arms flailing like windmills, into the springs.

"Nuriko?" Akira was worried suddenly, startled out of his fury.

She popped up and tittered. "Oh, don't mind me, just gotta…" Then, she looked down at the front of her robe, which had slid down far enough to reveal her breasts…

Or rather, where her breasts should be.

Akira stared and pointed, his mouth working up and down as he tried to speak. He stuttered for a moment once he recovered the ability to speak, then cleared his throat and almost shouted, "YOU'RE A GUY?!?!"

Nuriko tittered again. "Well, I guess the cat's out of the closet! …So to speak."

Akira felt sick. "But… you're after the Emperor… and you… kissed me!" He hacked and coughed, then took some of the spring water into his mouth and started gurgling it as Nuriko laughed.

"Oh, don't worry about me; love has forced me to stray from the path of macho-ness. Besides, his Majesty is pretty girly-looking anyway; we'd make a cute couple, don't you think… Akira?"

But he was out, unconscious, floating on the water, his eyes swirling. Don't… want to… think about it…


Matsura fought the burning in his eyes as he turned one more page, reading out loud the next words. "'And far ahead of the Summoner, Tai-Yi Jun chose the trial they would undergo…'"

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Hmmm… about the only think I can think of that MIGHT need explaining is the "Tama-chan" thing… again.

*sigh* I passed over that one again and again, trying to figure out a different way of doing it; but I settled on this logic, and if anyone disagrees with me, then neener-neener-neener.

See, the book is partially an interface with the user of the spell, right? Now, it's pretty obvious that Akira or Miaka don't speak ancient Chinese, just as it's obvious no one in this book speaks Japanese. So the book translates the languages back and forth almost seamlessly, and what Akira HEARS (and what we read) as "Tama-chan" might be any number of diminutive nicknames that the Boss uses.

If you disagree with me, than that's fine. Email me! I always enjoy flames, especially over piddly bits of stories that matter not a whit in the long run. :P

And now for an omake! Fushigi Akugi ahoy!


"Yes, I am Tai-Yi Jun."

Tamahome fell to her knees in obeisance.

"Oh, get up, you silly girl, I haven't got time for such nonsense! Age has its honors, but I'm no god or empress to be groveled to, just a very old woman."

The martial artist got up very slowly. "Sorry."

"And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone, it's sorry this and forgive me that, and I'm not worthy and… what are you doing now?"

"I'm averting my eyes, oh wise Tai-Yi Jun!"

"Well, don't. I really don't know how all this got started. It's like those miserable koans, so depressing… Now knock it off!"

"Yes, Tai-Yi Jun."

"Right. Tamahome, King of the Britons, your Knights of the Round Table shall be given a quest to make them shine in these dark times…"

Chapter 8
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