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"The Legend of Fated Encounter"
Concept by: Watase Yuu/Nishizaki Megumi Japanese version by: Nishizaki Megumi English translation by: Tetris no Miko Illustrations by: Watase Yuu Compiled by Annz ‘n’ Dipz
The novel of Mitsukake.
Introduction Chapter 1: Awakening of the Spirit Chapter 2: First Step to Grand Isolation Chapter 3: Journey to Ones Purpose Chapter 4: The Invading Byoma Chapter 5: Hearts Whose Paths Barely Miss Chapter 6: The Soothing Palm of the Hand Chapter 7: The Authority of Suzaku Chapter 8: Love Torn Apart Chapter 9: Lives Brought Together Freetalks from the authors
Mitsukake’s father. A well-respected doctor of a poor village along the riverbank. He is a doctor because he loves to heal people and he believes in healing their souls as well as their bodies… but he does not believe in charging money to those who can’t afford it. Goh Zenkai
The other doctor of the village… Only he uses exclusive, new drugs from the capital of Konan and charges very high fees. He mostly treats the people on the rich end of the village and hates Keiyu for having so much respect. He’s secretly trying to ruin Keiyu’s business… Goh Kyuushin
Zenkai’s only son. He’s technically the heir to his father’s doctor-business, but he’s no good at it and instead wants to be an artist ^_^. He’s very beautiful and kind. Suisen
Shouka’s servant. She’s bright and cheerful and is interested in Kyuushin. Rin
Shouka’s cat ^-^. It’s implied that she might be Tama’s mother…
Chapter 1: Awakening of the Spirit "Uncle! Uncle!!" Tei Shoka stumbled into her neighbor's house with such force, the door was nearly knocked off its hinges. "Wh…where's Chosei?! Where's Chosei?!!" Shoka yelled up at Jo Ryokan, who stood directly in front of her. He took the ten-year-old's face in his hands and answered gently, "He's come home." "Really?" Ryokan indicated the bed in the corner of the room with his chin. Shoka gasped wide and hurled herself over to the bed. "Sir Chichiri just brought him back." "…Chosei…" Shoka said as she gazed into the peaceful face of the sleeping boy. "…You stood strong, didn't you… You're such a good boy…" Wiping her teary eyes, Shoka turned to Ryokan. "Uncle, did you see it, too?" "Yes, I did…" Then the two nodded silently at each other. Konan, the Kingdom in which they lived, had been threatened by the presence of a frighteningly mysterious and powerful creature. But Suzaku's Seven Warriors saved Konan from it. Barely hours ago, the world had been enveloped in a darkness; an evil darkness that everyone expected would destroy the world… Until suddenly, the world was filled with light again. Every soul in the kingdom watched this happen before their very eyes. They clearly saw the proud and beautiful figure of the golden phoenix rising into the sky… Ryokan quietly walked over to Shoka and put his hand on her shoulder. "Shoka…" "Uncle…" Shoka looked up at Ryokan with fearful eyes. "What will…happen to Chosei now?…" Ryokan answered, "Things will go back to normal." "Back to normal…?"
"Yes. Sir Chichiri told me that his memories of fighting for Suzaku have been sealed." "….Oh… I see… Ryokan witnessed an aura of mixed feelings overcome the girl. "So, I was hoping you would continue to be his playmate, as normal?" Shoka answered Chosei's father's question with a firm and silent nod. * Five springs ago… When the Jo couple gave birth to their new son, the first person of the village to come running through their door to see it was Shoka, who was about to turn five. "Uncle! Aunty! Was your baby born yet?!" The girl's cheeks swelled with red and she ran over to the bedside. "Yes, it's a boy." The wife nodded at her husband's announcement. "So be sure to play with him, Shoka…" Shoka stared with glittering eyes at the sleeping baby on the pillow. Soon after, Shoka's arms were filled with the new bundle of life. "I'm so happy for you… He's really sweet…" The Tei and Jo neighbors had helped each other along their lives as neighbors in the destitute mountain village. Only last year, when Shoka's parents had adopted an orphan girl from distant relatives, the Jo couple was equally thrilled as if they were the ones who had received the daughter. That girl was Shoka. Shoka was a lovable and outspoken girl. She accepted her new parents immediately and has been living surrounded by their love. And then, after a while, it was the neighboring couple's turn to be blessed with offspring. No one felt more joy from this occasion than Shoka. "I wonder if it's a boy or a girl? Hurry up and get born fast!"
Almost as if she thought of this new baby as her own brother or sister, Shoka ran over to her neighbor's house every day to examine the mother's growing belly and to place her ear on it. And then now, with the newborn baby before everyone's eyes, the one who felt the most like ascending to heaven with happiness was Shoka. But no one was able to tell the truth to the innocent girl. The truth that the baby's mother herself was about to go to heaven. "Come, Shoka. My wife is tired, so you should run along home." "No! I wanna stay with the baby foreverrrrr!" The couple pushed the excited girl out of their house with tears in their eyes. "Darling…" she said to her husband. "I'm sorry…. But I don’t regret this at all." No sooner did she discover she was with child than she also was struck with an incurable illness. It was clearly understood by all that giving birth would only accelerate her death. Ryokan, the village doctor, was overcome with guilt for not being able to save her life. But no one could persuade her not to have the baby. "I wanted to have a baby… And I wanted my baby to live a happy and fulfilling life…" All Ryokan could do in response was hold her hand tightly. "Don't worry. Even if I'm gone… our baby will have you and our neighbors, and Shoka…" She stroked her son's face in contentment. Just one week later, she ascended to heaven. To honor his wife's wish to have her life extended through her son, Ryokan named the baby "Chosei". Since Chosei and Shoka shared the experience of both having lost a mother at birth, Shoka was instantly obsessed with caring for him. "Uncle, you keep on working. I'll watch over Chosei, so he'll be okay!" All day long, Shoka stayed by Chosei's side and cared for him. Both the Tei couple and Ryokan watched on in pained confusion and in happiness as Shoka took on the form of not Chosei's sister, but his mother. "It almost seems like these children were linked together somehow in a past life," Shoka's mother would often say with a laugh.
Jo Chosei grew well under the love and care of Shoka and his three parents. One day, after his diapers were removed and he had begun to toddle around the house, he opened his mouth and made "gaga" noises as if he wanted to talk. Chosei's father listened carefully for his son's first words. "…Shu… zha…ku." "Shuzhaku. Shuzhaku. Shuzhaku." Ryokan peered at Chosei in confusion as he continued to utter the same word over and over again. Shuzhaku… Could he mean "Suzaku"? Suzaku was one of the four gods and the one who governed Konan. Suzaku was to be summoned in times of severe crisis to Konan by a girl from another world with seven warriors with glowing red symbols on their bodies. And just one year ago, Suzaku's priestess and seven warriors had saved Konan from an invasion from the neighboring country of Kutoh. According to rumors, Suzaku had made His appearance in the sky of His priestess's world. This rumor had originated somewhere in Konan, but Ryokan was unsure of its validity. This meant that to most of Konan's citizens, the idea of "Suzaku" remained a mysterious illusion of a bird. But it was the name of this bird that Ryokan's son continued to chant. It was such a peculiar scene that when Ryokan spoke of it to his Tei neighbor, his wife laughed. "Don't you think he might have heard us talking about Suzaku all these months?" That might be true… Ryokan agreed to himself. From that day on, Chosei continued to say "Shuzhaku" quite a lot. But as he learned more and more words, he said it less and less…. Until eventually, he never spoke the god's name again and memory of him ever having spoken it was erased from Ryokan's memory. Ryokan's simple and peaceful life as a village doctor while caring for his beloved neighbors and son continued on. Shoka and Chosei continued to have the relationship of brother and sister. What surprised him was the fact that Chosei kept calling Shoka "Sister, Sister" all the time. Even later, he got into the habit of saying, "Sister Shoka, I will protect you!" But most of all, Ryokan was pleased that his son had such a peaceful life. What made him happiest of all was that Chosei took an interest in his father's trade and watched with sparkling eyes as his father mixed herbal medicines. A huge change in the pace of their peaceful lives came about when Chosei turned five. And that change did not come only to the Jo household. All of Konan began to fall into a mysterious decay. The sun disappeared behind a dense fog, the rivers dried up, and crops died. But that was not all. Houses and other material things turned to dust and disappeared.
Due to the shortage of food, the sick, the old, and even children dropped like flies. No matter how hard Ryokan tried to help, the situation remained the same. "I suppose Suzaku did not appear at all…" everyone began to think, as a cloud of uncertainty fell over citizen morale. Talk of summoning Suzaku again came up, but over half of His warriors were dead. The situation was very grim. It was then, however, that unexpected visitors came to Ryokan's house… "You say my son is the reincarnation of Mitsukake?!" The three visitors were the three remaining living Suzaku warriors, Chichiri, Tasuki, and the man called "Taka", who was the reincarnation of Tamahome. When Ryokan heard their story he nodded firmly. At last, he understood the meaning behind Chosei's first word, "Suzaku". At that time, memories of his past life were very clear in his head. But as he put on years, his memories had faded. Ryokan looked outside the window to where Shoka and Chosei were playing. "But to think…that even Shoka is…" Yes. Yet another shocking truth was revealed to him. The girl who lived next door to him was the reincarnation of Mitsukake's lover… and she even shared the same name of "Shoka". "My son always said that he would protect Shoka and stay by her side…" When the sad past of Mitsukake and Shoka was revealed to Ryokan and he finally understood the real reason for his son's behavior, his chest tightened in sorrow. * "Uncle," Shoka looked at Ryokan. "Back then, Chosei saved my life, didn't he?" "Yes," Ryokan answered. "He regained memories of his past life as Mitsukake. And with those powers, he rescued you." Just before Ryokan entrusted his son in the hands of Taka, Chichiri, and Tasuki to summon Suzaku and save Konan once more, he brought Shoka and Chosei to his side and told them the legend of Suzaku. The next morning, when Chosei cried and made a fuss about leaving, Shoka pushed him away violently. "Were you such a crybaby, Chosei?! I HATE boys like that!" she yelled as she fought back every urge to burst into tears.
Just after Chosei left, inspired by Shoka's words, she was attacked by a flock of evil crows and nearly died. Later that evening, however, as Shoka's parents and Ryokan sat hopefully by her bedside, Chosei returned. In spite of his sense of duty to save the country, he had sensed Shoka's life was in danger and deserted his mission. He did not want to repeat the same mistake and lose the love of his life once more. The ironic tragedy that appeared once again had brought memories of his past life back. "It felt like warm life was blown into my body…" Shoka whispered. "Was it because Chosei was Mitsukake…that he rescued me?" Ryokan shook his head at Shoka's question. "No. He didn't rescue you because he was Mitsukake… Chosei just wanted to rescue you." Shoka nodded faintly. After Chosei regained his memories, he was left at home until the rest of his companions were found. From then on, Shoka stared anxiously at him from far off, as if he were a different person. Shoka was intensely happy that Chosei was the reincarnation of such an honorable man. However, the thought that Chosei was not Chosei, but some other person instead, made her feel quite lonely. But as if to mock Shoka's trivial worries, a truly horrible crisis came. Just as Chichiri and the others retrieved Chosei, the world was enveloped in an eerie darkness. When it was time to say their final good-byes, Shoka whispered inside her heart, Chosei… I have faith in you. I know you will come back to me. Staring deeply into her eyes, Chosei nodded and headed for Konan's palace. "…Chosei!" Shoka cried out faintly. Beneath her, the boy slowly opened his eyes. "Sister…Shoka…" Looking up at Shoka's face, Chosei smiled slowly. "What…happened…?" he asked as if he were oblivious to all the events which had taken place. "What are you saying? Chosei… you were wonderful. You were such a good boy. Suzaku would be…" Ryokan stopped Shoka from saying any more. "Uncle…" You don't need to say any more than that, Ryokan told her through his gaze. Chosei has probably lost all memory of his times with Chichiri and the others.
Shoka nodded in silence. "Chosei, you played too much and got tired. So you should go sleepy-bye a bit more." "Okay… But Shoka, you have to stay with me the whole time, or I won't sleep." "I'll stay. Goodness, you really are spoiled, Chosei…" "No'm not. It's just that if you're not with me, if something bad happens I won't be able to protect you." "…Chosei…" As Shoka stroked his head, Chosei fell into dreamland once more. Ryokan stepped away from the pair and looked out the window to the place in the sky where Suzaku had just appeared minutes ago. He thought of his wife. The life you let live on was a former doctor who saved countless lives and who saved our country as one of Suzaku's seven. What a wonderful life to save. And that life came to be raised by me, another doctor. And perhaps… as a trick from Providence… Chosei was given to us so he could encounter his beloved again… Ryokan continued to stare at Shoka as she intently gazed into the sleeping face of his son. From here on, they will share a life together. I will not stand in their way at all. That is because they walk along the path their souls have chosen. Barely moving a muscle, Shoka continued to watch over Chosei's sleeping face. Her small shoulders began to tremble faintly. And then, her tiny voice reached Ryokan's ears. The ten year old girl faced the five year old boy and whispered, "Juan…" It was a timid voice filled with nostalgia and sadness… ---------Notes: "Chosei" is written with the Chinese symbols for "long" and "life"
Chapter 2: First Step to Grand Isolation Choko village was a beautiful place which was considered the "Northern Capital of Konan". Surrounding this grand village was lots of abundant land. The river which ran along the outskirts of the village was Rising Dragon River, whose source was at the neighboring kingdom, Kutoh. Just below the cliffs of this village, close to the river, lay another village. The villagers all grew and sold their own flax and cotton, but were very poor. As if to look down on these poor villagers with their risky lives by the river, the nicer manors lay scattered on the hills above. Gaps between the rich and poor exist in any world… "Dad, I'm home." Myo Keiyu looked up from the herbal medicines he was mixing and waved. "Hello, Juan." Keiyu's son held a bundle of herbs in his arms. Setting this in front of his father, he smiled happily. "Look at this. Do you think this might be the illusive herb you were looking for? You know, the one that can cure any illness?" Keiyu took the herbs in his hand and closely examined the stems and leaves and the scent. Then he finally tore off a piece and put it in his mouth. His son watched on impatiently. His father's expression changed. Juan's cheeks flushed with red excitement. But, the next instant, his father spat out the herbs. "This is poisonous." "Poisonous…?!" "Yes. If I had swallowed it, I would be sick with stomach pains for a whole week." Keiyu placed a comforting hand on his son's drooping shoulder. "But all the other herbs you chose were medicinal. I see you've learned well how to distinguish between them. I'm proud." His still moping thirteen year old son nodded faintly. And then, he said, "I went to visit Mom's grave." "I see…" "It's been almost five years now." "Yes…you're right."
From here on, the two began to sort through the herbs in silence. Under his father's direction, Juan smashed the herbs, mixed them, and weighed them. Then, the finished product was dispensed into bags. For Keiyu and Juan who lived in this poor village, being doctors was their way to honor their deceased wife and mother. Five years ago, a frightening illness swept over their village. It started with a high fever, followed by a gradual declining of mobility until the victim died. Juan's mother, who was not too healthy to begin with, was one of the first victims. But Keiyu could not constantly nurse her. With countless other sick villagers, he was forced to make rounds all day. His wife would often apologize, "I'm sorry… I'm sorry I have to be like this… I've always been nothing but a burden to you… Especially when you already have so much to worry about…" "Don't say that… Just concentrate on getting well." "Darling…" his wife whimpered. But no matter how much Keiyu intervened, the illness overtook his wife and many other villagers. Many people died, including Juan's mother… "Mom!!!!" As the eight-year-old Juan wept by his mother's corpse, he made a vow. In the future, he would become a doctor. He would become a wonderful doctor just like his father. And then, he will find a cure to the disease which took the lives of his mother and the villagers. His father spoke to him then. "Juan… This is the doings of a Byoma". "Byoma…?" "It is a scary demon who eats away at weak bodies and hearts… And the same demon might come to our village again…" Juan's body shivered in fear over the demon. "Listen, Juan. Bodies and hearts are connected… So it won't do for a doctor to merely heal a person's body. Don't just diagnose an illness; connect with your patients. In any time… an illness can be cured by a heart." Juan could only gaze up blankly at his father. What he said could still not be understood by the eightyear-old boy. This was because he still believed that illnesses were cured by special medicines. It was then that the scary scene which Juan had witnessed earlier entered his mind. But he shook it off. No. That was just a bad dream. That was just a nightmare…
Then, Keiyu told his son, "But this Byoma…might not even be curable with just a heart…" "Dad…" "But perhaps a bigger power… like the power of Suzaku might defeat it…" Keiyu said with a bowed head. "…Mom…" Juan buried his head once more into the chest of his gentle mother's empty body.
"Dad, I ran into Mr. Son along the path and he seemed to run away like he was avoiding me," Juan murmured. "Don't you think it's because he was scared of you?" "What?" Keiyu laughed and slapped the back of his son, who was even bigger than the giant Keiyu. "I've managed to raise a pretty strapping son, despite my poverty." "No, that's not it!" Juan yelled. "Yes, you're right. You may have the body of a giant, but you have the face of an angel." "Dad, stop trying to change the subject. Haven't you always had Mr. Son's wife as your patient? I know that even now her health isn't too good." "They probably get their medicine from Doctor Goh now," Keiyu answered simply this time. Goh was a man who had moved to the village three years ago to be a doctor. "I hear he has some of the greatest and latest medicines from the capital." Juan bit his lip. "But your medicines are just as good… And that's not all; lately I've been hearing badtalk about us… I'm sure that Goh started the rumors. He accuses us of using strange herbs…" "Like 'Myo's herbs make your health myo'?" "…Dad…" Juan could not understand how his father could have stayed so calm all this time, knowing about the nasty rumors. And what's so great about a doctor from the capital anyway? I hear the prices for visits and medicine are very high from him. Even so, those with money flocked to Goh's clinic for treatment. And thanks to the fowl rumors that were spread, even long valued customers of Keiyu had begun to seek treatment from Goh. This had reduced Keiyu's patients to only those too poor to afford treatment, but he still continued to doctor them. Because of this, the productive fields which once lay next to his house were now barren. If things kept up at the rate they were going, it wouldn't be too long before the Myo father and son duo were broke. But there was still a faction of patients, both rich and poor, who deeply respected and trusted Keiyu. "Well, take care of the house for me."
Giving his leaving father a parting look, Juan pulled a medical textbook from the shelf and continued his intense study. * Two years passed. Once again on his search for the illusive cure-all herb, Juan was hiking amidst the hills. "Meaow… meaow…" It was then that Juan's ears caught the faint crying voice. He looked straight up and saw a small ball of white fluff in the tall branches of an elm tree. "Rin! Rin!!" At the sound of another voice, Juan looked sideways. A girl was running towards the tree. As her styled hair fell into tangles, she gathered the hem of her expensive dress in her arms and ran desperately. "Rin… you silly thing…" Stopping in front of the elm tree, she caught her breath and looked up anxiously. Finally noticing the young man next to her, she spoke urgently. "That's my cat… I was playing with her in the garden when suddenly a wild dog chased her and she ran all the way out here…" Juan was silent. Though he was always shy around strangers, the real reason he could not speak was because he had never seen such a beautiful girl in his life. "I don't see how she'll be able to climb down that tree by herself. She's still just a kitten." In response to the bell-like voice of the girl, Juan answered with a silent, "I agree". "Meaow… meaow… meoaw!" The anxious voice of the kitten was growing more and more intense. "What should I do?…" As if asking for help, the kitten glanced down at Juan, but he only stood dumbly in response. As if she had grown weary of her silent companion, the girl threw her arms around the tree's trunk and raised her leg. A hand came from behind and touched her. Whirling around, she saw the silent man shake his head.
"Why not? Then will YOU go climb the tree and rescue Rin?" she demanded with a glare. The boy's gaze fell in embarrassment. He knew that even if he did climb the tree, he would not be able to reach up to the frail branches which held the kitten. If this keeps up, the kitten will lose more and more strength, eventually fall from the tree, and die… The young man slowly raised his hand up to the sky. Then, he finally spoke, in a voice unbelievably gentle in comparison with his large body. "Don't worry. Come on down…" "What do you think you're doing?…" Then, the girl let out a scream as she saw her kitten fall from the tree like a snowball. But before her scream was finished, the kitten had landed safely in the boy's hand. "You really scared me there for a minute. I had no idea what you were up to. Most people wouldn't be able to catch a cat like that…" "But… I'm relieved. Thanks…I really appreciate it…" "…No problem…" As the two sat against the tree, the girl glanced sideways at the savior of her beloved cat. "You don't say much, do you…" "…." "I thought all boys talked a lot…" "…." "My name is Shoka. I'm thirteen. My cat's name is Rin. Ah, you already knew that." "…" "Who are you?" The boy murmured quietly, with his gaze still on the ground. "Juan…"
"Wow, what a nice name. How old are you?" "Fifteen…" "Really? You sure are big! Hey, stand up straight again so I can see." The girl named Shoka grabbed Juan's hand and made him stand up straight. Then she let out a yelp. "Oh no! You have a cut on your cheek. Rin must have snagged you with her claws when she came down…" Shoka searched in her dress for a handkerchief, but Juan shoved her hand away. "It's nothing serious…" Then Juan pulled some nearby weeds out of the ground and rubbed them against his cut cheek. As she watched the wound gradually disappear, Shoka yelled out. "Wow, that's amazing! Is that a magic trick?" For the first time, Juan smiled. "No, it's not. This is just an herb that works well against cuts. My father is a doctor." "Oh, really?!" Shoka's smile sparkled. "So Rin probably wasn't afraid of you because you're the son of a doctor." "Well, I'm not sure…" The two looked at Rin. The white female cat with brown spots on her forehead and tail tip let out a tiny mew, then rubbed her face against Juan. Truthfully speaking, even Juan did not quite understand why he had done what he did. Why did he do something so innocent? And why did the kitten jump fearlessly into his hand? All he knew was that at the time, the palm of his left hand had felt unusually warm. Shoka remembered the scene again. The mysterious scene of her kitten practically floating down to Juan's hand, as if she were on an invisible magic carpet. The two new friends continued to talk long after that. Juan talked about his mother's death, his respected doctor-father, and his own dream to become a doctor through his studies and herb collection excursions. Urged by Shoka's questions, Juan revealed more and more about himself. Before long, squirrels and foxes from the nearby forest emerged from their hiding places and peered in on the pair.
Shoka spoke quietly so as not to startle them. She was certain the animals had gathered to see Juan. "That's right… I thought that Dr. Goh was the only doctor in this village, but before he came here three years ago, I had a doctor from Choko take care of me." Juan stole another glance at Shoka. No matter how he looked at her, she was still the daughter of a wealthy man. He probably even knew her father.
Even still, she ran athletically and was ready to climb a tree to save her kitten… Juan's heart was stolen by the energetic and virtuous rich girl's sweetness. "…Oh no… We ended up just talking about me… So… What about you?…" he asked, trying to move the conversation elsewhere. But then, "Mistress! Mistress! What are you doing in a place like that?!" At the sound of the loud voice, the surrounding forest animals scattered away. What looked like a servant girl around the same age as Shoka came running towards the two. "Suisen…" Shoka said flatly. "Your father and mother are both worried about you!" The girl named Suisen faced the two with red cheeks and hands on her hips. She had the cute, round face of a farmer's daughter. "If anything bad were to happen to you, I would be responsible!" Suisen gave Juan a suspicious look and then grabbed Shoka's hand. "Come, let's go home." Suisen gave Shoka's hand a firm tug. Shoka turned back, "Juan, can we meet again here?" "That won't do. That-will-not-do!" Then Suisen faced Juan. "Don't you know? This lady is the daughter of the lord of his land!" Suisen's and Shoka's figures gradually grew smaller and smaller. The tiny kitten in Shoka's arms continued to cry out mournfully. Juan watched dumbly as the two girls and cat left. If she is the daughter of a lord, her father has probably done everything in his power to keep her away from boys. The grand manor of the lord of the land stood powerfully on the tallest hill above, looking down on him. * But Juan's sweet first love was not to end that day.
The next day, Juan returned to the same place. Just as he was about to give up and leave at sunset, Shoka came running up to him out of breath. "I'm sorry. I just had the hardest time escaping…! I finally got away when I told them I was going to visit a friend…" Juan could only look down with a red face. "I heard stories about your father from the servants who lived around here." "They told me that unlike Dr. Goh, he heals everyone, even if they can't spare a single coin…" "…" "But then my father took actions to take land away from your father… I'm sorry." Juan only stayed quiet and shook his head. "Never mind that… I'm not sure… we should…meet like this…" "Why not?" Shoka asked as she removed her cat from her dress. "I came here for you to check on my cat." "What?" Rin mewed painfully. "She's still scared from the tree incident yesterday. Hey, Dr. Juan, would you please cure her?" "…." Juan took the cat into his hands. Rin squinted her eyes and instantly began to purr. "Hmhmhm. I guess what they say about doctors really is true. With just the touch of a doctor's hand, all illness goes away." The two smiled at each other as they petted the back of the happy kitten. After that, whenever Shoka managed to escape, the two would meet at that place. Whenever Shoka brought injured birds or kittens she had found along the way, Juan would heal them with his warm hand. "You are the kindest and most trustworthy vet in the whole world!" Shoka would proclaim.
Though what usually brought the two together was tending to animals, it was clear that their hearts had already securely bound themselves together. "Did you find the illusive herb yet?" Juan smiled lightly when Shoka asked him this. "Lately I've been thinking… That maybe there is no cure-all herb out there…" "Huh?" "And I think Dad feels the same way… That sort of medicine needs to be created by a doctor. He needs to put his feelings for his patient into the medicine as he makes it… Maybe that is what the truly best medicine is…" "Juan…" The various animals of the forest had gotten into the habit of collecting by the feet of the couple. Even though much of their time together was spent in silence, it flew by swiftly by the gentle connection of their hearts. And at the end of each of their meetings, as Shoka would run off into the distance, Juan always watched her with pains in his heart. One time, Juan caught a glimpse of someone hiding behind a nearby tree as Shoka left. Then the figure hurried after Shoka. Surely, she must have known for a long time… Juan watched Suisen run after her mistress miserable feelings. * "I want you to go look after Mr. Koh for me today. He's been sick in bed for so long and his bedsores are horrible. I want you to help me." The now sixteen-year-old Juan now accompanied his father on house-calls and assisted him. "You mean…today?" Keiyu chuckled at his obviously disappointed son. "I remember. You were going to go look for herbs again today." "Dad…" Juan had promised to meet Shoka today. He had intended on hiding the whole thing from his father, but Keiyu had known for quite some time… "That's all right. I can look after him myself."
Juan could only look down in embarrassment. "Wherever there's a hurt person, I'll always go. There may be rich and poor, but we're all still human." Juan could not bring himself to tell his father that he and the steward's daughter had been courting in secret. He was certain it would hurt his father and that he would be against it. But what embarrassed Juan most of all was his inability to be honest with his father. "Well, go off then. You need to hurry and find that illusive herb." Keiyu gave his son's shoulder a strong pat and then grabbed his medical bag. "It looks like it might rain today. Those hills can get pretty slippery, so be careful." The father and son split in opposite directions at the door. Only God knew that this would be the last time the two would see each other… The fated time was soon upon them. * "Juan…" With their shoulders touching, the two sat under the elm tree. The light rains which had started only minutes ago had turned the earth at their feet to mud. Rising Dragon River, which lay just below their vision, seemed to rise higher and higher. "You should go home… I'll carry you." "No…" "Why not?" Shoka shook her head. "I don't want to go home. I got in a fight with Father before I came here." "What??" Juan was certain Shoka's parents had discovered their relationship. Since Rin was not with Shoka today, he could also assume she ran out of the manor in a hurry. "Juan… Today I came here so you could cure me…" "Shoka…?" The rains pounded down harder and harder. The drenched pair gazed into each others eyes as water dripped down their foreheads.
"My…" Shoka began as she took Juan's hand. "My heart… it aches really badly… I don't know what to do…" "…Shoka…" "Please heal it… I'm sure you can, no, I'm sure you're the only one who can cure…this illness…" Juan strongly grasped Shoka's hand. "Warm… your hand is so warm…" The winds and rain could not enter the hearts of the couple at that point. But the next instant, their bodies froze as they saw the scene before them. "It's a flood!!!" It happened almost instantaneously. Rising Dragon River spat out a huge wave of water. The houses and trees which stood along the riverbank were swept into the current. The water spread itself out across the land like a large ameba. Before he realized it, Juan was running with Shoka in his arms. He ran with all his might, struggling in the mud. The rushing rumbles of the river were getting closer and closer. Suddenly, an image of his father came into his head. His father had gone alone to care for the sick along the riverbank. Juan continued to run up the hill as fast as he could, to escape the rapidly rising waters. Shoka shook the collapsed man by her side. "Juan…! Juan!!" Juan squinted his eyes open and the two watched the scene before them. The river rushed on mercilessly, consuming most of Juan's village with it… ---------Notes: "Byoma" literally translates to "Illness Demon"… but since it's used like a name of a person, I just left it as "Byoma". Mitsukake's last name, "Myo" means "strange". I suppose if this story were westernized, his name would be something like "Jon Wyrd" instead of "Myo Juan" ^^;
Chapter 3: Journey to Ones Purpose "….Juan…" Shoka finally found her voice. But Juan only continued to look down as he lay in a fetal position. Amidst the flood waters that surrounded his body, several of his tears were mixed in. Shoka was unable to think of anything more to say to the young man who had just lost the last of his family. After Juan finally got up and slowly descended down the hill to his village, Shoka followed closely behind. The rains had suddenly stopped and the river's current had lowered itself to its former height. On his way to the riverbank, Juan encountered a man struggling along the path. "Mr. Koh!" Juan called out to the old man who sat on another's shoulders. "Where's my father?! Where is he!" The old man, who knew Juan by face, answered in a tired voice. "Dr. Myo… he carried me and ran with all his might, and rescued me…from the flood…" Juan awaited the final part of the old man's account with painful anxiety. The man who carried Koh continued. "The Doctor was last seen headed back to the river…" "What?!" "I hear he desperately tried to rescue the other villagers who had been swept up in the current of the river… His final moments were spent trying to rescue a child who was grabbing onto a tree branch…" The man then looked down awkwardly and the old man on his back sniffled. "…To the very end, he truly was a wonderful man… You should be proud of him…" By the side of a shocked Shoka, Juan's arms shook. While stealing sideways glances at Shoka, the man quietly left the scene. The flood from Rising Dragon River proved disastrous for the Konan Kingdom. The many houses which once stood along the riverbank had been swept away, along with their inhabitants. This entire village, save the one wealthy mansion on the hill, had been completely destroyed.
Those who were fortunate enough to escape numbered less than half of the original village. "Dad….Dad…" Juan shook his head violently in denial and cried out to the river. "Daaaaaad!!!!" He fell to his knees. Juan looked on in disbelief and confusion as the other injured villagers wobbled away.
"Let's go home." At Shoka's words, Juan slowly raised his face. His home was gone. Even the homes of his relatives who lived in that village were gone. Since the flood ended, he had spent the last few hours circling the area, but was unable to find remains of his father or any of his relatives. There was no "home" to which Juan could return. But Shoka dragged him to his feet and began to walk. "I'll introduce you to my family." * The grand and majestic Kaku estate, which stood high on a hill in the village, did not suffer any damage from the flood. Warm lights flickered from the windows. To Juan, who had just suffered the horrific tragedy, this happy manor that overlooked the sorrow looked surreal. Inside that manor was a world completely different from his. And even Shoka who lived there… after all… she was also a person from a different world. Juan's heart was heavy as lead while Shoka pulled him up the path to her home. From amidst the artificially happy atmosphere of the house, a sobbing female voice could be heard. "Must be Mother…" Shoka said as she shook her head and pulled the gate open. "Mistress! Mistress!!" The first to greet them was an overly hysterical Suisen. "Master, Master!! Lady Shoka has returned!!" After screaming this into the main hall, Suisen grabbed Shoka's muddy hands and shook them. "I truly am… relieved to see you safe…. The entire staff and I searched everywhere for you, but couldn’t find you… We even nearly… gave up hope… Saying this with a scratchy throat, Suisen then burst into uncontrollable sobs. "Shoka!" The lady of the manor came running from the long hallway. First, she flung her arms around Shoka and wept, as her husband stood by her side biting his lip. Then, his eyes fell on the young man standing next to Shoka. Or rather, his eyes fell on the young man's chest. He slowly drew his gaze up and Juan slowly lowered his.
When their eyes met, the lord of the manor's face flushed with red. His entire life he had spent looking down on others. This was the first time he had ever needed to look up to highly to someone else. Swiftly lowering his gaze again, Lord Kaku whisked his wife away from her daughter and struck Shoka's cheek. "Father…!" Shoka glared at her father with quivering lips. "What was that for!" "Just where were you all that time?! W-were you with this savage?!" her father barked out. In time, the lady of the manor's gaze also turned disapprovingly on Juan. "Shoka… You don't mean you really… were with this strange thing…" "What are you saying! Juan rescued me. He risked his life to save me! It's thanks to him that I survived and was able to come home." "Don't speak such nonsense. If you hadn't met this scoundrel, you wouldn't have been in danger of the flood in the first place!" "…Why? Why was it wrong for me to meet Juan?" Shoka's shoulders shook as she challenged her father. "We are different from his kind." "What is?! Just what is different? We're both human! We're both human!!" A couple male servants restrained Shoka as others roughly grabbed Juan's arms and dragged him towards the front gate. Due to the young man's extreme size, several servants were thought necessary to restrain him, but Juan put up no resistance. "How dare you!" In contrast, it took all the strength of the two servants to restrain Shoka as she furiously tugged herself towards Juan. "Stop it! Unhand me! Juan lost his father and his entire family in that flood. He's all alone and has nowhere to go!" A heavy gate was slammed in front of Juan's face. "Why can't we let him stay here?! Juan is my savior! Juan is my… my…" Presumably, from the other side of the gate, Shoka was dragged into her room. Her cries grew quieter and quieter.
* Just as the night was fully awake, Juan began to walk down the hill by himself. Not once did he turn back for a last look at the manor. To him, it was like an imaginary castle that was far out of his reach. Maybe I should have eloped with Shoka… But he shook his head. He did not have faith that he could make Shoka happy. A man in his position had no right to consider himself worthy of a girl who was raised surrounded by nothing but butterflies and flowers. The very notion that Shoka would meet and spend time with a man such as Juan was a fluke. She was probably merely interested in how unique Juan was from the other men she knew… I will forget her. My time with her was nothing more than a dream… Rising Dragon River came into view. The river that had swallowed up his family and many others. Shattered remains of houses lay strewn about the bank as if they had been struck mockingly by the river's tongue. After having rescued old man Koh, his father was said to have gone back into the flood to rescue many others. Had he gone on rounds with his father that day, Juan would have probably suffered the same fate. At that moment, Juan thought what a more fortunate outcome that would have been. If only he could have left this world at the side of his respected father, and with his passionate love for Shoka still in his heart… "Dad…" Juan murmured. Why did you leave me… From now on…what should I do? Who should I depend on?… Please tell me, Dad… At that moment, Juan's wet eyes fell on the silhouette of a heavyset middle-aged woman, wobbling in his direction. Juan's feet turned in determination and he approached her. "Are you okay, Ma'am?" "Eep!… Th…thief!" Seeing the huge giant suddenly looming over her, the woman nearly fell over in fear. Juan caught her in his big arms and said, "Don't worry, I mean no harm. I am a doctor… So please rest assured…" "Huh? Doctor…? You are?" Just as after any disaster, there had been looting and chaos in the area. Because of this, the woman still gave Juan suspicious and disapproving looks, but eventually, she indicated a direction with her finger.
"I come from the neighboring village, but I heard there is one area off that way that survived the flood…" In the direction to which she pointed, there was a village meeting hall that had barely survived the tragedy. The two walked towards it. "…Say, you…" The woman stopped abruptly in her tracks and looked up at Juan in shock. "As I was running away from the flood, I hurt my left shoulder. It was all swollen and painful… but now…" Then, the woman looked in wonder at the area of her body which Juan's left hand had grabbed earlier. "It doesn't hurt one bit…" Inside the meeting hall, several injured villagers had gathered. Juan wrapped a cloth around his forehead to give himself vigor and encouragement. Then, he quietly approached groups of injured people and softly placed his left hand on them. Since he had no medicine or medical supplies with him, that was all he could do. "You're Dr. Myo's son, aren't you?" "Your father was a very good man…" "Originally, I went to Dr. Goh for treatment, but he was on vacation or something." "Don't you think he was just pretending to be out since he knows you can't pay?" "That's just awful. How can he call himself a healer?" Exchanging no words, but simply nodding his head, Juan continued to make his rounds. Lastly, he made way to a corner of the room in which a man and girl were nuzzled. The girl was the granddaughter of the old woman who had transferred from Dr. Myo to Dr. Goh earlier. "How is your grandmother…?" At Juan's inquiry, the girl only shook her head tiredly. "Ever since you last saw her, she's grown weaker and weaker… Until she died, grandma kept saying she wished she could see Dr. Myo again… But she felt it would be rude of her to come back…" Juan placed a hand over the sulking girl's foot. Even he now felt the warm sensation which emitted from his left hand. It was the same sensation he had felt when Shoka's cat had jumped into his hand long ago. As long as there are suffering people, I will go. Money is no issue. We are all human. Illness is cured by the heart.
The words of Juan's father echoed stronger and stronger in his mind. Come. It is time for you to do everything you can. It felt as if his father were talking to him then. It felt as though his father had let Juan's life be spared so he could care for those who suffered. Voices began to cry out from around the room. "My wound has sealed!" "The pain is gone." "I can walk!" "I feel so much better." Everyone crowded around Juan and bowed down to him in gratitude. "Dr. Myo! Dr. Juan! Thank you so much! Thank you so much!" But all Juan could do was stare into his left palm. As if to confirm the source of the mysterious and warm sensation which emitted from it… * After taking a short nap at the hall, Juan set out the next morning to a new place where the injured were gathered. Just then, a man was carried in by two of the village elders. His face was covered in clumps of dried blood. His clothes were also spattered with blood, indicating that he had probably lost lots of blood. "Young doctor, we found this man lying in the middle of the path nearby, so we brought him here…" Juan faced his blood-stained patient. With just one glance, it was clear to him that the young man’s wounds did not stop on the outside, but went deep inside as well. Juan spoke to the patient, who looked as though he was lost inside of his mind. "Sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to heal the wounds in your heart…" he said as he placed his left hand on the man. Soon after, the wounded man shoved Juan’s hand away. Then he shook his head, looked down, and left in silence.
The blood was gone from his face. The long scar which ran across his left eye was not healed, but Juan’s powers had stopped bacteria from spreading. Yes, Rising Dragon River did not only attack Juan’s village. Along the riverbank, countless tragedies were born. It was no wonder that the young man Juan had just rescued was Ri Hojun, future Suzaku warrior, Chichiri… *
Once Juan entered the large hospital which stood on a hill opposite from the Kaku manor, he knew the man at a glance. "Dr. Goh…" On the shelves of the clinic, several sparkling bottles of exotic medicines said to come from the capital were neatly arranged. In the larger shelves, thick volumes of medical books and dictionaries were stacked proudly, and medical instruments with which Juan was not familiar were scattered here and there. "I am terribly sorry about your father…" Dr. Goh said kindly after hearing the news. Juan silently looked down, measuring Dr. Goh's sincerity. "What do you think? Would you like to work for me?" "Huh?!" "I don't want any misunderstandings between us, so let me get this straight now. I think that your father was an excellent doctor. It's just that his methods were different than mine. I wanted to sit down and have a serious talk with him about that, but the opportunity never arose. But now, I am the only hospital in this village. I think we owe it to everyone to work together and see to it that the sick are still tended to." "…Doctor…" "Well? Surely you noticed all the medical books I have, and want to study from them. Just read at your own pace and polish your skills by my side." Juan stared at Goh's face critically for a while, but eventually, he nodded. Rumors that had hurt his father were probably someone else's doing after all. Otherwise, Goh would never consider adopting Juan. "Hi. Are you Myo Juan?" A boy said as he entered the room. He was fair and slender and very beautiful. "Hearing stories about you, Dad said he wanted to bring you here." "Let me introduce my son, Kyushin. He's sixteen, so the same age as you." "Ahaha. Yeah, but he's certainly much taller than I am. Makes me feel like a baby." The son of a rich man, who knew no suffering, smiled at Juan casually as he spoke. "I just don't seem to have what it takes to be a doctor. Though the truth is I'm supposed to take over this hospital, I don't feel very comfortable about it. I'd sure appreciate it if you took over in my place."
"Kyushin!" Father Goh's loud voice barked. His son's shoulders drooped sheepishly. "Darling…" what appeared to be his wife emerged. "Oh, so this is the boy. Welcome," she said with an artificial smile. "Well, I guess this will make us a four-person family now," Goh said with a satisfied smile. After that, a week passed. Juan rested as much as he needed and was pampered like an honored guest. He was given a soft bed and grand food which he had never tasted before. And Juan spent as much time as humanly possible studying the medical books. In an effort to forget his sad partings with his father and Shoka, Juan plunged himself into the new environment. "Juan, from today on, I want you to make rounds with me as my assistant." When Dr. Goh Zenkai told him this after a week, Juan nodded with honest excitement. He was worried about the health of the villagers after the disaster. Villagers camping out at the village hall were dubious at first to see Juan was now Zenkai's assistant, but Zenkai used his cunning diplomacy to keep their respect. Eventually, Dr. Goh and Juan made their way to the sick and injured. "I hear Juan treated you all for free a few days ago, but that was simply emergency measures. Today, we will only treat those of you who can pay." That instant, clamors of protest erupted from the crowd. Juan, too, looked down at Zenkai in shock. "How can you suggest that at a time like this?" The late Dr. Myo never refused treatment on the poor." "I would pay you, but all my money was lost in the flood!" Under the sharp stares of the crowd, Juan's body froze. "How can you speak such nonsense! Don't you understand? Doctors are human, too. We need money to eat, and to buy medicine and medical instruments. Do you people mean to say we doctors should sacrifice our lives for your health? Or do you expect us to treat you with no medicine at all?!" Dr. Goh's questions were answered with dead silence. Here and there, people slowly started to pull wallets out of their belongings. "Come, Juan, examine them." A carefree, smiling Zenkai gave a shocked Juan's back a light shove.
After that, Zenkai and Juan traveled to the neighboring villages and collected as much money as they could. Since it was clear that a touch from Juan's left hand healed all, no one objected to paying. Even though Juan knew Zenkai was merely using his gift for his own selfish profit, Juan could not bring himself to confront him. "Dr. Goh… Can't we at least lower the fees a little?… At least for those who hardly have any money?…" When Juan suggested this passively one day, Dr. Goh replied with a stern glare. Have you forgotten the debt you owe me for saving your life? Have you forgotten who's giving you a place to live? Do you think you have the right to suggest such things to me? is what those stern eyes told him. "You are no longer a guest. You are now my son. A young boy striving to be a doctor should not have such an ignorant face. Just think of everything as part of your training and do your best." That very day, Juan was moved from his warm, sunny room, into a smaller storage area on a dismal side of the house. The food he was served now resembled the vegetarian dinners he once ate with his father. In addition, he was given cleaning and backbreaking duties around the house and was harassed by Zenkai or his wife if there was the slightest dissatisfaction. Juan was consumed by self-loathing. He had become the slave of a man who cared for nothing but money. While he still felt a duty to repay the man, Juan felt he could not tolerate such an existence much longer. "What is this mixture?! You got the medicine proportions backwards!" One day, an infuriated Zenkai marched up to Juan and threw an improperly mixed bag of medicine in his face. "Can't you do anything right? Just what did your father teach you all those years!" Juan's arms trembled. His gentle heart had filled with a thread of anger which was threatening to snap. He raised a fist at Zenakai, who seemed to give him a look that said, "I dare you". "That's not right, Dad, I mixed that medicine." It was then that Kyushin appeared between them. "Don't you know Juan isn't the type of boy who would make such a stupid mistake? It was me. So Dad, and Juan… stop fighting, okaaaay?" Kyushin looked sternly at both of their faces and then chuckled.
"I hope you can bring yourself to forgive my father…" Kyuushin said as he kneeled before Juan in his room. "Dad was always very jealous of your father…" Juan, who was also on his knees, jerked his head up. "Jealous…?" "Yes. Dr. Myo's skills were excellent, and his fees were ridiculously low. He didn't even charge a cent of the extremely impoverished, right?" "In order to compete with such a man, my father had to do the exact opposite. He wanted to be recognized as the best doctor in Konan. But in order to do that, he'd have to raise his fees… He's not a bad man… I hope you can understand that…" Then, Kyushin told him, "Besides, if you leave, I'll be lonely. It seems like I've finally gotten a real friend around here…" "Kyushin…" To think that such a sweet, innocent boy could have been raised by such horrible parents… Thinking this, Juan's heart was rescued for an instant. Surely enough, this was the first time either of the boys had experienced what it was like to have a true friend. Juan decided maybe Kyushin was right. Dr. Goh can't be completely bad. Surely, a day will come when we can understand each other… But more than anything else, Juan did not want to leave his first and only friend behind. Six months have passed since I came to this house… "Please, stay here…" Juan nodded slowly in response. A part of him still regretted not leaving, but he would regret this even more when tomorrow came. Kaku Shoka would appear before Juan's eyes again. ---------Notes: "Kyushin" means "rescue heart"… That's why there was the reference to Kyushin "rescuing Juan's heart"
Chapter 4: The Invading Byoma "Excuse me, is Dr. Goh in?" The door to the hospital opened in unison with the girl's voice. Juan, who had been cleaning the examining room, looked up. "Oh…" Suisen looked taken aback at the sight of Juan in the hospital. "…Um… I'm sorry… But unfortunately… the doctor is making rounds…" Juan stuttered. "That's all right. You'll do just fine, Dr. Juan…" Seeing the girl emerge from behind Suisen caused Juan to drop the book he had been holding. "Long time no see…" Shoka smiled warmly. It looked as though she had lost weight, but during the half year Juan had not seen her, she had clearly grown more beautiful. "I heard that you were working here as Dr. Goh's apprentice…" No answer. "My mistress says she is feeling a little under the weather…" Suisen said. While retrieving the book he had dropped, Juan answered hastily, "… I… I am still just his apprentice… so I can't…do…" "But I say I'm fine with that, so there's no problem," Shoka said firmly as she sat down in the examining chair. Then, as she stared at the wall in front of her, she spoke sideways to Juan. "Back then, you pulled away for my sake, didn't you?" Silence. "Thank you… I know that you did it because you're a very caring person…" Then, Shoka shot an excited smile at Juan. "So don't feel awkward about it! Now, I've become a good, obedient daughter who listens to her parents and lives happily." Still no answer. "From here on, I still want to stay friends with you." She then grabbed Juan's hand and set herself into the examining chair.
"Come on, examine me…" "Examine?…" Shoka pointed at her heart and smiled flirtatiously. Continue where we left off the day of the flood… is what her gaze seemed to tell him. "Come on…" Shoka persisted as she reached to loosen her robe. This caused the already anxious Juan to panic and fall backwards off his stool.
"Awwww, Juan, you big silly. Ahahaha!" Not only Shoka laughed, but Suisen too chuckled with mirth. "Is something the matter with the patient?" Hearing the noises from the examining room, Kyushin popped his head in. At Kyushin's entrance, the two females stopped their laughing and turned to look at him. "Hi, Suisen," he spoke as if he and Shoka's servant knew each other. It seemed as though Suisen probably came here often to collect medicine. "H-hello!" Suisen answered with a pink face. But Kyushin's eyes passed over her swiftly and fell on the other female visitor. "Nice to meet you. I'm Kaku Shoka," the young woman greeted him cordially as she stood and wiped her eyes of tears of laughter. "Huh?… Hyou're huh haugher huv hah hord huv huh…hand…?" Looking at the stuttering Kyushin, Shoka once again broke into laughter. "Ahh, how silly! Suisen, can you remember the last time I laughed like this?" Shoka violently shook her servant's shoulders. Even Suisen looked overcome with glee. S-s-so…so… you d-d-don't f-feel w-well?" Kyushin muttered with a red face as he nervously fidgeted with his fingers. Juan finally stood up and said, "She is coming down with a cold… most likely…" Then he addressed Shoka, "Mr. Kyushin is fully licensed to practice here, so please let him examine you." Then, Juan fled from the room. Suisen appeared behind Juan in the backyard. "The day of the flood, Mistress Shoka cried as she watched you leave down that hill from her house." "And then, she fell asleep from all that crying. She even refused to come see this doctor for so long… But as time passed, it seems she came to realize how you felt for her… It was then that she regained her spirits and was determined to be strong and hopeful like those who had lost their homes in the flood…" By this time, Juan's old village had been partially rebuilt, by the strong determination of the villagers. "…I see…" Juan answered quietly. All this time, his determination was to forget about Shoka. "But… I'm certain that my mistress still…has feelings for…"
Juan whirled around in the middle of her sentence. Noticing the anxiety in his face, Suisen shut her mouth. Juan argued to himself, That can't be possible. After all, Shoka just came here to thank me and tell me she wanted to be friends… So how could she… Suisen now looked awkwardly at Juan, so he felt he must say something to her. But the only words that could escape his frustrated lips were, "Uh- well! How was Miss Shoka ex-ex… examined…?!" Suisen clapped a hand over her smiling mouth as she observed Juan fret about nervously just as Kyushin had earlier. "Don't worry, the examination was just a verbal interview. Since Dr. Kyushin determined she was just a little tired, he gave her some medicine." "…I- I see…" "When he talked to her, it almost seemed like flowers were blooming from his head… So that's why I…came out here…" Juan stared at the servant, who was looking down at her toes. "Did you know that Dr. Kyushin doesn't want to be a doctor, but an artist instead?" "An artist?" Juan's ears perked at this new information. Since he had been forbidden to enter Kyushin's room, he couldn't have known about it. "A while ago, he showed me one of his paintings once. It was a view of this village's landscape from up here… But the painting didn't make it look like this village was looking down on the other… it was a very gentle painting…" Suisen smiled lightly. She had the sensation that Juan would probably also be able to appreciate the gentleness of Kyushin's art. "But his father doesn't like the idea of Kyushin becoming an artist. Before I came out here, he was telling my mistress how he would be so happy if you took his place as the heir to this hospital so he could become an artist instead…" It was clear to Juan that this girl was in love with not only Kyushin's gentle art, but with Kyushin himself. He saw his former self in the girl's situation. The servant girl of the lord of the village in love with the heir to the village's best hospital. But in Suisen's case, Kyushin probably wasn't even aware of her feelings for him… Remembering images of Suisen quietly watching over Shoka and Juan as they courted, Juan's heart ached for the servant girl. "Suisen! We're leaving."
Suisen ran off to meet her mistress, who was waving from the front entrance. Then, with a bright smile on her face, Shoka tugged on her servant's arm and lead her along home. * "This is the first time I've ever felt this way…" That evening, Kyushin came to Juan's room and confided in him with a listless expression. "Say, Juan, do you think I might be in love?" No answer. "Well, tell meeee. Do you have any experience?" Kyushin teasingly nudged the shoulder of his antisocial companion. "I have…never…been…in love…" Kyushin shook his head in disapproval at the late-responding Juan. "I thought not. I don't suppose most ladies would be brave enough to even approach you in the first place." Juan's forehead wrinkled. "Or is it because you're too caught up in becoming a doctor to be interested in women?" Kyushin peered into Juan's face and smirked. "But I guess being a doctor has its advantages, too. After all, you can see the bodies of beautiful women when you examine them." "Why, you!" Suddenly, Juan grabbed Kyushin's collar. "Wasn't it just a verbal examination?? Did you actually take off her clothes…" "Ahahahaha!" Kyushin laughed. "I see. So you're a normal guy after all. Did you ask Suisen for details or something?" The tricked Juan's eyes darted to the side. Kyushin continued to talk as if nothing had happened. "Shoka sure is nice. She's pretty and practical and easy to talk to." Silence. "But I did hear strange rumors about her before the flood. Like that she used to hang around a real scruffy guy…" Juan remained silent.
"Well, it's gotta be a lie. After all, her parents would never allow such a thing." After deciding that was the case, Kyushin continued to talk merrily, "We decided to celebrate her next birthday here. Her mom and dad were both really pleased to hear that." Silence. "Say, Juan, I need your advice about something…" Juan slowly turned his gaze on Kyushin. "What should I get her?" Juan stayed quiet for a while, then finally said, "How about one of your paintings?" At Juan's response, Kyushin caught his breath. "Did you also hear that from Suisen…?" To the nodding man, Kyushin said, "Juan… P-please don't misunderstand… I'm not trying to push you onto this hospital because I want to become an artist… I just…" Juan smiled lightly. "I understand how you feel. And I also want to see your paintings…" Hearing those words, Kyushin grasped Juan's hand excitedly. Juan squeezed it back slowly and strongly. * After that, Shoka returned to Goh's clinic with Suisen and Rin in tow. The foursome drank tea and talked in Kyushin's room. At one point, Juan spoke to the cat who was playfully climbing on his shoulder, "You've gotten pretty heavy, girl…" Hearing this, Kyushin cocked his head. "Huhhh? You guys seem pretty close. It almost looks like she knew you already." As Juan caught his breath in fear, Shoka quickly answered, "Since Juan is so big, Rin must feel safe around him. Yes, now I remember. Quite a long time ago, there was an incident where Rin was hurt and Juan, who happened to be passing by, helped tend to her. And ever since then, she's been super strong and ringing with courage!" "Ahahaha, since she's 'Rin', you say 'ringing with courage', eh? Hahaha." Noting Kyushin's honest laugh, void of any suspicion, Juan sighed silently in relief.
Shoka casually pointed to the various paintings hung in Kyushin's room. "But never mind Rin, I'd rather hear stories about your paintings or about Juan's work as a doctor." And then, when evening rolled around, Juan was not sat at his usually meager solitary table, but was instead seated with the rest of the family in a fancy feast. This was partially a tactical move on Dr. Goh's part. It wasn't until news spread that he selflessly took in the orphaned Juan as his adoptive son that the villagers had come to see him as a humanitarian. And since his clinic was the only one remaining in the village, even those who had a difficult time paying his high fees had no choice but to come to his clinic. With Juan there, however, they seemed to be more accepting of Dr. Goh's ways. Everything was going according to Dr. Goh's plans. And so, that evening, a delicious feast was brought before the family. "My Kyushin seems to be really taken with you, Shoka." "Oh, please…" Shoka protested as her eyes fell to her lap. Goh Zenkai grinned at her. "Miss Shoka, as you know, my Kyushin is a very gentle young man." His wife kept nodding in agreement. "Aw, cut it out, Mom, Dad. If you keep saying stuff like that, Shoka might stop dropping by to pick up medicine or visit." Kyushin continued to steal glances at Shoka. All Shoka could do was smile shyly back. With this scene before him, Juan's head drooped. "Never mind us, don't you think Suisen and Juan make a cute couple?" Kyushin asked playfully. Juan and Suisen, who were sitting directly across from each other, winced in unison. "Hmm. Since I do want Juan to take over some of my duties here, I will need to eventually find him a wife," Zenkai said with apparent interest. "What do you think, Miss Shoka?" Shoka, who had been seated directly across from Kyushin, stole a glance at Juan as she replied, "That might be a good idea…" Then her eyes suddenly darted away. From that moment on, Juan continued to stare at the floor. The topic of conversation quickly changed and Shoka's time surrounded by the family atmosphere continued throughout the evening. * After that, a year passed. The entire Goh family was assembled at the dinner table. Juan was included in this. Ever since Juan had promised to keep Kyushin's secret, he had been more agreeable with Dr. Goh, and noticing this
change, he relieved some of the harsh conditions that he had formerly placed on Juan. He was the sort of man who disciplined with both whips and rewards. Ever since he had moved to this village, Zenkai's heart burned with jealousy over the mention of Myo Keiyu. You hypocrite. Are you trying to become a saint, healing people for no fee? You're just fooling your ignorant patients into thinking you're healing them with those phony herbs you use. But I am different. I use trustworthy medicines and scientifically proven healing methods. I charge money because my expertise deserves it. With his way of doing things, Zenkai had been able to keep his business going with the most wealthy people in the area. But he was still not satisfied. He would not be able to rest until everyone in the village accepted his side. He would also not rest until he saw to it that the Myo clinic went down. But Dr. Myo and his son had continued to carry on as if Zenkai didn't even exist. In the end, Keiyu even sacrificed his life for his patients. It was then that Zenkai felt as though he had completely lost to Keiyu. He also feared that his remaining son, Juan, would take after his father and only cause him more defeat. It was then that Goh Zenkai formulated his plan. The wheels began to turn when Zenkai discovered that Juan had a mysterious healing power. Everything had gone well so far. He seized Juan and with him, money and hope from the people. During the past half year, the Goh Clinic had undergone some severe construction and now was far bigger and grander than any other clinic within miles of it. Supreme fame and respect were not far from his grasp. "Juan, I appreciate all the hard work you've done for me," Zenkai told his other son. "Starting tomorrow, I will have you work here officially as a doctor." Juan opened his eyes wide and turned towards Zenkai. "Good for you, Juan," Kyushin said with a pat on Juan's shoulder. "Idiot, don't you feel even slightly bitter? Sheesh… Even now you seem to do nothing but paint more of those fanciful pictures of yours…" Zenkai said with a faint chuckle. "Well, I suppose your paintings weren't entirely useless." After Zenkai finished that line, his wife smiled sweetly and announced, "Kyushin, you will marry Shoka." "Huh?!" Kyushin gasped in surprise. The loudness of his yell caused Juan, who was sitting next to him, to yelp slightly, but no one heard him.
"B-but you didn't consult meeee!" "What do you mean consult? Isn't that what you wanted?" Kyushin nodded his head violently at his father's words. "Yes, but does she?…" "We hear that when she received the painting you had delivered to her, she said you were a sweet man." The painting of the view of the village that Kyushin had given Shoka for her fifteenth birthday a year ago… it was the same painting that Suisen had been so emotionally moved by. Now it hung above the entrance to the clinic. That was Shoka's request. Kyushin's mother nodded in approval. "Miss Shoka must have had in mind at the time that she would marry into this family anyway. You would be nineteen and Shoka would be seventeen. I think that's a perfect age. The Kaku couple were very excited over the idea, too, saying there was no man better to marry their daughter than you." Due to the incredible shock over the news, all Kyushin could do for the rest of the conversation is open and close his mouth dumbly like a fish. "Good for you…" Juan said. Then, he told himself silently that this really was for the best. If she marries Kyushin, Shoka probably will be able to lead a happy life. Up until then, he had watched silently over Shoka as she tried to hide the pain in her heart. Ironically, this had been happiness for him. But now I have nothing more to worry about. Shoka… At last, you can be happy… * That evening, Kyushin suddenly fell ill with a fever. "Ahaha, my body must have given out with the sudden talk of marriage," Kyushin said with a nervous chuckle. Juan reached out his left hand to touch him. "No, don't," Kyushin pushed it away. "Isn't that special power supposed to be reserved? I'll heal in no time. I even took medicine. Starting tomorrow, you'll have to see patients. I don't want you to have to weaken your powers by wasting them on me." "…Kyushin…" "I really thank you for working by my father all this time without complaining…"
Silence. "When you use your power, you lose a lot of strength, don't you? I can see how it would have been painful for you to keep helping my father like that without even telling him about it…. Seriously… I am a useless son… and I feel guilty about that…" It seemed as though Zenkai had already half-given up on the idea of having Kyushin take over the clinic for him. "Don't worry about that. You should just concentrate on your art instead." "…I will…" Kyushin's feverish eyes seemed moist. "Right now, what are you painting?" "Right now?…" Kyushin's cheeks flushed a faint pink. "Well, just a little something…" he said with a peaceful smile. While looking down on his gentle friend, lying happily in the bed, Juan said, "By the way, have you heard of the Byoma?" "Byoma?" "Yes, my father told me that my mother died at the hands of the Byoma." Kyushin continued to shrug his shoulders to say he didn't know. "I saw it…" "You saw the Byoma?" Juan nodded slightly. "What was it like?" But Juan only remained silent and looked down. "Well… it might have just been my imagination. I was only eight years old, after all. It might have been a dream, too…" "What was?" "It's just that my father kept telling me this: the Byoma is a frightening monster that attacks the weak areas of people's hearts."
Kyushin said, "That's all sickness is anyway. Don't people say true healing starts with the heart? As long as the patient has a strong will and good medicine, there's no illness that can't be beaten." "I wonder, though…" Juan muttered. "My father told me something similar… He said that doctors should use their hearts to heal the sick…" Kyushin gazed at Juan with warm eyes. "I agree… Your very power might be coming from your heart's desire to heal people…" The two young men nodded silently at each other. "Starting tomorrow morning, I'll have you be my very first patient," Juan told Kyushin as he left the room. It was a sleepless night for Juan. Clang, clang. Just then, the faint sound of something tapping the window reached Juan's ears and he walked to the window. The one who stood on the other side of his slightly open window was Suisen. "Juan, hurry. Hurry, come out!" She fiercely tugged on Juan's arm. * In the middle of the clearing where Suisen had dragged Juan, there stood a young woman holding a lantern. Juan's eyes opened wide. "Shoka…" Apparently, the two girls had left the manor in a hurry, as Shoka wore only her nightgown and a light shall. "Juan…!" Shoka ran up to Juan and gazed up at her former lover with teary eyes. "You heard the news, didn't you? About Kyushin and me…" "…Y…yes…" Shoka shook Juan's arm. "Are you okay? Are you okay with that?!" No answer.
"It's just something both of our parents decided on their own. It's cruel. It's so cruel!" "…Shoka…" Juan began nervously. "…As long as…you will be…happy with him…" "Idiot!!" Shoka screamed as tears dripped out of her large eyes. "Why don't you understand?! Why don't you understand the real reason I kept coming back to Dr. Goh's clinic?!" No answer. "It was to see you. I just needed to see you, that's all." "…Shoka…" "But I had to be subtle so Dr. Goh wouldn't notice. After all, if anyone found out that was my motive, you would have been kicked out of his house. So I was planning to wait quietly until you became a full-fledged doctor." Hearing Shoka's confession, Juan could only continue to shake his head in denial. "And it wasn't only for my sake that we kept coming to visit… It was also for her…" Suisen, who was standing nearby, was also wiping her eyes. "Mistress…" Shoka had also been concerned for Suisen's secret feelings for Kyushin. But the situation was moving in the complete opposite direction the three wished it to. "It's too late…" Shoka said with determined eyes, "Juan, take me. Let's leave this village." "…Shoka." "I don't want to have to go through the pain of leaving you again. I can't lie to myself anymore. I don't care how poor we are or how much we suffer. Because, Juan… I love you!" "Shoka…!" it took all of Juan's power to restrain himself from throwing his arms around Shoka then. "Mistress…" Suisen spoke out. "Unless we hurry, the Master will find us…" Shoka nodded at Suisen.
Then she said to Juan, "Tomorrow, my parents and I will come to Dr. Goh's clinic to discuss the marriage. So, tomorrow's the only chance we've got…" "…Shoka…please…listen…" Shoka could not hear any of Juan's murmured words after that. "Tomorrow night, go to our place. If you love me… If you really do love me, then go to our place. I believe in you… And I'll wait for you!"
The two gazed into each other's eyes. Perhaps frightened by Juan's lack of words, Shoka retreated to Suisen's side and the two ran off into the night with their robes rustling in the wind. A beam of moonlight began to shine itself on Juan as he stood still as a statue on the spot. But what looked upon his back was not only the light of the moon. Kyushin, who had hid himself behind a tree nearby, was ripping a painting he held into pieces. The beautiful painting of Shoka soon became a small blizzard of thick, paper snowflakes. Kyushin had gone out with the intent to show the painting to Juan, but finding him gone from his room and the window cracked open, he followed the two shadows that were retreating into the darkness, all the while wobbling from his fever. It was there that he heard Shoka's true intentions. Inside of Kyushin's heart, something muddy was spreading rapidly. Betrayal, lies, jealously, ridicule. Kyushin's pure white heart, which up until now had never dreamed of hurting anyone, was now being painted in a thick black. "…Damn you…" A gravely, sneering voice which could not be thought of as belonging to the warm-hearted Kyushin emitted from his blackened throat. ----------
Chapter 5: Hearts Whose Paths Barely Miss The next morning, Juan tapped on the door of Kyushin's room. This was because he had not shown up for breakfast. According to his mother, she had gone to his room to ask him to breakfast, but he had said he had no appetite and was buried under the covers. "Kyushin… I'm coming in." There was no answer. Juan softly opened the door and went inside. Kyushin was still sitting pushed up against the wall with his arms around his knees and his blankets draped over his body. "What's wrong? If you still feel sick, I'll see what I can do." No answer. "Kyushin." Juan's helping hand was shoved away from inside the covers. "Stay the hell away from me…" "Huh…?" Kyushin's ear-piercing words caused Juan's body to stiffen with caution. "What's wrong? Tell me…" Yet another unbelievable sound emitted from under the covers; it was Kyushin's laugh. "…Kyushin…?!" "Hmhmhmhm… My, what a fine actor you are, my boy…" Juan had never heard Kyushin refer to him as "my boy" before. "So I guess the rumor was true then… But I never would've dreamed Shoka's ex-lover was you, of all people…" Juan was paralyzed with shock. "I guess it was lots of fun for you." Saying this, Kyushin shook off his covers and sprung to his feet. His face was blackened like that of a corpse and his lip area was strangely distorted. "You and Shoka must've been laughing together behind my back." Though he couldn't determine why, it was clear to Juan that Kyushin had somehow discovered his past relationship with Shoka. Juan shook his head painfully. "You're wrong…"
"Why'm I wrong?! Shoka kept coming over here to see you, didn't she? And the real reason you stayed here all this time no matter how strict my father was with you was so you could keep seeing her, right?!" "No…. I just didn't want to leave you." "You liar!" Juan looked down in shame. "I just… wanted her to be happy… I wanted… to watch over her… just to watch over her, that's…all…" Kyushin glared at Juan. "You can sugarcoat it all you want, but you still can't deny that means you love her!" Juan kept silent. From his eyes that did not get a wink of sleep the night earlier, dark circles of discoloration could be seen. Kyushin glared at those anxious eyes as if they were foul and evil. "…It's all in the past now…" Juan mumbled almost pleadingly. "That's because… three years ago, I realized that… I would not be able to make her happy…" "…Ohhh," Kyushin looked up at Juan. "Do you still believe this?" Juan nodded. "Even if she still loves you, too?" Kyushin's gaze met fiercely with Juan's. "…Yes," Juan whispered. "I see." At what appeared to be Kyushin's final words of understanding, Juan nodded deeply. "In that case, I don't mind," Kyushin said with a toss of his head away from Juan. Seeing his friend in that condition, Juan clenched his fist. "This ends our discussion then. So get out of here. And from now on, we're not best friends or anything anymore." "….Kyushin" "Don't be so familiar with me!" Juan was speechless with shock.
"Just who do you think you are anyway? You're just an orphan." Juan moved his trembling left hand up towards Kyushin's pale blue face. "You must be…just tired…" "Don't touch me!" Kyushin threw his pillow at Juan. "I'll have Dad examine me later. I need to get better before Shoka comes to visit with her parents tomorrow…" Juan closed his eyes and looked down as he spoke. "I thought…that if Shoka married you, she could be happy… Because… you are a… gentle man… But… What if… what if she were not the Lord's daughter? Then would you have loved her?" "What was that…?" Juan opened his eyes. Was the man standing before him truly Goh Kyushin, the man he considered to be his close friend? Juan stared deeply into his face. "Were you drawn to her simply because she is beautiful and wealthy? Without even considering who she was on the inside…" "…Why you…!" "…All the while, there was someone else… who secretly cared for you. Didn't you ever notice her?…" Kyushin cocked his head. "Could you mean Suisen?" He then clutched his stomach and laughed heartily. "That hick-girl loves me? Aw, give me a break." Turning his back on Kyushin, who was laughing maniacally with tears in his eyes, Juan left the room. The instant the door closed, Kyushin stopped laughing. His eyes peeled back and his face clouded over with pain. "…nnngh." From within his distorted mouth, a long red tongue slithered slightly. * "Juan, what are you dilly-dallying around for!" Zenkai's voice boomed at Juan as he left Kyushin's room. "We're receiving several calls. We need to hurry and make our rounds." Since last night, several people all over the village had become afflicted with the same fever Kyushin had. "…Yes, sir."
Pointing a finger at Juan, Zenkai tapped his shoulder. "I'm counting on you. The health of this village depends on us. You need to use all your strength to help them." Juan nodded deeply under Zenkai's sharp stare. "I understand, sir." Then, Juan set out to make his rounds from house to house. Those afflicted with the high fever were of all ages, and their eyesight, hearing, and other bodily functions were also weakening. "Dr. Juan…please help me…" Lighting making his way into the houses, Juan did his best to heal them. He prescribed medicine and applied his left hand on their heads before he left. "Thank you very much. I feel so much better…" Juan left their houses with expressions of gratitude, but there was no smile on his face. Although it appeared as though his patients were getting well again, Juan knew well that their recoveries were only temporary. This was much different from the experience he had when he healed those injured from the flood. "Dr. Juan! My Mother is sick!" On the way to his next appointments, Juan was stopped many times and forced to head to the house of yet another sick one. Juan's own health was starting to diminish. But he could not rest. The villagers needed him. And Dr. Goh, too, has trusted him to do his job. Before he realized it, the day was nearly over. But he was still not finished with his rounds. Juan hurried to the houses that remained on his list. "Shoka…" Perhaps at this time, Shoka is already waiting for me. Last night, Shoka had run off without hearing what he had to say, simply saying that she believed in him. It took all of Juan's strength to contain his fluttering emotions. There is something I must do now. Even though it may only be temporary, I must heal as many people as I can. And also, I made a promise to Kyushin… I will pull away from Shoka. It was something I had already decided before I even told Kyushin. I cannot return Shoka's feelings.
I also decided that if Kyushin and Shoka got married, I would leave that house. Shoka would surely understand… But in the depths of Juan's heart, the feelings of discomfort continued to turn. Memories of the illness that struck this village ten years ago returned to him. Memories of the time his mother was struck with the illness… That's right. The patients I saw today. That must have been the same illness as back then. It starts with a fever, then slowly the entire body becomes paralyzed until the organs cease to function. And just after my mother died, the illness mysteriously disappeared from the village. "Byoma…" Juan stopped walking and clutched his head. Then, his lips quivered and he shook his head furiously. So that wasn't a nightmare. Memories from ten years ago flooded Juan's mind and relived themselvs… That night, Juan was having trouble sleeping, so he crept over to his parents' room. Then, he saw it. His mother had turned into a one eyed monster with countless tentacles and was attacking his father. "Don't worry. I'll heal you… I'll rescue you," his father had said, while extending his arms to his wife. Juan covered his face in terror and fell to the floor. This is why he could not remember what happened next. But when he peered through the cracks in his fingers at the scene before him, his mother was human again, and limp in his father's arms. "I love you…" his father then whispered to her… Not an instant later, Juan fled back into his own room and fell asleep while shivering under his blanket. The next morning, his father told him his mother had died. Something came flickering down to Juan's feet. Taking this paper in his hands, Juan gasped. It looked like a ripped off section of a painting. He could tell from the piece that it once was part of a face. Light, long hair, flawless eyebrows, large eyes… he could tell instantly whose face it was. He also knew who had painted it. The next instant, he realized that he was standing in the place where Shoka had seen him last night, and broke into a fierce run. "Shoka!!"
Last night, Kyushin saw Shoka and me together. And then, he was furious and tore up his painting. It must have been then that Kyushin had ceased being himself. "Byoma!" Juan whimpered as he ran. His mother's heart and soul had been devoured by the Byoma. His mother had always blamed herself for being weak and unable to be much help to his father. I'm sorry. It would probably be easier on you if I just died. It was that kind of soul that the Byoma desired. And Kyushin, who saw his best friend and beloved betray him, was also the perfect host. I should have known. Thoughts of the other sick villagers disappeared from Juan's mind. That is because his duty now was to destroy the Byoma that was the source of their illness and suffering. As if to pour salt on his own wounds from healing the sick all day, Juan ran up the hill. * "Mistress…" Suisen said. "Come… let's go home…" But Shoka shook her head. She stood at the place where she and Juan had shared so many secret visits. It was their special place. Beneath the large elm tree, with the faint flickering of fire from her torch as her only source of light, Shoka and Suisen waited. Nearly three hours had passed now. "Suisen," Shoka told her servant. "Mother and Father will probably return from the theater soon. I want you to go back to the manor and try and stall for me." "…Mistress…" "Hurry!" Suisen nodded and headed on the path home, leaving her mistress alone. Barely after Suisen left, Shoka saw the silhouette of someone approaching her. "…Juan?!" Shoka put a hand on her chest to steady her heart and began to run towards him… then stopped.
It was not Juan. She would know Juan's silhouette from any distance. She could always recognize the tall, gentle figure of the man she loved. Shoka strained her eyes from where she stood. Then she gasped when her visitor came into the light and she saw who he was. The heir to the hospital stepped before her and smiled. "Hi…" He was smiling, but his skin was dark and dull like a corpse, and his usual carefree expression was distorted. "…Kyu…shin…" "What'cha doing out here by yourself?" No answer. "Our parents are supposed to meet tomorrow to discuss the wedding. We don't want you catching cold," Kyushin said calmly as he stepped towards her. Shoka took a step back. "Why are you stepping back?" Kyushin continued to advance on Shoka and Shoka continued to retreat until her back hit the trunk of the tree. "Just because Juan didn't come to see you, that's no reason to be so upset." "Who…are you…" Shoka demanded as she critically peered into Kyushin's face by the light of her torch. Kyushin laughed. "Aw, don't say that. It's me. Goh Kyushin. I'm the man who loves you more than any other and who can make you happy." "No. I could never be happy with you!" "Now, don't say that. Juan even told me himself. He said I should take care of you. He said what he shared with you is all in the past. He asked me to make you happy." "No… You're lying." "It's not a lie. That's why Juan didn't come here. If you still doubt me, you can ask him later." "You know that Juan is the kind of man who never tells a lie, right? Juan values your future and his friendship with me, and that's why he's pulling back." Shoka only continued to shake her head back and forth.
"Come, don't be afraid. Come to me." "No! Go away!! Someone! Help me! Juan! Juan!!" Suisen's feet stopped. She got the sensation she just heard Shoka's voice. "Mistress!" Turning 180 degrees, Suisen ran back towards the place where Shoka was. "Mistress!!! Mistress Shoka!!!" In the struggle, Suisen tripped and dropped her torch. Amidst the darkness, Suisen crawled along up the hill on her hands and knees. At last she made it to the place where the elm tree could be seen. "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!" Just as Suisen heard Shoka's scream, a terrifying sight out of this world came to her eyes. "Eep!…" Something was hovering over Shoka by the tree. It was Kyushin. But coming from his back was a one-eyed monster with many tentacles, baring its fangs. Its multiple hands were reaching out to Shoka. "I'll eat you! I will control every inch of your body!!" The eerie voice pierced through the night air. "Stop it!! Kyushin, don't do it!!!" Suisen cried out at the top of her lungs. Kyushin glanced over at Suisen. For an instant, his eyes seemed to be enveloped in sadness. However, they quickly clouded over under control of the monster. "Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!" Shoka cried out desperately. The monster faced its prey once more and opened its red mouth wide. Shoka covered her face in terror. But then, an eerie thudding noise sounded. Along with the noise, the monster's body was flung far away. The tree's trunk split and huge dust clouds rose from the ground.
Still unaware exactly of what had happened, Suisen ran to her mistress's side. "M-Mistress!" Shoka's robe was drenched with blood. Suisen continued to shake her unconscious mistress. Not far away lay Kyushin, also drenched with blood, not moving at all. The monster that had just tried to attack Shoka was no longer in sight.
In its place stood another human. He stood stiffly, staring into the palm of his left hand. "Juan…" Suisen called out with a shaking voice. ---------Chapter 6: The Soothing Palm of the Hand "Thank ya so much, sonny…" From within a deteriorating old hut, a frail and dirty man emerged with his hand on his head, bowing over and over again. The tiny bag he held protectively in his hand was lowered into his sack. As the man walked along the path home, he came across an old woman. Her small, hunched over body had a large basket on it, causing her to limp along unevenly. "Old lady, are you also going to see the doctor who lives in that hut…?" "Well, I guess so." "Old lady, he is a very good doctor. Well, but he does seem a little strange. He knows I'm poor, but he didn't make me pay a cent…" "…Hmm…" The man continued, "People 'round here say his medicine also works real good. But what I wanna know is why he lives in such a wreck." "Most times, we wouldn't trust his type. But the people 'round here say he's good. First time I saw him, he scared me, towerin' over me like that, but he's really kind and don't charge for medicine. And the people 'round here say his medicine works good, too." "Ohhhh." "Oops, my kid's at home cryin' with a hurt belly. I'd better hurry along home and give him this medicine." The man hastily lifted the hem of his robe and ran off. The old woman continued to shuffle along the path until she arrived at the hut of which the man had spoken, and opened the door. "Hey, sonny, don't tell me ya let another customer slip by without paying?" she complained as she lowered the bamboo basket off of her back and onto the floor.
"I've boiled you some vegetables and beans. Then, there's some dried fish, and… oh, do you like peaches?" The old woman excitedly pulled out various things from her basket. "With all these groceries, you should be okay for a while, right?" Then, the old woman walked further into the hut. The hut's owner sat cross-legged on the floor with his back facing her, apparently engrossed in his work. By the man's lap were many foxes and raccoons, curled up in balls asleep. Even on the man's head, rested a dove. "Excuse me, kids… I'm very sorry," the old woman said apologetically as she gathered the animals in her arms. Then, she fiercely patted the man's back. "Come on, I need your help lots today." Stopping his hand that was mixing herbs, the man slowly turned his body around. It seemed as though the length of his body was nearly 2 meters. His appearance, shaggy hair, a shaggy beard, and cloth bound around his body, looked like anything but a doctor. It might be more fitting to call him a "society rejected vagabond." Saying not a word, the huge man began to massage the old woman's shoulders. "Ahhh, that feels so goooood," the old woman sighed as she glanced around the room. "But still, if you'd just straighten up this room, put a sign on your front door, and then, if you'd only dress yourself better…" The old woman sighed, "I know you'd be the most popular doctor in this village." But no matter what the old woman said, it seemed as though he would never answer her. Old lady, Shion, still did not know his name. She intended to look after his needs, but when he still refused to open himself up to her, she gave up hope of having any sort of relationship with the huge man. It had been nearly half a year ago that she had discovered him, collapsed along the entrance to this village of Chikurin, the most southern point of Konan. She assumed that he had been wandering around for a while before that, as his clothes had worn themselves to shreds. Shion lived as a hermit nearby, scraping up what little she could to eat. She somehow managed to sling the man onto her back and carry him to the nearby abandoned hut. But Shion, who was not even half the man's size, threw out her back and collapsed along the way.
Then, the man came to and it was his turn to carry Shion on his back, to the hut to revive her. To heal the small fracture in her bones, the man pulled medicines from his sack. Looking back, that is how the two became friends. "Say, son, weren't ya a doctor somewhere else? And weren't ya very good at it? So why're ya traveling off to nowhere by yourself?" No answer. "I understand everyone has problems in life, but still…" After having discovered the miraculous healing power of the man's medicines, Shion had taken it upon herself to be a sort of advertiser for him, traveling around the village and telling everyone about him, and even leading them to his hut. It was difficult to be certain, due to the excessive amounts of hair on his head and face, but Shion concluded that this man was about the same age as her own son. Somewhat to Shion's dismay, rough, untrustworthy characters sometimes came to the hut for medicine, but there were never any messy confrontations, since the man gave his medicine for free. "Well, never mind that. I can at least take care of feeding him… But son, are ya sure you're okay with this? I mean, living this sort of life forever…" "…Sorry about this." For the first time, he spoke. "Mrs. Shion, am I putting you out?" "Not at all." Noticing the various animals returning to the man's side, Shion smiled lightly. "It feels a little strange at times, but taking care of you is fun, really. And what's best of all is that I get to take advantage of your great massages," she said dreamily as she closed her eyes. "Especially your left hand. It almost feels like it's pushing life in through my body… kinda like that…" The instant Shion said this, the man whisked his hand away. "What is it?… Keep going." "…Uh, sure…" The man timidly placed his hands on her shoulders again. She spoke as if she just remembered something, "By the way, do you know the legend of Suzaku?"
The man nodded silently to answer. When the world is on the brink of destruction, a girl from another world was going to come to Konan to become Suzaku no Miko. With her seven warriors, she will summon the god, Suzaku, and be able to grant wishes. Everyone in Konan who is old enough to speak knows of this legend. They also know that each of the seven warriors are marked with a red symbol somewhere on the body. "Hotohori, Tamahome, Chichiri, Tasuki, Nuriko, Chiriko, Mitsukake, those are the seven. Ah, how I would love to meet just one of them personally…" Shion continued, "By the way, son, do you know what kind of powers the seven have?" "No…" Shion chuckled proudly, "I thought soooo. Most folks don't know that much. Guess that just shows how old I am. I hear some of them have special fighting powers or wisdom powers, but I also hear there's one who has healing powers…" "Healing powers?" "To tell ya the truth, I was surprised the first time you massaged my shoulders, son. Almost made me think you were one of the seven." Then, she laughed, "But son, I didn't see a red mark anywhere on your body. Or else, could the mark be on a part of your body that's always hidden?" The old woman turned around cackling, and the man shook his head furiously. "Well, no matter. The country is peaceful now, so we'll have to wait a while. I'm sad I won't get to meet any of Suzaku's seven, but I'm happy the country is peaceful." Then, the clear, deep voice came quietly to Shion's ear again, "If Suzaku is summoned, I wonder if we can wish for illness to disappear from the world…" "Huhhh?" A surprised Shion once again whirled around to face him. This was because up until this point, she had never heard anything long or complex come from his mouth. He even continued to talk more. "When my mother died, my father told me something. He said that her illness… could probably not be killed by anyone except someone with Suzaku's powers…" Shion cocked her head sideways. "I suppose if we got rid of illness, that would be the best thing in the world… But then how would you doctor-people be able to make a living?" she asked with a little laugh. "Well, I guess a pure-hearted doctor like you doesn't even think about that sort of thing." Saying thank you, and pulling herself off the floor, Shion placed the bamboo basket onto her back.
"Son… A while back, you were really depressed…" She slowly turned around, but saw that the man was still sitting on the floor as usual. "You poor thing. Something really horrible must've happened to you…" Silence. "In your sleep, you kept calling out… Shoka, Shoka over and over…" The man slightly lowered his head. Sensing she had said something wrong, Shion hastily left the hut. * "Shoka! Shokaaaaa!!!" He continued to run, despite his exhausted body. All that was on his mind was climbing the hill and running to the elm tree. It was then that a scream pierced through the clear night air. Then, when he saw Kyushin and that monster advancing on Shoka, he unconsciously shoved his left hand out in front of him. The flash that emerged from the palm of his left hand not only hit the monster, but Shoka and Kyushin as well. Shoka's servant, Suisen, ran to her side and shook her bloodstained body. Moving his eyes around the scene, he then discovered an unmoving Kyushin. By the eerie sound of an explosion, the villagers were quickly drawn to the scene. The hill erupted with chaos. Shoka and Kyushin were carried from amidst it. Suisen followed closely behind the two, crying. Then, someone shook his shoulder. "You're Juan, the boy who works at Dr. Goh's place, right? Will you tell us exactly what happened here?" "Leave now."
Goh Zenkai said only this as he shut the door. Shoka and Kyushin, who had been carried back to the Goh hospital, were both in comas, drifting between life and death. At first, Juan was going to be punished, but through Suisen's pleadings that it was an accident, it was decided he would simply be banished. As he stood stiffly in front of the closed door, after a while it opened again. This time, it was Shoka's father. "You bastard, leave this village at once! Don't ever show your face here again!" As if to punch Juan, the door was slammed in his face. "My… my hand…" While staring intently at the palm of his left hand, Juan fell to his knees. Soon, voices of the villagers reached his ears. "The powers of Dr. Juan nearly killed those two?" "How frightening…" "But wasn't his power just for healing?" "I wonder if a monster really did come out…" "No matter which way, we'd better stay away from him, or we might end up like those two." "But why would Dr. Juan do that?…" "Wasn't he the odd point on a love-triangle? Oh dear, oh dear. You just never know how a person is on the inside." "Get out of here." "You quack!" "You murderer!!" * Juan opened his eyes and slowly wiped the sweat from his brow. He had the same nightmare again. Nearly two years had passed since he was banished from the village, and he was now twenty-one years old. He did not even know whether the two were alive or dead. He simply continued to live aimlessly as a castoff of society. He had no intention to continue being a doctor. Ever since the incident, all power had left his hand. But even if he still had the power, Juan knew he was not worthy to use it.
Someone who cannot control his own feelings… someone whose powers can change instantly from healing to deadly, did not deserve to be in charge of the lives and well-being of other people. After months of wandering, he finally managed to settle down somewhat, thanks to the doting old woman. From time to time he would heal others, but refused to take any money. "Shoka… Kyushin…" Juan called their names. They may not even be in this world anymore. This sort of thought made it all the more unbearable for Juan to live so pitifully like this. Even if only one of them had been saved, his feelings would be the same. But if miraculously, they had both survived, and everything had settled back to normal… This sort of thought was the only thing that relieved Juan's anxiety. Though his anxiety would immediately return. No matter which way, he was certain his life would remain a living hell forever. But amidst those hellish days, Juan continued to pray for Shoka's happiness. Juan felt that as long as his prayers reached her somehow… that his life had meaning. It was also this that gave him a will to live. On cold nights when both his body and soul were frozen, he would remember the last embrace he and Shoka shared, envelop himself in this warmth, and fall asleep… He stood up. It looked like there were still a few minutes left before sunup. A feeling came over him that he had taken advantage of Shion's kindness for too long. He could not permit himself to live off of charity from others… Juan quickly cleaned the inside of the hut. Then, taking a look in the small mirror at the edge of the room, he decided to cut his hair and shave his beard. He changed into the clothes Shion had sewn for him so long ago, and wound a thin cloth around his head. All that remained now was to straighten up his few belongings. It was then that the faint sound of the hut's door opening could be heard. Juan assumed it was Shion, a little earlier this time than usual, delivering the day's food. Juan remained silent and continued to pack up his belongings. "I'm sorry, but I've decided to leave…" Juan answered before he was asked. When there was no reply, Juan assumed it was one of his patients. "Sorry, but I have to leave now…" "I see…" a woman's voice said. "Then I'm glad I got here when I did."
Juan turned around. The sun had just come up and was shining out from behind her back. Her face was shadowed and could not be seen. "Juan… At last I've found you…" she said with a cracked voice. * It took Juan some time before he could speak. "….Are …you… Shoka…?" "That's right… so you finally remember me…?!" Shoka ran to Juan's side. "You…survived…" Juan continued to stare at her in disbelief. She looked like she had been running looking for him. Just as the first time they met, her hair and her dress were messy. Perhaps from having fallen down several times, her dress was also spotted with mud. Shoka answered with butterflies in her chest. "Yes. Dr. Goh healed me. There's not a scar left on my body…" "I…see…" The nearly nineteen-year-old Shoka, though covered with mud and sweat, was still nothing but strikingly beautiful to Juan. Juan's eyes clouded over and shifted towards the floor. Then he asked, "What about Kyushin…" His voice trembled in fear. Shoka answered, "He's fine." A long sigh of relief escaped Juan's broad shoulders. "…I…see…" "Since Kyushin was wounded much worse than I was, Dr. Goh was at first doubtful he could save him…" Shoka smiled, "But, you know, the feelings and thoughts of a doctor can pour into his patients… It took a very long time, but thanks to everyone's prayers, he healed…"
It must have been Zenkai's and Shoka's and everyone else's emotional nursing that saved his heart from death… Then, Shoka took Juan's hand. "Come, we must go home." "Huh…?!" "After the incident, the illness disappeared from the village, but a similar illness has started to pop up here and there." "This time, it's really bad. My parents, and even Dr. Goh's wife are sick… Please, Juan, you're the only one I can ask." "…Shoka…" Juan shook his head. "How can you suggest that? Don't you remember what I did to you two years ago?" "Yes, I do. I remember that you tried to save Kyushin and me from that monster." "…But… regardless… I still nearly killed you two…" "No one is scared of you anymore, Juan. I've spent these past two years searching for you. The whole time…" Shoka's wet eyes gazed up at her former lover. "Shoka… The way I am now… the way I am now, I can't possibly save…" "Don't worry…" Shoka gave Juan's left hand a firm squeeze. "I knew about it all along. About this… mysterious power from your left hand…" She placed his hand on her cheek. "Look, it's so warm… What I feel coming from it is…" She looked up at him strongly. "…It's love." "Shoka…" "I've always loved you… Juan…" Juan gazed back at her with shocked eyes. "Shoka… But you and Kyushin are…" Shoka shook her head. "The only one I can love for the rest of my life is you, Juan…" Shoka softly removed Juan's hand from her face. Then the two stared silently at it. On his left hand, the red symbol which meant "sadness" had just appeared… "Eeeeep!"
Having seen an unfamiliar beautiful girl enter the hut, Shion had gone around to the back window to peek inside, then threw out her back when she saw the scene before her. "What in the world is this?! Son, you really are one of Suzaku's seven?!" Then, glancing at her left shoulder - unbelievably agile from his massages - in awe, her wrinkled cheeks flushed with pink as she murmured to the owner of the hut. "Son, so your name is Juan, eh?… Why didn't ya tell me you had such a pretty girl. And something else, son, I'm kind of ashamed to say this now, but you're twenty years younger than I thought ya were, and really good-looking, too!" ----------
Chapter 7: The Authority of Suzaku "Now, please hurry," Shoka told the driver. Juan and Shoka, who had entered a carriage on the border of Chikurin, sat in silence for a while inside of the rocking carriage. Shoka took his left hand and wove her fingers through it. "I believed in you… I believed in the power that came from this hand…" Juan remained overwhelmed, silent, and staring downwards. He never would have imagined he was one of Suzaku's seven chosen ones. And his power was the one that Shion had only mentioned to him a couple days earlier… When he said his goodbyes to Shion outside of the hut, he placed his left hand on both of her shoulders and said, "I think this will make it so your shoulders will never have pain again… Thanks for taking care of me for so long…" Shion, overcome with emotion, could only nod dumbly in response. While softly stroking the red symbol on Juan's hand, Shoka whispered, " Mitsukake… that's who you are, Juan… You will be able to save the village with this power…" Juan turned to face Shoka. "But I… I can't bring myself to come to face…with Kyushin." Shoka shook her head. "Don't say that. The one who wants to see you more than anyone else… is Kyushin." "What?!" Juan gazed at Shoka with shocked eyes. "He told me the Byoma had possessed him back then… The Byoma came into him when he thought that you and I betrayed him. Just then, his health was not so good and his body and heart were weakened… It was because Kyushin's heart was so pure and easily broken that the Byoma greedily feasted on it…" Juan then remembered his mother. His gentle-hearted mother who always blamed herself for having such a frail body… "He said that the Byoma causes groups of people to become ill… Then, it tries to control the one it possesses to do its bidding…" "Control…" "Yes. And apparently… its goal is to attack those close to its host… and eat them…"
Remembering what had nearly happened to her, Shoka's voice trembled slightly. Juan cautiously asked her, "So, back then, when I… used my power… did the Byoma disappear…?" He hoped his underdeveloped powers of Suzaku had managed to cause some good along with the harm, but Shoka shook her head. "We can guess the Byoma was hurt just as badly as Kyushin was, but we don't think it disappeared completely from your powers… What made the Byoma leave him entirely was…" Then Shoka stared intently at Juan. "It was love…" "Love…" "Yes… Suisen's love." With a beaming face, Shoka continued to relate the rest of the story. Suisen had become a 24-hour nurse to care for Kyushin. For a while, Kyushin's condition was critical, but it was clear to everyone involved that it was Suisen's devotion and love that brought Kyushin back to life. "The only thing that can defeat the Byoma… is love…" Juan closed his eyes and nodded at Shoka's words. The monstrous hand of his infected mother had reached out to his father. If I hadn't married him, I wouldn't have had to cause him so much suffering… This faint doubting thought had turned her into a monster. But his father had responded by embracing the monster, saying he loved her… "I see… That all makes sense now…" Shoka continued, "Kyushin went around to all of the villagers, telling them he had recovered fully. It was all to clear your name. He also desperately tried to stop me when I decided to leave the village to look for you…" "He insisted that he would find you and that I should stay home…" Shoka looked down and wiped her moist eyes. "He said he couldn't allow himself to let the woman his best friend loves be in danger…" "…Kyushin…: "And then, Kyushin ordered a horse and carriage from his father and had the servants search for you. But I couldn't sit patiently at home, so I got this carriage to look for you on my own… That's because Kyushin's feelings for you alone gave me so much strength and courage." "…Shooka…"
"But I couldn't find you at all. I believed that no matter where you were, you were probably still a doctor, so that's what I asked people about… Until eventually, Kyushin's servant told me he had heard rumors of a doctor with your qualities in the south somewhere…" With a small nod, Juan then told Shoka about his wandering travels. "…Juan, you poor thing… You suffered so much…" Shoka firmly gripped Juan's hand. "No… I was just… running away…. From sadness and pain… and from stress. I was just trying to escape all of that…" "…Juan…" "Shoka… I even tried to escape…your feelings…" Shoka looked at her lover with teary eyes. "But you're all better now…" Juan returned Shoka's deep gaze. "So… you'll never leave my side again, right?" Juan nodded. "You promise you'll never leave me again?" "…Yes." "No matter what happens?" Juan said, "Shoka, I'll never let you go… I want… to marry you." "Juan!…" Shoka flew into Juan's arms and buried her face in his chest. He embraced her soft body so tightly he feared he might crush her. Then, Shoka placed his left hand on her chest. "Thank you… At last, I'm cured…" She looked up at Juan with happy eyes. "Ever since the day I met you, my heart has hurt so badly… with a sad love illness that only you could cure…" "Shoka…" "Please don't let me ever get this kind of illness again. Promise you'll be my special doctor forever."
In reply, Juan hugged her close to him again. "Juan… Even when we die and are reborn, we'll still be together, won't we…" "I love you… Shoka." As if to leave Juan's journey of solitude behind, the carriage rapidly rolled along the path home.
After one day and night of riding, the carriage finally stopped before a familiar house in a familiar village. Pulled by Shoka's hand, Juan stepped out of the carriage to face the house of his suffering three years ago. "I need to go home, too. I'm worried about my parents." After giving Juan's shoulders a light shove, Shoka headed back inside the carriage by herself. At the entrance to the house, two people were waiting for Juan and Shoka. "Juan…!" He could never forget his voice or face. Juan gazed intently at his best friend, Kyushin. Hearing his story in the carriage from Shoka, Juan was still a little concerned that Kyushin had not forgiven him yet… But seeing his friend face to face made Juan ashamed of his former doubts. Using a cane, Kyushin made his way over to Juan, who stood dumbly to the spot. Close on his side was Suisen. While glancing over at Suisen, Kyushin spoke, "Let me introduce my wife. Right now, she's a very important 'other half' of the hospital staff. And she's also my important 'other half'…" Suisen faced Juan and bowed deeply with wet eyes. "Juan…" Kyushin quietly embraced his friend with both arms. Suisen quickly took his cane. "I feel bad I couldn't go search for you myself… Please forgive me…" "Kyu…shin… I'm the one… who needs forgiveness…" From within the arms of his game-legged friend, Juan's large body shivered with tears. "I'm so glad you're home." Kyushin released himself from Juan and made his tone serious. "Hurry, we have work to do." Goh Zenkai was lying on his bed, gasping for breath. A high fever and paralysis threatened to take his life. "Dad, Juan is back." At the sound of his son's voice, he opened his eyes to slits. But the shook his head weakly. "No… I want to go there…"
Suisen put her face near Juan's ear and said, "Three days ago, his wife died of the illness…" "Almost everyone middle-aged or above is sick," Kyushin said. "It's surely the work of the Byoma…" Juan nodded and made his way towards the bed. "Dr. Goh…" Zenkai seemed to use what was the last of his strength to shove Juan's outstretched hand away. "Are you… trying to …kill me…" Then, he gave Juan a foul stare. "You must… hate me… I…used you… for money… and then stole the girl you love… to give to my son… " Juan shook his head. "I have… always respected you as a doctor…" "…Y…You…" "You told me you were different from my father… But I think that you accepted my father more than anyone else…" "Ju…an…" "You still shared the same desire to heal the sick… No matter how cruel you were to me, I never forgot this. Dr. Goh, I think that maybe the only reason you wanted money and fame so much was to validate your existence as a doctor." Zenkai looked down. "Just… leave…" "But Dad!" "There are… patients far worse off than I am… So what are you… wasting time for…" Juan said quietly, "We need your help with that, Doctor… You know more about your patients than I do. I need your straight and practical guidance you used to give me…" Then, he opened his palm to Zenkai again. His left hand was enveloped in red light. Seeing the red symbol for "sadness" appear, neither Kyushin, Suisen, nor Zenkai could speak. Later, Juan and Dr. Goh headed on two horses to visit the houses where the sick were. Whenever they entered a house, those that were sick and well apologized deeply to Juan. Then, after the illness disappeared instantly by the power of the red symbol on his hand, the awed family members would then bow to him as if he were some sort of god.
"I had no idea… that you had Suzaku's powers, Dr. Juan…" is all they could manage to say amidst their wonder. Then, when the two were about to leave a house, its inhabitants would all crowd around them, offering money or family heirlooms. But Goh looked down and shook his head. "Until my current supplies disappear, I will charge no fees for my services." Outside, night had begun to fall. "Do you know where the Byoma is yet?" Dr. Goh asked Juan from the top of his horse. "No… Not yet…" Juan hadn't felt any presence of the Byoma in any of the villagers he had just healed. "I see… Juan, you seem very tired. Are you okay?" Juan nodded silently. Remembering having asked Juan nearly the same thing when he had come to work for him years ago, Zenkai bowed his head in shame. Back then, Juan's powers had already started to bloom. And he had tried to use those powers to gain favor over Juan's father's reputation and for money. Zenkai was certain that had he instead been more helpful and encouraging of Juan's powers, the tragedies might have not needed to have happened… Behind the tragedy lay the torn love of Shoka and Juan. All the sadness had originated from the selfishness of him and Shoka's parents. But in contrast, his son still loved his best friend, despite his lame leg, and Suisen loved Kyushin from the bottom of her heart. Zenkai was disgusted by the ugliness of his own soul. And then, when illness had come to the village again and he was completely hopeless against it and nearly died himself from it, that was when Juan had come. Deep within the heart that longed to crush Keiyuu's reputation so badly, there lay a deep respect and awe for Keiyuu. However, unable to accept the fact that he could not even come close to achieving what Keiyuu had, Zenkai had continued to turn his eyes away from what was most important in life… But all of this was made clear to Zenkai at last when Juan came to him and said those words. It was then that Zenkai felt he had been saved. In order to see their last patient, the two doctors began to climb the hill. This was the same hill that Juan had ran down, without a look back, the night of the horrible flood.
"Do you wonder why we're going to the Lord's manor last…?" Juan did not answer Zenkai's question. =151= "They are fine with it. Their house was attacked the latest by the illness, so those afflicted are still not serious. Doctors should always treat those most at risk first," Zenkai said, as if to affirm the concept that money is not what matters. But when Dr. Goh saw Shoka half-running, half-tumbling over to them in haste, his eyebrows wrinkled. "Juan, let's hurry." * Three days later, Juan, Zenkai, and Kyushin and Suisen were invited to the main manor of the village. When Juan had come there earlier on his rounds to find Shoka's mother gasping for breath and clinging onto what little life she had left, he used the last of his strength to bring her life out of danger. The illness vanished from the village. Juan, now that his identity as Mitsukake had been revealed, became a hero overnight. However, what disturbed Juan and Kyushin was that the Byoma itself had still not been found. Fortunately, the illness had not returned as of yet, and the village was peaceful again. The Byoma had simply hidden itself somewhere in the world… That was all they could conclude. When Juan returned to Zenkai's house, he collapsed into sleep. Then, the next day, he helped work at the hospital. Kyushin was overjoyed that now he would be able to pour all of his concentration into his painting. Then, the day after that, Shoka visited the hospital and helped out side by side with Juan. Naturally, no one pointed fingers at them behind their backs. Instead, they were adored. When Shoka arrived, Kyushin and Suisen whisked themselves off into their room and Zenkai tactfully left to go on rounds. It was then that the invitation from Shoka's father had come. "Well, so pleased you made it." Shoka's father, who stood in the highest step in the doorway, greeted Juan with respect and satisfaction. "Hahaha, when we're standing in this position, I can look you in the eye without straining my neck." "Come on in." Standing behind her parents was Shoka, adorned in a beautiful robe, with her cheeks pink. Rin, who was tucked in Shoka's arms, meowed happily at the sight of Juan and jumped onto his shoulder.
Juan's treatment at that house was exactly the opposite of what he had received there five years ago that day. Pushed gently from behind by Suisen and Kyushin, Juan timidly entered the mansion with hunched shoulders. After a luscious feast and pleasant conversation were over, Shoka's father, Kaku, once again gave his guests' faces a good look over. Then, stopping at last on Juan's face, he spoke. "Juan… Would you like to have my daughter?"
Juan's face jerked up sharply. Shoka, who sat next to him, looked up at her father with teary eyes. "I'll bet you're probably wondering why I even bother to suggest that now after all we've been through…" Shoka's father and mother both looked apologetically up at Juan. "We learned from your example that money and upbringing… and fame and reputation are meaningless in comparison to life…" "Shoka… now I see what it was in Juan you were drawn to…" "Father… Mother…" their daughter said as she wiped her eyes. Her father turned to Juan and continued, "I'm not only saying this because it was discovered you are Mitsukake… After you came back, it was all the positive things Kyushin and Suisen told us about you that cleared your bad name. It was also our daughter's pure and honest feelings for you…" "Lord Kaku…" Zenkai spoke to the Lord, "Looks like these youngsters taught us a lesson… It was the love of Suisen that rescued my son from an illness that took the life of my wife… And Kyushin and Shoka continued to protect Juan from far away by the power of their love for him. And now, you and I and everyone in the village has been saved by Juan…" Kaku nodded deeply. "But the power he has cannot be seen by human eyes…" There was not a dry eye at the table. "Juan, please forgive us for how rudely we treated you earlier…" Lord and Lady Kaku stood and bowed before Juan. "Please… you don't have to…" Juan, who hastily stood up to stop them, hit his head against the ceiling's light. The formerly tense scene melted into peace. "I want to have the wedding as soon as possible. Let's make it a huge event to also celebrate the disappearance of the illness from our village." Shoka's celebration-loving mother clapped her hands suddenly. "That's right, Shoka, you have a birthday in three days, don't you. How does that day sound?" Loud applause erupted. The wedding day was set for Shoka's nineteenth birthday. "On the day of the ceremony, let's ring a loud bell first thing in the morning, so everyone will hear and pray for a happy new life for the two of you." After suggesting this, Kaku stood with pride.
"Congratulations." Kyushin patted Juan's shoulder. "Congratulations, Mistress," Suisen told Shoka with a bubbling smile. "How horrible. There you adults go again, making decisions without consulting us first," Shoka said with a laugh. But the intent behind what she said was completely different than it had been when she said it about her and Kyushin's wedding. "What's that? Don't tell me you guys can honestly say you don't love each other anymore?" Kyushin teased. Shoka's face flushed pink and she glanced happily at the red-faced Juan who stood next to her. Naturally, their feelings for each other had been bonded tightly inside the carriage on the way home.* "Oh," Suisen stood suddenly and looked out the window. "Everyone, some villagers are coming!" Everyone rose from their seats in surprise. As if to surround the Kaku manor, the people of the village came from all directions, waving their hands. "Dr. Juan, thank you so much!" "We wish Dr. Juan and Lady Shoka a happy marriage!" Apparently, their happy news had spread through the village quickly and everyone had come, wanting to wish them the best. Juan would have never dreamed this day would come. Juan continued to gaze down at the smiling and waving villagers, thinking his entire life to this point had been a dream. Shoka softly took his hand. The two looked at each other and smiled. "Let's become happy together…" "…Yes." Juan smiled. Humans are not just rich or poor. These words of his father returned to him. From this point on, he was going to live the rest of his life with his beloved Shoka. A huge joy overcame his heart. But it was then that a boy who looked as though he was around ten years old started to push his way through the crowd towards the mansion. Since he was the one person with a concerned expression among a crowd of smiling faces, he stood out like a sore thumb. After arriving at the front of the crowd he yelled out, "I came here hearing rumors of a Dr. Juan! In my village, a horrible illness has come, taking life after life! Please, Dr. Juan, please save everyone!!" After yelling this, the boy collapsed to the ground as if all his power had been sucked out. *
"I'll be back…" Juan said as he took Shoka's hand. "Okay. Be careful…" Juan nodded. By his side stood the boy who had come seeking his help. He had just been healed by Juan's powers. As soon as he had heard the boy's story, Juan immediately arranged for a carriage to go to his village. "Looks like the same illness," Zenkai murmured. "So the Byoma changed villages…" Kyushin said angrily. "As long as the Byoma lives in someone's heart, the illnesses will not stop…" "I know…" Juan clenched his fist tightly. Remembering the frightening image of the Byoma as it had been possessing Kyushin's body, Juan's heart once again shivered with anger. His father had told him long ago that perhaps only the power of Suzaku could kill the Byoma. And now, Juan knew he had this power. But he still was unsure if he could kill the Byoma. "Doctor, please hurry!" the boy tugged at Juan's sleeve. "Okay." But to those who were plagued with illness, his special powers were meaningless. Before he was Mitsukake, he had his duties as Myo Juan to fulfill. He had a duty to hurry to go to those who were suffering in pain, waiting for him. "I'll be back," Juan told Shoka once more. "Please hurry back… and stay safe." Shoka gazed at her fiancee. Juan once again nodded deeply. Then, he mounted his horse and lifted the boy onto his lap. Amidst a crowd of expectant villagers, Juan descended the hill. Looking back, he could faintly see Shoka waving at him. The deep love he felt for her once again seeped into his heart; so much that he felt like turning around and embracing her tightly. "I'm sorry, Doctor…" the boy said guiltily. "That woman is your fiancee, right? Even though you're gonna get married soon, I took you away from her…" Juan patted the boy's head. "Don't say that. Come on, let's hurry."
When Juan had rescued the village, he went nearly over his limit of strength. Pain from this still remained in his body. But I must press on. I cannot return to my village with a clear mind until I rid this boy's village of its illness. That way, when I return, I will be able to hold Shoka in my arms as long as I want… Juan smiled lightly to his lover. Seeing this, Shoka smiled and nodded lightly. But her shoulders were trembling slightly with anxiety. Juan's heart ached terribly, but to extinguish the pain, he jerked his head forwards and accelerated his speed away from her. Naturally, Juan did not realize that it was the last time he would see Shoka. Neither did he know that the next time he climbed up the hill to her house that she would be dead. Yes… The Byoma had hidden itself inside the boy in order to return to Juan's village. And in order to be near Kaku Shoka… ---------Notes: *This does somewhat imply sex, but it's very vague. Draw your own conclusions ^_^;
Chapter 8: Love Torn Apart "Juan… Juan…" As her young mistress murmured the name of her lover mindlessly, as if in a trance, Suisen held her hand firmly. "Mistress, wake up…!" Shoka had fallen ill barely a few hours after Juan had left. "I'm sorry… I just feel a bit tired…" As she was carried to her bed by the other members of the house, Shoka smiled weakly. During the past two years, Shoka had searched relentlessly for Juan. As she did this, illness spread through her village again. No sooner did she find Juan and return to the village with him than her parents fell ill with the disease. Everyone had assumed simple fatigue had been to blame, but the illness had mutated before their very eyes. "This is…" Dr. Goh Zenkai, who had come to check up on her, suddenly changed his expression. "…This is not a coincience." Then, he yelled to the others, "Bring Juan back here immediately!" Many man-servants of the manor dashed out to retrieve him. The harsh cries and stomping feet of their horses slowly died out into the distance. Those villagers who remained outside the manor gave each other looks of concern, wondering what had gone wrong. The joy of the entire town had been immediately enveloped in a dark fog. "Shokaaaa…!" her mother cried to her only daughter. "Father…" Kyushin looked at his father imploringly. "Are you saying the Byoma returned to this village?…" Kyushin's only response to Shoka's painful battle with her high fever was to stare blankly. * "Weren't we just headed for the neighboring village?" Juan asked the boy. Juan had been led by this boy for nearly half a day, and the sun was beginning to set.
"…I'm sorry…" the boy said with the timid, high-pitched tone of a mosquito. "We're almost there now… I was afraid if I told you where my village really was, you wouldn't come with me…" Juan strongly massaged the top of the boy's head. "You know that's not true. Doctors will go anywhere where there are sick people." The boy turned to look at him with a happy face. "And you're also Suzaku's warrior Mitsukake, right? That's really neat." The boy pointed his finger, "Over there. It's that place between the mountains where light is coming from." Hearing this, Juan kicked his horse's side. "Good, let's hurry." "Okay!" The horse charged forward to the destination of the two on its back. * Juan, Juan… Please… come home. Please, hurry back to my side. He will not return. He is probably surrounded by swarms of sick patients now, healing them until day breaks. What?! Who are you?! I am you, Shoka. I am your soul. My…soul…? Yes, that's right. When your man left you, you doubted him for an instant. You doubted he would ever return to you again. Just as he never returned the day of the flood and the night of your promise. No, this time things are different. I have faith in Juan. I believe he will come back home very soon.
Can you seriously call yourself a doctor's wife with that attitude? Are you saying that the sick people of the world should suffer in exchange for your happiness? ….No… If there were a group of suffering people to his right and you to his left, which do you think he would choose? Stop it!! So you shall suffer. And your hate shall multiply. And when your man does return to your side, You will have become a monstrous creature that will devour him entirely. You are… You are the Byoma, aren't you…?! No. Didn't I tell you? I am your soul. I am you. N…o… No… Nooooooooooooo!! "Miss Shoka!" Kyushin shook the body of the suffering patient with beads of sweat all over her body. "Don't give in to it!!" Then, he turned to Suisen and Zenkai and said, "She is trying to resist the Byoma now… I can tell." "The Byoma?" Zenkai stared at his son. "…Mistress…" As if she had suddenly remembered something, Suisen's head whirled to face Kyushin and Zenkai. "As Mistress Shoka was watching Dr. Juan leave, I do remember hearing her ask me quietly to reassure her that he would return…" "That's it… The Byoma can invade a person's soul through even the tiniest crack of uneasiness. Then, it showers its host with cruel words and tears the soul to shreds…"
Kyushin continued, "When the Byoma was inside of me, it continued to suggest things to me that weren't true, then it started to control my mind." Kyushin's fists shook. "You were betrayed by Shoka and your best friend. So, come devour her. Then, send Juan's soul to the depths of Hell…it said…" "…Kyushin…" Suisen grasped the shaking hand of her husband. "Juan's powers released the Byoma's control from me for an instant, but it was still inside of me. what finally caused the Byoma to leave my soul…was Suisen's love… But in Shoka's case… the only thing that can cure her is Juan's love…" "Mistress, don't give in!" Suisen shook Shoka, with tears running down her face. "Dr. Juan will come back. No matter what it takes, he will return to your side!" Dr. Goh, who had been taking Shoka's pulse, looked up with a grim face. "She's in it pretty bad now…" Overwhelmed with the situation, Shoka's mother fell to the floor, sobbing. "What is going on!" Shoka's father demanded as he shook Zenkai's shoulders. "The neighboring villagers say they didn't see Juan." "What?!" "They also say no one there is sick…" "Then, where in the world was that boy…" Dr. Goh held his head in his hands. "Could it be that the Byoma had hidden itself inside that boy?…" Barely hearing the end of his father's sentence, Kyushin bounded out of the room. "Kyushin!" Zenkai and Suisen chased after him. "I'll go find him! Dad, you and Suisen stay here and take care of Shoka!" "But Kyushin, not in your condition…" With a big shake of his head, Kyushin shoved Suisen's hand away from his. "This time it's my turn to save them. Suisen, please support me with this." Stepping out the manor with his cane, Kyushin mounted himself onto a horse with Suisen's help. "Be careful… Kyushin," Suisen said with tears in her eyes as she watched her husband leave.
While compensating his handicap by leaning off balance on the horse's back, Kyushin frantically rushed off down the hills to search for his friend. * After tending to countless patients, Juan's head hung with fatigue. "Thank you so much, Doctor!" Patient after patient thanked the doctor and the healing powers of his left hand. "Would you please hurry and see my child next door?" "About three houses away from here, there's an old man who's about to die…" Juan had spent 2 constant days with no sleep healing the sick of this village. But not once did he encounter the presence of the Byoma. Still, he headed for the next patient's house. "Wah!…" As his horse tripped over a rock in the road, Kyushin lost his balance and was thrown off the horse's back. "…Damn…!" Kyushin gripped the reigns, trying to get back onto the horse, but the horse, perhaps too tired from the constant riding, shook his neck and dropped Kyushin from his back again. "…God damn it…" He had spent the last two days on horseback looking for any sign of Juan, but he had not been successful. I wonder how Shoka is doing… and Juan, also… But I can't let myself waste time sitting here. Gritting his teeth, Kyushin gripped tightly onto the reigns once more. Suddenly, his body felt very light. Someone had pushed him up from behind. "Are you okay, you know?" Turning around, Kyushin saw a young monk wearing a smiling mask was looking at him. "Thanks for the help…"
"What's the matter?" Kyushin told him briefly of his situation. "Now that you mention it, I did sense a sort of illness permeating from inside those mountains, you know…" "Huh?!" "So, you must hurry, you know…" the monk said as he took Kyushin's hand. "Wh-who are you?…" At Kyushin's question, the mysterious monk slipped off his mask. Kyushin caught his breath. A horrible deep scar ran across his left eye. "Five years ago, when there was the great flood of Shoryuu River, I wandered around to your home village, and someone tended to my wounds, you know… If he hadn't helped me, I probably would have died… I think that the man you're searching for now is the same man who saved me, you know…" While listening to his words, both Kyushin, his horse were startled as the monk covered himself with his cape and disappeared. Naturally, Kyushin was completely unaware that this mysterious monk was Suzaku's Chichiri, currently training with Taiitsu-kun. * Nearly two nights had passed now since Juan had left. "Mistress…" Suisen, her eyes dried up from crying, stroked Shoka's hair listlessly. At Shoka's pillow, her cat Rin peered sadly into her face. Beside the bed, sat Shoka's father Zenkai, cradling their heads to their knees. Servants of the manor bustled about them nervously all the while. "Juan… I won't… give in…" Shoka continued to murmur. "…You will come back… right… So do your job…and then come back…to me…" "Mistress…" Suisen covered her face with her hands. "Tomorrow is supposed to be the wedding… It's supposed to be Mistress Shoka's birthday, too…" "Preparations for the ceremony are all finished, Shoka… So hang in there," her father assured her with a choked voice.
Shoka's mother hugged the wedding dress tightly on the floor and cried. Then, spitting out painful gasps of breath, Shoka continued to talk, "…I won't give in… Because… I have faith in him…"
The wedding is just hours away, and what is your man doing? He must be tending to the sick. He's probably forgotten completely about you.
No… Do you think he'll just abandon his patients and come wobbling back to you? That would put his new fame and good reputation to waste. Stop it… Juan is not that kind of person… That man has always sacrificed himself for his patients. Yes, he even sacrifices those he loves for his patients. Truthfully, you wanted him to take you away, didn't you. You wanted him to abandon everything else and elope with you. ….. But once again, that man betrayed you. He's repeating what he's already done to you. Stop it…! Please… just disappear! Disappear? Do you still not understand? I was born from your own conscious. I am your soul So, suffer. Suffer, hate, and be jealous. …. What's the matter? Did you finally understand? Your man has used up his powers and is very tired. With the powers I can give you now, you need not fear even Suzaku's powers. When he returns, suck all life out of his bones. And then, grab the souls of all the humans of this world and lead them into the darkness… "…If…this… is…my…soul…" "Mistress…?!"
Suisen stared intently at Shoka's formerly quiet mouth. Then, Shoka clearly said this: "…Then…I…will… take…responsibility…for…it…" * As Kyushin lightly dismounted from his horse by the entrance to the inner-mountain village, first he saw the boy, then the other villagers waving as Juan trudged slowly out of the village. "Juan!" Hearing the familiar voice, Juan rushed towards him. "How did you know I was…" Kyushin glanced to his side, but the monk was nowhere in sight. "Never mind that, Juan, are you okay?" Juan nodded as Kyushin shook his shoulders. "I finished healing everyone… But I didn't find the Byoma…" Kyushin informed the thoroughly exhausted Juan, "Shoka is sick. With that illness." "What?!" Juan opened his eyes wide. With trembling lips, Kyushin said, "…The Byoma is inside of Shoka now…" Juan was struck dumb. "We must hurry now!" Kyushin pointed to his horse. "You idiot! What are you waiting for!!" Kyushin slapped the cheek of his friend, who just stood there dumbly. The next instant, as if shot from a cannon, Juan jumped onto the horse without a goodbye to his friend, and dashed straight down the mountain. * Juan… I'm sorry. I just wanted to be with you all the time. I could overcome any obstacle with you. I don't even care how poor we are.
I just wanted to be with you. So I was desperate to find you. I looked for you. When you're not by my side, I feel uneasy. I thought that was because I loved you. But…I was wrong. Whenever you left my side, my love seemed to get distorted… And that's what gave birth to this monster. When you come back, I don't know what condition I'll be in. But before that happens, I must extinguish it… So… I won't be able to chase after you anymore… I also won't be able…to be with you…anymore. Goodbye… Juan. I love…d…you. Along with the sunrise, Kaku Shoka closed her eyes. Rin sadly nuzzled her face against Shoka's cheek. The bell of the village began to ring. And then… As his bride-to-be turned nineteen years old, and as the bells blessing their union rang throughout the village, and as the voice of his lover echoed in his head, the twenty-one year old groom-to-be, Myo Juan, kicked his horse and charged up the hills. ----------
Chapter 9: Lives Brought Together Tei Shoka slowly opened her eyes. The morning light streaming through the window gently warmed her eyes. Lowering herself from her bed, and getting dressed, she walked towards the family room. In there, preparations for breakfast had already been made and her parents were waiting eagerly for their daughter to wake up. "I'm sorry… I overslept," Shoka said with a sigh as she looked down. "It seems as though I had been dreaming for a very long time…" "Don't worry. After all, today is your birthday, so feel free to relax." "Thanks, Mom." "So you turn nineteen today, eh. Time sure flies. It's been about fourteen years since you came to live with us…" With a smile on her face, Shoka looked at her father. Shoka had considered this couple to be her real mother and father and had lived though hard and well times with them. This morning, Shoka enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast with her parents. Shoka's mother turned towards the half-open front door and smiled. "Come on in. You can try hiding there, but we always spot you." The length of the shadow that entered the room was abnormally long. The head of the house continued, "My goodness, I wonder just how much taller he'll become." The shy fourteen-year-old boy sheepishly shuffled up to the three seated at the table. "Excuse me… for bothering you so early…" he said in a meek voice that did not match his height. "What is it? Did you come to see Shoka?" "…Yes, sir…" Shoka's parents gazed at the neighbor-boy with beaming faces. "Ha…happy birthday…" Shoka nodded in response to her red-faced friend. "Thank you, Chosei." * The two stood up and departed on their morning walk. Coming in front of Chosei's house, they crossed paths with Chosei's father, who had just left to collect herbs.
"Good morning, sir." "Oh, good morning. What a nice day it is today. You two have a nice walk, okay?" "Okay…" Shoka, appearing to have something important to say, looked up at the man. "Sir… I…" He looked at her and shook his head lightly. Then, after a while, he nodded slowly. Seeing this, Shoka's eyes darted to the ground. Then, she suddenly raised her face and spoke to Chosei. "Come, let's go. Your big-sis Shoka found a really nice place. I'm sure it has many more herbs than where your father's going!" Shoka said with a little laugh. "I don't think you can call yourself 'big-sis' anymore, can you? Chosei's been much taller than you for years now." Chosei answered his father, "That's fine. Big-sis Shoka will always be big-sis Shoka." As the two walked on, a small white cat followed behind. She had spots of brown on her forehead and tail. About ten years ago, she had wandered to Chosei's house as a kitten. At the time, Shoka had named the cat a decisive "Rin". Watching the young couple and cat walk away, Chosei's father narrowed his eyes in deep thought. Ever since the day five-year-old Chosei had returned from fulfilling his duties as Suzaku's Mitsukake and he had heard Shoka call him "Juan" while watching his sleeping face, Chosei's father had noticed Shoka's memories of her former life had been gradually returning to her. But all he could do was stay quiet and watch over her. He also knew full well that on this Shoka's nineteenth birthday today, she had fully recovered all her memories as Kaku Shoka. * The two sat beneath a tall tree on top of a small hill some distance from the village. It was a nostalgic scene. Shoka thought to herself that it looked exactly as it did before. "Here… It's a birthday present…" Chosei muttered as he dragged something from his pocket and gave it to Shoka. "You told me you weren't sleeping well these days, right?" "It's medicine I made myself. It makes your body all warm and soft and helps you sleep like a baby." "Wow, you're sure amazing, Chosei." Chosei happily scratched his head. "Thanks…"
Shoka carefully hid the paper package in the folds of her sleeve. "But it's not that I've been having trouble sleeping… I've just been having a very long dream." "Dream…" "Yes. I even dreamed a lot while I was awake…" Chosei peered into Shoka's face with concern. "Don't worry, I'm fine. And you see, the dream I've been having just finished. Evvvverything was resolved…" "Ohhh… What kind of dream was it?" "Sad, and painful… But it was also very beautiful…" "I see…" Chosei awkwardly began to collect the grasses by his feet. Shoka gently took his left hand. Chosei's face darted upwards. "Please, let's stay like this for a while…" Keeping a tight grip on Chosei's hand, Shoka dropped her head lightly onto his shoulder. Sensing his body go stiff, Shoka giggled softly. "You know the dream I had? There's more to it." "…More…?" "Yes. And staying like this makes it feel like I can see the rest of it… So can we stay?…" "…Sure…" Chosei's gentle voice echoed throughout Shoka's body. Then, she closed her eyes. * Afterwards, Juan left the village without a word to anyone. Not a single person blamed him for anything. But in exchange not a single person looked for him this time. Neither Kyushin nor Suisen knew any way they could possibly soothe Juan's sadness. They feared the only thing that could heal the wound in his heart would be the flowing of time. The frightening Byoma had lodged itself in Shoka's soul. So Shoka had sacrificed her own life to seal the Byoma inside of her. That was the final mark of her love for Juan.
I always loved you… Those words had probably reached Juan's heart. But the pain over not being able to hold his beloved in his arms ever again, and the guilt of being responsible for her death caused Juan to fall into despair. He set off on an aimless journey. It was a journey that lasted for nearly one year. During that time, he continued to observe those ugly souls around him only after fame or money. Then, at last, he returned to Choko village. Just outside the village, he reconstituted his former lifestyle of living in the meager bamboo hut. After a while, a young male cat came his way and took Juan as his master. The markings on his face and tail made Juan suspect he was one of Rin's offspring. He cared for the destitute and sick animals, and occasionally went in secret to the neighboring village to visit Shoka's grave. The villagers agreed that he was a good doctor, but feared him and treated him unfairly. Until, one day, Suzaku no Miko appeared before him. It was from her that Juan heard rumors of Shoka. Rumors that a woman named Shoka could resurrect people who had died from a horrible illness that plagued the village. After healing his Miko's body, Juan hurried out to find Shoka. The Byoma had not disappeared back then. It had revived itself inside of Shoka's corpse. It forced out the remaining shreds of resentment from Shoka's soul and fed on them until it could become a monster powerful enough to devour the young Priestess who would call on Suzaku. "But with the Priestess's… with Miaka's soul… and Mitsukake's powers… and his love… that time, the Byoma truly was extinguished…" At Shoka's whispered words, Chosei cocked his head sideways. "You came to see him, didn't you… You love him, right?! But you died before you could see him again… and that hurt you terribly, didn't it! But just because you're sad doesn't mean you have the right to attack the one you love!! Snap out of it, Shoka!!" Hearing the Priestess's words, Kaku Shoka returned to her senses. "…She's right. Juan… I waited for you… Please… Save me…" Suddenly, the Byoma tore itself out from beneath Shoka's skin and charged at Suzaku no Miko.
"Juan… Please, I know your powers can defeat this monster," Shoka begged Juan amidst gasps of pain. "I'm sorry… I was sad and lonely… and before I knew it, I turned into… Please! Hurry and kill me…" For an instant, their eyes met. But to the couple, that instant lasted an eternity. "Juan, hurry!!" Juan slipped off the cloth that had been bound around his left hand. Then, he faced Shoka and raised his left hand out to her. "…Goodbye…" Shoka told Juan… Countless spheres of light permeated from the area and completely extinguished the Byoma from Shoka's body and from this world. Juan walked over to the lifeless, beautiful body of his lover and held her close. From her eye dropped a single tear. I just wanted to see you one last time. Goodbye, Juan… On the soft, peaceful cheek of Shoka dropped another small tear. "I love you… Shoka… I'll always love you…" Juan had finally been able to rescue Shoka by the power of Suzaku and of his own love. His final moments with her were spent holding her close to his chest and repeating his vow of eternal love for her once more in his heart. "What a relief…" Tei Shoka whispered quietly. Chosei stayed silent and intently gazed at her face. In order to save Konan from Kutoh's scheming, Suzaku's Priestess and warriors continued to fight against Seiryuu's side. However, with the deaths of Nuriko and Chiriko and the loss of their sacred relics, the "Shinzaho", Miaka and her side made it possible for Seiryuu to be summoned. However, those remaining warriors of Suzaku fought with the last of their strength against Kutoh. One of them was Mitsukake… Even on the brink of his own death, he refused to stop healing the sick and wounded. The last person he saved with his holy water from the deity Taiitsu-kun, was a little baby girl. Mitsukake took his final breath while holding this baby in his arms…
"…So her name is Shoka… I'm sure she will grow up to be just like her… beautiful…and gentle…" he whispered… "…That baby… is me…" "Sis…?" Shoka gave Chosei's left hand a strong squeeze. Juan… Even after you died, you still stayed by my side. You stayed with me and protected me. That's right… I could see you. And then, my parents died and I was moved to this new house. You were reborn into this world. And even with your tiny body, you still continued to protect me. Even at age five, you helped save Konan from destruction again. And after it was over, you came back. …back to my side. And ever since then, you've continued to watch over me… Yes, that's right. The two of us have finally found each other again… Shoka quietly opened her eyes. "Is your dream over…?" Shoka nodded in answer to Chosei's question. "Yes…" "Sis… you're crying…" Shoka softly wiped her eyes. "I guess it was a sad dream, then…" "No, it was a very beautiful dream…" Rin clung to the trunk of the tree and sharpened her claws. She was not threatened by a dog, neither was she climbing to the top of the tree to escape danger. Shoka patted her head. Rin meowed happily and jumped onto the tops of Chosei's and Shoka's heads. "Well, let's go home…"
"Okay…" The two stood up. "From now on, I'll sleep well every night thanks to your medicine." The medicine Chosei had given her was the illusive medicine for which Juan had been searching. Someone's heart caring for another… Shoka believed that this was the only medicine that could soothe any illness.
She said, "And I'll also have a new dream." Chosei asked with flushed cheeks, "Do you think I'll be in this new dream?…" Shoka nodded. "Yes, you will. You'll be a big part of it. You and I, and all of the people I love will walk into the future together… that's the kind of beautiful dream it will be." The two started to walk off towards the high, rising sun. Behind them walked Rin, and various squirrels and foxes who had appeared from the bushes. Above their heads echoed the cheerful cries of the birds as they flew through the gentle morning breeze. *** Thank you, Juan. I know you will never place flowers over my body anymore. But I am very happy now. Because your love and your soul rest inside of me. And my other soul has begun its new life. While feeling the soul of the one I love constantly by my side, My new life will tie to my old beautifully. And your soul, Surely will be the same. My sweet, gentle doctor. While embraced in your big arms for all eternity… Every day, Kyushin, Suisen, and their children came to visit, carrying bundles of beautiful wildflowers. Kaku Shoka Myo Juan Beneath a huge elm tree on the beautiful hill in the middle of the village, the two graves lay side by side, gently caressed by the evening breeze. -The end----------
Freetalks from the Authors [from Nishizaki Megumi] Hello, Nishizaki Megumi speaking. So the second installment of part 2 of the Fushigi Yuugi novels has finally arrived; and the main character is Mitsukake. Yay!! Sorry to all you Mits-fans out there who had to wait for so long. Surely, you were all able to wait patiently for this day thanks to Mitsukake's pure and soothing heart. Yes, there's no way we can tell the whole story of Fushigi Yuugi without knowing about his deeeeeeep past, dude. Well, when Mitsukake first comes to mind, we think of his relationship with Shoka, I suppose. How in the world did those two meet and come together?… Certainly everyone was interested to know. And we also wanted to know what that "Byoma" that possessed her was. The Mitsukake, or Myo Juan, in the story did seem to be a little shy and awkward around the outgoing Shoka, and always seemed to pull away from her, and I suppose that annoyed a lot of the readers. I'll admit that he was like that when he was younger. And in the end, he abandoned the world and went off to live like a hermit. But, I think that Juan was finally able to retrieve his true love for Shoka after he finally released the Byoma from her for good. It was then that he also realized his duty as Suzaku's Mitsukake. And from here on, we know a lot about him: keeping emotions to himself, gently and warmly watching over his comrades, and soothing them all. This is where he really becomes a grown man. Ahhh, how I'd love to sleep snuggled up next to his 199 centimeter-long body… Well, this story also touches a little upon the future. With Mitsukake's reincarnation, Chosei, and Shoka's reincarnation… Shoka is the only one who regained memories of her past life, but surely their souls are still linked. Or rather, it's still not decided exactly what their future together will hold. They might marry, and they might not marry. That's because even though a life might have belonged to someone else in the past, it's still its own new life. And Chichiri, who holds the same sad past of losing loved ones in the big flood, also makes an appearance in this novel. I like how he and Mitsukake helped each other subtly and deeply. Well then, who in the world will star next? I suppose you already know, though. Hmhmhm. Watase-sensei, thank you for your beautiful-as-always illustrations. And thank you, assistant O. And to you readers as well, you're always a great support to me. I look forward to the day we meet again.
Ciaoooo! -Nishizaki Megumi!
[From Watase Yuu] Hi, everyone. So the main character this time around is Mitsukake! In the manga, he was a bit in the shadows all the time, but he had a secret following! This is probably since his looks were a bit harsh, and he didn't have many noteworthy scenes… But, but! Truthfully, he's the ideal man *musical note*… And that's what this story is about. At first, there were concerns that an entire novel focusing only on him (in other words, we were worried he wasn't popular enough to warrant many purchases of the book)… So we sort of forgot about making novels for Mitsukake and Chiriko at first. But it seems like the fans of Fushigi Yuugi are nice and love ALL of the characters *laugh* But opening the cover to this story shocked me. To be truthful, this is the Fushigi Yuugi side story that's produced the most tears from me?! It's a great story! Yeah, it really is. ;_; And also, I was more excited drawing illustrations for this novel because I hadn't drawn as much of Mitsukake in the manga! And we can feel equal sympathy for Chichiri in this novel… I figured since the two lived around the same area, I'd give him a little cameo. Tee-hee. During the run of the manga, I had come up with the Shoka-episode just briefly, but writing it out to its full length into a first-rate love story gives it even deeper meaning for me. … But I was surprised at how out-going and pushy Shoka was! *laugh* At first, I had intended for her to be a reserved and graceful rich-girl, but I suppose she had to be a little extroverted, since Mitsukake is the way he is… Almost like Romeo and Juliet… Awwww, but I was sure moved in the end! Good BGM for that part is "Green Destiny"!! Then, there was the phrase that kept running through my mind as we wrote the story, "Illness is cured by the heart". … Yeahhhh, what a wonderful idea!! I actually think the literal meaning of that is true. After all, some people believe that cancer can even be cured if the patient smiles and laughs a lot… Humans do have physical bodies with physical health and illness, but I do think that our souls are at the root of our sicknesses or our well-being. So this is the true theme of my creations!! If only the doctors of the world were like Mitsukake and his father…!! Ahhh, Mitsukake, marry me!! (That's sudden…) And please soothe my fatigue… (laugh) I also noticed I messed up the character designs in the illustrations for the novel that came just before this one (Shugyoku Den), so I fixed my designs this time around. I had been using my style from "Ayashi no Ceres"…
And so the next novel will be for a truly popular (?!) character, Chiriko!… I think. (Sheeesh). It makes sense that we make a story about Chiriko next. Nishizaki-sensei, and our assistants, I look forward to collaborating again. Well, until then. And please buy the re-release of the manga, the new OVA, and the new soudtrack! Text by a drawing of Tama: Rumor says he's Rin's son… Come to think of it, Rin is like Juan's and Shoka's cupid.
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