Seiran Den

[Fushigi Yuugi Novel 6 : Indigo Legend]

Concept by: Nishizaki Megumi, Watase Yuu Original Japanese version by: Nishizaki Megumi Illustrated by: Watase Yuu Translated by: Tetris no Miko Compiled by: Annz ‘n’ Dipz

*Disclaimer: I translated this novel back when I had only been living in Japan for 4 months, so I was far from fluent in Japanese, and my English skills had faded, too ^_^; I translated it as a personal gift to Seimei and the others on the Nakago mailing list (and because I was bored ^_-). Then, I discovered that the last half of chapter 4 had been missing!! Sorry to all of you who read the original translation and were confused ^^; Anyway, I re-translated that part in this version. Two years later, I re-read my translations and noticed several English grammar, diction, spelling (etc.) errors, and a couple things I couldn’t translate. The version I offer on this page is the revised version. You can still find the original version at Seimei’s page.

Character List
Gi Koyuu The Shogun of Kutoh’s army until Nakago takes over. Taria

After further contemplation over her name, it might be "Tarlia" (since the "a" is a long vowel…), but I romanized it as "Taria" in the translation, so whatever ^_^; Anyway, she’s Nakago’s childhood friend and wanted to marry him, but her wish was never granted…

Prologue "Arise…"

An old man's deep voice trembled in the tense air in the darkness. "Arise…" After the leader's voice, the voices of the other villagers continued and then, the women’s voices echoed. And finally, the thin voices of the young boys and girls were added. The voices of the whole tribe of 200 continued to sound as one. "Arise! Our lord!" And then, in the once windless darkness, the trees began to sway, and the tribe, clothed in black, kneeled by the lake, which was starting to form small waves. The boy tightly squeezed his mother’s hand. His teeth were chattering. He should arrive any minute now! The shivering boy, who had been behind his mother as if to hide himself, was gently brought in front of his mother. The mother turned to her frightened child and nodded silently. "Come, look!" The mother and child, slightly separated from the others, tightly clasped hands; they had waited for this moment. As if answering the voices calling to their lord, the wind and waves and storms began to move furiously. Like the sudden sounding of an alarm bell the boy's breathing became irregular, and a cold sweat formed all over his body. "Arise! Arise! Tenkou-sama!!!" His mother, noticing her son's sudden illness, peered anxiously at his face as she knelt. Above the pitch-black lake, it seemed like an enormous shadow had formed. The wind and the waves stopped immediately. The boy opened his eyes wide in shock. The instant his eyes met with the huge, pale blue eyes shining out of the enormous shadow, he lost consciousness.

Chapter 1- The Lord’s Oracle

Opening his eyes, the boy could faintly see his mother's face above him, calling his name. As if his mother's worries had melted away, she collapsed on her son, embracing him tightly. "Thank God! finally you came to!" "What happened to me after that?" Ayuru asked his mother in a weak voice. "After that, you slept constantly for 2 days. I didn't know what to do." While his mother gently held him, her voice shaking with tears, Ayuru seemed to remember what had happened to him 2 days ago. The sensation of his heart fluttering violently with pain had come back. Yes, his body had been overcome with such a feeling, and then--"Ungh!" the boy's head hurt. His mother propped his head up and looked at him with concern. "I'm sorry, it would have been better if I hadn't taken you with me." Her son vigorously shook his head. "No, it was just because I'm weakhearted." Ayuru remembered the cold, pale, blue burning eyes that he had seen. Violent coldness had seemed to pierce through his body and had made him grit his teeth trying to endure it. "Why?" Ayuru had asked himself over and over. "Why had Tenkou-sama, the god that had been protecting his tribe for so long, done that to me?" With that doubt on his mind, he dropped his eyes and let them wander. The truth was that when he had met Tenkou for the first time, what he felt from those eyes was the most intense hatred that he had ever felt in his life. As if having just consumed a delicious home-cooked meal, Matuta gazed at her son contentedly. "Well, hurry up and get well. You were asleep for so long we've got to get some food down you." The boy spoke flatly to his mother. "Mother, if you keep staring at me like that for too long, you'll freeze that way." His mother faced her ten-year old son and smiled. "Ayuru, you are a beautiful boy. You almost look like a girl.." "No I don't. I hate it when you say I look like a girl, mother." The boy, who looked a lot like his mother, said back with a pouting face.

His mother smiled broadly. "But time will pass, and you will grow up to me a strong, handsome man. Yes, stronger than anyone, and more gentle than anyone." Matuta looked as though she were looking at something far away. The beautiful, shining face of the 28-year old looked like the face of a fair young maiden. As Matuta turned her face to the entrance of the house, she raised her voice. "It's Taria! Come on in!" The girl, who had been peeking in by the door, shyly stepped into the room. "Ayuru, Taria was so worried about you that she came here countless times to see you." When Ayuru heard this from his mother, he dropped his head as if he had done something wrong. With bouncy, curly golden hair, clear white skin, and blue eyes, Taria was a dollish girl wearing a beautiful dress of their tribe. She looked at Ayuru shyly. * "Where are we going?" Ayuru asked Taria as he walked behind her. "You'll see, you'll see. This way!" Taria continued to tromp on freely. When they got to a place about half way through the forest, the boy stopped abruptly. "What are you doing?!" "Come on!" The girl grabbed the boy's hand, and they began to walk again. After a while, the two came upon a clear, blue lake. Ayuru's face stiffened. Taria, not noticing this, sat him down at the edge of the lake with a "Wait here a minute, okay?", and disappeared. This small lake in the middle of the forest, with its brilliant, blue colored water, had been named Ao no Mizuumi - The Lake of Blue. This place, that was seldom ever visited, always seemed to be tense with a solemn air. But this place held a sacred importance to Ayuru and the Hin race. Ayuru shivered slightly. As that evening's moon passes, autumn will turn to winter. "It's because you're a little tired…" his mother, Matuta, would tell him. "It's because you're a very sensitive boy," she would also say.

"Ayuru, what are you day dreaming about?" The boy suddenly noticed that Taria was standing in front of him. The girl's pink cheeks seemed to color the scenery around her. Taria swiftly presented Ayuru with what had been behind her back. "Here ya go!" "Huh?" It was a little bouquet of the field's beautiful flowers. Pressing the bouquet close to Ayuru's chest, Taria plopped down next to him. "Today is your birthday, right?" "Uh, yeah." Ayuru's eyes fell on the bouquet. Taria must have made the bouquet earlier and hidden it somewhere nearby. "Happy birthday!" the girl said, while staring at the lake. "Thanks," the boy said, as he too stared at the lake.

A breeze formed ripples on the surface of the lake. Taria and Ayuru were long childhood friends and had always played together like brother and sister. They

played dolls, and roughhoused; but they had never exchanged presents like this on a birthday before. Now that Ayuru thought about it, Taria's childish ways of playing had seemed to subside recently. "So you're eleven years old now, huh." the girl said in an adult tone. "But I'll catch up to you next month!" Ayuru stole a glance at the girl next to him. Why was the profile of her sitting next to him, soon to be eleven, somehow completely different than it had been before? "Hey, want me to tell you something?" "Tell me something?" Taria faced Ayuru's head with glittering blue eyes. "Yes! About the family's law." Taria collected some stones and threw them into the lake with a yell. "Boys of the Hin race who pass age ten can participate in our lord's Omedori ceremony." Where the stones had fallen, a small ripple had formed. "Hey, tell me the truth, Ayuru! You went to the ceremony, right? My mom and dad said there was no reason for you to go, but when I went to your house that evening, you weren't there." "Aren't aunty Matuta and you part of the same tribe as we all are? So saying you can't participate in the ceremony is weird." When hearing Taria's words, Ayuru clenched his tiny fists. The small tribe living in the western region of Kutoh, the Hin race, believed that the lord they worshipped, Tenkou, would show himself to his people once a year on the new moon of the first autumn on this blue lake. And then, he would solemnly present his people with an oracle. Those who can participate in the ceremony are boys past age 10, and girls passed age 12: that 's the law. So naturally, Ayuru's mother, Matuta, had wondered why even though her son had the qualifications to participate, why was he the only one to be refused? Ayuru bit his lips in frustration. "You went, right?" Without looking at Taria, Ayuru answered, "Yes."

The girl's eyes grew wide with excitement. "And our lord Tenkou-sama, what did he look like?!" A cold sweat formed on Ayuru's body. "Hey, come on Ayuru!" The boy chose his words carefully so Taria wouldn't find out what had really happened to him. "Tenkou-sama was magnificent. He had huge powers." Ayuru suddenly threw a stone into the lake. "And then, a big shadow appeared and a large wave formed." Taria stared absentmindedly at the lake, continuing her steady breathing. "Oh, that's right. After all, Tenkou-sama always takes pity on little tribes like us and protects us." "Yeah." "I wanna hurry up and become of age, too. It's not fair that girls have to wait until they're twelve! Hey, after that, did you hear his oracle?" When Ayuru heard this, he hung his head. "Oh yeah, huh. Before you could hear his oracle, you passed out with a fever, didn’t you." She probably thought that Ayuru had suddenly caught a cold. Saved by the girl's misconception, Ayuru closed his eyes in relief. When he imagined what Tenkou's oracle might have been, the violent chills ran through his body again. That was just a bad dream. Their lord shouldn't have had that cold an appearance. He must be a manly, gentle god. Ayuru convinced himself that his was so, and decided that what he saw was just a bad dream. "Okay, now I'll tell you something nice." Taria took a deep breath. "This is a story that is told to girls when they become 10. But only to girls!" And she began the story. "This lake isn't just where Tenkou-sama makes his appearances; it also has a very romantic legend attached to it. There's a shell here called Pearl of Seiran."

The ten-year-old's cheeks filled with color. "That shell can only be seen by a girl who loves someone deeply from within her heart. Inside that shell are two pearls, exactly the same pretty blue color as this lake, and the couple takes the pearls as their mark of love, and keeps them all their lives." Taria stopped at that point and looked at the boy next to her. "Hey, Ayuru, are you listening to me?!" "Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm listening." Taria seemed to be a little impatient with her friend, whose head was apparently in the clouds. "That's a boy for you!" Taria said as she hurled a stone into the lake. "Sorry. That was a story about a pearl, right? But are you sure it's okay for me to hear it?" "Yeah, but we've gotta keep it a secret. Stuff about Tenkou-sama, and about the pearls is our little secret, okay?" "Okay." Taria returned to her former cheerfulness. "My mom made a hair piece out of her pearl, but dad seemed to be embarrassed and hid his in his wallet. I'm sure aunty Matuta has hers with her." The girl faced Ayuru. "I'm sorry. Did I make you mad?" Ayuru shook his head meekly. "But, I'm sure your mom has one Seiran pearl," Taria said confidently. Ayuru had not once inquired about his father. He knew from talk from the other villagers that his mother was born in the tribe leader's house. But just after Ayuru was born, his mother was cut off from the family. Leaving the town she was born in, and moving to a little house on a farm, to such a poor lifestyle, she put all her work into raising her son.

Golden hair and blue eyes-----the Hin race was despised and alienated by the people of Kutoh, but it was because their unity had been weak. The Hin race had never forgotten how their pride had been taken away. Since they had started worshipping Tenkou, a god who protects the weak, their pride and unity had grown. Naturally, marrying within the tribe was proper. The Hin race, originally gentle from the heart, looks plain on the surface, but he and his mother had seemed to be different from other things on earth, and that reason was---Why had his mother been disowned, and why were they outcasts? He knew that the reason had something to do with his father. His mother had educated him herself, and in order to help him ignore the scorn from others, she had encouraged him to be proud to be a member of the Hin race, and also gave him her unconditional love. Ayuru could never be the cause of his mother's sadness or suffering. His mother was his life. And there was also another tiny life that had been supporting him. "Taria, we'd better be getting home," Ayuru said, smiling gently at the girl. The two children, concerned about the darkening sky, hurried up a hill. In front of them, two shadows appeared. They were from two Kutoh-boys around the same age as them. "Hey, this is our land. Don't just barge in like that! If people of the Hin race stomp through here, the land'll get all dirty!" "Why?! We're all from the same country, Kutoh!" Taria retorted stoutheartedly. "What did you say? What part of you is Kutoh? What's with the color of your hair and eyes? You're just barging in on other peoples' territory!" "Yeah! And on top of that, you worship that Tenkou-thing. Isn't the god who protects our country Seiryuu? Tenkou's a devil - just a dirty demon!" "You're wrong!" Ayuru grabbed Taria's hand with the intent of just ignoring the boys and continuing on home. "Hah, running away, eh? You dirty foreigner!" Ayuru was pushed by the boys and fell down with a thud. "Ayuru!" Taria cried, running after him.

"Get outta here! Dirty foreigners!" The boys began throwing stones off the ground. Ayuru shielded Taria from them with all his might. "Yah! You guys are just Kutoh’s shame!" Maybe it was because they received no resistance from Ayuru that they seemed to lose interest with their victims and slowly left. "Ayuru. Ayuru, are you okay?!" Taria, crawling out from under Ayuru, looked at the boy's face, smeared with mud. He was trying to re-gather the flowers that had been smashed to the ground, but Taria shook her head and hugged him tightly. "Never mind, never mind about the flowers! What's more important is that you're bleeding. We've gotta get you home and have someone fix you!" "I'm sorry..." "Why are you apologizing? Didn't you just risk your life protecting me?" Ayuru shook his head firmly. "I'm just a weak boy..." The kind of behavior he had shown towards the Kutoh bullies was not the first time he had acted that way, but it was definitely not just the act of a child. Adults did the same. Whenever anyone looked upon them, it was always with a look or scorn and disgust. Just the same as those cruel boys, people would throw stones at them, but no matter how they wanted to retaliate, all they could do was quietly take the torment. Because of this, Ayuru thought himself to be pathetic, was embarrassed, and had cried so hard. "Ayuru, you aren't weak at all!" Taria squeezed the boy's hand. "We didn't do anything wrong. There's no reason for us to be discriminated against. They're the ones who were bad. The gap between the rich and poor is slowly spreading, and everyone's hearts are growing wild, so they strike against us. So that's why our parents told us to think before we speak, and to not fight with them. So, Ayuru, you did the right thing!" Ayuru remained with his head dropped. He must have heard that from his mother a lot. Like saying it takes true strength to turn the other cheek to an enemy. True strength lies in pride, kindness, and most of all, in love. Taria firmly held the boy's hand. "You risked your life saving me!"

"...Taria." "I'm happy." The girl's eyes sparkled like the blue lake. "Well, let's go home." Taria tugged on Ayuru's hand, and began to run. * "I can't say how sorry I am," was all Matuta could say. "I knew she was with Ayuru. What in the world were they doing?! Taria is still only ten years old. Where did your son take her to this late?" Taria's mother seemed to be very agitated. "I'm sorry. I'm sure they will come back soon. When they come back, I'll be sure to punish..." "No." Taria's mother interrupted. "I will forbid Taria to go near your son." "Please don't." Taria's mother faced the embarrassed Matuta, and said, "Up until now, I've been keeping close watch on them. What you did was rejected by our law, but as a woman like you, I understood why you did what you did. And besides, on the surface, Ayuru looks like he belongs to the Hin race, and he is a very nice boy, but..." Matuta was focused on her opponent's eyes. "...but, he made Tenkou-sama angry, so I can't let my daughter see him anymore." "He made Tenkou-sama angry." Taria's mother said this to Matuta, whose forehead was wrinkled. "You went to the ceremony, didn't you? With Ayuru." Facing the woman whose head was hanging, Taria's mother said, "But in that condition, it doesn't seem like Ayuru heard the oracle." Matuta looked up abruptly, "Did our lord say something against Ayuru?!" Taking a step away from the imploring woman, Taria's mother said this with a twisted face, "Our lord said this. 'There is a dirty child among you. Your unity has collapsed.' He also said that our people would face a crisis soon."

"What…are you saying?" With difficulty, Matuta supported her shaking body by clutching onto a pillar. "Take your pride, and deepen your unity" is what the lord, who had presented his oracle every year had said. "You two should leave this village at once!" Taria's mother shouted, and pointed a finger at Matuta. "If you don't hurry up, the other villagers will kill you both!" "Mom!" Both mothers look up in the direction the girl's voice came from. While crying and screaming, and being pulled away by her mother, Taria grew smaller and smaller. "Ayuru! Ayuruuuuuu!!" Because she would never be able to go to this house, and would never be forgiven if she tried to see Ayuru again, her disappearing silhouette was one of resistance to the most of her ability. Ayuru, while being held by his mother, and while biting his lips, watched Taria slowly fade away. "Mother..." the boy looked up. The Hin race; their little tribe was continuing to be oppressed.... even within their own tribe, was there no place for them? The boy looked for the answer in his mother's eyes, which seemed to be wandering off far away. * It is a quiet night. The blue lake is smooth with gentle sounds all around it. At the edge of the lake, the shadows of two humans can be seen. They are holding hands tightly. They are a woman with golden hair and a man with black hair. The woman comes closer to the lake by herself. Inside the blue lake, she can see something mysterious, shining. The woman puts her hand into the light. She has taken something from the water. It is something that perfectly fits in the palm of her hand - a shell.

When she opens the shell, there are two clear, blue pearls inside. Taking them out, the woman holds them closely to her chest. The man calls the woman's name. "Matuta." The woman looks back at him. It is the naturally beautiful young face of a girl still in her teens. And her loving lips call the man's name, but when she opens her mouth, no sound comes out. "Who are you?" "Who are you?!" "Who are you?!!!!!!" The man slowly turned to face her from where he stood.

"Ayuru!!" Ayuru was pulled out of his dream by his mother's touch. "What's wrong? You were having a nightmare." While breathing heavily, Ayuru shook his head silently. "You poor thing. It must have been because so many horrible things happened to you today." Matuta gently touched the scratches on her son's face. "Even when it was your birthday, too." While suppressing her sobbing, the mother held her son tightly, but then, she suddenly pulled him a little bit away from herself. And said, "Ayuru. Are you willing to die in the name of the Hin race?" The boy looked at his mother's face and eventually, it began to shake. He saw a tear fall down his mother's face, and then with shivering lips, she began to shake her head. "I'm sorry. I just don't know how I can make you happy. I don't know what to do anymore." "I am happy, mother. Because you're with me."

When her son said this, Matuta covered her face in her hands and wept. While gently stroking his mother's back, Ayuru, as if he couldn't stand being lost anymore, blurted out, "Mother? Can I ask you just one question?" His mother answered right away. "It's about your father, right?" Ayuru, surprised, stopped stroking his mother's back. Matuta, facing Ayuru, said this: "I'll tell you tomorrow. And when you hear what I have to say, then please chose your own future. Come, now, let's rest up really good." With a soft kiss on her son's forehead, Matuta lay her son down and covered him up to his chin. * Ayuru was jolted awake by the sound of screaming voices. As he looked out the window, his blood seemed to freeze instantly. The swords of the knights clanged as one with the screaming voices. The neighing of the battle horses, the screams of the villagers trying to escape; and here and there, a fire was growing. "Run! Kutoh soldiers are here!" The Kutoh soldiers had attacked early that morning so they would be able to slaughter the defenseless villagers like insects. The boy vacantly stared on. "Ayuru!" Matuta strongly pulled at Ayuru's hands, which were paralyzed on the window sill. "We're going to run away!" It seemed like the soldiers still hadn't noticed their shabby house, since it was the farthest away from the settlement. "Taria! We've gotta save Taria!" Matuta silently shook her head at Ayuru's words. "Never mind, just hurry!"

When Ayuru took his first step outside, he saw something from far off approaching the house. Taria! Matuta opened her eyes wide in shock. "Ayuru! Ayuru!!" while she called his name, some soldiers noticed Taria and chased after her. "Taria!" Ayuru was about to run to Taria, but was stopped firmly by his mother. "You stay here!! There was a look in her eyes that told him she wouldn't forgive him if he disobeyed. Matuta quickly slipped off what was around her neck and slipped it on to her son's neck. When Ayuru saw it, he looked swiftly up at his mother. "You wait here." And then she ran. Taria's mom and dad must have already been killed by the soldiers. The tenyear-old girl had called out to her son to the very end, and had tried to run to him. So naturally, Matuta couldn't just stand there and let her be killed. Up until yesterday, and surely into the future, she believed that the beautiful girl would be with Ayuru. With wobbly legs, Taria dashed along the ground. The soldiers who had been separated several meters behind her were catching up. Matuta ran up to Taria and grabbed her. While hugging Taria tightly, Matuta ran back to her son. "Mother! Mother!!" Ayuru, not able to stand still anymore, ran after his mother. But then, the soldiers caught up to his mother's back. The tips of three swords pointed at Matuta, reflecting in the sunrise. "Mother! Taria!!!!" he yelled, stopping dead in his tracks. It was when he saw his mother's astonished face that something enormous seemed to be building inside of him. His body was hot, as if it were on fire ,and it seemed like lava was going to explode out of him. His mother threw Taria far away from her with the last of her strength.

The soldiers, who had knocked Matuta down, roughly tore her clothes off. While one man held her still under the blade of his sword, the other soldiers all crowded on top of her. "MOTHERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

Chapter 2- Taria’s Final Words

"Oh...so this kid is a Seiryuu Seishi." Kutoh’s emperor, Shoukitei, who was relaxed in his room, looked at the little prisoner brought before him. He narrowed his eyes. "He has the beautiful face of a girl, I see." The boy kneeling before Shoukitei with his hands bound behind him, shivered like a little puppy that had been abandoned in the rain. "Is what you say true?!" "Yes...the soldiers nearby the scene of the murder who saw what happened all said so... what had happened was there was a tremendous noise coming from the boy standing alone, followed by the remains of the soldiers’ bodies flying in the air and scattering themselves on the ground. And then, there was no mistaking the blue character, 'kokoro' shining brightly on the boy's forehead..." One of the emperor's men had explained this to him. "Hm...well, I suppose that kid must be a Seiryuu Seishi then, eh?" While the emperor stroked his beard, he asked the boy who looked as though he wanted to disappear. And naturally, all the boy could do was continue to shake his head. One of the emperor's men addressed him impatiently. "Your majesty. I believe that the incident was probably when the kid first used his powers. That must have been a shocking experience to him..." he spoke, referring to the cruel attack of the Hin race. "I see..." The emperor, still stroking his beard, continued to stare at the boy with a dignified expression. "However, I never would have guessed that one of Seiryuu's Seishi would be of the Hin race..." When Ayuru had returned to his senses, he found himself on the back of one of Kutoh’s horses and his hands were bound behind his back. Immediately, the hell he went through came back into his mind. Without thinking, the boy screamed. "Hey! Shut your mouth!" The soldiers put a gag in his mouth. Biting his tongue, the boy didn't know if he wanted to live or die. Ayuru's heart was jumbled with confusion and terror. The way his body had transformed, and then, that explosion, and then... the tragedy before his eyes. His burning anger towards the soldiers about to rape his mother not only killed the soldiers, but his own mother as well. His body began to shiver all over. It was then that Ayuru saw Tenkou inside of him. Those evil eyes, so full of hate, seemed to be laughing at him. And then, Ayuru lost himself. The luxurious Kutoh palace reflected in his vacant eyes. So when he heard Shoukitei say "He must be a Seiryuu Seishi" when he was brought before him, Ayuru continued to shake his head.

Seiryuu Seishi...? What in the world was that guy saying? He didn't understand one bit. Naturally, he had heard the legend of Seiryuu from his mother. The Seishi of Seiryuu with marks on parts of their bodies would call on Kutoh’s god, Seiryuu, with their Miko, and three wishes could be granted. And besides Kutoh, there was Konan’s Suzaku, Sairo’s Byakko, and Hokkan's Genbu... Each country had its own legend and each country had its own god protecting it. But the Hin race, while living in Kutoh, continued to worship Tenkou. Seiryuu was of absolutely no importance to them. Even so, him being a Seiryuu Seishi... was something that shouldn't be so. The emperor's men explained it to him over and over again, but Ayuru couldn't comprehend it. His heart was exhausted with fear and emptiness. "However, I never would have guessed that one of Seiryuu's Seishi would be a member of the Hin race..." Shoukitei mumbled. He was a man with dirty eyes. He turned to Ayuru and said "Listen up, kid. Even though you should have been destroyed as a member of the Hin race, as a Seiryuu Seishi, you can live..." And then, he said "You should live for Kutoh from now on." Ayuru showed no reaction and continued to shiver. "Let's take this kid. We can cope with him because he's a Seiryuu Seishi." Shoukitei nodded at his advisor's words. "He's been terrified ever since he came here, I hear...isn't that sweet?" The emperor raised his eyebrows. "I like him. He will come with me." He offered his hands to Ayuru. "Come..." The boy stared vacantly at those hands. At the dirty hands that despised and eventually destroyed his innocent tribe. Those hands and eyes were inviting him. "Are you willing to die in the name of the Hin race?" At those words he heard from his mother last night, he nodded. Okay, I'll die. Right now, right here, I'll bite my tongue off. With all the strength he had, Ayuru put his tongue between his upper and lower teeth. He was ready to put all his force into it.

"You do not have permission to die!" A voice came from somewhere. "You have no permission to die! You killed your mother. You think you can kill yourself and go see her? Your mother hates you. She won't forgive your death!" Ayuru lost his strength abruptly. "Yes. Live. Live, and get a better taste of Hell." Sweat formed on his entire body. "You killed your mother! You killed your mother! You killed your mother!"

While groaning, Ayuru raised his face. In front of his eyes were the dirty hands, inviting him. That's right... Those dirty hands suited him. The bottom of Ayuru's heart fell. And like a fool, he stood up casually. * Dirty fingers stroked Ayuru's back. "Skin as fair as a girl's..." Shoukitei gazed at the naked boy lying next to him. "What nice, bright, golden hair, what nice blue eyes, I heard that the Hin race was very beautiful, but I never could have

dreamed them up to be this beautiful...my eyes can't take it." The boy said nothing; his emotions the same. Once again, the boy couldn't emit any words. Shoukitei's hand touched the boy's neck. Running his hand along the thin string there, he inclined his head. "Oh, I have never seen a stone like this before." At that moment, the boy jerked his body away and clutched his necklace protectively. "Okay, okay...I'll leave just that part alone, so don't worry." Shoukitei, flustered, tried to calm the boy who was glaring at him. It had been three months since this Hin-boy had become his plaything. Even though he found the boy's lack of resistance somewhat boring, Shoukitei still indulged himself everyday with the boy's beautiful body. "Come now, okay...good boy." He said, ripping off the boy's clothes and devouring his slender body. "So that boy really is a Seiryuu Seishi, eh?" Shoukitei folded his arms. "Yes." His attendant nodded. "That kid is... emotionless like a doll, that boy, frail as a girl...was a Seiryuu Seishi?" He felt like he needed some proof. If he turned out not to be a Seiryuu Seishi, he would be prepared for it, but he wanted to make sure. Kutoh’s emperor called his attendant over and whispered in his ear. * Readying himself on the bed in the room he was given, Ayuru stared up at the ceiling. Pride, kindness, love... His mother had said that those things are what made one strong. That was just a lie... that was just an illusion... even if it were true, he had no more pride or love, or anything left inside of him. If the soldiers hadn't invaded his town that day, he might have been able to hear about his father from his mother... the boy thought. "And once you hear what I have to say, then please chose your own path" His mother had said. What had happened to his life...? However, now, thinking about that sort of thing was unnecessary. He took the string around his neck into his hand, planning to rip it off. But Ayuru couldn't do it... as much as he tried, he couldn't do it. A man appeared by Ayuru, ready to take him.

The boy slowly sat up like a clockwork toy and followed the attendant emotionlessly. He had been summoned by Shoukitei; it was the usual time. Ayuru's feet stopped. The attendant, who suddenly turned left at the corridor where they usually went straight, urged the boy on with a "step this way, please." After walking a ways within the palace grounds, they came upon a garden. "Oh, I've been waiting for you." Shoukitei, sitting in a chair, nodded. Ten soldiers were lined up by the emperor's side. Ayuru looked over the scene uneasily. But then in an instant, he returned to his former bland emotion. "Hm... you still show me no emotions, but that should change very soon." Saying that, Shoukitei gestured to one of his soldiers. The soldier pulled the prisoner out from where it had been hidden. It looked like it was still a child. The soldier whisked the hood off the prisoner's head. "Taria...!!" The color of astonishment danced in Ayuru's eyes. Taria, gagged and bound, struggled to run up to Ayuru, but was stopped by the soldiers.

"Taria! You...lived!" he remembered. Back then, his mother had thrown Taria far away from her with all her strength. "Mother..."

Ayuru thanked his mother from the bottom of his heart. If she hadn't done that, he would have ended up killing Taria, too. "Can't you speak?" Shoukitei asked with an irritated face. "It looks as though the Hin race has a lot of pride. All the other girl prisoners we took committed suicide. Only this kid refused to die." "...!!" "Help! Help! Ayuru!" Taria screamed silently to Ayuru, staring at him with her eyes. The boy looked at Shoukitei. "Do you want to help her?" The emperor asked Ayuru. "Then use your Seishi powers...destroy everything here." With those words, Taria’s and Ayuru’s faces met. "You’re a Seiryuu Seishi...?!" Taria's eyes opened wide in shock. The girl remembered what had happened the morning of the invasion. Suddenly, soldiers came into her house, and instantly killed her father and mother. With all her might, she ran out of her house, thinking only of Ayuru, and ran to his house. And then, Matuta had run to her, and had scooped her off the ground into her arms. She was sure she had also seen Ayuru running up to them. But then, her body was thrown far away and she heard the sound of an explosion. And when she saw the gruesome scene before her eyes, she had lost consciousness... "Was that explosion your power?!" Taria looked at the boy. Unlike herself, he didn’t look like a prisoner. Taria thought that Ayuru must be a Seiryuu Seishi. That's why they didn't kill him, and let him live freely here... "You’re a Seiryuu Seishi?!" Taria once again couldn't hide her doubt at those words. "That explosion that came from your body was your Seishi power...!" To the boy who was looking down and shuffling his feet, the emperor said "Can't you at least show me your symbol?" Shoukitei nodded to the soldiers who had a hold of Taria. The soldier walked Taria to the middle of the garden, and forced her onto her knees. And behind her, came another soldier. He drew his sword slowly.

"No! Please stop!" Ayuru tried to run up to Taria, but was blocked by two soldiers. "Surely the first time you showed your Seishi powers was in this kind of situation, right?" Ayuru's body shook. "Looking at your mother, under the blade of a sword caused you to use your power. But you also made your mother a victim..." Maybe from remembering the scene, Taria lowered her eyes. The emperor continued. "The Hin race worshipped Tenkou. They must be destroyed immediately." The soldier behind Taria raised his sword swiftly. The soldier's face stiffened. "The fool is frightened. Maybe he thinks if he uses his powers again, he'll end up killing the girl, too..." Shoukitei chuckled, while observing the scene. "Taria!!" Ayuru looked at the girl and continued to tremble. "Ayuru..." The girl, who had turned 11 in the Kutoh palace, looked at the boy who was able to participate in their tribe's coming of age ceremony. Now, Ayuru was fighting inside of himself, looking at the face of his childhood friend. Just like before, the lava inside of him came. His anger and hate towards the soldiers who would even go so far as to kill Taria in addition to his mother boiled inside of him. His breathing became irregular and his chest throbbed violently. "Your majesty! Get to shelter!" Shoukitei's attendant commanded, noticing the boy's transformation. "His symbol still hasn't appeared yet!" Shoukitei exclaimed, as he ran to a little nook in the garden. The soldiers blocking Ayuru also retreated. Ayuru's head was pounding with pain. "ungh....unnnn..." He ran his fingers through his hair. The scene he had seen back then came back into his head. While biting his lips and shaking his head violently, he looked at the girl. "I can't... I can't do it! I can't do it!!" Tears filled his eyes. "Just stop! It's okay! It's okay!!" Taria screamed. And then she told Ayuru. "I'll go to where everyone else is. Mom and Dad and Aunty-Matuta are all waiting for me..." "Taria..."

"I'm sorry...for leaving you all alone like this..." "..Taria..." Shoukitei yelled in shock. "The symbol still hasn't appeared?!" The emperor lost his patience. "Fine! Dispose of her!" Ayuru felt Taria telling him something through those eyes of hers. Ayuru, live. Live, and get revenge on Kutoh. The soldier raised his sword above Taria's head. The instant she closed her eyes, Taria saw something shining on Ayuru's neck. She smiled slowly. Ayuru...you got that from Aunty-Matuta, didn’t you...thank god... You're not alone. You'll surely find someone. Someone who will love you...surely... good...bye.. Ayuru... The sword pierced through the 11-year old’s back. "Tariaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!" BOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!! The explosion rang in time with the boy's scream, and the sound of people running and screaming in terror could also be heard. Once the dust cleared, the boy slowly walked forward. And then, he looked below him. There were the remains of two soldiers who had been ripped to pieces. And in between then, Taria’s body lay almost as if she were just asleep. The boy stared at the girl's corpse for a while. Inside those eyes, something had lodged itself . His eyes, which had been blank, now held a large presence and glittered with blue. He picked up a sword that had fallen by his feet. Then he stared at the reflection of his forehead in the sword. And then, turning back, he slowly approached Shoukitei. "Your majesty." Trembling from the way the boy had addressed him, Shoukitei spoke, "..Wh, wha, what the?"

"The wish your majesty had was to see my symbol; which, I believe, is this." The boy pointed to the shining character on his forehead. "Y-yes. That's right..." Shoukitei answered while backing away. Frightened at the boy being able to hit only his target this time, the emperor could only stare at the boy's eyes. At that moment, it wouldn't be strange if the boy decided to kill him, too. "W-w-we shouldn't have killed that girl. S-so-so you may use whatever means...to...a-anything..." "Your majesty," The boy brought his face before Shoukitei's eyes. The character, "kokoro" on his forehead met with the emperor's eyes. "What are you saying? I am a Seiryuu Seishi. For his majesty, and for Kutoh, I have a duty to fulfill..." and then, the boy smiled coldly. "Please call me ‘Nakago’, your majesty."

Chapter 3- Charismatic Knight

"This will end your training session for today." Koyuu's clear, deep voice told the hundreds of young soldiers. While watching over his men as they returned to the barracks, he tapped on the shoulder of a boy who was standing in the front row. "You stay behind for a bit. I would like to have a word with you." "Yes, sir." The boy looked up at Gi Koyuu. On his forehead, the blue character appeared only for an instant. When Nakago had been lead to Koyuu's room, he ran his eyes over the prosaic atmosphere. "When one sees a shogun’s room, he sees the room of a bachelor." Gi Koyuu, who was in his mid-thirties, chuckled fearlessly. Just when Nakago had barely been at the palace for half a year, the former shogun had died while he was away on an expedition. Gi Koyuu, who inherited the job, was presently working hard at being the shogun. He, who was a moderate, and the former shogun, who was an extremist, had had conflicting views. Nakago had heard that Koyuu had been against the attack on the Hin race and had not been among the men who had attacked. In Nakago's eyes, Koyuu's harsh discipline and training were a personal guidance for him. "So, it's been about a year since you requested to be trained as a soldier." "Yes." "How old are you now?" "Sixteen." Koyuu looked at the dignified boy's face. Koyuu thought he looked as though he had come out of a painting with his remarkable beauty. He also had elegance. And undeniably, the boy had shown great ability for being a soldier over the past year. The weakness he had had when he first entered the troop was something he never let anyone see anymore. It certainly wasn't just his duty as a soldier that had made him like this. Koyuu knew well that this boy was getting stronger day by day in order to be a good Seiryuu Seishi. The boy had been slowly collecting strength, and would certainly grow up to be a very robust man. Even the boy's height, which presently caused the boy to look up at Koyuu, would eventually overcome even Koyuu's height. "Nakago, it looks as though you've become quite a soldier." At Koyuu's words, Nakago smiled slightly.

"When I requested of his majesty to let me train as a knight, I deeply thank you, shogun, for pushing me forward," Nakago said, as if he were reciting an essay. "Hm." Slowly folding his arms, Koyuu asked the young man once again. "Why did you request to be trained as a soldier?" At that question, Nakago immediately answered, "To protect the country and lead its people to peace." "I see. What a proper answer." Koyuu didn't overlook the boy's stiff upper lip. "You swore your loyalty to this country, eh?" Saying that, Koyuu turned his back to Nakago. "When I was still the second in command to the shogun, I was at the site of the execution." The hell that he had encountered in that garden came back into Nakago's mind. He seemed to remember that there had been ten or so knights standing in line back then. His character appeared suddenly on his forehead. "You made a good decision. But it must have been a painful thing to do." Back then, this boy had just stood there and watched his only friend left in the world be killed. It was because he still wasn't confident enough to use his Seishi powers. The nightmarish thing he had done when his village had been attacked had trussed up everything about him. But when he had looked down upon the girl's corpse, Koyuu had seen something mysterious and powerful lodged in the boy's blue eyes. "There was no other path for me to take." It was an answer that killed his feelings in flames. "I see." Koyuu murmured. Those were the same words the boy had told the emperor at that time. "I am Seiryuu Seishi, Nakago. From the day I was born, I had a duty to be loyal to Kutoh." Once again, Koyuu faced Nakago. The character on his forehead had disappeared completely. "Have you already forgotten about your birthplace?"

"Yes." "And the girl?" "She was merely a companion." "Did you not have a mother?" "That was nothing more than a tool to give birth to me." Koyuu looked sharply at him without changing his expression. "I have a task for you." "Yes, sir." "A rebellion is forming mass-armaments and is gaining power." "So I have heard." "I want you to participate in stopping them." "I understand." In his face was no excitement, joy, or nervousness over his first battle. "I will give you further instructions later. Dismissed." "Yes, sir." Nakago nodded his head lightly, and as if nothing had happened, returned to his room. After he was sure Nakago was out of earshot, Koyuu turned to the door and raised his voice. "You can come out from behind that door now; I know you're there." Timidly opening the door and showing himself, was a young soldier the same age as Nakago. "Eavesdropping makes one untrustworthy, Tou Eichuu." "Yes! My most humble apologies." Eichuu, who had been caught, looked down with a red face. "Well, I can understand how you feel." Eichuu, who had entered the troop around the same time Nakago had, determinedly worked hard and was becoming a good soldier. Even though he had a strong desire to be a knight and had a good, hard-working attitude,

Koyuu didn't seem to acknowledge this. But Koyuu secretly believed that his successor in the distant future would be either Eichuu or Nakago. "Don't worry. I will promote you, too." Eichuu looked up abruptly. Completely unlike Nakago's bland reaction, Eichuu's was one that seemed like his excitement was boiling fiercely inside of him. "Y-yes sir! Thank you so much! Thank you so much! I definitely won't let you down! And I won't lose to Nakago!" Koyuu grinned wryly at him. "I never said this was a fight between you and Nakago. Don't misunderstand me." "N-no sir! Sorry, sir. I'll do my best!" Koyuu shook his head and chuckled as he watched Eichuu return to his room as if he were flying up to the heavens. As he thought of the two able men of completely different types, Koyuu thought, "Things are going to be interesting." It seemed as though Nakago was completely apathetic about the whole thing now, but perhaps a little rivalry would help his spirits. In times when the country is in trouble, one must have strong knights, Koyuu believed. But at that time, Koyuu had no idea that the reverse of his thinking, a breakup in soldier morale, might come true. * That evening, Nakago, facing the back of the man sleeping next to him, opened his eyes sharply. As if he were being electrocuted, the man was jolted awake. "Wah! Wh-what is this?! An earthquake?!" To the panicking man, he spoke quietly, "Your majesty. You must have just been having a bad dream." Breathing heavily, Shoukitei spoke to the beautiful, naked boy next to him. "Come to think of it, I was dreaming something like people coming to assassinate me."

"Your majesty," while pushing away Shoukitei's arms which were reaching for his naked chest, Nakago said, "I would like to be in the army very soon. Just like in your bad dream, isn't the country falling into disorder?" The emperor didn't know what to say at the sixteen-year-old's words. Even though the very capable shogun, Gi Koyuu should have leadership, here and there, small rebellions had been breaking out in the country; Shoukitei didn't understand why. Nakago faced the emperor, and stared at him scornfully. All the country's problems were the fault of this lazy emperor. In the emperor's harem were thousands of women, and the palace was full of gaudy decorations, and more palaces were popping up in other parts of the country. Naturally, the expense for all this came out of the people's taxes. The gap between the rich and poor was spreading, and the people's worries had been pushed to their limits. "Your majesty, the women of your harem would surely cross mountains for you." Shoukitei looked at his lover, who had matured into a brawny young man. This boy had taken on the name of Nakago five years ago and the beautiful, manly body he had been slowly acquiring, he had devoured every evening. Up until now, he had been very obedient. And suddenly he wants to leave him and fight in wars?! "I won't allow it! was what Shoukitei had planned on saying, but all he could do was stupidly open and close his mouth. "I will show you my loyalty to this country," Nakago said, slowly smiling. The character on his forehead appeared brightly. Cold chills ran down Shoukitei's spine. "Oh, I'm sorry I was going to oppose you." Nakago's blue eyes most certainly made him think. * With the opening of the heavy gate of Kutoh, a squadron of soldiers appeared. "Welcome back!" The many young future soldiers said as they stared up in awe at the knights riding their chestnut-brown horses. Then the report of how the army had disarmed a guerrilla group came to them. There was not a

wounded man among them, meaning, they had accomplished a flawless victory. The man who had indicated the battle was sitting on a chestnut-brown horse. Dressed up in armor, his golden hair was flowing in the wind. His blue eyes held a cool composure, and showed no sign of pride or disappointment over the battle. "Congratulations on your victory!" Not answering the congratulations from the young, future soldiers, the man who was leading 20 men behind him headed for the courtyard. "Ahh, I wanna hurry up and fight in a war, too!" One of the young hopefuls yelled as he watched the man's back disappear. "Me, too! Of course I wanna be in Nakago's group." Another one said excitedly. "He's got it, hasn't he? Isn't he only seventeen? Even though that's not much older than us, it still seems like he's from another world." "Of course that's so. After all, he's a Seiryuu Seishi." It had been a year since his fist battle at age sixteen. Nakago had continued to win many battles, and just like in the last battle he had fought, he was a reliable man to put in charge of small armies. "It's not fair, though, how cool he is. I heard that when he enters a battle, he gets this sudden power." "Ahh, I wanna protect Nakago with my life, too!" The various young men all talked excitedly about the mysterious, charismatic knight. One of them was silent, though, and his friend poked at his shoulder. "Hey, what's with you?" The young soldier who had been poked spoke, "That guy is kinda scary. I don't know what he's got in mind." "Idiot. Isn't that a good thing?" "I think that Eichuu is better...Eichuu seems more human to me." When Nakago's three fans heard this, they shrugged their shoulders. Nakago and Eichuu. The young soldiers who had high expectations for the future,

were split between those who wanted Nakago as shogun, and those who wanted Eichuu as shogun. And then, a man arrived swiftly on a horse, holding information. "Eichuu's troops in the south are having a hard battle! They need your support!" At the sound of the messenger's voice, Nakago's fans nudged Eichuu’s fan. * After Nakago had returned to his room after the report, Gi Koyuu folded his arms and stared at the ground for a while. Nakago was certainly handling his job of being a knight well. He must have the natural ability for it. Under his guidance, Nakago had grown. And Eichuu once again, feeling as though he was losing to Nakago, was putting all his effort into his work. Looking at both of them, he saw that neither were doing this for the country's sake, but for their own pride. But between the two extremes, a queer rivalry had formed among the soldiers. Once the two who had collected enough power to command armies, the uneasiness of morale breakup found its way into Koyuu's heart. And on top of that, just as before, a threatening air was drifting towards Kutoh. Gi Koyuu clenched his teeth. Putting all his trust into the shogun and his knights, and leaving everything up to them, and even in a major disaster, not even lifting a finger was something he could not forgive. Among those servants surrounding the emperor, there was not one who respected him. Shoukitei; lazy, arrogant, incompetent, and so dirty you wouldn't want to even speak of him. Inside Gi Koyuu's heart, mixed feelings began to form. * Headed for Seiryuu's mausoleum, Koyuu slowly walked on. When he wanted to sort out his feelings, he would always come here. Standing before Seiryuu's statue, what he should do always would become clear to him. And, he also was able to listen to himself. Not as a human, but as a knight, I present myself to Kutoh. And Seiryuu will certainly give me strength.

On that first moon of the first autumn, when he thought everyone was asleep, in the darkness, Koyuu stopped before Seiryuu's mausoleum. He got the feeling that there was a presence in there. Stiffening his body, he slowly peeked inside the mausoleum. He couldn't see him, but he was sure he heard the sound of quiet breathing. Koyuu's ears perked up. The quiet breaths eventually murmured. "Arise." At that voice, Koyuu's body stiffened. "Arise. Arise. Arise..." What is he calling?! He couldn't be calling Seiryuu?! That's impossible. Seiryuu can only be called when the Miko and Seishi are all collected. "Arise, arise, arise..." A coldness drifted through the mausoleum in time with the voice. And when the coldness had hardened, a tornado-like thing seemed to collect under the ceiling, forming a huge shadow. And in the middle of that shadow, two evil eyes were shining. And in the light, Seiryuu seemed to be retreating to the heavens. "Tenkou." When Koyuu heard that name, his eyes opened wide. "Tenkou. Thou shalt give me power."

The shining, blue eyes looked down at the man who had summoned him. "I have come to understand thee. The meaning of my hate that was the source of getting one hated and despised being into thy hands. But the other hated beings did not understand that. So thou hast chosen just me." The only man left with golden hair and blue eyes laughed haughtily. As if Koyuu's body were paralyzed, he couldn't move away from the scene. All he could do was clench his fists so hard that blood nearly came out. As a Seiryuu Seishi, he had pledged his loyalty to Kutoh. And then, defying Seiryuu by calling on Tenkou in such a sacred place, he laughed. Nakago! Koyuu groaned lowly in his mind. At that instant, the uneasiness that had been welling up inside of him changed into a deep fear.

Chapter 4- Virginity of the Heart Kaen, tired after her daily cleaning, picked up the water bucket. No sooner did she do this than the dirty water in the bucket came splashing onto the floor. "Kaen!" Seeing the Okami* open the door, and yell her name, Kaen stiffened in embarrassment and quickly picked up a cloth. "I'm sorry… I'll clean it up right away, so please forgive me." "Never mind that, just come inside!" With her head dropped, Kaen was lead into the Okami's room. Why was the Okami so mad at her again? Ever since Kaen had been sold to this brothel at age ten, she had been used like a dirt rag. Kaen believed that this was the fate of a girl who was born into a poor family. Kaen was always making a blunder, but she had gotten used to being yelled at. She knew well herself that her feelings were escaping from her. She wondered if anything good had ever happened to her since she came here. She knew that until she died, she would stay here and would be used and yelled at. The Okami, clothed in gaudy clothes, looked at the clumsy girl kneeling before her. "Kaen, how old are you?" "Twelve." The Okami grabbed Kaen's face roughly and studied it. "Hm.." And then, pulling a cloth out of her breast, she wiped the girl's dirty face. And then she took a comb out and fixed the girl's tangled hair. Looking at her alteration, the Okami nodded in satisfaction. She had noticed that the girl really had a pretty face. She hadn't realized it before, but this girl could be the golden egg for her business. She also knew that there was no mistaking that Kaen would grow even more beautiful. "Kaen, you don't have to do cleaning or laundry anymore." "Huh?"

Facing the girl, whose eyes had grown round in surprise, the Okami said, "From now on, you will take customers." Kaen, who had thought for an instant that she would be freed from her cruel labor, suddenly darkened her eyes in despair. The girl slowly shook her head. "No. Please. I'll work harder. I'll work harder than I ever have! So, please let me continue my work! Okami-san!" "What're you saying? From the very start, you were sold here so you could become a prostitute. But when you first came here, you were too young." She had never heard that. Her mother or father had never mentioned that. "Kaen, do you think I was the one who made you leave home? You're useless as a maid! Face reality!!" The Okami slapped her knee. Facing Kaen, and softening up, she held out the palm of her hand gently. "Understand? If you become a whore, you can make your own living, and maybe you can even get yourself out of debt. "And if you win favor with our customers, then we might even set you free. You do want to be free, don't you? You do want to see your family, don't you?" Glancing at Kaen, who seemed to have lost her emotions, the Okami clapped her hands. "Hey! Someone get this girl ready!" * The brothel stood close to the Hin-village, in western-Kutoh’s country, Eisei. The gaudy brothel in the middle of the dingy town seemed to be part of a different world. And on the second floor of that building, Kaen had been living. The girl who had worked there during those two years, knew that something was going on in the rooms of the prostitutes next to her. She had also heard vulgarities from them that made her want to cover her ears. Inside of Kaen's heart, another molecule of feeling disappeared. She was sold here to be a prostitute. Her dingy house, her little brothers and sisters - all these memories came back into her mind. No matter how hard, and no matter how bad a lifestyle she had to live, the pride of working to support her family was the only thing that had kept Kaen going, but that pride had disappeared. Even anger against her father and mother didn't come. From the prostitutes'

room next door, Kaen could hear their laughing voices. Those prostitutes who wore gaudy clothes, and fancy makeup, had treated Kaen like a little sister. It was because like Kaen, every one of them had been sold here. Kaen now knew that behind their charming laughter was a pain so deep it made one feel like squeezing the blood out of one's self. "Kaen, you have a customer!" The pimp of the place peeped his head into Kaen's room. Kaen shrunk down. "Well, here she is. This is a twelve year old who is taking her first customer today." The pimp quickly closed the door, leaving the customer in Kaen's room. What happened after that was frantic. Her customer faced her with an "Oohh!", and approached Kaen, whom he knew was unwilling. When he reached for Kaen's breast, she hit him swiftly and ran out of the room. She ran down the halls, tore down the stairs, and still in bare feet, she fled out of the brothel. She wasn't thinking of anything; only to run as far away from her pain as possible. "Waaaaaiit!!" She could hear the voice of the pimp coming up behind her. She ran with all her might. She crossed the village and into Kutoh’s territory, but the twelve year old girl's little legs were not enough to out-run the grown man. "You damn brat! Why the hell did you try to run away like that?!" Catching the girl, he slapped her roughly. "Weren't you sold here by your parents for money?! And you can't serve our customers?! Take your clothes off now!!" He angrily grabbed Kaen's breast. "It's over now." Kaen closed her eyes tightly, which were full of tears of despair. It was then, that with a sharp grunt, her breast suddenly felt lighter. When she opened her eyes, she found the pimp at her feet, knocked out. Behind him stood a young knight. He must have knocked out the pimp. What a manly, beautiful person! Kaen forgot her words as she stared up at the man. He must be around seventeen or eighteen. His tall body, clothed in armor, his golden hair blowing gently in the evening breeze, and his clear blue eyes which looked down upon her quietly.

"Thank you!" Kaen finally remembered to thank him. But he didn't seem to care. "It was nothing. I just don't like that kind of jerk." Then a voice came from behind him. "Nakago! What's wrong? Hurry up!" The young soldier said nothing, and turned in the direction of the voice. With the sound of clanking hooves, the knights of Kutoh left that area. As if Kaen's spirit were stunned, she stood quietly. "Nakago." She had heard of the legend of the Seiryuu Seishi from her parents when she was small. That man must be one of them! "Nakago..." Kaen said his name again. "..nn!!" Kaen abruptly looked down. The man who had been knocked out, was revived, shivering with anger, and had captured Kaen again. * After seeing her customer out of her room, Haku Kaen collapsed in front of the mirror. Though exhausted, her face shown with beauty in the mirror. How many men she had slept with she could not remember. She was now 17 years old, and the brothel’s top prostitute. Day after day, she served customers. She asked the Okami about her debt and when she would be able to pay it back, but the Okami shook her head and said she was still far from paying it off. Kaen knew that the "debt" the Okami placed on her was eternal. She was doomed to be a prostitute until the day she died. "I am so…dirty…" Kaen murmured to her reflection. But then she shook her head fiercely. No. I am not dirty. Ever since I served my first customer five years ago, I vowed that no matter how dirty my body became, my heart would remain pure. "…Nakago"

Kaen had whispered that name to herself countless times. "Because you came to my rescue, I am alive today…" Nakago was the first person who had ever rescued her. I only met him for an instant, but he rescued my heart. He rescued me from the depths of despair and filled my heart with hope. Whenever Kaen closed her eyes, she could always picture the beautiful Seiryuu Seishi, proud on his horse. Though he lived in a world far….far away from hers…she still thought of him. Kaen straightened her clothes and hair, and fixed her makeup. Then she nodded slightly at her reflection. "I know I’ll see him again…someday…" That is why I am still alive. So that I may meet you again someday… "Kaen! You have a customer!" Kaen’s back stiffened at the sound of the Okami’s voice. "Send him in!" With a slight tremble in her voice, Kaen’s face changed from that of an innocent girl in love to a flashy prostitute’s face. * Another year passed. Kaen lay down on her bed and stared at the ceiling. Lately, it had been difficult for her to recover after a customer. The flame of hope that once burned brilliantly in her heart was fading. Kaen no longer cared. Perhaps her fantasies had been all for nothing. "…Hmhm!…" Kaen giggled to herself mockingly. A tear fell down her face and into her pillow. "Um, excuse me…" Kaen looked up swiftly and noticed a man was standing at her door. "Oh, I’m sorry sir. Let me get ready…" Kaen slowly rose from the bed.

The moment the sleepy prostitute held her hand out welcomingly to him, Eichuu felt a surge of adrenaline. Her face, stained in tears, looked almost like a goddess’s face to him. He did not even notice her rumpled clothes and tangled hair. "Is this your first time?" As she asked this, the prostitute smoothed her hair and clothes. "Y…yes…" The prostitute smiled kindly at the stammering man. "Sir, don’t be so tense. Have a seat and relax." She set him down on her bed with an experienced hand and said, "Shall we drink?"

Kaen knew from a first glance that this was the man’s first time at a brothel. It was also surely his first time alone with a woman, too. Kaen’s heart softened a little at the sight of the blushing young man next to her. "Drink up." The man gulped his drink down and sighed. "….I heard….your name was…Miss Kaen…" A customer taking on a polite tone to a prostitute? How charming… Kaen giggled and asked the man his name. "Eichuu. What a nice name…"

"Is…is that so?" To ease the nerves of her virgin customer, Kaen poured him more wine. "My, Sir, you sure have a good tolerance level for alcohol," Kaen praised him… But Eichuu was rather weak. "Hic!…" Eichuu shrunk down and cackled, then pounded the bed with his fist angrily. "Heh! Don’t ya laugh at meee!" "Oh, dear, what’s the problem, sir?" Eichuu turned his bright red face towards Kaen. "I’m doing my best, too… I’m risking my life for my country!" He pounded his chest proudly. "Ah yes, good for you…" Kaen said as she backed away a little and poured him more wine. "Then why is everyone paying more attention to the bastard who isn’t doin’ nothing! Why’s everyone on his side?… I admit he IS capable, and he may be a special man, but…Hic!…" It appeared to Kaen as though this man had a very stressful job. "It must be difficult being a man. You have to put up with so much." Kaen suggested. "Yeah! It’s reallllly hard! Listen to me, baaaabe. You see, I just can’t understan’ it! Listen? I’m a Kutoh citizen, right? So it’s only natural I work hard for the country, but he’s a foreigner! Hmph… An’ he had to put up with so much, so whyyyyyyy is he fighting for Kutoh! Hic!… That doesn’t make no sense!" Foreigner…? Kaen’s eyebrows raised at that word. She poured more wine into Eichuu’s cup. "Hic!… But noooo one else thinks that but me. Yeah! Heh! And he’s suuuuper popular, too! Dahahaha…hahaha, Heeeeeeehehehe!…" "Sir… perhaps you should stop drinking…" Kaen, a little concerned for the man suggested. "Naw, lemme drink!" Eichuu snatched the bottle out of Kaen’s hand and glugged it all down. "Wheeeeeee, he’s sucha nice guy! He’s strong, smart, an’ to top it all off, he’s sooooooosososososo beautiful!"

Foreigner, strong, smart, beautiful… And a special man…he said… Kaen shook the drunken idiot’s shoulder lightly. "Say, Eichuu?" "Yessss? What’s it? Miss Kaennnnn." "Can you tell me…what you do for a living?" Inching closer to the man, Kaen asked him sweetly. "Me? Well, you see, hehehe!" Stumbling to his feet, Eichuu struck a dramatic pose. "I’m a soliderrrrr. I may not look it, but’m even next in line to the shougun!" Kaen clasped her hands over her heart and closed her eyes. There’s no mistaking it. This man’s rival must be… "Eichuu… Can you tell me the name of the man you despise?…" Taking another glug of wine, the soldier stepped towards Kaen. "Wah! Wah! Waaaaah!" "Huh?" "That’s Akago (baby). Naw, that’ snot it… Oh, my, your baby came out feet first!" "Stop kidding around, Eichuu!" "Yes! It’s Nakago! Na-ka-go! Ehehehehe." At the sound of that name, the flame of hope that had once threatened to extinguish its self burst forth once again in Kaen’s heart. For five long years I have waited… At last, God has answered my prayers. The soldiers of Kutoh’s army had never approached such an extravagant brothel before. But since Eichuu was secretly a virgin, he purposely traveled outside of Kutoh to get some experience. "Huh? Aw, dear… I…what was I sayin’?" Eichuu’s eyes were spinning around. "Never mind that, sir…" Kaen offered a helping hand to her wobbling customer. "M… Miss Kaen! I…I love you!" Eichuu said as he pounced on Kaen.

"Ah!…" Though Kaen was thrown onto her bed, for the first time ever, her customer simply fell asleep on top of her. * As the drunk man slept peacefully on top of her, Kaen recalled her life the past five years. Then she looked towards Kutoh’s border with determined eyes. Eichuu let out a moan. Kaen hid the pain in her heart and smiled sweetly at the man. When he opened his eyes, a prostitute sat before him. He remembered her name was Kaen. Eichuu slowly sat up. "How are you feeling, sir?" "Uh, fine…" Eichuu held his throbbing head and looked at Kaen. "Uh…I drank too much, didn’t I… I apologize… I don’t remember anything… Did I do something improper to you…?!" The prostitute chuckled lightly. "No, you didn’t… You only told me you were a soldier in Kutoh’s army…" As she said this, Kaen looked down sadly. "But I’m afraid we’re out of time…" "Oh… Is that so? All right. I guess I should be leaving then…" As Eichuu prepared to leave, Kaen’s heart jumped. "You’ll come back to see me again, won’t you?" "Huh? Sure…" Kaen’s heart turned somersaults. "Eichuu…Do you hate me?" He shook his head violently in the negative. From the very moment he first lay eyes on her, she had stolen his heart. And the woman he fiercely loved was now whispering in his ear. "Please… Set me free from this place. Please take me back to the palace with you…" Eichuu’s entire body was set on fire. He would do anything for this woman. He drew the woman into his arms and embraced her passionately.

Chapter 5- The Mysterious Man of Gyougokuza As the brilliant gong sounded the end of the performance, Shoukitei clapped excitedly. "Oh, I enjoyed that!" The members of the all-male acting group of "Gyougokuza" bowed their heads respectfully in unison to the emperor and his attendants at the palace stage. The dancers all wore elaborate costumes and makeup. "You should stay at the palace for a while. I'm looking forward to your next few performances here." At the emperor's words, there was not a resident of the palace who didn't frown in disapproval. The country was in no condition to support such a production. But the emperor, oblivious to this fact, pointed at the man in the group who was center stage. "I liked you in particular! You were marvelous. Your casual elegance is good, and your expressive power is magnificent." "Thank you very much." The leader of the group said with a bow. "I am called Ragun. We are the number one performance stars." The stars got down on their knees, and all bowed to the emperor in a wave. "Hoh, Ragun, huh...I hope you continue your career in show business." "Entertaining his Majesty and the people of Kutoh is my duty that I can not abandon." Shoukitei cocked his head sideways at Ragun's humble words. "Your Highness, I, Ragun, am also one of the Seiryuu Seishi, Tomo!" Without thinking, Shoukitei jumped out of his seat. "Are you serious?!" Silently opening his costume, Ragun exposed a shining blue character on the lower-right side of his abdomen. Shoukitei nodded in satisfaction. "Even though we still haven't found the Miko yet, it seems as though we have already gathered two of Seiryuu's Seishi in this palace." Ragun raised his eyebrows in surprise.

Was there another Seiryuu Seishi in this palace...?! His made-up eyes scanned the room. "If that is so, then please make yourself at home," Shoukitei said as he smiled with pleasure. It had been a year since Nakago had been granted the room of the vice-shogun from the emperor. Sitting on a chair in his room, he seemed to be thinking over something. All the pieces of his plan had been gradually falling into shape. The way the men under him were acting, his victories in battle, and his trust from the emperor...there was a much deeper meaning to all of this than met the eye. "After another half-year, perhaps..." Nakago, about to become 24 years old, smiled slightly. On top of everything, Kutoh seemed to be beyond salvation. Groups opposing the government were not only fighting the government, but also among themselves. Plunder, arson, slaughter...this had caused a fine split between the cities and villages, and was continuing to destroy them. The country remained this way, unable to stop this terrible dispute. If the former government had still been in power, they might have been able to do something to prevent this, but the way things were presently, even they couldn't stop it. And on top of that, Gi Koyuu once had full control over Kutoh’s military, but now the soldiers were split into three groups. There were the highest number of members in Koyuu's group, but Nakago's group was probably the strongest. And there was also Eichuu's group... The soldiers, their blood boiling with lust for battles, were slowly drifting away from the conservative Koyuu, and moving towards the younger Nakago or Eichuu. Nakago nodded to himself in satisfaction. Everything was going as he had planned. "Excuse me." One of Nakago's soldiers had entered the room.

"Eichuu's group failed to gain control over the strong guerrilla group. There's a report of the casualties and deaths." "Hm..." Nakago narrowed his eyes. "Eichuu and his men keep failing. It seems as though he just has no authority. And I hear he also has had no experience with women?" The soldier, who had said this without thinking, flinched as Nakago glared at him. But Nakago answered him quietly. "You're absolutely right..." Sighing in relief, the soldier looked questioningly at Nakago, who seemed uninterested over the news. Anyone else in Nakago's position would have been overjoyed to hear about Eichuu's failures, but Eichuu's rivalry with Nakago and his causing the soldiers to separate couldn't have fit better into Nakago's plan. "I guess Eichuu just needs to try harder then..." While nodding his head nervously, the soldier fled out of the room. As if trading places with the soldier, another person entered the room. Not saying anything for a while, the two faced each other. "Please excuse me for not introducing myself earlier." As if having said that sarcastically, the visitor didn't even bow his head. Without changing his expression, Nakago said, "No matter. You must be the leader of Gyougokuza, Ragun. Or should I say...Tomo?" With a cold smile, Ragun nodded. "You must be vice-shogun Nakago-sama..." Tomo got down on his knee in front of Nakago, as if introducing a play, and bowed his head in respect. Then, standing up, he offered Nakago a hand with bright red nails. "As a mark of our friendship."

Ignoring Tomo's gesture, Nakago turned his back. As Tomo closed his hand silently that had been stuck awkwardly in mid-air, he slowly looked down. In the middle of his face made up in red, black, and indigo, his lips quivered in humiliation. "We are comrades only when Seiryuu no Miko appears. Until then, I guess we exist only to entertain the emperor." At Nakago' words, Tomo's shivering became more violent. "Isn't entertaining the emperor your specialty?" At Tomo's sarcasm, Nakago didn't change. Stopping his shivering, the mysterious man of Gyougokuza said coolly. "Do you not want your dreams to become reality more swiftly?" Nakago slowly turned around. His eyes met with Tomo's made-up ones. "......I don't need your help." Tomo's eyes, which for an instant, had hope, once again shivered in humiliation. "Is that so..."

And then, getting a hold of his composure one more time, he said "We are two souls, lost in the darkness...I thought we would understand each other." Nakago narrowed his eyes. "Unfortunately, I have no interest in acting. And I wish that you would get your hideous appearance out of my sight." The performer, who was now thoroughly hated, slowly turned back towards the door. But before he left the room, Nakago asked him apathetically. "May I ask just one question?" Tomo stopped in his tracks. "What is your Seishi power?" Tomo smiled behind Nakago's back. "Well, let me show you."

It is a quiet night. The blue lake is smooth with gentle sounds all around it. At the edge of the lake, the shadows of two humans could be seen. They are holding hands tightly. They are a woman with golden hair and a man with black hair. The woman comes closer to the lake by herself. Inside the blue lake, she can see something mysterious, shining. The woman puts her hand into the light. She has taken something from the water. It is something that perfectly fits in the palm of her hand - a shell. When she opens the shell, there are two clear, blue pearls inside. Taking them out, the woman holds them closely to her chest. The man calls the woman's name. "Matuta." The man slowly turned around from where he stood...

At that point, Nakago was jolted awake. And then, he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. Even now, him still having that kind of vision... At the part of himself who couldn't control his dreams, Nakago clenched his teeth.

And then, he saw the shadow of a person moving outside the window. He quietly held his chin in his hand. Diverted by the darkness, Tomo, who held a small clam-like shell in his hand, smiled in satisfaction. "I have shown you, Nakago. Your far away past before you were born." And then, as if acting in a play, Tomo took on a sad tone. "You poor thing...you have been so worried over not knowing your father. That is only natural. Because that was the beginning of your tragedy." Tomo continued. "You were one member of the despised Hin race. But since you had a father outside of the tribe, you were also an outsider among the group. Because you were a Seiryuu Seishi, you were the only one left alive after your clan was destroyed. And then, pretending to pledge your loyalty to Kutoh, you've come this far, until today..." He smiled proudly. "I know well what your plan is." And then, turning his body in the direction of Nakago's room, Tomo placed his hands on his chest. "I shall tell you of my past now. Hearing it makes one cry, telling it makes one cry... It looks as though you at least had a mother. I didn't have a father or a mother... I was an abandoned child. I also had no home village. I was eventually found by some people, and they taught me how to dance, and I became a wandering performer...." A raven cut through the night sky, crowing. "Yes. My life is like a raven of the night..." Tomo instantly changed back from his gloomy emotions. "However, on the day I discovered I was a Seiryuu Seishi, I was reborn. It was because I knew that with my powers, someday, I could do some exhilarating things..." Tomo's eyes sparkled.

"Nakago. I have met a wonderful comrade. We are two souls, wandering in the same darkness. Blame, anger, hate...and also self-loathing...these are wonderful powers that can help us govern the world!" In spellbound emotions, Tomo looked at the shell in his hand. "From now on, let's look back at your past. And also, invite you to a wonderful world of dreams. Don't be afraid. I am on your side. I will always be the only one on your side..." Walking back down the hall after accomplishing his one-man performance, Tomo stopped when he came to a brightly-lit room. He peeked in through a crack in the window."....Hmm?" Inside the room, was one of the knights, immersed in counting his money. "That must be...Vice-Shogun Eichuu...?" Tomo cocked his head. He had heard of this Eichuu, who was inferior to Nakago, but he would never have guessed that this man would be the type to count up his entire fortune in the middle of the night... With a face of apathy, Tomo walked away from the room. All the performer had on his mind was getting Nakago's heart in the palm of his hand. Unable to imagine that his greatest rival would soon come to the palace, Tomo vanished into the darkness like the wind. * ".....Kaen...." Eichuu whispered, holding his counted money to his chest. With this money, he could set Kaen free. Remembering Kaen's warmth when he had held her that day made his body burn with flames. He took his sword in his hand. "No matter what happens, I will rescue you..." The knight who was madly in love, stood up with more excitement than if he were entering a battle.

Chapter 6- Eerie Mirage "Understand? Be sure not to make any blunders." "Yes, Ma'am" Haku Kaen received a wine tray and glasses from Ba Hinhin, the head of the palace-ladies. Even though she should have been used to holding a wine tray by now, her hands somehow couldn't stop shaking. Yesterday, by Eichuu's advice, she had become a palace-servant girl, and her new job was serving the Emperor. Because there were many guests, and there was going to be a fabulous banquet after the performance on stage, it was very noisy and hectic. Kaen walked towards the stage with butterflies in her stomach. Timidly entering the area behind where the spectators sat, it seemed like she had stepped into a different world. In front of her eyes, a beautiful dance had begun. Her eyes fell on the man dancing center stage. She had heard about Ragun from the head of the palace-ladies, that he was the Emperor's favorite, and the number one star. In the middle of the front row, engrossed in the performance and surrounded by the harem ladies, was the Emperor. Kaen slowly browsed over the other guests. Other servants of the Emperor were lined up neatly behind him. And behind them, taking his watch, was the shogun with his men. The middle aged man sitting in the middle was probably Gi Koyuu, the shogun. And to his right was Eichuu. And then, looking to his left, Kaen's heart pounded loudly. There was no mistaking it. Shining golden hair...because that knight had his face turned away from the stage, Kaen could clearly see his handsome profile. ".....Nakago..." Kaen thanked the heavens. On quivering legs, Kaen walked towards the Emperor's seat. Noticing her, Eichuu smiled softly at her. Kaen returned his gesture with a little bow.

"With this money, I will set Kaen free!" Yesterday, Eichuu had suddenly appeared in her room, taken her to the Okami, and thrown money at her out of his breast. "Who the hell are you?!" Looking at the armored man as she collected the scattered money, the Okami laughed through her nose. "Mr. Knight, don't be stupid. Kaen brings in the most income for this business. And you think you can just make her yours by throwing money at me?" Kaen watched on in shock as Eichuu pulled his sword out of its sheath. "With that kind of talk, I assume you plan on using this girl for the rest of her life! Kaen should have already repaid you ten times what she's worth with all the work she's done!" Saying that, he thrust his sword at the Okami's face. "Eek!..." The Okami slowly backed away. "Don't you realize who I am?! I am Kutoh’s second in command to the shogun, Eichuu! Have you forgotten how many times I have saved his village when it was attacked?!" "S...second in command...to the...shogun...?!" With a glance at the sputtering Okami, Eichuu pulled at Kaen's hand. And then, they mounted onto his horse and started to ride towards the palace. As they left, the faces of the shocked prostitutes were lined up at the windows. Kaen, who hadn't thought that Eichuu would go so far as to rescue her from the brothel, could only stare on blankly as they rode at full speed on the horse to the palace.

Kaen faced her rescuer and smiled. And her chest felt a jolt of pain. And then, facing the Emperor, she began lining up the wine glasses. "Ohh, I didn't notice you before..."

Shoukitei gazed down at Kaen in fascination. She shrunk down under his lustful grinning face. "...Yes. I am Kaen." "How old are you?" "Eighteen..." "What an innocent-looking girl. Are you still a virgin?" Saying that with a vulgar smile, Shoukitei grabbed Kaen's hand. "You should quit being a palace girl, and enter my harem instead." "No! please stop...your majesty!" When her hand was jerked by the Emperor, she dropped the wine tray, spilling wine all over the Emperor's clothes. "How rude! Holding his majesty's hand like that! Get outta here!" With the yell from one of the middle-aged members of the harem, chaos broke out. Wondering what the commotion was all about, even the performers on stage stopped dancing. "Please forgive me!" Kaen pleaded, bowing her head to the floor. "Ah, well, I forgive you...the pure girl was just frightened. Right?" Shoukitei, apparently not bothered by Kaen's act of rudeness, settled down the noise. Timidly lifting her head, Kaen saw Eichuu's pale face before her. She looked away. Her eyes fell on Nakago, still as handsome as he was when she had first seen him. But his apathetic expression had not changed one bit. "....Please excuse me..." Hastily retreating back to the wall where she had come from, Kaen looked up at the stage. The performers who had stopped mid-performance seemed to be getting back together again. Her eyes were drawn to a mysterious gleam in Ragun's eyes as he danced center stage.

When those gleaming eyes fell on Nakago, Kaen's heart pounded uneasily. She remembered what the head of the palace ladies had told her. "Ragun is really the Seiryuu Seishi, Tomo. He's handsome isn't he." That evening, Eichuu, who had been pacing anxiously back and forth inside his room, ran up to the visitor who had come into his room. "Kaen" "I’m sorry for being so late" "No problem. Come, sit down." He gently took her hand and sat her onto his seat. "I really and truly thank you for rescuing me from that place. I will never forget your kindness as long as I live. I will work and pay you the money back as soon as I can, so…" Kaen thanked the young man earnestly. "You needn’t do that. I would do anything for you." "Eichuu…" Holding her hand tightly, he slightly edged her over to the bed. "Wait" Kaen said as she gently pushed his hand away. "I was a prostitute. You can do much better than a dirty woman like me" Eichuu shook his head. "No, you’re wrong. When I first saw you, your face wet with tears, you were so beautiful, I didn’t see one bit of dirtiness in you." And once again, he tried to take her into his arms, but she quickly evaded his hands. "I’m sorry...but I have to go and apologize to the Emperor right now." Kaen smiled brightly. "I’ll find some time and come see you later, okay?" Kaen retreated from Eichuu’s room nervously. On the way back to her palace-girl chambers, she passed by the Emperor’s office and sleeping quarters. Naturally, her wanting to see the emperor and apologize to him was just an excuse to get away. She had planned on passing by his room, but when she heard voices coming from the inside, she stopped in her tracks. "Nakago. How nice to see you again" when she heard Shoukitei’s voice, Kaen’s body stiffened. "His Majesty appears to be in good spirits"

"Hmm. So how do you find being a knight? I heard that they were split into three groups and were fighting amongst themselves, but what is going on?" "You needn’t worry. Isn’t competition good for the men, rather than just following the orders of one commander? We shall settle the disorder the country is in, so please relax." Nakago said in a persuasive voice. "Oh. Okay, I’ll leave it up to you." "Yes, your Highness" "Now that that’s out of the way, what do you say tonight, just the two of us" at the hidden meaning under Shoukitei’s words, Nakago suddenly changed. "I must depart early tomorrow. I am terribly sorry, but I must leave now." At the sound of Nakago’s clanking boots, Kaen quickly hid herself behind a pillar. After a while, Nakago left the Emperor’s room. His emotionless face held unpleasantness, scorn, ridicule, those feelings could be seen clearly. And on his forehead, the character "kokoro" was glowing. Without thinking, Kaen leaped out in front of Nakago. "Please wait!" Nakago stopped walking and looked down at the prostrated girl at his feet. The girl raised her face and spoke. "Do you not remember? Six years ago, you rescued me near Chouzokugen village! Without even raising an eyebrow, Nakago stared down at the girl. "I remember nothing of what you speak." Then, Kaen yelled out to Nakago, who was about to go on down the hall. "Wait!" Stopping his walking again, Nakago slowly turned around. "Thanking me once was good enough." Kaen sadly watched Nakago disappear down the hall. What had she been expecting? Did she really expect Nakago to be just as glad to see her again? Even if he weren’t, he could have at least spoken to her more nicely. It seemed as though what he had done had disappeared from his memory completely. Kaen had collapsed on the floor in despair, but then raised her head. "He had

said ‘Thanking me once was good enough.’" Maybe he remembered how she had thanked him back then. The flame of hope once again ignited in Kaen’s heart. And in another nearby shadow, Eichuu clenched his fists. It took all his strength to suppress his shock and anger. He who had only just rescued Kaen, after just seeing that scene, now knew the reason for her actions. She didn’t love him. The one she loved was the one who saved her six years ago, who she had continued to love ever since then. And she had used him to get to this palace. When he had suggested that she look for a place to stay outside of the palace, she had insisted on living there. Now he knew why. It was because when he first went to the brothel that night and got drunk, she had heard about Nakago from his own mouth. And when he had seen her crying, it must have been because she was thinking about Nakago. "Why?? Why that bastard?!!" unable to handle the jealousy that was burning inside of him, Eichuu clenched his fists even harder. And then, he stared at the blood that came from them. And in another part of the hallway, another person had been observing the scene. "Who is that woman?" then he remembered the woman who had spilled wine all over the Emperor at his performance that day. "Hmph. This is no good." Tomo folded his arms. "Well, a little girl like that could never understand Nakago’s feelings." Saying that, he grinned. A few days later… Nakago raised his eyebrows at the intruder who had once again come into his room. "I told you, you have no business with me." Not saying a word, Tomo shuffled over to Nakago. He pulled a shell-like object out of his gaudy bag. "I call this "shin". Today I would like to show you the remainder of what my power is." "...hm" Nakago’s eyes were glazed. "Ready? Just take a look into this shell. You can meet an old friend." Inside the shin, a ghost-like thing appeared. When Nakago looked into the shin, the room the two were in suddenly vanished. The screams of many people were ringing all around. On the ground, mercilessly slain bodies were piling up, and here and there, flames were rising up.

That was the village where the Hin race had lived. Inside the grim massacre scene, Tomo and Nakago were standing. "What in the world?" "This is your memories. Memories of your cruel, tragic past." Nakago glared at Tomo. "Come, look on. I believe you might notice some things you didn’t know about before." Tomo said quietly. The slayings that would make one want to cover ones eyes continued on. From one of the homes, a young girl came flying out. And then, noticing her, a few soldiers came running after her. A woman who had been in safety ran up to the girl and threw her arms around her. "Oh, this is your childhood friend and mother?" Tomo folded his arms. The woman who was holding the girl turned to run back to safety. But she was stopped by the swords of the soldiers. And then the woman looked at the boy who was drawn up to his full height. When she saw the blue character on his forehead, her face stiffened. Blue flames were rising up from the boy’s body. The woman threw the girl away from her with all her strength. And then, the soldiers gathered on top of the woman. "Motherrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!" a tremendous explosion shook the earth in time with the boy’s scream. "I see. This was where your Seishi powers began." Tomo looked at Nakago, who had been standing quietly. "Your mother must have been surprised when she found out you were a Seiryuu Seishi. The fact that the boy she bore who was hated and destroyed by Kutoh, would be a Seiryuu Seishi, living to protect Kutoh… "What a pity that you killed your mother because you were unable to control your power. And naturally your mother probably hates you for that."

Kaen, feeling lost, knocked on the door. She knew she couldn’t keep refusing to see Eichuu forever. She didn’t care how he felt about her. She didn’t care if he spoke to her coldly. If she could only let him know how she really felt about him. With those feelings in mind, Kaen knocked on Nakago’s door once again. No answer. She softly opened the door.

It seemed as though the inside of this room were another dimension. And then, things going on in there and watching it all were Nakago and Tomo. With her mouth stuck open, Kaen could only stand by the door and watch the scene before her. The scene inside of the shin changed once again. The palace courtyard. The girl who Nakago’s mother had rescued, who was the only captured member of the Hin race who refused suicide, was tied up and gagged, facing them. "Oh my, my, the last scene was good, but this is good too. In the past, you were a slender, beautiful boy." Tomo giggled. The emperor, annoyed at the boy who only stood still, motioned to the executioner. From an opening in the shivering boy’s clothes, a shining, blue, pearl-like stone could be seen. The girl-prisoner’s eyes fell on it. And then, she smiled gently. The merciless blade fell upon her. "Tariaaaaaa!!!!" and then, once again, an explosion shook the earth. "Ironic, isn’t it. Even though this time you managed to only use your powers against the enemy, as it turned out, you just stood by and watched your friend die" Tomo continued to talk proudly. "That must have been frightening. Because you had killed your mother earlier. You must not have been able to do the same thing again, right?" Nakago just stood there silently. With bright red nails, Tomo pointed at Nakago’s neck. "I also know the story behind that pearl around your neck." At those words, Nakago looked sharply at Tomo. His blue eyes gleamed with a strange light for a second. "That girl, noticing the pearl just before she died, seemed to smile. Why do you suppose that is? Is there a wonderful story behind this pearl?" Nakago’s eyes shone with hate. Ignoring this, Tomo continued. "I know everything about you. But you needn’t worry. I am on your side to the end. I, like you, am a human living in the darkness." Tomo said. "Bringing back memories in my shin is hardly anything. Well, what shall we do next? I have an extensive menu. Your secret with the Emperor? Or perhaps…" Nakago’s hand slapped the shin out of Tomo’s hand. "Get out of here."

"What are you doing here?" Kaen came back to her senses as her arm was pulled. From behind the door to Nakago’s room, Eichuu had been angrily watching her. Kaen, who had just watched Nakago’s past through Tomo’s magic, was numbed into silence." Never mind, come here!" and then, Kaen was pulled roughly into Eichuu’s room and pushed onto the floor. "Eichuu...I have to tell you..." "Don’t try to make excuses." Eichuu’s shoulders were shaking up and down in anger. This Eichuu seemed almost like a different man than the one who had rescued her from the brothel. "Did you go to Nakago’s room to sell yourself to him? Yeah, that’s what it was, you’re a pro when it comes to manipulating men." "Well, listen up. The man you love won’t take a woman partner. He was the Emperor’s plaything for a long time." Kaen glared at Eichuu. Was that what Tomo had mentioned earlier about Nakago’s secret with the emperor? "That’s how he rose into power; that dirty bastard. Don’t you get it?! Even now, he’s probably rubbing his ass against that gay-bastard, Ragun. I don’t know anything about him being a Seiryuu Seishi, but what I do know is that he’s a shit-faced, pride-less, bastard! Why can’t you understand that?!" "You’re wrong!" "Why am I wrong?!" "That man is Nakago, he is not dirty" Grabbing Kaen from off the floor, Eichuu slammed her onto the bed. "Do you think that jerk can make you happy?!" Eichuu, who had Kaen pinned down, stared at her fiercely. "You are my woman! I won’t let you betray me!" "Stop, please!" Even her strongest resistance couldn’t stand up to a man’s strength. "Don’t fight back! I won’t hand you over to him!" pinning Kaen down on the bed, Eichuu bent over her. It’s no use, the heavens must have granted me with punishment… But then a mysterious power flowed through Kaen’s body. And then, suddenly, the savage glowing in Eichuu’s eyes disappeared. And not just that. Letting go of Kaen’s body, he fell asleep. His sleeping face was peaceful with joy. "Kaen...ah…Kaen" he mumbled deliriously.

Kaen was confused by this sudden turn of events. What was that hot thing that her body had just been blessed with? It seemed to be a mysterious power that allowed her to control men. Then, she caught her breath when she saw her left thigh from under her disordered robe. There was the character "fusa" shining brightly on her thigh. Kaen softly touched her hand to the character. It seemed to be pulsating with heat, almost like a heart. "I am...I am...Seiryuu Seishi, Soi...." Kaen, who had been sold to the brothel at age ten, used as a prostitute for years, and who had been longing for that far off man, Nakago, for all those years, had at the age of eighteen, finally discovered her power. Forgetting her former fear of the man sleeping peacefully next to her, she continued to gaze at the mark on her body.

Chapter 7- Seiryuu’s Vow

"What did you say?! Could you say that one more time" Shoukitei’s shrill voice echoed throughout his office. "Yes," Gi Koyuu told the Emperor once again in a low voice. "I believe that Nakago is dangerous." Showing his distressed emotions, he continued slowly. "Ever since he asked to be in the military at age 15, I have kept my eye on him. His talent at being a knight and a Seiryuu Seishi, and his good looks and charm to add on, are causing the troops to gradually be charmed by him, and move into his group." "I know that" "If this goes on, I fear that all the soldiers will eventually be under Nakago’s command." "And what is wrong with that?" Shoukitei asked with a snort from his nose. "Maybe you just aren’t good enough? I have always wished for someone with a competitive spirit such as Nakago’s. If he doesn’t proceed on to shogun, it wouldn’t make any sense. Just what about him is dangerous?!" Koyuu glared at the Emperor’s eyes. "He has limitless powers that override mine. His powers are frighteningly cruel and merciless" "I don’t understand what you’re trying to say" "Nakago plans to get revenge on Kutoh." Gi Koyuu said clearly. "Revenge?" on hearing that, the Emperor chuckled. "What are you saying? Revenge? Nakago is probably the most loyal man to this country." Koyuu shook his head. "Does his Majesty forget what Nakago has been through? His birthplace was destroyed by Kutoh, and his only friend left in the world was executed before his very eyes. However" Gi Koyuu wanted to mention the fact that Nakago had become his lover, and had been treated like a dog, but he held his tongue. "However, even though Nakago was a member of the Hin race, he is also a Seiryuu Seishi. Because of that, he was able to live on. So what makes you think he didn’t forget about the past and pledge loyalty to Kutoh?" "I used to believe that, too. However, if you think about it, it was because of his Seishi powers that his mother was killed and that he watched his only friend die. I think he must resent his Seishi powers more than anything" Shoukitei still didn’t seem to agree with him. "That couldn’t be true." Remembering how submissive Nakago had been to him, Shoukitei laughed through his nose.

Gi Koyuu told the Emperor firmly in a low voice. "If he hates Kutoh, it wouldn’t make sense for him to pledge his loyalty. What Nakago had vowed at that time was to use his place and powers as a Seiryuu Seishi to take this country as his own." "Impossible!" "Even now, he still worships Tenkou behind our backs. His grudge with Kutoh for stealing everything has been growing bigger and bigger with each day" "You, you, you’re lying!" Shoukitei, who had finally grown worried, stood up from his throne and began to walk on wobbly legs. "Your highness. We still have time to change things." "What do you mean we still have time?" the Emperor looked imploringly at the shogun. "We could still overthrow Nakago’s army." The emperor caught his breath. "Overthrowing would mean, killing Nakago?!" Gi Koyuu silently nodded. "B-but, Nakago is a Seiryuu Seishi! If we kill him…" "Your Highness, I will tell you once more: Nakago is dangerous. Even if he calls on Seiryuu, it won’t be for the sake of the country" * "Please sign your name heeeere (heart-mark). "To: Ms. Ba Hinhin, with love" "Okay, okay, Ms. Pinpin, right?" "It’s Hinhinnnn" the head of the palace ladies clutched the signed piece of paper to her chest. "Ahhhh! I’m so happy!!" "I’m next!" "I was first!" Ragun forced a smile on his face as the palace girls all crowded around him, demanding his autograph.

"Mr. Ragun, with all that thick makeup, how do you care for your skin?" While moving his quill swiftly, Ragun answered. "Huh? Ah, you have a point there. Well, I get a lot of sleep, to tone down stress" "Is there a meaning behind your looooong feathers?" "Ah! Hey! Leave those alone!" "Okay, I get it, these must be a sort of Seiryuu Seishi weapon!" "Waaaah, how cool!" "I heard you have your Seiryuu symbol on your abdomen? I wanna seeeee it! Please! Please!" "No, you mustn’t look! Don’t raise my clothes up like that!" While being fondled by the palace ladies, Ragun let out a shrill scream. Then his eyes caught the figure of one of the palace ladies, walking alone in the hallway. "Okay, ladies!" while tearing the ameba-like hands of the palace ladies off of him, he clapped his hands loudly, as if ending a performance. "That’s all for todaaaay!" After the other palace ladies quieted down, Tomo waited for the other palace lady to approach. As she came close to Tomo, meaning to pass him, sparks seemed to fly between their eyes. "Hey, you. You saw ‘that’ in Nakago’s room, didn’t you?" Kaen stopped in her tracks. "It seems as though you are falling in love with Nakago." Kaen shivered as she stood before the eerie man. "Having sympathy for his dreadful past, have you become unable to forget him?" Kaen glared back at him. "Hmhmhm. Shall I tell you something? Nakago does not need sympathy. What he needs is a deeper and more violent hate-power." "Hate-power?" Kaen frowned.

Tomo said "Miss, I won’t say anything bad about you; just keep away from Nakago. There is nothing romantic about a palace-girl being secretly in love with the Vice-Shogun." "You mind your own business!" At those words, Tomo shrunk back a little. "What the hell are you planning on doing?! Just shut up and listen! You and your blahblahblahblah" Surprised at the cunning lines coming from her own mouth, Kaen continued. "And what about you? Even though Nakago doesn’t like you, you just don’t know when to leave him alone! And on top of that, your power stinks!" "S-stinks??" Tomo’s arms began to quiver in humiliation. "Enjoying showing someone something he hates, and making him suffer! You’re just a smelly asshole!" And with that final, snappy remark, Kaen walked away proudly, as if she were cutting through the wind. "That bitch!" as he watched the palace girl walk away, he stomped his foot. But then, tilting his head, his nostrils perked up. "Hm? I smell something strange…that girl" then he folded his arms. "This is the dazzling smell of a fellowman. If I were a normal man, I would have noticed this in a flash" Kaen came upon the barracks. It had been a week since the mark had appeared on her body. Inside of her, something had been gradually changing. All those days she had continued to live in poverty, been abused by the Okami of the brothel, and having had to amuse her customers, she had always lived obeying others. But now was different; she had a power. And, ironically, her power was seducing men. To her, who had been a plaything to men all those years, the heavens had finally blessed. And what lifted her spirit up more than anything was the fact that her Seishi-hood linked her to Nakago. Even if he never loved her back, she could always be by his side. Kaen knocked on the door to Eichuu’s room. "Ah, Kaen!" The man let her in his room in a good mood. "What’s the matter, Eichuu? Did something good happen?" Grinning, Eichuu took Kaen’s hands. "Everything is fixed now. Hahahahahah."

Kaen cocked her head in confusion. Ever since she had come there, Eichuu had been completely obsessed with her, and had no interest in his job as a knight. Noticing his decline in leadership, men had been continuing to switch to Nakago’s group. "Come," sitting down on the bed, Kaen smiled voluptuously and took his hands. Eichuu, with spellbound emotions, got close to Kaen, and something inside of him collapsed. "You’re a good girl.." While gently fingering his hair, Kaen asked him, "Heeeey, Eichuu. What’s fixed?" With closed eyes, the man smiled happily. "We’re going to kill Nakago." To prevent her underdeveloped magic from wearing off from the shock, Kaen calmed her self. Really? How’re you going to do that?" "Earlier, I talked with Gi Koyuu about teaming up. Since Nakago poses a threat, we think it’d be a good idea to get rid of him now before he can cause any trouble. I had been on Koyuu’s side from the very beginning. If Nakago hadn’t come along, he wouldn’t have been deserted. Of course, I got his approval." "So it seems as though it’ll be farewell to Nakago. He who had always been above me, laughing at me, but that’ll all end, too…now that you’ve become my woman" Eichuu smiled again happily. Leaving Eichuu to sleep on his bed, Kaen changed her clothes and left the room. Walking down the hall of the barracks, Kaen stopped at the room at the end of the hall and softly tapped at the door. "Enter" Upon entering the room, Kaen dropped to her knee and bowed her head. Her body was clothed in a sexy armor-costume that exposed her thighs. "I am Haku Kaen. I apologize for earlier." "Hmph. Have even the palace ladies begun to request to enter the military?" At Nakago’s cold words, Kaen dropped her gaze on her clothes. "I thought this would be proper, so I made it...in order to call on Seiryuu, as a proud Seiryuu Seishi."

"Seiryuu Seishi?" Nakago narrowed his eyes. "I am Soi. I awoke seven days ago" Soi told him with sparkling eyes. Nakago smiled. Even without the Miko, the fact that the Seishi were appearing before him pleased him. But he said, "As long as the Miko is not with us, we have no need to see each other." "No." Soi disagreed strongly. "You are in danger. I came here to inform you." "Oh?" It seemed as though Nakago had gained a little interest. "Gi Koyuu’s and Eichuu’s troops are joining forces, and plan to kill you." At Soi’s report, Nakago folded his arms. "I see." Noticing the grin appear on his face, Soi widened her eyes. "Aren’t you going to do anything about it?" "I don’t need to do anything. If they want to join forces, so be it." "You can’t! Their forces will outnumber you. Even if you use your Seishi powers" "It doesn’t matter." While looking at the unhappy man’s left arm, which was bandaged, Soi lowered her head tiredly. "You are injured. Did you go off into battle today? You must be tired." Saying that, Soi slipped her armor off. Standing before Nakago, naked as the day she was born, she told Nakago. "Please make love to me." "…Soi…" Soi smiled lightly. "I can use it to increase your ki. ....It is my Seishi power." * Burying her face in Nakago’s chest, Soi whispered. "I was told that the scars on your arms were from trying to save your friend." "You are really…" "I have received your ki. I do not need a bedtime story."

Soi sat up quietly. "You must think I’m a dirty woman. I was a prostitute for six years." While staring at the ceiling, Nakago answered. "I was treated the same way. But I don’t suffer from such trifling things." Soi looked at the man resentfully. "I’m going to rest a bit. You should return to your room." And with that, Nakago closed his eyes.

Soi stared down at the man’s muscular chest. And from her eyes, a teardrop fell. She had been rescued by this man when she was twelve. Her tears were the same as those she shed when she had served her first customer. She had been living with the plan of giving her body and soul to this man. And for that purpose, she had kept her heart pure. But he hadn’t accepted her feelings. Even though their bodies had been joined, there had been no love involved, that was their empty link as Seiryuu Seishi. "Why have you closed your heart off like that" Soi asked the sleeping Nakago meekly. "You were supposed to be gentler than anyone" Soi softly touched the arms that had tried to save his friend when she was executed. Those were the same arms that had saved her, too. He still held in his heart the sin of not being able to save his friend. Soi remembered what Eichuu had said earlier. "Dangerous." What did that mean? And also, Tomo had said, that what Nakago needed was hate-power. Soi felt a huge, evil power that was slowly pulling Nakago’s soul away from hope. Soi did not want to let that power take Nakago away. Soi resolved this in her heart.

"If I can just…if I can just bring this man back somehow…" the pearl around Nakago’s neck shone brilliantly. "This must have a good story behind it" Soi remembered Nakago’s words. What is the story behind it? Probably one from his old village and Nakago wore it on his body. He still had not forgotten his village, or those who had loved him. Come to think of it, did this man ever have a father? While thinking this, Soi looked at Nakago’s sleeping face. It was then that she saw it. From Nakago’s sleeping eyes, a small tear came rolling down his cheek. "You were dreaming, weren’t you. A dream of your village? About your gentle mother? About your friend? Don’t worry. You are still crying. Even still, your tears are beautiful, Nakago. "Sleep well. No matter what happens, I will always be watching over you" Soi’s chest began to shake. She believed that inside of this man, warm blood still flowed…

Chapter 8- Confession of Suffering Tomo continued to grind his teeth in the darkness. "That palace-girl...turned out to be Soi and on top of that, her Seishi power was bouchuu magic, which

allowed her to manipulate men. And using that power, she got to have Nakago and…kkkkkkk" Having been peeping in from outside Nakago’s room on the shocking scene, Tomo was, as usual, unable to hide the shock. He stayed for a while with a fist around his heart, but then he came back to his senses and tried to cheer himself up. "I mustn’t worry. There was no love in there. If there IS love, I have it." As Tomo turned his back on the room, another person appeared suddenly in front of him. "My, my, Ragun. Your un-painted face is also beautiful (heart). Why are you such a handsome boy?!" "Uh, you are, Miss Pinpin." "It’s Hinhin." The leader of the palace girls, Ba Hinhin inched her horse-like face up to Tomo. "Are you out for a night walk? Ahh, what a coincidence. My body somehow felt overheated and I couldn’t sleep, so I came out here for some fresh night air" Tomo cautiously backed away from the woman who was snorting fiercely through her nose. "Miss Hinhin, please calm yourself" "No! I understand now! Twenty years have passed since I became a palace girl at age fifteen. I was drawn to that dashing man, Gi Koyuu, and then I fell madly in love with that mysterious Nakago, and yet, I held onto my pure, beautiful chastity, because of you; it was because I was going to encounter you some day!" "Hi—Hin..." "Ragun!!" It took a lot of effort for Tomo to restrain the lady who had been coming at him with a million horse-power. Then, he told her, "Come, let us dance! (heart)" Taking her hand, Tomo began to casually stomp a dance step. His eyes returned to their normal coolness. "Ahh...Ragun. You’re so handsome." Facing the woman who was spellbound, dancing clumsily, Tomo showed her what was in the palm of his hand with a flourish. "This is the palace stage. We can begin our celebration of love." Then he quickly lead her towards a big

tree." Okay? This shin can show a person any illusion. Come, please enjoy yourself with it until morning." Gazing coldly at the woman who was madly clinging onto the tree, dreaming happily, Tomo left that area. "Damn, this night is just full of obstacles." Grumbling as he walked away, he encountered yet another person. He narrowed his eyes, and tilted his head curiously. This person looked as though he would be entertaining, too. His blood began to burn hotly in an instant. Tomo, who had been silently passed by the man, looked up at the Seiryuu mausoleum that the man had disappeared into. Stepping into the hushed mausoleum of Seiryuu, Gi Koyuu quietly knelt before the statue of Kutoh’s protector. He remained with his head bowed for a while, but finally, raising his face, he began to speak in a mournful voice. "I have continued to curse off fate… during these past thirteen years, there has not been a day where my heart was at rest." The statue, not saying a word, continued to stare down at Gi Koyuu. "However, I was able to bear it. I had a reason why I must bear it." Koyuu’s voice sounded like it held a lifetime of suffering. "I had been planning on keeping the secret in the bottom of my heart until I die. And even now, that has not changed. But now, the heavens have granted me with a new decision and perhaps the heavens have also granted me with a true punishment." he bit his lips silently. "I, not as a human, but as a knight of Kutoh, have pledged loyalty to Kutoh." Inside the mausoleum, only Seiryuu heard his secret, and kept it. "I have limits. As the Shogun, I can’t stop all the country’s problems from spreading." "My duty is not only to save Kutoh, but to save the world by nipping the evil power that threatens to lead the world to disaster in the bud." And then, he looked up at the god. "Seiryuu, at this rate, I might end up sealing you off. But I can’t do anything about it anymore" Koyuu said. "The peace of a country is something that its members make. I firmly believe that people loving other people, and loving feelings lead to peace." And then, Kutoh’s Shogun, his eyes overflowing with grief, told Seiryuu, "As a human, as a man, I did not plan to pledge my loyalty to Kutoh, it was because the woman I loved, and had continued to love, was, while living on Kutoh’s soil, oppressed and destroyed by Kutoh because she was from another race." Remembering the day when the Hin race had been destroyed without his knowing, Koyuu’s voice wavered.

"No matter what pain I go through, those feelings will never change. I loved her from the bottom of my heart." The moonlight filtered through the window, causing Seiryuu’s eyes to glitter with anger. Even unable to yield to those angry eyes, the man whispered the woman’s name. "Matuta." Tomo’s body, which had been pressed against the other side of the wall of the mausoleum, suddenly perked up. "Matuta?!" Wasn’t that the name of the woman in Nakago’s dream? "How interesting." he smiled in satisfaction. "So that’s what it was." His face collapsed into a smile. "This makes your anger complete. Ah, how marvelous." With enchanted emotions, Tomo silently left Seiryuu.

Three days later...

Gi Koyuu let his visitor into his room. Nakago silently bowed his head to the Shogun, and glared at Eichuu, who was next to him. "Oh, it seems as though you still haven’t forgotten your manners." Nakago answered to Koyuu’s sarcasm. "What do you mean? You ARE the Shogun of Kutoh." "Ah, but it’s just a title now." Nakago said nothing back. "I have something I want to talk with you about today." Koyuu stared fixedly at Nakago. The blue character was not shining on his forehead. The first time he had seen that character was thirteen years ago. When his friend, who had been named Taria, was executed that day, that character had appeared on his forehead with an almost evil feeling, and had gleamed brightly. Just like last night, Koyuu could clearly see that scene in his head. And also after Nakago had entered the military, among the battles, the scene had appeared in his mind countless times. But ever since then, Koyuu had not seen those powers used again. Nakago had not even used his powers in battle. But even without his powers, Nakago’s power as a knight was far above average. But, on the other hand, there was no imagining how powerful he might be if he were to use his powers. "What do you want, Shogun?" Nakago asked with a thin smile.

"Hey! Watch your mouth!" Eichuu rose his voice. "My, my, since when did you become the Shogun’s little cadet?" "What was that?!" Eichuu, who had been angry from the start, took leave of his senses and grabbed the sword out of his belt, but was stopped by Koyuu. "Calm yourself!" quieting Eichuu, Koyuu once again faced Nakago. "Eichuu understands that the splitting up of our soldiers is meaningless. Well, don’t you think so, too?" Nakago looked at him with a look that said "what are you talking about?". Koyuu continued. "At this rate, the country is in trouble. In order to stop the civil war, we need full military power. I want your help." Nakago stared at Koyuu with cold eyes. "Wasn’t it you who was unable to sustain soldier unity?" "I know that" Nakago said, "Has the position of Shogun become to hard on you now?" "No!" Koyuu said. "I’m doing it for the country." "For the country" as Nakago repeated those words, his character appeared on his forehead. But it quickly disappeared. "I don’t think the country is hopeless." Nakago told the Shogun clearly. "It should be the soldiers who decide who will be their leader, right?" Koyuu told Nakago in a low tone. "I know what your goal is." "Goal?" Nakago looked up at the ceiling. "You’re happy about this country’s civil war and military break up as if it didn’t concern you." "What do you mean?" "You want to rule Kutoh." Gi Koyuu told him. "Now I realize why you didn’t kill the emperor that very day thirteen years ago. Because if you had done that, your revenge would never have been complete." The character on Nakago’s forehead once again began to shine. "You plan on taking control of Kutoh. But after that, Nakago, there’s nothing. Ironic, isn’t it? That the character on your forehead is a mark of defending

Kutoh. You have been planning on using your power for something huge long ago." Nakago, who had been looking down for some time, suddenly looked up. "Shogun, have you forgotten? I told you long ago that I had forgotten about the village I grew up in." Koyuu shook his head. "I had hoped that you had forgotten about your village and would be able to move on. But that’s not true. But that’s for the best. I’m glad it happened that way." Nakago gave him a dubious look. "Even now, you haven’t forgotten about your village or the ones who loved you." "Shogun," Nakago’s blue eyes shot at Koyuu. "I suggest you end this conversation." "Ungh!" A throbbing pain ran through Koyuu’s head. Looking at the Shogun who was pressing his hands to his head, Eichuu yelled. "You bastard! What the hell are you doing?!" Completely ignoring Eichuu, Nakago turned his back on the two men. "I shall take care of the civil war, so do not worry." "Nakago!" Nakago’s feet stopped at Koyuu’s voice." You are a human. Were you not loved and raised by your mother?" And then, Koyuu said "You also had a father." Without turning around, Nakago answered "I never thought of that possibility." And with that, he left Koyuu’s room. "Why did you let that bastard do that!" Eichuu turned upon Koyuu as soon as Nakago left. "Weren’t you going to tell him something different?! That we joined arms in order to destroy him??" Koyuu raised his eyes off the floor. "I’m sorry. I just wanted to make one final chance to change Nakago, but I suppose there’s no hope." Facing Eichuu, he nodded. And then, facing him in a seat, without looking at him, Koyuu asked Eichuu "By the way, what do you plan on doing about your woman?" Eichuu stood stunned with his face all red.

"Everyone knows about it." "Um, yes...well, that's...I think of her as my future bride...and if things calm down, I plan on marrying..." "I see..." Koyuu could not look at Eichuu, who was apparently confused. That man was going crazy because of Nakago. And then, Koyuu asked himself. Was the one who made Nakago go mad, Koyuu himself... * "Miss Kaen!..." When Kaen, who had been hanging up the laundry to dry, heard her name called, she was startled. "...Or shall I call you Soi?" Tomo, who had been hiding himself in the shadows of a tree, appeared in front of Soi with a wry grin. "You..." "But I think that costume of yours was a little too skimpy." Realizing that he must have been spying on her somehow, Soi frowned. "My costume is nothing compared to your sick costume and makeup!"

Tomo waved his finger at her with a ‘tsk-tsk’. "You don't understand, do you. The coloring on my face is significant. Indigo is artifice, black is loyalty, and it is all balanced harmoniously with gold..." The palace lady hanging up the laundry had been ignoring him and pretended to be engrossed in her chore. Tomo slid up close to her. "And I had no idea that your magic would be something so vulgar. You must be ashamed of it." ".....You saw, didn't you...?!" Soi glared at the peeping-Tom as she clenched her fists. "No matter what you say, you were a prostitute, my dear. Your power suits you. I suppose you would like to use it on me at least once, but I am terribly sorry; I must decline." Soi narrowed her eyes at Tomo, who was chuckling. "You...must be a...ho....mo...?" Kaen remembered when Eichuu had called him a "gay bastard". "Not 'homo,’-- 'Tomo'". Soi looked upon the man making fun of her with eyes full of hate. "So that means...you and Nakago..." A cold chill ran through her body. Tomo continued speaking with an air of pride in his voice. "Understood? No matter how much you give your body to Nakago, nothing will come of it. Because there is a deep darkness in his heart that not even you can break through." "A deep darkness...you say?" "Yes. It comes from the cruel past of his which you mistakenly saw. And because I know of this, I can help him. I can increase his strength to twice or three times as much as it is now. "What the hell are you talking about?!" Quickly slipping away from Kaen, who was about to slap him, Tomo stuck his long tongue out. "Beats me. But waiting for the answer is part of the funnnnn!" and with that, the performer's body wavered and disappeared. Kaen stood still with her hand painfully pressed to her chest. She had already informed Nakago of the danger that faced him, but she was still worried about him. And on top of that, Tomo had just increased her worries with what he had just told her... Yet another man appeared before Haku Kaen.

"You are Miss Kaen, I believe..." "Y-yes..." The man who looked somewhat familiar to her looked down at her seriously. "That was just Ragun from Gyougokuza you were talking to, right? Do you know him?" Koyuu questioned Kaen. "Uh...not really..." At the girl's vague answer, Koyuu pulled his dagger out of its sheath. "He is a Seiryuu Seishi, Tomo. And you are also one of them, too?" Koyuu continued to Kaen, who had lost her words. "And you are also using your powers to manipulate Eichuu, aren't you?" Kaen was clearly stunned. What was he planning to do with her after he found something like that out? "Are you...are you going to kill me?" The girl asked the Shogun. He shook his head. "You are also...seeing another Shogun, Nakago..." "When I saw you for the first time, carrying wine to the audience at the palace theater, you were staring at him...the look in your eyes was very sad..." "Shogun..." "You probably weeded the information of the plan to destroy Nakago out of Eichuu, and then told Nakago about it, right?" Unable to think of a good answer, Kaen folded her arms. "There is no problem with that. I am a knight. When I fight him, I plan to do it face to face." Looking up at Koyuu, Kaen begged him. "I beg of you! Please don't cause a fight between the soldiers. I know you believe that Nakago poses a threat, but...that's not true! That man saved me long ago. That's the kind of nice man he is!" On hearing Nakago's good deed of the past, Koyuu smiled. "Is that so..." "Please! He is...just closing off his heart!" "I know that....but, it's too late..."

And then, Koyuu told Kaen. "If I am defeated by Nakago, may I ask that you take care of him?" "....Huh?" Kaen stared at the Shogun with wide eyes. "...Take care of him?..." Koyuu silently nodded. "What do you mean?...And also...why....would you have me..." Without answering Kaen's questions, Koyuu silently left her.

The next day...

Nakago, who had been called by the Emperor, listened to his orders with a fire in his eyes. "It appears as though the guerrillas will make a move tomorrow. I'm leaving them up to you." "Understood. Your Majesty..." He spoke to the Emperor whose eyes were fixed on him. "I promise to return with good news."

Chapter 9- The Indigo Pearl of Seiran The next morning, Kaen, who had awakened to an unfamiliar noise, rushed out of her room. Koyuu's and Eichuu's soldiers were lined up in front of the barracks. When Soi rushed over to Nakago's room and flung the door open, she found it empty and was paralyzed to the spot. "If you're looking for the Vice-Shogun, he left earlier this morning with his troops" one of the palace men informed her. "....Nakago..." Kaen returned to the courtyard. Pushing herself through the soldiers and horses who were causing a noisy clamor, she looked for Eichuu. "Eichuu...!" Eichuu, who had been mounted on his horse in the courtyard, rushed over to Soi, his face all smiles, when he heard her call him. "Kaen... did you come to see me off?" "Where are you going?!" Eichuu smiled at the desperate girl with his mouth closed. "Don't worry. I'll be back right away. I'll be successful. If this all ends..." "Please! Stop! Don't fight your own men!" "....Kaen..." Eichuu lowered his head a bit. How did Kaen know about this?! The girl continued to scream to the soldier on his horse desperately. "I can explain Nakago! He's not the kind of man you think he is! So, please stop this!" The smile disappeared on Eichuu's face and was replaced with confused emotions. "What...do you...mean..." Haku Kaen dropped swiftly to her knee in the middle of the courtyard. "I...did something terrible to you... And you can do anything to me that you'd like ... Just...just, just please don't do anything to hurt him..." Eichuu's arms which were gripping the reigns, shivered. This woman had not happily become his. Was he the only one who had been happy spending those nights with her?... But looking back at it now, all that had happened between them seemed like an illusion... "Who the hell....are you?" Eichuu yelled.

"That woman is Seiryuu Seishi, Soi." Tomo appeared suddenly in front of Eichuu. "She's Soi?!" "Exactly. It seemed as though you fell victim to her magic very nicely. You poor man..." Eichuu looked down at Kaen with bloodthirsty eyes. He now knew why this woman knew of his plan to destroy Nakago. She had used her magic on him and had asked and found out from him. "...You...would go that far....for Nakago...?!!" As Eichuu saw Kaen continuing to bow to him, he spat. And then, with his body shivering, he yelled out. "You just wait there. I will...bring his head back to you!" While raising dust around Kaen, Eichuu's soldiers stomped off into the distance. She slowly raised her head. Tomo had somehow disappeared, too. Koyuu's soldiers started off after Eichuu's soldiers. Koyuu, who was at the lead, stopped his horse in front of Kaen, and looked at the girl, who remained collapsed on the ground. Koyuu's eyes seemed to be repeating what he had told her yesterday. The Shogun raised the signal to his troops to leave. When he did this, Kaen saw something glimmer from underneath his armor. She forgot her words when she saw it. What was glowing bright and blue was... what she had seen on that night when she made her painful vow, glowing on her darling's chest...it was the same pearl... * Nakago stood alone. The cloak above his armor was waving in the breeze. Inside the village that had become one piece of barren land, the lake in the middle of the forest was the only thing that remained unchanged, with water glittering divinely, inviting him over. His mother appeared in front of him, smiling. And in front of his mother, stood Taria. She was holding flowers to her chest. Taria came running up to him. She shyly shoved the flowers up to him. "Happy birthday..." That's right... twenty-four years ago on this day, he was born into this world... He reached a hand out to the bouquet that the ten-year-old Taria was holding out to him. But as he did this, the illusion disappeared. He smiled slightly. The character on his forehead shone brilliantly.

This place is everything... Fire began to burn in his heart. But it wasn't a warm fire, but a cold, cruel fire of hate. "Just watch me, Tenkou..." Nakago whispered to the sky above the lake. By the time Soi, who had been vacantly standing still, had returned to her senses, the soldiers had left the palace, and everything was quiet. With one glance at the palace, she took off running. If she could just somehow stop the soldiers... If she could just stop the fight between Nakago and Koyuu...While pressing a hand to her chest which seemed as though it would collapse, she continued to run down the long halls. She finally understood the meaning of Tomo's words. A deep, deep darkness... everything about Nakago's cruel past, wet with blood. In Nakago's eyes, having been destroyed along with his mother and friends would have been better. But since he was born as a Seiryuu Seishi, his life had become stained with tragedy. There was no telling how heavy the pain in his heart had become these thirteen years. And there was no mistaking that he knew this. He was a person born between a woman of the Hin race, and a man from Kutoh. His hate towards those who had destroyed his village and those who had loved him, and his hate towards the man who had made his life a living hell since then were the same. However, even while he was hating, he must have kept searching, and searching for an answer... Arriving in front of the Emperor's quarters and shoving the guard in front of it aside, Soi shoved the door open. "Who are you...!" The Emperor's face changed color. Walking towards the emperor who had been awake all night by wine and his harem, she said. "I am Kaen, the palace girl who blundered in front of his majesty days ago. Today, I came to apologize about that..." and then, without hesitation, she took her clothes off in front of the emperor. "Come, accept my apology." The shocked emperor gulped when he saw the voluptuous, naked woman before his eyes. * A group of soldiers so loud they seemed to shake the earth, came close to Nakago, who had been standing quietly by the lake-side. Nakago slowly turned to face them. The soldiers stopped in front of him. The two leaders in front stepped down from their horses. One of the two stepped towards Nakago.

"Where are your soldiers?" Koyuu asked Nakago. "They returned to the palace. I have plenty of power on my own, wouldn't you say?" Koyuu indicated the troops behind him to Nakago, who was smirking smugly "Even if you use your powers, I don't think you can win." "I never use my powers in a battle. You know this well, yourself." Koyuu was silent. Why was this man so crazy as to fight by himself? "Nakago, I will say this once more." Koyuu said, facing his opponent. "Hate can not disappear with revenge. Can't you work to change the cold hearts of the people of Kutoh who destroyed the Hin race...into warm-hearted people with me?" Nakago continued to stare into Koyuu's eyes for a while. And his shoulders began to move up and down. Koyuu looked at the man in front of him who was continuing to grin wryly at him and bit his lips. "That seems fitting coming from someone who loves romantic things." And after Nakago said this to him, he returned to his normal countenance, and continued. "This setting was a good choice. Are you dirty people planning on destroying my race again on this very spot? Just like you did thirteen years ago?" Koyuu looked down slightly. If he came here...Nakago might remember how innocent he once was...His final...his final prayer did not reach the man at all. "Charge!" Eichuu, unable to wait any longer, yelled from behind the men. * Stepping away from Shoukitei, who was in a deep sleep, Soi fled his sleeping quarters. Running to her room and then changing into her Seiryuu Seishi clothes, she headed towards the stable. But on the way there, she collided with someone while turning a corner. When the one she ran into saw how Soi was dressed, she screamed. "Kaen! why're you dressed like that?! You are just a palace-girl..." But then, that horse of a palace woman noticed Soi's glowing character and went blank.

"If it is all right with you, I will take some time off now." Soi told the lead palace woman and hurried away. "Wait! Do you have a Seishi duty to fulfill?! Then just be nice to Tomo, er, my darling!" Ba Hinhin neighed out behind her. Arriving at the stable, Soi picked out a dapple grey horse and jumped onto it. "Giddiyap!" Soi violently kicked the horse's sides. "We're going to the village with a blue lake! Hurry!" The horse galloped like a hurricane. Soi's muscles still remembered having ridden wild horses as a child. Soi hurried towards the place that Shoukitei had told her about when she used her magic on him. The character on her left thigh glowed strongly as she rode on the horse. * Gi Koyuu looked on vexed at the herd of soldiers that were surrounding him, but then his expression instantly turned into shock. The soldiers who should have been pointing their swords against Nakago had them pointed at him. He whirled around and looked at Nakago. Nakago had withdrawn about ten meters away, and looked at him while smiling coldly. Having suddenly been surrounded by countless soldiers, Koyuu faced Nakago and yelled out. "What is the meaning of this....!" Nakago gestured off with his chin, and from that direction, came a man. "This is the meaning: those soldiers who are ready to attack you are not ready to attack YOU. They are ready to attack NAKAGO." Koyuu looked at the shell-like item that was in the performer's hand. "In their eyes, you are now seen as Nakago." "Is that you power?...." "Yes", Tomo answered proudly. "Instead of wasting his powers, Nakago has borrowed mine. Because it will be much faster this way..."

Tomo faced Nakago and said "You are a smart man. Seeing me use my magic to subdue the head of the palace ladies, you instantly thought of using it for this purpose." Laughing through his nose, Nakago asked Koyuu. "So, how does it feel having your own soldiers turn their swords on you?" The color of despair deepened in Koyuu’s heart. But it was not black, nor grey, but for some reason, a brilliant indigo; the same color as Nakago's eyes....Seiran. "You Bastarrrrddd!!!!" breaking free of the soldiers, Eichuu rushed towards Koyuu with his sword raised. Clang! Koyuu's sword that met with Eichuu's. "Eichuu! Snap out of it!" Even if he screamed at Eichuu, it was futile. Continuing to glare at Koyuu with a long-held grudge, Eichuu yelled. "You think I'm just gonna stand back and let you take over the country, you bastard?!" Eichuu, who had taken the first attack, didn't ask for help from his soldiers, but they closed their circle in on them. Eichuu's eyes were burning with insanity. No matter how hard he had worked, he could never be a better soldier than Nakago. At least, he had wanted to win Kaen over... Nakago had casually stolen everything important to him. Always, he had been over him...laughing at him. "You're a monster! A monster who started the grudge against the Hin race!" "Eichuu!" The two swords clashed violently. Koyuu began to slowly retreat Eichuu, who was possessed with blood-lust. "Dieeeee!!!!!" Koyuu was under his sword for a second, but he did not run away. "Ungh!....." Eichuu, who had been pierced through the stomach, stared at Koyuu.

".......Eichuu." Koyuu called out to the pitiful young man, all the while praying that Eichuu still thought he was Nakago... Thud... With his eyes open, Eichuu collapsed onto the ground with a loud sound. The soldiers surrounding Koyuu stirred up. All their swords seemed to turn upon him in unison. "Wait!" Stopping the soldiers, Koyuu turned to Nakago. "If I hand the soldiers over to you, will you challenge me yourself?" Nakago answered. "As you wish." The soldiers scuffled their feet and widened the circle. In their eyes, Nakago was Koyuu and Koyuu was Nakago. No matter which way it was seen, it was the beginning of a man to man combat between Koyuu and Nakago. Nakago leisurely entered the circle. Facing Koyuu, he smoothly pulled his sword out. "I thank you for training me. However, in this word, only the strongest survive." ".....Nakago." "Let me teach you where true strength comes from." Nakago told Koyuu. "It comes from my hating you...ever since I met you." Koyuu readied his sword. It was the figure of a proud soldier. * A dapple grey horse rushed across the fields of Kutoh. And Soi, who was atop the horse, her hair blowing in the wind, felt a new power surging inside of her. "Nakago!" Her mournful voice, as if reaching up to the heavens, caused the sky above her to be filled completely with clouds. "Nakagoooo!" Crackle!!! Flashes ran through the sky. Two trees, three trees...gradually were split by the thunder.

Boomboomboomboomboom!!!! Inside the storm, Soi continued to kick at the horse. * The two men faced each other silently, their swords drawn. Nakago's expression slowly melted into a smile. His lips that were upturned in a cold smile, jerked slightly. Gi Koyuu.... There could certainly only be one man to be the shogun of Kutoh. And he had certainly granted Nakago with the skills to become a soldier. At the man's perfection, frustration had slowly been welling up inside of Nakago. A man...stronger than anyone...more gentle than anyone... Those words his mother had told him long ago materialized in his brain. "Why don't you try using your Seishi powers?" Koyuu asked Nakago through his eyes. Nakago shook his head slightly. Attacking and shielding, the two blades continued to hit each other violently, causing sparks to fly. Nakago knew that this day would come someday. That the day would come when he would assassinate this man in order to take Kutoh as his own. This was a decision that Nakago had made in his heart the day he entered the military. Which would mean that the day would come when he would have to fight this man to the death like this. Even so, having cheated by using Tomo's powers seemed to make him feel sick. Nakago fought against Gi Koyuu's pure soldier spirit which was pressing into him. Clang! clang! Nakago gazed into the eyes of the man whose sword was clanging against his. Inside Koyuu's cold stare, the deep color of sadness could clearly be seen. It was the same color as his own eyes; a deep blue, Seiran... You will become a man stronger than anyone and more gentle than anyone. Matuta's words once again appeared in Nakago's heart... What is wrong with me? Nakago shook off the doubt that was boiling inside of him.

Tomo suddenly looked up with a start at the sky. Dark clouds were hovering over the once quiet lake, and the waters of the lake seemed to shrink back in fear. The soldiers all rubbed their eyes. What had just happened? Since when did Nakago and Koyuu's bodies switch places?! Seeing what had just happened, Tomo clicked his tongue. This was a vision that could not be shown to all these soldiers forever; even by himself. The soldiers began to stir up, but the duel between the two men continued on. They swallowed their breaths and looked on at the pathetic fight before their eyes. "You still have time to pull back now." Koyuu told Nakago as he evaded his sword. "You still have a heart..." "Nakago..." When he saw the hesitation in his opponent's eyes, Koyuu backed off a bit. Nakago's sword came crashing down above him. Slash! Koyuu's armor was slashed into two. And the blue eyed blonde across from him smiled coldly at him. Monster... What Eichuu had called him before he had died reappeared in Koyuu's mind. The one who had produced that monster...was he. Rain began to fall. The rain water that was piling up on the ground wetted their feet. You started this... Inside of Koyuu's mind, Fate's voice echoed. Crackle!! Flashes of lightning ran through the sky. Koyuu's sword reflected the lightning and blinded Nakago for an instant. Noticing his opponent had lost him, Koyuu charged at him. In the next instant, the face of a demon-possessed man appeared before Nakago's eyes. "Nakago!..." Tomo turned his eyes away. But then, Koyuu heard her voice. "Stop...don't kill that boy...our beautiful son..."

Koyuu squeezed his eyes shut and let his sword fall. Koyuu opened his eyes at his sword that he was unable to stop. Nakago, whose armor was slashed in two, like his was, was staring at him. His eyes were full of hate, and the character on his forehead shone. Blood stained Nakago's neck. And when Koyuu saw the string that had been cut with the armor fall to the ground, he looked at his feet in astonishment. When he saw what was there, he swallowed his breath. An indigo Pearl of Seiran.... The shadowy memory of the poor face of the boy who had lost the mother who loved him, and the shock he received when he had seen the pearl around the boy's neck reappeared in Koyuu's mind. This boy is....my son...?! That pearl must have been put around his neck by his mother on her deathbed. If he managed to live on, if he wore this pearl, he would probably be able to see his father some day...his father would be sure to notice... But he had not noticed in time. How could he tell him? If Nakago knew who he really was, then he would be sure to be filled even more with hate. He and his mother, who were members of a hated race, must have also been hated within the race. And ironically, this boy turned out to be a Seishi working for the god whose country destroyed his people. The only thing he could do was become a soldier and begin a new life...and when he discovered that this was his path for revenge on Kutoh, it had already been too late... Even so, why? While being wetted by the rain, Koyuu looked at Nakago. His mark as a member of the Hin race, those blue eyes...the blue lake that he and his tribe had loved... and Kutoh’s blue god, Seiryuu...and the blue Seishi mark on his forehead. The color of fate... I wonder how much the color of Seiran had made him suffer all these years...Even so, that Seiran Pearl...why had he continued to wear it around his neck all these years? The crashes of thunder got closer. The trees of the village gradually all crashed to the ground. The soldiers dropped their swords and all fell to the ground in protection. Inside of Nakago, a violent flame of hatred burned. Even he didn't know why he had kept that pearl around his neck. The mark of love from his mother who had died, the Seiran Pearl... Perhaps that was the only bit of heart he had left after he had sworn to get revenge on Kutoh. And

in front of the man who had carelessly cut it off, his heart and body shivered violently with anger. Crackle!!!! The lightning shone silver in the sky. The man faced him. On his face was a thin smile. Nakago raised his sword. Gi Koyuu's body met with Nakago's. And through his chest, Nakago's sword had pierced. Koyuu's neck was under Nakago's eyes. He suddenly stopped breathing. It was something that had escaped from Koyuu's soldier clothes. Giving its final sparkle, the Seiran Pearl shone blue and beautiful.

Chapter 10- Oath to the Heavens It was a quiet night. The man and woman strolling along side the lake held hands tightly. "....I have to go now..." The woman nodded at these words from the man. The two knew that they might never see each other again after this. The woman smiled back at the man as he squeezed her hand. A valiant knight of Kutoh’s army, and the daughter of the leader of the Hin Race. The two had met only a few hours ago. The knight who had gotten separated from his troop in the forest had injured his leg. A woman at the lake's edge had mixed some herbal medicine and had attended to his wound. And then, the two...fell in love. It was a painful vow of love they had shared for only a moment. The woman slowly walked towards the edge of the lake. She could see a mysterious light shining from the lake waters. Reaching her hand into the light, the woman pulled out something. And then, she held it to her chest. "Matuta..." The man called the woman's name. The woman turned around. Her face was sparkling with beauty. Something that could only be seen by a woman who truly loves a man; a Seiran Pearl... What bound the couple's deep love they swore; a Seiran Pearl... While hugging those two pearls to her chest, the woman called the man's name. ".......Koyuu..." * The sky was clearing up. Unable to withdraw his sword piercing through Gi Koyuu, Nakago was paralyzed where he stood. And all emotion left his face. ".....it's best this way..." Koyuu whispered in Nakago's ear. As if defying his duty as Shogun, Koyuu's face showed relief as his body was impaled on Nakago's sword. In front of his eyes now was no monster. It was his son whom he loved. And he had been able to hold back killing him. Matuta...I'll be joining you very soon. I'm sure our boy will notice someday. That we met by this lake and swore our love. The eternal love we swore... And

that we will continue to love our son forever, too. Some day, I promise he will overcome his grief.....he'll realize the truth. For some reason.....Koyuu smiled. It is because you placed your Seiran Pearl around his neck..... Soi, who had only just arrived at the scene, dropped her arms in shock. Unable to stop this tragic scene from happening, Soi cursed Fate. And standing silently in a place slightly separated from the others stood another Seiryuu Seishi. He had probably been supporting Nakago all this time, knowing of what might happen, and had probably wanted to kill Koyuu. From Soi's violent stare Tomo dropped his eyes with a "hmph". The soldiers collapsed on the ground gradually began to stand up, and as they saw Nakago's victory, began to murmur. On the day that their village was destroyed, his mother had placed it around his neck; her Seiran Pearl, in hopes that if his father were to find him someday, he would take him off to a place far, far away. However, the mother's wish was not granted. Upon seeing the pearl around his son's neck, his father had chose to quietly watch over him. Up until the day when he had pointed his sword at his own son, he had lived his days in suffering. When Taria, Nakago's childhood friend, had been executed that day and had seen the pearl around his neck, she had smiled at him.

I knew Aunty-Matuta had a Seiran Pearl. Your parents really loved each other. So even if I die, you won't be alone. You have a father out there somewhere who loves you..... The innocent girl's wish of finding a Seiran Pearl of her own had vanished with the dew. And the Seiran Pearl, who had continued to witness this sad story...Only the pearl still shone beautifully on Koyuu's neck.... "......What is....your name..." Koyuu asked in a choked voice. "What is....your name...." Nakago's lips parted a little. ".....A.....yu.....ru....." Koyuu sighed peacefully. "Ayuru....What a beautiful name..." While leaving behind his warmth at Nakago's chest, Gi Koyuu slowly collapsed at the lake's edge. His hand was tightly clutching onto the pearl that had only just fallen from Nakago's neck. Waves began to form in the lake that had been filled with rain. Those waves surrounded Koyuu's body and carried it into the lake. Nakago looked down upon this without even flinching. * Nakago slowly looked over Eichuu's and Koyuu's troops that surrounded him. They all began to whisper nervously and back away. There was not one man who leaped out to challenge Nakago. He came before Soi. "....Nakago....!" Facing Soi, whose lips were trembling, he spoke to her with the same tone he always had. "That thunder storm earlier was your power, I see. It seems as though your powers have yet to mature." Soi looked at Nakago in disbelief. Knowing that the man he had just killed was his own father, he had not shed a tear.

Looking at him, Soi finally realized that his heart had been engulfed in an immeasurable darkness. "Until the Miko comes, you should leave the palace." Soi shook her head violently. "Please! Let me stay with you! The former Shogun...made me promise to..." Nakago interrupted Soi. "As I said earlier. It is meaningless for the Seishi to meet before the Miko shows up." He said coldly as he walked away. "........Nakago..." Soi looked at the man with wet eyes. However, she had not given up on him. Some day...some day...until I can live up to your expectations, until you get your heart back, and until you can express your own emotions, I will pledge my life to you... Soi pledged in her heart. Nakago said to another person behind him. "You should also leave the palace, even as a performer. Tomo." * Without giving a glance at the lake that had swallowed his father's corpse, Nakago mounted his horse. And behind him, the soldiers slowly followed. Since Nakago had assassinated Koyuu, he was now the Shogun. There was not a soldier in the group who could compare to Nakago's overwhelming strength. Soi and Tomo quietly looked on as Nakago and his new troops left. And then, not looking at each other, the two separated right and left, and disappeared in the wind. The two Seiryuu Seishi who secretly loved Nakago were to face each other once again as rivals barely a year later. In the inevitable fight between the Suzaku and Seiryuu Seishi, Tomo will lose his life at the hands of fellow Seiryuu Seishi, Suboshi, and Soi will lose her life protecting Nakago from the blade of an enemy. "I....love....you...." Whether those words from Soi as she died in a sea of flower petals reached Nakago's heart or not, no one knows. No one will be able to understand Nakago's heart as he leaves the lake's edge... Now, Nakago, who was leading Koyuu's and Eichuu's troops back to the palace, felt something rising inside of him. He will pledge his loyalty to the emperor once again when he looks upon him in astonishment at his return.

After that, he will build up the army, deepen Kutoh’s civil war, bring the country to destruction, and then kill the emperor. And then, he will stand at the head of Kutoh, and rule Kutoh as he sees fit.... Nakago frowned. Is this the puny goal he had been working towards all those thirteen years? Seiran-colored fire burned in his eyes. It wouldn't be long now until Seiryuu no Miko showed up. And then it would begin. Everything would begin. The tremendous game that he had been preparing for all his life would begin then. The character for "heart" shone fiercely on the forehead of the 24-year-old who had lost his heart. *** A mist formed over the lake. Something appeared out of the dense fog that seemed to engulf the lake. It was not the shadow of those two enormous eyes that the Hin Race had worshipped on the evening of the first moon of the first autumn......it was in the form of a human. A man with a cruel, cold face and long hair rising up to the sky. It was Tenkou. He faced the direction where Nakago was walking to and laughed thinly. You hate your powers again. And now, you have finally come upon your true purpose. The hate that has supported you until now is now complete. You killed your mother; and with those same hands, you killed your father, too. The love you kept searching for but could never find, is now lost. The Heavens is what made you go through such Hell. Now, you realize what you must do. You must show what you can do for me. Long ago, the Four Gods sealed me off. You shall use the powers of one of them, Seiryuu.

Tenkou looked over the situation. It won't be long now. This lake which holds something like a Seiran Legend is meaningless to me. From now on, I will be by your side. So you will never be cured of your hate. Well, it's time to begin. With your powers, let us get revenge on the Heavens....

......The End.

Seiran Den Freetalks Nishizaki Megumi’s Freetalk: Hello! Nishizaki Megumi speaking. It’s out; it’s finally out! Fushigi Yuugi novel number 6, Seiran Den, and the hero of this book was na, na, na, na, Naaaakaaaaagoooooo!!! I couldn’t imagine a story staring Nakago at first. Nakago, dearie, are you sure you can handle it? Can you be a convincing hero? I was really skeptical at first, but when you think about it, Fushigi Yuugi wouldn’t be what it is without Nakago. If Nakago didn’t exist or if Nakago were a good person (!) then the Suzaku Seishi would have summoned Suzaku with no trouble and the story would have ended very shortly. Fushigi Yuugi would not have developed into the moving story of love it was if it hadn’t been for Nakago! So it is almost an insult NOT to write a novel devoted to him. And that is why I have presented to you readers a book about Nakago’s cruel past. Myyyy, myyyyy, but you are pitiful, Nakago. If I had that kind of past, I would certainly have become a psycho (!), too. (What kind of psycho…??) And his real name is "Ayuru". Ohhh! How beautiful!! And he was a sweet, gentle lad. Ahhh, but not for long, Fate is so cruel. But it was the cruel fate that helped Nakago develop into the appealing sexy man he is today *heart* And Soi, who pledged her life to Nakago in spite of the tragedy is also beautiful… And Tomo, who also pledged his life to Nakago… was funny… Sorry, sorry! I really do love Tomo, though. I put him into this story for comic relief. Hmmmm, But a lot of poor people had to die, huh. But their deaths weren’t in vain. It was through the deaths and tragedy after tragedy that love and hate were explained to Nakago. I really appreciate all the fan mail you readers send me. I’m very pleased that you are coming to understand the characters better through these novels. And now, the next Fushigi Yuugi novel will be the last one! Whaaaaat?!! But it’s true. I look forward to what it will be about. Watase-sensei, and her assistant, O, good work. And to all you readers, until we meet again for the end; Ciaoooo! -Nishizaki Megumi

Watase Yuu’s Freetalk: The perfect BGM for this novel would be anything on the Seiryuu Counter Attack CD So we meet again! The Fushigi Yuugi novels have made it this far now… Well, this time, my all-time favorite character got his own novel *laugh*. This story was about Nakago. Yay. …Anyone got a problem with that?! *laugh* I had no idea that the innocent question "Who is Nakago’s father?" would turn into such a dramatic novel… I have to say this is my favorite novel so far… The sadness and tragedy were portrayed so well… Whenever I read it, it always leaves me with a strong feeling… I have to admit I love tragic stories. This was also the first novel in which I said "Ooh! Can I draw an illustration of THIS scene??" (I’m usually ordered to do specific scenes and have no choice). Since this was about Nakago’s past, for the first time, his real name appeared. Since his mother’s and best friend’s names were also appearing, I decided to just make them all really pretty-sounding. I got the name "Ayuru" from an Indian hymn, "Ayuru Veda". I thought maybe the Hin race’s background came from that area or from Europe. …Taria reminded me a little of Arora and Nero from "Flander’s Dog" *laugh*. But we mustn’t discriminate! We mustn’t bully! Don’t you agree?! My goodness… Ayuru, er, I mean Nakago, lost his "heart" which is truly a sad. Speaking of "sad", there’s another character who had her sad time: Soi. She has always been rather popular among my readers, but perhaps her loyalty is misunderstood. The theme of this book was more or less everyone’s "feelings of love left unreturned", which is perhaps what made this novel so sad.. Ah, except for Tomo. *laugh* Oh, and incidentally, the scene I requested to illustrate was the scene where the spirit of 11-year-old Taria was giving the flowers to the 24-year-old Nakago. I absolutely loved that scene… sniffle… Even now, I still cry over it *tears*. I’m very happy that they’re going to re-broadcast Fushigi Yuugi on TV this year… I even wanted to put this story in manga-form….but that was of course, out of the question. Now that you mention it, I was talking on the phone with the director of the art for the OVAs and the subject of turning these novels into an OVA came up, but went away. But perhaps, if we get the collective voice of the fans, just maybe…?! Well, it’s very unlikely I’ll be allowed to turn this

into a manga, but you can always ask Studio Pierot to animate it. I wonder if they’re okay with that? *laugh* It won’t help making requests to me Well, then! I hear the next novel will be the last…?! Hurry, guys!! (With what?) Will the next novel contain all the Suzaku Seishi?! And will it be about Miaka?! Well, I wonder. Good luck on it, Nishizaki-sensei! All you readers, send us letters!! Thank you, my patient assistants!! Well, see you later. -Watase Yuu, ‘99