[Author's note: This is a Fushigi Yuugi fic set sometime around episode 37. It's meant to follow "The Animal That Walks on Two Legs," so you may want to read that one first if you haven't already. Possible spoilers for episode 35 and the Suzaku Seishi's trip to Sairou. Please see my disclaimer page for copyright information regarding this story.]



By Natalie Baan



In this desert, the night air sparkles, and the sky gapes wide and clear, aglitter with stars. I draw my blanket around me more securely as I gaze up at the heavens. A garden of eyes gleams back at me, and I imagine the lines between them, naming to myself the shapes that those lines form.




Byakko's stars stare back at me, Soi, Seiryuu's Seishi, without the remotest interest. Their indifference is neither a blessing nor a curse. After all, Byakko's and Genbu's stories are over, and Seiryuu and Suzaku have ascendancy now. One set of powers rises; another falls.

That's how it always is.

The very silence around me is like a song on this night. I listen to its pure tone, like the note of a ku-ch'in. Slipping my hands out of the blanket, I weave them into the positions of stopped and open sounds, glissando and hush, trying to recall the illustrations in the handbook I studied as a girl in the pleasure house of Gen: three geese flying with grain in their bills, white cranes dancing beneath the pine trees. My memory holds true, but the figures feel strange, my fingers unaccustomed to them after long years. I haven't touched an instrument very often since that day when I took lightning into my hands in the service of my lord.

My lord...alone in the night, inside my own mind, this is how I call him. On my perch, high up on this pillar of rock, I lift my face to the stars, my hair a loose, heavy river down my back. Even though my loyalty as a Seishi should be to Seiryuu's Miko and to the Emperor of the country that she summons the god to guard, my devotion is not so simple. I take pride in it, I think--in dwelling in the eye of paradox, in balancing the laws of duty against the complicated directions of the heart.

In watching my lover's cruelty without letting it stain my one pure memory of his compassion.

Poor Ashitare...to face him, you had only blind, crude, animal hunger. Your rage was an echo of his mastered fury; your craving the same emptiness that his armor seals inside of him. When you looked at me that morning, your one eye wide and thoughtless--how many times have I seen that look from other men? Yearning to possess what they believe will fulfill them, hateful toward whatever stands in their way...he killed you savagely, senselessly, and with perfect calm, because you were a shadow on his straight, bright path and he saw no more use for you.

Because he intends to possess everything for himself.

Desire builds on desire, and death piles up on death.

Is there any hope for solace in this world?

Somewhere among the rocks below an animal screams, one high wail that rises and rises through the air and then is cut off. I know that he uses me also; my presence by his side suits his needs. But I choose to be satisfied with what is: with the memory of the day he broke like dawn into my world, and with being a constant reminder of that day as I stand or lie beside him, another possibility that, as long as I remain with him, hasn't been wholly cast aside just yet. I who can see him as a woman sees a man, naked in the dark, flickering shadows, and ask for nothing more than that....

Deep down inside, I know I'm just the same as anyone else is. I'm filled with that same tangle of desire and need....in the end, it's only my choice not to surrender to what I wish for that makes me any different at all.

It's a dry comfort, like this glistening desert sky, but it's the one bright thing that I believe in.

The decision to serve unselfishly...and him.

Far away across the sand, Suzaku's Seishi shiver, dreaming in the middle of a false Sairou town. My lover sleeps in silence in his tent, wrapped in the aftermath of healing and sex. And that girl who fought against him with the purity of Suzaku's fire, even while unconscious, that boy who seared him with rage...what do those two desire? What do they want that drives them toward the goal?

Will they spend themselves on wishes, on the things that they crave for themselves, until the god rises up to eat their Miko alive?

Rock strikes on rock in the desert canyon, the scuffling of some creature running for its life or its dinner. The white tiger, quiescent in the western sky, shimmers behind a shining net of stars.

Pity the poor beasts who know only that restless urging, the ceaseless, brutal wish to devour and lay claim.

Pity us all.


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