A.N: I don’t own Fushigi Yuugi or Suboshi.
As a timeline note, this story takes place after episode 25. My interpretation of the storyline is that the things happening in Konan took several days, while the events in Kutou took one day. This is my justification for any time gaps.
Enjoy the story
Brotherly Love“There was nothing you could do to save him”
Yui’s words echoed in Suboshi’s mind. “Nothing he could do.” Suboshi had spent the previous day crying all over Yui’s robes. She had held him during his grief, until the last tear had fallen. Even as that last tear fell, Suboshi knew that his grief hadn’t ended, he’d just run out of the ability to cry.
Suboshi hadn’t expected Yui to understand his anguish over losing his brother. Twins were different and most people didn’t understand. Amiboshi had always been a part of Suboshi. The loss of his brother’s chi had shocked Suboshi to his core. Now, he couldn’t even remember how it felt to be normal, but then he never thought he would experience normal again. Yui hadn’t really understood his pain, but she had understood enough to realize that she couldn’t possibly know how it felt to lose half of yourself. So she had held him and let him cry. Now, the idea of his tears soaking her robes embarrassed him.
He had been tempted to avoid her this morning, but when he saw her-with the light shining on her hair and her wide brown eyes watching the sky-he couldn’t stop himself from talking to her. He apologized to her, sent her to Nakago, and then tore himself away. He had plans to make and he could not allow himself to be distracted.
He had prepared to leave when the first light of dawn broke through the black night. Last night all he’d had time to do was to plan. It had been a sleepless night. Suboshi had gone from feeling rage to feeling grief. The hole in his wall and his still damp pillow were a testament to his feelings. He hadn’t slept during the night. The food that had been dropped off by the palace servants remained untouched by his door. He wasn’t hungry and he had other things to worry about.
He had packed a light bag, deciding it would be easier to travel light. Plus, the fewer things that were missing from his room, the less likely his absence would be noticed. He had decided what had to be done today. Amiboshi had needed his help and Suboshi would not allow himself to fail.
Suboshi picked up his brown sack and threw it over his shoulder. He had succeeded in packing lightly, so lightly that he barely felt the bag on his shoulder.
Suboshi poked his head out of his door and peered down the hallway. The corridor was empty. He stepped completely out from behind his door and then ventured into the hallways. Walking on the tips of his toes, he snuck down the long, white corridor and hid behind one of the long columns before sticking his head around the next corridor. It, too, was empty.
Suboshi sighed in relief and stepped around the corner. Still walking on the tips of his toes, he walked as quietly as possible. He barely dared to breathe.
A creaking noise caused Suboshi to whip his head around. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of one of the bedroom doors swinging open. He swore under his breath. That was Nakago’s room. He dove behind one of the pillars and held his breath. All of his muscles were still and tense.
He let out a sigh of relief when he caught sight of the beige robe and the mop in the girl’s hand. It was just a maid. The maid, however, had caught sight of Suboshi and gave him a peculiar stare. Suboshi stayed where he was and tried to think up an excuse for why he was there.
“Nice…pillars…” he finally said, running his hand up and down the length of it.
The maid gave Suboshi one last piercing glance before moving down the hallway to the next bedroom that needed to be cleaned. Suboshi felt his heart beat slowing down. He hadn’t even realized how fast it had gotten, but now he could hear it echoing in his ears. He decided that instead of trying to sneak out of the palace, he should just act naturally.
He rolled his shoulders back and made long confident steps, stopping to ask several of the guards how duty was going. Mostly, he received blank stares in return.
Suboshi was almost out the palace when a hand grabbed his sleeve. Nakago had found him. Suboshi hadn’t even heard Nakago coming.
“What is it Suboshi? Where do you think you are going? Didn’t I tell you to stay with Yui-sama?”
Suboshi didn’t want to lie. He paused for a moment then decided to be honest. “Whenever I think of Amiboshi, I can’t stay there…” he trailed off. Honesty did not always require full and complete honesty. For the second time in the past twenty minutes, Suboshi could hear his heart beating in his ears. He was sure if Nakago knew what he really wanted, he would not be allowed to leave.
“You want revenge?” Nakago asked. For Suboshi, revenge was an option. But, it was not his first choice. Suboshi didn’t say anything to correct Nakago and allowed him to keep talking. “But what can you do on your own? Unlike your brother, your powers aren’t fully developed yet. Don’t underestimate the Suzaku seishi.”
Suboshi had no intention of underestimating the Suzaku warriors. In fact, he had no intention of even going near them, but he couldn’t let Nakago know that. Suboshi had realized a long time ago that Nakago was single minded when it came to his hatred of their enemies.
“I, too, understand how you feel…” Nakago finally stated. Suboshi doubted it, but you didn’t doubt Nakago to his face. Instead, Suboshi waited patiently as Nakago instructed him on what he should do.
Suboshi was only miles out of the city when night fell. He should have thought to bring more supplies-especially after Nakago had approved of his ‘mission’. But Suboshi hadn’t wanted to give Nakago time to change his mind.Gathering wood from the nearby trees, Suboshi started a fire. One of the few things he’d packed were matches. He also had a light blanket and decided he could use his saddle for a pillow. The sleeping arrangements didn’t compare to what the palace offered, but Suboshi was content. He was that much closer to his brother.
Exhausted from the sleepless night he’d had the night before, it wasn’t long before Suboshi drifted off to sleep. The countryside was silent as
he slept, except for the occasional cries of “Amiboshi” and “Don’t leave…”
It had taken Suboshi five days to travel to his destination. He was extremely saddle sore and by the time he reached the city, he had been eager to dismount and stretch his legs. He led his horse through the town by the reins, looking for a nearby inn.Suboshi had originally set out for Northern Hong-Nan. The palace servants had been carrying stories of a woman there who was bringing people back to life. After a few inquiries, though, Suboshi had found out she was missing. That news had made new stabs of disappointment pain his heart. He had just about given up when he decided to ask a few more people if they knew anything. At this point, he’d only been a day out of Kutou and decided he didn’t have much to lose. Luckily, it had only taken a few more hours for someone to point him in the direction of Chengdu.
The nearest inn was two stories high and had quite a few rooms on both floors. Suboshi asked if he could have a room and the innkeeper told him there were several available. Preferring a room on the first floor, Suboshi tossed a few coins at the innkeeper.
“Do you know where I can find Feng Huang?” Suboshi asked the fat, balding innkeeper as he greedily rubbed his hands over the coins. As the name left Suboshi’s mouth, the innkeeper froze. He looked down at the money and then looked at Suboshi with fright. His brown eyes were wide and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead.
Suboshi stared at the innkeeper and the innkeeper stared back. Seconds ticked by and Suboshi wondered what had happened. His money was fine. He considered that perhaps it was the way he looked. After that first night of sleep on the road, Suboshi hadn’t slept well. Though that might have been lucky for him. During the night, a pack of bandits tried to rob him and steal his money. But the innkeeper couldn’t be scared of his red eyes. He had been looking at the money when he froze.
As Suboshi tried to puzzle it out, the innkeeper pointed to the door and tossed Suboshi’s money back at him.
“What? Do you need more money?” Suboshi pushed an extra coin across the table, along with the original money.
The innkeeper refused to acknowledge him.
“Hey!” Suboshi said, raising his voice, “I’m right here! What’s the problem?”
The innkeeper just looked at the door and again pointed the way out. Suboshi realized he wasn’t going to get any answers. He snatched his coins off the desk and marched out the door, slamming it shut behind him. As he collected his horse from the front of the inn, Suboshi heard a scraping noise from inside the inn. He realized the innkeeper was barricading the door against Suboshi’s return.
At the next two inns he tried, Suboshi got the same response. He noticed that when he mentioned the name Feng Huang that the locals became hostile.
At the fourth inn, Suboshi got smart. He was running out of options for places to stay so he took the room first then decided to leave the inn to search for the man.
The first people Suboshi met on the street refused to talk to him after he mentioned Feng Huang. Many quickened their steps or darted into nearby buildings to avoid him. Suboshi realized word of his quest must have been getting around because soon he couldn’t get more than the words “excuse me” out of his mouth before noses were turned up at him.
Suboshi had started to think he had come for nothing when there was a tap on the lower part of his back.
Spinning around, he was greeted with the sight of small, white-haired man. He was hunched over, his spine curved up in an arch. His long gnarly fingers were wrapped around a stick that he was using to keep himself up.
“Looking for Feng Huang?” The little man looked up at Suboshi. Suboshi took a step back. The man’s eyes were just white and made Suboshi feel like he was looking into emptiness.
The old man turned away without waiting for an answer and started walking back up the street. A few steps down the road he paused and called back over his shoulder. “Are you coming? I’m not waiting. These streets aren’t as safe as they used to be.”
Suboshi hurried after the old man and walked alongside him. The old man moved slowly. For every one of Suboshi’s steps, the old man needed to take five. The slow pace gave Suboshi time to examine his surroundings.
Suboshi noticed all of the looks that he and his traveling companion were getting. There were people with expressions of fright, many of whom darted out of their path. He saw mothers pulling their children into their homes, while their husbands stood in their doorways with bats. Suboshi was starting to doubt his choice in companions. Even when they got into the more run-down area of the city, where houses were falling apart and gangs stood on the corners, the people all got out of his way.
Suboshi stopped walking.
“I told you the streets weren’t safe. Gotta keep up or you’ll be sorry,” The old man smacked his stick against the back of Suboshi’s calves.
Suboshi walked, while trying to rub his calves at the same time. The old man’s slow pace made it possible. Over his head, he noticed clouds were starting to gather.
At the far edge of the city, Suboshi could make out a tiny straw hut that sat next to a shallow river. The old man stopped when they finally reached it and gestured Suboshi in through the straw door. The door opened into the room, taking up even more of the small space. Suboshi thought that the whole hut would fit into one corner of his room in the Kutou palace.
The little man followed Suboshi into the hut, forcing Suboshi to try to squeeze into the corner. Suboshi wasn’t the tallest of men, but even his head reached the tip of the ceiling. The old man shut the door and pulled a long, wooden chest in front of it.
The old man noticed Suboshi’s glance. “Master Huang will not want us to be disturbed.”
“You’re not Feng Huang?”
“No, he is Gou Mang.” Another voice stated. Suboshi looked to the barricaded door, then looked back at the man who had just appeared. “There is a back entrance. I am Feng Huang.”
Feng Huang was taller than Suboshi was. His dark hair made his light skin look even more shallow and pale. His teeth were yellow and stood out against his pasty skin. He looked terrible and on appearance alone, Suboshi could see why most of the city wanted nothing to do with him.
“Sit down, Suboshi,” Feng said and gestured to one of the two seats that took up most of the room in the hut. Feng helped himself to the other seat and Gou stood in the corner. Gou had no problems standing up-seeing as he was much shorter than both Suboshi and Feng.
“How do you know who I am?” Suboshi asked, running his arm over the arm of the chair. It was a crudely made wooden chair, but it had some carvings in it. Suboshi could feel the engravings that had been made into the chair. Looking at them, he could tell that they were letters. They were darker colour than the light wood of the chair.
“People who come here often feel the need to leave their mark. Some carve, some paint, and some leave other pieces of themselves behind.” Feng said, ignoring the question Suboshi had asked and instead answering what he had not.
“I heard you might be able to help.” Suboshi said. In the background, he heard the rumbling of thunder.
“With your brother? Possibly. I might be able to awaken him. But before we can discuss this, I do require some coin. My house does not run by itself.” In the corner Gou barked a laugh. When Suboshi looked at him, he fell silent. If he hadn’t heard it himself-he would have sworn that the man hadn’t laughed at all.
Suboshi emptied his coin purse on the table. Every single cent he had brought with him was pushed across to Feng. “You can help me?”
Feng’s eyes took in the stack of coins. “We can discuss it.”
“People told me to look for you. I was going to go to…”
“Shenshan. Yes. I know.” The patter of rain started to hit the straw hut. Suboshi felt a few drops hit his face. Feng shifted his chair to the right. A few drops of water ran down his face before leaving wet splotches on his shirt.
“They said there was a woman who could bring the dead back to life,” Suboshi said.
“Shao-Huan. Yes. She was a fraud,” Feng said as he watched as Gou moved from his corner and put a bucket under the spot of the roof that was leaking the worst. He then returned to his corner, where he ignored the steady drip of rain that was falling on his face.
“A fraud? How do you know that?” Suboshi demanded. He gripped the arms of the chair he sat in. “Who did you send to spy on me? Did Nakago set this up?” Suboshi’s eyesight was solely focused on Feng as rage overtook his senses. How dare Nakago try to sabotage his attempt to get his brother back! Nakago would pay for this.
“Nakago did not send me. It does not matter how I know. The woman is dead. Killed by the Suzaku seishi.”
“How can you know that?” Suboshi stood from his chair and made a step around the table, towards Feng. Gou made his own threatening move, but Feng held his hand up to stop him.
“Are you a complete fool? You were told I awaken the dead. Do you think I simply say come and they’re there? It requires magic! My magical abilities are beyond your comprehension and if you require my help you will not question me.” Feng rose from his own chair, though he didn’t move towards Suboshi. Suboshi could feel the threat though. This was a man of incredible power.
Suboshi sat back down. “Then you will help me?”
Feng shifted in his chair and rubbed his chin. Suboshi believed he was trying to look like a wise man rubbing his beard, but he lacked the beard to make him look wise.
“There is the matter of the price,” Feng finally said.
Suboshi felt tears come to his eyes. “This is all I have. You said it would do.”
“The coins only paid for our discussion. Bringing back those who are gone costs far more than money can provide.”
“What is the price? I’ll do-“ Suboshi started to say before Feng cut him off.
“I suggest that you not end that thought. In a moment, you might regret it…and regret it very deeply,” Feng gestured for Gou, “The price is different for everyone. Gou had his own price to pay for the return of his daughter.”
Gou crossed the small room in three of his small, shuffling steps and stood next to Feng. “Can you guess what it cost Gou?”
Suboshi looked Gou over. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the white abyss that should have held Gou’s eyes. “His eyes.”
Feng held up a finger, “Ah, but more importantly-it cost him his eyesight.”
Suboshi felt his mouth drop open. “But…But…He led me here!”
“Gou has traveled the route many times. He knows the way by now,” Feng said with a fond smile to his messenger.
“But he picked me out of the crowd.” Suboshi argued.
“He picked out a lone traveler. Had you not been the one, he would’ve found another.”
“But why his eyesight?” Suboshi asked.
Feng gestured to a painting hanging on the wall. “Do you see this picture? What do you think of it?” Suboshi looked at the picture. It was obviously completed by someone extremely talented. It was a landscape portrait, but at the same time Suboshi felt it wrong to say that. Calling it a landscape suggested that it could be compared to other landscape paintings. It was beyond anything Suboshi had ever seen.
“It’s a remarkable landscape. You can almost feel the sun reflecting from the page,” Suboshi broke the silence that Feng had allowed while Suboshi examined the painting.
“Gou did it. He was once remarked for his talent across most of the country.” Suboshi swung his head around to look at Gou. He couldn’t imagine those gnarly, hairy fingers holding a brush and bringing the painting to life.
“And he gave it up, for his daughter? I could do the same for Amiboshi,” Suboshi confidently stated.
“Ah, but again. Your price is different than Gou’s. He treasured his ability to paint above any of his other talents-and any of his other relatives. He lost his ability and before you willingly decide to give anything up, perhaps you should ask what happened to his daughter.”
“What happened to her?”
“Ask Gou,” Feng said, turning to look at the old man. Gou had straightened up. His hunch was less noticeable-for the moment.
“Er…what happened to your daughter?” Suboshi asked.
The old man looked at-or Suboshi guessed in his direction. “She did what all daughters do. She got married. Then her husband wanted to move.”
Suboshi felt a stab of pain for the old man. Not only had he given up his greatest talent, he had also lost the person he’d given it up for.
A tear fell from the corner of the man’s eye, but before Suboshi could say anything Gou turned on his heel and went back to his corner. A mask of stone quickly replaced the vulnerable image Suboshi had glimpsed.
“Out of pity, I took Gou on as my assistant. He had no one else to turn to. Those who take on my services often find themselves outcast from the city.” A strike of lightening flashed across the sky. For a moment, the room was bright as the light filled the cracks in the straw.
“So you took him in as pity? You couldn’t give back his sight!” Suboshi felt anger on the little man’s behalf. He believed that Gou had been taken advantaged of. Feng should not have been allowed to get away with it.
“He got what he wanted. Though it wasn’t what he expected. He wanted his daughter to live. And she did. Just not how he expected.” Suboshi was surprised to see the stone mask still present on Gou’s face. Suboshi didn’t think he would have been able to stand his most painful moments being broadcasted like this.
Silence passed between Feng and Suboshi. As the information sunk in, Suboshi realized there was no guarantee. But perhaps for just another moment with his brother, it would be worth it.
“Can you tell me my price?” Suboshi finally asked, breaking the silence as the rain started to ease on the hut. The drips came slower, until several seconds passed between each ping fell into the bucket Gou had placed on the floor.
“I believe there is a priestess who has a lot of value to you,” Feng said in a quiet voice.
“Yui! No, anything else. I’ll give up my own life. Please. Just bring back my brother!” Tears welled in Suboshi’s eyes. This was the one choice he could not make.
“Your answer tells me all I need to know. Anything else would not be as precious to you. Not even your own life. You know the price.”
Feng stood from his chair. “You must choose. What is more important? Take the night to think about it. If I do not see you tomorrow, I will know your decision. Think wisely. Once you chose, you can not undo it.” Feng gestured to Gou, who quickly unblocked the doorway and opened the door, pushing Suboshi outside with his stick.
Outside of the hut, the world was soaked. Puddles filled the streets and flowers bent under the weight of the water. As Suboshi began his trek back to his inn, the rain picked up again, but he didn’t even notice.
It had been another sleepless night for Suboshi. His thoughts kept flipping between his brother and Yui. Both of them had been there for him when he needed them. And as dawn broke over the mountains, Suboshi was still unsure if he had made the right decision.He collected his sparse belongings and quietly made his way out of the inn. He saddled his horse, but decided not to ride. He wanted to walk so that he would have time to think. The ground was still soaked. Even after he had returned to the inn, the rain had continued. By nightfall, the inn was full of travelers who were trying to escape the harsh weather.
Despite his slow pace, it seemed like only minutes before he reached the small hut. Suboshi stood there, taking in the sight of the quiet hut. There was no movement from inside. He sighed.
Tying his horse to the front of the house, Suboshi walked inside. “Feng? Gou? It’s Suboshi.”
In a few moments, both men had appeared in the hut, coming from the back door that Suboshi still couldn’t make out against the straw wall.
“I did not think you would come back,” Feng said and gestured towards a chair for Suboshi to sit.
Suboshi decided to stand. “Then I guess you really don’t know everything,” he said with a bitter laugh.
Feng nodded his head in acknowledgement of Suboshi’s words. Suboshi was almost disappointed that he had to follow up his grand statement with “But I’m not back to pay the price.”
“Then maybe I do know everything.” Feng said with a confident smile.
Suboshi really didn’t know why he had come back. He could’ve just left and made his way away from this city, forgetting that he’d ever had the chance to save his brother. But, Suboshi wanted to hold onto this moment. He’d had the chance to bring back his brother, but the cost was too high. He hoped Amiboshi understood.
“I suppose then that you’ll be choosing your second option. For many, revenge is an easier solution than giving up something they love.”
“The Suzaku seishi killed my brother. They deserve this. And now they think that they can make me lose. No matter what choice I make, I lose. They need to suffer like I have.” Suboshi said. He clenched his fists. If he couldn’t have his brother back, they would suffer. And they would keep on suffering until the day they all understood the pain he felt.
“Did they kill him?” Feng asked.
Suboshi’s fists clenched tighter. His nails dug into his palms and Suboshi thought that he might have drawn blood. “I know that they did. Amiboshi deserved better than that.”
“Perhaps, but perhaps the seishi deserve better than what you are preparing?”
“No. He killed Amiboshi. He needs to know how I feel. If I can’t have my family back, they shouldn’t have their families.” Suboshi felt his determination growing with each question that Feng threw at him. He had never been surer that he was making the right choice.
“In that case, I wish you luck. Just remember, the boy will fight back.”
“I expect it,” Suboshi said as he turned around and left the hut. The door swung closed behind him as Suboshi stalked out to the street.
Suboshi stood in the street, untying his horse. Drops of blood fell onto the reins. He had drawn blood through his nails when he was inside the hut. As Suboshi gathered the reins and prepared to mount, he heard a pair of horse hoofs pounding down the street towards him. When he turned, he wasn’t surprised to see Nakago’s long blond hair blowing in the wind.
Nakago came to a stop beside Suboshi. “I thought I might find you here.”
“I had to know,” Suboshi answered, still looking at the hut.
Nakago nodded. “What was the price?”
Suboshi shouldn’t have been surprised. Nothing ever seemed to escape Nakago’s attention.
“It doesn’t matter. It was too high.”
Nakago nodded. “Good. Then I suppose you have plans that you wish to fulfill.”
Suboshi’s nod was the only answer that Nakago needed before he continued, “I will be sending someone to assist you. I expect you to fulfill my expectations. This time.”
Suboshi turned away from Nakago and started to ride away, towards Hakko Village. He turned to make one last look behind him-at the hut that could’ve changed everything. As he rode, Suboshi made one last prayer to his brother.
“I’m sorry brother, but there is nothing I can do to save you.”