His scream and whimper sounded pathetic, but it almost made me--no, it did make me feel sorry for him. Just watching him grasp the liquid hand as it began to disappear was enough to make me want to shut my eyes so I wouldn't have to look at him in such pain. And, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't. Instead, I felt myself wanting to run to him and tell him that everything would be all right.
It would be a lie, but anything so that I wouldn't have to..!!
I was helpless. I was so damned helpless. I almost killed him and now I can't even comfort him. I don't understand how he feels, but I do understand a bit of Hikou's emotions, but not enough to help Chichiri. Mitsukake understood well enough--that was why he was able to get Chichiri to get into the battle in the first place. Tama had been in Chichiri's position when I almost...
No. I can't remember that now.
Tentatively, I glanced over my shoulder at Tama and Miaka. Miaka was able to make herself turn away; women are so emotional--too emotional. I'm starting to feel so God damned weak now, but for Miaka and Chichiri I've got to be strong.
Suddenly, I began to think. What if Kouji and I had turned out like Chi--no, Houjun and Hikou? Would I hate Kouji so much for letting go of my hand in the flood after he tried to kill me in the first place? No, of course not; he wouldn't do such a thing unless there was a broken tree flying crazily in the river. But would have I known? How would it have turned out if...
Wait. This is all assuming that I would end up loving a woman. Why the hell would I want to do that for?! And even if I did, surely it wouldn't be some lady Kouji picked up during a raid!
Something like this would never happen between Kouji and I, although it had almost happened between me and Tama. Luckily, it was just a damned spell.
But... Chichiri and Hikou had the worst end of the deal. I can't let myself feel lucky when those two are the unfortunate ones. It just wouldn't be--isn't fair!
"I'm... sorry... Houjun..." Hikou's voice whispered. Then, all Chichiri had in his hand was air.
I knew Chichiri well enough to know that he wouldn't do what I thought he would do: break down. He was too incredibly strong to do that, but he did stay kneeling down where the watery form of Hikou only previously rested. Now was as good as time as any to finally break out of my helplessness and see what I could do.
"Chichiri," I quietly said after having walked up to the devastated monk.
He turned his head up, and his single usable eye stared straight into my own. No words were exchanged for the longest time, but I knew that Chichiri had lifted one of his burdens of his past off of his shoulders. He still blamed himself for his best friend's death, but he knew that Hikou didn't hate him for it. For that reason, I was happy for him.
"So, Tasuki," he finally said, "Miaka, Tamahome. Let's go back."
As soon as he stood up, Chichiri immediately, but slowly, fell to his knees again. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing," he told me as his hand reached into the water. His fingers curled around something in the pond, and as he stood, the object came with him. I saw him open his palm and stare at a string of something. And for the first time since Hikou arrived, Chichiri smiled. "Nothing at all no da."
I stole a quick peek to what he had as he tied it around his neck. It was the headband that Hikou had worn.
"A memoir of our friendship from a long time ago," he informed me. "Back when we were children--I can't believe that Hikou still had it."
"He never hated you," I involuntarily observed under my breath. Hikou may not have forgiven Chichiri until a few moments ago, but he had still cared for him enough to never forget what those two had shared. That was what true friendship was about, wasn't it?
You know, I don't think I'll ever know if Chichiri had heard me or not, but I won't forget the words that he said to me when we returned to the rest of the Suzaku Seishi:
"Thank you, Tasuki."
Translation Notes: "Arigatou" in the
title means "thank you".
Written on May 27, 2001 by Bearit at firstname.lastname@example.org.