Fushigi Yuugi Novel #4
(“The Legend of Shooting Star”)
Based on the comics by: Watase Yuu
Written by: Nishizaki Megumi
Chapter 1: The Twins’ Tragedy
“Oh! It’s a shooting star….” It was then that nine-year-old Bu Kotoku witnessed a star streak across the dusk sky. In the next instant, Kotoku witnessed flames burst up from around where the star had landed. Tossing his shopping basket full of vegetables on the ground, he bolted down the path that lead to his house.
And then, many minutes later, Kotoku stopped in front of the entrance to the village in which he had been born and raised. Bloody corpses were piled up in an sea of fire. Cries of death could be heard.
Gritting his teeth, Kotoku stumbled towards his house.
“Dad! Mom! Shunkaku!!”
Kanri, his father, had returned home early today as it was his wife’s birthday. The family of four would be able to enjoy this evening together; something which they had not been able to do for some time. Kotoku’s mother, busy with preparations for supper, had sent Kotoku out alone to do the shopping, leaving his feverish brother, Shunkaku, at home to rest.
“Return safely”, she had said as he left the house.
The twins had usually gone to the market place in the neighboring village together, holding hands as they went. It had only been one hour since Kotoku’s mother had sent him off out of the warm, cozy house….
That once peaceful scene was now no where to be found.
Kotoku’s house had been mercilessly smashed, and the front door was surrounded in red flames. Not appearing to give this a second thought, Kotoku ran into the house.
“Dad! Mom! Shunkaku!”
Choked up with smoke, and brushing ashes out of his face, Kotoku whirled frantically around the house.
Hearing a voice calling him from the bedroom, the boy brushed the smoke out of his way and headed there.
His father lay on the floor, and was propping his mother up. Their clothes were stained in blood.
Kotoku crawled up to his parents and frantically shook his father.
“Dad! Hang in there! You can’t die!”
“Mo…Mom…. Is she…?!”
His father shook his head. Kotoku leapt to his mother’s corpse and wept bitterly. His body shivered violently, and his tears flowed out uncontrollably.
“Kotoku… Pull yourself together. Are you listening? We hid Shunkaku inside the barn out back. Rescue him before the flames reach him.”
Nodding his trembling head, the boy asked his father “Who in the world…could do such a thing?!”
“….Probably one of those anti-government militias… Kutoh’s in a terrible state now… Everyone has allowed their hearts to be split, and because of that…soldiers attack innocent villages and towns…”
“I, I’ll get back at them. I will avenge Mom’s death!”
Kanri firmly grabbed the hand of his son whose face was drenched in tears.
“Did you forget…what your Mother had always told you?….”
Kotoku said nothing.
“She said that you boys were this country’s protecting-deities. That you were this country’s pride and joy…”
“Who cares about that! Why do we have to protect this country?! They do…such terrible…things to us….”
Kanri looked up at his son, shivering with rage. Under thin eyebrows were intelligent eyes…. Turning to face his brave son of only nine years, Kanri nodded and spoke.
“You must protect this country because you are a Seiryuu Seishi.”
“Have you not heard the story before?”
Come to think of it, Kotoku thought, I have heard of that story from the boy next door. If a girl from another world appears and calls on the god, Seiryuu, with the seven Seiryuu Seishi, any wish can be granted. And it is said that the countries Sairou and Hokkan had called on their gods, Byakko and Genbu, and had acquired peace….
“Take a good look….at your right shoulder…”
Kotoku glanced at his right shoulder showing through his burned clothes, and could clearly see the symbol “ko” glowing with blue light. He gasped. Kotoku had heard that people with blue symbols on parts of their bodies were Seiryuu Seishi. And those names were “Nakago”, “Soi”, “Ashitare”, “Tomo”, “Miboshi”, and also “Suboshi” and “Amiboshi”….
Which means that I’m “Amiboshi”….?
“When you two were born into this world, we could faintly see your characters glowing. ….We discovered that the two of you must be Seiryuu Seishi and used your characters to name you… We had agreed to talk to both of you about this….after your characters had appeared again…”
“So is Shunkaku also a Seishi…?”
“…..I don’t know. We won’t be sure until his character appears on his left shoulder again…. And besides, we still don’t know how far his Seishi powers have matured yet…. But you are different….”
Sliding a wooden flute out from under the bed, Kanri handed it to his son.
“You can manipulate your ki through your mouth…. I noticed that for sure. You can probably control your power through this flute…”
The boy stared blankly at the flute his father gave him.
“Come, why are you just standing there like that?…. Hurry along and rescue Shunkaku.”
As he stared at his dying father Kotoku remembered the shooting star he had just seen. His mother had been right when she told him it was a bad sign.
His mother’s dead face was peaceful and also beautiful.
Wiping his tears with his sleeve, and nodding silently to his father, Kotoku turned around.
While coughing from the rising smoke, Kotoku headed for the barn, that was already surrounded in flames. He opened the barn door and yelled his little brother’s name.
There was no answer.
He searched behind the shelves and even inside the hay, but he still could not find his little brother. But then…
When Kotoku heard Shunkaku’s voice, he bolted out of the barn and found his brother standing on a little path by the barn, wailing his head off. The exact opposite of his strong-willed older brother, Shunkaku was accustomed to whining to his parents and depending on Kotoku. Unable to stand being closed up by himself in the barn, he had run out into the open.
Noticing the soldiers that were surrounding Shunkaku, Kotoku was riveted to the spot. Kotoku thought that the soldiers who had attacked his village had left already, but those greedy slobs left over had been prowling around in search of gold or valuables they had overlooked.
“So what should we do with this little runt?…”
“There’s not much to him; even if we sold him he might not bring us in a penny!”
“He’s not gonna live much longer anyway. Let’s just kill him.”
Barely letting the last soldier finish his order, Kotoku had sprinted over to Shunkaku and stood in front of him protectively.
“Nii-chan!” Shunkaku cried as he clung onto his brother.
“It’s okay. Nii-chan’s here, so everything will be okay.”
Laughter burst out from the soldiers.
“Oooh, aren’t these guys twins? They don’t act alike, but their faces are exactly the same; they’re perfect copies of each other!”
“Hey, did ya know that in my village, twins are bad luck? If someone has twins, we kill the weaker one.”
“Is that so? Okay, so we get to sell the healthy-looking one, and we get to kill the crybaby sonofabitch?”
The instant the soldier who said that drew his sword from his sheath, his face became strangely distorted.
“Ow….! Ah, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!” Holding his head, the man pointed at the stronger twin. “Do…do something about him already!!”
His fellow soldiers looked uneasily in the direction of the boy. His face and clothes were singed. He clenched his teeth and glared at the wincing soldier. At the same time, he appeared to be blowing air out of his mouth.
“What the hell is he doing!”
Kotoku faced the soldier who had said that. The instant he did, the man grabbed his face in pain.
“Wha, what’s going on! Who are you?! Come on! Just kill both of them!”
The moment the remaining soldiers drew their swords, Kotoku unconsciously took out the flute that his father had just given him. As one would expect, he had never played, nor touched a flute before. However, Kotoku brought the flute to his lips as if he were a pro. His fingers began to move on their own; spinning out a violent, shaking melody.
The soldiers, their faces twisted in agony, fell to the ground one by one.
But the sound of the flute did not cease. Kotoku’s eyes glared coldly at the suffering men who had attacked his innocent mother, father, and little brother, and also the beloved village in which he was raised.
A voice inside of himself commanded.
Kotoku and Shunkaku returned to their house once more, only to find it completely burned to the ground. Kotoku bit his lip and hung his head. He would never see his father or mother again.
Kotoku put a strong hand on his little brother’s sobbing head. Even though the two were twins, the younger one was not only shorter, but thinner and sickly. Kotoku told himself then that he must protect this boy from what unknown dangers lay ahead.
“When did you practice using the flute to smash up the bad guys?” Shunkaku asked innocently as he looked up in awe at his older brother.
“Oh…Don’t you remember I was always whistling? That’s how I practiced.”
“H~~m, where’d you get the flute?”
“…..That nice man from the village next door gave it to me…”
“H~~m, I want one, toooo.”
Kotoku stole a glance at Shunkaku’s naked left shoulder, which had probably been exposed in the scuffle with the soldiers. When Kotoku noticed that there was nothing out of the ordinary on Shunkaku’s shoulder, he self-consciously covered his own shoulder. If Shunkaku were really a Seiryuu Seishi, then the symbol his parents had seen on him at birth should have appeared on his shoulder. That is what his father had told him. And until the day came when Shunkaku’s symbol appeared, Kotoku must carefully avoid the subject.
Kotoku was a Seiryuu Seishi; his power being to easily kill with the aid of his flute, and his younger brother might also be a Seiryuu Seishi… Kotoku vowed in his heart to not only keep this secret from Shunkaku, but from everyone else.
“Nii-chan, I’m hungry…”
Shunkaku tugged on Kotoku’s sleeve as he wept.
“Shunkaku! What the hell are you doin’! You useless wimp!”
Scolding was showered upon Shunkaku, who had just accidentally let the water he drew from the well fall to the ground.
“Why can’t you do somethin’ right for a change! Lissen here, this place ain’t the same kind of wealthy village you were raised in. I don’t know how they spoiled you on over there, but in this village, a man has to work to earn his keep! We’re not rich enough to let you just eat for free. Understand? Then get to work!”
Unable to hold back his tears anymore at the scolding, Shunkaku began to sob.
“Arghhh, get a hold of yourself already! Are you a man or a mouse? I should’ve never taken you boys in!”
A boy approached the fat woman who was huffing and puffing with her hands on her hips.
“Auntie! I apologize. Please forgive Shunkaku. He’s in poor health so it’s impossible to give him strength-demanding tasks. I’ll do those chores in his place, so please stop bullying him…!”
“Bullyinnng?” Apparently angered by this accusation, she glared at the boy. “Kotoku, do you remember who it was who found the two of you after you were orphaned? Not many people’d even bother to adopt such distant relatives like you fellas. But on account of we felt sorry for you, we let you come live with us even though we knowed it’d be too poor a lifestyle for you. So you have no right to say I’m bullyin’ your brother!”
Kotoku bit his tongue.
After the soldiers had left, the twins had wandered around the remains of their village, scavenging for food. Then suddenly, a man named Koh, who claimed he was a distant uncle of theirs, appeared before them. Their hunger and fatigue got the better of them and they let Koh take them off to a distant, indigent farming village.
Three months had since passed…
The environment in this house was much different than that of their father’s. From farm work to house work, morning until evening, they were worked until they dropped. It was as if Kotoku and Shunkaku were no more than slaves. And since the family was destitute, the boys were fed very little, and on cold, rainy nights, they held each other for warmth. All Kotoku could do is support his sickly brother and remain at that house.
“Maw, did Shunkaku do somethin’ klutzy again?”
“And then Kotoku covered for him? Not agaaaain.”
Suddenly Chikuei and Bairin appeared by their mother’s side. They were sisters, ten and eleven years old. Even though they knew they were just daughters of a poor farmer, after their father got “possession” of Kotoku and Shunkaku, they suddenly became very snobbish.
“Hey, Maw, ain’t twins bad luck in this village?”
Kotoku’s ears perked at Chikuei’s question, remembering what the soldiers who had attacked his village that night had said.
“Yep, that’s right. If someone has twins we decide which one to kill.”
After Bairin answered her sister, the girls’ eyes met.
“Gee, I wonder which one we’d kill? Ahahahahaha!”
With that, the two pointed at Shunkaku and cackled wildly.
“Shunkaku still pees in his bed! I saw Kotoku dryin’ out their blankets this mornin’. We might as well just kill this runt and put him outta his mizzury. Hahahaha.”
Kotoku heard a meek whisper come from behind him.
“Nii-chan…Will you…use your flute on these jerks…”
“…Shunkaku…” Kotoku whirled around in shock and looked into his brother’s dark, clouded eyes.
“Just like last time. Rip them to shreds….please…”
Kotoku looked at his brother in concern.
“Well, what’s the ruckus all about?”
When another man appeared on the scene, Shoko spoke out.
“Oh, it’s you, dear? Welcome back. Hey, I just can’t get Shunkaku to be of any use. Kotoku’s a mighty hard worker, so he’s no problem, but you’ve gotta do somethin’ about his little brother! Feedin’ this little rat is a waste of grub!”
“Now, now, calm down.”
This man named “Koh”, who was the master of this house, was very lazy and hardly ever worked. He stole a glance at Kotoku and grinned.
“Kotoku and Shunkaku is our precious nephews, okay? We’ve gotta raise them right”
Shoko stared at her husband in disbelief.
“Just do it. Raise them as you were up ‘till now. Just don’t try to sell them without my permission! Okay?”
After that warning, Koh left the house again.
“You should be thankful!” Shoko began to yell once again. “In this cruel world, you should be thankful you’re able to eat! Come on, Shunkaku; back to the well. If you drop the bucket again, no supper for you! And Kotoku, after you’re finished cleanin’ the pig-pen, you’re choppin’ wood! Come on, hop to it!”
The sisters continued to taunt Shunkaku.
“Heeeey, Shunkaku, get the water.”
“If you mess up this time, we’ll punish you! Good for nothin’ skunk!”
“You can’t do nothin’ without your brother, you toad!”
“Crybaby, coward, jerk!”
Kotoku felt Shunkaku’s hands clinging onto him from behind; trembling in humiliation.
“Well, we’ve gotta practice our singin’ and dancin’ now.”
“Yep, that’s right, Sis. On account of these guys came here, we’ve had more time to practice. We hafta get out into the capital and become an idol singing-unit.”
“With Maw as the prodooser, our unit name will be “Shou-Chiku-Bai”! Maybe we’ll let you fellas tag along when we become famous. Ahaha!”
With a final kick at Shunkaku’s shins, the two girls, their faces far from idol-material, made their exit like pro-wrestlers; cutting through the wind with their shoulders.
Their mother, who had been squinting at them in disapproval, suddenly returned to her senses.
“Come on, come on! Shunkaku! Get up!” Shoko stomped on the ground.
“….Shunkaku.” Kotoku softly pulled his little brother to his feet. Then, he smiled at him.
“Don’t give up hope…! No matter what happens, Nii-chan will always cover for you…”
Kotoku told this to Shunkaku by looking in his eyes.
“I know, and Nii-chan…will you promise…to be with me forever?…”
The twins looked deep into each other’s eyes, and as if proclaiming their bond to each other, nodded silently.
Read Tetris no Miko’s other Fushigi Yuugi light novel translations here.