1. Disappointed (Mrs. Yuuki)

To say that Miaka's mother was disappointed in her daughter's decision not to go to college would have been an incredible understatement. Mrs. Yuuki had taken a close look at her life after Miaka's birth and her husband's death and seen where she had gone wrong. She had married Yuuki Kenrou straight out of High School in a fit of delirious love and been a proper housewife to him while he made the money they lived on in the business world. She had never had cause to regret her life until he died and she found herself without the income she needed to make sure her children were taken care of.

She hadn't wanted Miaka to ever have to rely on a man for her life and she had pushed her daughter hard in that pursuit. She had never been willing to accept anything less than the absolute best from her daughter and Miaka had not disappointed her with her efforts, even if it was clear that she was not at all interested in academics the way her friend Yui was.

Then, all at once from her point of view, Keisuke and his friend Tetsuya had introduced their friend Sukunami Taka to the family. She knew that Keisuke and Miaka thought she hadn't seen it, but the shattered longing in the way Miaka and Taka looked at each other was a mirror image of the way she had felt about her husband when they had met for the first time. Everyone was amused by this except her and she did everything she could to slow down what she could already see coming.

Miaka went to Jounan High School with Yui and the two of them got really good grades there, but she knew that Miaka was only doing it because she wanted her to. She wasn't even considering the college entrance exams or what she would study in college, no matter how much pressure her mother put on her. Mrs. Yuuki was getting a bit desperate to make sure that her daughter never had to go through what she had.

To their credit, Taka and Miaka waited until the last semester of her senior year to announce their engagement. By then, Taka had graduated and built himself a successful business that he assured his soon to be mother-in-law would provide everything Miaka needed even if something happened to him. It didn't make her feel any better about her daughter's future when she graduated from High School, passed on a scholarship and married Taka in the space of two months. She told her daughter that it was hasty, ill-considered and generally a poor choice for the future. She wanted Miaka to have a career and good prospects for the future, to be happy.

Miaka, however, wasn't the child she had been. At some point while Mrs. Yuuki was working to support her two children and their prospects for the future, she had gone to work and left her daughter a child only to come back and find that she was a woman. So Miaka had smiled serenely at her mother, adjusted the western style wedding veil in her hair and told her that she was happy. She was her own person and all she wanted in the world was to be Taka's wife.

Then even though Mrs. Yuuki was disappointed in the way her daughter's life was going, she wasn't as disappointed as she could have been. Maybe it was the most important thing for Miaka to be happy, after all.


2. Regrets (Miaka)

Miaka knew she didn't really have anything to regret in the life ahead of her. She had done so much, gone through so much, yet she hadn't really lost anything. She knew that she was making the right choices with what she had. She had faith in what lay ahead of her.

She didn't even consider that she might have regretted not going to college. She knew she wasn't much for academics or studying and she wasn't really interested in having a career or a degree. It wasn't something that she had thought of before entering the book and when she might have thought of filling the gaping emptiness left behind by losing Tamahome with study and a career, he had found her again in the form of Taka.

He was out there now as she smiled and told her mother this was everything she ever wanted. He was standing at the head of the isle outside the door, waiting for Keisuke to lead her forward in this gown of untouched white and place her hand in his so that they could begin their lives together at last.

Her luck was beyond belief. It was better luck than any of the other priestesses had been graced with and she sent a prayer into the heavens for them as she looked at herself in the mirror and thought of what they had been given to face.

Miaka knew that she believed in reincarnation. How could she not when Taka had gone through so much to stand beside her in her own world. She prayed that Takiko would have a better life next time, one where she could find the love that was denied her in the end of her sojourn as the priestess of Genbu. She prayed that Byakko allowed Tatara and Suzuno to live their next lives at each others sides, that they would never have to be apart and hurting as they had been for so long.

She prayed that whatever remained of the Universe of the Four Gods would release Yui at last and let her be truly happy with Tetsuya. She didn't want to see that shadow of guilt in her best friend's eyes anymore for the time she had spent as the Priestess of Seiryuu. She may never truly know if anyone was listening to her prayers or if they could even be fulfilled the way she wished they could, but she wanted everyone to be happy and not just her.

It was enough that Tamahome was with her, that they were finally getting married. If this whole thing was some kind of cruel dream as she sometimes thought it must be when things seemed so unreal, then she hoped that she could just live it out and die at the end. She never wanted to wake from it.

She didn't regret finding the book, or any of the things that had happened in it (with the possible exception of the things that had happened to Yui) and she certainly didn't regret that Tamahome had found a way to be with her here in the end. How could she when all she would ever want was to be his wife and live out her life at his side?

Yet she realized as she took Keisuke's hand and led her down the aisle that she did have one painful regret, one that she could see Taka shared from the lingering traces of sadness that no one else noticed in his eyes.

It had hurt her more than anything to leave the other Suzaku warriors behind in the book. She may not have felt the same way about them that she had about Tamahome, but they had all loved each other in their own ways and they had given up everything to get her home and get Tamahome to her.

So, if she had only one regret, it was that they weren't here to see this wedding that they had made possible. She wished that she could have them all back again and they could be a whole family.


3. Scars (Yui)

She went to a great deal of effort to make everyone think that she was fine. She gave her all to her education, went out with her friends and filled her days with false smiles and laughter. It was only when she couldn't sleep at night or woke screaming from another nightmare that she admitted even to herself that she wasn't fine at all.

Her friends would not have been surprised that she was falling apart so completely. No one could go through what she had gone through without scars, after all, but Yui refused to acknowledge the past. She just couldn't face the things that she had said and done or the way she had allowed herself to be so completely taken in by a power hungry mad man. There was no way she could forgive herself, regardless of the fact that Miaka had forgiven her in the same instant she had done these things.

There were times when it seemed distinctly unfair to her that Miaka and Tamahome were here together and cheerfully living out their personal fairy tale. A chill would come over her when she looked in the mirror with these thoughts and saw the echoes of smouldering anger and pain in her own eyes. It was fear of what she would do that kept her from dealing with that. She locked it away inside her mind and kept it there.

She had tried to tell Tetsuya that she couldn't be with him. She was damaged and she felt like her body should be covered with the ugly scars she knew were on her heart. There was no understanding of what he could see in her when she couldn't see anything in herself.

It wasn't until he had caught her with the razor in her hand and blood pouring down her fingers that she had understood what he was trying to tell her. He didn't seem surprised by the fact that she was slicing the scars she thought she should have into her own skin and she was forced to realize that he had known she was broken all along. When he took the razor from her hand and gently washed and bandaged the cuts, it was the first time in years that she felt soothed and forgiven.

He knew that she was damaged, he told her when she yelled at him, he knew better than anyone but Miaka what had happened. He had hidden many of these things even from Keisuke and told no one about how badly she was falling apart. He knew and he didn't care. They could put the pieces back together, the two of them.

Then, if it got a little easier for her to smile or laugh, her friends were relieved that she was getting better. When it didn't hurt so much to see Miaka and Taka while Tetsuya was holding her hand, her best friend was eager to share everything about their lives, just as they had always said they would.

And when she pulled the little blue stud out of her jewelry box and put it in her ear to remind herself that things weren't always what they seemed to be, Tetsuya only kissed it gently and put a gold stud in the other ear, to remind her that it was okay to be broken and work on getting better. He told her that even scars fade with time and care, and even though she was broken and a great deal more cynical than she had once been, she believed him.


4. Rememberance (Tamahome)

He never failed to remember them after he had gotten the jewels of memory back. Keisuke and Tetsuya teased him lightly about his apartment starting to look like a candle shop, but it wasn't something he could really stop himself from doing. Compulsive behavior, his psych teacher called it, and he knew it was more than a little compulsion for him.

It started with one candle on Yuiren's birthday. He had found the perfect one the day before and decided to burn it as a present to the little sister that was more of a daughter to him than anything else. It was a delicate, cheerful pink, of course, with little yellow and purple butterflies all over it. At any other time, he might have been embarassed to purchase such a feminine candle, but this one was for Yuiren and he wasn't.

The candle burned for her and he felt a little better, knowing that he cared and remembered. So he had gotten a few more, one for each of his siblings and his father. He set up a little shrine in a corner of his apartment with the photo that Miaka had taken of his family, once upon a time. He left little things that he found there, random wildflowers or acorn seeds and the candles burned every night to remember the people that he had spent his entire life looking after.

He had happened upon one that was the exact color of Nuriko's hair then and decided that it was only right to remember his star brothers as well. There was the one with tiny ornaments that reminded him of the day they had met Hotohori, when Miaka tripped and fell on his litter, and the one made of clear gel with little fish charms in it like a pond, that reminded him of how much Chichiri liked fishing. He never caught anything, but he had told Tamahome once that it was the quiet grace of sitting there that he liked and not so much the fish.

Chiriko's candle was carved like a scroll and Mitsukake's had leaves impressed in the sides. Tasuki, naturally, had a brilliant red candle with three wicks for his fiery nature. When he was done, he looked at the little shrine he had put together, with its pictures and all the candles and realized that he almost had as many candles as a catholic church. He didn't stop buying them, though, and he didn't stop burning them.

It was only right, he told his friends when they teased him, to remember the family he had once had. It was only right to remember that they had given up everything to get Tamahome and Miaka to where they were. So Tetsuya and Keisuke lit the candles that night, and they all felt a little better.

His candles were arranged carefully on a little shrine in the corner when he married Miaka, all merrily burning as if the spirits of his loved ones were watching them then. Miaka's mother had thought it was extremely strange for him to insist on the candles being there, but Miaka's agreement told him she understood. Then when he lifted the veil back from her face and saw her for the first time on their wedding day, his eyes were caught on the necklace she was wearing.

It wasn't any of the necklaces he had seen her wear before, or anything that would have looked far better with a wedding gown. It was a string of acorn seeds that would be all over the ground in another couple of weeks, bound together on a red string with a little white feather in the front and he could tell by the tiny scars on her fingertips that she had strung it herself. He knew then that she remembered too.