Does anyone besides me wonder what Chichiri was doing the whole time Miaka and co. were looking for the rest of the seishi? Well, in this fanfic, I try to explain what he might have been doing while serving as the acting emperor...
It was morning at the Heavenly Palace of Konan, and Mei had so many things to do. She had been raised in the servants' quarters of the palace since the age of 3, but never before had she been so busy as in these last few weeks. Ever since the reappearance of the Suzaku no Miko, everyone in the palace was up to their necks in work trying to prepare for the dozens of important guests who came to pay homage to the great Miko, only to find out too late that she had already left the palace in her quest to summon Suzaku. Just two days ago, Mei had to prepare a special dish for the master of the Tenshao clan, who wanted to see for himself if Taiitsu-kun's prophecies had really come true. What made the matter difficult was the arrival of the master of the Jiantoh clan as well. Needless to say, the Emperor had quite a troubled time trying to manage the two rival clans in his hall. But now that she thought about it, the Emperor had not been quite himself lately. He seemed somehow... distracted. In fact, a few days ago, Mei had caught the emperor in his room looking at a mirror and saying "I am beautiful... no, I AM beautiful... I am BEAUtiful no da?" What was stranger, though, was that His Majesty noticed her in the room and he blushed!!! He actually blushed. Never before had she seen the emperor blush from being caught in front of a mirror.
Mei walked up the steps that led from the garden to the Emperor's room and went inside. It was her duty every day to prepare fresh garments and make breakfast for His Majesty. But to her surprise, the room was unoccupied. A wind blew in from the open door, and she noticed a piece of yellow parchment, the kind used for enchantments, falling from the bed. Written on the parchment was the name "Hotohori"...
The night before, somewhere on Mt. Taikyoku, a robed monk was making his way down a trail to the top of the cliff. He had gone up and down this route many times in his life before, carrying messages for his mentor to various other people. Tonight was different, though. He had left the comforts of the Palace before the moon reached its zenith and proceeded to the temple of Taiitsu-kun to talk with her about certain matters. Her last few words concerned him greatly:
"Remember, Houjun, that whatever title the girl bears, she is still just a girl. You are the eldest of her seishi, and are therefore responsible for making sure she does not fall into harm. Watch over her, like you would your own sister."
"Yes, Taiitsu-kun, I understand," he said with his mask in hand.
"Another thing, child. Events are beginning to unravel even faster than I can grasp. You must be very careful. Kutou has found her Miko as well, and I fear that several of her seishi might already have been gathered. You must be very careful."
"Don't worry, Taiitsu-kun; I will use your knowledge as best I can to help the Suzaku no Miko. I'll be careful."
He put on his mask and said, "Besides, with Chichiri by her side, what evil can befall her, no da?" With that, Chichiri left the temple and headed back to the Palace.
By horse, it usually takes several days to go from Konan's capital to Taiitsu-kun's temple, but all Chichiri needed was his trusty straw hat. In no time, he was blinking from one forest to the next, traveling down the side of the mountain and headed for the Emperor's, no wait, his comfy bed. He almost giggled devilishly at that thought, but some time in his past, he had lost the ability to laugh. At any rate, I should make it back before dawn. Or so he thought.
The sound of a falling tree caught the attention of the monk as he was zapping his way home. He stopped teleporting and turned to the source of that sound. In this area, everybody went to sleep not long after night fell. So who was cutting down trees? Or what? He crept silently among the bushes, trying to get a clearer look. He mouthed a spell of silence to be extra careful, the words of Taiitsu-kun still fresh in his head. Off in the distance, perhaps forty yards ahead, some thing was flailing its arms around, knocking trees down one at a time with its fists. From the moonlight, Chichiri could make out a human figure, with a bald head, except for a root sticking out of it. A root? He took a closer look. By Suzaku, it was a root! And the figure itself was completely made out of wood and leaves! Several trees lay about, all of them with huge deformations in them where the evil tree spirit had struck.
Chichiri had to do something. At this rate, the monster was going to destroy all the trees in this forest. He opened up a hole in space and slid in. A moment later, he was crouching on a branch of a tree, several yards above the creature. I must somehow calm the spirit. He started weaving a web of chi when the creature turned and looked up.
Chichiri spun faster.
The creature started to walk up to the tree that Chichiri was hiding in, a slow, awkward movement that resulted from a lack of any knees. This only made the little monk more nervous. The web of chi blinked out of existence in Chichiri's eyes just as the creature swung its wooden arm against the tree.
"No daaaaaaaaa...!" With a crash, he landed a few feet away from the fallen tree and quickly drew another hole in space. The tree spirit lumbered (no pun intended) toward the priest with increasing speed, its eyes glowing an eerie green.
"Daaaaa, daaaa!!!" Chichiri immediately plunged into the hole, reappearing back where he was originally. He was gasping for breath, wondering if his magic had worked earlier. After finally settling down, he looked at the monster and smiled one of his rare, hidden smiles. The magic worked. The net he wove allowed him to see the creature's chi structure. While the spirit was knocking trees down in anger, Chichiri observed it from afar and realized the problem. Someone had bound a human spirit to a dead tree! That was why this tree spirit was so angry.
Chichiri began weaving another web. In a moment, he cut the chi-snare that had caught the spirit and the lumbering (again, no pun intended) monster stopped dead in its tracks. Chichiri breathed a sigh of relief.
"No da!" He was going to be late! After the exhausting battle, Chichiri had no more strength for teleportation. Hotohori-sama was going to kill him! He started to run back to the palace, putting the thoughts of the battle in the back of his head. He decided it was another problem that Miaka need not worry about.
Back in the forest, a figure appeared out of the shadows, legs crossed in midair. "Not bad, for a Suzaku seishi." The mysterious, bald monk disappeared back into the shadows, leaving the dead tree standing.