The Stupid Tree
Part Five - X
A Tokyo Babylon/CLAMP Gakuen Tantei/X Crossover
by Jaelle


Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, they are all copyright to CLAMP, and I am not making any money off them, so please don't sue me. Or send Sei-chan after me.

This is a 'What if' story, in which one major event in the CLAMP timeline gets changed. I apologise in advance to all of those who prefer the canon pairings, several of which I have disrupted in order to write this, but it was just too much of an interesting theory to leave alone.

Words in *asterisks* are thoughts.

This story can be seen as a warning and a lesson to other fic writers - finish the story fast in case the authors abruptly change the direction you're heading in and do things like kill off characters you need. Argh. Remember, it's a "What if" alternative Universe fic people.


It was the Final Day, and the sun rose slowly in a blood-streaked and smoke-filled sky. The city of Tokyo lay in ruins, destroyed by the countless earthquakes that had struck so violently over the past few weeks. Shirou Kamui gazed over the dying city and then turned to his right, where Sumeragi Hokuto stood.

"It's happening," he whispered. "After everything we tried, everything we did, it's still happening. Maybe Hinoto was right, maybe we can't change Destiny."

Hokuto just put a hand on his shoulder. "It will be alright. I believe in you Kamui." She said, before turning to regard the others.

They had all assembled here, the other Dragons of Heaven. Katsumi Karen, Aoki Seiichirou, Nekoi Yuzuriha, Arisugawa Sorata and Kishuu Arashi. Not one had backed out of this final confrontation.

Kamui lifted the newly freed Shinken in his hands and regarded the living blade. He could feel it, and through it, the other sword. The mirror sword, wielded by his once-friend and now-twin star, Monou Fuuma. The Dark Kamui.

In the house behind them all, Takamura Suoh and Ijyuin Akira watched humanity's only hope. Their leader and Hokuto's husband, Imonoyama Nokoru, lay unconcious in his bed, watched over by the pair, even as they watched Kamui and Hokuto leap out of the grounds of the CLAMP Campus and on to a fight for humanity's future.

The Dragons of Heaven departed, heading for the one structure still standing, alone and stark against the skyline.

The Tokyo Tower.

***

"It's alone now," Monou Fuuma, now the dark /Kamui/ mused. "The last of it's kind."

"Last of it's kind?" Sakurazuka Seishirou asked.

"The Tokyo Tower. The last kekkai."

"So after this they'll all be extinct?" Kigai Yuuto joked nervously. The other two men ignored him, lost in thought.

Yuuto shrugged and took a long drag from his cigarette.

"I thought you were giving up," Yatohji Satsuki said without looking at him.

"I was, but what with everything else, it seemed rather pointless." Yuuto shrugged and looked at his other companions. The remaining Dragons of Earth were assembled near the Tokyo Tower, awaiting their opposites.

"So, what do you think will be the outcome of today's battle?" He asked Shiyuu Kusanagi. "From a military point of view."

"I don't know." Kusanagi replied flatly. "I'm not thinking about it." He stared off into the distance.

Yuuto sighed. "Is EVERYONE spacing out on me today? Now, of all times!" He looked at Nataku, who seemed confused, and then to the final member of their group.

"I am not spaced out," Kazuki Kakyou replied. "For the first time in my life, I am right here. I will _be_ here for the entire conflict."

Yuuto was a bit taken aback. "Big words from the man who had been imprisoned all his life until about forty-five minutes ago." He joked. "And you didn't even say thank you."

"What for?" Kakyou turned away. "I'm not grateful, not for anything."

Fuuma regarded the dreamseer with amusement. "Not even for the chance to see your beloved Hokuto properly for the first time?"

"DAMN YOU!"

Seishirou and Fuuma chuckled and Yuuto tched. "A married woman Kakyou-san! Very bad form. Especially when she's got such a good husband. You'd better hope he's a casualty of this conflict if you want to get anywhere with her!"

Fuuma turned to Seishirou. "You mean you haven't killed him yet?"

Seishirou shook his head. "Hokuto already has more than enough reason and desire to fight. Going after her husband would be both extremely unsubtle and... overkill."

"Overkill?" Fuuma cocked his head to one side. "What does that mean?"

***

"They're here," Kamui said.

"Yes, I can feel them." Said Hokuto.

"We all can." Sorata said. "So let's not be rude." Taking a few steps forward he inhaled some of the sweet, precious air.

"GOOD MORNING!" He yelled. "Did you sleep well?"

"Quite well, thank you." Yuuto landed just in front of him. "So we meet again."

"Why so we do," Sorata faked amazement. "And on today of all days!"

Yuuto laughed. "Oh comedian, I'm going to miss you."

Sorata laughed as well. "Oh pretty boy, my world will be darker without you also."

They both laughed.

"What's so funny?" Yuzuriha asked.

"Nothing, that's why they're laughing." Hokuto replied. "We seem to be missing some people," she said brightly, stepping forward. "Don't tell me you're the only one who showed up for work today!"

"Oh no, everyone was bright and early." Yuuto assured her. "Our /Kamui/ was quite insistent on him."

"My! He must be such a hard taskmaster!" Hokuto giggled. "Are you sure you don't want to defect over to our side?"

"No, thank you anyway." Yuuto replied. "As it happens, the others are here."

There were a series of soft (and one rather louder) thumps as Kakyou, Satsuki, and Kusanagi landed beside Yuuto.

"Hokuto-chan," Kakyou said. "I'm so happy to finally meet you in person."

"Hello again," Hokuto said. Then sighed. "You could have gotten word to me you know. I would have helped."

"Noone can help me."

"Now that is exactly the sort of defeatist attitude that is going to get your butt kicked today." Hokuto rolled her eyes.

"Can we get on? The day isn't getting any longer you know," Satsuki snapped.

"The day will be the same length as all the others." Nataku said, confused.

"No, it won't." Kamui whispered.

The single Dragon that had not yet spoken stepped forward.

"Hello Missy," Kusanagi said softly.

"Kusanagi-kun," Yuzu's eyes brimmed with unshed tears. "I... it's nice to see you again."

"You two... know each other?" Sorata looked back and forth between the two Dragons, who avoided his gaze. They blushed.

"Oh Yuzu," Hokuto put her face in her hands. "Yuzu, Yuzu, Yuzu. Sweet, sweet Yuzu-chan. Is _this_ the special friend you've kept sneaking off to see?"

They blushed harder.

Hokuto sighed.

"Why didn't you TELL me?? I would have designed you a SPECIAL dress for today."

"What?"

"Huh?"

"Pardon?"

Kusanagi and Yuzuriha stared at Hokuto. In fact, nearly everyone did, with the sole of exception of Kamui, who was smiling slightly and shaking his head.

Hokuto sighed. "Well, we'll just have to make do. Excuse me sir." She walked up to Kusanagi. "And your name is?"

He blinked. "Kusanagi Shiyuu."

"And you are how old?"

He muttered something.

"Uh huh. Well, it's not _too_ bad I guess. Occupation?"

Kusanagi tapped his uniform.

Hokuto raised an eyebrow. "You're a member of the JSDF? How... ironic. Hmmm..." She walked slowly around the big Dragon. Then clapped him on the shoulder and flipped open a fan to cover the lower half of her face. "Very well! You have my permission to date!"

There was a loud thud as nearly everyone present crashed painfully to the ground.

"Ow... what?"

"As I am standing in loco parentis for Yuzuriha, I have to check out her prospective boyfriends. You'll do." Hokuto nodded. "Yes indeed. You'll do just nicely."

"Umm... Hokuto-chan, you seem to be overlooking the obvious flaw in your scenario..." Sorata choked out.

"I am?" Hokuto blinked innocently at him. "Hmmm... tall, strong, handsome, obviously smitten, not too old, polite, employed. Nope. I think I've covered all the bases."

"Um... Dragon of Earth?" Yuuto suggested.

"Oh that, feh." Hokuto waved this insignificant problem away. "That won't be a problem after today."

"Unnnhhh..." Yuuto turned away. "I think I'm developing a headache."

"You get used to it," Kamui assured him.

"But this can't be right," Hokuto mused. "You seem to be short a couple of team members."

"Ah... we're just the welcoming committee." Yuuto said. "Sakurazuka-san said you knew where to find him, and our /Kamui/ awaits your Kamui at the appointed place."

"I see." Hokuto sighed and turned back to the assembled Dragons of Heaven. "Well my friends, it seems as though this is where we separate for a while. Now everyone listen carefully. Play _nicely_ with one another. Kamui and I will be back soon."

"We'll be good Hokuto-chan!" Sorata, Yuuto, Seiichirou, Karen and Yuzuriha sing-songed back to her.

"Good luck Kamui," Sorata grasped the boys hand. "Be careful. I'm counting on you to be my best man when Nee-chan finally gives in to my charms."

"I'll be there," Kamui assured his friend.

"Hmph!" Said Arashi. "Take care of yourself Kamui."

Yuzuriha sprinted forward and hugged him around the waist. "Come back to us!"

Seiichirou and Karen added their best wishes and then turned to face their opponents as Kamui and Hokuto walked away. Behind them, they could hear the battle begin.

"He'll be at the Tower," Hokuto said.

"Yes, he will. But the time for our meeting is not quite yet," Kamui said. "I'll walk you to your meeting with Seishirou."

"Thank you Kamui, that's very nice of you."

The two continued in silence until they reached a certain sakura tree in the now-deserted Ueno Park.

"Well, I see we were both relucant to leave our... friends." An arrogant voice drawled.

"Good morning Fuuma, you sound a little put-out this morning. Did you get out on the wrong side of somebody else's bed?" Hokuto replied.

Fuuma and Seishirou grinned at her from beneath the Tree. Seishirou removed his arm from around the other boy. "Now Hokuto, let's not spoil this lovely morning with silly taunts. We're all... well... _most_ of us are adults. Let's try to rise above this."

"I will if he does." Hokuto grinned ferociously at Fuuma.

Fuuma snarled back. "You know, it is a shame you have to die Hokuto. Your wish for life is so strong."

"It's strong enough to save all the people on this world."

"Noone is that strong."

"We'll see Fuuma-chan, we'll see."

"My name is /Kamui/."

Hokuto smiled briefly and then pouted. "But if I have _two_ Kamui-chan's I'll get all confused!"

"Then perhaps I should hurry and kill the other one, would that suit you Hokuto-chan?" Fuuma was amused.

"You can give it your best shot Fuuma-chan, but I know who my money is on."

"Hokuto-chan I..." Kamui looked at her and she squeezed his hand. "It's alright Kamui-chan, I have faith in you. Trust yourself, and trust us."

Kamui nodded and released her hand, stepping forward to confront his other. Without looking back they both began to walk to the Tokyo Tower. Hokuto sighed as they went and closed her eyes.

"And now it is time for us to face each other once more Hokuto-chan," Seishirou's voice chuckled from behind her and Hokuto turned to face him.

"We don't _have_ to you know." Hokuto pointed out. "It is only the battle of Kamui's which will determine the world's fate. You and I could bunk off for pizza and let them fight it out and noone would ever know."

Seishirou raised an eyebrow. "Is that what you want to do, Hokuto-chan?"

She shook her head. "No Sei-chan. I want to end it between us."

"As do I. I have to say though, that you have surprised me again?" He indicated her clothes. "I keep expecting to see you in your brothers shikifuku."

Hokuto sniffed. "Too monochromatic. Now if it was available in, say, a nice bright shade of orange with silver tassels, that would be a different story. Are you ready?"

"Indeed I am. Shall we start?"

"Let's shall. ON!" Hokuto snatched some ofuda out of her jacket pocket and held them up in front of her before releasing them. They streaked towards Seishirou in the shape of birds and he dodged or destroyed them easily.

"A sneak attack Hokuto?" He grinned.

"You don't play by the rules, why should I?" She snapped back, fingers moving as she prepared for her next move. "You can't win a battle by being defensive. ON!" More ofuda appeared.

"Very well then, just as you like Hokuto-chan. Just as you like..." Seishirou chuckled and launched his own attack.

And battle was joined.

***

Back at the battle in the streets, the pace was heating up. Nataku and Seiichirou were locked in a furious combat, with neither side showing any signs of weakness yet. Satsuki had paired off against Arashi, and the two were fighting in total silence. In contrast, the battle between Yuuto and Sorata was punctuated by explosions, wisecracks and occasional bursts of laughter.

"Oh well, at least SOMEONE is enjoying themselves," Karen murmured, as she shot a fireball at Kakyou, who blinked out, and then reappeared behind her.

"This may be their final day, at least they will go out happy," he said.

"And what about you?" Karen turned and fired again. This time the ball hit and passed through the Dreamseer. "What?"

There was a stunning blow to the back of her head, and she fell. Kakyou stood over the unconcious Dragon and sighed. "I... I am merely watching." He turned to regard the fight behind him, and in particular, two Dragons who had not yet joined the battle.

***

Atop the Tokyo Tower, the two Kamui regarded each other, their shinkens drawn.

"Are you prepared?" /Kamui/ asked.

"I am." Kamui replied, and followed it with a question of his own. "Will you not change your mind?"

"I will not."

"Then let battle commence!" They both shouted and their was a harsh CLANG as their swords met.

***

With the entrance of the Kamui's into the fight, the battle instantly intensified. Karen revived and joined in to help a wounded Seiichirou fight off the powerful Nataku. Yuuto gasped as Sorata's electric attacks found a gap in his defence. And Arashi screamed as an electrical wire thrust itself through her midsection.

"Nee-chan!" Sorata abandoned his attack and jumped to her defence. "I've got you!"

"Sorata! WATCH OUT!" Arashi screamed.

"Urk!"

The shrine maiden watched helplessly as the wire smashed through the priests' body. Blood dripped on her and smeared across her clothes as he clutched her to him tightly.

"Nee... chan..." Sorata husked and then collapsed. The two Dragons crashed into the ground and rolled along a few metres.

"Sorata-kun! Arashi-san!" Yuzuriha sprinted towards them.

"Missy!" Only Kusanagi saw the arcing power cable. "Nooo!" He flung himself forward, body hunching over to protect her from the cable.

"AAAARRAAGGGHHH!!!"

Kusanagi looked up as blood obscured his vision.

***

/Kamui/ jerked as the psychic feeling of the loss of one of his Dragons flowed through him.

The other Kamui wasn't faring that well either. "No..." he muttered. "Sorata..."

***

Hokuto flung a new attack at Seishirou, trying to block out the pain of her comrades.

Seishirou flinched as her power impacted on him. "Ouch," he said. "You've grown powerful Hokuto-chan, but not powerful enough."

"Oh, is that so?" Hokuto smiled and unleashed a seal on one of her spells. "Maybe YOU'RE not as strong as you think you are Sei-chan!"

Seishirou gasped in pain as the Tree shuddered. "What?" He said. Then he recognised the attack. "Reflective magic? Backlash??? How can that... NO!!!"

All over Tokyo, sakura trees withered and died in their tens, in their hundreds, and finally in their thousands.

Seishirou stared in horror at Hokuto as his power was abruptly halved. "Sympathetic magic," he said. "All those trees you kept climbing."

"Every tree I climbed I cursed," Hokuto acknowledged. "All of them connected to this one. Connected to give it more power, and then to infect, pollute and die."

Seishirou shuddered and stood upright. "You're more ruthless than I thought."

"Who me?" Hokuto smiled. "I'm just trying to bring you and my brother together again! Always the matchmaker, that's me!"

Seishirou controlled a snarl, but the rage continued to flicker in his one good eye. "Impressive," he said. "But not enough. Not nearly enough Hokuto-chan. This game is over!"

***

"KAKYOU?!"

The Dreamseer's body fell, skewered by the cable. Kusanagi and Yuzuriha hurriedly turned him over as Seiichirou and Karen combined their forces to turn back Satsuki, Yuuto and Nataku's attacks.

"Why?" Kusanagi whispered to him.

Kakyou smiled. "Because you still have a chance for love. A chance I let slip through my fingers. Don't let it pass you by as well."

Arashi had made her way over to them, and her eyes widened. "That's what Hokuto-chan always says!"

Kakyou closed his eyes. "She's an intelligent woman, you should listen to her." And with a sigh, he finally rested.

Sobbing, Arashi turned back to Sorata as Yuzuriha joined the battle against the Dragons of Earth and Kusanagi closed the eyes of his fallen comrade.

"Sorata... I..."

"Nee-chan. It's alright. Don't push it, let it flow." Sorata's breathing was harsh. "Look after yourself."

"I will," Arashi curled her fingers around his. "I don't love you!" She suddenly shouted. "I don't! So you have to come back to die for the _real_ true love of your life. Come back! It's not me, it's NOT!"

Sorata chuckled softly. "Sorry Arashi, I hate to break it to you... but you're the one..." His eyes lost their focus.

Arashi bent down and whispered in his ear and his lips curved up before his eyes closed.

"Kusanagi... a little help here!" Yuuto demanded.

Kusanagi looked around. "I'm sorry." He whispered as he gathered his powers and prepared to strike at Karen.

"Don't be!" Arashi swung her sword and opened a huge gash along his back. When he turned to face her she impaled him on the full length of her sword.

"KUSANAGI!!! Arashi! HOW COULD YOU!!!" Yuzuriha abandoned her post to kneel beside her friend.

"He'll live. I didn't hit anything crucial to his long-term survival. If we all make it through this battle we should be able to get him to a hospital before he bleeds to death." Arashi told her coldly. "It was the best I could do for him."

Yuzuriha regarded her for a moment, and then nodded. "The others need us." She said.

And battle was rejoined.

***

"They will all die," /Kamui/ taunted. "So why do you cry for this one?"

"He was my friend." Kamui shouted back at him.

"_I_ was your friend once."

"Yes. You are. You always will be. FUUUUUMMMAAAA!!!"

***

Karen gasped at Nataku's scarf slithered around her defences and sliced through her body. She barely had time to breathe out again before she died.

"KAREN!" Seiichirou's wind blades sliced through Satsuki's wires and took her arm off at the shoulder. She shuddered at the massive blood loss and collapsed, reaching out for Beast. The giant computer reached for her, and was beaten back by Arashi, slicing through it's cables like the Grim Reaper. Satsuki shuddered one or two more times, before falling into death.

"NO! SATSUKI!" Yuuto had time for one last cry before Inuki found a weakness and knocked him off balance, just in time for Seiichirou to smash him a thousand feet up into the air with a wind tunnel. His body crashed back to the ground a minute later, broken and dead.

The remaining Seals pooled their powers against Nataku, the only Angel left fighting. Suddenly it turned towards the Tower.

"Daddy?" It asked, before dropping its shields and allowing Arashi's sword to destroy it.

"We won!" Yuzuriha exulted, and then collapsed.

"Yuzu-chan!" Seiichirou shouted. "No! Urk!" A garotte found its way around his neck.

Kanoe smiled.

<Kanoe! You must not interfere! I will not allow it!> Hinoto appeared before her. <I will not!>

"No... Hinoto... DON'T!" Kanoe's eyes widened as the Princess' eyes closed. "NO!"

Hinoto pulled a knife out from her robes, and stabbed herself with it. Kanoe reached for her sister, and Arashi swept her head off.

"Is that all of them?" She demanded.

"No," Seiichirou replied, looking at the Tower. "Not all."

***

"You cannot defeat me Kamui. I am your friend, remember?"

"I remember." Kamui regarded Fuuma. "I promise, I'll take care of myself from now on Fuuma. Thank you, for everything. My friend."

Their swords met... and shattered...

***

And one last battle was being fought. The fighters were too engrossed to notice the fall of their comrades. For them, nothing and noone else mattered but each other.

Hokuto cried out as thousands of leaves sliced tiny cuts into her skin, and fell backwards as they kept coming.

Seishirou loomed over her and she kicked upwards, hitting him in the knee. Unbalanced, he went down to his knees, giving her the time she needed to scramble back to her feet.

"Hokuto..." He snarled and reached out for her. One hand clutched her wrist and she bit back a cry as she felt the bones grind together. Reaching out with her other hand she bent one of his fingers back sharply until she was rewarded with a crack and a pained grunt. Encouraged, she reached for another finger.

"Oh no you don't." Seishirou twisted to his feet, tugged her off-balance, clutched her to him and yanked at her arm.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" Hokuto's eyes filled with tears as she felt her shoulder dislocate, and then she screamed as he broke her elbow at the joint. She reached behind her and raked at his face with her free hand. Feeling him flinch she pulled away, pivoted on her toes, half turned towards him, and rammed her stiffened forefingers directly into his remaining good eye.

Seishirou froze in shock. One hand still held onto her broken arm, the other came up to feel around her fingers at the blood that was now trickling down his face. He released her arm and cupped his eye, and her hand.

"Sorry Sei-chan," Hokuto said, and jerked her hand free.

He screamed and fell to the ground, curling up and clutching at his eye.

"Hokuto..." He stared sightlessly around him with his remaining blind eye. "How could you..."

"I'm not Subaru," she said, standing over him. "I'm not kind like he was, and I don't love you like he did. But I do love you Sei-chan. You're my other brother, my older brother-in-law." Her eyes were sad. "I don't hate you for what you did. You can't help being what you are. But I've learned something about plants over these past few years. You don't get rid of blighted trees by chopping off the branches." Her breath came faster as her hands began to move.

"You get rid of it by PULLING IT UP AT THE ROOTS!!!"

Shikigami flew, and Seishirou whipped his head around in a futile attempt to work out where they were as they approached him - and then diverted away, towards...

"The Tree!" He felt the birds attack, and then smiled.

"Hokuto-chan," he said sinisterly as he stood, trying to ignore the horrible pain and sense his opponent using his magic. One hand covered the remains of his eye. "Dear, dear sister-in-law. I congratulate you. A good plan, very very good. But do you really think that the Tree would be unprotected? Your shikigami will not even be able to touch..." He doubled over in pain. "No..." He whispered as he collapsed to the ground again. "How could you get through the wards?"

"I was already within the wards," Hokuto whispered back. "You let me in, all those years ago."

"I didn't..." Seishirou howled in denial and pain as he felt a tearing within him. "I _didn't_..."

"You did, you let a part of me in." Hokuto said, her eyes staring into the distance. "I have always had a man on the inside."

Seishirou's mouth dropped open in shock. "No... NOOOOOO!!! How could you do this to me... SUBARU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

He turned his head to face the Tree just as the trunk cracked open, exposing the rot at the core. Subaru Sumeragi, his body still the same as it had been nine years previously, lay cradled in the trunk of the Tree. His skin flickered luminously and lightning crackled off it. Shikigami flew past him and attacked the interior of the Tree, others breaking off to go for the roots.

With each strike Seishirou writhed. "Nooooo..." he moaned in pain. "This is impossible." He felt his head being lifted and tensed, but Hokuto merely lifted it onto her lap and stroked his hair. "I know it hurts Seishirou," she said. "I know, but it's alright. It will all be over soon."

Seishirou shuddered with pain as the Tree began to wither, and lose its grasp on the souls it held captive. "Ho-ku-to..." he mouthed. "Su-ba-ru..." One root succumbed to the attacks of the shikigami. Six shikigami formed a magical symbol around the top of the Tree, glowed white for a second, and then exploded - blowing the top of it apart.

"Hokuto... not... not... not powerful... enough..." He panted. "Not... your... power..." His eyes were losing their focus. The trunk creaked ominously.

"No," Hokuto said. "Not mine. You were right Sei-chan. I'm not powerful enough to stop you. My shikigami could never have defeated the Tree. But these are not my shikigami. These are Subaru's legacy - the ofuda he left behind when you killed him. Invested with his power, invoked by mine, and called past death to his body which you put inside  and beyond your protective wards they will obey the last will of their master and destroy the Tree and there will be no more Guardians. No more."

"How... how could I not have seen this coming? How... could... I not... know... have felt... Subaru..." Seishirou's strength was fading rapidly.

"Oh Sei-chan," Hokuto sighed, and gently brushed her hands over his sightless and ruined eyes.

"Love is blind."

***

At the campus, Nokoru slowly awakened.

"Kaichou," Suoh gently lifted him up. "I think it's nearly over."

Nokoru blinked in confusion. "Over? Hokuto?"

***

"Ho... Ho... ku..." Seishirou struggled to speak.

"No more words," Hokuto said, tears spilling down her cheeks. "Poor Sei-chan, you never had a chance. We always had you outnumbered. You and your Tree - I told you, I gave you fair warning - no Sumeragi will EVER lose to a stupid tree!" She clasped Seishirou's hand and gently held it against herself. "Do you understand now why you couldn't beat me Sei-chan?"

Seishirou smiled briefly, then relaxed as the pain abruptly retreated from his body. "Su-ba-ru..." He exhaled and breathed in no more.

Hokuto buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed as the shikigami and Subaru's body lit up and then faded away, leaving nothing behind but churned earth and a few twisted twigs and leaves.

***

She found Kamui lying at the base of the Tokyo Tower, Fuuma's head cradled in his arms. The boy looked up at her and two identical gazes met each other.

"I didn't want to." Kamui said.

"I know. I didn't either." said Hokuto. "But I think... it's better this way."

"Sorata's dead." Kamui told her. "Karen too. And Yuzu-chan is badly injured."

"We'd better find her then and get her to a hospital," Hokuto offered him her hand. "Come on."

"What happened to Seishirou?" Kamui asked.

Hokuto sighed. "Well you know how it is Kamui. It's all in good fun until somebody loses an eye."

***

Epilogue: Six Years Later:

Hokuto swung her feet idly in the air as she perched on the branch of a sakura tree, Nokoru sat beside her, his head resting against her shoulder.

"Surprising," he said, "That after all of that this one tree survived."

"Mmmm, well, I was going to use it too, but I decided it was too pretty. And so handy for practicing." She said. "Oh by the way..."

Nokoru tensed.

"I forgot to mention that Akira will be back later."

"Ah, okay." He said, relaxing.

Hokuto regarded him. "Will you please get over it?"

Nokoru nibbled on her ear. "I don't think I'll ever get over it. It's branded in my mind forever. 'Honey, I'm home! I killed Seishirou, we won the battle, the world is safe, and by the way, I'm pregnant!'"

Hokuto giggled. "You should have seen the look on your face!"

"Hmph," Nokoru grumbled. "I nearly had a heart attack on the spot."

"That would have been embarrassing," Hokuto admitted. "Imagine surviving so much only to collapse at the finishing line."

"Thank you soooo much," Nokoru said. "And it would have been all your fault! Bad enough I have to put up with all of these jokes about being such a heavy sleeper I could snooze through the end of the world!" He stretched. "Have you heard from Seiichirou?"

"Yes, he and his family are having a wonderful time in Barbados. It was nice of you to send them there."

"I'm a nice kind of person." Nokoru said mildly. "Besides, Yuzuriha and Kusanagi REALLY needed a good holiday for their honeymoon, so it was easiest to send Seiichirou and family along as well to chaperone."

"Chaperone? On their HONEYMOON?"

Nokoru smiled. "Well, to help them ease into married life then. And Arashi?"

"She's doing well. Old Stargazer says it's shaken things up a little to have a female priest, and she seems to take absolute pleasure in causing all sorts of chaos at Mt Kouya. She seems to consider it her duty to continue on for Sorata. I hear she's developing a Kansai accent."

"I don't think I can cope with that. Is that Kamui?"

It was indeed, the former leader of the Dragons of Heaven was looking quite harried.

"What's the matter Kamui-chan?" Hokuto called.

"I only took my eyes off them for a second!" He said, tearing at his hair. "Just so that I could memorise a formula, then when I turned back, they were gone!"

Hokuto sighed, "Oh no, not again."

There was a thud nearby.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

Hokuto and Nokoru jumped out of the tree and sprinted after Kamui, entering a glade to see a small boy crying on the ground, having fallen out of a nearby willow tree. Another child, this one a girl who bore a remarkable resemblance to the boy on the ground, was halfway up the tree and looking concerned.

"Subaru, are you okay?" The girl called out. "Should I come down?"

"Stay where you are Sakura!" Hokuto called. She picked up her son. "Now Subaru, don't cry so. Here, let me help you." She lifted the boy up within easy reach of a branch and he clambered up onto it, and then swiftly caught up with his sister. The twins hugged each other and glowed with their triumph.

"That's the spirit!" Hokuto called. "Remember you two..."

And everyone joined in with her:

"No Sumeragi has ever been beaten by a stupid tree!"

The End.


Authors Notes on the Tree stories.
Or: When Perfectly Simple Plotlines Go Horribly Wrong

I'll try to restrain my ranting, but forgive me for one second.

ARGH! How could this happen? Why wouldn't it stop? Why? Why? Why?

Okay, I feel better now.

Basically, this story started out as a relatively simple one: Hey, what if I swapped Hokuto for Subaru? And was intended to concentrate on the relationship between Hokuto and Sei-chan. And then I just had to get clever. I blame the spirit of Hokuto - if she HAD been here instead of Subaru, she WOULD have gotten into everything and everyone. Continuity suddenly became a crucial factor and I absolutely HAD to include every event and every person.

This was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was thinking that concentrating on two characters but still having them interact with all of the OTHER characters would be possible. No. I definitely now have a better understanding of why it's so hard to write film scripts with five or six main characters.

And finally mistake number three was bringing in the CCD crew - which is why this story has a side story to explain how that happened.

I've more or less stuck to the actual continuity of X, with one major difference (Sei-chan! *sniffle*), and I have to say it's been very challenging working within that. The other weird thing about this story was the development of its "moral", which was a surprise to me. The "moral", of course, was Hokuto's oft-repeated lesson that one should not give up on happiness just because of possible future sadness. Something some of the X crew should certainly keep in mind. (SUBARU!!! I AM looking at you!).
 
I'd also like to apologise for the X-movie-like way in which I rapidly disposed of a whole lot of characters, but they just had to go. And I thought it was mean not to say how they died. This sort
of thing is why the story kept growing. I would particularly like to apologise to Sorata, who I truly wanted to save, but in the end had to kill off. It wasn't personal, I just couldn't think of a way to save you.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed the story and noone was too confused. It certainly wound up being more disjointed than I intended overall, and I'm considering going through the whole thing and smoothing it out a bit by removing some conversations and some attention to characters which slowed the plot down. For example, most of part four could go.

Anyway, it's now 3.11 in the morning over here, so I should probably stop rambling on and boring everyone. However, before I go there are two people who I must acknowledge. Dreams of Sakura and Truth have been the most supportive readers and most persistent enquirers for the duration of this story and I'd like to thank them both. Now please stop asking me when the next part is out! It's done! There is no more!

Oh, and for those who wanted to hurt me for some of Hokuto's lines in the last part, I should add that the "Love is Blind" line was thought up while I was telling my SO about the storyline while waiting for our Chinese takeaways, and upon hearing that line he thumped my shoulder. When I asked him why, he said he was doing that for all of the readers who got to that line and wanted to hit me, but couldn't. So you have all been avenged, and I'm very sorry, but I just had to use it.

And remember: never run with scissors! It's all in good fun until somebody loses an eye. *flees the wrath of rather a lot of people*

Jaelle

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