Fushigi Yuugi: Gaiden

"I don't know how to heal the wounds in your heart..."
Fushigi Yuugi Gaiden: The Novels

{Warning - this page contains spoilers}

I'll hold up my hands at this point and admit that I haven't read all or probably even half of these properly. (I was reading them but then got distracted by Sotsugyou M...).

These are a series of novels written by Nishizaki Megumi (with the advice, input and support of Watase Yuu) to give background (or foreground!) to various of the characters and what they are doing. Eikoden appears as one (or I think it's two volumes) of these stories. I confess Eikoden is one I haven't read in novel form, though, I've only seen the animation, so I'm unsure about how much they differ.

My brief understanding of the novels I've read through  is as follows:

Genrou Den
Tasuki's story, from his running away from home to his joining the Reikaku-zan bandits to his proving himself as future leader of the gang. His connection to Kouji is explained in great detail, as well as the nature and identity of the old boss whose death is mentioned in the original manga sequence. (The boss is called Hakurou, which made my ears prick up. In the animation of OVA 2, Tasuki casts a spell "Haku Rou En". Is this some kind of pass down from his old leader, you wonder...? It isn't in the manga as far as I can see, so it's just a vague wondering!) Genrou is Tasuki's nickname which means phantom wolf, and he's given this on account of his speed and his tenacity.
Genrou Den also introduces the rival bandits of Kaou-zan and their slightly perverted leader, Kieron. There's also his kid sister Reirei who wants to fight with the Reikaku-zan bandits and in the end, gives her life to try and help Tasuki and Kouji succeed in defeating the demon Dokoro. (Reirei is in love with Tasuki, but Tasuki really doesn't get this until Kouji bashes it into his head).
This story also covers Hotohori and insurrection against the throne on the part of his demon possessed half brother Ougi. Hotohori seems to make at least a cameo in most of the novels I've read so far...;)
This is, as you can probably imagine, a pretty funny story at times...especially the bantering between Kouji and Genrou ;)

Yukiyasha Den
Nuriko's story, visiting the northern reaches of Kounan to stay with an old distant relative he calls uncle. At first pretending to be Kourin, he encounters a fellow transvestite, Tamatama, who teaches him the best ways to conceal his true gender from even the most expert of eyes. While there, Nuriko finds himself caught up in a local legend involving a beast from the mountains that comes down in the snows and takes a virgin sacrifice. Determined to protect the chosen girl Byakuren from being sacrificed, Nuriko forces himself to be taken in Byakuren's place, realising that the reason he is there at this time is to put his Seishi powers to the test. This is his rite of passage, however he struggles against Yukiyasha the demon (also his uncle's wife's evil alter ego, ick!) and in the end the girl Byakuren gives her life to save his.
Although Byakuren and "Kourin" begin as rivals, Byakuren falls in love with Nuriko (before and after she knows he's a man) and she has such a strong impression on the Seishi that he adopts her dream of meeting the Emperor and thanking him for a deed done long ago alongside his desire to live Kourin's life for her. This is why he goes to be a part of the harem in the first place. (People who say Nuriko is selfish must change their mind after reading this story, because when you stop and consider everything, he's exactly the opposite. His entire life is living out the dreams and ambitions of other people rather than his own - and that's how he dies, too, in the end. Sob sniff, so sad...)
There is a conflict between Nuriko and Ashitare in this story too - the first indication of the dark things to come for both of them in Hokkan.

There are a lot of corny factors in this novel, as well as a lot of cute ones. It really depends how you look at it. Shugyoku Den (The Legend Of The Red Jewel) charts Tamahome's life alongside Miaka's, with various similarities being drawn between events in their lives and coincidences drawing them together before they meet. It also tells about Tamahome's childhood and his training by Tokaki (irritatingly it also sets in stone Suzuno's wishes in the prologue, but that's a personal rant). Tamahome's life in the vilage is added to by his acquaintance with two other children, Fuka and Yuma, who are the forcedly adopted children of his neighbours. To begin with Tamahome and Yuma fight, and there is an ongoing rivalry as Yuma falls in love with Fuka and Fuka is determined to shape Tamahome up for his destiny. The trio head off to find work in a city, to raise money to support themselves, although Tamahome and Yuma turn it into a competition to see who is the best. In the process they encounter Mimadou, a Kutou sorcerer who is killing young girls and who sets his sights on killing Tamahome by cutting a deal with Tamahome's newest employer. Wrapped up in all of this is the legend of a jewel which, if given from one person to another is meant to indicate eternal love, and Tamahome's complete inability to understand the heart of a woman. (heh, where have we heard that before!). The cheesiness factor in this one is the meetings between Tama (or close encounters) and the other Seishi. I can live with one or two brief encounters but ALL of Suzaku's people appear somewhere in this novel in cameo. (And I think it's just a tad too contrived to work for all of them, though Nuriko's moment was cute and Tasuki's ripped straight from GenrouDen).

Shouryuu Den
Chichiri's story. This one actually really helped me understand Chichiri on a totally new level. We know all about his past with his fiancee and Hikou, but this delves deeper into that and into his own feelings of grief and self doubt. After trying to end his own life, he's rescued by a girl who shares the same name as his dead fiancee (providence?) and is healed by her father as he struggles to come to terms with the fact he's survived death a second time. During this period of recovery, he is spoken to by Taiitsukun, and guided to Taikyoku-zan to begin training as a warrior of Suzaku, although to begin with he has no idea that he's doing any such thing or that Nyan Nyan and Taiitsukun are the beings they truly are. Meanwhile, Nakago is hatching a plot to flood Seisen village, the place where Koran and her sweetheart live. Her sweetheart Shuusei is conscripted to fight for Kutou, but when he discovers the plan to flood the village, he defects and runs home with the intention of warning them. A few misunderstandings follow, but in the end Chichiri finds his strength as a warrior of Suzaku and uses the force of his determination to save Koran and Shuusei from dying in the same way his fiancee and best friend had died years earlier. It is at this point he sees Taikyoku-zan in it's true form for the first time, as he realises he finally has become "Chichiri" and no longer just "Ri Hou Jun".

Suzaku Hi Den
Hotohori's story. I don't actually like this one very much. There's a lot of stuff in the harem with Nuriko and Houki, but I'm not totally convinced by it, it's all a little weird and Nuriko's letters to Houki seem to regurgigate events that happen in the anime which really isn't all that necessary. As for the elder brother of Hotohori that's indicated in the Eikoden anime, I may have to read this story through again to really get to grips with it. Hotohori's mother and father had an older son who was sequested away to common folk to raise because his mother was afraid of his fate in the harsh political climate of Kounan's imperial succession. This sacrifice is what made her strong and resolute where Hotohori was concerned, pushing for him to be Emperor. Tendou, Hotohori's birth brother is also in love with Houki, who has made herself known to Hotohori since Nuriko's death (an event which binds them together in grief). It is basically a love triangle in which Houki chooses Hotohori, and risks her life against Tendou (possessed by the machinations of the evil harem manager) to protect him from harm. In the end, Tendou is killed, and Hotohori is forced to bury yet another member of his family. He does, however, get to marry Houki :) and conceive a child with her. The events of his novel are ongoing alongside the animated/manga series, which may explain the weirdness at times. A lot of it is what happens while Hotohori is left at home, but still...

Seiran Den
Nakago's story. Poor, poor little Nakago. Or should I say Gi Ayuru? Abused roundly by both his own people (for being unlike them in some way) and the Kutou soldiers who assault his mother, Nakago has to live with the fact his uncontrolled power and it's implications brought about the death of not only the woman he loved most but also, at a later point, his best friend who, in a happier life time, he might have married. At this point his soul seems to have died inside him because he can't even bring himself to kill himself, as if punishing himself for what he's done by making his life continue. His drive is revenge and hate from hereon in, and he seems to feel no emotion towards anyone or anything, enduring sexual abuse at the hands of the Kutou emperor and sacrificing anyone who gets in his way. He dreams of destroying Kutou and bringing the whole kingdom to its knees for the crimes committed against him and his family, his main comfort seeming to be his faith in the evil demon god Tenkou (worshipped by the Hin people, his tribe). Even his own father (whose identity comes as a shock to him) is more than a little afraid of him. Despite his freezing over of emotion, Nakago's saving of Soi as a young man does indicate that he hasn't completely lost his heart and soul - as if he sees in her at that moment his mother or his friend being abused by the Kutou guards. Nakago's existance is entirely tragic, in the end - and even all the things he does as a consequence - it's difficult to hate him for.
Soi's portrayal in this story is strong as well, and a much clearer picture of her as the desperate prostitute trying to work out of her situation and escape the drudgery and pain of her life as such.

Oumei Den
Mitsukake's story! I defy anyone who has read this not to love Mitsukake and want to hug him very, very hard. Poor guy. There's something sweet and innocent about his awkward, shy self, even despite how tall and broad he is as he grows up. Mitsukake's family were killed in the same flood that killed Chichiri's people (making them pretty close to being neighbours, and in fact it is Mitsukake who heals Chichiri's original wounds after the flood (see header picture at the top of the page), although neither of them probably realise it either at the time or much later on.) His encounter with Shouka and her cat is cute - Shouka is very determined, strong and forward in her desire to know the gentle giant better, whereas Mitsukake is a lot more uncertain. Mitsukake is taken into the house of his father's rival, befriending the man's son Kyuushin and eventually proving to the rival doctor that the true strength of a physician is more than just high prices and medicine. Although there is a misunderstanding between Kyuushin and Mitsukake over Shouka, it's Kyuushin who brings Mitsukake back into Shouka's life and by the time of her death, they are engaged to be married. However, a sickness demon is lurking, hoping to break down the souls of the people and his target is Shouka, preying on her doubt of Mitsukake and taking her down to her grave while luring the gentle young doctor away from their village. Of course, as we know, it all ends in tragedy...
Mitsukake's hermit lifestyle is not the first time he adopts this way of living away from the world, either - he also becomes a hermit after his original fight with Kyuushin, when he believes that people hate him and that he should stay away after he used his power to drive a demon from Kyuushin's body (saving his friend's life but appearing to have wounded him in the process). Kyuushin survives the story and mention is made of him and his father visiting the graves of Kaku Shouka and Myou Juan after the deaths of both.

Sanbou Den 1&2
Set after the end of the TV series, Tasuki and Chichiri are back in Kounan after six months away. Tasuki is as clueless as ever, Chichiri is as sensible as ever...LOL :) Tasuki returns to Reikaku-zan to find a girl of fifteen has taken over his role as Kashira, and he ain't amused about it, either. She has the Genbu Shinzahou (although Tasuki being Tasuki doesn't realise thats what it is for quuiiite some time). The girl - Anzu - complicates matters by falling in love with him, although she, along with her sister Karin and Karin's lover Raimon are somehow in the power of the demon Tenkou. (Yes, we all know that name). Karin, meanwhile, has Byakko's Shinzahou, and is trying to either seduce or kill Chichiri. Whoops. Raimon, it turns out, is already dead - although Tasuki does make certain of it, with his favourite toy...The Seiryuu Shinzahou is also revealed (and it isn't the same as in the OVA 1 animation), whilst the Suzaku one remains "intangible" - we know from Eikoden (I need to start writing it Eikouden, blah) that it's Taka and Miaka's love manifested into their baby when it needs to take physical form. But that's a long way off from this book...and so they only bother about the three. (No promise rings. No Miaka, really. Mucho Chichiri and Tasuki. And Tama the cat. Aw.)
This is basically the real story of what happens between volume 13/the end of the TV series and volume 14/the start of the OVA 2. May I just say it for the record...as far as I can see in what I've got through so far...AMIBOSHI IS NOT DEAD.
(Ahem. Sorry. Had to get that out of my system...)