Seventy years ago she had watched her Lord walk away, promising he would return for her. That was seventy years ago, and her time is running out.
My thread has become worn; easily snagged and broken. I am dying. Our healer has assured me the herbs will ease my pain; allow me to drift peacefully to the western paradise, forever breaking the frail thread of my life. It is, of course, my choice.
Almost wistfully I watch the cooling brew, the bitter wind stealing its' warmth as it does mine and, shivering, I pull the blanket tighter against my shoulders. It isn't the cold outside I despair against; it is the cold within my heart.
Seventy years I have waited; seventy winters I have suffered alone with no company but his promise. Seventy years my childish dreams have feed my aching soul, whispering, always, that he would return. My Lord did not make empty promises. Seventy years my mind has insisted he was gone; that I would not see him again.
Our threads had separated forever.
Would he come? Was I foolish for clinging desperately to his word? Had I truly wasted my life on nothing more but a chance encounter?
A single tear flows down my face, trailing over the wrinkles time has placed there, as my strangely still hands lift the cold tea to my lips. I drink, savoring the bitter taste left in my mouth. It matches the bitterness my heart feels now, having lived for nothing more than a lie. Tears now flow freely as I cry the tears I'd refused since the day my beautiful Lord had abandoned me.
Standing alone in front of my new home, I'd watched as he'd walked away, the vivid sunset casting him in shades of gold. To me he'd seemed a God.
And I knew, even now, even with my bitterness, I'd follow him anywhere. After everything I'd still throw away my world to blindly follow him. I am a fool; and I love him. My breath freezes as I became aware of a second breath on my skin. Blinking away my tears, I focus my eyes on the face before me, gold eyes gazing knowingly into mine.
My Lord had returned.
His talons rest softly, almost tenderly, against my cheek, his gaze shifting to the forgotten bowl at my side and my insides twisted with acute agony as I remember. He had returned, too late. I've failed him. This is the price I would pay for failing to trust my Lord.
He must've sensed my distress for it was that moment he directed his gaze back to me. I didn't need to tell him, his eyes said he knew. Of course his nose would've picked up the scent of the poison. Shamed I turn my eyes away, certain he'll leave me to the death I've so foolishly chosen.
My heart calms at his voice. He's always had that effect on me. Once more I blink away my tears. This is the fate I've chosen, I will not cry for it. I look to him once more, for the first time in my memory seeing sadness grace his flawless face, his eyes searching mine for...well I'm not sure.
Had I been seventy years younger, the desires suddenly rushing through me would have been too strong to ignore; but I wasn't young anymore, and with age came temperance. Though the dreams of my youth still beat strongly, I had long ago accepted they would never be. Still, hobbling towards the fire, my heart hung heavily in my chest and unshed tears burned behind my eyes, as I busied myself with the tea I knew he wouldn't drink. Returning a few minutes later, I slide the tea towards him and, after my joints had made a show of their protests to the cold, questioned about the only other friends I could remember from my childhood, Jaken and Ah-un.
As always his answers were short, still I welcomed any news of the childhood I sometimes wondered if I'd imagined. He listened silently, the tea cooling at his feet while I chatted away the space of seventy years; his intense gaze never leaving my face. It seemed to me, in that moment, that nothing had really changed between us. He was still my distant Lord and I his babbling, lovesick ward.
Then my thread snagged.
He was at my side in a moment, catching me before I'd even realized I'd fallen. In all my life I'd never been so close to my Lord; it amazed me my death should be any different. With a courage I'd never have possessed otherwise, I lifted my hand, tentatively touching his cheek. His eyes shifted from the radiant gold I'd always seen to a hue darker, something I didn't quite recognize - didn't dare to hope - swan in its depths.
Lightly, no more than a feather's touch, I trailed my fingers over the marks there, tracing his strong jaw, pausing at the lips I'd dreamt of for years. His eyes now watched me intently, waiting for what I would do. I understood perfectly. It was my choice. Gently I guide his lips to mine needing to feel, just once before my thread snapped, the pressure of his lips on mine. Never did I expect to feel that kiss returned.
Warmth I'd never imagined swept through my body, carrying me away on a great tide and I was lost like a blossom upon the river. I opened my mouth at his insistence, his tongue tracing my lips slowly even as he gripped my body closer to his. I was trembling now, the great tide of emotion drowning me as his tongue slid into my mouth, carefully caressing my own. Breathless I finally pulled away, cradled in my Lord's arms, trying to quell my trembling. It was then I noticed something peculiar, I wasn't the only one trembling.
Shocked I could only lay there against his chest while the arms holding me tightly shook ever so slightly. I couldn't fathom why my Lord would shake so, unless I had perhaps angered him. Fear rushed through the euphoria that had gripped me so strongly only moments before as I imagined him leaving me again.
"My Lord," I whispered, my voice trembling with anxiety as my finger bit into the thin silk of his haori.
"Shhh...my Rin," he murmured into my hair, his hand rubbing my back soothingly.
My fears quelled, I relaxed into his embrace once more, my mind relishing the feeling of his touch, the smooth sound of his voice.
Lazily my eyes opened at that thought; my heart stopping for the briefest moment.
'His Rin?' My heartbeat returned, loudly it seemed to me, as I shifted my gaze to him, though with his chin resting against my head I could see nothing but his long throat. The most incredible desire to kiss that skin rushed through me so fiercely I'm certain my Lord noticed from the way I suddenly shivered.
I lay there for several moments debating my unusual dilemma. My Lord had said something I found most interesting, something I'd only dreamt of him saying, yet I was afraid to shatter this perfect moment spent in his embrace. Terrified of the answer, yet needing to hear it, I pushed away from his chest. His arms reluctantly dropped their hold on me.
That same deep gold gaze bore into my eyes and I knew I didn't need to ask. I'd been a fool. The answer had always been before me, obvious to everyone, but me, it seemed. Grinning at my own stupidity, I brought his hand to my lips, kissing it gently; then every finger, his palm, just needing to feel his skin on mine.
He brushed my hair aside, gently tracing my face with his claws. I closed my eyes, relishing his touch and feeling quite sleepy. I must have swayed for I suddenly found myself in his arms once more. Blinking I tried to fix my blurry vision, not really understanding why I should suddenly feel so tired. Certainly my Lord would be angry if I were to fall asleep in his presence; still I couldn't help myself, and my body suddenly felt so very heavy.
Forcing my eyes to focus on his face, my breath stilled at the unshed tears I found in his eyes; the gold such a hue that it reminded me of that sunset so long ago, and I understood.
I was dying.
The poison was wearing away my thread.
My throat constricted, seeing my Lord, my love, in such pain. I smiled for his sake, my fingers caressing his cheek lightly.
It wouldn't be long now.
He kissed my fingers, my palm, my face, as he carefully laid me on the floor; his grief breaking away his carefully constructed mask of indifference. It was harder to see now, harder to remain awake, harder to breathe.
But still I could hear.
I heard his voice crack as he whispered my name, his clothes rustling as he lay beside me; heard the soft click as he drew Tenseiga and laid it beside me as well. Once that very sword had restored my life; had led me to my Lord. Would it bring me back again? Could a sword, even a demon sword, erase the mistake I'd made? Could it reunite me with my Lord once more?
No. My skin would still sag and my bones would still ache. My time had passed; this life was done. Though it could restore my life, it could not restore my youth, my soul. I knew now, I longed for this death.
Smiling weakly at my Lord once more, I twined my fingers through his.
"Do not fear. I will be here when you wake." His voice trembled, his eyes glancing to the sword he'd placed beside me.
Shocked he looked back to me, his mouth opening to object the only protest I'd ever offered him.
"No," I repeated quietly, death stealing my breath. "Do not revive this body. My life is over."
The tears had returned, his golden eyes swimming with confusion, yet even in his grief he remained the dignified Lord I'd fallen I love with so very many years ago. Shaking with the effort, I raised one trembling hand to his face. He turned his head, capturing it with his lips, as a single tear finally broke free to run down his cheek.
"I will..find.....my way.......back...to......you," I whispered through my last breath.
He turned his golden gaze back to me, his claws running through my hair tenderly.
"I will wait, my Rin."