She sat, perched atop one of the many large boulders that graced the shores of Kinya Province. Her slender figure and flowing indigo robes were especially ethereal beneath the star strewn sky, and the serene breeze teased her blue-grey hair into swaying along with the moonlit sea.
She gazed fondly upon the tranquil orb that patrolled the night, her fair skin almost glowing under the peaceful glimmer. The thirtieth moon… she smiled softly. Yet you still did not come back for even a farewell. She shut her eyes and hugged her knees a little tighter, anticipating the cough that has plagued her for the last two years and a half; however, it did not come. Tonight, it will not trouble her, nor consume her. Tonight was hers, free at last. Tonight, only.
Her gaze still followed the moon, which wavered when mist arose in her eyes as past memories surfaced and appeared before her. Tonight, she will allow herself to delve into her recollections, spoiling herself one last time.
The surrounding ocean still lapped rhythmically onto the rocky shores, occasionally frolicking around her boots, but she neither heard nor felt it anymore. Instead, she was on a snowy plain, observing a calm, dignified lady with auburn tresses and a fuchsia gown who turned to her with a modest smile. Her heart ached at the sight of her friend, flawlessly elegant and forever the eye of the storm. Next to her flounced an ebullient young woman in an azure outfit who seemed barely an adult, but brought cheerfulness through her infectious laughter. They stood together and waved warmly at her while timeless snowflakes fluttered about. The Evensong sisters, she smiled sadly. Thank you for caring for me. I love you both. The scene shifted. The older sister now looked at her with wise eyes brimmed with sorrow, silently beckoning to her from across an endless chasm; the younger screamed at her, desperately and soundlessly through overflowed tears. She winced as the picture, frozen in time, faded away. Lindelle will understand, but Losse will never forgive me…
Slowly, the complex, luxurious architecture of a palace floated through the gaping chasm and settled before her. Amidst the red and gold pillars stood a white-haired woman, her queenly figure robed in a low-cut body suit. Her beautiful, distant visage reflected the look on Lindelle’s face. Are you worrying for me, too, Venita? Don’t worry, you know Grenth will take care of me, whether I chose him or not. Behind her, a small silhouette clad in black was partially veiled by the shadows, her brown eyes intense with a surge of mixed emotions, most notably regret. Vypra… it wasn’t your fault. Who would have known? I don’t blame you in the least, and he won’t either. You must forgive yourself. Yet another materialized, a halcyon figure bowing her head in adieu, her purple dress rippling slightly from the whispers of her summoned spirits. Oh Kea, you make it so much easier. My eternal gratitude for everything… The trio slowly vanished, but their expressions remained branded in her heart. Tears welled up in her eyes, glistening in the moonlight. How I will miss you all. Please find happiness… live on with my share.
A small smile tugged at her lips when the ornate pillars branched out and transformed into large, sturdy trunks, and the ceiling with intricate dragon carvings melded into leafy canopies. She was now at the edge of a forest, where mountains met. She formed a small tent with a hand on her forehead, symbolically shielding her eyes from the playful rays of sunshine passing through the layered mists. She stood there for a while, welcoming how the sun and mist alternated unpredictably through the overhang, tickling a smile onto her face.
Melandru’s realm, she thought wistfully. How I wish the Goddess accepted me. Two graceful forms, a man and a woman, walked out of the forest, their footfalls soft against the damp earth, never disturbing a dewdrop. The man’s expression was inscrutable, his movements controlled and refined. He knelt on one knee and bowed his head, not bothering to brush back the loosely tied blonde hair that fell forward. Always the gentlemen, Finn. I’m glad you found us that night. The woman bowed and waved, her rouge mane oddly in harmony with the forest, the glint of compassion in her eyes never wavering. Oh Tavari… Thank you for bringing hope back into my life during my darkest hour – you were the shining beacon that always guided me, even when you weren’t around. Goodbye, my friends of Nature, goodbye.
She lowered her face and peered over her knees into the sparkling ocean. The one that she wanted to remember the most…
No, she shouldn’t.
A little voice within her heart told her not to think of him, but… did it matter anymore? The curse had reached the end of its line and would not bother her anymore after tonight. She could… allow herself to indulge in a little more.
Just a little. She could.
She ensconced herself into the darkness. A shadowy figure gradually came into view, taking almost an eternity to walk to her. She gazed longingly at him, taking in his slightest movements – each and every one of his steps – and burned them, once again, into her memory. She could almost see his face – the light skin that did not often meet the sun, the straight, porcelain nose… and the eyes, dark as the moment before the sun rises. She recalled the thin, determined lips and the delicately pointed chin. He was closer now. Her heart wrenched at the pained smile behind the mask and the suffering in his depthless eyes. Without seeing her own reflection, she knew her expression mirrored his.
He stopped in front of her, seemingly unsure of his purpose. They both reached out with trembling fingers, yearning for contact, yet… afraid. Of what? She did not know, nor cared anymore. She extended her arm further, wishing to brush away the strand of stray hair that fell on his forehead so she could see him better. His appeared to have the same goal, but deviated from its original path and wandered hesitantly towards her outstretched hand.
His long, slender fingers were nearly wrapped around her small hand – she could almost feel the comforting warmth, the familiar touch, and even his faint, soothing aura. Just like how you used to protect me…
She barely felt a tap on the back of her hand when the vision began to dissipate.
“No!” she whispered, fruitlessly grasping at the distorted image. Too late. It was gone. He was gone.
The emptiness crashed down around her, and she was back, sitting on the rocky shores where the moon has passed its zenith. She slowly lowered her arm.
She noticed the nudge that finally brought her mind back to her body and saw the little turtle sprite that had been attempting to get her attention. She picked him up and held him close to her heart.
Oh Rei, you are not bound to me anymore. Thank you for keeping me company for the last couple of years. Please return to the Halcyon. They must miss you.
The sprite bowed his head as if praying after she set him down. It waddled over and nuzzled her hand. In her mind, she heard his grandfatherly voice. Farewell, child. The spirits of the Jade Sea smile upon you. My last gift… He breathed on her hand, bowed his head once more, and disappeared.
Tears streamed down her face at the sight of a branch of nong berries in her hand. Thank you, Rei. She was truly alone now.
Not much time left, she gazed at the moon as it steadily progressed towards the horizon. She stood and unsheathed a pair of perfectly balanced daggers. Smiling, she caressed the simple sai, for they were a dear gift, and his weapons of choice.
One last thing… She bowed towards the east, facing the ocean, and closed her eyes. She was back in Sunqua Vale on a grassy field, where a feathery gust of wind carried the fragrance of cherry blossoms towards her. I’m home. Suffusing herself in the sweet breeze, she flowed into a set of circular movements. Each step was steady and deliberate, and every motion polished and graceful. She imagined him next to her, going through the same adapted sword dance that he had taught her years before. Soft pink petals swirled as the two of them leapt and whirled as a single entity, their daggers flashing in perfect unison.
The moon set.
The rolling ocean waves became a reality once again.
It is time.
An unearthly, turquoise light spread before her.
“Akane,” she bowed respectfully to the spiritual figure that took shape within the cool glow. The woman smiled back at her and nodded, the streams of beads on her headdress rustling a soothing melody, brushing against her tattooed shoulders as she did so. “You were given permission to come escort me?”
“It is not my wish to see you so soon, but there were no other options. Our God was merciful in letting me come here to guide you,” Akane said, her voice demure and distant.
She smiled tiredly. “Your God,” she corrected. “How long did it take you to persuade your God?”
“Not too long this time.” Akane’s ghostly lips pulled into a wan smile.
“He…” she murmured, “he… he won’t come?” She knew the answer already, but wanted to hear it directly. If anyone, Akane would know.
Her hopes imploded when the translucent woman slowly shook her head, the tinkering beads echoing the sound of her heart shattering into tiny pieces. “I am sorry,” Akane sighed.
She hung her head. “Let us go, then.”
Akane held out a luminous hand and she gently grasped it, letting Akane guide her into the shimmering portal.
A pair of sai and a branch of berries was all that were left on the rocks.