Flames lap at the dark heavens, devouring the hard skin of the once proud Trojan Horse, now little more than a blackened, grotesque monster. Laughter rang clear as a waterfall’s hiss as the townsfolk danced. Joy, what joy! The war is over! The bloodshed finally ceased, the sorrow finally ended, laid to rest with their slain beloveds. Cheers and merriment filled the night as the fire feasted upon its offering, wails from its belly lost in the clamor.
If only this had come to pass. If only — oh, if only they had burned that Horse, if only they hadn’t let that damnation past the city walls. If only, if only….
Fingers twitch, consciousness slowly seeping in. Someone calls his name, but it’s a name that has yet to ring familiar even after so many years. That’s not his name, so foreign to his ears. Where were those smiling faces, the cheerful voices that called his true name with such fondness? He didn’t like this alias people called him as of late.
Aocleus growled under his breath, struggling beneath the weight of a sorrowful nightmare. A poor excuse for a pillow failed to suffocate him — put him out of his drowsy misery — and he shifted his gaze to the bedside where pale curtains framed a small window. Even the sunlight, filtering through the glass, was different. The people. The places. The tools. Everything was so different; it was dizzying, really.
Golden strands slipped into vision, shining in the soft sunlight, another reminder of his loss — of the change he couldn’t bring himself to accept. Gaze drown cast, he brushed his hair away from his face once more, tucking it behind his ears as he gripped the window sill and pulled himself up into a sitting position.
“Awake, sleeping beauty?” a voice chimes, laced with friendly satire and mild annoyance. “About damn time, Eian.”
Aocleus shifted, gaze falling upon a young boy — ah, no, they were the same age, were they not? — whose leg bounced faster than a startled rabbit’s; pent up energy with no place to go, he supposed. It took but a moment for Aocleus to place a name to the sun kissed face.
“Lonely?” Aocleus stretched, brushing his hands against the white mattress as if to cleanse himself of his dream.
“As if, bastard,” Theo sneered, a smirk gracing his lips soon after. Tan arms folded across his chest, muscles rippling, Silence stretched lazily between them before he spoke up again, shifting in his seat. “Well?”
Aocleus blinked, puzzled.
“Your head, numbnuts,” Theo sighed, leaning forward to flick his companion’s forehead. “Lose anymore marbles up there?”
A musing frown played upon Aocleus’ lips as he absently rubbed the offended spot, not that he had been hurt — no, he’d suffered worse pains in that old city buried under the heels of time. “Hard to say,” he muttered, his voice barely above an airy whisper as he cast his gaze down. “When people claim you’re missing so many already… how do you judge?”
Theo fell silent, the jittery bouncing of his leg stilled. With that familiar grim expression painting his features, he asked ever so solemnly, “That dream again?”
A rueful smile graced Aocleus…. no, Eian’s lips. “It’s not a dream,” he corrected softly. “It was my life.”
[Asch] - Execution
Steel stretched out overhead, far as the eye could see, until that cold color dipped to kiss the rocky horizon. A grey blanket to block out the thing other races called the “blue sky.” How ludicrous, Asch thought. A blue sky? Surely such a thing was mere fable, nothing more.
Golden irises set in black sclera cast their gaze up, blankly staring at the rolling grey sighs of the volcano overhead — ever constant. Crimson dripped from his fingertips, blood smeared across his arms and face, but he paid it no mind. Nor did he bother to spare any attention to the corpse he sat beside, the blood snaking its way over the barren land to lap at his boots.
Only when the faint sensation of soft flesh lightly tugged, pinched almost, began did he tear his gaze from the sky. The blood upon his fingers had begun to dry, solidifying into hard crystals. Absently, he flexed his fingers, listening to the sharp ring as the crystals broke off, some in tiny chunks, others in fine powder.
The corpse beside him began to finally show signs of rigor mortis, the dark brick color of rough Orc skin paling to a slate stone grey. Asch watched emotionless as stone rippled across the corpse, originating from the gaping gash across its midsection, where its bowels once were. Of course, said bowels were strewn across the ground not too far away from the corpse, already hardened to stone.
[Asch] - Containment
At what point does faith die? When does one reach a point where they can clearly mark where the poor creature took its last, pitiful breath? A prison cell does ill to the mind and I have been thinking — thinking, thinking, thinking, so much goddamn thinking. I can’t help but wonder, where did I go wrong? At what point did I lose sight of the hope that had sustained me?
Did it vanish with the first onset of the madness? When that horrid crimson began to shimmer a melody so sinful? Or perhaps that time I awoke, bound in abyss chains that sighed an ice glow, and Rol crouched before me, shivering and covered in his black blood.
When did I stray? At what point did I lose my way?
Fire kindles to life, trailing cruel kisses long weary muscles. Dry blood painted claw marks along the barren stone floor and walls, tracing back to numb fingertips. Ah, this bites. Truly. This bitter taste in my mouth — is it my own blood or simply regret?
Words form only to die in a sore throat. Damnit. I want to call out, whisper his name and spew these foolish worries troubling me. But they aren’t so foolish, are they? And he is no longer by my side. A thick door, if not the entire kingdom, separates us.
Uttering a poor excuse for a curse, I press my face against the floor, perhaps hoping it would soothe this battered body or swallow me whole — either would have been fine, preferably the latter. But pain continued to lace itself into my very core and there damn sure wasn’t any sign of a sudden black hole gobbling me up. Needles pricked fingertips, which unconsciously raked against the stone until the sound finally registered and I carefully curled them into a fist. Ah, so pathetic.
Funny how this pain, this regret and self-loathing only returned when the madness receded. When the world finally regained its color and the crimson faded away, only then would this sinful heart remember emotions.
I want to call him. A simple word is all it would take.
But hadn’t I been screaming for him for hours just moments ago when madness twisted everything? Hadn’t I jabbered on, begging, screaming, pleading, commanding for him to open the door — to release me, that I was sorry, so sorry sorry sorry sorry but it wasn’t my fault I did nothing wrong they deserved it after all it was only game a test a few eyeballs poked out squished oh how soft those orbs were why are you so quiet Rol let me out let me out let me out let me out lemme out lemme out lemme out let me out
The world darkened, eyes squeezing closed as I gasped for air I didn’t know I had lost. Again, that fire in my throat, again that pain dancing along my entire body from thrashing about. I wanted to call out to him, to beg him to answer me.
I knew he was there. Just beyond the door. Guarding it. Clinging to it.
Every word I uttered, laced with madness, he heard. What type of expression painted his features, I wonder? Was it the same as the flickers of sorrow and regret that would flash in his blue eyes whenever talk of my condition arose?
“Rol,” a sigh, a breath, an apology, a chuckle — resignation. Everything. But I knew redemption was beyond these tainted hands.
Something shifted on the other side of the door, quick. Shaking fists against metal.
Such a soft sound… the last thing I registered before crimson dyed the world once more and twisted both mind and soul.
[Kafele] - Farewell Child
There’s something about an unspoken child waiting beside the closed door for their parents to return. There’s something sorrowful about the way Time passes by, ignoring the child’s pleas as they cling to the door that never opens. There’s something heartbreaking about the way the child continues to wait for people that will never return.
Footsteps echoed in the large ceremonial chamber as Kafele paced back and forth, tan fingers tightly gripping the staff close to him. Occasionally he would pause, his emerald gaze flicking to the large double doors. But as silence came as the only reply, he would resume his pace once more, brow furrowed in thought.
It hadn’t been long since his father came to the temple to answer the Elders’ summons. Kafele had happened upon this news and rushed to perhaps meet with his father after so many years of absence. Like an eager child, he had waited outside the Elders’ library, where they frequently called those of lower social class when they had to. Kafu waited, with that childish, hopeful smile upon his face as he fiddled with his staff. What would his father say when he saw him? Would he laugh and throw his arms around his son? Marvel at how tall the boy had grown? Or perhaps his father would ask about his studies or if he had found a girl yet.
Kafu waited, lost in hopeful dreams. When the large double doors opened, he jumped, clutching the staff close to him as his gaze darted to the figure that quickly emerged and shut the doors behind him. A man in his late forties stood at the doors, his back to the prophet and a small package in his weathered hands. It wasn’t the crimson hair that so resembled his own that told Kafele who the man was, but rather faint memories he dearly cherished. With an innocent smile, he took a step forward, the sound startling the man.
“Father,” Kafu greeted warmly, emerald eyes alight with a child’s love.
The man flinched, quickly hiding the package behind him, like a thief caught in the act. He bowed in greeting and cast a hesitant gaze around before weakly replying, “Good day, My Lord.”
A cold chill rooted in the young man’s heart. What… greeting was that? Where was the warmth? The love? The laughter and jokes? Where was his father? His brows furrowed as pain tainted his features. Tan fingers clutched the staff close, emerald gaze falling to the man’s hand that hid the package behind his back — money the Elders paid his family for birthing the Pyromancer.
“M-My Lord?” the man tentatively spoke, fearful of the silence that had settled.
Kafele opened his mouth, only to quickly close it and shake his head. Hanging his head so his bangs hid his expression, which portrayed the turmoil his heart writhed in, he quietly replied, “It is nothing. You may go.”
Quick were the footsteps of the man who fled the temple.
Kafu crouched, still pained by the encounter. In the center of the ceremonial chambers, in a large pit, was the sacred flame. Ever pitiful was its blaze at the moment, reflective of the young man’s state. He remained low, head bowed as the flames weakly cast shadows upon the large chamber’s walls.
[Shiranui] - Nightmares
There is something unspeakably cruel about watching the blood of a beloved blossom upon the cold floor. Something heartbreaking about the way they smile so softly and whisper reassurances with crimson stained lips.
There is something utterly soul shattering about the glimmer of silver that kisses such a pale, fragile neck. Something devastating about the crimson that flows in tiny rivers down the white robe as life silently leaves the body.
Do the mournful cries of those left behind reach the Heavens? Or do they simply echo across this cold, barren land?
Though he screamed, throat raw from abuse, and violently thrashed about, he could not rush to the side of that smiling figure sitting across the room. Darkness in the form of faceless shadows held him fast, restraining him. For all his pride, all his strength and speed as an oni, he was helpless. How pathetic! How useless he was at such a dire time!
Violet hues, wide with disbelief and unspeakable pain, remained trained on the single human who managed to capture his heart. The one and only human worth caring for smiled softly, gentle and bright as the sunshine after a rainy day. Whispered words of reassurances reached his ears, laced with a silent plea for forgiveness.
He screamed, calling out the name of his only human friend: called him an idiot; demanded him to stop. But he knew, just as a warrior knows the kiss of a blade, that his friend would not heed his calls. When that face, brimming with all the kindness in the world, turned away from him to bow as the wakizashi was raised, a frigid flame devoured what little remained of his heart.
Crimson blossomed across that white robe, the mere sight draining every ounce of his strength. He could no longer summon the violent energy to struggle. Could no longer breathe as that red, red, red color stained and spread in the blade’s wake. Icicles formed in his throat as the kaishakunin raised their blade. An arc of silver danced in the air, kissing that precious human’s neck to give birth to that fatal crimson flower.
A lifeless doll rolled its head to the side, nestled against its chest as it hung by a small thread: the empty shell of his dear human.
Too late, a broken scream tore from his throat.
Darkness greeted Shiranui, filled with only his quickened breaths. A curse tumbled from his lips as he raised a trembling hand to brush away raven locks and bury his face in the nook of his arm. He lay there, motionless until the frantic beating of his heart subsided and those dreadful, lingering remnants of the nightmare faded.
Uttering a sigh, he slowly rose from the futon, a frown upon his lips as a bleeding hole remained in his heart. Without a sound, he made his way down the hall until he reached that familiar room — where acceptance and warmth could be found. Sliding the shoji open, his gaze fell upon the sleeping figure of a particular stupid, weak, delicate human. Shiranui quietly sat beside the sleeping figure, violet hues carefully beholding the other, as if to make sure he wouldn’t suddenly disappear or fade with the appearance of crimson staining the floor.
Takasugi stirred, muttering something incoherent as he rubbed his eyes. He blinked, mildly startled to find the oni perched at his bedside. “Shiranui?”
”You were calling out in your sleep,” the oni replied, his tone blunt and cold as ever. “I came to make sure you weren’t keeling over. Be grateful.”
Silence settled between them for a long moment, neither of them willing to break it. Something suffocated behind those violet hues, but the oni gave no indication he would speak of it. Takasugi merely smiled, ever so gentle, and offered a nod. “I see.”
Shiranui remained quiet for a long moment, his mind attaching to various things all at once but, in the end, always returned to the same point: the smile Takasugi had offered before he died. It didn’t sit well with Shiranui, not one bit. A torrent of emotions stirred within his heart, quietly suffocating him beneath their weight. Brow furrowed, a scowl upon his lips, he opened his mouth to speak—
Violent coughs interrupted him, shattering the silence as Takasugi doubled over, his pale frame shaking. In an instant, Shiranui sprang up, reaching out as if to help the human, but a trembling hand stopped him. The hand Takasugi held up was quickly withdrawn as the coughs worsened, stealing his breath as Shiranui sat silently, pain shining in the depths of his gaze. A wet cough brought forth a crimson flower to stain the human’s pale hands. Between gasps of breath, Takasugi breathed an apology and gentle words of forced cheer in attempts to chase away the heavy foreboding that followed such a fit.
It did little good to soothe the wounds upon the oni’s heart, which he bore silently. This sight only reminded him that humans were pathetic, delicate creatures. No matter what he did, no matter how hard he struggled, the human known as Takasugi would be claimed by those crimson blossoms.
[Shiranui] - Visit: Side B
A sudden downpour. Tainted rain fell from heavy, mournful clouds that blocked out the sky; the battleground beneath him soaked in blood, his very bones bathed in sin. Countless, faceless corpses covered the earth like a second skin, raindrops glistening crimson tears upon the weapons of the fallen.
Heavy with the burden of Death, small rounded pieces of metal awaited orders in his pockets; in his hand, humming an eerie tune as it itched to empty the barrel with a crack of thunder. Each round that sounded off seemed to echo, a cry of the gods themselves. Mourn — lament for the fate of these pathetic creatures, caught up in such hideous conflict.
Don’t dredge up the past…
I don’t want to remember
—the crimson that blossomed in those pale, shaking hands; the wet coughs that raked the much too thin frame; the strained smile that tried in vain to offer relief. Those hands that once tousled his hair now trembled, so frail and stained with red; the arms that yanked him close now shook, devoid of strength and vigor; the joyous, warm laughter that tumbled forth from lips that never uttered words of hate was now a strained, forced noise between gasps of breath.
“Don’t….” His voice faded, little more than a murmured, choked sound. Fingers curled into tight fists as he was crushed beneath the weight of bygone times. Helpless, he stood fast as cruel Fate raked Her nails across his heart, opening old wounds he had long since forgotten. Memories poured forth, along with it blood and unwanted emotions.
“Don’t,” A shaky breath gathered air, which morphed to merciless icicles in his throat, “—don’t start coughing.”
Upon the white hospital bed, that familiar stranger — no longer a stranger — glanced up, eyes wide. Pain flickered across their features, an expression he knew all too well. Even so, they remained quiet, as if in mild disbelief.
A small scowl, laced with unspoken anguish, played upon his lips. Taking another breath, disguised as a sigh, he rolled his shoulders in a shrug, which he hoped did not appear as forced as it was. “If you promise not to start coughing, I’ll come again.”
Silence, filled only by the rhythmic chirp of a machine, hung between them. How different this quiet was compared to those bygone days! How quiet, so very silent that grave was….
A smile appeared on the other’s lips, forced.
Such a sight shot a bullet through his heart; that was the very same smile that played upon stained lips, which gasped for air after wet, crimson coughs had receded.
“It’s not contagious,” came the polite reply, laced with muted sadness.
The air turned bitter as his heart writhed helplessly in pain. Wavy raven locks brushed against his cheeks as he glanced down for a moment, knuckles white as nails cut into his palm. A cold fire raged within him, razing the peace he had known moments before entering the white room — before the rain fell from the sky, before memories of crimson blossomed. The fire burned, charring the days he had foolishly called “joyful” and in their place seared into his soul the memories of those bygone days. Though time had passed, the crimson, the bullets, the fighting, the mountain of corpses left in his wake — everything rang so painfully clear.
“It’s not that…” He replied, struggling to keep the pain from his voice.
Sickness. Contagious. Not once did he ever care about such stupid things. He had been so proud, so strong; for what reason should he know fear? Arrogance kept him from entertaining the notion that he could have suffered the same fate. When the wet coughs returned, the only pervading sensation he felt was helplessness. Soon following was rage. Humans were weak, pathetic creatures, and for the longest time, they had been little more than dishonorable cretins to him, unworthy of his time. Only once did a cretin become a “human“…
It hurt to breathe, the icy fire blazing within his chest as his heart suffocated beneath the thick, heavy burden it buried long ago. With the same voice that had cried out in rageful mourning, that had sneered at enemies and allies alike, that had solemnly whispered in a quiet tone laced with sorrow before a grave, Shiranui breathed, “It was never about that.”
The only thing that mattered was the one stupid, weak, delicate human who died and left him behind…
[Shiranui] - Farewells
Wind softly whispered in the darkness, bringing forth faded memories of Life. Gently, the Wind gathered up those shards of the crimson stained soul and breathed Life into its battered remains. Stirring, the Soul slowly became aware of the Darkness, of Life and Light. It recalled the weight of Living. Ah, but where were its limbs? Its body — its vessel? Somewhere along the way, it had lost that precious vessel, hadn’t it? Its body had broken down, bit by bit until Darkness claimed the weary remains.
A new body — it needed a new vessel. There was someone it had to see, someone it had to meet again no matter what the cost. Just once more, even if only for a moment. After all, there hadn’t been any chance for goodbye, so… with this final chance, it wanted to see that person just once more.
Sunlight smiled upon the land below, weakly trying to stave off winter’s oncoming chill. Wind raked its bony fingers through soft, thin feathers, chilling frail bones. The beat of wings brought some warmth, but it was never enough. Even so, the small bird could not complain; the cold was better than nothing. The chill was proof that it was given a second chance — this wasn’t the Darkness, where only Nothingness thrived. No, this was the realm of the Living. This was home.
Tilting slightly, the bird glided down, perching upon a branch of a skeletal tree that had shed its leaves a bit early. Crumbled and trampled upon by the humans of the town, the leaves surrounded the skeletal tree like a colorful wreath. But it reminded the bird of the vibrant orange hues of flames. Fire did not bother the bird much, to be honest, but memories of a certain person who disliked the flame surfaced to mind. Ah, that’s right. It had to find him — that important person.
Where did he go?
Something akin to sorrow and regret grabbed hold of the bird’s heart, reopening old wounds from a Life that ended not too long ago. Now was not the time to linger in days gone by, such was not the bird’s nature. Stirring, it stretched its wings wide and took flight once more.
It would find him, no matter what.
But hours turned to days and nothing changed save for the ever growing bite of winter’s chill. Time was running out. It could not hold this body forever; second chances are not promises engraved in stone.
The sun began its decent from its throne in the heavens, bowing down beyond the horizon as the sky was set alight in an array of colors. Weary, the bird paused to rest upon the branch of a tree still clinging to the few remains of its leaves. The bird had traveled so far — searching, searching for that important person. It spared no time for villages, as it knew he would never linger in such a setting for long. No, he preferred quiet places, away from humans — the bird recalled that much, at least.
Ah, but this world, this country, was so vast for such a small thing. But it couldn’t give up. Not yet. Not when it hadn’t seen that person yet. All it wanted was to see him again, just once more — oh, what it wouldn’t give to hear him laugh again!
Slowly, frail wings shaking from exhaustion, the bird pushed away from its perch and beat its wings against the sky. What had once been powerful wings now hung heavy with weariness, each beat weaker than the last. The bird could only manage to reach a small distance before its strength failed it. Down, down, down, the small body fell, colliding with the cold, unforgiving ground. In the distance, a brittle crack was heard but darkness swallowed the bird before it could give any thought to the matter.
How cruel Darkness was. How horrible the absence and nothingness within Darkness was.
Ah, but it couldn’t stop now. There was still that person — it had to seem him again. Once more. Please, just once.
Warmth brushed over him, light and brief but it was enough to chase away the darkness. Weariness, crushingly heavy, replaced what should have been unbearable pain. It stirred, stretching what should have been its wings, but though it tried and tried, movement seemed impossible.
“Feh, so you’re alive.”
A voice, blunt and not altogether unfamiliar, sparked something within the bird. It stirred once more, trying to open its eyes in the very least, but it couldn’t seem to succeed. So it tried once more, pushing against the heaviness within its limbs.
If it laid around, it would run out of time. It wouldn’t be able to see him again. All of this would have been all for naught…
“Tch, you’re a stubborn idiot,” the voice growled. Warmth surrounded the small, battered bird as hands delicately scooped it up. “This is why I don’t like birds. They’re so weak.” Though the words were cruel, the touch from those rough hands was gentle.
The bird settled, the edges of a heavy sleep creeping in. The touch brought it some comfort and though its wings were a sorry excuse for sensitive human skin, those hands seemed so familiar. As did that voice — curt, yet honest. A voice that had often spoken with a sneer, sounding off snide remarks, but it was a voice that hid a great sadness.
Weakly, the bird managed to rub its head against his palm as the sleep crawled ever closer.
“Hm? Still fighting? Idiot…”
Something lingered in his voice that the bird couldn’t quite place. So familiar, that subtle thing…
Hey… are you doing well?
“How did an idiot like you get hurt, anyway?”
I know you don’t like humans…but I…
“…He was like that too. Always rushing into trouble. Stubborn…”
I was so happy to know you.
“I hate humans…”
We… were friends, weren’t we? That’s why…
Darkness fell upon it once again, stealing what little Light remained. In those warm, gentle hands, the frantic beating of a heart stilled.
That’s why… I’m sorry I never properly said goodbye…
[Shiranui] - Visit
“Don’t start coughing.”
What? Perhaps I heard wrong. Perhaps the medication was starting to mess with my head.
“If you promise not to start coughing, I’ll come again.”
Silence settled for the briefest of moments, filled only by the soft, steady chirp of a machine sounding off my heartbeat. A polite smile found its way to my lips as my heart sank a little further. “It’s not contagious,” I said quietly, kindly.
“It’s not that,” he replied, an expression I couldn’t quite describe tainted his features as he averted his gaze. “It was never about that….”
In the end, I made the promise — not because I longed for company, but because there was something in his gaze that struck me. Some quiet, raging emotion hidden away behind those violet hues. Something he had kept buried for a long, long time.
Look, there it is again. Just barely hidden behind the surface as he sits by the window, watching the world pass us by. He looked out of place, like a proud, wounded lion within a cage. His tan skin and wavy raven locks starkly contrasted the white world of the hospital. A few dark locks framed his sharp features, while the rest were pulled back — a wavy, almost unruly mess tied over his shoulders.
He sat chin in hand, ignoring me as the chirping of a machine filled the silence between us. At times, a distant look would cloud his gaze, as if he was drowning in memories of a place far, far away. He would tense up, I could tell by the way he clenched his jaw tight and curl his fingers into tight fists. Seeing him like that, a sharp pain would prick my heart for a fleeting moment. A light pain, like the prick of a withered rose’s thorn that lost its glow and ferocity long ago.
“See anything interesting?” I asked, filling the quiet void.
He stirred, slowly blinking. “No,” he answered quietly. “After all this time, humans really haven’t changed at all.”
Curious, I tilted my head to the side, a small smile tugging at the corners of my lips. From time to time, he would murmur strange things like that. He would speak as if he saw the world through time-worn eyes, with the voice of a weary traveler who had been wandering the lonely roads for far, far too long.
“Do you want them to?”
His violet gaze slid over to me, regarding me carefully, his mouth drawn into a thin line. “I don’t care what humans do,” came the cold reply after a long moment. Returning his attention back to the window, his hand fell to rest upon the back of the chair. He was avoiding me again, his wavy raven locks brushing over his shoulders as he stared out the window. “But I don’t want you to change.”
The whispered words had been so light, a breathy sigh I nearly missed, that I thought I had misheard him. To hear such words from him seemed slightly strange. He was a rather cold, blunt man who kept his distance; opening up in such a way seemed almost unreal — a glimpse at a side of him that he kept buried, just like that emotion quietly suffocating behind his gaze.
Pale fingers curled, grasping white sheets. A pain, too old and faded — from bygone days — raked its nails across my heart, but I could not name it or its origin. It threatened to suffocate me with the heavy weight of a burden from a past I couldn’t quite place. Turmoil and the lingering remains of regret were the only pieces I could discern; everything else was too old, too far gone. Tears silently asked to fall as they blurred my vision. I bowed my head, a pained smile finding its way to my lips as his name tumbled forth in a sorrowful chuckle.
[Shiranui] - Hand Which
Sunlight quietly uttered its last few breaths for the day as the sun slowly sank behind the horizon, leaving a trail of dazzling colors in its wake. Small tear drops of pink danced in the fading light, a waltz of sakura petals that could captivate even the coldest of hearts.
Violet irises stared at the sky as the vivid colors faded to darkness. Sitting outside the slightly grand home Kazama owned in the forest’s heart, which provided a temporary resting spot for the trio, Shiranui enjoyed the moment’s peace. A small cup of sake, half touched, rested beside him; Shiranui was the type to drink alone, and now seemed as good a time as any since that arrogant prince was off somewhere. As for Amagiri, that man was likely wandering around the compound somewhere or other. It honestly didn’t matter, though. The oni was careful not to get too involved with anyone; he was here to repay a dept, not to make friends.
He didn’t need anymore friends.
No… he would live without enduring such pain ever again.
A soft noise reached his ears, something akin to a quiet sigh, but Shiranui didn’t bother to turn around and greet the man. He knew that quiet sigh like he knew his pistol. “Yo,” he said, the greeting devoid of it usual sneer or mocking tones. Somehow, acting like that around Amagiri just never seemed to click. The guy was a brick wall of manners, so Shiranui doubted Amagiri would be phased even if he acted like that to him.
Shifting, Shiranui leaned back on his arms and glanced up at Amagiri over his shoulder, wavy, dark blue locks brushing his bare shoulders. Violet eyes met steel ones and for a long moment, only silence hung between them. Finally, the corners of his mouth twitched into a faint smirk as Shiranui returned his attention ahead of him. It’s not like he and Amagiri had heart-to-heart chats, or talked much at all, but Shiranui didn’t care.
“You have sakura petals on you,” Amagiri’s deep voice broke that silence. Shiranui blinked, not really seeing why that was important, and reached a hand up to lazily brush off what he could. But black gloved fingers reached his hair first, fingertips lightly touching to remove the petals. Though the contact was faint, Shiranui could feel the heat that emanated from the man’s large hands. With that heat came memories.
Memories of an old friend, who would laugh. A friend who was always smiling, no matter how sad or difficult the times. Who would lean over, a large grin on his face, and ruffle Shiranui’s wavy locks with those warm, gentle hands. Hands that never once hurt him, never once rejected him, but accepted and comforted him instead. Hands that were stained with crimson. By the gods, the blood that stained his friend’s hands with every cough that racked his body. The way his friend’s voice would come in pained gasps between violent, wet coughs and the way his body doubled over each and every time…
Warmth had left his friend in the form of blood. Even now, that crimson stained his memories, lacing the comforting sound of Takasugi’s laugh with the horrible sound of his coughing, of his gasps. A hideous montage of memories set on constant replay, no matter how hard he tried to escape, much like he had been unable to help the one person he wanted to save.
He never wanted to feel that helpless again…
Never wanted to hear those gasps, those coughs as each fit got worse and worse, staining more blood upon innocent hands…
“Pardon me,” Amagiri’s voice rumbled, his hand pulling away with a few pink petals clinging to his gloves. The touch had lasted only a moment, but it was enough to make the usually arrogant, violet gaze cloud over with silent pain.
Shiranui sneered, brushing over where the man touched him, trying to get rid of the memories. “Heh, how unlike you,” he said, forcing his usual half-mocking tone into his voice. Leaving the sake cup behind, he stood and kept his back to the oni. Damnable emotions. He hated feeling so weak… so vulnerable.
Hated how weak humans were, how easily they died and left others behind.
Hated their talk of spirits and leaving something behind when there was never anything left.
Shiranui took a step, only to be halted by Amagiri’s low rumble warning him not to go near the Shinsengumi for the time being. A scoff tumbled from the oni’s lips, a sneer upon his lips despite the pain in his heart. “Don’t confuse me with Kazama.”
In a blink, he was gone. Off somewhere to hide. To quietly curse his weakness, his memories. The image of a solitary grave burned in his mind’s eye, but he hadn’t the courage to visit it. No. For all his pride, all his arrogance and strength… he could not bring himself to stand before that stone…
…to be reminded of how fragile humans were
…to be reminded that once they died, only painful memories were left. Memories that, in time, would fade. They would quietly vanish, one by one, until nothing remained. One day he would wake up and realize he had been abandoned by his friend, in every sense of the word.
[Shiranui] - Fragile
Humans are weak. They die so easily; a simple sickness, or a cut in just the right place is all it takes. Sometimes something as small as an accident can snatch their life away. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it is, humans are weak. Their lives are so pitifully short and yet they brazenly charge ahead, ignoring everything else around them. I hate humans.
Shiranui sighed, a scowl tugging at the corners of his lips as he roamed the desolate streets of Edo. Night had fallen, tension intertwining with the darkness as a heavy sense of foreboding pervaded the area. Soon, the city would be bathed in blood. Koudou’s men — no… his monsters would near Edo and fall upon the citizens like wolves upon lambs.
Honestly, he didn’t give a damn about humans — how many of them lived or died. They could rot for all he cared. The only thing that irked him was a simple thing, really. It had nothing to do with something so honorable as trying to save the day, to fix what humans fucked up. No, he merely had a bone to pick with a foolish old man who had involved Choshu — a man who was trying to create a country Shiranui would never allow to see the light of day.
He would fight to his last breath to make sure that old bastard never fulfilled those twisted dreams. A country built upon the corpses of monsters was no country at all! That was not the place his friend would have called ‘home’.