So in a fit of annoyance and impatience after reading the latest two GK chapters, I wrote a fic to tie up all the knots left undone-- I didn't include how I think the series should end, but it did give me some piece of mind. I wrote most of it in an airport/on a bus, so I didn't exactly stop to edit it-- would you mind reading over it and telling me what I need (only if you've read chapters 26-27, though!) This is just part one-- the whole thing was too long. ^^;;
Thanksss a bunch! ;]
All I Need
“That’s good. You’ve really recovered.”
He stared at her, frozen in place. His mind was screaming at him to walk away before he did something he would regret, but he couldn’t move. Never before had he really noticed how fragile she was. He wanted to take her in his arms and never let her go-- but no. He couldn’t do that. Never again could he let anything touch her, even himself.
“Listen to me,” she said, and her voice was low and urgent. It nearly broke his heart. “Everyone has been saying some strange things. Things like 'the miko is not needed,' and that I’m not needed. That can’t be true…” Her voice trailed off as suddenly violent coughs wracked her body. His eyes widened in shock. She was sick? He reached out instinctively to comfort her… but no.
She looked up.
He almost told her everything. He wanted so badly to explain that nobody had meant it, that they were all looking out for her. But he couldn’t do it. He had to protect her.
“Go back to your own world.”
The pain in her eyes tore him in two.
“Like everyone has said, give up on summoning Genbu.” His voice caught in his throat-- his next words would be harsher than anything anyone would tell her, because he was the one to say them. “You’re no longer needed in this country… in this world. Go back.”
He could see the disbelief written clearly on her face, and he had to fight to keep himself from crying out, from demanding to know why she was even listening.
“Do you really…” she whispered, voice weak from her coughing fit, “think… so?”
“Yeah,” he muttered, hating himself.
He could see the resolve hardening in her gaze and braced himself for the coming storm. He did not expect what came instead.
“Then… what about me?” she demanded. “Not as miko or seishi!”
He gasped. No. This was just too cruel.
“Are you fine with it if I disappear?”
He turned away from her and shut his eyes tightly, not wanting to see the tears he knew were flowing down her face. No, no, no! Of course he wasn’t fine with it! But neither was he fine with it if she died…
“Why!? You even hugged me just recently!” That’s right. He envisioned her then, the feel of her in his arms, the way their bodies melded together as though they were made for each other, two parts of a puzzle. “At Tomite’s village… you said that you like me--”
He clenched his fists, willing himself not to crack. Genbu, he couldn’t do this.
“Answer me!” she shouted, and he flinched. “That was why I tried so hard!” The guilt pierced him like a weapon. “No matter what…” He silently begged her not to say it, to make it worse than it already was. “I… love you, so…” He swallowed back the reflex of telling her he felt the same, willing himself to be strong. “In this world, I just want to be with--”
“In that case, just forget it.” His voice was harsh from the stress, though he knew she’d see it as anger. He forced himself to speak before he broke, before her words touched his heart and he whirled to gather her into his arms. “Forget me… I will also forget you.” His voice cracked on the last word, but he plowed on, gaining determination with every word. “From the start… I was mistaken. There’s no way people from two different worlds can be together, is there?” He took a deep breath and said the words he knew would wound her for eternity. “You should wake up to reality.”
There was a stunned silence, and he wondered why she was even believing his obvious bullshit. Hadn’t he held her in the forest not long ago and assured her that she was all he had left in his life, that she was what made his life worth living? She’d never believed him when he’d told her he cared for her, and here she was swallowing this lie so easily. Don’t do this, Takiko, he thought. Make me see the error of my ways… stop me before it’s too late…
But of course she didn’t.
“That’s… right,” she whispered, and he didn’t think that anyone could hate oneself any more than he did at that moment. “We are definitely from different worlds…. But I-- I know that, but I…”
He took a step. He had to get away. He was so close. He was doing what was best for her, right? Protecting her from the horrible fate of the beast-god. She’d never go home any other way. This was all that he knew how to do. But as the snow cracked under his feet, a bright silver light surrounded his senses. It was a light he knew all too well. It was a light he’d seen only a few times, but each time he knew the result. The last time he’d seen it, she’d been wavering under his body, flickering in and out of existence as she'd begun to return to her own world. He’d stopped her then.
This time he would not, could not stop her.
The last thing he heard before he broke down was a pained cry ringing in his ears.
Roun Rimudo wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
In fact, he was already working on it. He wasn’t exactly in a hole, but the dying part seemed to be coming along easily enough. He hadn’t eaten in two days, staring dully into space in between the times he drifted off into short, nightmarish dreams, his once-bright hazel eyes misted over with apathy.
His recovery from mourning had not lasted long.
As much as Tomite had always disliked the wind-prince, still he couldn’t stand to see one of his own comrades in such a state. It was like Soruen’s death all over again: the same look had returned to Rimudo’s face, and this time it seemed permanent. This unfeeling expression was worse than pain, and the archer found it extremely difficult to bear. He was full of just as much self-loathing as Rimudo, but then again, he hadn’t been Okuda Takiko’s lover. Tomite watched his fellow seishi from the doorway, tentative and unhappy; none of them could take this any longer.
Rimudo ignored him, turning his apathetic gaze to the ceiling.
Tomite took a step inside the room. “Uruki, you’ve got to eat. This can’t go on.”
“Go away, Tomite,” Rimudo said, voice flat. “I deserve it. It’s karma.” The ghost of a smile lingered on his lips. Isn’t that right, Taiitsukun?
“We did what we had to,” Tomite mumbled, looking down at the ground. “It was for her own sake. Her safety.”
Rimudo’s voice was bitter as he replied, “Perhaps we did it for her safety, but you know as well as I do that it was for our sakes, not hers. Given the choice… she’d have gone right on ahead with what she was doing.”
“But that’s why we had to do it!” Tomite said, suddenly confident as he raised his head to stride over to Rimudo so he stood a foot away from where the prince sat. “She’s got no sense of self-preservation; would you have wanted to watch her die? I think not, Uruki!”
Rimudo winced and didn’t answer. “The look in her eyes…” he whispered. “Telling her the things that I told her… I really am a demon.”
This was why Tomite missed Soruen. He’d never really gotten to know the man, but Soruen had always known what to do. It didn’t matter what crisis was occurring, Soruen had always been there, calm and collected, solving dilemma after dilemma with flawless decisions. And now, when they really needed him, he was gone and never coming back. Tomite didn’t know what to do. Awkwardly, he sat down next to Rimudo and placed a hand on his shoulder. The prince flinched at the touch but didn’t move away.
“Uruki…” Tomite pleaded, “please. Soruen wouldn’t want your behaving like this. Takiko wouldn’t want it, either. You need to eat. If not for me, then for them.”
There was a long, tense silence, and finally Rimudo sighed. “For them,” he said quietly, and stood.
“Are you fine with it if I disappear?!”
“Forget me, and I will forget you.”
“In this world, I just want to be with--”
“Wake up to reality.”
Rimudo woke with a gasp. He rolled over onto his back and found himself staring into a pair of smoldering eyes. “…Firuka…”
“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” Firuka snapped. “Looks as though you’re not-- tossing and mumbling in your sleep. Of course, since it’s you--” Rimudo flinched at her choice of words-- “That’s probably just a reaction to your healing wounds. Not because you’ve just devastated the soul of a girl who’s done nothing to harm you, only entrusted her happiness in your hands.” Before giving Rimudo a chance to respond, the fair-haired girl rose and flounced silently from the room.
Rimudo groaned and smashed his head against the wall, tears stinging at his eyes. “Soruen, I need you now,” he whispered.
“Unfortunately,” a saddened voice replied, “Soruen can’t be coming.” Taiitsu watched Rimudo with unfathomable black eyes. “You foolish, foolish boy.”
Rimudo would have scrambled to his feet and bowed at the sight of Taiitsukun standing at the foot of his bed, but he had not the energy. He settled for watching the childlike god with dull eyes, his head bowed. “I had to protect her,” he said hoarsely in his own defense. “I could not stand to watch her die. I was not going to let the last person in my life die. She deserves better.”
Taiitsukun smiled sadly. “Ah, Uruki,” he said, “I thought you’d learned something. Takiko would have gladly sacrificed herself if it meant she was needed.”
Rimudo blanched. “But that’s why we had to do it,” he said weakly.
“I did not tell you her fate so that you could shove her away,” Taiitsukun said, his voice now stern. “I told you so that you could protect her, so that you could hold her close and assure her that no matter what, she was always loved. Uruki, she was already dying.”
Rimudo stared, unable to comprehend what the emperor of the heavens was saying. “I don’t understand. She hasn’t even gathered all the seishi yet, how could Genbu--”
“Genbu has nothing to do with this,” Taiitsukun interrupted. “She has been dying since before she joined you in your world, and she will die whether or not she summons Genbu.” Rimudo’s breath caught in his throat, and he found that it was suddenly hard to breathe. Taiitsukun continued. “Did she not tell you that her mother died of a disease that has been terrorizing her world for quite some time? Takiko spent every spare moment with her mother; it was only a matter of time before she contracted the very disease. Have you not noticed her fainting spells, her frequent fevers, the sweating, the coughing that has grown more persistent over the days?”
Rimudo was frozen, unable to speak, unable even to blink. No…
“You and all in this world are safe-- it is not compatible with your bodies, this disease from another world. But now she will die without even her lover to hold her and tell her someone needs her. You and all the sichiseishi have failed Hokkan, Uruki.” Taiitsukun’s lips were pursed in disappointment, but Rimudo was not listening. Already dying. She was already dying… and he had sent her away for nothing. He had said cruel words for nothing. He moaned and buried his hands in his hair; Taiitsukun watched him silently, black eyes betraying nothing.
“Likely she will not return,” the demi-god said, and his voice was sad. “We can only hope that she decides to do what is right.” And with that, he bounded away.
Rimudo did not move, grinding his teeth as tears fell from his eyes. Takiko… forgive me…
It was really no surprise when she found herself sprawled across her front lawn, the cloak and necklace that had been around her neck no longer anywhere to be found.
She lay there dully, nothing running through her mind. She was a blank. She was unneeded and unloved.
Footsteps. Footsteps cut through the blissful silence as someone’s feet slapped against the wooden floor. The shouji slid open, and Takiko heard someone take a sharp breath of air.
“Oh, gods… Takiko!” a mournful voice cried.
Oh… right. That was her father. She was supposed to dislike him, but she could not work up any emotion at all, positive or negative. She simply lay in the grass, listening to the blood pound in her ears. It’s so… cold…
Warm hands were fluttering over her, and she heard her father speaking, though she could not make out what it was he said. Suddenly, spasms wracked her body, and she sat up in shock as cough after cough tore from her throat, and then--
All was black.
At first she didn’t know where she was. She saw no open sky, nor the familiar low ceiling of the inns to which she’d grown accustomed. There was something about the wooden room and the screens that surrounded her… For a long minute she could not put her finger on it, but tears finally welled up her eyes and she understood. “I’m home.”
“Yes,” said a male voice filled with sadness, and she turned her head to see her father kneeling next to her. “You’re home, my darling Takiko.”
Takiko’s eyes widened and she sat up, the cold compress that had been on her forehead falling off to the covers of her futon below. Never before had Okuda Einosuke referred to his daughter in such a manner. Brown eyes met brown, eyes so much alike it was startling, and both eyes were swimming in tears.
“Are you feeling better?” Einosuke asked after a pause, and Takiko nodded once. Her eyes landed on the book that was clenched in his white-knuckled hands, and she suddenly felt winded, as though she’d been punched.
“Father…” Takiko whispered, “I don’t understand… they said such horrible things. Even he--!” She looked away and couldn’t finish her sentence, but it was not hard to figure out whom it was Takiko meant. Einosuke placed a hand on Takiko’s head, gently stroking her hair.
“Oh, my daughter,” he sighed, “I am going to lose you just as I realize just how precious you are.”
She instinctively flinched at the word ‘precious,’ but more pressing was her confusion at his words. She was home, and would not be going back to the book anytime soon. Her seishi had made it very clear she was unwanted. “…I don’t understand,” Takiko said, voice small. “I’m home to stay.” Why are you suddenly…
But Einosuke was shaking his head slowly. “Takiko…” he said, “do you understand why they sent you away?”
A pang of hurt shot through her so poignant Takiko nearly cried out in pain. She squeezed her eyes shut, hands fisting in the blanket covering her. “Yes,” she replied, voice barely audible even to her own ears, “because summoning Genbu is impossible for me. They don’t need me.”
Einosuke breathed a long sigh of defeat, and he stopped stroking his daughter’s hair to look at her, surveying her with unblinking eyes. “No,” he said, and his voice was unintentionally rough, “that’s not right. It’s because Taiitsukun told Uruki something that I have been trying to tell you all along--”
Takiko stared at him in horror, her eyes growing wide once more. “You know who…?!”
Einosuke lifted the book and tapped it with one finger. “I’ve been following your story,” he confessed. “Every move that you’ve made, I’ve read.”
She dropped her head, ashamed. “So you know.”
He grabbed her shoulders. “Look at me, Takiko,” he demanded, and she, shocked, obeyed. “I tried to tell you the last time-- the Genbu no Miko does not have a happy ending. They wanted to drive you home not because they do not need you or they do not love you, but rather the opposite. When the miko summons the beast-god, the god demands a sacrifice. And that sacrifice can only be one thing…” He trailed off, unable to say any more, but she understood. She gasped, raising her hands to cover her mouth.
“You mean-- Genbu would want me to sacrifice-- me?”
Einosuke could not answer. He stared silently at the book in his hands for a long moment until Takiko spoke again, a long sigh of understanding issuing from her lips. “Ahhh,” she said, looking up at the ceiling. “I see now. But, Father--” She swallowed, having to gather her courage before continuing. When she did speak, it was in a voice that was much older than it should have been for one her age. “--I’m already dying, am I not?”
Einosuke continued to say nothing, though he twitched noticeably at her words.
“I mean,” she continued, and now it was obvious she was fighting back tears, “I should have known from the start. The same symptoms Mother--” Her voice broke off, and she could not continue. She stared at the ceiling, blinking tears from her eyes, until suddenly she turned to give Einosuke a watery smile. “But I’m home now,” she whispered, the hurt in her voice barely concealed.
Einosuke did his best to return the gesture, forcing his mouth into a shape it had not taken in many a year. “Yes. That you are.”
Takiko could not sleep. Her fever was gone (for the moment), but still she tossed and turned fitfully, disturbed by haunting dreams and memories she could not suppress. Rimudo’s words had struck her deep, and nothing hurt more than the scornful words of a lover. It was all so confusing. It had not been long before he’d sent her home that he’d chased after her and held her close, assuring her that he needed her by his side. Takiko gritted her teeth, doing back to hold back the tears that were fighting to get free. She knew there was a reason she hated men.
Unbidden, an image sprang to her mind of Tomite, cowering on the ground with his arms over his head to protect himself from the wrath of his mother. A wry grin, one free of any happy emotion, twisted Takiko’s mouth. Boraate knew how to handle her men; what would she have said to Rimudo?
“We need you, miko-sama.”
Takiko stiffened at her memory of Boraate’s words before shaking her head. Her seishi had made it clear that, in fact, they needed anything but her. But Tan Boraate would not let her go; she saw the old woman lying on the ground, the arrow that had been meant for Takiko lodged in her back as she smiled despite the pain and grasped Takiko’s hand. She saw two children of the Ha clan offering her flowers only hours before she was presented with their lifeless bodies. Takiko choked back a sob, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes as she tried to suppress the mental images-- but more came.
Soruen, holding off Hagaasu with nothing but his human strength, yelling for Takiko to run. Soruen, who had freed Takiko from the Kutou soldiers. Soruen, who had died as he had lived, protecting his master and brother, offering himself to save another’s life.
Many lives were depending on Takiko, and she was letting them down. Soruen had given everything for one.
Takiko raised her head, brown eyes flashing as she made up her mind. She threw off her covers and leaped to her feet; she saw immediately that she was dressed in a simple white yukata, and her eyes swept the room for something more socially acceptable. A clean hakama and kimono lay folded neatly near her futon, and Takiko scrambled to dress. Her illness had not progressed too far; while she was weakening, she was weakening slowly, and she knew she had more than enough strength left for what it was she needed to do.
Einosuke must have heard her moving about in her room, for he entered through the shouji just as Takiko began lacing up her shoes. His gaze hardened the instant he saw her. “Takiko…” he said, and his voice was both pained and angry.
Takiko shook her head, reaching for the ribbon that had been removed from her hair when she’d collapsed outside. “Don’t, Father,” she said, and her voice was determined. “I am going to do this right. Many people are depending on me, and I cannot let them down.”
“Do you not understand what will happen to you?” Einosuke snapped, clenching his fists. “Takiko, Genbu will devour you! You will die!”
Takiko smiled sadly at her father. “I will die anyway,” she said simply, and he instantly quieted. “You did not see Mother when she was ill. She wasted away, tortured for many long months until finally she was gone. Perhaps I am selfish, but I would rather go for a cause.” Her voice grew louder and more urgent. “Besides, if I stayed here, I would be letting so many people down. They would die, and Hokkan will perish! There are people depending on me, Father, and if I am going to die, then I want to do this right! I’ve had people take arrows for me, people die for me, and now it’s time that I pay them back!”
Einosuke’s eyes grew almost pleading as he tried one last defense. “Your seishi won’t let you--”
Takiko narrowed her eyes. “I’ll deal with them,” she said stiffly. “Just please, let me go. I promise--” She swallowed. “I will return, and I will bring Mother back. You will still have her.” She held out her hand.
Einosuke grasped it in both of his own. “I have been a terrible father--” he began, but Takiko silenced him with a shake of her head.
“There will be time for that later,” she said, but she looked as pleased as she was surprised. “Please, Father. The book.”
With trembling fingers, Einosuke slowly withdrew the Shi Jin Ten Chi Sho from the inside of his gi.
“It’ll be all right,” Takiko whispered, eyes overbright. “It’s better this way, really.” With that, she took the book from her father before he could protest and opened it with a flash of silver light.
Einosuke fell to his knees as his daughter vanished. “Oh, Takiko,” he moaned. “What have I done?”