... now they must watch their abundance of luxuries fall away, making room for the tools of survival, and witness this time of relative peace wither into the same fears that harper's ballads had warned them about for generations.
 
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 An End to All Ends (II) -Toshiro

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Eloaene

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PostSubject: An End to All Ends (II) -Toshiro   Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:28 pm

(Part 9)




Unsuccessful in breaking much of his fall, Toshiro’s body had spun with the force of the blow, landing him on his stomach. What was left to protrude of that tiny dagger, had was driven even deeper into his shoulder. Gasping again for breath, Toshiro rolled onto his back, reaching to remove the pernicious thing. Sniffing at the blade before he threw it away, he thought he recognized the faint scent of a sedative. The longer he waited to act, the weaker he was going to get. It took every ounce of willpower to bring himself back to his knees, taking hold of his sword again, so that he could meet the man with the throwing-blades head-on.

As he managed to get back on his feet, Toshiro had to blink, not believing what he saw.

The man before him clapped mockingly, a grim smile lacking of any remorse. “You fight better than I thought you would, have so many months spent idle. I guess you took my advice after all.”

That man had been Toshiro’s friend -so to speak. It was that very comrade from sevendays earlier who’d come to visit them. They’d been betrayed? Toshiro must have been staring at him, wearing an expression of shock as he pieced things together through the mental fog the poison had created, because the man grew bored and decided to fill him in.

“All the while, even I had been on the lookout for a cold-blooded-killer, not a happily married man. That’s why it took awhile to find you. But it’s been worth all the effort. Now that the Loyalists have us beaten, it will be nice to display your corpse as a reminder that the Chorong have not completely lost the war.”

Toshiro understood now. It was a last ditch effort on their part. He was on his feet again, but remaining there was difficult, so he slowed his breathing, focused on seeing through the dull haze of his mind, fighting the weakness he felt clawing away at what strength remained in him. Gradually Toshiro’s hand tightened on the hilt of his weapon, his eyes becoming a little more clear in their intent.

Toshiro’s former comrade continued to smile; then he started laughing. “Even now, you are wondering what to do. You thought we were friends and what little heart you have, has trouble allowing you to accept the obvious next course of action. You consider killing me, yet, even if you were able to fight at full strength, you would not be able to use the full strength of your abilities... because your heart is conflicted. And you know better than any, that even the slightest hesitation may result in death.”

The man may have been right; such betrayal should have been cause for a conflicted heart. Toshiro had never been faced with killing anyone at all close to him. In truth however, the man was simply underestimating Toshiro’s Killer-instinct -which he’d just done well to re-awaken.

Toshiro’s eyes were cutting as he regarded his former comrade with determination. He was not about to allow himself to be overcome by such a cowardly human being. “If you want to kill me, you’re going to have to draw your sword.”

“Gladly.” The man’s grin spread the full width of his features, doing just as Toshiro suggested.

Both men prepared themselves for a strike that would be final. Both knew that Toshiro was in no shape to prolong a fight. In that moment of intense focus before either lunged forward, their eyes met, seeing but not seeing, each vying to overcome the willpower of the other.

Ex-guardsman rushing forward, Toshiro gathered his strength with a loud cry to the air, steeling his resolve against the weakness and pain. In his condition though, it didn’t seem as though it would make much a difference. Yet, even if he had to die there, Toshiro was at least going to take one last traitor with him.



____________




“If you could let me love you, I will become your sheath. I will protect you from those things you need to be protected from. I will make it so that you won't have to fight anymore.”



A knife stabbed through the man’s heart.  A hand too delicate for the task, gripped at its handle.

At the last moment, Kesa threw herself between them, throwing the rebel’s sword arm wide, plunging her own knife into his chest. She must have seen the terrible condition Toshiro was in and panicked.

The man who’d betrayed them staggered back as Kesa removed the knife. He collapsed and the life fled from him. But Toshiro...Toshiro stood behind his wife unable to move. All he could do was stare, and whisper. “Kesa.”

“Kesa?!” His voice held a note of hysteria as he stared, unblinking.

Kesa coughed then, legs buckling underneath her.

Toshiro hardly felt the pain when he had to withdraw his sword in order to release it and catch her; but he hadn’t the strength to do anything else but let them both sink to the ground. Still trying to hold her, Toshiro’s vision blurred with tears.

He looked down to where his sword had been -where blood now soaked through her clothing. She had lunged between them without giving either man the time to realize or react. Where she diverted his opponents strike, she was unable to do anything about his own. Toshiro’s sword had penetrated her torso. He had driven it into her back and lungs, out through her ribs. From turns of experience, he knew there was no hope of her surviving for more than a few minutes.

As blood poured from her wound, it also filled her lungs. Reflexively she coughed, spitting up the fluid, so while she still could, she tried to speak. “Your sheath. I guess you found it. Your sword has... been put away... and you don’t have to fight anymore.”

Watching her struggle to speak, Toshiro had a hard time comprehending what she was saying. There being nothing he could do for her, it was enough that his thumb wiped back the small rivulets of blood that were drawn from the corner of her mouth. “Kesa.” The name came choked through his tears.

Looking up at him with all she could manage of a smile, her hand brought the knife to him and there at his ribs, pressed its tip into his side. “There. From me.”

After that, Kesa drifted off.



____________




After preparing Kesa’s body for burial, Toshiro packed the things that they...that he alone would need to take with him for the long journey ahead. In no state of mind to dig a proper grave for her, Toshiro had decided that when he left, he would simply set the house ablaze, her body inside, where she rested peacefully.

Before he did though, Toshiro decided to go through the belongings Kesa left behind, wondering if there were anything that he would want to take with him, besides the crimson sash that he’d kept of hers. Toshiro had known that Kesa wrote in a diary. He’d never read it though. So perhaps, even if there were nothing else for him to take of hers, few words would be enough to remember her by.

Toshiro reached into the small desk drawer where she tucked away her things, searching for anything else within, before he took out the book to read. Even as he began, Toshiro began to cry.




My heart has changed as much as you have. It has followed you every step of the way, as I watched you change from a killer to a husband. Not just a husband by name.

When you first came into my life, I was terribly wounded, and I was afraid to show that kind of face to anyone. My fiance had been killed -stabbed before my very eyes by a butcher. But I hid my fear and anguish. I hid all of it away, trying not to feel or think of it. Left with no one else to turn to, that is the only way I knew how to survive. I was afraid what would happen if I let anyone know. When I was with you, I was no longer watched suspiciously.

Then, hearing even a little of the story about the one who murdered my fiance, I found I did not possess the courage to bear the kind of grudge I desired. The more I learned about his killer, the more I sympathized; such a tortured spirit was surely in need of being shown mercy and love more than anything else.

Even though I hid the truth of my feelings behind a smile, it was so hard to love again after such a painful loss. But I couldn’t help thinking how much more pain my fiance’s killer must be going through.

There were times he seemed barely older than a child and while watching him sleep, I could imagine what that life would be like if it were peace. The more time went by, the more I cared for him. I didn’t know if that kind of feeling could ever be right. Could I honour the life of my fiance while falling in love with his killer? Could I allow my heart to be happy with him? I could live my life then, without every day being spent simply fulfilling a woman’s duty to her husband.

It was You who took my love away! But then it was You who taught me to love again -even when you did not know it.

I kept thinking that my fiance had died because I didn’t love him enough, because I didn’t do enough to save him. I won’t ever make that same mistake again. This tragedy can be overcome by love’s devotion, but how can I bring myself to tell you that my love for you will never be enough to change the terrible consequences of your actions?

When was it that my heart could see only you? I tried to tell you that if you had never picked up a sword, you could have always been happy like you are now. But then, if you had never picked up a sword, would our unfortunate fates have ever brought us together?

That is who I am, dear husband. My only remaining tragedy is that I cannot give these thoughts to you with my own voice, I can only write them. The rest has been replaced with my deepest devotion.


You saved my life & you put love back into it. One day, I hope that you can say that I have done the same for you.





Reading her words, the tears flowed freely. No real words of love had ever been exchanged between them. That had been part of their agreement. It was all in case something like this should happen. Yet, somehow, not knowing her most secret thoughts up until now, didn’t seem to make things any easier. Toshiro would still miss Kesa terribly.



For the longest time, they had been together out of the necessity of companionship, clinging to eachother in hope that some aspect of humanity remained alive within them. Eventually he began to fool himself into thinking that his heart might one day be whole again. Now to find out, after all that time he’d begun falling in love with her, living like he was human again, he’d been completely unworthy of it. He had killed her fiance!

It was hard to believe that she had married him knowing that he was the killer. She must have been watching when he entered her family’s farmhouse, having slain the rebels and their remaining hostage. Toshiro's heart felt like breaking. It made him sick to hold onto those images of his sword through her spine,... knowing that it was his hand that held it there.


Leaving he book open to that page, Toshiro took the crimson sash printed in a budding, white floral pattern and tied it around his arm. 

Now that I know this pain, I know the nightmare that I made you endure. You were the first person who ever loved me...for who I am, not for how I could benefit them. With you by my side, I knew what it was like to appreciate living.

But now her spirit was gone, and the peace and happiness he'd been able to feel in her presence had gone with it.


You said you would bring love into my life. But how can you if you're not here? Come back to me, Kesa!

Toshiro desperately wanted to feel that inner peace within him that he felt when they’d been together. With her spirit departed however, he was unable to salvage any of it. And now, where she'd been, there was a hole in his heart left gaping, where now the anger, the cold and the darkness, all came creeping back in.


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