My Lady's Visage
Part 1 of 2

Author's Note: Still cleaning out the closet and still working on Half-light, for those of you who care – I feel so supremely bad for not updating in so long ^_^;;; But I wrote this quite a while ago, and another story on this site finally helped me summon up the courage to post it. Warning: this is somewhat experimental, so please keep an open mind and give me a chance, ne? ^_^;;;

This fic also ignores certain filler episodes of the anime since it was written prior to them. Please ignore episode 79 ^_~

It is night again, and my lady is already moving. Without breakfast again, I see, although I've long since given up trying to convince her. My master would not be pleased to know she goes without eating, but she is grown now and can do as she pleases.

It's not as if I can stop her.

We wander aimlessly these days, without any pretense of direction; were I any less obedient I might have taken the lead long ago. I am but a lowly kappa though, and I must follow her instead, regardless of my thoughts on the matter. She is my master's daughter, and I cannot touch.

I have been her regent forever, although I harbor no particular illusions of mating her. I'm sure my master (long may his name be spoken) is reserving a special place in hell for whoever actually does that. He was a possessive one, that's for sure. Old-fashioned, if I dare say it, but caring—in his own fashion.

Besides, my lady is far too good for one such as me, who does not even have a second form. Sometimes I wish I could have learned more from the master--that I could even have a chance at the second life like he had, but those times are already past. Sometimes I can't believe he gave it up, though I hear he did it for her—to protect her. I, the humble servant, shall probably never know, but I took her from his side and cared for her just as I took the wash to the river, and I have nothing else I can do but serve her in his absence.

I still miss him. Hell, she still misses him, although she rarely mentions it. I can see it in her eyes though, every now and again - whenever I catch her brushing his pelt. Those beautiful, spirited eyes I admire so dearly—gods, the fire inside them—dim so quickly it almost breaks my heart, and then she turns away like she knows I am watching her. Maybe she does, I was never very good at telling.

Sometimes I regret not paying much attention to her when she was younger, and perhaps she does too---her smiles dried up over the years, but every now and again she treats me to one, hiking up the corner of her mouth to show me she still notices my presence. It's the laughter that hurts the worst though…somehow, when I wasn't watching, those little giggles evaporated into silence. I didn't even notice how much I missed her whimsy until it was gone, I was so focused on getting her to stay still for her lessons. My lord always wanted her to have an education, and I taught her everything I knew—but I cannot teach her to smile again.

She stops abruptly, and I nearly trip over my staff trying not to bump into her. The wind rustles lightly through her clothing, and for a moment the moon is her crown, lighting her face until she looks more like an astral creature. Untouchable. Ethereal. I distantly feel my eyes take leave of their sockets, although they already bug out to a ridiculous degree.

"We will rest here," she states simply, before gliding toward the river. She looks so much like my lord, hair streaming regally behind her, that my mind begins to burn with the memories. She even speaks like him now, trying so hard to mimic his concise patterns—sometimes it makes me feel like he really does still live, buried deep within her.

Kappa do not have hearts, but mine aches for her anyway.

There are times when I would give anything to get her to throw that guise away and rip that lying expression off her face, but I fear I don't have the strength. I cannot even protect her anymore, not even as her regent—this old body can barely keep up with her youthful strides, let alone her battles. And when I have tried to lay down my worthless life for her she somehow ends up saving me; the shame of it is unbearable. So I must remain silent, although it hurts to see her so subdued.

She returns now, her elegant cheeks shining with wetness, and I know it is my turn to enter the waters. I have never entirely understood her need for modesty, when I have seen her naked so many times before, but perhaps it's just another thing we kappa cannot understand. I was born in water and raised in rivers, so I have never gotten used to these "clothes" they force me to wear---although my lord always assured me they are utterly necessary. It was one of the easiest ways to amuse him, I think--asking why I need to wear clothes--and although he never grinned outright I could see him wagging his tail on the inside. I have become accustomed to the hat though---it helps keep the moisture in my skull while I move on land, something a kappa cannot survive without.

She used to steal it a lot. I wish I hadn't punished her for it so harshly.

The river is colder than I expected, sending icy fingers crawling over my admittedly thick skin. I wonder why she didn't call for me to heat it up—the river spirits would gladly obey me. I summon one of them now with a binding scroll and the little eddy obeys happily, bothering the lazier hot water sprites until they come roaring to the surface. Much better. I bind them too, and they begin to dance around me merrily, falling easily into the circular currents of a mini-hot spring. Perhaps I will seek out a real hot spring later this week and encourage my lady to take some time off her travels, though I doubt she will accept. I ask the little eddy if there are any nearby, but since it is but a young river it is too immature to talk to the other waters of the area. I shall have to try searching myself.

It is not long before I hear my lady's voice wafting over the wind, and I must resign myself to crawling out of my sanctuary. I do not wish to go, but she has some task for me by the sound of it, and it is best not to keep one's master waiting.

I am keeping my master waiting though.

I dress slowly, not wanting to meet the end of the night's rumination, but as always it comes anyway—the face of my master at the end of his life, beckoning to me. I never dream, but the image assaults me constantly if I let my guard down. Or if I start thinking about it too much, like I am right now.

He's talking to me now as he did back then, those swollen, purple lips moving slowly. His eyes are starting to fade to pale yellow, and the blood is slowing, although I did not notice those things at that time. In my mind, I can see my younger self flailing frantically and it makes me cringe to have been so mindless. Better I had spent those last few seconds listening to my master than trying to save what was so obviously lost. Better I had heard those last words, so I could know what he wanted me to do. I would have taken on a thousand enemies but it would have made no difference; one little kappa cannot possibly hold his own against one who can kill his master. To this day, I cannot tell if he is angry that I did not follow him in death. Maybe he still calls me to join him so he can settle the score. Maybe he forgives me, and his spirit still waits—although I cannot find it in my heart to believe that. I cannot hear his words, and thus this poor old retainer can think of only one truth.

Better to serve my lady in life than my master in death.

I return to camp feeling somehow justified—somehow peaceful. My lady is relaxing gracefully, as always, leaning up against a tree near the pack animal, and I begin to go about the usual chores.

"Jaken-sama!" a high-pitched voice suddenly cries. I shudder and brace myself for the impending storm dismounting Ah-Un.

There is but one thing I don't understand.

I still do not know what my lady wants with the human girl.

Confused? More is coming…it may make more sense then you think ^_~ And yes, I've taken several things into consideration. Until then, click that review button!