Bindings

The Bodhisattva walked among the corpses; hir white, white feet were silent on the stained floor.

Everything seemed to be shrouded in blood now. Homura lay on the floor, dragged down by pain and weariness, and looked around him at the enactments of ruin. The creature -- itan, monster, child, monkey, manifestation of the power of chaos -- lay near the Emperor's empty throne, set aside there carefully by Kanzeon Bosatsu. A gold diadem shone on its forehead again, and it slept like a weary child, face tense and troubled.

Se had not troubled to clean the blood from its hands or mouth.

There were so many bodies. He recognised faces here and there among the dead courtiers, the fallen soldiers; this one had cringed as he passed, that one had laughed when he thought himself unobserved, those empty eyes had been alive less than an hour ago.
And, of course, the bodies that se now knelt beside. Hir nephew Konzen -- well, perhaps there had been some affection there, not that he had ever seen it in either. The womanish long hair was matted with blood now, the thin lips half open as though still trying to complain or interject. The body slumped loosely, relaxed for once, opened up from shoulder to hip in a single stroke of claws.

Fire burned at the edges of Homura's vision. He blinked, and tried to breathe. Something in his chest hurt when he moved.

Is it going to stop now? Is it all going to stop?

Two headless bodies. One in black. One in white. The General had been furious, still struggling. Damn him too. The Marshal had held himself still, had gone down on his knees with something like grace, but his eyes had been iron, cold iron, looking at the future and accepting it and bending his head to it, and still raging, still saying this is not yet finished.

Oh yes. The other one. Goujun, the Dragon King. Dead by his hand as well.

He hadn't been important.

But he'd looked so surprised.

And Litouten. But that hadn't been Homura's doing.

The Bodhisattva rose from hir knees. Light danced around hir like lotus petals, like flames, like ghosts. Se walked towards where Homura lay, bare feet still silent, and hir hair blew behind hir in a wind that he could not feel.

"You did nothing," he accused hir.

The dark eyes watched him.

"You saw all of this and you did nothing." Nobody else in the hall was breathing except for him, for hir, and for the itan creature. "Bloodstained whore."

Se cupped her hands. Light unfolded between them, a lotus bud that unfolded into a flower and glowed like nacre. "They died as they died," se said. "Resenting. Angry. Still bound by duty. Still bound by affection. Does that matter to you?"

"You did nothing. You came too late." Words filled his mouth like bile, and he spat them at hir. "You stopped that creature, but only when everyone was already dead. Does that matter to you?"

"Of course it matters." Se moved one shoulder. "Of course it doesn't matter."

"He was your nephew and you let him die."

Kanzeon Bosatsu swayed in the wind that played with hir hair and tugged at hir silks. "I did. He faced his death and went to meet it and I didn't stop him. He knew what he wanted and he still wants it. What do you want, Homura?"

Se had never called him by his name before, never even spoken to him. It would have been easier if se had called him toushin taishi. The toushin was a man who knew what he wanted and who bargained for power and who could kill.

"I want it to have been different."

He coughed. There was blood.

"Ah no. That I can't do." Se knelt down beside him, the flower still between hir hands. Behind hir, the hall was unreal, a ghostly room of marble and corpses, like memories cut down and kept for pain. "Ask me for something else, Homura."

Put me back in the darkness and leave me there for another thousand years. There at least I could dream that things might be different. Now I know that they can't. We try. We fail. It comes to this. "Hope is illusion," he said. "Get away from me." Put me back in the darkness.

The lotus rippled in hir hands; became four-petalled, spun into a circle of light, shrank to a bud again, to a flame, was gone. "Everything is illusion," se answered. "Everything is real. The choice is yours and always will be."

"Get away from me." He had no strength left to move, but only bitterness and anger that let him meet hir eyes. "You're an illusion. This is all illusion. Heaven and gods and all of this. I knew what I wanted . . ." His voice broke, and he swallowed blood. "This is your fault."

"Hush." Se leaned forward. Hir hair brushed against his face as se kissed his forehead, lips hot against the kami mark there.

Slowly the light began to fade, as shadows crept in around him. The body's pain eased, draining away like water, taking his anger with it, leaving the silence and the knowledge to accompany him down into sleep.

He saw the Bodhisattva walking among the corpses, white feet silent on the stained floor as se carried the child out of the hall. Se did not look back at him.

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