"Well, I guess this is goodbye."

Ken knelt down in front of the grave marker and placed a bouquet of lily of the valley at its base. Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out the lighter and stick of incense he had brought along with him. For a moment, he contemplated the irony of what he was about to do; then, shrugging, he leaned forward and placed the stick into the holder. Sweet smoke wafted up to the sky in loose spirals, an offering of appeasement to the souls of the wronged dead.

"My shrink says I'm not supposed to come here any more. She says it's unhealthy for me to be talking to you, when I really ought to be talking to real people." He narrowed his eyes and looked out across the expanse of graves in the distance. His gaze fell upon one particular well-tended grave, and he smiled. "And you know what?" He turned his head back to the marker in front of him. "I think she's probably right."

A young woman walking her dog through the graveyard appeared quite alarmed by the sound of laughter emanating three aisles away from her. Ken watched with a slight smile as she hastily retraced her steps back to the entrance.

"But I also think it's been cathartic. And for that reason alone, I don't regret it."

The smile dropped off of his lips as he turned to regard the stone before him with a serious mien. "'The dead cannot exist among the living, except as memories.' That's something Omi told me, many, many years ago." He pushed himself to his feet. "I think I understand, now, what he meant."

In the distance, an arm waving eagerly in the air caught his attention. "I've still got a lot of memories of my own left to make before I die." He waved back, smiling at the young man waiting by the graveyard entrance. "And I want to spend that time with the people precious to me."

Because you never know when it'll be the last time you ever see them.

He took one long, final look over the grave marker, committing its simple details to memory. He would never again return to this place. Memory would sustain him; his place was among the living, not talking to the dead.

A light breeze blew through the graveyard, scattering and dissipating the last wisps of incense. Ken was already in motion, halfway across the graveyard to the entrance - to where Omi, and a new life, awaited him.

Off in the distance, the solitary stick of incense burnt out at the base of the Ken Hidaka's grave.


Lily of the Valley - Sweetness; Humility; Return of happiness

Author's closing notes:

A little more than nine months ago I started writing this story. At the time, I had only seen maybe four episodes of Gluhen, and only half of those subbed. I'd realized even before beginning this fic that my ideas about Gluhen would probably diverge pretty heavily from where the series itself was heading. My inner CanonWhore balked, but lost out in the end to the rare inspiration that struck me every time I sat down to work on this story.

This fic was in many ways an experiment for me. I wanted to see if I could completely tell the story in third-person limited perspective, relying minimally on exposition in favor of indirect detail. The bridging chapters (prologue, even-numbered chapters, and the epilogue) were an experiment in apostrophe, with Ken addressing the absent souls in the graveyard. I can't judge for myself how successfully it worked, but in terms of the story itself, I'm happy with how things came together when I wrote it.

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on this story. I've read all of the feedback, and it has helped me better think through the way I've chosen to tell the story, especially in later chapters. Big thanks especially to Lady Cosmos and Jessie Shockey, for their last-minute betas before posting. And thank you, the reader, for reading my story. I may write primarily for my own whim, but it still means a lot to me that others read my fumblings at fiction.

'Til next fic!