Chapter 9:

"At Peace"

It was a long night for Lucille. She worked a groove in the grass in front of the stairs to her room pacing, thinking, wondering. At times she circled the garden, reviewing her current work and what she still needed to complete. She made sure not to venture too far into the surrounding forest, remembering her first encounter here. She was dying, but that death was already coming quick enough.

The evening stretched on, the moon rising high in the sky, casting moon shadows across the grass in front of her. Different insects started singing their buggy songs in the trees around her, working together to create a melody that you can only hear once you are far away from the city. Dinner time came and went, but no one came out to find her. She had been perched on the porch for a while, part of her waiting (and quietly hoping) that someone would ask her to join them for dinner. The other part of her peacefully contemplating her life and enjoying the calm silence of the garden.

She slowly got up from her place, her bones creaking and a deep ache settling into her joints. Her body wanted to rest but her mind would not give her a moments' reprieve. Her earlier pacing had been rushed, hurried. But now she moved with a slow steadiness, heading toward a slightly overgrown patch of her garden. With a heavy sigh she sank down to her knees and began tugging at the various weeds that littered the healthy and wanted plants. It seemed that with each weed she pulled, she removed a worry from her mind.

By the time her chosen patch was clear of weeds, her mind was finally at peace and she could go to bed, no longer worried about her future or what little remained of it.

Genkai raised an eyebrow at Lucille's cheerful smile, almost confused with this sudden change in attitude. It appeared that this person in front of her was a completely different woman from the one she worked with the night previously.

"You're certainly cheerful this morning for someone who didn't have dinner last night." If possible, Lucille's grin grew even larger.

"I had a real good night." Lucille reached forward and grabbed the tea kettle. Genkai paid close attention to whose cup she filled first and a smirk settled on her lips at what she saw.

"That's it, just a real good night? Care to elaborate?" Genkai accepted the offered mug. "Did something happen that I should know about?"

"No, nothing happened." Before leaving her room that morning, Lucille made the decision that she would not share her late-night thoughts with others, even Genkai. While she had no doubts that Genkai would support her in any choice she made, there was something she wanted to do on her own. She felt bad; during her short and very few visits to the temple the two of them had gotten rather close and she knew Genkai would go out of her way to offer any assistance she could. But Lucille did not want anyone to go out of their way for someone who may not be around long enough to be able to return the favor.

"Well, alright then." Genkai quietly sipped her tea for a few minutes, allowing Lucille to settle in and find her stillness. This took longer than anticipated, as Lucille wouldn't stop fidgeting. After a while, Genkai spoke up, "We're going to be spending today meditating and building spiritual strength. Normally I would do this with some sort of physical activity, building the strength of the spirit and body together to create uniformity. But yours is a special circumstance that we need to accommodate."

Lucille nodded, understanding completely. She settled into a more comfortable position, focusing on the peace in her heart. That focus is what helped her find her stillness and allowed her to meditate for the time that Genkai wanted.

While Lucille meditated, Genkai observed the sick woman; she focused on the healing bruises around her eye, the awkward way she carried herself, and the tension that settled in her shoulders. When asked, Lucille would say that she's fine, nothing is wrong. But her body said something else entirely. Genkai could see the pain she bore every day, the stress of her disease weighing on her soul. Looking closely, any spiritually-aware person could see that her spirit energy was beginning to diminish, her aura hugging tightly to her body instead of expanding with life, reaching out to touch the life force of others.

She was dying, that was clear to anyone who cared to look. And though her doctor said she had an entire year left, Genkai believed that she had even less time than that. And between this visit and the previous one, that time decreased dramatically. She frowned as she looked at the bruises again, wondering if her husband's behavior cut her life shorter. A woman like this should be cared for and loved, not beaten and isolated.

Genkai decided to ask Lucille a question she anticipated would be refused, "While you're here this weekend, would you like Yukina and I to heal you?" Genkai did not need to speak the obvious. They both knew their healing would not come close to touching the cancer that riddled her body. But the least they could do is attempt to relieve the pain of the physical wounds she bore. With a woman such as this, it was likely that she would decline the offer, not wanting to burden someone else with her problems.

After a few seconds more of stillness, Lucille finally opened her eyes and looked at Genkai with a smile, "Yeah, I think I would like that."

It's not often that Genkai is surprised.

Lucille lay on a soft mat in the center of a quiet temple room, gathering in the space around her. She was unsure of the exact purpose of the room she was in; there wasn't any furniture other than some large, soft pillows and no windows or exterior doors. There was a small altar in the center of one wall, with a row of lit candles lining the back of it. It appeared that it was a prayer room, but she had no idea who they paid homage to. Perhaps with the assortment of people that flowed through these temples grounds, the room was simply a place for spiritual reflection with doors open to anyone who needed to reach out to someone.

Alone, the room had an odd, ethereal feel to it. As if you could feel the presence of all the different deities that have been called to this room.

For someone close to death, that presence was a lot stronger.

Thankfully, Lucille was not alone. Genkai was currently to her left, sitting on one of the soft pillows with a mug of tea in her hands. Lucille glanced at her before taking a deep breath and turning her gaze to the ceiling. She started counting the pieces of wood in the ceiling, waiting patiently for what was to come. Trying to distract herself from the soft voices that whispered delicately in her ear.

She was nervous for sure. Being new to the world of demons and the supernatural, she didn't know what would come with being healed by a demon. Would it hurt? Would it change who she was physiologically?

By the time Yukina arrived, Lucille had counted fifteen support beams and two hundred and seventeen wooden slats that filled the space between the support beams. She was not able to finish, leaving the pointless question of how many wooden slats it took to fill the space above. The young demon flew through the door in a rush, a slight tinge of pink on her cheeks.

"I sincerely apologize for being late Master Genkai." She delicately flopped herself down on Lucille's other side. Lucille silently considered the grace required for that move, anyone else would have dropped like a sack of potatoes at the speed Yukina moved into the room.

Genkai huffed a bit and waved her hand at the young apparition. "No matter, I'm sure Lucille enjoyed the time to prepare herself." Genkai's statement had Lucille raising her eyebrows. She was supposed to be preparing for this? How in the world was she supposed to do that? But the twinkling in Genkai's eyes told her she was only teasing; that did nothing to ease the bubble of anticipation in her gut.

Yukina smiled at Lucille and situated herself on the cushion with her feet folded underneath her and her hands folded in her lap. Genkai cleared her throat and set her mug on the tray beside her before sliding it out of the way.

"Before we begin, I urge you not to move during the process no matter what you might feel. It will only drag it out further." Lucille's eyes widened at the implication behind those words, fear gripping her belly in a tight knot. She nodded slowly, suddenly beginning to regret agreeing to this.

Genkai and Yukina stretched their arms out over Lucille's body; Genkai's hands over her head and chest, Yukina's hands over her belly and hips. The spiritually-aware would see a soft pink glow emanating from Genkai's hands and an icy blue from Yukina's hands, not too far off from the color of their hair. Lucille saw nothing but the color of their skin, though she felt the effect of their powers on her body. Warmth, similar to the feeling of the sun on one's skin, spread out from their hands and slowly encompassed her entire body. The places where her injuries were the worst began to itch and it took all of her willpower not to move her arm to scratch at them. She could see why Genkai had to caution her against moving and why it might elongate the process.

From Genkai's position, she watched the bruise on Lucille's face go through the remaining stages of healing before disappearing completely. She didn't know what other injuries existed, but she was sure they were going through the same process. She could see the discomfort on Lucille's face, fighting the urge to move and scratch at any healing injuries. This process for healing wasn't an easy fix, it just sped up the body's natural healing process. Unfortunately that meant it went through every stage of the process, including the uncomfortable ones.

Genkai and Yukina spent a long time with their hands splayed over Lucille's body. It took a lot longer than Genkai originally estimated, which spoke volumes for the true damage done to the woman's body. She discreetly glanced at Yukina, noticing the subtle signs of strain beginning to show on the young demon's face, though she would never admit to the pressure she was feeling. Genkai slowly increased her output of power to relieve the strain on Yukina and the change in her face was almost immediate.

A short while later, Lucille sneezed, disrupting everyone's concentration. "Sorry. The inside of my nose was itchy."

Genkai and Yukina laughed, lowering their arms and helping Lucille into a sitting position. They could no longer see that exterior damage that was done to her body and Genkai knew the interior damage could never be fully repaired. She looked closely at the older woman, observing any changes in her features that might indicate how she was doing. A slight flush had come to her cheeks, replacing the cool paleness that existed before. The dark rings under her eyes had disappeared. A subtle strength returned to her muscles, leaving no room for the feeble weakness that existed before.

To the unknowing, this woman is a healthy human being, cancer-free and full of life. They would never know the damage hidden underneath the soft and delicate skin.

Genkai continued to watch Lucille quietly while Yukina helped her off the floor and out of the room. She had an uneasy feeling settling in her stomach but she couldn't quite figure out why. She believed they did a good thing that day, providing Lucille a temporary relief from her pain. Why, then, did it feel so wrong? Why did she get the sense that something bad was going to come from this?

Lucille turned to look over her shoulder as she walked out. Genkai was sitting in front of the simple alter, a cigarette dangling between her lips and lazy circles of smoke floating above her head.

Long break, short chapter. This story will be ending soon, I already have the ending planned out in fact.

I took a long break because what was happening in my life took priority. I've gone through things that I've been wanting for a long time and things that I never thought would happen to me. But I've been thinking about this story on a regular basis recently and I want to finish it instead of leaving everyone hanging.

Thank you for your continued support and for understanding.