Note: And here it is! The end (of many things)! Nah, don´t cry. Please….starts massive Kleenex distribution
Many thanks for all those who reviewed, and also to Margit Ritzka for beta. I really didn´t think I´d EVER finish this!
Chapter Nine: Eclipse
He watched, fascinated, how the liquid fell to the ground. The little rivers that it formed continued their course at a quickly decreasing speed, and he saw each one turn into several until they were all dried and swallowed by the humid earth. Then, he felt those hands again, touching him and fumbling with his clothes, and the feeling of shame returned stronger than ever.
His head hurt.
"Done!" her voice sang with a happy tone. "Now, come on, let's rejoin the others!"
He felt himself being yanked forwards, and, for a moment, the terror of falling overwhelmed him. His efforts to resist it were frantic, but they only made the wave of pain return to his whole body. She was pulling him ahead, inexorably and heedless to his suffering or his silent pleas. How…couldn't she notice?
"Don't worry, Shinta, we'll be there soon! You'll be able to rest then, I promise."
The spirits were bustling with activity behind him. He tried to gasp for air and brace himself for the agony, but the frantic speed increased, and, horrified, he felt his legs giving way under his body. No more… He could take no more…
A familiar body supported him in his fall.
Profiting of those brief seconds in which, at last, he was able to breathe deeply, he tried to calm himself and opened his mouth. His voice sounded hoarse, gurgling, with a hysterical tinge that scratched his own ears.
"Please… Please… No more!"
The body in contact with his tensed, and he could hear the spirits murmuring things. His gaze met a pair of blue eyes that glimmered with concern, and he felt the instinctive urge to comfort her, only that he couldn't. The pangs were now shaking his chest, and he had to put all his efforts not to yell with all his remaining forces. He had to hide it. He had to hide everything…
His mind was strong.
"I'm sorry. I'm very sorry, Shinta…" The voice sounded much less happy than before. Then, her strong arms lowered him gently, and he could feel his aching limbs resting at last against solid ground from which they couldn't fall anymore. His head was carefully placed in the warmth and softness of her lap, and, as the spirits made a circle around them, his lips curved into a smile of relief.
She smelled of blood and flowers.
"Are you feeling better already?" she asked him. The pain had dwindled very much now, so he nodded weakly in assent. Sunrays were brushing his face and playing with the locks of his hair, but, by a sharp contrast, his body felt as cold as it never had been before. Almost frozen.
"I'm… cold…" he tried to mutter. He never got to open his lips. Her calloused hands brushed his forehead repeatedly, and he relaxed.
In spite of his state, a comforting warmth spread through his limbs at the image, and he closed his eyes in contented happiness. She was there as she had always been, to make him feel well whenever he ached. She knelt beside him, and he buried his head at her chest, feeling the peculiar smell of sweat and tanned skin of her naked breasts. And she kissed him on the forehead….
At this point, sudden nausea got hold of him once more, and he felt panic rising as his eyes snapped wide open in horror and alarm. She wasn't there anymore. He had seen her fall, broken and bleeding in his arms, after he had….
He had… killed her?
"Shinta… What's the matter?"
The sound of that voice again brought such relief to his misery that his body was almost wrecked in sobs. No, she was alive. She was there, pressing his head against her warm body, and she was kissing his forehead.
It felt so nice…
A soft wind was starting to blow over the treetops, whispering among the branches of the cherry trees, and stealing flocks of petals that danced in the air at its whim and then fell to the ground with a rustle. The sun was already on its slow way down, and the growing red brilliance of its rays was vividly reflected on the running waters of the river. Far away, he could hear the laughs and cries of a group of people who were having fun together.
The spirits were drawing closer.
"Shinta… are you asleep? Shinta…"
He smiled sadly, but still tried his best to send her a reassuring glance before he closed his eyes. Now he could see the spirits much more clearly, and, astonished, he realised that they were not cruelly mute and deaf corpses anymore, as they had been every single time that he had tried to address them during his life. Their eyes were open, and they were all looking at him. In the countenances of some he found pity, in others contempt; some were staring at him with indifference, some with glaring hate, and lastly, a few of them had a peaceful smile on their lips. She was among those, waiting for him…
Wet but warm drops of something fell on his face, and trickled down his cheeks. The hand that had been caressing his forehead went downwards now, and started to touch his face shakily until it lay still, as if struck by a paralyzing commotion. Shinta kissed it in silent apology, and finally got up, to meet the hundreds of people he had killed.
They would listen to him now…