Mizoshi was sitting on a cloud; a beautiful golden cloud that emanated with a solar glow. In the distance, she saw a glittering shape. Panic scrabbled at her heart.
This makes no sense.
Am I…dead? Did I die with Ken?
Her nerves set on fire, she frantically looked around. Desperately hanging her head off the side of the cloud, she glimpsed a familiar craggy mountain.
How odd. It's almost as if I recognize it.
Then, it dawned on her.
I'm inside the painting! My very own painting!
Suddenly, it seemed like everything fit together just so. Rather calmly, she reclined on her plush fluffy cloud and let the glittering shape draw closer to her. It did not surprise her that the globe-like shape was the sun. What did surprise her was its very form.
The bird was a resplendent phoenix of scarlet, tawny gold, and dusky ocher. This wispy sunbird bird shimmered on the indigo air. Gracefully, it arced and swooped whilst happily chirping.
I know exactly what I wish to sketch when I awaken.
But, the bird was not alone. Another glittering shape was hurtling towards the sunbird—a ghostly white shape. A shockingly white shape.
What is this?
This new globular shape was both eerie and exquisite to behold. It was the pitted moon—with the appendages of a spider.
Could it be?
The spider was crawling over the infinity of sky—leaving sparkling threads of starlight in its wake. As she watched in rapt fascination, the spider fashioned himself of web of stars. A web that would allow him access to the magnificent sunbird.
It was a pleasant shock to see what form her mind had intended for her. And there was no mistake whom exactly the spider was currently representing. She watched in fascination as the phoenix twittered down at the celestial arachnid.
The moon-spider is building a web to reach the sun-phoenix.
The pair was drawing ever closer together. The light grew blinding.
It's an eclipse.
Her eyes sufficiently dazzled; Mizoshi groped blindly for support. The cloud rocked. Suddenly, it dissolved. Without further delay, she began to hurtle through space itself. Still, she felt no fear. And why should she fear when she felt so vibrantly entranced?
I'm falling…falling into the stars…
The sunbird and moon-spider embraced above her as she floated through the lavender mist…
I'm in love…
A weight was on Mizoshi's chest as she awoke. Vaguely bleary after her earth-shaking dream she blindly reached out for it. Bristly hairs moved over the pads of her fingertips.
"Kuro?" she murmured.
The spider hissed in contentment. Moving her body up in a sitting position, she took great care not to disturb the arachnid.
"Where did you come from?"
Not bothering to answer, the spider scurried down the length of her body and jumped to the floor. It surveyed her rather calmly with all eight of its red eyes.
What was that dream?
Mizoshi felt strange. Exhausted yet strong. Happy yet grim.
Something has happened. For the better.
Hastily, Mizoshi turned over in her sleep-clouded brain the dream itself. She was the sun. Bright. A bird of fire. Energetic. Blazing.
And, he was the moon.
Yes. Somewhere, someway, her dreams had revealed the truth about their relationship.
He is the moon. A shifting, inconstant, enigmatic spider that hides his web in darkness. Mysterious and magnetic with a touch of danger.
For months, she had been looking at their relationship in the wrong light. Constantly, she had been afraid that his darkness would consume her and that her radiance would surely burn him. Nothing was further from the reality of it.
We complete each other.
It was such a revelation. A light can only burn in darkness. Darkness surrounds it—nurtures it—so that it can burn ever brighter. Both feed off the other. Darkness and light were but two sides of the same coin and their love was the edge.
Yes. That is what my dreams wished me to see.
The spider was quivering with anticipation. Kuro was methodically moving back and forth on its legs as if waiting patiently for something to occur. When Mizoshi's feet touched the floor, the arachnid started and made for the door. The message was clear enough for those who wanted to see.
It wants me to follow it.
Remembering with relish what had taken place when she had followed the jet-black arachnid one fateful night; Mizoshi suddenly had the impulse to relive the experience.
Her bare feet took to the looming corridors of muted light and warped wood. Her eyes never left the dark moving stain that was the spider. Already, the fresh memory of her brother's demise was leaving her. Ashes on the breeze.It wasn't his fault. It wasn't my fault either…
Kuro stopped in front of a particular doorway—a doorway that she knew very well. However, the being did not crawl through it. Instead, it simply waited motionless. Taking up on the challenge, Mizoshi slid open the door and surprised the dark hanyou.
A hanyou. That's how I met him and that is how I truly know him best. Becoming a full-blooded youkai won't ever change that.
"Dear Mizoshi," he quite literally purred. "What is it that you need? Have you come for comfort?"
He was standing there in the center of the chamber; his head turned towards the window. By some bizarre coincidence, the silver moonlight was illuminating the black rolling waves of his hair.
"How utterly guileless." He was now looking at her. A slightly mocking smirk was turning those ivory lips.
Slowly, she walked towards him as if in a sort of hazy dream. Her expression must've been unnatural judging by the way Naraku's lips slowly lowered into a sober line.
"What is wrong with you?" he pronounced quietly. "Have you seen your brother's ghost?" He was on his guard.
However, she was heedless of these early warning signs. Innocently, she padded up to him. The dark hanyou quirked his eyebrow charmingly. Though his appearance was just as horrific as before, Mizoshi found that it no longer mattered.
"What is this?" he murmured derisively.
Her arms found his waist easily as he glowered down at her; ready to reward any inappropriate action on her part with decisive discipline. Gingerly avoiding the unforgiving spikes and spines, Mizoshi's lips found his own with awe-inspiring accuracy. He was taken aback. Indeed, his already taut muscles were now completely rigid.
The kiss deepened as he began to respond to her. A sweet lightness rushed through her. It was if she was sitting on an illuminated cloud.
Slowly—with great reluctance—their mouths broke apart. He eyed her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. "I thought you desired to never kiss me again."
She didn't want to talk in this fashion. "Why…not?" she gasped.
"Must I elaborate?" Those tentacles swayed from side to side.
Their lips touched again. She was unsure who had initiated this time except for the fact that she wished it would never ever end.
She forgot her worries. She forgot her common sense as her body was crashed against a familiar mattress.
Thank you Kami-sama for my dream.
And as in the dream, the sunbird and the moon-spider embraced.
He awoke first. Lazily, his eyes opened.
What an unexpected find.
With a lingering gaze, he watched her sleep beneath the fine blankets. Not that he actually got to use an actual sleeping place anymore. His newer, stronger, better body had taken care of that nuisance.
Still, Mizoshi is the same old Mizoshi. She'll never change.
He had discovered a kind of peace about that.
Smiling, he patiently redressed and crossed the room to the large window. The moonlight beyond was quite nearly driving him to distraction. He opened it without a second thought in order to see the evening-cloaked landscape better. A cool wind stole through his hair and whirled around his pale cheeks. He breathed in the vaguely damp air. Training his eyes upwards, his gaze met the moon and the sprinkling of stars surrounding the luminous orb. He had no sentimental feeling about it, but the sight intrigued him all the same.
It was here in the same manner of place that I asked my foolhardy question of love and what precisely it was.
Furtively, he snatched a peek of Mizoshi's sleeping body that was still enticingly spread out.
Much had happened since then. It was as if Fate herself had thrust the little quaking phoenix hanyou in his path. Four months later, she still resided with him and she had not disappointed—not in the least.
She loved him. There was no question about that. Even though he still had to wonder why she sought him out for his company in spite of her brother's demise and of his dread stature.
I suppose that's what love is. Striving for an individual's companionship no matter what.
No. That explanation wasn't quite right…
His eyes roamed the icy fields below. It was February now—the final month of winter. Mizoshi had lasted this long. She had done it. Soon, the sun would shine with greater strength, the heavy clouds would clear, and these presently frosty fields would grow with all-consuming vigor. His little bird could pick whole bouquets of flowers then and perfume the stale air of the manor with fragrance.
But…will she stay?
Naraku answered his own question.
Could I allow her to stay?
A cold wind caressed his cheek. The moon pulsed above him.
What a strange, strange girl. The only woman who has ever cared. Is that why I kept her? Because she was the only one?
His burning red eyes were fixed intently on the stars now. They had not changed. Not a bit since Mizoshi's arrival. Nothing had been made any clearer to him and they remained as cold and unaccommodating as ever. The stars paid no part in love. That was the only explanation.
Love is something that could only be found within.
An illusion then. Indeed, his own painstakingly collected jewel shards were more real and more desirable than those foolish stars above.
My Shikon shards. Mine alone.
Mizohsi still slept.
Just as she is mine alone.
Somewhere, his enemies lurked. They were not alone. They lived. They loved. Did they too ponder the origin of this mystery?
No. None of them possesses the mental capacity.
Suddenly, Naraku stopped himself in mid-chuckle.
Yet, they still possess the ability to love.
Was it so much an inner drive much like hunger or greed that dictated the emotions of these humans and hanyou? Did he too possess that drive? Or just the mental reason to debate its existence?
Turning away from the window for the second time, he growled low in his throat.
I do not possess the capacity by nature, but Mizoshi loves me anyway.
He debated her sleeping form and suspected that she was probably having a romantic dream right this very moment. About him.
Accusingly, he glared back at the stars for an answer. The bits of indifferent light did not dignify him a response because they could not see. They could not feel.
But I can. And she can.
The room had grown brighter. The moonlight was assaulting him. Consequently, there was no dark crevice he could hide in. Except…beneath the covers. The moon was comparable to this love. Unattainable yet completely possible to ignore.
Furiously, he made one final leap to a conclusion that always seemed to elude him.
Love is pure human emotion. But, even hanyou claim to feel it. Just like anger or pride.
He looked at Mizoshi then. Really looked at her. Frowning, he slowly approached her unconscious frame. Her features were utterly relaxed. The pale moonshine cast a luminescent sheen on her already fair features. Her black hair billowed around her. In spite of this scene, she was no beauty. Many would agree. No men would stop on the road to notice her. But at present, he could not break his gaze from memorizing every tiny detail of her face.
Shall I awaken her?
He would. If only she did not appear so peacefully wrapped up in her affectionate slumber. However, when had that stopped him before?
I take what I want.
He was watching her face; waiting for something to happen. For her to open her eyes. For her to stir. Anything.
She can't even sense me. How completely inept her senses are.
Mizoshi was no great intellectual—no great demoness--but she could hold her own. She was holding him here without a word, was she not?
A sliver of comprehension passed over him.
I can take what I want, but I do not desire lust. I just desire…her.
She opened her eyes then. They were of pure gold light.
"Naraku?" Her tone was heavy from sleep. "Is something the matter?"
"No." He was still staring. Staring to the point of becoming a nuisance.
If only you knew what kind of effect you have on me right now.
"What is it?" Concern washed over her silvery-bathed features. Concern over him. Her shimmering metallic eyes were gazing at him with the purest love and would be in complete anguish should she ever lose him.
To her, I am more important than the stars.
Naturally, this would cause a need for boasting. Not this time. Settling himself on the bedding, his eyes were still on her.
Her eyes are like jewels. They sparkle.
"I love you," he whispered.
"What? What is it, Naraku?" She was bending closer to him.
"I love you," he repeated. This second declaration somehow made the statement more valid than it already was.
Weeks ago, he had spoke those words but did not understand their power. Now, he did.
Already her expression was changing. Those gold eyes grew more gold—mistier—if that was possible. They resembled twin clouds of moisture that were struck by the burnished rays of the sun.
"I love you too." Her voice was even lower in pitch than his had been. And she meant it. No lust required.
She didn't ask questions. Instead, she wrapped her arms around him—taking care to avoid his sharp appendages. He returned the fervent embrace in kind.
We're a family together here for as long as we both allow.
Their lips met tenderly as if drawn together of their own volition. Later, he discovered he might as well as left himself unclothed. Finally, in a burst of insight, the mystery was solved. And it was so simple.
Love is the other person.
As he kissed and held his little bird in his arms, the stars outside twinkled and winked in their own private world until the blazing dawn would rise. Then, a new day would begin.
Author's Note: This is it—the last chapter ever! There will be no sequel as I think this story is perfect just as it is. I never dreamed this fic would get so popular! Thanks to all who reviewed and supported this fic from start to finish and anywhere in between!