PREAMBLE:This was my ending post in the cross-world RP. I had been debating for a long time over whether or not to put it up, since it refers to RP events that I did not include. However, I think it stands alone well enough with the rest of the posts here. Basically all you need to know is that characters from different universes were abducted to participate in a cross-universe tournament to SAVE TEH WORLD, and along the way Saki met Yuri and Karin (from different timelines – Yuri after he'd already met Saki and Karin from before) and learned many things about the past, about the future and about herself.

And now, she is returning home with the knowledge of what is to come in a fateful meeting in Shadow Hearts: Covenant.


Dragonfly

(Saki's Story – Ending)

by Maiji/Mary Huang


The truth is never taken

From another

One carries it always

By oneself.

Giko


It's been a long time since I've wandered that field.

Saki walked slowly into the sea of tall grass, her fingers running idly along the smooth, green blades.

She was asleep again, she knew. But this time, there was no sense of movement, no underlying urgency towards a final meaning, as there had been with the Holy Mirror's messages. She stopped in the center of the field and looked up, gazing silently at the sky. It was neither the pale gray of morning nor the deep black of night, but the cloudless, bright blue of the strong day- blue, bluer than she could ever remember seeing it. The air was silent, save for the rustling of the leaves, moved by the sweet wind's embrace.

This was her dream, her own, and the world would stay this way for as long as she desired.

A gentle voice, flowing like water.

"Saki."

She turned, and was neither surprised nor disappointed.

"Tatsuo …"

He looked as handsome as ever, the healthiest he had ever been, his eyes bright and smiling. His simple white yukata fluttered lightly against the wind. In the field of her dreams, in the field of her soul, time and sickness could not reach him.

One, two, three steps, then she was running to him, robes and hair flying, and they embraced.

Hand in hand, they made their way to a fallen tree. He cleared the foliage for her, surprising a large dragonfly, which took quickly to the air. She lifted her robes slightly before sitting down on the dry bark. He settled down beside her, and they watched the turquoise insect glittering in the sunlight, disappearing into the sky.

"Do you remember how we always used to catch tombo?" he asked

"Yes." She smiled fondly as she lay her head on his shoulder. "You were always the best, even with your weak heart." She exhaled softly, remembering. "All the dragonflies you caught were always the rarest, the most beautiful …"

"Especially the last one," he said, and she could hear the twinkle of his eye in his voice. She blushed, and said nothing.

"I have a confession to make," he continued.

She lifted her head to look at him. "Oh?"

"I was the one who suggested to Jinpachiro to use the ogre mask," he admitted, but his lips were curved upwards, his expression unrepentant.

She smacked him on the side of his head, but there was no force behind the blow. "You! I should have filled your shoes with worms too. And we all thought you were such a poor weak thing …" She smiled back at him, then looked thoughtful. "Funny … 'Nisan never said a thing, not even when he was being punished."

"Even then, he was not one to betray his friends."

No, he was not …

"So, you've done a lot in the past few days," he noted, eyeing her tattered robes.

"Ee-yup," she answered. She clasped both hands out in front of her, stretching, and giggled at the memories. "Lots and lots of excitement! I saw so many places, did so many things, met so many people …"

"Your nephew, Yuri. He's very much like his father. And, Karin."

"Yes!" He knew. "I understand so much now. I just wish -" Her voice lowered. "I wish you could have been there … It would have been … would have been just like …"

"Like the good old days?" He smiled at her child-like delight. "Time sweetens the past; I would have slowed you all down with my condition."

She sighed in unwilling acceptance. "But when we were children, we could do anything." A pause, and a wry curve of her lips. "Or perhaps it just seems that way, now that we're old." She shook her head. "Can you imagine? It's amazing, all that's happened … I don't even know where to begin!"

"It doesn't matter. I was with you all along. I saw everything."

"Oh, that's right." She nodded, then paused. "Um, everything?"

He laughed, patting her on the head. "Don't worry." Then his face grew serious. "What you said to Yuri, back at Hu Lao," he said. "Do you remember?"

"What do you mean?"

"You had two great regrets." His dark brown eyes were steady on her red ones. "You only told him one of them."

"Oh." She thought back. "One was that I was never able to find him and help him when Jinpachiro and Anne died." The thought still stung, but the pain in her chest was far less than what she had felt in the past.

"Yes," he said patiently, as though speaking to a child. "That's one."

"The other … the other was …"

You went to see the world …

I was a little jealous … but …

She eyed her reflection in the mirror. As always, a serene face with intense crimson eyes stared back. It had been hard at the beginning, to fit into such a calm role when her blood screamed something else, but now it was second nature. Almost.

she covered her mouth with her sleeve and coughed delicately, in case anyone were listening.

In case anyone were watching.

In case anyone were noticing.

In case …

She breathed in deeply. "The other was that I never really left Katsuragi – I never left Inugami Village. I was born, I became a little girl; I grew up in the village. I married you, I became a mother; I stayed in the village. You died, I became the leader of the Inugami; I couldn't leave the village."

She stared at her hands. "I watched 'nisan leave, saw him join the army, see the world and then save it … He lost his life, but I knew he did what he wanted to do. I felt like I was always locked into a role …" She lifted her head, eye caught by a pair of jewelled eyes, a tombo swaying peacefully in the grass before her. "… trapped, like a dragonfly on a tombo pole while everything went on around and beyond me. All I could see of the world was what I saw through the Holy Mirror. Being a shield, instead of a sword … Sometimes I felt cheated. Sometimes I felt like my life was wasted. I envied 'nissan's freedom, what he was able to experience and accomplish.

"Of course, he wasn't really free." She sighed. "And I wasn't some helpless maiden adrift in the seas of fate or anything; I made my own decisions. They weren't always good ones, but I guess I'm satisfied with the way things turned out."

Seeing Yuri again, twenty-two years later … and Karin … they reminded me of a lot …

She turned her head up towards the sky. "It's a very selfish regret … but I can't help but wonder sometimes … what if? What if?"

"What if?" he echoed. "If Jinpachiro hadn't died, if Anne and Yuri had stayed with us?"

"Yes."

"If you had had the chance to leave the village, if you had seen the world?"

"Yes …"

He nodded. "I know, and I'm sorry."

"You knew?"

"I've been here for a while. I know." He hugged her again, kissed her on the forehead, then drew back and looked her in the eye. "I know how much you've had to hold your true nature in. To tell the truth, even I was doubtful that you could take on the responsibilities after I died. And I was wrong. I'm very proud of yo- ow!" He winced, covering his face with one hand.

She dusted her hands together, satisfied with her handiwork. "You knew, and you still asked?"

"To hear it from the horse's mouth," he said, rubbing woefully at his eye.

"How rude!" She laughed as he ducked the second swipe. "But it was … It was … my pride too. I felt so incompetent and alone. It was hard, especially in the beginning, and taking care of Kurando … I know I did more than my share of complaining. Sometimes, I …" Her voice trailed off.

"… I hated you for dying," she finished, ashamed. Quickly, she placed her fingers over his mouth before he could speak. "Don't say anything. Of course it wasn't your fault. And … I really am beyond all that now." The hand fell. "I know you have your own regrets too."

He took her hand. "Everyone does. The secret is to live with as few regrets as possible."

"Yes. And … I did get the chance to see the world. I tasted almost everything I had ever wanted." She giggled. "I think I had enough excitement to last me a while, actually."

His lip twitched, and his face became uncharacteristically mischievous. "Yes, I suppose in the end, your life was the perfect fusion of both worlds."

She blinked at him, opened her mouth and then closed it.

He smiled innocently. "How bad was it?"

"That was horrible." She raised an eyebrow. "When did you become such a punster? And speaking of which, you've been cracking more jokes in the last five minutes than I recall in your entire lifetime."

His gaze slid to the side for a brief moment. A casual wave of the hand. "Oh, you pick up a few things here and there. Especially here." He winked.

"Oh, lord," she groaned.

"So how does it feel to be on the receiving end of your wit?"

She growled. "My wit is just fine, thank you. You should be so grateful as to have such a witty, engaging, beautiful wife as myself."

"And not some boring, helpless maiden?"

"Mmph," she huffed, displeased.

"I could never see you as a maiden of any sort, helpless or not." He laughed again, hugging her encouragingly. "I chose to marry a dragon."

She frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Saki, Saki," he answered, shaking his head while backing a safe distance away from her arm. "You're a Hyuga. You're all live volcanoes. Quite frankly, even after all these years, I'm still surprised that we ever married."

Indignance. "You asked me!"

"I know, but I'm still surprised you said yes." Amusement, then musing. "I wonder which side of the family our son takes after?"

Saki snorted. "Mine, of course."

"Oh? He seems quite calm and rational."

"Please." Her eyes rolled with good humour. "Our blood is dominant. Just look at Jinpachiro and Anne, then look at Yuri."

"The mark of insanity," he chuckled, enjoying the banter. "But I don't know about that; Jinpachiro never married a guardian of the gods …"

"You wait 'till his fusion powers awaken," she replied confidently. "Your inherent diviner stuffiness keeps him in a box, but once the Harmonixer instincts kick in -"

"Are you sure about that?"

"You want to make a bet?"

"Perhaps I do."

"Fine." She crossed her arms. "Just tell me when he's ready, and I'll show you."

"I'm sure you can't wait," he chuckled. "I'll tell you when the box is ready to be opened."

She paused. "It will be dangerous if he can't control the Harmonixer blood."

"Having second thoughts about the strength of the Hyuga?" He patted her on the head, a carefree, lackadaisical motion. "Don't worry about it; I'll be sure to find the right time."

"This is disturbing," she mumbled. "I'm changing into you and you're becoming more like me every second."

"I mean it," he answered, still smiling. "I won't make a mistake."

"I know." Of course you won't. Always the analytical one, the perfectionist. The perfect fit for the role of Inugami leader … But she knew now, with confidence, she could hold her own in any respect.

With that, the faint memory of duty tugged at the edge of her mind. A duty that was not truly hers, but one she had accepted years ago … and now followed willingly.

"I'd love to stay here forever," she said, "but I think it's time for me to go. I need to prepare …"

He nodded. Together, they got up, and he led her back into the thick of the field.

They stood, facing each other quietly, her hands on his, their eyes on each other's.

"Goodbye, Saki," he said. "I'll be waiting for you."

"Goodbye," she answered, releasing his hands. "Tatsuo … my beloved."

She began to walk away, first slow and hesitant steps, then faster, more assured. When she turned to look back, she could see him in the distance, still smiling and watching from the tall grass, the bright world receding from her.

--

Matsunaga bayed frantically, searching for the Lady Saki in the tainted waters of Sukune. Finally, unable to find anything, the wolf turned, body rearing, ready to dash out to the village to alert the elders.

And a pause.

A presence, a familiar scent.

In the waters that circled the entrance, someone was there.

Not someone, but the one that Matsunaga had been looking for so relentlessly moments before. As though she were sleeping, hair and robes floating gently.

Slowly, the eyes opened, crimson staring blankly. She lay there, motionless. Uneasily, Matsunaga padded closer, sniffing for the signs of any evil spirits.

Without warning, she sat up in the water, her sudden movement starting the wolf and causing him to jump back, barking furiously.

Saki looked around. "Oh, hello there, Matsunaga," she said. "Were you waiting long?" He whimpered, the noble head shaking negatively in reply.

Had I fallen asleep? The events of a few days ago, a few minutes ago, seemed unreal in this serene environment. Did any of it really happen?

She looked down at herself. Her clothing, still torn and tattered – damage not sustained from falling into the water, but from a swiftly moving blade- Well, there's my answer. Pushing against the rocky floor of the fountain's shallow edge, Saki got up, rather uncomfortably. In addition to the custom styling, her clothes were now soaked as well.

With both hands, she rolled up loose fabric and tried to wring out the water as best as she could. After checking to make sure that her hair ornament was still in place – and that she still had her fan (priorities, of course) - Saki stepped out from the alcove of the Fountain into the spring daylight, Matsunaga shadowing her movements.

Viewing the village from the Fountain's rocky doorway, it was as though she were waking from deep hibernation; everything felt sharper, clearer. She breathed in, taking in the sights, sounds, smells of the village around her. She'd forgotten how beautiful Inugami was this time of the year. Sprays of pale, pink and white blossoms adorned the trees, and were mirrored in the grass below. The faint, sweet fragrance of the flowers, as always, floated in the air.

This was the world she had chosen, almost frozen in time, the way it had been since she was a child.

Saki turned and faced the Fountain again. The waters ran clear, pure. The illusion was gone now, she was sure of that. And yet … though it was calm, there was a sense of heightened awareness, of something … something coming. Something impending, something that had been waiting for its time, for a long time.

She paused. She could almost hear the sound of brown boots on stone, walking this path, towards the alcove she had just left, heels striking against the rock.

"If it's something I shouldn't know right now, don't tell me. I don't want to mess anything up that needs to happen."

She took off, leaving Matsunaga barking in surprise.

"Lady Saki, what happened to your robe- " She brushed passed, ignoring the surprised stares and exclamations of the villagers as she dashed up the white steps, into the mansion. Not even bothering to close the door, she headed upstairs, into her bedchamber, pausing at the door. It was exactly as she had left it that morning, when she had been called down to mediate the field argument.

She strode purposefully into the room, towards an old, neglected trunk. Bending down and unlocking it with ease, she began to dig through it, focussed on one thing only. In her mind's eye, she could see the item she was looking for, as clearly as if she were holding it in her hands.

And soon, she was.

Saki turned the fragile paper over in her hands, admiring how well it had been preserved in spite of its brittleness. The sepia-toned image on the front, her own elegant writing on the back, identifying the figures in the photograph. The handsome lieutenant commander, his beautiful wife at his side, and their young son, all smiling.

She thought of Jinpachiro. She thought of Anne. She couldn't help but smirk. The one photo she had of them did not do justice to their character, their lives, at all. "Those sneaky meddlers," she muttered, without malice.

A smile.

I'll miss you till we meet again.

She closed her eyes.

I miss them so much ...

The Fountain of Sukune's sight flooded through her mind.

She could see it.

Soon, a letter from Kurando would arrive, the periodic update of his adventures with Sensei, finishing with a relating of the wolf that had not yet saved him in Yokohama, and the remarkable man he had not yet met. Soon, another from Sensei would follow, echoing the former's surprised sentiments, this time about the man and a swordswoman, and alerting her of a visit to come that she already knew.

Soon. How soon? Perhaps in a month. Perhaps in a week.

Perhaps tomorrow.

Did it matter? She had already waited so long to understand, to make sense of everything leading up to this point. What were a few more days?

Saki stood up, the trunk's other contents in disarray at her feet. She gazed out the window of the master bedroom, out in the direction of the forests, growing so thick in the Valley of the Wind.

Not a shield.

A sword, waiting to be called into use.

I could not go to the world, but my world will come to me …

It would not be long now.