Disclaimer: Jade Empire belongs to Bioware. Sky, most unfortunately, belongs to Bioware too. If he was mine he would have gone through the game without that nice blue shirt of his.
Notes: If you can't already tell, I am a hardcore Sky fangirl. Hence this vignette. Hopefully I don't make it too sappy. And yes, the Playable Character is going to be Scholar Ling. If you can't tell, I'm a Ling fan, too. Partly inspired by zaggin's "Sorrow and Revenge" poem. This is an Open Palm piece, so Closed Fisters beware.
He could remember the day he stopped feeling. It was when Pinmei died.
The memory was as vivid as if it had happened yesterday. He had gone to Tien's Landing and left her at home, because it would be a day's journey to the town and he did not wish for her to be fatigued by the trip. It was summer when she died, and he reasoned that it was too hot, it would be unsafe for her to travel, even when she had given him that pleading, wide-eyed look that often broke him down and made him agree with whatever she wanted to do. And she had pouted in that little girl way, and sulked, those brown eyes so like his wife's, his dear Fengjiao…
He promised her a gift upon his return. That cheered her up, brightened that round face and made those dark eyes glimmer with surprise and happiness, and she hugged his waist the morning he had left, and promised him that "I'll be good, Papa, I promise. Bring me something pretty! I love you."
I love you…
She was the only one who loved him. His career as a criminal made it hard to find love,especially when you were forced to flee towns in the dark of night to escape arrest. Fengjiao had been his kindred spirit, the only woman who understood him, and loved him as he was, and since her death, Pinmei was all he had, and he sought to protect her, to raise her right, to stop her from becoming like her parents and being forced to live a life alone.
She was his little angel, the only shining beacon of happiness in his life, the only thing he'd done right, despite all of his crimes. He was her only protector in their out-of-the-way farm, and he promised to Fengjiao he would not let any harm come to their child, the only warmth in their cold lives, devoid of constancy and security.
He had bought her a little glass flower; it was something he saw in the market square at Tien's Landing, Chumin the Craftsman's first attempt at glasswork, and it was exquisite, pink glass shaped into a lily blossom, that shimmered ethereally in the summer sunlight. He was happy with his souvenir; Pinmei would surely like it, for she had her mother's love for flowers, and had even asked him to grow her own little garden, to tend to life with her little child's hands—
—and then he saw the fire.
He remembered dropping the glass lily, hearing a dim clank as it hit the hard ground as he sprinted towards the flames that arched for the sky. His house had been burned down, reduced to burning embers and burned plants, even his farm had been razed by the fire—
—but where was Pinmei?
He searched for her since that day, never gave up, even as the search took days, weeks…it was two months later, when autumn had begun to creep into the world, that he had found the men who had taken his daughter from him.
He had found them and killed them, the group of slavers that took his child, but not before they killed her.
He found her by the side of the road, just a few miles from their camp. She was dying, too far gone to know who he was, how he screamed his anger at the heavens as he watched her heart pump the last remnants of her life through the gaping spear wound in her chest. She was breathing shallowly, her small hands fisted, her tearstained face scratched, and before she died, she was gasping her final words, and he would not forget them.
"I was brave—I was, Papa, I didn't let those bad men break me—Papa, I miss you, I'm sorry…"
She had fought. And she had died, taken her final breath in his arms, protection offered too little too late, and when the warmth faded from her body, it faded from his soul.
He promised vengeance.
He had found it, finally, but the final strike that ended Gao the Greater's life did not come from his blades. It had come from a woman he didn't know, but had fought beside, once, against the pirates in the lower lair of Gao's pagoda. Obviously, Gao's reach did not just end at slavery. There was a greater darkness behind the dead slaver, and he sought to destroy it, and promised his loyalty to the young woman in the blue silks. She had told him that she was happy to fight with him, and he saw an odd glimmer in her eyes; she, too, had suffered a loss, perhaps as great as his. This was why she fought.
He would fight beside her. There was nothing else he could do, nothing he wanted to do; he had been robbed, unjustly, and he was a cold, lifeless, unfeeling warrior. The only warmth he believed he now needed was the splatter of blood in his hands when he cleaved his enemies in two, or the touch of the nameless women he bedded for a night. True warmth, love and happiness was a faded dream, a hope that died with his only child.
He did not seek redemption. He sought death. And so he fought with this woman, this…Ling, standing beside her through her trials, even when he realized that he would be facing the fury of an Empire if he continued to follow her. But he did not waver in his loyalty, did not turn back, for there was nothing else to live for, and if he died, he wanted to die knowing he tried to right the wrongs of Death's Hand and the Lotus Assassins. He could not save his daughter, but he could try and help save the Empire.
Ling had approached him once in Tien's Landing, and asked why he fought. He was surprised by her curiosity, and believed it pity, and refused to wallow in the cold sadness that always engulfed him when he thought of the love he could not save. "I refuse to dwell upon such things," he had said, the icy finality evident in his voice.
"Sometimes, it is good to dwell upon the past." And he saw her face, and the sincerity in her eyes, and something in his chest stopped feeling cold…it was warm, just a little bit, but it soothed him.
"But we should not live in it," he replied, much softer.
An understanding had flourished between them after that. He did not know why.
Their journey to the Imperial City only strengthened this understanding. She told him of her own loss—the loss of the only town she knew, the people she loved, destroyed in an explosion of light and heat, searing, scorching her heart and rendering it scarred. But unlike him she refused to surrender to the cold, sought warmth in the friends she had made, the allies that traveled with her, and her own best friend. He had learned from her then, this woman with the heart of gold and the innocence of a child, for she knew nothing about the world outside her own, yet she ventured out, not to seek revenge for her loss alone, but to end the suffering of the people who had died without cause. She fought for the people of Two Rivers, for the slaves, for Pinmei—she fought for those who could not fight themselves. Unlike him, she was selfless, utterly and completely.
He could not remember when he started to love her. He always thought he was too far gone into cold vengeance to feel, let alone love. But he wanted to protect her, to ensure her life, if not her happiness; he worried about her, as she delved deeper and deeper into the lair of the enemy. He followed her, relinquishing his safety for her own. He watched her lose a fellow warrior, someone she called her friend, who died for her, because she was special, she was the one who could fight Death's Hand, and win.
Before they left for the Imperial Palace, as Princess Sun Lian promised, he asked her what she would do after their ordeal. And she had smiled at him, a shy curve of her lips, and said,
"Maybe I'll settle down with some dashing rogue."
Her answer had made his breath catch, and the shell he had built around his heart cracked, not enough to give him courage to tell her how he truly felt, but enough so that he could smile back, and say something, anything, to try and tell her that he cared, without saying those three words, because her smile, her warmth, it scared him. He was not used to such warmth, not when he had been cold and sad for so long. He told himself, "Later, I will tell her later," sure that there would be time. She was, after all, who she was, triumphant in the face of the evils that had been placed in her way thus far.
She died in the Imperial Palace the next day, at the hands of the man she trusted like a father. He should've been there, he knew, and once again, his protection was offered too late. He had failed to save her, like he had failed to save his daughter. And the anguish nearly tore his heart from him, nearly made him give up, but he could not surrender, refused to surrender, because he hated the cold now, he no longer sought vengeance, he sought his second chance at life…
He found salvation from the cold at a monastery, in the icy, freezing, snowy mountains of Dirge.
"I came back for Sky." She stood apart from the group, fought her way back to the land of the living…and she said it was for him.
He knew then he could not hold back, and he opened his heart to her, pushed aside the fears of rejection. It was all or nothing now.
"I love you, and I never want to let you go."
"…I liked that. Say that again."
She smiled at him, and he thought he had never seen anyone so beautiful, so kind, and loving and caring, and he'd kissed her then, held hersmall frame in his arms, kept her from the cold of the snow that upon Dirge. He held her close, to make sure she was real, her warm, slender body pressed to his, keeping away the cold fingers of his past from his mind. And she'd pulled away, and reality returned, and he knew that tomorrow, they could very well die. The specter of Death was coming for them, ready to take them into its frozen embrace.
She went to her tent, as he was ready to leave, when he heard her voice. "Stay with me."
He stayed with her that night. He found his peace in her arms that night, peace from the ghosts and demons that plagued him. He could feel again, feel her touch and her kisses, felt her voice in his ear telling him she loved him. He'd found his second chance in her.
Even among the highest mountains of snow-filled Dirge, he was warm.
Sky is undoubtedly one of my more favorite tragic characters. I can only hope I did his story justice with this piece. Please don't be afraid to review. I enjoy having my stories read.