In a Kingdom by the Sea
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Rurouni Kenshin or Annabel Lee, which is property of each author respectively.
Well, since I've lost my voice, I find it necessary making up my daily use of words using a keyboard... And here I am, writing this.
This story is strictly inspired by Annabel Lee, a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, and the excerpts in this are from it as well. What am I doing using such a beautiful poem for my sick purposes? Well, the poem speaks to me–I can actually see the people... And in this case, I see, for some strange reason, Soujiro and Misao. In any case, this was idea has been chewing at me for ages, and it seems that I will have to write it if I want to go to sleep.
Gift-fic for Anithene... A SMut Goddess and awesome friend!
"...In many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea..."
"What the hell... Hey! Boss! He's still alive!"
"Eh... dump 'im on, anyway. Fool'll die in a few hours, anyway. Might as well get corpses on before the rats get to 'em."
"Damn thing weighs a lot more than he... Hey Boss, look! What's 'e holding there?"
"Huh? Well, I'll be damned. 'E's holding a sword!"
"Musta been some warrior!"
"Shame those old families all die out. Better lay down the samurai prince gently on the cart so he don't hurt his royal head!"
"...And this maiden she lived with no other thought,
Than to love and be loved by me..."
After all these years, the sharp smell of the sea still makes tears come to my eye. There was a time when I was ashamed of those tears, but not now... Not after meeting her, knowing her, loving her.
Her name was Makimachi Misao. She was a daughter of a noble of the town I grew up in. She was born of a privileged lifestyle–family of elite ninjas, while I was the son of a whore and a rice merchant's second son.
She should have married the son of the man they engaged her to. She should have stayed hidden in the summer cottage they built for her. She should have never met me.
Instead, she did meet me.
Instead, she almost married me.
Instead, she died for me.
"...I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea..."
We met in the strangest way, almost ironic, now that I think of it.
I ran away from home and was apprenticed by an exiled samurai. My small built gave me the advantage of speed, and that appealed to him. Shishio Makoto was the hungry power demon they called him.
In any case, that's when I met Shinomori Aoshi.
He was a ninja as skilled as any, a formidable opponent in battle who used duel kodachi–those sharp, short swords famed for defense. Shishio heard about Shinomori's skill and sent me to retrieve him.
And I did it without thinking what it would ever mean.
"...With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me..."
You'll have to understand I was quite a messed up kid back then.
As a child, I was beaten often, and often for no particular reason. I don't say this with pride or self-pity. It is merely a fact that shaped me into what I am.
I stopped feeling. Instead of crying out in pain when my uncle and his sons hit me, I smiled. I laughed when they shook the sticks. I grinned at the sight of their leather belts.
I simply forgot to feel. Or, perhaps, I just sealed those emotions inside. I wore a porcelain mask that was doomed to break someday.
In any case, Shinomori was pretty screwed up in the head, too. His comrades had died for him and he had a little too much guilt for a healthy man to handle. Simply put, he became possessed by a demon who insisted on substituting the need to move on by the need to be the strongest.
So imagine a man with mind as fragile as mine and another who acted like a demon, and imagine what would happen if we knew we had another chance to live.
When the right guy came along, Shinomori and I were promptly beaten.
I carried Shinomori back to our kingdom by the sea.
"...And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea..."
Shinomori bled all over my shirt before we made it back. I had not visited my childhood home for over ten years, and now it seemed unfamiliar. Like a dream, really.
I left him on the steps of the manor house on the cliff overlooking the waves, and wandered off. A peasant, regardless of whether I was a talented peasant or not, had no place in a rich man's home.
The last thing I remembered before fainting from exhaustion myself was the sound of the waves and the scent of the sea. And... An angel.
Of course, she was the angel and I was just a despairing, blessed soul who had fallen into her care.
She had found me on the beach, collapsed onto the sand and drifting in and out of consciousness. Somehow, she carried me to her summer cottage, dragging my body. With the tenderness of a mother over the ill body of her child, she cared for me.
Two broken ribs. Multiple lacerations across my chest and a body thin with malnutrition and lack of sleep. It was a miracle, she told me with her beautiful smile later when I became conscious again, that I survived.
I allowed her to care for me, to help me find the person I once had been. I allowed her, simply, to see me at my weakest and allow her to heal everything that was wrong.
When I realized what had happened, it was already too late.
I was already in love with Makimachi Misao.
"...So that her highborn kinsman came,
And bore her away from me..."
It happened like the dream I thought it was. The summer. The gentle, rolling waves and the sharp smell of the sea. Her laughter and the gentle, coaxing way she drew out my true smiles.
Then, her family found out.
Or, really, Shinomori Aoshi found out. Their engagement had not reached my ears–I didn't know of her promise to wed. He found the two of us in an embrace.
Shinomori is not a bad man. I say this because I know it is true. He has pride, true, and that pride can be a dangerous thing, but as a person, Shinomori is a good man.
If I hadn't met her, if my jealous lover's rage hadn't clouded my eyes, I would have agreed that he was the best man for Misao.
But... I did and I was compulsive. My emotions–the things I thought I had gotten rid of– came back at me, hurdling towards me like typhoon winds.
I went to back to the manor house and demanded her hand in marriage.
I should have expected what happened next.
"...To shut her up in a sepulchre,
In this kingdom by the sea..."
Her grandfather, the man she respected most, ordered her home. He said, icily to me, that if I ever saw her again, I would be exiled for ten years.
I suppose it was kindness in his eyes to allow me Misao's cottage as my new home. I saw it as a cruel, cruel joke to be reminded of her everyday, knowing that the day of her wedding was drawing closer and closer.
She was forbidden to leave the manor hall. They gave her a room overlooking the sea, of the place we had fallen in love at. I realize now how utterly painful that would have been.
But, being the compulsive fool I was, I knew I had to see her again.
As I mentioned above, the manor house was built on a cliff, though not a particularly steep one. If one had the will and training, one could easy climb their way up.
I had the will to see her again.
"...The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went on envying her and me..."
They had too much dignity to treat her as a prisoner. Her windows were not locked–in fact, they were open. It was easy for me to climb in.
She reached towards me, her eyes a sparking green as she saw me again. A hopeful smile, painfully bitter and wishful, seared my soul.
"Soujiro..." she murmured my name as I enveloped her in my arms. She smelled, as always, of something faintly like the sea.
So every night, I stayed with her. And before the sun rose the next morning, kissing the sea and leaving trails of pink, orange, and yellow, I left her once more.
We were children, in a way, still. We lived in the present and I had not a thought of the future.
I should have known that a dream is but a dream, and dreams always end in nightmares.
"...Yes! That was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)..."
It was Aoshi that found us once more.
He walked into the room without a knock, without a care that she could have been indecent. He already knew that I would be with her.
His chilling blue-green eyes had locked with mine. "I looked for you at the cottage." And those seven words would be the beginning to the dream's end. "You weren't there."
"Aoshi-sama, please! I can explain." Her hands fluttered like pale birds. She knew she wouldn't be able to.
It was at that moment that he seemed to notice her for the first time. "Misao-san. Why? Your grandfather gave you an order. Don't you care for him?"
What happened, happened, and in the end, we both suffered for it.
I was exiled on point of death away from the kingdom by the sea, and she would wed Shinomori Aoshi in a fortnight.
"...But our love it was stronger by far the love
Of those who were older than we–
Of many far wiser than we..."
I had to see her again. I knew the consequences of our actions, but the heady love I felt for her clouded my eyes–once more, once more!
In the light of the waning moon, I climbed the cliff to go into her room. I expected denial. I expected tears and I expected her to tell me to go away.
I never expected what she would say to me.
"...And neither the angels in the heaven above,
Nor the demons under the sea,
Could ever dissever my soul to the soul of she..."
"Soujiro, I've never loved you."
Those words shattered me inside. First, I thought she was lying. Then, when I studied her beautiful, cold face and realized that it wasn't a mask, I knew that it was over.
"Even since childhood, I've loved Aoshi-sama. I've looked up to him. We were children together and he taught me all the things I know. This was a silly infatuation, what I had with you."
I didn't wait to hear more. I jumped out.
"...For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams,
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes..."
I waited thirteen days before I came to my senses. Then, I realized just how little–and how much, I knew of her. Of course she wanted to get me angry enough to leave! Of course!
She loved me–I knew it. She loved me and there was nothing anyone could say to make me not believe that.
Then, I remembered.
A fortnight. The next day she would be wed to Shinomori. My senses sharpened.
I made one last climb up the cliff.
"...And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side,
Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride..."
She was asleep in the room, looking serene, soft, like a dreaming princess.
My heart beat heavily in my chest, and once again, I was consumed by my love for her. Without another thought, I hoisted myself onto her windowsill and entered her room.
When she heard me, when she saw me, her mouth–the same mouth I had kissed by the wild flowers, the one that tasted like happiness–dropped open into an anguished scream.
It was a trap. Her grandfather had ordered his finest ninja guards to hide in her room, expecting me to come. In seconds, I was overpowered. My arms were bound behind my back, and I was forced to my knees. My sword, once more beloved to me than anything, was thrown to the ground.
Shinomori Aoshi was one of them. His mouth was set in a grim line and he held his kodachi in his hands. Looking to my beloved's face, he seemed almost sad.
"He was exiled on pain of death if he returned, Misao-san. You know that." He turned to me. "You understand you'll have to pay the price, Seta."
I was hearing the words he said, but understanding nothing. My eyes were glued on hers. They pleaded. They begged. They asked for forgiveness.
She didn't reach out to protect me. My heart broke.
Shinomori's kodachi started towards me, preparing to stab through my heart.
Misao reached for my sword, abandoned on the floor.
Mimicking the movements Shinomori was about to do, that blade, that blade I swore I would never use again, went through her slight body.
The next moments are a blur.
She crumpled with a smile on her face, bleeding onto the oriental carpets. I screamed, or perhaps I didn't, but there was an anguished cry in the room. Shinomori looked to her, horrified, than to me.
Rage built inside him.
His foot came towards me with furious speed and power.
I don't remember what happened next, but when I woke, I was on the streets. Bleeding, bruised, broken. More badly hurt than when she found me. I didn't realize yet that she had been buried. That she had died because of me. I thought what had happened had been a wonderful, beautiful, terrifying dream.
In any case, when I finally heard her mentioned again–a store keeper spoke of a maiden killing herself by stabbing herself with a sword–I realized that it was my fault.
The butterfly, the jewel, the woman named Makimachi Misao, was dead because of me, because she had felt for me.
I stopped eating. I stopped moving. I tried–so hard–to forget. I regressed back to the shell of what I was, worse off than I had been before I joined Shishio.
A creeping cold started running through my body, and I'm too weak to move, even if I wanted to.
I realize now that when I die, I would be together with her again.
What she tried to do for me, I would do for her. A promise is, after all, a soul debt left unpaid.
Now, I close my eyes. Now, I feel the ice melting from my body. Now, I realize what is to come.
"...In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea..."
Once, many and many a year ago, there was a legend about the kingdom by the sea... It is said a dream is a dream again when the spirits of lovers reunite there. And when you close your eyes, you can imagine them alive again.
Once, many and many a year ago, there was a man and a woman who dreamed by the sounding sea. The woman died, the man died, and their bodies buried far from each other. Still, when you close your eyes, you can imagine them alive again.
Once, many and many a year ago...
End Note: (--dodges sharp objects--) Don't hurt me! Throw reviews, not rocks!
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