Note: This story was inspired by a video and a piece of music. The video is the heartbreaking video "Babylon 5: Sleeping in Light" on YouTube, which features the exquisite track called "Close Your Eyes" by Christophe Beck (which I was astonished to learn was from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' soundtrack!). I stumbled onto the video while trolling around YouTube, and the next thing I knew, I had my face in my hands and was quietly crying at my desk. And before I realized what I had done, I had written this entire story in one go.
Then I read the story I had written, and I wanted to cry all over again.
Set many, many years after the end of 'The Sword of the Soul'. And if you can find the music (or even just open the video on YouTube), listen to it as you read. And have tissues nearby.
WITH THE SETTING OF THE SUN
It was a clear, perfect sunset, the sky all full of reds and golds, the faintest wisps of clouds, and the scent of the sea all around.
For the elderly woman standing on the cliffs overlooking the sea, she felt a great sorrow and a great joy fill her heart all at once as she drew in a deep breath, and then released it again. Every night, for a full year, she had made her way to the cliffs to watch the sun set and the stars gently twinkle into existence.
And to remember.
It had been here on these cliffs that her husband had proposed to her... here where their first child had been conceived... here where she had come to mourn her husband's death.
The old woman turned to see a little girl standing nearby.
"Shizue-chan," she said, her voice full of affection, her face warm from the gentle touch of sunset. "What are you doing here?"
"I saw you leave, and you seemed so sad." The child came to stand beside her, slipping her little hand into the older woman's. "Is it because of Grandfather being gone?"
For a moment, the woman could not speak, bowing her head as she fought back tears. Then at last, she nodded. "Yes. I miss him... so very, very much."
"I miss him, too," Shizue said softly, squeezing her grandmother's hand.
For a while, they stood there, the young girl and the old woman, watching the sea, and the sun's slow descent toward the horizon, remembering the man they had both loved dearly.
"Would it help to cry, Grandmama? I won't tell anyone." She knew how proud her grandmother was, trying so hard to be strong as her family had always known her to be.
The old woman chuckled slightly, despite her sorrow. "Oh, Shizue-chan, do not worry about me. Sadness does not last forever."
The little girl looked up at her grandmother, and her dark eyes narrowed. Then she said, "You're going away, aren't you? Like Grandfather did?"
"Yes." The woman nodded. "That's why I am here."
"Are... aren't you afraid to die?"
The old woman shook her head. "No, little one. I have lived a full life - a glorious one that I would not change for all the wealth in the Empire. I have given the Empire a legacy of peace. I could not ask for more." Then she smiled, a wistful loveliness to it that made Shizue's breath catch. "Besides, I will be with my husband soon. There is no greater joy than that."
"Will you go soon?" The child slowly let go of her grandmother's hand and took a step back, sniffling back tears of her own, but the old woman knelt down and drew the little girl into her arms.
"I go with the setting of the sun. Remember that I love you, Shizue-chan. Don't forget that."
"I won't, Grandmama."
Slowly, the old woman released her and stood, then she drew a sword from her obi and presented it very solemnly to the child.
"Give this to your father, Shizue-chan. It is his now, along with my blessing."
The little girl stared in awe at the ancient katana she held, her eyes tracing the kanji stamped in silver on the saya, the dark blue and silver silk wrapped around the pommel.
The old woman smiled, then stepped toward the very edge of the cliff. With great care, she removed the long pins that held her silvered hair in place, so that it fell nearly to her hips. Then she lifted her arms, so that the sleeves of her white kimono billowed out behind her like wings, closed her eyes, and tilted her head back to feel the wind on her face.
For a moment, Shizue was struck by how young her grandmother looked at that instant, her hair loose and free, a smile on her face, her kimono fluttering about her body.
"I give myself to your care, Amaterasu... I am ready to come home."
Then just as the sun slid fully beneath the horizon, the woman let herself fall forward, over the edge of the cliff, down toward the sea.
With a cry, Shizue dashed forward and looked over the edge, but there was no sign of her grandmother. Instead, soaring away over the open expanse of the sea, was a white crane with silvery wings. And as the child watched, clutching her grandmother's sword, tears streaming down her face, a second crane flew toward the first, and together, they disappeared into the twilight.