Disclaimer: Same as the previous chapters. I apologize for the lack of witty and innovative ways to say, "I don't own RK" upon my part. See below for my Author's Note.
III. I had to find you, tell you I need you, tell you I set you apart
He is running faster than he has ever dared to run before. The wind sends his hair furiously whipping the back of his neck and the sides of his face, but he can care less. He has learned to disregard physical comfort, not that he really understands what physical comfort is to begin with. But he was learning to feel comfortable as a student under her careful ministrations and now she is gone. He grits his teeth as he stays in the shadows of the looming buildings, clay smearing his face from where a dying man's hand carved out a single mark of defiance on his previously unmarred skin. He knows he is risking the entire safety of his mission with this careless action, but he is all past thinking rationally now.
The woman who entered his life on a night of blood and survived the encounter. He didn't (and still does not) understand what to do with her. She is quiet, respectful, and yet subtly defiant and proud in her own way. She does not shy away from him when he comes back late at night with blood stains soaking through his uniform and skin. He is sure that she must hate him for chaining her to him, for sparing her when she so obviously wished to die before, but she shows no hint of abhorrence towards him. He wonders how someone as delicate and graceful as her can put up with his beastly nature. It isn't pity, he knows. For she is as capable of pity for him as he is capable of walking away from the war.
She confuses him, and he is finding the urge to know her becoming stronger and stronger. She washes his clothing, waits up for him while he is out late slaughtering nameless enemies in the darkness, and cares for him in the simplest way that she can. He does not know what she expects as repayment for her actions, for he has nothing to offer that she would want.
She has been gone for far too long. The men had said that she left to fetch fresh vegetables and meat from the market for tomorrow's celebration early afternoon. But it is near midnight and she has yet to reappear. He knows she did not desert, because the thought of her finding his presence that intolerable is far too unsettling for him to even consider. She is gone and he will find her and bring her back to his…no, their home.
The scent of plum blossoms wafts through the clearing clearly, cutting through the stench of alcohol, unwashed bodies, and the slightest tang of blood (present no matter where he goes, he wonders if the smell of blood is coming from him—permanent as the scar on his cheek). He follows it urgently and the grip on his sword tightens with anticipation for murder.
She is by the river, solitary with a basket of produce resting on the bank. Her hands are submerged deep into the water and her head is tilted downwards, eyes gazing blankly at the stream as it easily navigates around her fingers. It is a full moon tonight and she shines, luminescent underneath its rays. He does not know whether he should approach her not. She is so pure and untainted with her white hands cupped full of clear water that it is a wonder he has not tainted her just by watching her. He turns to leave, sure that she will return sometime later unharmed, but she stands and turns to face him.
"I'm sorry," She murmurs, black eyes glowing as she pins her gaze on him. He feels oddly dissected underneath her knowing irises, as if she understands all of him. But it is not an uncomfortable feeling. "I must have worried everyone."
He says nothing, walking over to pick up the basket. As he brushes past her, he feels the insane urge to run scalding water over his body until he is cleansed of that ever lingering and metallic scent of blood. He thinks that he should stop tainting her presence so, but he is neither brave enough nor self-sacrificing enough to do so. He is only human after all.
It is not until they are close to their makeshift and rickrack home that he musters up the courage to speak. "You worried me," he admits quietly, pushing his anxiety away. There is nothing to be afraid of here. She does not have the means to kill him nor does she have the will to, he is sure. She can only occupy his thoughts and twist the ways with which he looks at the world.
But, a part of him whispers, isn't that the most dangerous of all?
Author's Note: This was also intended to be sweet, but I think it comes off more as pensive and hesitant if anything else. They really have a terribly tragic relationship, which makes it all the more difficult for me to write happy scenes between them. I'll try to do better next time because I find that stories with an overwhelming element of sadness tend to lose their charm as time goes on. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter (especially you, misaoshiru. Your review made me laugh and I sincerely hope you would prefer to marry me rather than kill me!) Once again, drop a comment if you have the time.