Author's Note: Don't worry, I'm not turning my attention away from my Lileyverse. But I was struck by this thought for a story after playing Heavenly Sword on the PS3, and I can't get it out of my head. The characters are so rich (well, most of them) that I found myself emotionally invested in them by the time I finished the game, which really is a terrific game. I suppose it's my need for happy endings that gave rise to this story. Hope you enjoy it!
Here are my standard disclaimers: I make no claims on any of Sony's, Ninja Team's or Heavenly Sword's trademarks or copyrights, and no infringement is intended. Be forewarned that this story most certainly will contain femslash. If love and affection between two consenting young adults of the same sex bothers you, I suggest you turn right around and find something else to read. Keep any flames to yourself and remember that what our world needs now is more love and acceptance, not more hate. Reviews are always welcomed and appreciated!
by Jo P.
As Kai stumbled across the cracked earth of the valley, she shaded her eyes from the bright sun. "Too bright, too bright," she mumbled to herself in a voice that was a bit too close to sing-song for her comfort. She had been saddled with madness for much of her life, and she refused to succumb again. Not when she was so close to her own death.
As her toes slammed into a rock she hadn't noticed, she pitched forward against the hard ground, baked firm by the beating rays of the sun. "Gods-cursed rock!" she managed to cry out as she rolled over, slowly getting her hands and knees under her then standing carefully. The world swam across her vision, but she didn't pass out. She allowed herself a faint smile. "Not far now, Nariko," she whispered to herself. "Not far now."
It had been exactly one year since Nariko had died and then been briefly reborn, an avatar of the gods sent back to banish the darkness, apparently forever. Nariko's last act had been to clear Kai's mind of madness, but just as Kai felt the joy of building a real life with the woman she loved, the gods played one final, cruel trick on her.
"I carried the Heavenly Sword for you, Nariko," Kai said angrily. "Not for the bastard gods who took you away from me time after time!" She stopped and looked up at the sky, cloudless and blue, and she screamed, "I HATE YOU ALL! ALL OF YOU EXCEPT NARIKO!" Her vision blurred, and she hurriedly looked back down, willing herself not to pass out.
It had been eight days since she had last eaten. No, nine. Or was it eight? Kai slowly shook her head. It wasn't the fasting that would kill her, it was not drinking any water. It had been seven days for that, when she had stopped and drunk from a stream the day after burying that horrible weapon of the gods. She had walked as close to the mountain of fire as she could, so close that the heat from the ground burned her bare feet. It was there that she carefully used the tip of the blade, still wrapped in thick cloth inscribed with sigils of binding, to pry up the crust of the hard black basalt. Once underneath the surface layer, she was able to use her other tools to dig even deeper through the hard ground. It took her two days before she was satisfied that the blade's crypt was deep enough, but finally it was done. She carefully set the sword at the bottom of the pit, then she climbed out. This was not going to be her grave. Not here. Not with it.
She sat on the hot basalt once she was out of the pit. She unwrapped her last bit of bread and slowly ate it. It might have been the proximity to the volcano that made the bread taste like ashes, she thought idly, or maybe it was something else entirely to blame. Maybe it was a heart seared and scarred by loss.
She angrily tossed the cloth into the pit with the Heavenly Sword. Her work was done. When the volcano erupted again—and she could feel the earth's faint tremble even now—the weapon of the gods would be buried forever, and no other man or woman would have to die because of it. No one else would have to be cruelly separated from her lover, from the only person who ever cared for her and made her smile. She had fulfilled her promise to Nariko, and very soon she could be with Nariko again.
The dry bread made Kai's throat ache for water, but she had run out the day before. She'd have to stop at the spring she had seen a few days ago and drink, or she'd die of thirst before she made it back to the valley.
Kai shivered in the heat as she thought again of that place. She hadn't seen Nariko's final battle, but she had heard countless versions of the story over the last year as she had traveled the land, trying to put her loss behind her but unable to find any peace. Soldiers who had survived that terrible battle—and there weren't many—described a field strewn with bodies and wreckage, with a blazing circle of light around two figures battling for the world itself, one dark and smoking and the other shining like the sun. Kai smiled whenever she thought of how Nariko must have looked to the others that day. Nariko had always looked like that to her, like the glory of the sun and the stars had kissed her on the day she was born, granting her beauty and spirit in equal portions.
A rumble through the earth shook Kai out of her thoughts. She quickly began shoving the rocks and dirt back into the pit, filling it in a fraction of the time it had taken her to excavate it. She gathered her tools and then ran away from the volcano as the earth's trembling built in intensity. She kept running for over an hour, not stopping until she reached the rope bridge across the canyon that yawned ahead of her. She quickly made her way across the wobbly bridge, then she stopped and turned around. It was still too close to stay here. A powerful tremor could shear this area off, sending it sliding into the depths of the canyon below. Wordlessly Kai turned and began walking away. She would not look back again, not even when the volcano erupted hours later and covered the resting place of the Heavenly Sword with a sheet of lava that would seal it away forever.
A surge of electricity through her wrapped feet brought Kai out of her memories. Yes, this was it. She was sure of it. She fell to her knees and sniffed the ground. While there was no visible sign of this spot being special, Kai could smell a different tang to the dirt here. She weakly stood again. There wasn't much time left, she knew that, but now she was no longer racing against time. She was here. She had won the race.
Kai paced along the perimeter of the large circle, marking it by dragging her feet along the ground that continued to send pulses of electricity up her legs. She didn't notice that for the last hundred feet the dirt had darkened with her blood, trickling out of her cracked feet. Yes, this was it, she was sure of it. This was where Nariko had fought as a goddess manifest on earth to defeat the evil that threatened to claim the land in a battle that raged to Heaven itself. This was where Nariko had healed Kai from her fatal wounds, where she had used the last of her power to repair Kai's broken mind. But right when Kai had been given a chance to finally live with Nariko in peace, the damned sword had once again taken Nariko away.
It had been Nariko's final wish to have Kai safeguard the weapon to prevent anyone else from dying over it, and now the deed had been carried out. No one could ever find its resting place now, no one except Kai herself, and that knowledge would pass from this world along with her.
The sun was finally beginning to set as Kai stumbled to the center of the circle she had paced out. Unlike the rest of the circle's area, the center felt cool and soothing on her feet. Kai fell to her knees and smiled. This would be where Nariko last touched the earth. This would be where Kai would die as well, peacefully, knowing that she would be with her beloved Nariko once again very soon.
"I miss you, Nariko," Kai said through lips cracked and bleeding. "I know you're still waiting on me, and I hope you're not angry with me for joining you so soon, but I need you." She wasn't sure where the moisture for tears came from, but she felt them slide down her dusty cheeks as she talked. "I've done what you asked of me, Nariko, and now I have nothing left in this world to keep me here. Not now."
Kai lay on her side, pulling her legs up to her stomach as she closed her eyes and thought of the tall, powerful warrior she had fallen in love with years ago, her red hair whipping around the two of them as the wind blew through it. They had shared their first kiss beneath a waterfall just two years ago, and Kai wept at how many years they would have had together had it not been for that haunted blade. They had made love for the first time on a straw pallet covered with a simple linen cloth; it was all that Nariko had to give save for herself, and even that had cost her weeks of labor in a nearby village before she could purchase it. But Kai had been content to wait, because Nariko had wanted to make Kai feel special that day, and she had done that in more ways than Kai could fathom. Nariko's father hadn't approved, but then he had never approved of much of anything his only daughter did, so neither Kai nor Nariko let his scowl dampen their feelings for each other. They were content with each other, as being together was more joy than either had expected out of the world that had been so painful to them, and their time as lovers and partners had been the most wonderful time either of them had known in their short lives. But then came the war, and the fighting, and the blood, and the pain...
Kai pushed the sad memories away. Instead, she thought of Nariko's smile, as warm as a sunrise on a winter morning. Nariko's scarlet hair, and how its delicate touch across her body made Kai shiver with pleasure. Nariko's voice, strong and powerful but also comforting and loving, especially when it came in whispers of love and tenderness as they held each other. Nariko's body, soft to a light touch but hard and muscular with a firmer grip. Nariko's sweat, making their bodies glide across each other as they made love. Nariko's lips, hot and soft and wet as they kissed. Nariko's eyes, burning with passion both loving and bloody, the two sides of her forever joined in a way that only Kai could ever understand or appreciate.
Kai shivered, her sobs escaping her lips despite her holding them together as tightly as she could manage. If the gods had any speck of mercy, any measure of justice, then she and Nariko should have had a chance to build a life together, away from the horror of fighting and killing. If the gods could summon power like they had shown when they had imbued Nariko with the strength to defeat the Raven King, why couldn't they use that power to reward the woman who had given her life to protect not only her lover and her people but also the Heavenly Sword itself? Why were death and suffering the only things the gods seemed able to create?
Kai would never understand the gods' motives, but she no longer had to worry about that. It was time to be with her Nariko again, and this time it would be forever. They would never be separated again, and that thought made Kai smile as she let the blackness claim her.
Wind blowing through the valley.
A voice whispering in her ear.
Kai could feel something calling to her, something niggling at the edges of her consciousness. She blinked her eyes once, and the dazzling light blinded her. She felt the ground underneath her, but instead of the baked earth of the blood-drenched valley she felt soft grass. A light breeze blew across her face and body, and on the breeze was something familiar, a scent that Kai had nearly forgotten but that now filled her heart with joy. She opened her eyes again, and the first thing she could see was a wave of scarlet, fluttering above her. She followed the blowing locks of red hair back until she saw two warm golden-brown eyes looking down at her, tears spilling from them. "Nariko?" she whispered, barely trusting her senses.
"Yes," said Nariko, her lips quivering as she smiled down at the young woman she loved. "It's me, dear, sweet Kai."
"I did what you asked, Nariko," Kai managed to get out through her broken—. Wait. Her lips didn't hurt any more. Kai gently ran her tongue over her lips, startled to not feel any pain.
"I know you did, Kai," Nariko replied. "I'm very proud of you. What you did, burying the sword beneath the lavarock, that was brilliant." Nariko leaned down. "I'm missed you so much, Kai," she said, and then their lips met.
Kai could focus on nothing but the fiery joy that raced through her body as she was able to feel, to taste the woman she had silently pledged her life to once again. She sat up, losing herself in the happiness of feeling arms both strong and gentle wrap themselves around her as they held each other. Kai shifted her body to wrap her legs around Nariko's waist, clinging to the taller woman as tightly as she could.
Neither woman knew how long they held each other that way. Truthfully, neither of them cared to know. All that mattered was that once more they were united, complete with each other. When they finally pulled themselves apart, Kai felt an aching in her knees that surprised her.
"I didn't think we were supposed to hurt in the afterlife," she said. At her words, Nariko's eyes filled with tears again, and for a moment Kai feared that she had said something wrong.
"We don't," Nariko said, not bothering to hide or wipe away her tears. Instead she smiled as she said, "Look around you, Kai."
Kai looked around at the lush beauty around them. Trees filled with fruits and nuts surrounded them, with wildflowers growing along a burbling river just a short walk away from them. "It's beautiful," she said, but then her breath caught in her throat as she saw the walls of the clan stronghold in the distance. She looked around again, and now she could see the same contours of the valley, only now they were covered with life.
"You did this, Kai," Nariko said proudly as she gently ran her fingertips across Kai's cheek. "Your thoughts as you died shamed the gods themselves. As I heard what you were thinking in those last moments, it was all I could do to not take out my rage on Heaven itself. All that stayed my hand was knowing that you and I would be together again. But then I saw the valley spring to life, spreading out from where you lay and turning this place of death into a garden of rebirth."
Kai hungrily kissed Nariko again, tasting all of her lover that her mind could currently process. When she pulled her lips away, Kai said, "If this is a dream, then I'm not ever waking up."
Nariko chuckled lightly as she held Kai tightly. "It's not a dream, Kai. Not like that. We've been given a chance to have the life together that had been ripped away from us before."
Now it was Kai's turn to cry. "We can?" she asked, her voice pleading. "We can make a life together, here?"
Nariko nodded. "Here, there, anywhere you want to go, my love. We'll be together from now on, I swear to you."
Kai looked into Nariko's eyes and knew that her lover was telling the truth. She started to stand, but Nariko effortlessly stood, lifting Kai up with her. Kai once again wrapped her legs around Nariko's waist and clung tightly to the fierce warrior as she buried her head against Nariko's neck. "I love you, Nariko," she said.
"I love you too, little Kai," Nariko replied. She began to walk to the clan stronghold, and now Nariko was no longer concerned about how her father or clan might react to her. The only person whose opinion mattered was in her arms. "Thank the gods that we've been given a second chance to build a life together."
Kai snickered. "Silly Nariko," she said with a grin. "I was the one given a second chance. They just threw you out of Heaven to keep me company. And because you get grumpy."
Nariko looked at Kai with a strange look for a second or two, then she laughed madly. "Oh, I've missed you so much, Kai!" she said as she kissed her partner again.
Kai tousled Nariko's thick red hair. "You don't have to miss me anymore, Nariko. Not ever again."
Author's Afterword: I thought Kai and Nariko deserved a happy ending. Don't you? Now that I know Nariko and Kai can be happy again, I'll get back to Miley and Lilly. Bye!
-- Jo --