Disclaimer: Woo-hoo, a new series to not own! :D This is pretty exciting… (Oh yeah. "Tactics" isn't mine.)
Author's Note: I just finished watching the "Tactics" anime for the second time… I forgot how much I love HarukaxKantarou. X3 So here's a little light shounen-ai for you—but be warned: it's buried in angst.
PS. There's a glossary of terms at the end. :3
She returns once a year.
Just once. That's all she can stand, and all she will ever be able to bear. Sometimes, she wishes she could avoid the pilgrimage all together, wishes she could bring herself to never go again, but no. This is not something she does because she is forced to; this yearly journey is not dictated by blood or contract.
She does this because she loved him.
And so she always goes.
Their home is no longer there.
Instead, there is a new building where the old house used to stand: a complex of apartments that has swallowed the land where the balcony, the roof, the little garden used to be. But if she closes her eyes, she can still hear the furin in the wind, smell the fresh laundry on the line, taste the watery tea she used to serve.
She stands on the roadside, dressed in jeans and a vest and a worn blue choker, and she remembers for a moment.
She remembers, and she misses him.
The old publishers, much like the old house, is no longer around.
In its stead, the maintainers of the city have constructed a multi-level shopping mall, complete with revolving doors and cafes and too many stores to count. She wanders the crowded halls for an hour or two, looking for the dusty corner shop that she knows will be there.
As the swarm of humans pulse and flow and swirl around her, she pauses— she pushes—she slips out of the stream.
The dank store window glows a dull gold, as it did the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that… So far back, she suddenly realizes, that the store itself has become something of an antique. The sign above the window now makes her giggle at the noted irony, but her attention soon falls beyond the glass, to a number of dusty tomes that sit on careful display.
She runs her indigo eyes over the flaking spines, drinking in the memorized titles—the familiar kanji of the author. Her laughter fades to silence.
She turns away and returns to her wanderings.
To this day, she does not know where he died.
She does not know where, or how, or why, or what became of his aging body. No matter how hard she tries, she can only remember hazy details: black feathers, and bloody nails, and the whisper of an old promise.
And his smile.
She will never forget her master's smile: gentle, understanding, accepting.
Even now, so many years later, she does not fully understand what transpired. All she knows is that the world spun more than once that day, and when it finally came to a still, both men were gone. They were gone, and she— alone and confused— was left to pick up the shattered, glittering pieces of the dream that they'd once shared.
But she is no longer angry.
Rather, she feels she is only just beginning to understand.
The sun is already setting when she makes it to the mountainside.
It may be spring, but the air is thin and brisk; its brittle weakness makes for a lovely contrast with the crimsons and azures and violets of the twilight sky. Those vibrant colors somehow feel powerful—achingly so—, even as they bleed helplessly into the atmosphere, swallowed up and forgotten by the blackness of the night.
It is a metaphor, she knows. But for what, she cannot say.
So she puts it out of her mind, for now. Instead, she stands on the crest of the hill and thinks—just as she does every year—that this must be the most important place in the world. This small patch of forest on the fringes of the city… It must be, for everything consequential that had ever happened in his life (and thus, by extension, in her own life) occurred on this sacred soil.
She is not surprised that of all the old landmarks, this is the only one that remains untouched. His spirit probably protects it.
As does the Goblin's staff.
She does not see the Goblin anymore—does not think she will ever see him again—but she has never forgotten the feel of his presence. And now, here, she can feel him, smell him, nearly taste him in the wind. The land around her has a spark, as if of electricity… and sadness.
Atop the split stone of the broken seal, this year's Ramune marble glitters like diamond.
Yes… This is a painful pilgrimage, a joyless journey. This is an annual reminder of all that they had, and all that they had lost. This is a chance to look at the broken shards of what once was: to inspect the shimmering rainbows that the dusty memories cast when they are once again brought to light—to see if they've grown any dimmer, any sharper, any more beautiful. It is a heart-wrenching process, made all the more painful by present-day loneliness: stranded in a world full of monsters that no one sees, and paranoia that no one acknowledges.
It hurts. They hate it. They loathe it. They dread it. But they do not return to this place, to these memories, to these personas every year because they have to: it is not a matter of contract or covenant or servitudes' bonds.
She does it because she loved him.
And the Goblin—she knows— does it because he loves him still.
Glossary of Japanese Terms:
Meinichi: The anniversary of a person's death.
Furin: Summer windchimes.
Ramune: A type of soda known for having a little marble in the neck of its bottle.