Arashi awoke at dawn. Sparkling rays of the morning sun were slipping brightly through the dusty and shabby curtains of their hotel room. So gorgeous... Arashi thought silently.
Turning back gently to lie on her other side, Arashi`s eyes met the sight of a still sleeping Sorata. The girl smiled softly. At last he is sleeping peacefully. A mere look at the sleeping boy filled her heart with great joy and a peace that she had never known before. Could she call it "happiness"? Maybe she could have if they weren't mixed up in this horrifying war.
Suddenly slipping out of her thoughts, Arashi turned swiftly to look at the alarm-clock, but sighed in relief realizing that there were still three hours left before they needed to be leaving for their train. Thank Goodness, we didn't oversleep…
Yes, that morning they were leaving for the sacred Mountain of Koya. A couple of days ago the old stargazer, who had been like a father and also a teacher for Sorata, informed them that a strange thing had happened to the stars of destiny and ordered the two of them to come to Koya as soon as possible to learn more about it. For the third day now Arashi and Sorata had been wracking their minds trying to make out what it was the old man was talking about, but it was all in vain. Things for the Dragons of Heaven were so bad right now that neither Sorata nor Arashi could believe that it mean anything positive or good. But, an order was an order and they needed to leave Tokyo without any delay.
Slowly sitting up in bed, Arashi felt sudden nausea rising from the bottom of her stomach. Immediately the girl got up from the bed and hurried to the bathroom, covering her mouth with her hand. Dragging the door of the bathroom open she bent over the toilet. Her stomach kept torturing her for nearly a quarter of an hour until, finally, it was empty of its contents. Arashi weakly flushed the toilet with a shivering hand, and turned to the sink to wash her face thoroughly. Cautiously sitting on the edge of the bath, she buried her face in a towel and felt a new wave of nausea washing over her. What is wrong with me!?… Maybe the food? Arashi pressed her hand gently to her stomach. No, it can't be the food's fault…not for the twelfth time in the past couple of weeks…
During the last two weeks, every morning Arashi would wake up because of the terrible sickness, and every morning would begin with her greeting the toilet. Sometimes this tiring sickness could last for the whole day, taking away Arashi`s precious little strength. My condition is becoming worse and worse… Hinoto`s spell must still have some lingering power over me…
Arashi had always hated it. She hated being weak or needing to depend on somebody. But during these two years she had been forced to change, she had to accept her weakness… Not only her health that was still under question right now, but her powers as one of the Dragons of Heaven was gone too. Although she could still create a kekkai, she had no powers to protect it.
Of course, Sorata had told her a countless many times that she didn't have to worry about it, that it was his duty and purpose to protect her. But Arashi wouldn't be Arashi if she agreed to that so easily. It wasn't that easy for her. If she shouldn't worry about it, then what should she worry about? Without her sword she couldn't do anything to help. She couldn't protect people from their death, couldn't protect the kekkai… These thoughts plagued her mind nearly every day and she had no idea what to do. Whatever Sorata would tell her, confessing that he needed her in his life, Arashi could feel that she was making him vulnerable. Most of all, she feared that one day she would fall ill in the middle of some battle and Sorata… No!!! Don't ever think about it! She commanded herself. Don't.
All of these musings tensed up to the point that an unbearable thought came to Arashi`s mind – that perhaps they should break up and part their ways. But she immediately pushed the idea away, imagining the pain it would surely cause Sorata if she so much as even mentioned it to him. It would have been unbearable for Arashi, too… They would have probably died living without each other.
Arashi clearly understood that it was her own fault that she wasn't the Hidden Maiden anymore. If she hadn't given into her emotions and feelings, if her confession of love for Sorata had ended only with a sweet kiss and tight embrace, then she wouldn't have gotten caught in Hinoto`s trap and wouldn't have lost her health and powers… But who knows? Hinoto was surely more powerful than Arashi... It probably wouldn't have been difficult for her to defeat Arashi, even if she still was the Hidden Maiden.
…Even if she still was a Hidden Maiden… Perhaps her powers wouldn't have played a major role anyways…. Kamui`s sword was broken. The Dragons of Earth have taken control over nearly the whole of humanity… There's an open hunting season for the heads of the Dragons of Heaven announced… What could possibly make their situation even worse?
Sighing in frustration, Arashi got up from where she was sitting and returned to the bedroom. We can't be doomed, can we? She thought sadly, gently sitting beside her still sleeping Sorata again. Is it already foreordained that humanity would die?
Her thoughts were interrupted by another wave of sickness. Arashi couldn't restrain a moan of pain as she clutched her stomach and cautiously laid back on the bed. There's no way I'll get going in such condition… The sun was just rising above the horizon, and Arashi was already feeling so tired. It was as if she had been carrying heavy bags of rice through the whole night instead of sleeping. Horrible fatigue was taking over her body – every cell in her body was begging to have just one more hour of healthy sleep. Don`t sleep… Don`t…
Waking up and seeing Arashi turned away from him and worst of all hearing her moan, Sorata reached over and touched her shoulder gently, clearly worried.
"Nee-chan, what's wrong? Are you in pain?" He whispered softly.
Struggling to open her eyes, Arashi muttered a silent "Yes".
"Sick again?" He murmured in concern as he finally became fully awake and sat up in bed. Arashi nodded weakly. Her sickness was indeed becoming her constant condition, though it didn't mean that Arashi would ever get used to it.
"Arashi… Hey, lay on your back."
She looked up at him in surprise and confusion. Sorata crawled to her side of the bed and sat next to her delicately. No, this time I won't let her suffer. He thought. He couldn't bear seeing his beloved girl in agony any longer and being unable to do anything about it. First it was a slight sickness which Arashi hadn't paid much attention to it. But her state grew worse as the morning sickness turned into the afternoon one, and then into the "whole-day" nausea. And now the cycle was about to begin again…
Not without Sorata`s help, Arashi laid on her back. What is he going to do? She shut her eyes as another wave of nausea consumed her body, and she felt her empty stomach tightening up.
"Nee-chan, try to relax. You'll feel better now." Sorata assured her, praying fervently to Buddha that his plan would have a positive effect.
"Sorata… We've got to get going… The train leaves at midday…" Arashi whispered weakly. She didn't want to miss the train all because of her poor health.
"What you really need to do is to sleep. I'll wake you in an hour, ok? Don't worry." Sorata quickly reassured her as he noticed that she was going to protest again. "We won't be late."
With these words Sorata placed his hand on Arashi`s stomach and, mumbling some kind of prayer or mantra, began rubbing slow circles over her abdomen, just like a mother calms her child's sick stomach.
"Sorata…"Arashi muttered rather to herself than to him. Unable to resist his deep, soothing voice she finally gave in to her fatigue and his gentle ministrations…the sickness and nausea beginning to disappear…
As Sorata finished reciting the mantra, he opened his eyes and saw Arashi sleeping quietly. He couldn't help but smile. Though, there was something definitely wrong with her. Nee-chan… What on earth is going on with you? Her condition worried Sorata above all other things. Arashi slept soundly during the nights, but sometimes she would wake up in the morning feeling very tired and exhausted... And that constant sickness… It seemed strange to Sorata that all these symptoms had begun only two weeks ago… It couldn't have been caused by…No, it`s impossible… It suddenly dawned on him that all these things could be the direct consequences of that night. The evening after the day that became the happiest one he had ever known and, he hoped, for Arashi too. Though the events leading up to that day had been anything but wonderful…..
……..They had come like thieves in the dead of night, setting fire to the living quarters of the Imonoyama mansion. He awoke to the sound of shattered glass and deadly fumes of black smoke. Somehow, their location had been discovered and a large bloodthirsty mob of angry citizens had gathered to force them out or burn them all alive inside the manor.
Sorata raced to Arashi's room past Kamui's as cried for Kamui to rouse the others. There was an immediate outbreak of activity as the others quickly realized the danger they were all in. He thanked the gods that Arashi's health was as such that she could at least walk on her own now. He roused her swiftly as they all gathered in the hallway outside. A closely trusted professor came up the stairs at breakneck speed to tell them that they needed to escape quickly while there was still time. They followed him down the stairs and past the main entry way that was being barricaded by several other members of CLAMP's staff as the pounding, clawing and screaming of the mob outside fought to get in. Dark smoke filled the corridors and flames could be seen furiously burning the large curtains that once covered the now shattered windows where torches had been thrown through.
Kusanagi stopped then and refused to leave the people who were trying to slow down the mob. Yuzuriha refused to leave Kusanagi and fearing that all of them would lose their chance to escape, Sorata immediately volunteered himself to stay and help Kusanagi slow the mob down giving the rest the chance to flee. Aoki-san immediately volunteered as well while Karen and Subaru took it upon themselves to make sure the others remained protected in the event that other surprises awaited them once they reached the outside. Yuzuriha didn't seem convinced though and Arashi surprisingly started to panic. Despite his repeated vows to return to her, Arashi had to be dragged away kicking and screaming wildly in attempts to stay. Sorata asked Yuzuriha to make sure Arashi remained safe until he and the others caught up with them. Yuzuriha finally nodded in understanding and after giving Kusanagi a swift hug, disappeared after the others.
Despite their best efforts to save the mansion, the entire structure was burned to the ground that night. Luckily the three of them, along with the few remaining members of the campus staff had escaped the mob without much injury. Charred, dejected and exhausted, they followed one of their colleagues to a secluded sector of Tokyo where many of the building complexes had been destroyed. In the midst of the ruble and debris there was a small building still standing that housed a very small community of people. They were informed that the people who lived there were people whose loyalties still remained with the Dragons of Heaven and that they would be safe there.
Reunited with the others, Yuzuriha practically flew into the arms of Kusanagi-san and Karen offered Aoki a tattered but warm blanket. Sorata acknowledged Subaru who sat near Kamui on an old battered sofa speaking with several people who offered them food and drink. Sorata immediately sought after Arashi who was no where to be found. A kind old woman led him to a far corner of the complex where a small fire crackled in front of a well worn futon. On the futon lay a frail figure huddled tightly in a dingy blanket. It had been explained to them later that they used no electricity there, in fear that the mechanical nightmare, Beast, would somehow discover their tiny sanctuary. And so, fires were used to warm the cold structure and candles were used to offer what light they needed. Sorata stopped just as he reached her and hesitated. Did he dare to wake her? Her health had increased a great deal in the last few months but she was still a far cry from the vibrant and fiercely independent young woman she once was. As if sensing his presence she instantly turned from her position near the fire on the futon and flung herself into his arms.
He held her tightly as she clung to him as if he would disappear at any moment. Too tired to stand anymore Sorata slowly dropped to his knees on the futon, Arashi easily following him down, refusing to let go. Not that he wanted her to. They stayed that way for a long time and he gasped quietly as he felt warm tears trickle down his collar bone and wet his singed jacket. He felt her body tremble lightly as she wept silently into his shoulder. He stroked her hair and whispered sweet words of comfort into her ear. The people around them slowly dispersed to their own rooms and corners, giving them as much privacy as they could in living conditions such as theirs.
Eventually they both laid down on the futon and simply held each other as they offered one another warmth and comfort. After a long while Arashi finally spoke, offering him one of the greatest confessions he'd ever heard fall from her beautiful lips. She told him of how she had panicked that night because she dreaded the idea that she would somehow never see him again. How the thought that someday he might disappear from her life terrified her beyond words. She explained that people simply passed through her life, and always it seemed, at a distance. Of how her mother had died, leaving her abandoned in the streets for months without love or protection. Of her guided but detached upbringing at Ise. And finally, of her greatest fear, that someday Sorata's destiny would be fulfilled and that she would be destined to forever remain alone.
Sorata had listened quietly through her painful admission, holding her even tighter as he tried to offer her what strength he could. After a moment of silence hung in the air, he shifted his position so that as he lay beside her, he could look down into her glistening lavender eyes. He then braced himself both emotionally and mentally as he then offered up what had always been hers for the taking. He tenderly vowed that she would never be alone as long as there was still breath left in him. And even after his passing, he was certain that his love for her would transcend death itself, only delaying their union for a time. Then, taking a deep breath, he asked her to marry him. Her eyes widened in shock as he pressed on, telling her that while he had little to offer her, he would give her all of his heart. That in a world being torn apart by chaos and uncertainty that she would never ever have to worry about being alone…because he would always be there…for as long as he could…if she wished it.
Tears started to stream down her face and for a moment he feared that he had said something wrong or worse…that she would refuse him. Just as he was about to speak again she raised her fingers to still his lips and leaned forward to kiss him passionately. He instinctually returned her fervent kiss just as ardently and soon had to break away in order to catch his breath. "Yes…" she whispered powerfully as his head shot up to look at her in surprise. She smiled a smile so beautiful his breath caught in his chest and all he could do was stare at her in shock. Her smile faltered for only a fraction of a second, "the confident monk of Koya….finally speechless. Where are the others to witness this? It must truly be the end of days."
He broke into a huge grin and couldn't help the chuckle that escaped his mouth. Did she really just make a joke?! It didn't matter though… she had said YES!!! And suddenly he was kissing her again, desperately, overpoweringly, overwhelmingly with joy… They agreed together that they would marry in secret, telling only the other Dragons of Heaven; their union to be kept hidden from their enemies or those who might use that information to exploit them.
That day had been the longest that Sorata had ever known as Karen had taken Arashi and Yuzuriha aside for all of that day, preparing Arashi for what would surely be the most amazing thing that would ever happen to him. He wouldn't see her again all that day. Aoki, Kamui, Subaru and even Kusanagi-san had congratulated him and helped him to prepare for the ceremony to be held late that night. They agreed to hold the secret ceremony at an abandoned Shinto shrine, not far from their new home. Because of Arashi's faith, Sorata had whole heartedly agreed to have a traditional ceremony at a sacred shrine for her. He only wished that it had been under better circumstances. He wished that she could have had beautiful flowers to choose from, a beautiful wedding kimono to wear, time to pick out all the little details that went into special life changing events such as these. But what he had not expected was that somehow, the tiny shrine had been decorated with beautiful candles, flowing drapes of silk and small sprinklings of sweet smelling crushed flower petals. No doubt it had been Karen and Yuzuriha who had worked so hard to make it so beautiful.
The gesture to make this so special for both he and Arashi brought him to tears and he vowed that he would forever be indebted to them for what they had done. He wasn't sure where or how they had gotten the things that they had, but he was sure that it was at great sacrifice. Aoki presented him with a traditional black kimono and hakama which he humbly accepted. He and his male comrades waited quietly while Karen and Yuzuriha brought Arashi to the shrine. It was the longest wait of his life and the desire to pace until he finally saw her was nearly impossible to resist. His heart was racing, what if she changed her mind?! What if she left?! What if she finally came to her senses and refused to marry me?! And just when he thought his heart would burst from distress…it nearly stopped beating when he finally saw her.
She stood at the entrance to the shrine hesitantly, unsure of how she looked. To him, she looked like nothing short of a goddess. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. The first thing he noticed was her hair. It had been swept back gently from her face and pinned into a loose shimada. Beautiful pale sakura blossoms trailed down the side of the shimada and delicate whisps of hair were left unpinned to frame the curve of her lovely face. She was clad in a kimono so striking, that he had never seen it's equal. It wasn't a "traditional" wedding kimono, but it was the most stunning silk kimono that he had ever beheld. The color was nearly white with a pink hue, so delicate and subtle one could almost miss it. Embroidered into the soft silk were exquisite interpretations of cranes taking flight in a sea of sakura blossoms.
She reached a self conscious hand up to touch her cheek and turned her head away from his gaze, embarrassed at everyone's captivated stares. It was the first time he had ever seen her wear makeup, but it had been done so tastefully that it suited her well. It was all a pale pink, from the tint along her eye lids to the pale pink blush that adorned her cheeks, to the tantalizing pink sheen of lip gloss across her irresistible lips. She was absolutely breath taking and for the first time in his life, he actually felt weak at the knees.
Aoki-san escorted her to the head of the shrine where Sorata stood waiting, trying to remember how to breathe. Arashi was shocked to see that, somehow, they had found a Shinto priest to perform the ceremony. Before she knew it she was there, and Sorata took her hands in his as Aoki stood off to his side.
The ceremony was beautiful, and perfect in every way possible. To this day, Sorata could still remember every detail. From the details of Arashi's kimono to the words uttered by the priest and their sacred and eternal vows to each other. It had truly been the most amazing thing that had ever and perhaps would ever happen to him. He thanked every Buddha he knew for the greatest blessing he would ever know in this life.
The rest of that night had been nothing short of pure ecstasy as he and his new bride consummated their love in a way that only true soul mates could. The experience had been far beyond that of their first time, though that was an experience that was unparalleled. Ever since that night nearly two years ago when they had finally acknowledged their love for each other and acted upon it, they had afterwards sworn they'd never do it again no matter what…for fear of bringing a child into the world until the war was over. He realized now that they had been extremely lucky that such a thing hadn't happened their first and only time when they had been so careless.
Though it had been a difficult promise to keep because of the intensity of their feelings for one another, it had indeed been kept. And though they both feared the possible consequence that may result despite their extra precautions to prevent it…it was their wedding night. And so, their love overpowered fear and their promise had been brought to an end that night. ……..
…It can`t be, Sorata thought desperately, only one night of love can not result in things like this… No, there must be some other explanation. He refused to believe that their one very well deserved night of love could bring the greatest of consequences upon them.
Turning his gaze away from his sleeping Arashi and slipping out of his reminiscences, Sorata looked at the clock to make sure whether it was time to wake Arashi or not. And indeed it was. Although he didn`t want to steal these rare moments of sound sleep from Arashi, he had no choice but to do it. The train was leaving in two hours or so.
Sorata drew closer and tenderly stroked her right cheek, leaning in towards her face.
"Nee-chan… Wake up." Sorata whispered, though he doubted that his near silent words could actually wake her. And he was quite right – she didn`t even stir. The girl continued to sleep soundly.
Well then, if words don`t take any effect, we`d better stick to drastic measures, Sorata thought with a smile as he leaned further towards her face and kissed her lips softly. No sooner had he intensified the kiss than he felt Arashi`s lips flutter, probably after feeling the warmth of his own lips. Smiling, he kissed the corner of her mouth.
"Arashi, come on, wake up." He said in his normal voice, pulling back from her lips. Kissing her had become a new weakness of his, not that Arashi minded… On the contrary, she secretly enjoyed it. Meanwhile, she mumbled something incomprehensible and suddenly yawned sweetly. As for Sorata, he kept smiling completely enamored.
"Have you slept well, Nee-chan? Are you sick now?" He asked sweetly, his smile not faltering for even a second. Sorata was pretty sure that he had managed to help her get rid of nausea, but still he needed to be sure of that.
Much to her astonishment Arashi realized she didn`t feel sick any more. More than that, she could say she was in excellent shape. Arashi looked up at her ever grinning husband as he patted the top of her head tenderly.
"Sorata… You've done something, haven`t you?" She asked although she already knew the answer. Sorata nodded, and she felt her heart filling with affection towards this man.
"Thank you… Thank you, I feel much better." she smiled with all possible tenderness. She really was grateful. Grateful for everything he was doing for her, for everything he had sacrificed for her sake… But most of all, for his love. And she loved him in return.
Sorata kissed her forehead in response. He was ready to do anything just to hear those words. Her tenderness and smile were the best reward for him.
"You`re always welcome, Nee-chan. I`m glad you`re feeling better, `cause it`s time we pack our things." He replied, gazing into her violet eyes, so beautiful yet so sorrowful at times.
The smile on Arashi`s face disappeared slowly. Breaking loose from his embrace, she tried to get up from the bed immediately, but was stopped by Sorata`s strong arms. He couldn`t keep from laughing.
"Nee-chan, Nee-chan, that`s alright. We`ll make it in time."………..
Let me just say that my co-author on this story, Rei-girl, wrote most all of this second chapter and is now currently working on the third. She has done an AMAZING job so far, so if you liked this new chapter we'd BOTH love it if you'd take just a minute to let us know in a review! Thanks for reading and hope you look forward to more! -Miko