by Fushigi Kismet
"So, I'm to die for the sake of a woman, huh?" he whispered into the night, gazing at the fullness of the white moon that hung in the sky.
He was always thinking of it, it seemed. Over the years it had become something to strive towards. Something to live for, he amended quietly to himself, when the time would come when perhaps he didn't feel quite up to the task of living. Yes, of all the fates he would have chosen for himself . . . this one was far and away the best.
As always, staring at the stars twinkling in the heavens, idly tracing out the constellations in his mind, he thought on it, his heart dwelling on the image of her he held fast in his heart as he tried to see for himself the destiny the old stargazer had foretold for him.
The old man himself came walking by, on one of his nightly strolls, no doubt and paused, looking at the unusually serious demeanor of his young charge. "Sorata, what are you doing?"
A touch of whimsy seemed to have crossed his mind. There was the barest hint of a smile on his lips. "Well, since I'm going to die for the sake of a woman, I'm praying that she will be beautiful."
The stargazer of Mount Kouya shook his head. "Is that what matters to you the most? Beauty?"
"No. I want to be able to know her when I see her, so I've decided that she must be the perfect woman."
"I see. And what is so perfect about this woman?"
"Aha!" There was a nearly maniacal exuberance in the pronouncement as Sorata held up one finger and began counting them off. "The qualities I've decided on are this:
"She must be exceedingly beautiful, both inside and out, for I should hardly prefer one to the detriment of the other."
"She should be brave and not prone to tears . . . Not too much like me, since opposites attract after all, and a quiet, composed girl might be a nice contrast to me, wouldn't you say?" He grinned.
". . ."
"It would make sense if she was in the "business" as well, because then she would know all about the "end of the world" and I wouldn't have to explain it all to her. Plus, a beautiful miko . . . Mmmmm . . ."
"I'm not sure any shrines would approve."
Blithely: "She must have a pure soul and great strength of heart."
"And why is that?"
"Because she will need them when I am gone." Pause. "Oh, and she should be great in bed!"
"Heh. Sorry, Grandpa! I couldn't resist. But hey, if I'm going to die for her, she might as well be . . ." He winked. "But I'm the only one who will ever know that."
"Soraaaata . . ."
"Of course, she can't be entirely perfect. She has to have some flaws. I'm not interested in something utterly flawless . . . that's not a human characteristic. Maybe she'll be stubborn and cold? Maybe I'll be forced to melt her . . . That might be interesting. What do you think?"
"I think you've thought entirely too much about this topic."
"Well, you simply haven't thought enough about it. This is important! Anyway, she's got to have all those qualities and . . . And . . ."
The last came out as a whisper. "She should love me."
A length of time equal to a bird's heartbeat, then, hurriedly: "Not necessarily right away, of course! Over time is all right . . . but in the end . . . if I am to die for her . . . if I am to love her, I should prefer that she loved me too, so I could at least take her love with me to the afterlife."
Slowly . . . a smile. "Yes, Sorata, I do believe you have made some wise choices."
"I hope so." There was something vulnerable in the young priest's features now. Something hinted at but rarely seen, and the stargazer was reminded again of how young the boy was, something he often forgot despite the boy's mischief-making ways. "I can feel it," he whispered. "My destiny is racing to meet me . . . and soon we shall be face to face."
"What if you don't meet her - this girl you're dreaming of?" the Stargazer asked gently.
Determination flared up in dark eyes. Sorata vaulted himself off the railing he had been sitting on and onto the ground, kneeling in one swift motion, and there was nothing at all carefree about his squared shoulders. His voice held a note that was almost angry, as though challenging the gods to deny him. "I'll conjure her up. Pray with me that God will hear my request and grant my wish."
The stargazer said nothing, but turned and knelt alongside Sorata and the two of the prayed to the stars and the night and to Buddha that his sacrifice would be rewarded.
In the months to follow, Sorata would wonder if the Gods had heard him, but in the events to follow he would cease to wonder and merely give thanks to God for what he had been given. For among all the ruin and destruction and death he faced, there was one brightly burning joy. For there was the windswept meeting and there was the first time their eyes met and there was the instant when he had known and had simply said, his eyes on her, eyes that would never stray from her again,
"I choose you."