Ri Houjun's eye fluttered slightly, as he slept, in response to the soft caress of a hand whispering across his bare chest. The hand continued its gentle stroke as a quiet voice, melancholy, called his name: "Houjun..."
He felt himself rising into consciousness from the blessed land of sleep. His right eye opened slowly, groggily, while his left eye, lame and useless for years now, did not stir. He blinked, allowing his eye to adjust to the not-quite-darkness of a full moon midnight. His eye fell upon the hand that placed a soft pressure on his skin, and he was confused. His tired gaze followed the hand to the arm it was connected to, and from the arm to the body, and body to face. And from there, he was now fully awake.
His breath hitched, and he drew back from the hand, afraid and ashamed. The hand fell to its owner's side, hurt at his response. Houjun stared intently out the window at the full moon, avoiding the stare of his visitor. A long moment passed before he summoned courage enough to speak, but he still would not look at her.
"Kouran no seishin... Spirit of Kouran, why do you come here? Do you wish to plague me with your memory?"
"Houjun... you call me 'spirit' and treat me as though I am some inhuman monster! Are you not happy to see me?" When he did not answer, she continued. "Houjun, it is I, Kouran, who stands before you now. Do not disrespect me in this manner... Houjun-kun... look at me!"
The desperation and sadness in her voice compelled him to turn his head towards her, but instead of meeting her eyes, he stared down at the bedsheet draped loosely about his lap.
"Houjun..." He could hear the quiver in her voice, and it pained his heart to know that she was on the verge of tears, but to face the one whom he had once loved...
The ghostly pale, almost transparent hand once again reached out to him, was slowly, shakily stretching towards his face. He closed his eye tight and bit his lip, body tensing in anticipation of the touch. He was not afraid. He had not felt her touch for as long as he had not had use of his left eye - longer, in fact. Not since that one ill-fated day...
Hikou... Hikou was gone. She was too. She wasn't supposed to be there, wasn't supposed to be among the living, wasn't supposed to...
The icy touch of her hand to his cheek derived from him a sharp gasp. He could no longer resist. Unrestrained, he threw himself at her pale feet with an anguished sob. His futile attempts to grasp her ghostly robes resulted in racking long-hidden griefs, and tears streamed down his right cheek, leaving damp and salty spots on the sheet of the bed. Surprise at his behavior overtook Kouran for a moment, and she instinctively tried to comfort him, but, as much as he could feel her phantom hands, he himself could not touch her.
He knelt before her, muttering prayers of sorrow, grief, and regret. "Houjun," she whispered, placing soothing hands on the sides of his head. He moaned pleas for forgiveness, and pain-filled droplets continued to stream down his cheek.
"Houjun-kun," she whispered melancholy, holding his grieving head, "Do not mourn any more for me or Hikou, Houjun. You did so once, and your sorrowed payments are no longer required. Be ashamed no longer, Houjun; lift your head. Look at the one whom you once considered for a wife."
At the gentle command he raised his head, vision blurred from love-spawned tears. He brought up his hand to clear them away - indeed, it was the same hand that had brutalized his left eye, and before that had released from its grip the hand of his best friend.
The hand that murdered Hikou and led to Houjun's self-exile from his home.
But did she know?
And so, for the first time in years long past, Houjun looked into Kouran's eyes, the eyes of his beloved.
And what he saw amazed him.