It was strange, their story. A demon princess with incredible power, a human who didn't know what he sought - two beings who met through an odd twist of fate that threw them together into the same tale, a tale that, by rights, should probably never have existed.

He, young, by her standards, never having loved a single person, never having felt what it truly meant to be human. She, old, near the end of her life, and never having been loved by anyone. Awed, revered, even feared, perhaps, but never loved. Somehow, they found perfection in each other.

He realized this, as he carried her on his back through that golden field of pampas grass, created as the last act of her waning will in the place of the powerful black palace that had once stood in this crumbling world. They had both been beautiful, once, but that had had nothing to do with it. In his usual way, he had decided to use her, the only one who understood him, even more than he understood himself. She was the only one who could see why he was unhappy - and she would never tell it to him. In her service, he'd thought he could maybe find the answer.

Yet, somehow, it had become so much more to him than that. He wanted to please her, wanted to give her anything she desired or needed. He longed to heal her dying body and fulfill her greatest wishes; they were sentiments he'd never had, even about Kagumi, his beautiful wife.

She smiled faintly, even as she felt the life leaving her. He had been such a good servant, yet there was more to it than that. He had provided her amusement and happiness in the last of her days on this earth, and she had honestly enjoyed his company. He weathered her mercurial whims with ease and perfection, and even as he continued to confuse and astound her, she'd found herself growing fond of this strange human creature, whose desire all along had been to be with his own kind. She couldn't understand why he couldn't understand it; why he'd sought such inhuman power in opposition with his true feelings.

Even now, he was so much more essentially human than any she had ever met; they would never make it out of this dying realm alive. Had their positions been switched, she would have saved herself, left him there to die; or, at least, she might have had it been all those years ago when they first had met. Now, though, she wasn't sure she wouldn't have done what he was doing now, and it intrigued her how strange it all was. She'd never truly cared about anything before, even her subjects. Such caring was alien to her; she had certainly never experienced it before.

Yet here she was, being carried on the back of her handsome young servant, who would die when this world collapsed because he was unable to leave her behind, unable to do what to most humans and ayakashi alike would have been second nature. At her request, he handed her up one of the fronds of pampas grass, and she held it in weakening hands.

He walked, slowly, steadily, through the fronds of grass until her hand let go of the golden stem, and she was no more.

As he looked up to the heavens, the world turned black, and for the first time in his life, he felt strangely at peace, no more anguish tearing at the corners of his soul.

He hoped, beyond hope, that he would see her again, in whatever afterlife there was. He no longer wanted to be parted from her, his princess, who he cared for like no other in his life.

As the world disintegrated, an empty heart filled.

Finally, he'd found that thing he'd always lacked.

For the first, and last, time in his life, he realized he loved.

A/N: This was inspired by a really moving scene in Kekkaishi's last episode. I felt the need to delve into Byaku's thoughts a bit and tried to recapture the essence of that scene in words. I was inspired as well by a quote from Young Wizards that popped into my mind after watching the scene; that quote makes a modified appearance in the early part of the fic. I wonder if you can catch it?