Having been sent to Valhalla by the Valkyrie, Suo felt honored by the choosing but he was haunted by his most recent past. That girl's sad face appeared before him at odd times, the unseeing eyes peering into his stained soul. A new battlefield and different enemies had done little to push the memory away. Even before he had died, she haunted his thoughts, both in his waking hours and when he slept.
It was true she had been an enemy but when he had found her, she had been beaten, felled by the cruelty and brutality of war. Not much more than a child herself, she had been left on the platform she had sung from. No one had bothered to even try to help her flee. He had heard her singing once before he had found her there. It had been a beautiful and terrible sound that rallied those she sang for and struck fear into the hearts of the opposing force…his force. She had possessed a voice of such beauty it must have been given to her by the gods. Suo stopped walking and looked down at his gloved hands. Abandoned by her allies, he had delivered her to her death.
His inaction at that moment gnawed at him as much as the unfairness of it all. There had been no real point in killing her… A heavy sigh escaped him before he let his hands fall and picked his head up to resume walking, the protective helm minimizing peripheral vision. He had not walked very far before the first few notes of a song drifted to him across the seemingly empty landscape. Suo turned his head and there, against one of the few trees that dotted the area, stood the siren he had seen slain.
Her eyes were closed but the emotion of the song, contentment infused with hope, filled her voice and face. Soft brown hair cascaded around her shoulders and her bangs danced in the slight breeze. Oblivious to any observers, Shiho sang, the feel of the breeze on her face and the rough bark of the tree against her back her only companions. Unaware that she was being watched, she was understandably startled at the sound of armor clanking in front of her. "Who's there?" she asked quietly, nervous. She had thought she was deep enough in Aesir territory not to have to worry but she could have been wrong. No…Lenneth wouldn't have guided her here if it hadn't been safe.
"You're here," Suo breathed quietly from where he had fallen to his knees upon the ground. Carefully he removed his heavy helmet and set it on the ground next to him, his sweat dampened hair sticking to his scalp and jutting out in short spikey strands. Most warriors kept their hair short to prevent it from getting in the way and he was no exception.
Shiho's milky eyes widened in surprise and recognition; she could never forget a voice… "I know you," she whispered so quietly he almost didn't hear her.
"Forgive me," Suo pleaded as he hung his head, his hands planted on the ground and his torso leaning forward in supplication. His body trembled slightly, nerves and emotions getting the better of him. He heard her soft footsteps on the grass as she approached and finally saw the sandaled feet appear before him, bare toes poking out of the leather straps. At the same time, questing fingers tentatively brushed the top of his head, searching.
Gentle hands felt along the side of his head to his shoulders, pausing to explore the layers of heavy armor before carefully reaching back to find the hilt of the sword strapped to his back. Her hands paused there, seemingly uncertain, before she spoke, "You're the samurai from the battle." Memories briefly overwhelmed her as she could still smell the smoke and death all around. The screams had long since faded away and she had finally heard him. His voice had seemed odd in the battlefield; kinder than the others and just as weary of fighting as she. His voice brought her joy.
Suo tentatively picked his head up to peer at her face. He had to see for himself the smile he heard in her response. She had stepped out of the shade of the tree and the sun cast a gentle glow around her hair, granting her a slight golden halo. Tears sparkled on her lashes and her eyes seemed to look right at him though he knew she did not see. "But…you were killed for my actions…" he said, confused that she would cry for him. All he wanted was to beg her forgiveness and it was she who cried instead.
Shiho's smile did not falter as her fingertips gently traced the features of his face. His skin was damp with sweat, but she explored his features gently. There were no scars that she could feel and his chin and cheeks were surprisingly free of stubble. When her fingers brushed against his lips ever so lightly, they were slightly chapped but still soft and she felt him wince. "But you found me," she finally responded, warmth suffusing her voice, thick with emotion. "My enemy and yet, you would have me live."
Suo's face transformed as he felt an answering call in him and he sat up taller on his knees, no longer bent over. "Yes," he affirmed, gently cupping her hand against his face with his right gauntlet. In awe and barely able to breathe, he studied her eyes. He knew she could not see him…not really, and yet it felt as though she saw right through him anyway. He recalled the wondrous horrible day he had found her. In his mind, he saw his Captain strike her down in one blow; heard her call out his name. Intently, he focused on her again, shoving the image aside. "I would have had you live," he affirmed again.
The siren blinked slowly and carefully stepped forward, extracting her hand easily. Warmly, she wrapped her arms tenderly around him and pressed his head against her breast in a grateful embrace. "Thank you." She did not care that sweat stained her tunic or that she almost stubbed her toe on his greaves, her sandal just grazing the armor. Shiho felt his breath warm against her chest, his shoulders rising and falling several times before he finally reached his armored arms around her. The plate mail felt cold and hard even through her clothes, but he was mindful of that fact and held to her gently.
The pair remained in the embrace of the other, content and happy for the first time in a long time. "Shiho," Suo finally murmured, leaning back to look up at her face, serene in the afternoon light. There was a quiet happiness to her that he had not seen when first he laid eyes on her today.
"Yes?" The voice was soft and quiet, but completely at ease.
"Would you allow me to protect you a while longer?" the samurai asked, carefully standing up so as not to dislodge her hands now resting on his shoulders. Suo's mouth quirked into a crooked smile when she did not seem to mind that his hands were still resting lightly on her waist. The pause gave him a moment to simply enjoy her presence, mindful of the breeze that tantalized him with her subtle scent. Not surprisingly, to him, she smelled faintly of wildflowers.
Shiho thought for a moment before her smile brightened and she laughed, "I should like that very much." She could not see the answering smile that he gave her, but she knew it was there all the same. Some things she had learned to see without her sight. "Would you mind walking me back to camp? I seem to be a bit lost," she laughed, looking uncertainly off to his right. She could not focus so her gaze roamed, seemingly staring at nothing.
"It would be an honor," he answered, grasping one of her hands and stepping forward so he could tuck it into the crook of his arm. "This way, my lady."
Gracefully, Shiho rested her free hand on the top of his guiding arm and looked forward. Briefly, she cocked her head in his direction, listening intently. If she didn't know better, she would have thought she heard Lenneth coming to retrieve her. Content with her current situation, she refrained from saying anything, hoping if Valkyrie was here that she would simply watch. After a moment, she inhaled deeply and matched Suo's pace, step for step, as they both walked in the direction of the Aesir camp.
An amused Lenneth watched them depart before she turned and headed off towards the Aesir Headquarters.