2017.06.10 - 霊界 Reikai (Flower amid ashes)
The secret worl is often one of unimaginable horror, but it can also be one of great beauty. What is the most beautiful thing that your character has encountered so far?
The night was filled with the song of the summer crickets as the rays of the full moon touched the engawa just outside the bedroom. Only one figure occupied the bed, his deep and steady breathing of one still fast asleep. There was the soft rustling of someone getting dressed, the sliding of doors, and the second figure quietly left the room.
He was barefoot and wearing a dark gray yukata and, though there was a pair of geta waiting near the glass door leading outside, he didn't cast them a glance and just stepped into the garden. Every time he came here it seemed like his connection to the land was stronger. He could feel it climb from the sole of his naked feet to the rest of his body; the life force of his birth land - Japan. It was a strange sensation and should anyone ask how it felt, he'd have a hard time doing so. It was far more spiritual than physical, his senses heightened and his very soul reaching out to the world 'in between'. And, if he allowed himself to step in there, he knew he'd feel so much more. But it was a dangerous thing to do, as one didn't want to leave such a place where the Kami resides. But once in a while he had to, for he had to pay tribute to one spirit in particular, who'd renewed his immortality in exchange of his servitude; another master to serve beside the Dragon.
Thus Katsuro walked through the Japanese garden, among the fireflies, and around the pond - home of many bright red koi fish - until he reached the border of the forest. He actually had no real destination in mind, but walking in his family's garden always cleared his mind, enough so that he could step into the spirit world with more ease. As if on cue, he felt those ethereal antlers sprout from his forehead and a quick glance from whence he came showed he'd left his physical form behind. His body was lying on the mossy ground, as if sleeping. Katsuro paid it no mind and turned around, only to find the familiar silhouette of a black stag on the path before him.
At first the stag didn't move, his eyes full of intelligence as he gazed upon the Japanese man. Then, without warning, it bounced out of view further along the path. Katsuro simply followed, soaking in the raw energy of this place. The warm wind was singing, making the leaves rustle gently, and the night was illuminated by the silver moon and the countless lights of the fireflies. The scene had this odd sense of surreal, where everything is too perfect, too beautiful to be true. The bit of sky he could see between the branches had too many stars and the sky itself was shifting in hues of dark blues and purples. Really, it was breathtaking and Katsuro lost track of time for a moment. Only when his steps took him in front of the black stag again did he remember where he was.
Without a word, Katsuro kneeled in front of the animal and bowed until his forehead touched the ground. He repeated the gesture three times before simply sitting seiza, his head lowered in respect. The stag took a few silent steps towards him and bowed his head in turn, his majestic antlers touching Katsuro's ethereal ones. An overwhelming sense of peace and calm flooded his mind and again, he lost all sense of time. He could stay here forever, among the spirits and the Kami he served... But then an image formed in his mind, someone he cherished, and-
Katsuro woke up with a gasp, only to find himself back in the bedroom within Theodore's embrace. The black man was looking at him fondly as he stroked his lover's cheek gently.
"Welcome back. How was your trip to the spirit world?" He asked almost in a whisper. Apparently this wasn't the first time he'd witness this.
Katsuro simply smiled at him. "Too brief, as usual. But I won't complain, as I always get to come back to you. And you're worth far more than anything the spirit world could ever offer me."
"Even immortality?" Theodore replied in the low rumble of his voice.
"What's immortality if you're not by my side? My only regret is that I can't show this place to you..."
Katsuro pulled himself closer to his lover and Theodore was but too happy to cradle the smaller man into his arms.
"It's okay, as long as you come back to me." He whispered into Katsuro's ear. "I'll always be right by your side, even when you go walk in the dark of night. I'll always carry your body back to the bedroom and keep you warm. And I'll wait, for how long it takes, for your soul to come back to it, to me."
"I promise I will, koibito. You're the most beautiful thing that ever happened in my life." Katsuro whispered before drifting to sleep, safely held into his lover's arms.