Leavetakings and ArrivalsA fic by Dare
Part 1: "Sayonarra Ahlen-san"
A blade is only as good as its wielder. That was the first lesson Ahlen's sensei had taught him. The finest blade, forged by the greatest craftsman, tempered with the strongest steel, could be nothing more than an oversized toothpick in unexperienced hands.
Ahlen recalled these wise teachings as he practised his sword forms. He moved the blade through the air effortlessly. Beads of sweat trickled down his shirtless body.
Beside him was Kimiko. Clad in a workout top and cut-off tights, she practised her forms too. Unarmed, Kimiko could be a lethal weapon. She was one of the top female martial artists around. But she, like any other person, always needed practise. And so the brother/sister team known as Ahlen and Kimiko Souichi practised their arts, side by side.
The sun set over the tree-line of St. John's park. They trained for two hours before resting on a nearby park bench, under a lamp-post. Kimiko drained the water from her bottle while Ahlen chomped on a popsicle that a local vendor was selling on his bike.
"How can you have that stuff after practice?" asked Kimiko.
"What's wrong with it? It gives me a lot of energy." Ahlen eyed the popsicle that now had a big chomp-mark in it before giving another bite on the other side.
"There's nothing good, no vitamins, no nothing," contested Kimiko. "It's just ice and sugar flavouring." She shook her head, stretching her arms along the back of the bench.
"My .. er.. embolism--"
"Metabolism," she corrected.
"Yeah, meta-bolism," Ahlen continued, "must be different on this world, allowing me to eat lots of yummy stuff like this." He licked the half-eaten popsicle.
A breeze passed through the park, blowing Kimiko's hair and the sleeveless shirt Ahlen had put on after training.
The distinct sound of footsteps were heard. Kimiko craned her head left and right to see who was approaching. The footsteps got louder and yet she saw no one.
"Ahlen," a voice said.
Ahlen took the last bite off the popsicle quickly and tossed the stick into the garbage can. Standing at ready, he pulled Mizu no Heiwa free of its plain sheath. Kimiko stood at ready as well.
A gust of wind blew through again. Kimiko's eyes narrowed. She could see the wind. It was a dull gray. And it swirled around the sounds of the footsteps. From the currents of the gray wind, it formed a dark shape, roughly someone's height. Kimiko blinked. No, it was actually someone! The features began to form, long hair, slender body, curved chest. A woman. The features became more and more distinct as it walked closer and closer.
Finally, the woman materialized completely and unmistakably.
Ahlen dropped his sword.
Kimiko Souichi stared at the reflection of herself. The woman standing before them was exactly her image, except for dark, raven black hair. Every other feature was identical. Even the voice as she spoke.
"Ahlen-san," the Kimiko-reflection said. She turned to Kimiko. "Kimiko-san."
Ahlen rushed to her immediately and fell to one knee. "Onee-sama?! How is this possible?" He reached out to touch her. Instead, his hand passed through her arm. A cold, biting sting hit him as it did. He recoiled back sharply.
"Ahlen-san, you shouldn't touch the spirit of the dead. It's bad luck." Her face was completely serene. It was how he last remembered her before she died.
"Sp-spirit?" stuttered Ahlen. Kimiko stood silently, words lodged in her throat.
"Yes, Ahlen," she confirmed. "You're not imagining things, I am the spirit of your sister." She paused. "Do you know the significance of seeing the spirit of a loved one?"
Ahlen's mouth felt dry but he recalled what the stories said. The return of spirit of a close relative or loved one was considered bad luck, at least on his world. He nodded his head gravely.
The Kimiko-spirit gave a visible sigh, eyes closed in pain. "I don't want to do this, Ahlen. I've seen how happy you are here and how you've moved on. But I have no choice in the matter."
Another gust of wind blew through the park. A cold wind.
"Ahlen Souichi, you cannot remain on this world."
"WHAT?!" Ahlen burst out.
"Let me explain, Ahlen and you will understand." She turned to Kimiko. "This concerns you too. It is because all of us, all three of us are connected. By that sword."
Ahlen picked up Mizu no Heiwa carefully and gave it a good look over. It was a curved blade, nothing interesting about it. It was well made, incredibly light and well-balanced. The handle was plain, as was its scabbard. But he knew there was something more to that sword. Ever since the duel at the Magical Convention with Shiori and how the sword actually saved his life.
"As blademasters in training, several years back," the Kimiko-spirit explained, mostly to Kimiko, "we were sent out on quests to build character and strength. These quests aren't just ordinary ones. Destiny shapes what happens on these quests. My quest was very strange and I've not told anyone about it, not even to Ahlen.
"For you see, my quest was, literally 'out of this world'. I travelled in my world for many weeks when I encountered a strange light. The light enveloped me and transported me to another world. A world relatively young but rich with culture and diversity. I came to this world. And it was on this world that my quest truly began.
"But that wasn't all. Kimiko, you are a historian, by education. How many years ago was what your people term, 'Feudal Japan'?"
Kimiko thought for a moment. "My god, that was several hundred years ago. Maybe even a thousand."
"Yes. I was time-displaced. Unlike Ahlen, who ended up in your time, I ended up centuries before. I journeyed these lands, not unlike the ones from my world where I trained with Ahlen. And here I embarked on an incredible journey that gave me that sword.
"What happened? How did you get the sword?" The questions came out quickly.
"That is... unimportant. Even I cannot reveal that, but neither of you need to know. At this time. But there is something you will need to know Ahlen. That sword isn't from our world. It didn't belong there. Your coming to this world was no accident. Destiny had a hand in your travel. The sword was meant to return to this world, to its rightful owner. And now that you are here, your task is finished. And I am to bring you back home.
"Wait a minute," Ahlen said with an upraised hand. "Rightful owner? I've not giving the sword to anybody. Aren't we the rightful owners?" He motioned between himself and his dead sister's spirit.
"And what does this have to do with me?" Kimiko asked.
"Kimiko Souichi, you must wonder why we look so alike."
Kimiko shrugged. "I assume because you're my duplicate from another world.
The Kimiko-spirit shook her head. "No, that's not true. The reason why we look alike, is because I am your ancestor."
"When I came to your world, I met a man. A brave warrior. He was a ronin, a wandering samurai with no master. He was an honorable man and I loved him much. We had a son. He knew of my origins and knew that I would not be able to raise him. So, in a switch of tradition, he adopted my last name instead. And he created a new tradition. The Souichi family line vowed to pass my name on to every firstborn girl. You are the fifth Kimiko Souichi to bear that name.
Ahlen raised the sword. "That would mean--?"
"The sword is hers, by right of direct bloodline."
The Chobetsu agent stuttered for words but found none. Ahlen gave the sword a final look over before sheathing it. Reversing it in his palms, he grabbed it midlength. He walked to Kimiko calmly and held out the sword firmly.
Kimiko stared at him wide-eyed, not sure how to react. He nodded, urging her to take the sword. Hesitantly and slowly, she raised her two hands. Ahlen dropped the blade and scabbard into her grasp.
"And now the blade has returned to its rightful owner," the Kimiko-spirit announced. "Ahlen, your task on this world is done."
"No, wait!" protested the blademaster. "Please, I want to stay here with her. Can't I? Onee-sama?"
She shook her head gravely. "The spirits that guide even myself cannot allow it and I am bound to return you to our world. Please don't argue, just this once Ahlen. It is the hardest thing I have to do."
Ahlen slumped to the ground, tears dripping down his cheeks. "But there's nothing back there for me. Why do I have to go back?"
A bright light filled the park suddenly. A circular rift of white energy appeared, blinding Kimiko and Ahlen. When it subsided, and their eyes readjusted to the dark sky, a new figure appeared.
She was tall, slender as well. Her hair was flaming red and eyes sparkled emerald green.
"Hi, Ahlen," the young woman greeted.
"LYTA!" He was too stunned to even bother trying to reach her.
Lyta Fireheart turned to the Kimiko-spirit. "I have another option, one think would satisfy them." She referred to the higher-spirits that bounded Kimiko's spirit. "And you know what it is, don't you?"
The Kimiko-spirit nodded. She stood silently for a moment, eyes closed. Finally, she opened them. "They agree that this option is valid."
"Wait, wait," Ahlen called out. "What's going on?"
Lyta walked to the squatting Ahlen and mussed his hair. Her touch was real and warm. He took her hand in his quickly and brought it to his face, giving it a kiss. "So real," he said softly.
"Ahlen, you can't stay here on this world, but you don't want to return. What if I told you I can take you to the dream-realm?"
The tears flowed freely once again. Kimiko was still shocked as to what was happening. She stood with the sword in hand and watched as Ahlen's dead sister and now this strange woman was appearing out of nowhere, both wanting to take him away.
Ahlen nodded, clenching his eyelids tightly to hold back the tears. Tears of joy and tears of sorrow. With Lyta's hand still in his, he approached Kimiko.
"Onee-sama, this is Lyta Fireheart," he introduced.
Kimiko reached out the shake the girl's other hand. Instead her hand passed right through, shimmering.
Ahlen was surprised at first but let it go. There was certainly a special connection between him and Lyta that allowed this physical touch. He continued, sobbing a little. "This is Lyta, the love of my life," he said squeezing her hand to emphasize his feelings. "I met her when I went on my quest, and I.. I.." he couldn't continue from the sobs.
"He saved my life in a way you'll never know or understand or think possible," Lyta finished for him. "But, as events would have it, I became trapped in what is called the dream-realm, unable to return to the physical world. I've watched Ahlen from there, and often times his dreams touch my realm and we meet."
"And now he can go back with you?" Kimiko asked. Lyta nodded. Kimiko took Ahlen's shoulders. "Ahlen, go! I know, I can tell from your eyes how much she means to you. This is what you've been wanting for a lifetime, isn't it? I can take care of myself, Ahlen."
He reached out and embraced her tightly. "Thank you, Kimiko," he said her name for the first time, in tears. "I love you."
"I love you too, otouto-chan. Iya, Ahlen Souichi."
They held eachother for a moment more before letting go. Kimiko wiped a stray tear from her cheek. She smiled. "Hey, you know what? You're my great-uncle!" They laughed at the absurdity of that.
Lyta took Ahlen's hand. "It's time to leave, Ahlen." He squeezed her hand again and nodded. The bright rift of white energy formed again behind them.
Ahlen was a mix of emotion. He had to say goodbye to his sister twice. Once from death and another time forced to go. At least, he felt, he said goodbye on better terms.
The Kimiko-spirit watched interestedly. She knew Ahlen was purposely avoiding her gaze. He already had said his farewells to her that fateful day in battle. There were no more farewells left between the two. She watched as Ahlen stepped back into the white rift with Lyta by his side. She smiled. He would be happy, truly and eternally.
Ahlen gave Kimiko one last smile before the white rift of light and energy winked out of existence. Kimiko dropped to the ground, awash with emotions. The tears came down now as she finally accepted what had happened. She wiped the moisture away and noticed the Kimiko-spirit was still standing there.
"Granddaughter," the Kimiko-spirit said, "the sword is your legacy. It is your family history. I didn't tell Ahlen but you should know. It was his sword. The man that I met on this world. I don't know where he got it from, but it holds great power and within it, it's true story. Perhaps one day the sword will tell it to you. Guard it well, granddaughter. There are those who know of its power too and will fight for it. I know your family no longer trains in our ancient artform, but I've seen the warrior you've become. You don't need to learn how to use the sword. It takes care of its own.
The Kimiko-spirit, having finished its final task, gave a deep bow. Kimiko returned the bow. The spirit slowly faded away, features became less distinct, more blurred. Slowly the spirit faded into the gray mass of wind until the figure was no more. The gust of wind blew away once more, taking it away faded memories.
[To be continued]