Title: Longing 3: The Sunset Road - Chapter 1

Author: Befanini
Website: http://www.fanfiction.net/~befanini

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no rights whatsoever. For melancholy daydreaming purposes only.

Rating: T for language. Shounen-ai.

Summary: "All I have are the ashes… one small spark from your glow."

A/N: Dedicated to Santuary of Darkness and mangamama for their invaluable help. You guys are the greatest. Thank you.

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Prologue

"Loss as muse. Loss as character. Loss as life." – Anna Quindlan

XxXxX

He jolted awake, covered in cold sweat. Which was damn strange, considering he had fallen asleep with the windows open, and the room was freezing. Shivering, he jumped out of bed and quickly shoved the windows shut.

And stood there, transfixed, gazing out at the blood-red sun sinking in the horizon. Apprehension and a wild urgency gripped him, and inside him his heart twisted painfully. His head dropped against the window frame with a sharp crack. He slammed his eyes shut and gave a fierce shake of his head. No. God, no. He tasted blood, and realized that his teeth were clenched tightly on his lower lip.

And then he turned and bolted, and heaved his guts out.

… When the message arrived, summoning him to Kinzan Temple, he was long gone.

XxXxX

"If we must part forever,

Give me but one kind word to think upon

And please myself with, while my heart's breaking."

-- Thomas Otway

XxXxX

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I want to walk into the light

Day has turned cold, so hold back the night

What will become of you and I

We had a dream, don't let it die

Just hold back the night

Do you want to be my dying day

My darkest hour

My overdose

Coz that's what you'd be

Just hold back the night

"Hold Back The Night", Sinead O'Connor

Chapter 1

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"Maybe all we can do is hope to end up with the right regrets." – Arthur Miller

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XxXxX

He sat by the window, watching the road with faded purple eyes. Below him, in the afternoon sunshine, the monks' training reached his ears as if from a great distance. He shivered a little, absentmindedly pulling his robes closer around him; but even the bitter cold of winter failed to really touch him, to make any great impression.

His body was a mere shell, now more so than ever. Even in his prime he had had no great attachment to it, had always felt surprise and a faint irritation at the attention that his looks drew from everyone around him. Often when he had glimpsed his image he was mildly shocked to behold the almost-ethereal looking creature gazing back at him. The deceptively frail-looking, perfectly sculpted body, lean and strong; the shock of light hair the color of burnished gold; the pale skin that seemed to be made of moonlight; the face of a fallen angel… and those piercing violet eyes that belonged to a dead man. Only his eyes felt like they belonged to him. The rest seemed to be a mockery of how he really felt inside. The beautiful face concealing a wasted, tainted soul.

But a soul that was strong. Yes, even now. Now that his body looked more like a wraith than ever, his spirit shone through. Always he had been defiant, cursing even the gods, spitting at the path that life had chosen for him. Whatever the shackles that life had chained him with, his spirit remained rebellious and daring. If I must live this life, then live it I shall… and always on his own terms, nobody else's.

That was how he had always been. It had sustained him, when his world fell apart, that rainy night that his Master had died. That one night when he was literally rendered immobile, by the Master himself. Helpless against the binding spell that Koumyou Sanzo cast on him, he could do nothing but watch in horror as his world was stained crimson. That was the first and last time that anybody had held him against his will. That was when the fierce, independent spirit had fired within him. From my birth to my death…

Yes, even when he had found himself in that black abyss, that day so long ago now – when he had set out to fulfill the promise he had made to himself with all the ardor and passion of boyhood – even then he had been strong. Hell, in a perverse way it took a different kind of strength, a sick kind of courage, to take your own life. Anyone who said suicide was just cowardice didn't know shit. He had thought it back then, and he still believed it now. It took immense guts for any poor soul to forsake all hope, to give up all faith, to choose nothingness. He smirked, the perfect, cynical lips curling ironically. Such a fool he was back then, yes, a fool… but no coward. A strong fool, but never a coward.

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"No coward soul is mine, no trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere." – Emily Bronte

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Below him, the monks had long finished with their training and were now engaged in evening prayers. The fact dawned on him belatedly, fleetingly, but he was beyond such trivialities now. He had already chosen his successor, and that favored one even now was acting in his stead. The actual ceremony of passing on the title remained a mere formality waiting to take place. Waiting to take place when he…

He shifted, shaking off the intrusive thoughts. Not yet. By all the gods who had never really impressed him, not god DAMN yet.

There was still time… some time yet, to remember. Yes, to look back, sitting in the shadows, in blessed peace and quiet, with the bakazaru away on the errand he had sent him.

Time to reminisce. It was all he had left, the memories. It actually surprised him now that not all of them were bitter. He had been so jaded, so young and foolish; and back then he saw life stretching out before him like a long, weary path that he had no choice but to tread.

How strange, to now find himself on the other side, and looking back with more fondness than resentment. How strange, to recall that he had actually laughed, and smiled, and enjoyed himself, despite it all. How strange to find that behind the cold mask he had worn all the years of his life… there beat a heart that had loved.

Yes, he loved them, after all. His companions on the journey, and later his lifelong friends. His family. He had loved them. He loved them.

The infernally annoying creature who had been a constant thorn in his side from the first time he had called out soundlessly to him, and he had gone to answer the call of that wretched being rumored to be imprisoned in that cave for five hundred years… The innocent soul who was bound to him with invisible, unbreakable threads, with whom he shared a history that seemed older than time itself… He loved him.

The sinner with the gentle face, and the soft voice and the quiet smile and the kind nature… The healer without whose calming influence they would have all killed each other on the Divine Mission, so long ago… His friend, whom he read books with, argued philosophy with, and science, and theology, and all manner of subjects under the sun… The tragic man he had rescued and redeemed… He loved him.

Ah, and the bane of his life, from the moment the bastard had opened his door and those startling red eyes had branded him forever, and kindled an inferno in his soul that would not be denied… The maddening rogue who had tortured and teased and tormented, all the long journey west, and made his life a living hell… and had shown him heaven on earth with a single earth-shattering kiss, that bleak and hopeless day… The redheaded rascal who inflamed him, whose unquenchable lust for life reignited the desire to go on inside his own heart.

The incorrigible, irreverent, tempestuous daredevil who was, perversely, his soul mate – with their defiance, with their arrogance, with their stubborn spirit that refused to cower in the face of all the bullshit that life threw their way… The Taboo child, who was his forbidden, secret passion… in whose arms he had capitulated with a force equal only in intensity to the fight and resistance he had put up at the beginning… He loved him.

And he needed him now. It was time. He needed them all.

The faded purple eyes, dim and clouded with age, shone softly in the shadows as they watched the road; the setting sun a ball of pulsing, liquid fire gently lighting the snow-covered path a golden hue.

It was time.

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