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19 April 2009 @ 01:48 am
640 words; Kaida, August of 302. G. No specific prompt, just general love of angst. Cross-posted to my personal journal.

In the slow-waking dawn, Kaida left the dampness of the house and went barefoot to the pond. The air outside was dry and tepid, and the water lay black under the green sky, the stars still slowly fading. The grass was prickly and cool against her callused feet. She sat under the weeping sakura, its long branches and delicate leaves motionless in the receding night. The house servants were asleep, still; they didn’t wake until the sky was the gradient yellow of a ripening peach. Her mother woke later, when the red morning sunlight began to brush the tallest of the nearby trees.

Her mother did not walk anymore. She had the strength to sit up, and on some days she could stand for a few minutes, but she was too sick for the morning patrol that she had liked to exact during Kaida’s childhood. Instead, she kept the servants busy cleaning and tending the house, cooking the meals, making errands into town. Sometimes Kaida went with them, offering her strong arms when the day’s groceries were heavy, but she stayed out of the way of the other household affairs.

The servants no longer knew how to approach her, it seemed. They addressed her with due respect, but Kaida was not the girl that they remembered. She had left for a war that was not her business, and had dared to return when even the men of the household had not. She was not a son, not the master of the house, but she was not a proper daughter, either. She wore men’s clothing and didn’t need the women to help dress her; she kept to the dojo, mostly, or tended the new pair of graves in the yard, replacing the burned incense when it smoldered down to nothing and laying down fresh flowers when the old ones had withered.

She knew, lowering her eyelids against the slow brightening of the sky, that it was too early to get flowers and incense from the market, but these days, she woke early and could not recapture sleep. She lay back on the roots of the old, coiled tree and let her hair splay loose over the moss, stretching out her legs and dipping her toes in the pond.

The sky was slowly turning, green to cool cyan to grassy yellow, with a suggestion of salmon-pink just above the horizon. She could hear the servants beginning to move about, the prim, industrious footsteps and the muted jostling of ceramic from the kitchen. Her mother would be up soon, the thin voice listing through the open window, naming what she wanted from the market and asking if Kaida was awake; some mornings, when she was particularly tired and her illness flared, she asked for Katorou and wept when she remembered that he was dead.

Kaida turned her head and watched as the glow behind the horizon intensified; she watched the tips of the far-off trees flush with red, and heard the branches above her head begin to sway as the sun’s heat nudged the first morning breeze. She waited for the familiar voice to come slipping through the window, waited for the servant to check and see if Kaida was out by the pond so early again. But the red light inched down the trees and slowly mellowed, the brightness of real dawn began to blaze golden on the distant hills, the sky faded to airy blue, and still she heard nothing. Finally, as the sun’s gleaming disk came clear from the hills entirely, she heard the frantic voices, male and female, from the open window; alarmed, distraught, one sobbing. She could not discern individual words; she didn’t need to.

Kaida stared upwards, a cold numbness hitting the pit of her stomach. The weeping sakura shivered in a sudden breeze, and then was still.