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Lycoris Radiata

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i.

From another lifetime, Kurapika has met the man in black.

He is winter, she thinks back then. Pale and preserved like ice, and like the cold, takes the breaths of the living through twelve white blades that slice through air, tear flesh and bone asunder, only with but a word. Human made blades, ruthless and blood-soaked as he. The Spider, they're called.

Despite leaving no phantom trail in the tragedy—not a footprint, not a hair—their shadow loom the desolate province regardless, like that of a curse that shall haunt it for a hundred years. However time fleets and the land forgets, but blood remembers.

We reject no one, so take nothing from us.

(She sees red, seethes red, screams for red—)

The snow falls into place, upon ashes and ruins of huts to clear its fading memory, as it has always done. The crows caw, hovering above, discontent of nameless bones and faceless rot. This, she knows, is a nightmare frozen in her heart. And it stops in a blink of an eon for the sight alone.

Then the earth is a blank canvas once more; ruined by decay and renewed with white frost. Death has come thus life is reborn, its design complete. The cycle repeats, endlessly.

The little girl has also withered, too, in the cold—in the ground that weeps of red—but the cycle persists still, when the soul lives for an eternity. This crimson is thicker than water and it bays for blood, as it flows through her veins and ignites her eyes aflame, alive, once again.

When the Spider bites its poison in her and vengeance stains and stays on her soul.


 

ii.

Yoshiwara is the embodiment of decadence.

Land of the rising moon. Waxing in silvery glory and waning into seamless darkness; efflorescence and corruption astride in each phase, flourish and fade like homophone—and in his nihilism, nothing in particular.

Kuroro draws circles in his ponderings, and admittedly, it is already out of habit. The district's glamor winks at him, dazzling and colorful, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes as they stare far ahead to the east and to the Spider.

The moon ascends to the threshold. The evening is many a man's mistress and the peak of a clandestine hour.

However this night is an opportune time for a heist.

A reunion, he mulls with slight mirth, in carnage is not so bad.

In the red womb of a prominent brothel, where lay the lords with their harlots and riches, the Spider does what it is best at—it dances in its slaughter, abound with a hundred slit throats and a thousand pillaged treasures. Here, Kuroro takes hold of the Yata-no-Kagami, which has been rumored to have been lost to a fire decades ago, and he finds it with wry amusement that such a sacred mirror is found in this whorehouse, from the hands of the lawless.

In an interval, he is intrigued of its authenticity, and in a blink, he thinks of its price.

That is until—

In his haze of thoughts, the midnight gale sings of discord as he finds himself near a window; its shoji screen cannot close the tempest, its painted pictures cannot save grace, and within its walls, the flash of moonlight and the flicker of a flame, cannot shroud the murder. Straggled limp and lifeless, Uvo is in the carpeted floor with chains noosed on his neck and a dagger stabbed through his chest.

The strongest leg has fallen—though who can? Certainly not the bleeding lord beside him. Not the servant or the warrior.

"It was me."

Gleaming maniacally in red from the lamp, the flower-woman speaks with a voice so fine and firm like the edge of a blade. One with conviction.

"He killed my lover," she reasons, her gaze on the dead servant—vindictive instead of mourning. "All of you killed my kin."

And a chrysanthemum has taken the life of his comrade. This loss shall remain great, leg or friend the scar of it embeds deeper than a flesh wound, than an age-old grudge, and if he is of hot-blooded nature like Nobunaga, he will have severed her head from her shoulders, though he surpasses bloodlust to a degree despite the lingering sentiment. His mind still invites grief. That, and a simple fascination.

She is beautiful, as she lay in heavy disheveled robes of blue and white and speckled blood, embroidered with gold trim and thread. Powder-white fingers trace the curve of a petal from patterned blossoms against silken folds that lap upon her wrists and bare feet. Golden hair drapes over her bared shoulders, tousled, jeweled hairpins askew, as they curtain melancholic eyes; a sunken beauty of a prostitute.

Perhaps, a transient beauty that lulls with sweet nights and nothings. Such has only provided superficial value. Lucrative in sensualism and adored by many to a fault. It is concealment, illusion, through pleasures and puckered lips. Like porcelain dolls.

But this woman is an exception. Instead of ceramic and bone, she is of flesh and iron with vicious eyes. Disgraced she may appear, there is a mesmeric insolence from that glare that pose of dauntlessness and danger—and red that smolders of unrelenting hate.

The specter eyes of a Kuruta from years ago.

It is a rare instance for him to appeal to such a thing. That familiar crimson blaze consumes him, and in his intrigue, he claims that beauty is terror.

It is then Kuroro decides to not take her life—not yet. An oiran is only ever good in bed. An expensive courtesan, too; however he is in no need to sell her for the artifact and the loot his Spider has stolen suffices. He contemplates because a Kuruta woman is too valuable to kill though the red truculence of her eyes promise to doom him. Calm pragmatism overrides him as he surmises of advantages, spurs potential to idea, and then finally, he sees a conclusion, cruel and twisted as it is.

The heathen and the murderer, that is he. But first and foremost, he is a thief.

So he takes her with him.


 

iii.

Is man born with the fatal flaw?

One which is etched within the entirety of his being, designed for his uniqueness, just as each cross stitched upon his palms.

In the old nobleman, she learns it from his loins. How he beseeches for desperate release and pleasures of flesh.

However he doesn't realize this shall be the ruin of him; the moment she wilts her robes to her feet

Kurapika lies through her teeth when she smiles and bares her charms. He turns blind from heady-scented throes of passion when he kisses her neck and he never notices that her eyes ever so gracefully flit to another. As he almost kneels before her upon silken sheets in worship and awe that moonlit night, he admits he wants her for himself and so proposes she be his little—whore—wife.

She kisses him but not a word leaves her lips. In his death on the bed they once shared, she kisses him for the last time without a word or a lingering sentiment.

In her lover, she learns it is his heart. It is the most beautiful thing about him. Such a large heart that can fill an entire sea, drive away the plague from the land, for a man who has so little.

(From his gentle embrace, he promises her, tonight, we'll runaway together. Together, she recollects—forgets, almost forgets the color of red.)

Crack. Fine china against wood. Crack. Pearls in ramble. Slash-slash-slash, chorus the voices of blades.

The silence of the room turns paper-thin, like that of torn panel blinds.

Hither, tragedy is astir—and the last laugh.

It is his valor that urges him to pick up a dagger—to protect you, save you at all cost—and it is his heart, struck by the blow of iron, that releases him from this life. He is foolish, sick with altruism, with love; it escapes him, that he is weak for his beloved.

(What of their tomorrows, when the night steers clear and the skies open for them at last? He dreams of being a healer, she a woman, at last.)

In the Spider's blade, she learns it is corrosion. And then she thinks: disease. Disease of hubris.

Plunging the cruel steel to his brawny chest, Kurapika discovers the monster's fatal flaw through the red of her eyes. Like the very veins that swell and stretch beneath the skin—to the heart. Yours for his, she whispers to him.

In her, she learns it through an encounter from chance and moonlight.

She, too, shall be devoured with disease, when revenge is as lethal as red and rises forth like a dying breath.

(The final words of her lover are deaf on her ears, when she fights and falls in her crusade. Live.)

I am selfish, she replies. I cannot.

In the man in black, she learns of opportunity.


 

iv.

"Am I a spoil?" she demands in cold fury—never asks. "Am I a prisoner?"

Her voice, sharp and silver, reverberates from the chains on her wrists. Shackled for her aggression, and in perfect metaphor, bound to him.

The metal sings in her grasp as she holds it in place. Those small hands are not of delicate wares; they are steel, made of the same skin of his deceased comrade, what has wrung him to his demise. He muses of how it should rust.

Clink, and she hollers.

"What am I?"

"You are a whore," Kuroro returns only with words that bite down her flesh. "If you wish to remain as one."

The teeth in his riposte have sunken bone-deep that what makes up for a wound is the lifeblood bleeding in her eyes. More precious than cut rubies, more poignant than stained camellia. Blood for blood, they sing in vermillion.

"That," he tells her, "or my ally, for the one you've killed."

That defiant grace is soon lost to vehemence, and her tongue weaves a string of diatribes as she thrashes about like a bird caught in a cage, eyes flaring as a rabid creature's. In her artlessness, virulence becomes elegance of a sort. How feral for one so refined.

Spiteful curses are empty, but with this woman—who remains nameless—Kuroro glances over the trail of each word that creeps like twine, slowly, intimately, and wraps around him, dripping of poison and something similar and irresistible. Death, perhaps.

"I'd rather die! I will never—never join you!"

Regardless of her refusal, his proposal is not a request. For a lost leg, she rightfully takes its place, whether willed or not. Under the Spider's web.


 

v.

He is the deathless and he carves his memory on her soul.

Kurapika may be branded, beaten, and broken—but she will never be his.

This life or the next.

She pledges it on her red eyes.

(She is not a Spider—she is not a Spider—she is not a—)

In the witching hour, the Spider glowers in her presence with venom on their fangs, threats with twelve legs crawling their way to her ears to make her quiver to her knees. Fear me, I will torture you to death, they say. Fear me, if you make a misdeed, they say.

Kurapika is not afraid. Such warnings matter little, and ironically, she feels solace in them. It reminds her that they are indeed monsters in human skin, just as they have been on that fateful day ago. So, she lets them continue on until she can almost hear their agonized cries in the wind when she rips them apart, limb by limb.

Amongst them, the rattling is simple to disregard, unmemorable as it is loud and livid, though the tinkle of chains clamors her ears still—and the Spider head, silent he remains, speaks to her with the resonance of a storm.

"You will," he foretells her. In that moonlit night for an eternity. On and on.

It clatters like the inescapable shackles on her wrists, the squelch from a knife driven to flesh—it might as well have been, regardless; this fate worse than death. However she refuses defeat as she grasps for revenge—the only purpose she still clings on this world—and from the very iron link that binds her to him, she swears to drag him down to the pits of hell.

Thus she bites onto the bitter fruit, the essence of its poison streaming in her veins, and for the price of the Spider's demise, she sells her soul.

The man in black beckons: "Come."

The pact is made and her destiny is twined with his. Behind them, a great fire purges Yoshiwara to ash.

No one stares back.


 

vi.

She is no chrysanthemum. She is but a red spider lily in the guise of pale gold.

A moment of curiosity might also be called a moment of attraction.

His hand touches a lock of her hair, almost tugs at it, before a hand slaps his away. Kuroro stares on his palm, empty-handed, but feels the lingering gold coil from his fingertips snare him to her—it does, somehow. It always has. Her resistance impresses him. Perhaps, in ways that tangles him to this damned allure.

"Don't you dream?"

She tells him, "I dream of killing the rest of you."

His eyes trail over the contour of her face and the mobile insolence of her neck. Dignified, graceful—poised in all manner of ruthlessness and resolution. Like the blue in her eyes, the color of the storm and the sea. This aristocratic beauty is but ethereal to the hideous sutures of deceit; the blue veins that lie within—and what he so wishes to hemorrhage in glorious red like that time ago. Red suits her more, he believes. Painted in passion.

Her hands close into fists, knuckles flushing white, and trembling, too, from the chains that tinkle of a million susurrations between the borders of I dream and killing the rest of you. She begins a war though cannot even win one within herself. Conflict won't save this soul.

And it won't do. It will be a pity to lose this woman.

"That's not a dream," Kuroro says calmly, testing waters. "But you could make this easier for yourself."

So he decides to lift her chin as one lifts another's resolve.

Hostility is her only language to him, and at this very moment, it is reiterated in the form of spit on his feet.

His fingers trace her jaw. "So be it."

He ponders over the taste of her lips. Should they be likened to poison?

When he captures them with his own, he doesn't expect disappointment. And spilt blood.


 

vii.

What lies within the darkness of his eyes one cannot describe, but in those depths, there is a faint echo of anticipation, boundless patience and preciseness, of which this enigma of a man commits religiously.

Emotion, however, he lacks, and does the beating of a heart exist from the sinewy shadow of his soul?

From that moment, Kurapika contemplates if he has lived in limbo for centuries—and yet hasn't, when time slips through his long spidery fingers like sand. He is always there, but he isn't; the shadow that passes through you but cannot be taken by a single glance.

In the light of this revelation, his presence is almost impossibly human and possibly inhuman. This makes him terrible—and in all walks of life, what is terrible inspires many a person's greatest fear and awe. This beautiful individuality, this dark charisma that creeps in mysterious ways, is a seduction of the soul and one succumbs to its will from the mere sight of it.

From the precipice, she ponders how she can reach the pitch-black half of the moon before the red tide washes her over the other shore.

Before she takes hold of something, gravity traitorously weighs her down to the earth and the pull of him between her legs makes her soar the universe in remarkable leaps. Twisting upon her hands, she feels the dark silk of the night, and her tongue, the taste of stars igniting. The world spins for him, stops for her at heaven's height, and then she falls—because she remembers.

In a heartbeat, she drowns from the sea of deep crimson. Remembers who she sings for in the moonlight. Remembers who she has to kill in the morning. In a breathless second, he sparks the life back to her lips, and she thinks she should be wringing him to his death than grasping for him, should be making him scream than fluttering out sighs. Sweet, wonderful sighs. Cursed breaths.

Kurapika tumbles to her feet again, and her back arches from the grace of a hand from her spine. They are in equilibrium—she denies this. She descends from the cosmos once more, her soul slipping from her fingers, until he meets her halfway again and again. Until the very constellations are marked on her body and she becomes one with his universe.

When she kisses him, the pulse in her veins rings in her ears, and she marvels the red smeared from his bottom lip. The coppery taste of him arouses her, angers her. Unperturbed, he delights on the blood on his mouth and licks it away—then plunges for more, more, more, and she is in delirium when she has sunken far too deep and flown far too high. Here, a little bit closer, a little bit whole, she is going up to the moon.

And they dance to finality till the seas turn black and the skies bleed crimson. The world ends with them.


 

viii.

Her hands wreathe on his neck and her gracile arms tie into one beautiful imitation of a noose.

Above him, she is a canvas of discoloration; white, stark naked and moon-kissed, black in his colors and gold-flecked in hers, and red—red as that of lilies blooming on her skin upon wrinkled sheets, and of scarlet eyes that smolder of life, and of rage, redemption, retribution.

All these painted pleasures are instances of starved fixation, wrought in desperation and tangled limbs, to exploit the other in the most exquisite form of ruin.

Submission is nonexistent in this impassioned affair; its question hinges on her.

"You're hesitating," Kuroro remarks, savoring her nails dig deep on his flesh. "Do I weaken your resolve?"

Her face contorts into a map of glorious fury with harsh lines, bared teeth, and red, red eyes that he desires to gouge out—almost, anyway, because these eyes are only ever lovelier when the owner is alive and condemned in wrath. Her hold tightens, and instead of a strangle, he thinks of a strange disfigured kind of caress.

"Never!" she hollers, marking bleeding crescents on his nape. "Damn you, never!"

There is a rare smile twisted on his lips. "Yet here we are," his hand cradles her cheek, nails grazing enough to scratch soft streaks of crimson on her skin. Like him, she doesn't flinch. "With your hands wrung at the cusp of my life," his thumb swerves gently to her lower lip, committing its shape, its taste, to memory, "and withdrawing like a fool."

She peels away a layer in her contempt and loathing. Skin-bare they may be, the one peeled open through the very soul is the woman straddling above him. His gaze lingers to her chest move into an almost unhinged drop-rise rhythm, each shallow breath laced with dark promise.

"This is," he says in a cruel mocking tone, "betrayal. Dishonor to your kin. Sparing their murderer day after day,"

Her iron grip on his neck turns to lead against his strength as he rises forth and leans to her ear, never minding the bite of her nails and the blood trickling down his spine. The final taunt slithers from his mouth in a dangerous whisper: "sleeping with him night after night."

Her hand lashes out like a whip, colliding against cheek—and then there is a loud crack, like a pulse in the quiet, and it is not from him receiving her brunt. His eyes find hers in a measured angle, trailing the hot tears that cut her face in half. Broken, he thinks and he almost feels a tremor of fear from the prospect of what could be. Blue, blue eyes of a broken doll; glassy, subdued, not red. Never belonging to the woman he adores.

And then she mutters: "Why?" it was a fragile tone. One with the sound of rent stitches, of festering scars that she miserably fails to conceal. It was before the fire returns back to her eyes, and once she opens her lips combusting of sparks and venom on each syllable, she comes back to him in all the wrong ways. With her heart just at the crook of her mouth. "Why are you doing this to me?"

Kuroro falls silent, too, in the midst of their confrontation.

So he does in a manner approach her in what he does know. When he leans forward smoothly, swiftly, he captures her lips with a softness she can only understand from tingles of just because. His arms wrap around her like a spider weaving its intricate web, bound just at the thread of his fingers on her neck. Tongue between her teeth, he presses further, and when his thumb brushes against her pulse, he muses of her mortality on his fingertips. A harsh squeeze to the throat and it all ends with a snapped neck.

Though he decides against it.

Words are stifled against locked mouths, reformed anew through fumbling gestures and unvoiced curses; hers in broken kisses and bloodstained nails and his in sweetened lies through a lover's touch. When he kisses away her tears, she reciprocates with a soft mutter: "Murderer," when he spreads her legs apart, she claws on his chest with a hiss: "Monster."

"Yes," is all he can say, as his hot palms grasp on her rocking hips while her fingers crawl their way to his hair, denting his scalp with the livid memory of her in precious red seams scarring across the surface of his thoughts. Then there is this friction between them, monstrous, consuming in waves of ecstasy building, betraying over and over again. Until they are undone.

The scrape of her teeth, the blade in her lips, and these chains on their grappling hands in lieu of an inseparable red string is what they all have to offer—is what he can expect of her. There is miasma on their mouths, a hint of blood and a shadow of what used to be desire, morphed into something foul and ravenous, leaving this bitter, bitter taste on their tongues. Regardless, it was intoxicating. What they have, how they can bring the worst out of each other.

As she arches her back blissfully, still in steady rhythm, with her hair wild and untamed as a flame—she is divine. Blessed red eyes and blasphemous lips of I hate you I hate you I hate you.

In the height of their passion, she cries out his name. It is so simple to make her his, body and soul, in surrender. However, he thinks, do I?

Kuroro contemplates of crimson fire, and if it ceases to burn and spite, there is no brilliance left to admire. If the very flair of her is to be extinguished, what value is a possession of his?

He arrives to the conclusion that this is the better choice. That there is beauty in the unattainable. Thus, she can never be his. Let her hate inflame her, though let her purest hate only be devoted to him. That, at least, should suffice—when he can still have something from her.

As he kisses her fervently, he promises to never mutilate her perfection.


 

ix.

The time Kurapika becomes honest with herself she brings death to the both of them.

It cuts through in the pale light of dawn, from the tousled sheets, just at the single streak of sweat dipping down her spine. She shivers, from the thought of spidery fingers that promise of subtle caresses—the feel of them imprinted on her flesh. Repulsion, she claims. However not from these sensations but of the treacherous ache it excites within her. It's disturbing, the way he knows more about her body than her years in a brothel.

From the bronze mirror, she imagines the socket-less specters dancing around the room behind her and not that vile bastard. She shudders out a breath in hopes that she can exhale these wretched sentiments as well.

(She reminisces the glow of moonlight, the glistening sheen from the brow, skin and breath upon tatami—)

Half hidden by her golden hair is a bruise in the shape of his mouth on her neck though all she can recall is his tongue and teeth and whisper. Remember. Bruises heal but his cannot; his are permanent, the moment his incisors graze onto her and pieces of him are indented on her soul. She attempts to retrieve the memory of her past lover with kisses so meaningful and clumsy although she struggles because even his face is overshadowed with another's—unblemished, undead, skin like ivory . . .

How long has it been? She ponders in a quiet moment of forlornness. How much more will you take away from me?

(She remembers long pale hands—warm, calloused, almost-human—that gently trail the slope of each curve into an embrace—)

Kurapika closes her eyes in resignation.

"I pray not to die until my desire won't come true."

Her mind becomes faint, and as she trembles to her very core, she hacks a cough of bloody petals. It is hot and volatile as it trickles down from her palm, mocking her as it curls on her tongue. Coppery and bitter—disease-eaten. Terminal.

From the smear on her mouth, she comprehends that red tastes of mortality.

(She reminds herself of how time is a measly thing when he kisses her temple and utters: "sleep" and she assures him, she shall—even in this shared room where morning almost never comes.)


 

x.

"You forget", she says to him; the world eclipses into gloom and shadow. "I can never be yours for I belong to time."

Kuroro laughs at this. "Don't we all?"

She loses her voice, but the silence alone speaks in volumes. The imminent fatality lingers, smothers their mouths, as one will claim them with its own, and the chains on their little fingers threaten to drag the other.

All comes back to light. With it, the parting of her lips.

"Your present will always be eternal."

Unspoken they remain, the words echo as if they are uttered, nonetheless.

"You are meant to revel in your legacy. But what of I? No one shall remember me. Even you."

As long as his Spider thrives, his name is made of obsidian. Hers, however, of rust.

His thumb slides to the soft skin beneath her eye. Slowly, up to her long lashes. Gold tinged crimson.

How long will this last?

Until she shrivels.


 

xi.

"Tell me," Kurapika demands, her voice a fortress built around the force of lies; a mockery of dignity, she scoffs, that is bound to collapse. "Why I remain here still," she ponders over her fingers that press onto sheets as pale as snow, as ash against the blackened earth—somehow, hoping she could dig deep enough to find the old bones of her kin: ". . . with you?"

Death is her lover and he keeps her close to his ivory bed. She sits on the edge, leaning near the fall, however she refuses when her back is turned away from his eyes and she gives the both of them the illusion of adamancy. Even though there is almost none in this shared room, and he can simply strip her of it as a libertine sheds his woman's clothes.

"You are a replacement for the one the Spider has lost," she knows this already—but she always asks, just before the moon rises high and the tide comes for her. She nearly recoils back when he runs his knuckles gently up her spine. "That," a wintry breath to the shoulder, "or perhaps something much more, isn't it?"

This time, he questions her because she pretends there is. That there is more when his large palm seeks for warmth beneath her robes.

"No," she denies. "I am but the death of you."

"Are you now?"

The casual disregard of his tone insults like a wound.

"Don't dare mock me," she seethes, boiling under the façade of delicate beauty.

"I apologize," is his placid response, untouched and unaffected. "What is it that you want?"

Your demise. You and your Spider's.

However she forces her tongue to curl back the words, just at the point-end of her teeth, and she inhales, lips quivering. "Tell me one thing, honestly, and I shan't ask for another," she discloses in a soft voice. "What do you see in me?"

He stops for a beat, a contemplative hum reverberating from his throat. "In you, there is strength—power," there is only honest admiration in his voice, a reverence that can make one's chest swell and burst. His knuckles draw slow small circles at the base of her back, its fingertips pining for skin. "Grace," he continues, the simple word spoken like a loving caress, and then intimately, adoringly: "Beauty."

Kurapika draws in a shuddering breath, and then she mutters in her bemusement: "do you love me?"

She can almost feel him wryly sneer. "You only said to answer one."

"Then remain silent."

His fingers slithers to her throat, thumb stroking its length. "I don't," he admits, anyway. There is a brush of lips against her ear. "And you?"

Finally, she turns to him, her eyes searching for his in its familiar blaze. "Never."

If there is fire in her irises, they are swallowed in its entirety by his glance. There is an abyss there and it gapes its wide mouth into a smile at the sight of her. "Then . . . I suppose you like to fuck the corpse of a woman," she breathes out as he touches her in the manner many a woman wish to be touched. The lust and loathing starts, screams from her mons, as his face lingers to her neck. He plucks away the golden trinkets on her hair, her silken sash, and then her robes.

He murmurs to her throat, "You're not a corpse," his ashen lips drink the heat of her flesh, trailing a path up to her jaw and then her chin. His hand almost threatens a hold onto her heart as its palm lays flat above her chest, and it speaks, too, of a promise: not now.

"I am," this time, she whispers between their starved mouths. "I shall be."

He kisses her deeply, but she knows the gentleness is a lie when he smothers her in telltale passions of anger—of grief and loneliness, the dread of a barren world without her. There is no solace in their union, only destruction, only desperation, wound in each other's arms. "You can't save me," she whimpers with open legs and a gouged heart, "when you're still alive." Her nails pierce onto the skin of his pulse and scratches. He bleeds, and it doesn't quite taste like that of ichor. It is tainted, it is human—that is what she wants, what she needs, and after she gives in to a wail, everything else around them for a second is in quiet desolation.

In the morning, she stains her lips with poison, thick and blood-red.

One day, she consoles. This shall pass.

It burns on her throat. There is a sting in her eyes, and from the most irredeemable conscience of her soul, beneath the cage of her ribs . . .

Kurapika reasons it from the dull throb and the filth in her circulation.

(End it, he whispers to her ear.)

Naught more.


 

xii.

The keisei title she once bears becomes one with her, the castle-toppler.

With a gaze, she destroys a castle. With another, she destroys a kingdom.

And when she seals his lips with a kiss, he is doomed.

Here, where the gentle stream turns as their witness, she lay afloat from the banks; he standing beside her with poison smeared on his mouth, tasting the final remnants of her life from the tip of his tongue. He swallows the bitterness from his throat, the sear of her mouth as they have smothered his—until its imminent parting, leaving ashes and embers on his teeth.

Kuroro traces the livid scorch on his lips, marveling over the haunting rawness that ghosts there. She has been so beautiful alive, starved for wretched vengeance with the gleaming red in her eyes; when she has stood next to him in this river embodying pure resolve, ruined and resplendent beneath the bleeding sun. Her commitment has shone through then in the brilliance of a dying pyre.

Her hellish flames consume what it touches, his Spider, her body, and him in the heart of it all.

Despite that, he can never bring himself to hate this wrathful woman. "You've only done your part," he whispers with foreign sentiment, caressing the soft swell of her cheek. Mortal, he notices, and eventually: cold.

Her body could have drowned below moments ago though it remains above the surface, where her likeness meets her pallid skin; unburied, like a memory that refuses to be forgotten. He loves and hates the image of her like this, so true and fair to her fateful promise and demise.

I want to be the last person you see before you die, he reminisces her last words, blood on her pained smile. I want you to remember.

Kuroro abides to her wish. Soon, he will follow her, anyway.

He presses his mouth to hers again, lingering a second more. Death's kiss is only ever lovely from her lips.

He muses wistfully if this shall happen when a spider drinks the sweet nectar of a higanbana.

He smiles.

Eventually, he falls beside her, adrift, too, in his resignation to fate. Alongside the hematic lilies, the river runs red, tastes of salt and oblivion. Here, he pores over her like pale gold—till the final fatal end.

Until the next, his life is hers in this lifetime.