“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” – Haruki Murakami
Rouge stared at the roiling clouds, dark and ominous, lightning crackling between them as thunder roared.
“You’re certain?” Roger asked, even though Rouge could tell from the wide grin on his face, that he already knew her answer.
“Yes,” she said anyway, answering his smile with one of her own.
Rouge didn’t mean to leave her boy. She didn’t regret dying for him – never, she’d do it again in a heartbeat, over and over, as many times as it took for him to live – but she didn’t mean to leave him. She’d choose to remain by his side if she could.
And she could.
She was a D after all, and while she was not as well traveled as Roger had been, he kept no secrets from her. He told her all he knew, all he learned, all the old secrets lost to time and the toils of men long dead but still fearful of the bearers of their will. All the knowledge the world whispered in his ear. Death was the end of one thing and the start of another, and those with the name D had always met Death face to face with a ready smile on their lips and a laugh in their eyes.
The lines weren’t as clear cut as most would believe. There were bridges, places where the lines blurred and the rules could be bent. Most people didn’t know and those that did had little reason to bother. Ds though, they bothered whatever they felt like. They had no need for lines and rules were little more than polite suggestions.
And Rouge was a D.
She was born a D and she most certainly died a D and Roger had beamed at her when she opened her eyes that first time, full of pride and love and not a single ounce of regret despite his wish for her to live. And Roger knew her, knew that even though she chose her death, there was still one regret that lingered in her heart. So he told her of the bridges back, of the toll she would have to pay.
“Come with me?” she asked.
Roger smiled at her and there was no sadness in he eyes even as he refused. “I’ve lived my life without regret, my dear,” he told her, “Besides, I’ll be here when you return.”
Rouge laughed, having expected nothing less. “You’d better be.”
Roger laughed with her. “Look after our boy, Rouge. Make sure he lives.”
Rouge leaned up and gave him a long, lingering kiss, the same kind he always gave her before returning to the sea. “As if I’d let him do anything less,” she murmured against his lips.
She turned from him and he squeezed her hand one last time before letting go as she walked toward the towering figure that had been watching them the whole time. They were cloaked and hooded, face obscured even as they loomed over her, nearly three times her height. They were silent and still and Rouge felt the weight of their gaze fall heavily on her shoulders. She stared right back, refusing to be swayed from her course, as she stepped up to stand beside them. The figure looked pointedly at the raging tempest before them and then turned to her.
“Can you withstand the storm?” they asked in a voice that was both old and young.
“I am the storm,” she answered without hesitation and, squaring her shoulders, she stepped into the howling wind