Restless, boundless, infinite,
Murmured intonation of the heart,
Drifting upon the starlit sky,
Immersed, suffocated, the idle dreams,
Graceful moments of fallen strife,
Everlasting, the spirit wept,
Frozen spirit she remained,
Drowning...beneath the endless depth
Silent, pure, the heart abstained,
Spinning, the silk wheel, never ceasing to spin, to spin
Or so she thought...until...until...
Her fingers grasped, squeezing the frail fabric. Her eyes moved lightly, half open, half closed. Her breath held, rapt with attention within the mist of dreamlike haze. Nothing but the cold breeze rustling above through the whistling edges of bamboo leaves in the thousand year old forest.
Could it be a dream?
How could that be? Was it possible?
Eyes softly opened, blinking, once, twice, skimming over the sparkling starlight, to the bright glowing moon of winter night. Hope...clinging, clung, half her lifetime spent...
Was it a dream?
It couldn’t just be a sweet reverie. It was not. She knew it was not. The tone, timbre was different. It was deeper, yet it was the same. Words...whispered, spoken. The same breath they held.
There it was…it couldn’t be....how could it be?
She had dreamed, oh, she had dreamed for so long. The countless cold nights, alone, with no soul in sight, when her mind drifted away, to the realm of subconsciousness. Lucid dreams which granted her wishes. To gaze upon a vision of him, his face...his voice. The soft lingering touch that was no more, yet the tingling sensation he left behind remained, ingrained into her flesh. Whispering words of tantalizing softness, lightening her burdened spirit; drawing her away from the depths of the wrenching hell of existence.
Words she longed to hear…to capture...had treasured.
How long had it been? Days...months...years? 30,000 years?
But it was more. She had waited much more than uncounted rising moons. She had waited, waited for the eternal passing of time to end, foolish that she was. Immortality...the curse of longevity...existence of endless suffering, which could crumble even a soulless heart.
Spiritless, she rose, ignoring the freshly bandaged injuries on her shoulders, the ones he had bound moments before. Blindly, her hands reached for the crow carved dagger still strapped to her outer garments strewn beside them. Straddling the sleeping man beneath, swiftly, with the ease of an assassin, she glided her dagger over his form until the shiny edge of the blade held against his neck. The action was familiar, but due to the harsh passing of time, felt almost foreign to the touch. Yet...her heart couldn’t stop beating, hammering, from the wave of anticipation. Adrenaline rushed through her feverish veins, rattling her nerves as she gazed closer upon the one who had stolen her soul, her dreams, her life.
Her white porcelain hair, no longer held by the dark plum hairpin, now hung loosely over her shoulders, framing the sides of her face. Luminescent silk glowed against the backdrop of the dark green forest. Surrounded by layer and layer of lingering fog coating the bamboo leaves, where tiny floating droplets were beginning to disperse at the approach of early dawn. She waited...waited for the moment his eyes snapped opened, ablaze with alarm as he felt the cold blade against his throat.
“What are you doing?” he whispered through the soft breeze of the eerily quiet night.
“Say those words again,” she ordered.
“What words?” the stiffened man tried to rise but she tightened her hold, pressing him down. Daring him to make a move, to escape. To run once more.
“The name you used to call me by,” she whispered, gingerly raising her fingertips to his lips. Feathery touches, that made him quiver. “Repeat it.”
“I...I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he remained stubborn. His hand grasped her wrist, threatening to retaliate, yet he did not, she knew he could not.
“It’s you, I know it’s you. I felt it, the moment we met, even when all the signs told me it couldn’t be, it wasn’t possible,” her head shook, face flushed with suppressed emotions -- frustration, vexation, relief, but most of all, wrath. The storm of unappeased anger crashing, crushing her chest. She could hardly breath.
Eyes narrowed, his hardened dark gaze held hers, though his face was devoid of color. “Whatever you believe,” he spoke calmly in a calculated manner. His hand squeezed her wrist once more, body shuddering slightly. He continued without blinking, “You’re mistaken.”
“How long do you want to continue your charade?” she snarled, as her blade pressed against the side of his neck, cutting the pale flesh.
“This isn’t a charade. I’m not--”
“Do you remember this?” Yan Zhi cut him off. She lifted the jasmine hairpin above his face. The one she kept hidden from the world. She saw the exact moment his eyes flickered, subtle, but it was there. His expression turned stoic, he shook his head. His continuing denial. Her continuing torment. Even after all this time, he was still the same cruel ruthless man.
She lifted the hairpin to her neck.
“What are you doing?!” His voice was alarmed as he tried to rise again, but her other hand held the dagger, cutting deeper than before. Dark blood dripped over his neck, soaking the fabric beneath them. Injuries she had to ignore, because she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t let him go.
Not now, not ever.
“Tell me the truth,” she ordered in a voice that was frostier than the night air. His eyes flickered in frustration as fear crossed his face, but he didn’t answer. Obstinate that he was, he would never have spoken the truth. She should’ve known. He never changed.
Infuriated, she stabbed the hairpin into the side of her chest, embedding the thick double needles against her shoulder blades. Blood quickly soaked through the white garments.
“Tell me!” she hissed, grimacing, as she withdrew the needles from her flesh.
“Yan Zhi, stop!”
Before she could stab herself again, he flashed forward, capturing her wrists, he pushed her down and held her flat on her back. Her wrists were held to her sides, her weapons held hostage against his unyielding grip. She tried to push him off, but he was strong, fiercely so. She couldn’t dislodge him with physical strength alone. Her body vibrated with bright magic, the powers ready to burst, to attack, but she was caught off guard when she felt the warm liquid drip from above, making her pause. His earlier retaliation had caused her blade to slash his chest. Instinctively, she stopped struggling against his hold. But then, something astonishing happened.
She experienced something she had not been able to for millenia. Her vision blurred, her throat caught, a distressed cry escaped. She blinked in confusion, not realizing her eyes were wet. Tears?
Comprehending their significance, her vision blurred even more. Fresh hot tears welled, falling like warm raindrops over the serene calmness of a frozen lake, defrosting the icy crust that had shielded her spirit since long ago. The unforgotten night when her world shattered, when she had nearly fazed into demonic release. If not for the last thread of humanity -- Qiao Er, who held her back from plunging into the dark abyss of demonic possession, her sanity would had been gone like that of the many immortals who lost their minds in that split second, damning their soul.
That night her fate was taken -- stolen by the man who never asked what she wanted. Needed. The one who always said what she wanted to hear, yet never told the truth. The phantom who had held her moments before, but still refused to reveal who he was.
The one who had caused her tears to flow until there was nothing left on that fateful day, from eons ago. The same man who made them fall again.
“Zhi’er…don’t cry, please don’t cry,” he begged after he released her wrists, hovering just above, regretful eyes burning into hers. His cold wet palm cupped her cheek, the pad of his thumb wiping away the tears as her cries tore at his heart. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s really you…it was you all this time…” she cried, no longer a question -- this madness, the constant turbulence of chaos was finally over. Foreign emotion as it was, she had not expected the sense of relief to be so suffocating.
Her body rose in response, as his pulled back. They sat across from each other, the invisible shield ceasing to exist. Her hands couldn’t help but touch him, verifying that it was not just a wishful dream of crazed mortal desire. Hands on his injured chest, she felt his beating heart once more. Still, she was afraid, fearful that he would disappear, like the many nights she had tried to hold him in her dreams, only to be awakened when within her grasp his spirit scattered into the darkness. But his warm hands smoothed over her neck, delved into her hair like they had on the night under the stars surrounded by the fireflies, before he made his eternal vows.
Staring into her eyes, words were no longer required, yet he nodded with a mix of defeat and repentance. The soft whispering sound of the words she yearned to hear cut through the breeze of the morning wind.
Author's Note: Please Read Zi Lan & Yan Zhi: Jasmine's Fate Vol.1 for reference