The wind that night came not without a flourish. Over virgin glades did it continue to dance, like maidens clothed in silk, endearing everything in its course with a touch only known to the lush green isolations of the cliff-sides. It is a cold breeze, but one that doesn't go unloved by the lonely souls who occupied the barest of spaces atop the western plain.
A sneeze passes by them, and the two figures waver from their stillness to fully accommodate the sound. "E-excuse me..."
shivered an exceed, her black pelt a dulled contrast against the overgrowth, "...The grass started tickling my nose."
In response, her slayer pulls an animated sigh from his throat, the sound carrying with it a tone of dejection and embarrassment. "Ahhhh dammit Meimei."
Jing scoffed, his body undoing the tension it built from being bent to the form of the lotus for the past five hours as his legs spread outward unto the grass. He winced.
"Chii...I'm terribly sorry, I'll just-"
The presence next to him rejects the proposal before he completes it with a shaking head, her mechanical voice gently dispersing the silence that made up their little space. "It's fine Xiao-borne."
she said, "We will continue our meditation again tomorrow."
While dismay was the unavoidable knee-jerk reaction for this sort of outcome, the slayer felt no necessity to further express the notion beyond the haven that were his thoughts; though it'd a brewery of madness in the past, there was still a degree of comfort to be found wedged between the spaces in his head - and all in part to the little robotic lady Chii and her master, of whose wisdoms were benevolent enough to accept him into her discipleship for the most recent duration of his turbulent life.
In respect to their kindness, Jing remained within a behavior that was to be expected of a lesser student such as himself, including the sort that would allow him to mutely follow his teacher's underling as she shuffled towards a torch-lit hut further north, where the trees are young and still growing, dipping into the earth as Lady Yilan writes her scrolls by candlelight.
Xiao Jing takes the liberty of a second to address the pain in his shins before standing, brushing the weeds off his pants with an idle hand and a vacancy festering in his steel-blue stare - somewhere in all that greenery once existed the method to his madness, he thought, but now they seem to have ceased, leaving only fragments of the insanity that were already sowed and reaped long, long ago.
That was a time that would first root the slayer to his ideals of victory, to the poison that afflicts his blood at even the slightest indication of a fight. But the beauty that thrived between the Serene Cliffs humbles the slayer as he realizes, gradually, that not all his battles are meant to be won, though the idea still wracks him with a chill that confuses him every single time.
Compelled by his silence, Meilin took it upon herself to approach her master with her wings spread taut. He'd known her to be a far more guarded creature than he was, that much was their truth, but the concern that filters through her golden-eyed attention is one that showcases a fondness and loyalty fashioned for him and him only. "Jing-yi, you'll catch a cold..."
she said, "Are you okay?"
A muted, but clear sense of mirth briefly overtook his face as he eyed the exceed from over his shoulder, sporting a grin that was familiar and foreign to her at the same time. "What? I haven't felt this good in years."
he yawned, "--And I'm sure I'll feel like a million jewels right after I wake up."
Meilin looks to her slayer with a face of disappointment, "Would it kill you to read the mood for once?"
"The only important mood right now is getting to bed."
Jing said, "And the last one there is cleaning the stables first thing in the morning!""Excuse m-?!"
Never sparing her a moment for pause, the ginger chooses to abandon all manner of chivalry at his first step, and for the briefest moment, Xiao Jing did not turn back when he started running - his father died without forgetting to remind him that cowardice is the antithesis to power, and should he find himself running away, then he isn't fit to proclaim his grandeur to the world. But that memory is filed away for now, deemed irrelevant as the boy spans the cliff-side in hurried gusto, always one foot in front of the other.
● ● ●
The ninth time he dreams of her that week is an oddly pleasant one - almost as if it were okay to believe it was a memory that only managed to resurface that night, without regard for the weight of its reality. Xiao Lan wasn't dead here, thank the gods, and she spoke to him in the style he knows very well, with each syllable radiating her distinct poise.'You've been doing well.'
The valley of flowers that circle their shadows tickled his skin, lightly, as a young boy no older than four bundled some into his arms, dropping the brilliant red petals at his sister's feet. 'Yes Lan! Jing is..ummm..trying his best..tooooo...tooo....be a good boy!'
the child sat himself in front of her with a grin, 'Will Lanlan forgive me now...? For all the bad things t-that Jing did?'
A fragrant red peony dangled between Lan's fingers as she moved closer, finally placing the bud to rest atop his left ear as she spoke in her sweetest tones, quietly, her lips sparing him the words that only little Jing may ever get hear. 'You're almost there, dear. Keep going.'
The sea of pretty red has started to wither now, and then began the overgrowth of plum trees that split the earth beneath them, their branches spindling to the paper sky before erupting into a downpour of Spring white. Bewildered by the sight, Jing does not notice how he'd grown into a pair of adult limbs and longer hair in the time that it took for the blossoms to flourish, or that sister's ghost was there no more - what remained of her were the fragrances of dead peonies and a space left to be filled.