The hill with a lone tree just outside of Edo was a magical place, as Shego had promised. The stars shone like precious stones, sprinkled through out the blackened sky. The moon, almost full, looked down on them in a somber manner. They were sitting underneath the tree, looking up at the sky as if it would act as their savior.
Shego had her arm around Kim, who was leaning into the pale woman. They were silent for the most part, just enjoying their closeness and the fact that it felt like their souls were touching. They communicated through petting and caressing while eyeing the sky, not the city.
They would see the city too soon in their opinions. They had gotten there too quickly, but then again, it could have taken forever and a day to make it back to Edo and they would have felt that it was too soon. They had not been having a grand dream before arriving, yet they were still getting a rude awakening.
No, Shego told herself. If they had been dreaming, they could do it for a little while longer. She leaned down and touched her lips to Kim’s in a rather sweet manner. It was like having honey touch her mouth. Kim eagerly returned the kiss and it blossomed into something more.
They touched each other passionately, but gently, attempting to savor every moment that they were together on that hill. They explored every dent on each other with deep interest, hoping to commit the other body to memory, hoping to make sure that the other remembered and cherished their time together for all eternity. After all, it was possibly their last time together.
“Maybe we should get dressed,” Shego suggested as the sun began to come up, intruding on them as it often did.
Kim was lying on top of the pale woman, who was lying on top of her own clothing because she was not interested in having dirt or grass blades stuck to her sweat-covered body. Kim’s head was tucked under Shego’s chin while Shego had her hand resting on Kim’s back. The redhead answered the proposal by shaking her head in objection; she did not want to get dressed.
The olive-eyed samurai did not want to move. She wanted to stay where she was forever and all time. Even if she did die, she just wanted to be reincarnated back in the same place. She did not want to go into the city; she did not want to go home; she did not want to do anything that involved leaving Shego.
“Come on, kitsune. We have to get up and move sometime,” Shego said in a soft voice, hoping that would encourage her lover to get up.
“No, I don’t want to go. I don’t want you to leave me,” Kim protested vehemently. She was tired of pretending that everything was fine. She was tired of being strong. She just wanted what she wanted for once in her life, consequences be damned.
“We already agreed to this, princess,” Shego pointed out, holding in a tired sigh. She did not want Kim to fall apart on her now, not when she was so close to doing something partially right.
“No! Stay with me! We can just keep walking, tenshi. We could go up north! We could go to the south! We could even go to the continent! We could do so much, tenshi, but we can’t do anything if you’re dead!” Kim stated fervently, sitting up a little too look Shego in the eye.
The green-skinned woman sighed as if she was exhausted and rubbed Kim’s back a little. She had to force herself to look into those olive eyes, which were glazed over with water. Kim looked like she was experiencing the worst pain of her life, as if she was being made to walk through Hell on her own. Shego reached out with her free hand and caressed Kim’s cheek. The water in those misty olive eyes began to fall.
“Please, Shego! We could go anywhere!” Kim began to sob uncontrollably. “I’ll do anything you want. I’ll play the shamisen every day and serve you as much sake as you can drink, just don’t leave me alone! I don’t want to be without you!” She bawled, turning her head to hide her obvious tears.
Shego was touched, but she did not show it. She doubted that she had ever had anyone cry because of her departure. She was not sure if she had anyone shred tears over her point blank. She just continued to pet Kim with a passive expression on her face. After a few tense seconds of Kim crying, Shego managed a fond smile.
“Princess, people have to take responsibility for their actions. Besides, I made you a promise and I have to keep my word,” Shego replied.
“I don’t want you to keep your word!” Kim wailed. “I just want you to stay with me!”
“I know, but I do have to keep my word, especially to you. I’ve done a lot of growing up while I’ve been with you, kitsune, so I have to do this. It’s that simple,” Shego stated while sitting up.
“How can it be that simple? Do you want to die? You don’t want to be with me anymore?” the redhead begged to know through her heavy tears.
“I’d like nothing more than to be with you forever, princess. You’re just asking the impossible of me right now. I can’t run away with you and I don’t want you to run away anyway. So, let’s get dressed,” the pale warrior said as she moved Kim off of her.
“I love you!” Kim declared loudly and unabashed. That was what the feeling was. That was what everything was and she wanted everything to be that way always.
“I know,” Shego replied as if that news was nothing to her. It was like the younger warrior was just reporting on the weather.
The emerald-eyed woman did not say anything further. She stood up and began getting dressed. Kim could not believe her eyes; it was like Shego did not care about what she had just confessed. It was like she did not matter.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Kim hollered in a fit of sorrow and rage.
“I heard you,” Shego answered in a calm tone.
“So?” the redhead pressed. Surely she was going to get some kind of response for her declaration, she thought. It only made sense to her.
“You should get dressed,” Shego said again.
The older female did not say anything and outwardly ignored the sounds of Kim’s sobbing. The teen did begin to get dressed since Shego was doing the same. Kim did find it was difficult to stand up, so she did not even bother. She found it even harder to stop crying, but she did make the attempt. By the time they were both dressed, Kim was on her hands and knees, bawling like a newborn while Shego was standing a couple of feet away from her, looking down into the city.
“We should both go home, kitsune,” Shego commented in a dispassionate tone.
“I don’t want to,” Kim answered in a mumble.
“Princess, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve changed my life, very much for the better. I’m more thankful for you than I have ever been for anyone. I don’t think I could ever explain what you make me feel and saying ‘I love you’ rings so hollow because of that. But, I do love you with everything I have and that’s why I have to do this. I have to do the right thing. I have to keep my promise to you for you, so just trust me,” Shego explained as best she could. There would never be enough words for her to truly express herself to her lover. No amount of words would ever be able to properly describe what she felt.
“You don’t have to keep this promise. I trust you, I really do. I don’t need you getting killed to prove that you’re trustworthy and that you love me,” the redhead stated.
“Go home and get some sleep, kitsune,” the pale woman instructed the redhead with another sigh.
“Shego, please, let’s just go. We can go anywhere and be free, just like you always want,” Kim begged.
“That’s not freedom, princess. That’s just running and neither of us needs that. You have a life there in Edo and I don’t want you to have to leave that.”
Shego turned around to face her little kitsune. She leaned down to the teen and lifted her to her feet. She held Kim close to her and thought about how she had changed thanks to the teenaged warrior. Her meaning of freedom had somewhat changed. She had always wanted to do anything that she desired with her life as long as it was fun and that was freedom to her. Now, freedom was being able to be with Kim and she needed to obtain that freedom or death would be a welcome.
“I need you, Shego,” Kim whispered.
“I need you too and that’s why I have to do this. Thank you for everything, kitsune. I’m so glad we met,” Shego said in a gentle tone.
“Me too,” Kim agreed through some sniffles.
Shego did not want the farewell to be any longer than it already had; it was already tearing her apart on the inside. She was tempted to just take Kim up on that offer to run away, but Kim also made her want to do the right thing. They did not need to run and she was not going to, she promised herself. She was going to keep her word.
Shego leaned down and gave Kim a tender, almost chaste kiss. “Later, kitsune,” she whispered and she released Kim. The raven-haired woman took off like a shooting star toward the city, leaving the redhead alone.
Kim could not keep herself up and she fell to her knees. She was in love with a woman that had just run off to her death to prove that she was trustworthy. She began to sob again because she did not know what else to do. She was going to lose Shego. It was not fair.
Why had she met Shego those few months ago if things were just going to end as they were? Why had they spent so much time together if everything was just going to end so suddenly? Why could they just not spend the rest of their lives together, even if things would have to change somehow between them? Anything would have been better than Shego running off to be crucified by the Shogun.
Shego would have been able to understand the questions floating around in Kim’s mind, even though she was not asking herself any of those questions. She was merely happy that she had met Kim. The feeling was new to her, but it had been in there since she met the redhead and spent some time with her. She was rather certain that she had found what she had been seeking since she left home, since she had gone to be free.
They had freed each other, bringing something that they had not even known was missing from their lives. The feeling, whatever it was, love as Kim said or nameless in Shego’s opinion, it had been the key to their invisible bonds. And now that they experienced that sensation, being apart was like going back into a tiny cage.
Shego walked through the streets of a waking Edo as if she did not have a care in the world, even though she was not in favor of where she was heading. She wished that there was some other way to prove herself, to get what she wanted, but if life was meant to be simple people would be born without attachments and everything a person would ever need to survive. She would endure and be strong because of the girl that she left crying at her special place.
At least she knew that she was worthwhile to Kim, she told herself as she continued on. After all, Kim had shed tears for her. A powerful warrior like Kim had bawled for her to stay. The thought itself made her heart begin to race. No one had ever cried for her before and it felt wonderful to know that she was cared for enough to be cried for. It was enough to make her want to cry, but she held that in. She was doing enough crazy things for one day, so she did not need to add weeping to that list.
She made it to Edo castle and looked at the structure. She sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. She took a deep breath to steel herself for what she was about to put herself through. She then entered the castle in her own special fashion, answering any questions from any guards with knock-out blows from her ignited fists. She was going to see the Shogun on her own terms.
Kim slowly made her way home, feeling and looking as if she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. She entered the manor and did not even bother with greeting her family, even though she knew that they were up and probably having one of their usual, eventful breakfasts. She just went straight to her room and unfolded her futon. She dropped down onto the mattress and fell into a dead sleep.
When she woke up, the only thing that Kim wanted to do was get clean and go back to sleep. She thought that if she slept enough, the agony that she was experiencing would fade from her body and she would not feel as if she had been drained of everything that made a person want to go on living. It was a plan that she was willing to try out, so she went to go bathe and ended up running into her mother.
“Kim-chan, when did you get home?” her mother asked while grabbing the teen in a tight embrace. She was so happy that her daughter was finally home and she hoped that the younger redhead was there to stay for a while now.
“I don’t know. This morning, I guess,” Kim answered in a mumble. She did not feel up to talking to anyone about anything at the moment.
“Is everything all right, Kim?” her mother inquired in a concerned tone. It was not quite often that anyone in their house was down, so it was easy to tell when something was wrong.
“Everything’s fine. I’m just really tired,” the martial artist replied in a voice that reflected her response. She sounded as close to death as one could be without actually dying.
“Oh, well, you should relax now that you’re home. I can go prepare a bath for you if you want,” Mika offered.
Kim considered the proposal. Maybe a hot bath would help. She took her mother up on that offer then. So, while Mika readied the hot bath, Kim went to clean herself off. She felt only slightly better when she was clean, but when she sank into the bath, it did not help much. She just remembered when she and Shego had spent time in the hot spring, which caused her to breakdown and cry again. She was thankful that she was alone.
When she was done with her weeping and her bath, she put on a plain yukata and went back to her bed. She found herself unable to go back to sleep, which she had expected since she was not a person that thrived off of a lot of sleep. She needed something to do, though. She was all too aware that if she just sat around doing nothing then she would end up crying again.
The redheaded teen thought about practicing some martial arts, but that seemed like so much work to her very weary body and mind. She picked up her katana and found that it felt like it weighed the same as a building. She tried her other weapons, but discovered that they all felt like the katana. Working out would definitely be too much work for her worn out body and mind, so she needed something different to do.
She then went and grabbed something that she usually would not even touch in a nightmare, her shamisen. She exited her room and sat down on the veranda outside the garden. She hung her legs over the veranda into the garden, even though her feet were bare. She plucked the strings of her instrument and began to play.
The soft, melancholic music slowly drifted through the house and caught the attention of her family. They all thought that it was rather odd for Kim to be playing an instrument that they all knew she despised, but they tried not to think anything about it for the moment. After almost an hour of music though, her parents decided to go have a talk with her, hoping that she would tell them what was wrong with her.
“Kim, is there something you want to talk about?” James asked while sitting down next to the teen. He sounded rather concerned and it was because of the odd behavior that his daughter was exhibiting. After all, she was playing an instrument that she used to hide under the house when his mother was around to avoid having to touch it.
“No,” Kim answered in a small voice while being continuing to play.
“Are you sure, sweetie?” Mika inquired, sounding just as concerned as her husband.
“I am,” Kim replied quickly and in a monotone voice. It was clear that whatever was eating away at her, she was not ready to share. Her parents respected that and just left her alone for the moment. She focused her attention on the shamisen and continued on playing. Maybe if she played long enough, Shego would hear and return to her.
“Director-sama,” Mika said in a rather surprised tone as the one-eyed woman showed up at their home.
“Good afternoon, Possible-sensei,” Betty replied, bowing slightly as a sign of respect.
“Um…Kim is having a rather bad day…” Mika began to say. She was not sure how to explain what her daughter was going through, but she knew that Kim was not in any state to do any more favors for Director-sama.
“Is she? Oh, well, I’m only here to offer her some news and thank her for her hard work. I’m not going to do much more than that,” Betty explained in a sincere tone.
Mika nodded and smiled slightly. She was glad that Betty had not shown up to take her child once again. She motioned for the one-eyed woman to follow her and they walked to the section of the manor that Kim was last seen in. Kim was still there, playing her string instrument. She looked rather distressed, Betty noted.
The one-eyed woman wondered why Kim looked so down. She had managed to do the impossible and yet, she looked as if she was going to her death soon. It was a baffling thing. Betty considered that she might have to ask about as she sat down next to Kim. The redhead did not even glance at the older warrior.
“You know, I have to admit that when you decided to go after Shego that night, I thought you’d give up after not finding her and come back because she’s good at giving people the slip. So, imagine my surprise when I hear that Shego showed up at the Shogun’s castle this morning, acting out as usual, but she surrendered in order to see the Shogun. I thought that you probably had something to do with it,” Betty commented, trying her best to sound friendly and she was succeeding. She was hoping that her tone would get Kim to open up, maybe even share how she got Shego to return to Edo and see the Shogun.
“Yeah, I beat her in a fight and she promised to go back,” Kim grumbled, upset that she had won that battle now. A victory never tasted so bitter and rang so hollow as that one did. She probably would have felt better if Shego had killed her that day, like the pale woman had so badly desired to.
“Amazing to beat her in a fight. She is a skilled and masterful warrior,” Betty commented and all Kim did was nod in response.
“Director-sama, I’m not up to another mission right now,” Kim informed the one-eyed female.
“I’m not here to offer you one, Kim-dono. I only wanted to congratulate you on bringing Shego in. I can see you need a break and it is something that I can understand,” Betty stated. She could understand because Vivian was still hounding her about taking a break. She still owed Vivian an afternoon of tea. She suspected that Vivian was going to just show up at her home sooner or later and poison her through tea and she knew that she would deserve no less.
“Thank you, Director-sama,” Kim mumbled. She wished that she had it in her to ask about Shego, but she did not have the strength to do so. She did not want to find out that Shego was going to be crucified.
Betty sighed and decided to just leave Kim to her despair because that seemed what the girl wanted. She bid Kim farewell and Mika walked Betty out of the house. Mika returned to her daughter and sat down next to the girl, just listening to her play the shamisen.
“Your grandmother taught you well,” Mika commented after a long moment. She could remember how much Kim tried to run and hide when she was younger and her grandmother came around with the shamisen. It was funny because to Kim the lessons seemed like terror incarnate, but she was very talented with that instrument now.
“I guess,” Kim muttered.
“Kim-chan, tell me what’s wrong,” Mika gently requested.
“Mom, do you love Dad?” Kim asked curiously.
Mika smiled a bit, which answered the question probably better than words ever would or could. Still, Kim waited for a verbal response. She wanted an explanation of some kind and she was not sure why. Was she looking to find out that being in love was something common and happened often? Was she trying to discover if love was rare and something that she needed to hold onto tightly while she had it, which would lead her to do something extra stupid? What would the knowledge do for her, she asked herself. She did not know, but she still waited for her answer.
“I do love your father, very much,” Mika answered. It was the honest and simple truth. People might wonder why, but she did love that man and she was certain that she always would.
“Have you always loved him?” Kim inquired with a curious look on her face.
“Well, I’ve always liked him,” the doctor replied with another smile and a bit of a laugh. “Are you asking this because of your arranged marriage to Will-kun?”
The teenager groaned. “Mom, don’t call him that.” It sounded vile to her ears to hear him referred to in such a way.
“What? You don’t think that’s cute?” Mika teased her daughter slightly.
“No, I don’t think Will’s cute,” the redheaded warrior answered bluntly and her mother laughed.
“I know you don’t. So, are you asking this because of your arrangement with Du-san?” Mika asked seriously.
“No,” Kim answered.
“Because I know you don’t love him now, but you could grow to love him,” the doctor said and her daughter looked at her rather skeptically. “Okay, maybe not love him, but surely, you won’t kill or cripple him during your marriage,” she amended her statement. It had to be possible that the two could get along just a little bit. They were going to have to because she knew that the heads of the two clans would not hold off their wedding for much longer.
“That has yet to be seen. Would you do anything for Dad?” Kim inquired.
“I think so,” Mika replied. She had not been placed in a position to test that theory, but she was certain that she would do any and everything for her husband.
“Would you do anything to keep him?”
“I think so.” Once again, she had not been put in a position where she might have to do anything to keep her husband, but she was certain that she would if she was placed in such a situation. She would not give James up for anything.
Kim thought on that for a moment. “Would he do anything for you?”
“I hope so,” her mother answered. “Why are you asking these questions, though?”
“I think I’m just trying to get an idea as to what love is,” Kim replied. She was certain that she loved Shego and she was trying to figure out what she should do about that. “If Dad claimed that he had to do something dangerous, probably even deadly to prove his love for you, would you let him do it?” the teen asked.
“I would try to fight him because I don’t think he has to prove his love and I wouldn’t want to lose him, but if he was hell bent on it, I suppose that I’d have to let him go. I guess I would just have to trust that he knew what he was doing. Love is about trust, among other things.”
Kim nodded to show that she understood that. “What about staying with the one you love without going off to do anything stupid that doesn’t need to be done?” the teen inquired in a slightly angry tone. She was upset that Shego had left her when she felt it was totally unnecessary. She already trusted Shego more than she would any other person not related to her, so the pale woman did not have to go run off to her death just to keep a promise.
“Sometimes, what you think is stupid and unnecessary is not seen as the same by others. You should at least wait to see what happens before judging what the person has to do as stupid anyway. Perhaps, it’s actually a brilliant move,” Mika commented with a shrug.
“I don’t know,” the younger redhead muttered. How could Shego going to her death more than likely actually be some brilliant move?
“Wait and see before judging,” her mother said in an assuring tone. She was curious as to who Kim had fallen in love with. She knew that it could not possibly be Du Will. She knew that she should discourage Kim from such a thing because she was promised to Will, but she did not have it in her to do such a thing. If her daughter was in love, she just wished Kim the best. Her daughter deserved to be happy and there was no way that Du Will would ever provide her with such a thing. She only hoped that things worked out for the younger redhead.
Kim nodded to show that she would accept that advice. She continued on playing her shamisen. She did not know what else to do aside for wait and see. Once the scene played out, she figured that she would act. All she knew was that she could not and would not allow Shego to just die. She would do everything in her power to either save Shego or die with her because she doubted that she could go on without the pale woman.
Shego entered a room alone, closing the shoji behind her. She was cleaned up, hair presentable for the first time in a long time considering she had the time and the desire to comb it, and she was wearing her usual clothing, despite who she was meeting. She then caught sight of the screen. She sucked her teeth in annoyance. It had been enough that she had to wait so long to see him, but now he was going to pull out the screen? She was going to take that.
“Get real, you know I’m not talking to you through that damn thing,” Shego said as she climbed to her feet.
“Stay where you are,” came the firm order from behind the screen.
“Like hell I will,” she declared and she stormed over to the screen. What did he think he was doing anyway, she asked herself. She grabbed the thing and flung it to the side of the room, revealing the Shogun.
“What the? You still don’t listen, imouto (1),” Hego huffed, looking at Shego with slight anger dancing in his blue eyes. He thought that she would have learned to respect him by now with him being Shogun and everything, but she was still as cranky and undisciplined as ever in his opinion. What was he supposed to do with her?
1: imouto: younger sister.
Next time: the conclusion.