Sanctuary's Song


Honoka sat on the steps of the temple in the bright spring light. A breeze gently brushed by the trees, inspiring them to sing, and gently caressed her cheeks. Her raven black hair danced about her shoulders and waved back and forth before her hazel eyes which gazed dreamily out to the sea far below at the base of the cliffs. In her hand was a flute, a beautifully crafted instrument that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. She had learned to play when she was very young and would come up to the temple to relax and escape the hardships that had fallen on her village.

She raised the flute to her lips and closed her eyes. Gently she blew into the instrument and produced a melodious, low tone that drifted up and down the cliff's side and was carried away by the wind. Her fingers glided up and down between the holes of the instrument and she began to sway gently back and forth with the low music she was playing. She listened to the melody mingle with the rustling of the trees and the chirping of the birds and the gentle rolling tones of the ocean weaves far below. Her tune began to rise in tone as the breeze picked up. The trees sang louder and Honoka played louder with them, following the cues that the world gave her. Her melody began to brighten as she swayed with the beat and the wind danced and twirled with it. She opened her eyes to watch the cherry blossoms dance with the wind as they floated down to rest on the soft earth.

When her song had finished and the wind had settled down to its earlier pace Honoka lowered her flute from her lips and smiled. It was such a beautiful day. It was almost perfect, except that Kenshin wasn't there with her. It had been only a week since his transcription into the army and he had gone away to distant lands to fight. Honoka sighed and let her gaze fall again onto the soft, blue horizon. He was out there, somewhere, and she prayed that he would make it home safely, and soon. She imagined them walking along the beach at dusk, smiling and laughing together. She imagined them going to the temple each morning together to pray. She imagined a beautiful wedding ceremony in the summer beneath the thick, green trees. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back. A smile graced her lips.

She was torn from her dreaming a while later by a low, unnatural hum to the north. It was a low whining noise, like that of a distant swarm of insects. The sound grew louder and louder and Honoka's heart jumped in her chest. She sprang to her feet and looked north along the edge of the cliffs with hope rising in her chest. Those were planes! Perhaps they were bringing Kenshin home, perhaps the war was ending! She picked up her flute and began to run down the trail to the village laughing as she did. The planes drew closer and closer and her laughter grew ever more excited. At the bottom of the trail she stopped and looked up as the planes came into sight. Her smile faded and her hope decayed away and was replaced by dread.

On the wings of the planes was the insignia of the Continental Union, the nation that they were at war with. The planes passed over the village like massive steel dragons and opened their bellies. Out of them came fire and a deafening roar that knocked Honoka to the ground. When she rose the planes had moved on, but her village was not ablaze, fires burned along the path that the planes had followed.

Honoka continued to rune to the village, she needed to find her parents. She left her flute lying on the temple trail. As she reached the village she found many families fleeing with bundles strapped to their backs. She searched the crowd for her parents. She called out for them but received no answer. She continued to run, through the streets of the village and to her home. When she reached her home she found her parents and breathed a sigh of relief. They were busily packing up what they could into two large baskets. Honoka's father handed her a canvas sack and told her to grab what she could. The first thing Honoka reached for was a picture of Kenshin and her from the village festival the year before.

Screams issued from the street and, with her sack only half full, Honoka ran outside to see what it was. More planes were coming. They were coming to destroy the rest of the village. Honoka called to her parents frantically and they came running with bundles on their backs. Without looking up they told Honoka to run and she followed them without hesitation.

The humming of the planes grew louder and louder and then the sound was replaced by a high-toned whine that quickly fell in pitch. More bombs were falling. Deafening roars ripped through the air and wood splinters and rocks flew in every direction. Honoka heard screaming all around her. She then became aware of her parent's voices amongst the screaming. Then she became aware of her own screaming. She was on the ground on her side and her head, arm, and legs were all sore and throbbing. She looked around through a red haze and realized blood was trickling into her eyes. She called out to her parents but she didn't get a response. She called out to anyone for help, but all she heard were more cries like hers. As another loud whistling filled the air she called out to Kenshin. A roar like nothing Honoka had ever heard before ripped through the air and drowned out her pleas. A searing pain consumed her entire body and cut her screams of pain short as her throat and mouth were burned shut. The world went bright white, like the sun filled her entire vision, then everything went black and the roaring and screaming and pain ceased to be.

Honoka looked around her; the burned and blackened beams that were once buildings rose up all around her like trees in a forest. The streets were littered with debris but oddly there were no bodies. She was certain that she could remember bombs and fire and screaming and death, but only the buildings remained as testimony to what had happened. Was she dead? How much time had passed? She didn't know, nor did she care. She walked along the ruined streets to the edge of the village and looked up the long path to the temple. It still stood. Honoka smiled brightly and took a step forward. Her sanctuary and refuge still stood. She began to walk along the path and after walking a short distance she came upon her flute lying on the ground. It was undamaged, but Honoka carefully picked it up in both her hands. She hugged the instrument to her chest and continued along the path.

The sun was low on the horizon and the world was growing dim. The birds chirped happily, and the breeze danced as the trees sang and all was calm as if nature was unaware of the war that men were now fighting. When Honoka arrived at the temple she was overcome with a joy that she had not felt since her and Kenshin had shared their first kiss on the Festival Night. Kenshin stood at the foot of the temple steps watching the light chimes that hung above the door dance and sing in the wind. Honoka did not rush to meet him, though; she felt that she had expected him to be here. Kenshin smiled and wrapped her in an embrace. Without sharing any words they both looked into each other's eyes and knew; they had both passed on. It didn't matter, though. Everything was as it should be. Kenshin leaned down and the both of them shared a long kiss. Everything here was perfect and Honoka could stay here forever.