Been a long time since I wrote something like this. It’s a “Happened before Naoko and Sukina’s birth” kind of story. Think about 200-300 years before they were born. 1724 words.
The clouds moved lazily across the blue sky. A hot breeze swept them across, carrying dandelion seeds across the land. Children sought the shade from the bright sunlight; the sharp shadows the light created said that it was mid-afternoon, the hottest time of the day. The temple chimed the time, as children ran back from school. Now and then, a windchime tinkled softly, teased by the hot breeze.
Looking outside her window, the woman sighed. She was virtually a prisoner in this temple, with almost nothing to do besides planning her days to be the perfect wife. Summer holidays were the worst for her. While most of her peers would be heading out to parties and trying to snag eligible bachelors, she was stuck in the temple with nearly nothing to do. She was bored, pure and simple. Opening the window, she put some birdseed in her palm and offered it to any who passed by. Within minutes, a tiny bird had alighted on her open palm, and ate away at the birdseeds. These were followed by two others in quick succession, till she shook her hand and scattered the seeds on the roof.
More birds immediately alighted onto the roof, but the first bird merely hopped onto her window sill. She looked at it with an odd look on her face, and then the bird began to sing. Puffing up its brown chest, it began singing in a warbling tone. She put her head on her hands, resting on the window sill. Her cheek rested against her hands, and she closed her eyes to listen to it sing. Within moments, she was asleep, and the bird stopped singing, blinking at her. Quietly it hopped onto her head and sat there, comfortable on her warm head. In the shadow of the sun, it was a good a place as any to rest.
When the sun was disappearing, the bird fled. Its movement woke the young woman up and she sat up and looked out the window to see it flying away. Sighing, she began to stand up, and then fell to the ground. Her legs had fallen asleep from the position she was in earlier. She bit back a curse. As a pious maiden, she was told that she was not supposed to curse, though it seemed unfair to her that her siblings could do the same. Taking a deep breath, she suppressed the feelings of anger threatening to boil over. When she needed them the most, they were far away, and she was left to her own devices. Which was how she had ended up in this temple in the first place.
Heavy footsteps sounded on the staircase, and she stood up carefully, leaning against the wall. She could actually feel the blood rush into her legs. For a moment, she closed her eyes, trying not to blank out. It worked, and she opened her eyes as the room door was knocked and then opened. A large man came in, wearing the loose robes of a warrior off-duty. His manners towards her though, was not disrespectful as how some were. He was one of the few who knew the full story, as he had been involved in her kidnapping. Even so, he did not relinquish the sword when in her presence.
“Lady Suriyana,” he greeted her with a formal bow. She bowed likewise, saying nothing. “If you would please…” he stood aside from the door, expecting her to lead the way. She followed, her walk graceful yet proud, with no indication of the cramp she had felt in her legs earlier.
She was now familiar with this route, having taken it many times in the two weeks she had been here. As they passed the open corridor, she stopped a moment to look at the sky. There was only the slightest hint of the sun on the horizon; night had fallen quickly and the stars were already out. She took a deep breath and then turned, kneeling next to the paper door and scratching softly. A woman’s musical voice answered her.
“Come in,” she opened the door and entered, shuffling on her knees. It was not as difficult as it looked.
A woman sat on her knees next to the man under the covers. Dressed in a colourful, open-shouldered kimono, she looked the picture of health, at least compared to the man. He breathed shallowly, looking even more pallid than his loose white robes. Lady Suriyana sat opposite the woman, conscious of her young age. In contrast to her, she felt inferior and younger in her red and white maiden’s robe, even though she had the golden hair prized by their people and the blue eyes that were extremely rare.
She took the man’s hand gently, so as not to cause him any pain. When she touched him, he turned to her, although his eyes remained close. He was a great deal older than her, but he was still rather young. The lines on his face should not be there, but they were. The illness was not a kind one. She felt for his pulse and then shook her head at the woman. There were no changes. At least he was stable for now. The young man was facing an unusual illness, but it was not beyond her ability to treat it. Rather, she lacked the medicines and tools, which they would not provide her as it was too “dangerous.” They did not want to take the risk of her poisoning him, although the lady and the man had vouched for her.
The elders distrusted her, and she was glad they did. When she had suggested a proxy, they had still disagreed. They wanted her to cure him, without any medicine or tools. While she did have the gift of healing, it did not work that way. Healing illnesses had to come from both the patient’s desire to live, supplementing his immune system and if it was a serious illness, a blessing from the Gods. They had two of the three, but the man’s immune system had been compromised a long time ago. Refusing him treatment had only made his condition worse.
She was unsure whether the man would be alive if they had trusted her in the beginning. The man’s brother who had escorted her and his sister who sat beside her had assessed her rightly. She would have killed him if they had let her treat him in the beginning; this way, her curiousity had been piqued and she felt pity for the man. The illness had taken hold of him slowly; he had been able to carry out his duties when she was first brought here, but now he had been bedridden. He was still alert enough to give instructions though; he was often awake during the day, and she had heard many going in and coming out. His sister kept him company during the day; his brother kept watch during the night. She did not do much besides move from her prison above to the one below.
“His foods?” She looked at the woman.
“I’ve ordered them changed as you suggested. The elders do not know yet, but…” the woman shook her head.
“Have them tested for poison before you feed him next. He has not had his dinner yet, has he?” The woman shook her head. “Then feed him now. The food must be served warm to him, before he develops a fever,” she put his hand down, but he gripped it instead, the first time he had done so.
“Stay… tonight…” he whispered, his voice hoarse. She nodded.
“Get him more water; he should not be this dehydrated,” she told the woman in a commanding tone. With an odd look on her face, the woman obeyed Suriyana.
The serving men soon came in, and they propped the man up to eat. Instead of weak porridge, the young man was to eat steamed fish with a salty sauce, thick porridge with sliced vegetables in sweet marinade, and some rare citrus fruits. The woman tasted each of the foods before it was fed to the man, but even so, Suriyana detected a sleight of hand amongst the serving men. It was just a note that was tucked under the young man’s pillow, and if it were not for the fact that they were tasting the food, it would not have gone unnoticed. As it were, she could see it from her position in the corner. This was her normal spot if she stayed to watch him eat dinner; she could see things the other two could not from here. She chose to say nothing.
“Will you head to the Western corner?” the warrior asked the woman.
“No, younger brother. I shall not dance today, I am too tired,” the moment she said that Suriyana shot up from her corner and grabbed the woman’s hand. She put her head to the woman’s chest to hear her heartbeat, even if she held the woman’s right wrist with her left hand, her fingers on the woman’s pulse. The warrior got up and unsheathed his sword, but the woman raised her other hand to stall him.
“He’s being fed poison,” Suriyana said, releasing the woman and looking at the young man in his bed. There was a faint splash of colour in his cheeks; a hearty meal did wonders for a weak body, but he had a long way to go. “It’s probably in the porridge, so you might want to check the pot in the kitchen. It attacks healthy people first, so that’s the reason why you’re feeling weak,” she was looking at the young man.
“Anra said that might have been the case.” The warrior spoke. Suriyana glanced sharply at him.
“What is the cure?” the woman asked.
“Plenty of rest and eat non-contaminated food. This will leave the body after a few hours, though I cannot say the same for your brother. Now that we know for sure, we can begin treatment in the morning,” Suriyana turned to Anra, the bedridden young man.
“I’ll take you to your room, sister,” the warrior picked his elder sister up and left the two alone.