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Author Topic: Til Death Do Us Start [K+] (Complete)  (Read 1346 times)
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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I'm Loooooooopy!

« on: Oct 31, 2015 04:51 pm »

Archive of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5117996
FanFiction.Net: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11589912/1/
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Til Death Do Us Start

In the dark of the night, a young couple approached a hidden grave.

As far as Hye knew, though, she was being led by her fiancé towards his family's gardening shed. "Um, what are we doing out here?"

Tomoshibi glanced around nervously. "Quiet. I don't want my parents to hear."

"You know," Hye said, wondering about her fiancé’s intelligence and planning capability, "my Grandma took my sisters with her on a Blessing visit, so my house is empty-"

"No, we can only do this here." Tomoshibi unlocked the shed door, and motioned her to follow him inside.

Holding back questions, Hye did so. The interior of the shed, it unsurprisingly turned out, was very shed-like. There were gardening implements, sacks of seeds, spare pots, and all the things that usually could be found in sheds. There wasn't a whole lot of space, further prompting questions about what Tomoshibi intended here. She turned to ask, but found him kneeling at the back of the shed, in front of a-


It was a shrine.

A death shrine, to be exact. It wasn't like the ones with which Hye was familiar, and she had seen quite a few while helping her Grandma perform Blessing rituals, but there was no mistaking it- there was an ink drawing of a woman on a little shelf, with a small tablet on one side of it and an incense-stick holder on the other. Strangely, a three-pronged throwing blade was also resting on the shelf; this woman must have been a warrior, then, and the red coloration of the blade made it clear for whom she had fought. No wonder the shrine was kept hidden, even here in the colonies, even so many years after the war ended. Hye dropped to her knees behind Tomoshibi and bowed her head respectfully.

It was a long moment before Tomoshibi spoke. "This is my sister, Mai. She died when I was very young, before my family left the Fire Nation." He motioned to the small tablet, where the character for the name was inscribed in the top half; the bottom half was blank, indicating that Mai had died unmarried.

Hye looked at the character, and frowned. "That's an unusual pronunciation."

"True. My father's family comes from the Outer Islands, and they have a somewhat different culture, there. That's why the shrine is also unusual. My mother assured me that mine will be properly decked out in dragons- although how she intends to guarantee that, I have no idea- but since Father named Mai, he got claim to how she would be honored." Tomoshibi smiled. "Mother named me, but Father still snuck in some influence- when I was little, my family called me 'Tom-Tom,' according to how the Outer Islanders nickname their babies."

Hye smiled back, but then returned her gaze to the shrine, examining the picture of Mai. In life, she must have been a very striking young lady. Long dark hair framed an angular face with piercing eyes, and Hye couldn't help but want to shrink from the imagined glare. "Do you think she would have liked me?"

"Probably not. My mother says that Mai didn't like anyone, even me." He offered a wry smile. "I can only take her word for that, because I remember absolutely adoring my sister, and I can't imagine I would have taken to her if she was mean to me."

"And would she have cared that I am of Earth blood?"

Tomoshibi had to think about that. "I'm not sure. She- well, I mean no dishonor to her, but she was a servant directly to the Royal Family. She and the Fire Lord's daughter were close friends, from what I understand. Mai and the Princess both died defending the palace during the Retaliation. But then, Governor Ty Lee of the Kongqi province also defended the palace, and she's married to a man who fought in Earth colors in that same battle."

Hye brought her hands together and bowed again- very low- before Mai's shrine. "I ask your blessing to marry your beloved brother, Mai of the Fire Nation. Also, I beg your help in attaining the approval of your parents." She hummed the Spiritual Note handed down by the people of the Northern Earth Kingdom, and willed her emotions- her respect for Mai as a warrior, her love for Tomoshibi, her desire for peace and happiness- into the sound. After she finished, she kept her head down for another heartbeat before beginning to rise-

-there was the sound of metal on dirt, and Hye opened her eyes to find that the three-pronged blade had fallen off the shelf to the ground. "T- Tomoshibi-"

He reached out and picked the blade up, examining it. "You must have brushed the shelf."

"I didn't!"

"Then the ground shifted. An Earthbender farmer is probably doing work nearby."

"At night?"

He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss, grinning that grin as he pulled away again. "If it is my sister's ghost, it must mean she likes you, because everyone who ever spoke of her to me agreed on one thing: she never missed with her blades. That you remain living and uncut shows that Mai is purposefully disarming in front of you. That’s a great sign of trust." He put the blade back on the shelf, and rose to his feet. "Hopefully, my parents will take the news of our engagement half as well."

Hye rose to her feet beside him, keeping her gaze away from the shrine. Tomoshibi liked to joke about inappropriate things, but Hye just wanted to be out of this shed, even if it meant admitting their engagement to her hard-liner Fire Nation soon-to-be-in-laws. "Come on, let's go."

"Bye, sister! Be nice to my fiancé and I will bring you more incense sticks!"

Ukano could count the number of things he had brought with him out of the Fire Nation on one hand.

The first two were the most important: his wife and son. Getting Michi and Tomoshibi to safety was more important even than defending the Fire Nation against the united Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe invaders, especially after Mai's death. Ukano had given up everything- wealth, reputation, power, loyalty- to preserve the rest of his family.

The third item he had brought out of the Fire Nation was the tablet containing his daughter's ashes. He had kept it safe throughout the journey, in a cushioned Funeral Box he carried everywhere. He had brought that tablet across the ocean and into the colonies (which were the former colonies by the time he reached them) only relinquishing the tablet when he had been able to build a shrine to his daughter in the tradition of his people.

The fourth thing he had brought was one of his daughter's blades. It was a dangerous journey, after all, and the best kind of reminder was the kind that also had a practical purpose.

The final thing he had brought with him out of the Fire Nation was the pile of gold pieces that he had hidden in the false bottom of the Funeral Box. After all, he had a family to provide for in a strange new land where being too Fire Nation could cause trouble, and keeping his daughter's tablet close to him would be an excellent excuse for never letting the gold out of his sight.

Hours after Tomoshibi revealed his engagement to Hye (most of those hours spent dealing with Michi's sobbing that she was losing her son to an Earth Kingdom peasant) Ukano sat alone in kitchen with a single candle to hold back the darkness, contemplating that pile of gold. He had exchanged some of it for more mundane coinage early on, fueling the trip across the former colonies and eventually buying a nice little house with a garden for Michi to play with. Now, some of it would pay for Tomoshibi's wedding- or it would, once Michi calmed down- and probably fund a dowry to Hye's family to soften allowing despised Fire Nation blood into their peasant line. This despite Michi being a full-blooded noble and Hye's grandmother being some addled witch woman.

For his son's happiness, Ukano could deal with that. Maybe at one time, he would have balked, but now that Mai was gone-

Ukano still had something he could do for his daughter, as well. Mai had died unmarried (despite Michi's best efforts), and now her little brother was preparing to wed. Maybe the culture on the Home Island allowed that type of thing, but on the Outer Islands where Ukano had been raised, children were married in the order of their birth, lest chaos descend on the world. Mai's Hun spirit must have long ago reincarnated, but to allow her bound Po spirit to spend eternity alone would be unthinkable.

But there was still gold to spend, and death wasn't necessarily an obstacle to marriage.

Ukano sat in the dark with his lone candle, thinking the idea over. He'd have to move fast, if he wanted to get it done without delaying Tomoshibi's own wedding plans. Getting a broker involved would be necessary, as there was no other way to quickly identify good candidates. It would be tough enough to find a worthy Fire Nation corpse here in the colonies, and that would undoubtedly inflate the prices. But then, Mai had never been the type to get worked up over a person's station, so long as they were clean and didn't touch her. In that way, a ghost marriage would be ideal for her, since she was now just a pile of ashes in a clay tablet, and so she could go for all of eternity without ever touching her husband.

Yes, it would take gold, but Ukano would make it happen.

What else could a good father do?

The candle flame jumped, even though the air was still.

Pianqu the Nail, professional arranger of marriages, offered his signature smile to his latest client. "Just get your gold ready, sir, and I'll bring in the father of your future son-in-law." The client, a Fire Nation ex-patriate named Ukano, nodded and pulled a small but delightfully heavy sack from his belt. The sack made a lovely clunky sound when it was dropped on the table. Pianqu gave a small bow and stepped out of his little 'office.' Of course, it was really the corner of his tavern- mostly empty now that the dinner hour was passed- but the table at which Ukano was sitting was set off from the rest of the room, allowing some privacy while ghost marriages were arranged. Pianqu moved away from that table now, heading up the stairs to where he kept some rooms for rent, and popped his head into the first room in the hallway. "Showtime."

When Pianqu returned to his 'office,' he was followed by a man who was the very picture of a poor lonely farmer. "Sorry to leave you waiting, sir. This is Lee, a local farmer who, like your respectful self, was forced by circumstance to flee from the Homeland. It's terrible what those barbarians have done to our great nation, but at least we can look out for each other here, eh?"

Ukano just blinked, looking slightly distracted. You'd think his daughter had just died yesterday, rather than fifteen years ago.

Lee the Poor Lonely Farmer sat down opposite Ukano, and nodded. "I'm told that we might have a suitable match."

Ukano sat up for the first time since Pianqu had me him, and said, "I hope so. My daughter's name was Mai, and she- it's time she was married, even if it's in death. Tell me about your son."

"Well, my boy Wang was a good lad. He helped work my farm until he came of age, and then joined the Army like any loyalist would. He was assigned to the Home Guard, and bravely defended us from the Two Incursions, until the Retaliatory Invasion came. He died on the shores of the Home Island, cut down by a Water Tribe sword. I know my line ain't much, but my Wang served, and he deserves the Honor of a good wife."

Ukano nodded. "I'm sorry for your loss. Mai grew up in the Capital, thanks to my wife's family and my own contributions to the war effort. She was a companion to Princess Azula herself, and died fighting with the Princess on the steps of the Fire Palace. I- I don't know how she died, but- they wrapped her for her funeral, and I never got to see her face again before she was ash." Ukano lowered his head and covered his face with a hand.

That was Pianqu's cue to step in. "The sacrifices of both your families honor our Fire Nation legacy. Since Lady Caldera Yu Mai is undoubtedly of the greater line, Wang's remains should be placed on her shrine, but given his honorable military service, I see no reason to oppose this match. Do you consent, Lee?"

Lee the Poor Lonely Farmer nodded. "Mai sounds like a right good young lady. I'd be honored to rest my son on her shrine."

Ukano lowered his hand, revealing a newly composed face. "Thank you, Lee. I will take your son into my family, with respect and gratitude."

Pianqu clapped once. "Then it sounds like we have a deal, gentlemen. Lee has already paid for my services and given the urn containing his son's bones to my care, so I only need Ukano's payment..." He trailed off and smiled.

Ukano pushed the sack of gold across the table.

Pianqu the Nail made the sack disappear into his sleeve, and stood up. "Then I will fetch the urn." He trotted away and back up the stairs, to the same room where Lee the Poor Lonely Farmer had been waiting. Waiting there now were rows and rows of urns. Pianqu grabbed one at random and chuckled. He hadn't always been a tavern owner and matchmaker, and while those certainly paid better than his old job, it didn't hurt to supplement his income. Of course, that had required a bit of foresight, back when he had been cleaning corpses off of battlefields. Some of those bodies could be identified, and so sent back to their families, but others... well, it was reported that they were honorably burned and place in an anonymous mass grave, but it wasn't like anyone checked those things. And now those old bones provided a nice side-business for Pianqu the Nail and his brother 'Lee.'

After all, it wasn't like ghost marriages were real.

Michi wasn't sure if she should be elated or devastated. It was technically her daughter's wedding night, but both the bride and the groom had been dead for over a decade.

It still hurt to think of that. Her daughter was dead. That fussy baby, that quiet tot, that stressed little girl, that obnoxious young lady- Mai was dead. One day, she had gone off to consult with the Princess about the defense of the Fire Palace, and then forty-eight hours later, Ty Lee was at their doorstep carrying a wrapped body and sobbing inconsolably. Michi hadn't even known what to think for the first few days. The entire Fire Nation was falling apart and an angry Waterbender woman was being given rulership of the Homeland, but all Michi was concerned with was telling herself that Mai wasn't just wasting time upstairs again, that there was a lifeless body in the basement's ice room waiting for a funeral. It wasn't until Michi had been given the tablet with the character for Mai's name on it that it finally became real, and to this day she couldn't remember the next week after that. The only memory was of Ukano telling her that they should escape to the colonies for Tom-Tom's sake.

And now, over a decade later, Mai was getting married. Maybe it made Ukano happy, but these Outer Island customs were insane.

Michi and her husband were hidden from prying eyes in the garden shed. Outside, it was a moonlit midnight, the perfect hour for conducting a Fire Nation ceremony in a land where reminders of the Fire Nation brought anger and suspicion. A pair of rakes dressed in old robes was standing in as effigies for the bride and groom, with Mai's tablet tied to the head of one and this Wang's urn of bones tied to the other. Ukano had wanted to hold Mai's rake, but Michi had been adamant: "You got to name her, she wore those stupid ox-horn buns they like so much in your hometown, and now you're marrying her ghost to the bones of a boy you bought in a tavern. I'm going to at least hold my daughter's rake at her ghost wedding!"

And so they had gone through the steps. Mai's rake had spent the night in her parent's bedroom, and then proceeded to her wedding place by way of circling the house a few times and then heading to the shed. (Michi was relieved that none of the neighbors were around to see her marching in circles around her own house holding a rake.) Ukano and Michi had spilled the traditional wine on the rakes, just a splash to represent the binding sip, and faking the bows was easy enough. Now Ukano was reading the Binding Words from a scroll, and finishing, "So by my authority as the Governor-in-Exile of Omashu, I bind Private Wang to the line of Lady Caldera Yu Mai, long may it burn. Please bow." Michi rolled her eyes and angled the rake again in a fake bow. "Excellent. That completes the ceremony. Our daughter is married."

Michi wanted to say something withering, but she couldn't get anything past the lump in her throat.

Her daughter was now a wife.
« Last Edit: Nov 01, 2015 09:09 pm by Loopy » Logged

Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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I'm Loooooooopy!

« Reply #1 on: Oct 31, 2015 04:53 pm »


She was being tugged, being pulled out of the ether and pressed together so hard that she was almost becoming solid. Energies that had been spread out over time and space were being tugged back to a single moment, to a single spot, drawn with the inexorable strength of gravity.

Mai had almost forgotten what gravity was like.

She had forgotten light, as well. Light was a thing for eyes, and Mai had no eyes, now. She had nothing but her purest self, the Self that had been the only true thing about her. Bodies grew and changed, their component parts lived and died and were replaced, but the Self was everlasting. Now her Self was being brought back to the memory of a body, to the memory of life.

She was taking a form, coalescing according to the shape she had when she had been cremated. It was only a shape, for she no longer had a body and didn't know how to steal one, but the energies of her spirit dreamed of having substance and used that dream to mimic a form. The eyes and face were first, because they were the closest the body came to reflecting the Self, followed by waves of energy that flowed and flattened and tied up to mimic hair. Then the rest of her shape came, taking on some essence of a teenage body and some essence of the flowing robes she had used to wear.

The only thing that ruined the illusion of having form was the solid and very real rake that stood in the center of her incorporeal self.

Remembering the old habits of life, Mai tried to look around, and though she had no eyes, perception flooded her awakening mind. She was in a garden shed. Mother and Father were here. It was warm.

There was another Spirit beside her.

Mai focused her perceptions on this fellow ghost. It, too, was coalescing around a rake, starting as a ball of energy and stretching bits of itself out one by one to take shape. Two tendrils became arms, and a third a head. The form shifted, each twitch adding more detail, like a living being casting off the numbness of a bad sleeping position. First came the face, followed by hair that was pulled back into a short bushy ponytail. Then, details of muscles and broad shoulders made themselves apparent briefly before they were covered by a heft like light armor. The edges blurred and flowed to become fur trim, and the muscular arms took hold of weapons- a spear and a small sharp-edged angle. It was then that Mai realized the ghost was of a Water Tribe warrior.

An enemy. His kind had killed her.

In an instant her incorporeal hands were holding shapes not unlike knives. The Water Tribe ghost noticed her, too, and angled his spear to guard against any attacks while he raised his angle as though to throw it. But the movements of his arms for some reason pulled on Mai's own ghostly limbs, and when she tried to pull them back against herself, the Water Tribe ghost's arms were yanked out of position.

It was then that they both noticed the line connecting them, a red line of pure light that tied around their wrists. Mai struck at it with her knives, and the Water Tribe ghost sawed at it with his sharp angle thing, but their weapons gave way first, collapsing into mist against the strength of the red line.

Then it began pulling them together.

Mai pushed out with her ghostly arms, trying to keep the Water Tribe warrior away from her, and he did the same. It was no good, though, as their combined strength was nothing against that of the contracting red line. Their pushes became an embrace, and the substances of their Selves began mixing. Their arms melted together, their bodies pressed until fused, and a touching of faces became a forced kiss became a monstrous blending.

The Water Tribe warrior’s thoughts flowed into Mai's consciousness. His name was Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, and he had followed his father Hakoda into war against the Fire Nation. Sokka had never been a great warrior, as much as he wanted to live up to his father's legacy, but he had survived up to the Retaliatory Invasion, when he took a fireball to the gut on the shores on the Capital Island and died over the course of an agonizing ten minutes before a Healer could get to him.

Mai tried to scream, and only succeeded because Sokka was screaming as well. Their memories mixed together in a chaos that chased away any sense of fact or narrative, but with their minds working in tandem, they realized what was being done to them.

They had been married.

Mai was married to an enemy warrior, a young man who thought women were weak, a backward savage who viewed Fire Nation culture as an abomination that had to be scourged from the Earth.

This time, her scream echoed all the way back to the world of the living.

Tomoshibi was jolted out of sleep by the most awful screeching he had ever heard. He leaped from his bed and looked around in panic, but the sound was coming from outside. He hurried over to the window in time to see his parents come racing out of the backyard shed like they were being chased by the dead.

Then a white shape burst from out of the shed, floating and glowing, swooping at Mother and Father with howling fury.

Tomoshibi screamed.

He screamed as he ran for the back door, and he screamed as he flung it open and motioned at his parents. He screamed as they dashed past him into the house, and he screamed as he slammed the door shut and skittered back away from it.

The ghost's scream grew louder, grew denser, and something slammed against the back door.

The tablet hanging above the door rattled on its nail, and Tomoshibi kept screaming.

Then he stopped. The tablet! Tomoshibi had barely paid attention to it, since it had been nailed above the door since the family had first moved into the house, and his parents had never acknowledged it. It was a typical good luck tablet like all the locals hung, bearing the characters for health and purity. It rattled again as the thing outside once again slammed against the door.

"We're safe in here," he found himself saying. He pointed to the tablet, and looked over to where his parents were panting behind him. "It's keeping the ghost out." He suddenly felt like laughing, so he did. He had no idea what was so funny about the situation, but the laughing felt good, so he kept doing it, growing louder with each passing moment. He kept laughing until Mother came over and put her arms around his shoulder, and then the urge to laugh abruptly went away. He took a deep, shuddering breath. "What's going on?"

Mother and Father traded looks in the moonlight. He turned away first and buried his face in his hands, while Mother straightened her back and sighed. "It seems that your sister doesn't like the husband we picked out for her."


Hye was usually a heavy sleeper, and quite tolerant of her sisters' movements, but now there was enough commotion going on in the big bed to knock her back to wakefulness. Shoving her youngest sister's foot out of her face, Hye said, "What's going on?"

A screech echoed through the night, loud even though the walls of the house, like no animal had ever given. Hyo, Hyun, and Ho all turned to look at Hye with eyes that glistened tearfully in the moonlight.

Hye then noticed Grandma standing at one of the windows, the one facing the main lane, and hurried over to join her. "Is there something going on outside?"

Grandma simply pointed, and Hye looked out into the night. The glow of the moon made the rest of the village plainly visible, but it seemed like flashes of lightning were breaking out somewhere nearby. How could the moon be so bright if storm clouds were-

Hye suddenly got a chill. "That isn't lightning."

Grandma shook her head.

Hye was no Shaman. Even Grandma didn't approach the expertise needed to claim that title; she was merely a wise woman, one knowledgeable and respectful enough to do Blessing ceremonies and advise people in honoring the oldest traditions.

But sometimes mud happens, someone has to deal with it, and who ya gonna call?

Hye went to get her robe.

"Take my walking stick," Grandma called after her, brandishing the gnarled staff. "It's made of peach wood."

Hye nodded. She tied her robe loose and her sandals tight so that she could run, grabbed the crystal lantern they had saved for so long to afford and hooked it on her belt, and then accepted the walking stick. "Keep the girls inside." Giving one last nod of false reassurance, she ran out into the night, in the direction of the flashes.

Her resolve hardened as she realized she was heading towards Tomoshibi's house.

The ghost was visible before the house itself was. Hye slowed as she approached, studying the being. It glowed in the night, a twisted reflection of the healthy moon, and was shifting shape as it flew and crashed against the house. Its basic form was bat-like, with great wings, but the body was constantly shifting and twisting, becoming a giant double-face one moment and then a bundle of human limbs the next. It screeched again and swooped towards Hye, but she swung the walking stick as the ghost came close, and it peeled away with another screech.

Hye was rather glad that worked.

Now she had to think.

She watched the ghost as it resumed its attack on the house. It was bouncing off the doors and walls, a good sign that indicated that Tomoshibi's parents must have the proper Luck Tablets hanging. The house wouldn't be able to take much battering, but Tomoshibi and his family would be safe inside for now. Hye turned her attention to the ghost itself, making herself really look at the frightful forms it took. There were never more than four arms or legs visible at any moment pushing out from the main body, and when faces became visible, it seemed to Hye like there were two, alternating and flowing into each other. And one of those faces-

-it looked like that ink drawing from the shrine in the garden shed.


This? This was why parents should always consult Grandma's astrology before approving a match, whether or not the betrothed children were alive.

Swinging the peach wood stick above her head as a ward against attack, Hye dashed around Tomoshibi's house to the back yard, and didn't slow as she tore across the garden to the shed. The sky above her lit up and a cold wind blew down on her, but she angled the swinging stick higher and felt it strike something almost solid. Another screech burst out so close that Hye's ears almost exploded with pain, but she made herself keep running, and slammed into the door of the shed.

The door burst off its track and Hye tumbled inside. She landed on something sharp, and it took a second to realize they were not the claws of some monster, but the teeth of a pair of old rakes. For some reason, the rakes were wrapped in old robes. Hye raised her lantern and looked around, finding the shed a complete mess. Tools and gardening paraphernalia were scattered all about, and in the back-

-in the back, Mai's shrine had toppled.

Hye hurried over to it, finding the ink drawing all crumpled and torn, and the three-pronged blade was lying in the dirt of the floor. Hye grabbed a few of the scattered incense sticks and a pair of spark rocks, but could not find the tablet. Where was it? She needed-

Ah, yes.

Hye went back to the rakes, and sure enough, found the tablet tied to one of them. She broke the twine with her bare fingers and put the tablet in one of her pocket, then examined the other rake to find a small urn tied to it. Silently begging forgiveness for the disrespect, she popped the top open and peered inside to find a pile of small, charred bones within. That would do. She replaced the lid, put the urn in the other pocket, and jumped to her feet.

The ghost was waiting when she dashed out of the shed again, but Grandma's stick served to beat it away. Hye didn't slow down, rushing out of the garden and back around Tomoshibi's house. She had to get to the road, and had to travel until she found the proper place.

Except the ghost was not leaving her alone.

It raced at her, and even as Hye smacked it with the stick again, it was wheeling in the air and swooping down once more. Hye tried to hit it again with the backswing of her weapon, but she was no warrior, and in the time it took her to reverse the stick's direction, the ghost was again attacking. Its wings brushed the skin of Hye's arms, and jolts of cold stabbed down straight into her bones. She gasped and tried to keep running, but she was slower now to swing the stick, and the ghost danced around the air, screeching and slamming into her back. Hye stumbled to the ground, well short of the crossroads she had been making for, and moaned with the pain of the cold that set her shivering.

Then came the roar of a man, and Tomoshibi was scooping her up in his arms and running on like a madman. "You," he panted, "okay?"

"Crossroads," Hye stammered between chattering teeth. "Get me there. Hold the ghost off while I work."

He didn't respond, but several long moments later, he was setting Hye down on the dirt of the road. She shoved the peach wood stick into his hands, and turned her attention to the ground beneath her. It was indeed a crossroads, and she began clawing at the dirt, digging as deep a hole as she could. The packed dirt and stones tore at the skin of her fingers, but the screeching of the ghost spurred her on. She heard Tomoshibi cry out, and while that stabbed right into her heart to cause more pain than any of her tribulations so far, she forced herself to keep digging.

A cold wind wafted over Hye's back, and she decided that the hole was deep enough.

She dropped the tablet and the urn into the hole and shoved the displaced dirt back on top of them. She didn't bother to smooth it over, as the wheels and feet of travelers would handle that, and the loose soil easily accepted the incense sticks. She used the spark rocks to light them and kneeled beside them. She bowed low even as the air grew cold around her and the all of the night was the scream of the dead, and hummed the Spiritual Note.

She put the ghost's howling out of her mind, as well as Tomoshibi's pained cries. She ignored the ice that prickled at the skin of her face, and the frigid wind that enveloped her body.

Instead, she focused on her love for Tomoshibi- her joy at her chance to marry him, the contentment she expected from their new life together, the honest work of making their marriage function all through the years of their life, the peace of being together once their lives had ended and their Drifting Spirits had gone on to reincarnate.

She put all that feeling into her Spiritual Note, and let the hum fill the night.

When Hye could hum no more, she rose from her bow and opened her eyes. The darkness was opposed only by the moonlight, and the breeze was no cooler than was usual for this time of the year.

The ghost was gone.

Hye burst out with a relieved breath, and hurried over to where Tomoshibi was lying on the ground. His skin was cold, but he still drew air, and he warmed easily in Hye's arms. He hugged her back, and they stayed that way, together at the crossroads, for a long while.

Finally, they drew apart, and Tomoshibi said, "What was that all about?"

Hye shook her head. "The problem with ghost marriages is that they involve ghosts. Come on, let's go make sure your parents are okay, and let my Grandma and sisters know I wasn't pulled into the Spirit World."

"You're going to be the best wife of all time."

"I know."


The glowing red line still connected Sokka to the Fire Nation woman- to this Mai- and every movement of her spirit tugged as Sokka's ethereal limbs.

They were stuck with each other, sealed away in the dark that lived within the ether of the physical world. There were two worlds, Sokka had been taught by his Gran-Gran, but he couldn't remember all the details from the stories of his childhood. Perhaps he could find a way to the Spirit World, in time, but even there, he could feel that Mai would always be with him.

She was his wife now, for all eternity.

He remembered the sound made by that young Wise Woman, the Note she made as she was sealing away the monster that Mai and Sokka had become. He couldn't quite recall the exact tone, but he could remember the way it made him feel, the peace it had brought to him, the salve it put on the pain of his conjoined state. It reminded him of the moments Dad and Mom had shared, back when Mom had been alive, when they could find a bit of peace amidst the demands of Sokka and Katara.

He turned his attention to Mai's ghost, and willed intention into words: "I guess we're stuck with each other."

Her ghostly form wavered, but then solidified with more detail than Sokka had yet seen, actually looking pretty as she said, "I guess."

"We're probably going to be here together for a very long time."

"Yeah. Sounds boring."

"Yeah." Sokka moved his essence closer to hers, to the ghost of a flawed woman who had fought for the Fire Nation as his flawed self had fought for the Water Tribe, so that the red line connecting them finally went slack. "But at least we can be good company for each other. Right, my wife?" Even though he wasn't quite speaking with a voice the way the living did, he remembered awkwardness as he willed those last few words into being.

Mai was silent for a long moment. "Right, my husband."

"Great. So... I guess that guy was your brother?"

"Yeah. I like that girl he's marrying. She's hardcore. But it's hard not thinking of Tom-Tom as a baby. I was a teenager when he was born."

"I have a sister, her name's Katara. She was only a year younger than me, so I can't even remember a time without her. We're more like twins, I guess. I wonder if she's married by now."

And so the two ghosts- husband and wife- talked, and got to know each other.


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« Reply #2 on: Oct 31, 2015 11:30 pm »

Good Halloween story Smiley

The bit with the swindler actually made me want to cry. The scene was pitiful. Mai's dad was never the sharpest tool in the shed, and to see him taken advantage of like this, trying to find a mate for dead daughter... man, that's hard. I suppose it has the effect on the audience because we see the swindle. Mai's dad never does. I'm actually glad of that.

Nice use of Tom-Tom. Very rare for anyone to use that character. Almost a perfect blank slate!

Katara as ruler of the Fire Nation? Ty Lee as a governor - married to an EK uh... person? I wonder who. Cool. That's an interesting AU! Mai's father was still governor of Omashu though... any idea where the world diverged from canon here?

Thanks for sharing!
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