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|Title: The Dry Land
Author: Eleanor K.
Fandom: Blade of the Immortal
Posted: 12 Oct, 2003
Spoilers: for Cry of the Worm
Disclaimer: They're not mine. They belong to Hiroaki Samura. And in
Shizuma's case, at least, that's totally fine with me. Title and concept
of the afterlife from Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books.
Warnings: Blood, violence, pain. Pretty much like
the series, only with sex.
Notes: Chrissy is a beta-goddess, and she helps me pimp this fandom. She rocks, as do Becc, Skripka, and Sffan for audiencing and allowing themsleves to be pimped to.
Shizuma sees a phantom girl stumble away into the night. She is a brief flare of light across the dark sky of an empty country. He looks down and sees beneath his feet not the floor of the barn that she just ran out of, but the dry stone of an ancient wall.
He looks to his left--the side that holds his heart--and sees the shadow world he's come to know. The faces, the candles, the torches... Some of them burn brighter than others. Some of them burn longer. But they all go out in the end. And leave him alone, in the dark, listening to the dry rattle of bones. The dry rustle of leaves still clinging to a life long gone on the splintered fingers of branches.
He looks to the right, and he sees the land beyond. There is no fire there. Nothing to light his way. Nothing to burn out. Only dust and darkness and seductive whispers of a promised end.
He turns to Manji, facing him on this wall between the worlds, balancing on stone that has crumbled under his feet so slowly he hardly noticed. Even stone will rot, given enough time.
He comes back to himself, to the world of his heart, and only then realizes that the wall is only in his mind. That's happening more and more often lately.
He comes back in the middle of a conversation, which is less common. He doesn't talk to many people these days. Not many live people, anyway. Sometimes, he's come back to himself trying to talk to men with their throats cut, their blood bathing his hands as he shakes them, frustrated by their silence.
"It wouldn't be right to kill you too easy," he hears himself saying. True. He agrees with himself. That's why the dose of kessen-satsu he used was so low.
He remembers, when he thinks about it, that he doesn't want Manji dead at all.
He studies Manji's scarred face, meets his easy one-eyed stare. Manji is smiling slightly, just like a normal person. Just like one of those lightning strikes that brighten the world from time to time.
But Manji is real.
"A taste of pain," Manji is saying--and Shizuma realizes he's faded out again. "Such as most people could never even dream of."
That gets his attention. That, like Manji, is real. Other things pass. All other things. He goes on, and the pain goes on, and now... Now Manji will go on as well.
He smiles. Maybe it's closer to a baring of his teeth, but he has a limited range of expression these days.
"And that's exactly what *I'm* looking for," he says. "Draw!"
He waits, so still, both worlds paused. He wants to see Manji draw first, wants to see the flat silver flash of his weapon--and then it is in his hand, and Shizuma slips his own katana out of its sheath as smoothly as he slips it into a man's heart.
Their blades clash, and the sound is the pealing of church bells, the thunder of autumn storms that tear the sky, the crack of boulders split by frost. He feels the strength of Manji's living flesh through the steel of their joined weapons.
Step away, step closer, the turn of a courtly dance over the straw-strewn floor of the old barn. The delicacy of ritual and the perfection of blood still to be spilled. He wishes he could see his own face. His smile feels more real than it has in years.
Step closer, once again, and their blades join and lock, both of them pressing the advantage, pressing toward each other, straining--and he doesn't know when it changes. He's feeling the steel of Manji's body against his, the steel of Manji's blade very nearly at his throat, and he is grinding the edge of his katana closer every second--and then he's grinding his hips against Manji's and feeling hardness of a different kind.
They both pause, and it's clear from Manji's face that he feels it, too. They are breathing in each other's faces, nearly snarling, lips drawn back, and it takes so little to lean forward--so little that Shizuma doesn't even know who does it first.
Savage bite to his lower lip, more than enough to draw blood. He pushes against it, pushes his blade a fraction of an inch closer to Manji's neck. Their teeth click and clash, and Manji's tongue is in his mouth. He pulls back, spitting blood on the floor. Stares at Manji's fixed smirk.
"What the fuck was that?" he asks, finally.
"What the fuck did it feel like, pal?"
Whine of metal as their swords slide together. Both of them start.
Then they are moving again. Maybe blood calls to blood. Maybe it's like Manji said--they're both killers and loving it. Maybe it's only the relief that someone else is walking this wall with him. Whatever the reason, the second kiss is harder than the first and clearer in intent.
Manji sucks the drying blood from his bottom lip, and they press so close that their blades are trapped between them, so tightly that the smallest motion is translated immediately into pain.
"This doesn't change anything," Shizuma gets out. "You're dying tonight."
"One of us is, anyway."
"I've got a hell of a lot more practice staying alive than you do, Manji."
"What you've got is a death wish the size of Mt. Fuji, and I'm the guy to make all your dreams come true."
He stretches forward to nip and suck at Manji's ear. "Oh yeah? We'll see about that."
He simply stops resisting and allows Manji's forward pressure to push him up against the wall. Manji hits hard against him with a grunt and a curse as his own sword slices into his chest.
Manji's hips buck against his, and Shizuma reaches a hand between their bodies, squeezing hard. Manji winces and grabs his throat, close to cutting off his air as he grinds their mouths together.
Shizuma tastes his own blood, and then as Manji's lip tears on his teeth, tastes his blood, too. Real. This is real. He's in this barn smelling of straw and leather and clean things, not walking that eternal twilight wall.
He starts to laugh and hears it come out as a sob.
Manji tightens his hold. "Come on, Shizuma. Don't wimp out on me now. You need this as much as I do."
"Yeah," Shizuma mutters. "Same fight, different venue, right? *Pal*?"
Manji lets go and steps back. "Right." He drops his sword.
Shizuma smiles and lunges forward until the cold edge of his blade is eating at the soft warmth of Manji's neck.
Manji stands firm, unmoved. "There's plenty of time for that later. If we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it before the girl gets back. She can watch me kill you, but she ain't watching me fuck you."
"Who says it'll be you fucking me?"
"You're the one who wanted pain. Never say I don't keep my promises."
Shizuma presses the edge in a little deeper. Blood wells out around it. "You look so fucking good with my blade at your neck, Manji. Real good. And you're not really in a position to keep any promises."
"You might be surprised."
Manji grabs his arm and twists, and his sword falls from his hand. He wasn't prepared. Or he didn't want to be prepared.
Manji doesn't bother stripping either of them. He pushes Shizuma down to his hands and knees and shoves up his kimono, baring him from the waist down.
Shizuma turns to watch over his shoulder, impatient, angry. "What's taking you so long?"
Manji smirks. "Calm down. I'm getting there."
Then Manji's robes are open, his body hot against Shizuma's, his hard-on sliding roughly in the cleft of his ass. The motion pauses, and Shizuma growls in frustration.
"What now?" he demands.
"You sure about this? Gonna hurt like hell."
He laughs. "Don't wimp out on me now, Manji."
Sudden harsh thrust, tearing into him. He groans, the sound forced out of him into the still air.
"Fuck," he mutters to himself. "Fuckfuck*fuck*."
Manji laughs in his ear. "Working on it."
"Going to hurt you so bad," Shizuma gasps. "Going to cut you up."
"So you keep telling me." Manji shoves into him, and the angle is just right--pleasure hits along with the pain, stealing his breath. "Funny how you don't seem to be workin' real hard at that."
His body gives way to Manji's pressure, and he's being fucked hard and steady, thrusting back into every push, feeling himself tear and bleed and feeling how that paradoxically seems to lessen the pain as Manji moves more easily inside him.
He bows his head, letting it hang between his shoulders, swaying with the force of each thrust. The prison of his body is violated and opened. The barn floor bruises his knees, and he starts to feel that dry stone wall crumble beneath his feet.
A rough hand traps his cock, squeezing, jerking. His head comes up with a snap, and he hisses between his teeth. Slang obscenities from two hundred years before shoot past his lips like fireworks, fading quickly in the dark air.
Manji pulls him back, pulls him up so they are both on their knees, plunges deeper. Again, Shizuma is reminded of his weapon finding a home, in his sheath or in someone's heart. He twists against it, can't fight it, dies a thousand deaths as his climax is ripped out of him. The sound he makes is both beserker scream and death rattle.
Manji's hips snap up into his limp body a few more times. A harsh noise of breath in his ear, and Manji is coming as well, one hand still wrapped around his spent cock, the nails of the other digging into his stomach.
Manji pulls free of him afterwards more gently than Shizuma would have preferred.
He falls forward to his hands and knees. It takes a minute before he can sit up and turn to face Manji.
Both of them straighten their robes and watch each other warily. Their breathing is the only sound in the close air of the barn.
"Well," Manji says, finally. "We're done here, yeah?"
Then there is the instinctive grab for their abandoned weapons, the thud of their sandals on the floor, the perfection of blood realized as Manji lands the first deep cut down the center of Shizuma's chest.
Spin and leap and jab, and all the while, Shizuma is grinning like he'll never stop again.
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