• Disclaimer – I will never own any of the characters in this story. All of them belong to Sunrise, Nagoya Television, Graz Entertainment, and Ocean Group. I am making no money from the posting of this fan fiction, nor should I receive any money for such reasons.

    Little Lies
    Lorelei Yeager

    "It would've been easier if he had only lied to us."

    Those words ring in my ears as I watch two men standing before my grave. Their visit is unexpected, as I rest beside a stream that leads to a walled-in garden. I do not see anything in their hands, but I wonder if they are the ones who left me that offering.

    Before the black sun rose this morning, someone left me a basket filled with paper dolls. On the body of each doll was a prayer, asking me to bless those who live in the castle. A majority of the supplications asked for wealth and marriage. Though I am pleased to see such requests, I cannot answer them. I am terrible with money and do not know much about romantic love.

    Another thing I noticed written on the dolls was the date. I understand the reason I was given these offerings. Today is Children's Day.

    If this year's festivities are the same as the previous ones, then I can only imagine what must be going on in the City of Desire. Many of the residents are probably flying carp streamers, bringing out expensive samurai dolls from storage, while others, mostly mothers, are placing iris leaves in their sons' baths. When I was still alive, I would stand on the balcony overlooking the castle gardens and wait for the moons to rise. Once their light shined over the imperial palace, I would leave, walk to the dining hall, and partake of a great feast that included chimaki, kashiwamochi, and much revelry. Later that evening, there would be a contest to see how much sake my fellows and I could drink without getting drunk.

    "You don't know that." The owner of the second voice counters, pulling me from my thoughts. "When Talpa was still alive, all we lived was a lie."

    I agree with the man who just spoke. I do not care for the first person's words, as they are laced thick with emotion. What they are arguing about is not clear, but I think they are discussing the war.

    Why would anyone bring that subject up? It has been three years since the demon was destroyed, and peace has been restored to the Nether Realm. Terror is a thing of the past, and many people are enjoying the prosperity they never knew under Talpa.

    The next voice becomes snappish. "I do know that! We could stand here all day and debate if one more string of lies would have made a difference, but I know Anubis would still be alive if he had only pretended to be kidnapped and brainwashed by that blasted monk. The damn fool."

    Now I recognize the two men as Cale and Sekhmet. How could I have missed the first's unkempt dark-blue hair, which looks like it battled against a comb and won? Or his companion's, a more slender man with equally messy green hair?

    Are they talking about me? Moreover, what are they doing here this early in the afternoon? Normally they would come in the evening, around the same time the moons rose.

    Still, I am glad they are visiting. To die and never be remembered is the worst thing that can happen to the dead. Perhaps that is why I stay in a transitory state, refusing to be reborn until all the former Dark Warlords have joined me. Then again, it could also be that I miss their presence.

    Gliding towards my fellow warriors, I ghost past Sekhmet and stand behind Cale. The close proximity has a soothing effect, and I am content to draw in his aura.

    Sekhmet lets out a large sigh. "That's not how he was."

    I agree with him. Lying had never been one of my strengths because such actions went against the code of Bushido and honor my family instilled in me. Seeking the truth is the only honorable way to live.

    The conversation shifts back to Cale. As I watch him ball his right hand into a fist, I continue to hear him rant. "Anubis and his damnable honor. If only he had lost that human weakness, then maybe he wouldn't be buried under the ground."

    "You would rather us live a lie?" Sekhmet and I ask in an astonished tone. Neither of them can hear me, but I do not like the idea of Cale being subjected to Talpa's whims. Such words trigger a flood of memories.

    I remember the day I was being held prisoner in the castle's dungeon. While my armor was being drained of its power, I could hear Cale and Sekhmet's cries of pain as they were forced to absorb the energy from the Nether Spirits. Last month, I learned that the attempted capture outside the abandoned temple was the result of a botched "reeducation" brainwash that was ordered via Talpa's command. How could Cale endure such a horror and still desire to be a puppet?

    "Cale, you know what Anubis would say."

    In an attempt to stop my thoughts, I try to put my hand on Cale's right shoulder. Startled, I cry out in surprise when my hand goes through him. I do not like Cale feeling upset because of a choice I made, but there has to be a way to comfort him without giving away my presence.

    I settle on sending a cold wind to envelop him. I have every intention of keeping Cale within his element, and the sight of his hair blowing in the breeze seems to help him calm down. Sekhmet starts to shiver, cursing the cold draft.

    The unexplained chill leads to a few moments of awkward silence. Despite the shift in temperature, Sekhmet continues the conversation. "Do you remember the last Children's Day feast we had?"

    "How could I forget? You and I drank too much sake that night. Dais and Anubis had to help us back to our rooms."

    "I woke up with a large headache," Sekhmet frowns, causing a small smile to grace my features. "I'd sworn never to drink that much, but you goaded me into the challenge."

    "I still beat you."

    After that sentence, both men stop speaking. Strangely, I do remember that evening.

    The four of us had started out that night with the traditional feast, until late in the evening when Cale challenged Sekhmet to a drinking contest. Dais and I had opted out of the idea, but Sekhmet is a person who does not back down from a challenge.

    The drinking did not stop until early in the morning. Reeking of alcohol and vomit, I had to drag in and spend most of my morning taking care of Cale. I do not know how many times I had warned him about his self-control.

    Again, Sekhmet pulls me out of my memories. "It wasn't a bad celebration."

    "I know, but things like this bring back –"

    "Cale, don't get started."

    "I'll get started if I damn well please!"

    I do not understand why Cale is getting worked up again. The calm moment has suddenly shifted, and I can see his face turning red. "We suffered, we killed, we were brainwashed many times, and we did it all for a demon lord who promised us whatever boon we wanted! We could've had Anubis back with us! All he had to do was lie! But that damned honor code got him killed!"

    I shake my head as Cale stops and tries to calm down. As I prepare to send another blast of cold air to comfort him, his emotions change again by switching to despair. "What good are your morals and ethics if they get you killed? What good do they do you when you find a friend's corpse washed up on a riverbank?"

    He is not asking easy questions. Even if I were to take a solid form for a few minutes, I would not be able to answer him. It is something I do not wish to dwell on.

    Thankfully, Sekhmet does not require an answer. "Cale, you can't be angry at Anubis for saving our lives. He did it for a reason."

    "And it was petty."

    Now it is my turn to be upset. I had known Cale for many years as a cold, calculating hunter who took any vendetta personally. Sometimes Dais and I would joke about how vindictive Cale could be, and no slight, no matter how small, was ever considered "petty."

    On the other hand, the lie we lived was carefully crafted to boost our ego. When we were victorious, Talpa never forgot to heap praise on our accomplishments. The verbal honors we received from our soldiers only added to the façade.

    I do not want Cale to believe that dying for a friend or friends is a source of anger and stupidity. My actions were done out of love, friendship, and concern. Perhaps it is a concept that he is not familiar with. Or is the wound of my death refusing to heal?

    To be honest, I do not know. Anger is an easier emotion to accept than grief, and as someone who has risen above both feelings, I can sympathize with Cale's turmoil.

    Before I can finish my internal debate, Sekhmet speaks. "I'm not going to push it. You have a right to be upset and feel like calling Anubis a fool. But we learned from our mistakes. We left Talpa, we sided with the Ronin Warriors, and we helped make amends. It can't all have been in vain?"

    "It was."

    Sekhmet and I bite our lower lips in an attempt not to argue. Cale starts to open his mouth when a shout cuts him off. "Cale! Sekhmet! The both of you are needed inside! The Children's Day feast is almost ready!"

    The voice belongs to Dais, who is making his way towards us with a large bowl of rice topped with pickled eel. After saying hello, he stops at my grave, and places the offering on the niche in front of my headstone. Finishing a quick prayer, Dais stands and ushers both men back into the castle. As they are walking, he stops, turns around, and smiles.

    "Happy Birthday." Dais whispers, ignoring Cale and Sekhmet's conversation and surprising me. If they weren't talking, would they think he is speaking to the wind?

    I nod in acceptance, pleased that I will be remembered. As Dais turns around to join the others, I become a clear mist and follow all three to the banquet hall. Floating in the air, I debate whether I should become solid and join them...


    End NotesChimaki are rice cakes wrapped in cogan grass or bamboo leaves, while Kashiwamochi are rice cakes filled with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves.