It played like a broken tape at the back of your mind.
Tattered and broken, you cradled him in your arms, watching as the nightingale struggled in a losing battle.
His breaths were short.
And then, with his bloodied fingers he cupped your cheeks, cold as ice on your skin.
A sentence left unspoken.
And the nightingale drew his final breath.
After that, there was only a static silence that deafened your ears.
The only sensation you remembered that you cracked and wept, after that there was only numbness. You could only vaguely recount the sleepless nights when you wept while clutching what remained of him: the sheath of a broken sword, tattered and shabby but held so many fond memories -- the ultimate source of your sadness. You could only vaguely recount days where you felt paralyzed, losing him hadn't soaked itself yet into you. Days passed ephemerally, while paradoxically, each day felt like forever to you. Whenever you looked around in citadel or in your room, everything reminded you of him; his usual spot of drinking tea, the shrubs of tea trees he cultivated in the garden. You could sniff his scent -- the fresh, raw mountain tea combined with chamomile scent almost everywhere. You could sniff his scent on your bed, on the pillow, on your clothes, on the tea-making utensils. Even the wind seemed to carry his lingering scent, and it filled your void heart with sadness so painful it was hard to breathe.
Oh, for it was so wrong for a human to love a mere object, brought to the ephemeral life and lose it just as fast as he gains it.
You often contemplated -- was it wrong to love him? At first stood an age gap that cannot be crossed between you and the nightingale -- for you are a human, a female human merely twenty-something in age. He had lived a life spanning more than six hundred years, standing idly as a work of an art which was unimaginably flawed, seeing so many fractions and aspects of human life unfolding before his watchful eyes. His wisdom came with his age, at times, you couldn't understand what's going on inside his mind. However, in the end, all that made the difference was the most basic, the most undebatable of the facts: that he was merely a sword, a tool, and you were human. Organic from the top of your head to your toes while he was a tool forged from steel, folded and crafted by the smith of Bizen, Tomonari.
You were reminded of the Sage's Codex, a set of rules passed down from the sages before you; the women that went down in history as the most powerful of sages with wisdom, courage, and power exceeding those of their peers. Among points of the rules you found redundant, there was a point that struck you right in your heart, like an arrow piercing its target. Said rule was, never fall in love with those you bring to life for they are mere tools.
But how could you see those who had been brought by you to life as mere tools?
All you knew was to treat your swords as your companions, your partners, your friends, your subordinates. Never had the word 'tool' crossed your mind when you saw them.
You still remembered the day when the Shinsengumi swords pledged their loyalty to you. Nagasone proclaimed loudly that he and the Shinsengumi would be loyal to you, that they will heed your orders no matter how improbable that might be. His statement was met with affirmation from the other swords -- Izuminokami, Horikawa, Kashuu, Yasusada. You still remembered the day when the Awataguchi school swords swore loyalty -- Ichigo who was speaking on the behalf of his brothers swore that they would follow you whenever you go and be loyal to you no matter what decision you take. The Samonji Brothers gave you a bouquet fully comprised of zinnia flowers in various colors; whose language in hanakotoba meant loyalty.
But above all, you vividly remembered the day when the nightingale pledged his loyalty.
It was in the season of dancing wisteria. The giant wisteria tree that bloomed in your garden was in its fullest splendor when he pledged his loyalty to you, the falling wisteria petals were dancing in rhythm with the blowing spring wind. Under the giant tree, under its shades, he pledged his loyalty, that he will follow you wherever you go, will stay by your side even if the others leave, to be yours and yours only -- a pledge sealed by a soft kiss on your lips. Even now, you are capable of recalling the taste of his lips -- his lips tasted slightly bitter, however at the same time sweet and fresh, a taste that reminded you of freshly brewed tea.
How could you treat them as tools when they were vibrant and full of life?
Months passed quickly as you tried to get into the beat of daily life again, trying to forget your sadness. However, things around you had lost their vibrancy, dulled through your eyes. Was your heightened sense dulled so much by sadness that everything around you seemed to be dyed in grayscale, playing out like an old movie? Once your knife slipped and you almost cut your finger if it wasn't Souza that stopped you.
"Master, your face is pale. You should get some rest."
You looked at him, wanted to say that you're fine but his hard stare caused you to freeze. It hit you, everyone knew that you hadn't completely forgotten your sadness.
"We will be alright. You must get some rest, Master."
With a heavy heart, you heeded his order and returned to your room. You decided to sleep, forgetting to pick up the sword you had commissioned at the sword smith.
"Master, excuse me for the intrusion, but your commissioned sword is already finished."
You woke up to the voice of Mitsutada at the outside of your room. Sleepily rubbing your eyes you then rose and walked to the door. "I'll be there."
Bringing the finished sword to the altar, you placed the sword wrapped in white cloth on the red table in front of the altar. Alone by yourself in the altar felt so foreign. You then rolled your sleeves and prepared yourself to wake the sleeping soul inside the sword -- you closed your eyes and extended your senses, reaching to the soul that slept inside the forged steel.
When the soul tangled itself with yours, you gasped.
You recognized this soul, whose melody was the singing of nightingale, resonating and pulsing in the same rhythm of the song the spring brought.
It was the soul of the sword, no, of the man you once loved, and will always love.
You knew who slept inside the sword.
A blinding light surged and in front of you stood a young man with a pale complexion, olive-colored hair and eyes of the same color.
"I'm Uguisumaru of Kobizen. Well, I don't understand where my name came from -- "
You threw yourself into his arms -- no introduction was needed. You knew him, even if he didn't know you.
"I thought you would never come back to me," you whispered between the brimming tears. His scent didn't change. You knew it was him.
It took him a few seconds before he returned your embrace, circling his arms around your neck. "I know we will meet again."
That night, you fell asleep to the sound of his heartbeat. The wisteria vines hanging down from the giant tree at the garden danced gently to the gentle night wind which lulled both of you into a deep sleep.