The smell of earth

Kun could smell the earth outside. Dry, damp, alive, dead. He could feel it in his very skull, where the curse was engraved in his mind. It called to him, inviting him to stay out there and disappear within the soil.

Perhaps he should have found a place in the city. There were places there that could have distanced himself from the nature that beckoned him. However, Kun didn’t want to avoid it completely. He wanted to live alongside it, surviving it, much as he had for the longest time.

Now that Ling was gone, though, everything had changed.

The years went by and Kun pretended he was all right. The children couldn’t tell. He taught them the best way he knew how, unsure if he should be allowed to. Unsure if he should be allowed near anyone at all. Yet he was too selfish. He couldn’t let go of what he had left. He might take loss in silence, but he wouldn’t let it go without struggle.

Then what was this? This time that passed, this time that was empty? He knew the whispers were encompassing Shui and there was nothing he could do.

Kun didn’t know when he had last seen Jin.

“Surely this is boring to you,” he said to the dragon. The warmth of the creature, face pressing into his side, was more than abating the cold. “Don’t you want to go fly away? For more than a few hours. I’m not always available. I know we understand this. Maybe Shui would bring you more entertainment?”

The last suggestion he let out to see the expression on the dragon’s face which Kun had always equated to laughter. Kun’s eyes sparkled.

I want you to talk to me about Ling.

Kun felt the emptiness creep up upon him. The petrichor permeated his scent, a tight grip on his heart. Constant, but only hurt when he let it. “Very well. What do you want to hear about Ling?”

The dragon gave him a look that was all-encompassing.

Kun would talk about Ling. Even when it hurt, he kept talking. Because he was asked.

He wished he could distance himself from it all, instead of surviving it. He wished.

To eat alive

The earth surrounded Kun, as though it were going to swallow him up. Even his great eyesight couldn’t help him when there was no light at all. Only Ling likely would be able to see. Or at least smell his way through. If he was even awake. Kun couldn’t make any assumptions.

Placing his hand against the wall of the tunnel, Kun felt his way forward. He could still hear the keening sound of the dragon from the far back entrance into these caverns. Not enough space down here for a dragon. As much as Kun would’ve felt safer with one beside him. At the same time, the surface had to be much safer right now. Better that only four of them were in danger, not five.

Or three. Kun didn’t feel like he was in much danger now. He hoped to keep it that way.

He moved forward slowly, halting occasionally and listening. There were times he could hear the shifting, the arachnids deeper in the earth. None of the sounds were Shui or Ling. They would be much more obvious.

Jin, less so.

A wave of pain rolled through his body, starting at his temple and running down his spine. Kun gripped at the earth even tighter, feeling the soil under his nails and between his fingers. No, he was not in danger.

If he found the other three though, they might be.

Kun turned in the direction of the sounds. His eyes sharpened. Even in this lightless underground, now he could see. The pain sharpened everything.

His curse, then.

He would finish off the spiders.