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.