The clouds were sobbing, almost cried but something held the tears. The weather was in a weird mood, it seemed like it wanted to berserk but kept changing its mind. I am myself, was feeling a poisonous mixture of sadness, disappointment, hopelessness, and the taste of defeat.
At that same day, I had decided to end everything about me and Lulu. My plan was to buy a goodbye flower to make it officially finished and we’d move on with our own lives. It’s for the best, I believed.
I searched blindly for some money in my pocket. After I got every cent of it that I could find, I counted and started to doubt if I could buy even just a stalk of the cheapest flower there was. But I had arrived at the flower shop, The Sweet-Pollen. So, I shrugged and got in, I thought, if I really couldn’t afford anything, I’d just steal one.
Fortunately for me and the shop, I was the first customer and it was the shop’s 5th anniversary for that day. Therefore, I got to get any pair of flowers I wanted for free. What a relief, right? Then, I roamed around the shop, every flower I saw was beautiful, but I couldn’t choose which one would be the right flower for Lulu. Until… my eyes viewed and nailed to this flower.
I took a closer look at it. It’s poignant. Beautiful. Hurtful. Cold and warm at the same time. It shaped like hearts. It shaped just like… my heart.
“The bleeding-heart flower.” A voice broke into my attention.
“Lamprocapnos Spectabilis. Or, more well-known as the bleeding-heart flower.” Turned out, it was Mrs. Ambrosia, the shop owner. “You want this one?”
“I… I guess???” I was not sure.
“Yeah. It’s beautiful.” I said, followed with a sudden urge to touch the flower, and whispered the same words again, “It is beautiful.”
Mrs. Ambrosia gave me a reassuring expression. She wanted to tell me something, but she waited for my permission. I recognized that and gave her what she wanted using my ‘okay, just spill it out’ expression.
“I don’t know why you want it, or to whom you’ll give it, but this flower has a story behind it. I suppose, you need to hear it first. Do you mind?”
“No, no at all.”
Mrs. Ambrosia nodded gently before she started her tale, “There were a couple. A priestess and a poor artist…” and took 2 stalks of the flower and gave them to me.
—–Japan, 15th century. Ryūkyū Islands.
It was the first day of the festival to celebrate a new Nūru Priestess, Megumi. Colorul ornaments were everywhere. A new Nūru Priestess was a blessing since the people believed she would bring them closer to ‘heaven’. Everyone celebrated happily for that day. Everyone but one poor, sad, young man named Ryu.
A couple of weeks after the festival ended, when Megumi was about to go back to her home, she was attacked by an evil kami (spirit). Kami was infamous for eating Nūru Priestess, and Megumi was too ‘green’ to realize that it was dangerous to walk alone in the night. She ran from the evil kami and arrived at Ryu’s house.
Ryu saw the event from inside his house. Undeniably, he’s also scared of the kami but he thought, “I have nothing left, If I had to die, at least it is for a good deed. I will save the Nūru Priestess!”
He came out from his house with his stained and dull sword. His hands trembled by fear but he steadily moved into the front and shielded Megumi.
“Go away, you malevolent kami!” He screamed as loud as he could, hoping that some other people would wake up and help them. But they wouldn‘t, it seemed that the kami had put a spell to keep everyone from waking up.
But funnily, it turned out that Ryu’s scream managed to really expel the kami away. Both Ryu and Megumi couldn’t believe it, but it’s true.
“Thank you for helping me.” Megumi couldn’t feel anymore grateful as her life had just been saved by Ryu.
“You’re welcome.” Ryu abruptly knelt down.
“Oh, please stand up. You don’t need to do that.” Megumi felt uncomfortable with Ryu’s overly respectful manner.
“But… you are a Nūru Priestess. A sacred woman.” Ryu wouldn’t even dare to bring his face up.
“Oh, come on. I’m just a human being, just like you. I am just… Megumi.”
Megumi suddenly yelled at him, “Get up you, moron!”
Ryu was surprised with the tone and word Megumi used but felt at ease at the same time.
“See? I am just like you.” Megumi smiled ridiculously after Ryu stood up and looked at her.
“But, you are a-” Ryu still stucked in his brain.
“-Nūru Priestess. Oh my… Yeah, I know it. But, I am so tired of being treated like goddess. I couldn’t play and do stupid stuffs with my friends anymore. I should be ‘sacred’ and ‘holy’. It hasn’t been a month and I felt bored already. Anyway, that’s why I wanna escape for awhile from everything and everyone because I couldn’t stand it anymore and… well, you know the rest. I ended almost die.” Sighed Megumi and crouched in front of Ryu. “Uuurrrgghh, I hate being a Nūru Priestess”
“But, you are chosen. You have the gift and…”
“Responsibilities?” Megumi cut Ryu’s sentence again.
“I know that too. But, well, I hope at least it won’t be so boring. I am just 21, you know? I still wanna have fun!”
“What? 21? Woaaah, we’re on the same age!”
“Really? You’re 22 too?”
“No, actually I am 23 almost 24.”
“That’s great. We can be friends!” Megumi felt excited.
“But, I’m just a…”
“I don’t care who you are. You saved my life. That’s what matters. Okay?”
“So, what’s your name?”
“You can call me Ryu.”
And that’s how they met and knew each other. Since then, at times when Megumi felt bored, she would come to play with Ryu. Ryu always had a story to tell her because he’s actually a storyteller, a writer, and Megumi also could feel more free with herself when she’s with Ryu.
“You’re the only one who treats me like human, Ryu. You treat me like I am Megumi. My parents and family couldn’t even do that.”
“But they still love you.”
“I know, I know that. But, it’s just that I couldn’t feel like they love me because I am Megumi anymore. It’s like they love me because I am a Nūru Priestess.”
“Don’t worry about that. They’ll love you for whoever you are.”
“Yes. You are even better as Megumi, not a Nūru Priestess. Trust me.”
“That means, you like me?” Asked Megumi with a thick and serious tone.
“I… of course I like you. Don’t be silly.” Ryu started to make nervous gestures.
“And, do you love me?” Megumi used a more even serious tone when she asked this.
“I … I can’t… I mean, you know I can’t love you, Megumi.” Ryu escaped his eyes from meeting Megumi’s. “You’re supposed to do celibate.”
“That doesn’t answer my question. Do you love me, Ryu?” Megumi grabbed Ryu’s shoulder and forced their eyes to meet.
“I cannot love-“
“-Yes? Or no?” Another cut from Megumi made Ryu finally lost his stance. In that perfect moment, Ryu unconciously kissed Megumi, surprised himself with his action and regretted it instantly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“
“I love you too, Ryu.” Megumi hugged Ryu tightly and cried. “I knew it. I always hate it to become a Nūru Priestess. But I hate it more now.”
Time went by. Megumi and Ryu were having their relationship in a discreet hiding. They couldn’t imagine what will happen if people found out about their forbidden relationship. Not only Megumi and Ryu who will taste the society’s punishments, but also their families.
“I am just a poor artist, Megumi. I don’t understand how you can fall in love with me.”
“You saved my life. And you’re still doing it now. Can’t you see that?”
Wasn’t it sad? That two people who love each other so much couldn’t be together just because the society wouldn’t allow them? Yet, that’s the truth in the olden times. Worse, it still is happening today.
After 3 years having the relationship, Megumi told Ryu that she’s pregnant. That’s the best worst news that the both of them could handle.
“I’ll just tell everyone, Ryu. And we’ll be able to be free together. I’ll stop being a Nūru Priestess.” Megumi offered the first solution.
“No, you can’t do that. You know you can’t do that. It’s too dangerous.”
“Why? They won’t kill us. They will hate us, that’s the worst that could happen.”
“No, Megumi. No. We can’t tell everyone about this. They won’t kill you, you’re a Nūru Priestess. But, but they will definitely kill me. I am nobody in this position. They will kill me and I can’t bear to imagine that I won’t ever see our kid growing up.” Ryu panicked.
“But, Ryu? That’s the only option. We got no more option.”
“Let’s… let’s keep this for ourselves first for now. I’ll find a way out.”
But he couldn’t. He couldn’t find anymore solution for that condition that’s choking the both of them. Worse than that, when he thought that the worst had come, that evil kami showed up again and put a curse on him. He fell unconscious for weeks, when he managed to wake up, he’s muted. He ran to the big street only to found out that Megumi was already going to be sacrificed to stop the catastrophes that were kept happening recently. Worse than worse, the sacrificial day was on that day.
Ryu ran and ran, as fast as he could do to the sacrificial temple located on a cliff in the middle of the village. Every villager had been there first, praying for survival, the place was so crowded and full.
Ryu ran and ran, he had never been there but he knew where he should go. His feet bruised, his calves almost torn, his lungs almost exploded, but he kept running and running until he reached the rite place. He wanted to scream and call for Megumi, but he couldn’t. That kami’s curse was still locking his tounge.
No choice was left, Ryu forced himself into the rite by ramming every obstacles including guards that were blocking him from Megumi. He almost made it, but the last guard successfully stabbed him on the chest before he reached Megumi. Ryu fell down to the floor but he didn’t give up, he crawled painfully and able to grabbed Megumi’s kimono using his last strength and… breath.
“No… nooo!!!” Screamed Megumi hysterically after she realized what had just happened. He bent down and hugged Ryu. His blood stained her white kimono. “No. Ryu, don’t die.”
She cried and cried. But she could do nothing to resucitate him although she’s a Nūru Priestess. Ryu’s blood flew all over the place. And then some black smoke appeared from Ryu’s mouth, it became thicker and thicker. It was that kami again.
Everyone in that place was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Megumi herself had drown too deep in her sadness and didn’t want to do anything else but kept hugging Ryu’s corpse. In the end, right after Megumi whispered, “I’ve always hated being a Nūru Priestess, Ryu. I told you, right?” the cliff below Ryu and Megumi fractured. They fell down together. Megumi was seen still holding on Ryu until the very end.
Proceding that, an angry earthquake occured and brought down the whole village into a tragic rumbles of death and pity. Sadly, the sacrificial rite failed to save even just one life in that village.
When rescuers from other villages came to the place, they found every house, everything, everyone had been buried by the chaos to the cold bloody ground. Every single one, but a house of a poor artist. From inside the house, they found a pile of written papers consisted of a complete story, poems, and also paintings about the forbidden love between a man and a Nūru Priestess. Besides those, they also found a pair of flowers in the middle of the village rumbles that looked like hearts that were bleeding.
Mrs. Ambrosia breathed deeply to finish her tale, “So, that’s the story of this flower, young man.”
I tried to processed it once again, the story, the flower, and I couldn’t help but to blame the kami for that tragedy, “It’s all because of the kami…”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Ambrosia repositioned her glasses.
“If the kami didn’t appear in the beginning, they wouldn’t meet. If the kami didn’t cursed Ryu in the end, maybe they wouldn’t end like that. It’s the kami.” I brought up my argument, though I was not in any debate at all.
“I think so too.” Mrs. Ambrosia agreed.
“Yeah I do, but, what if that kami was only a metaphor for whatever it is?”
“Like loneliness, insecurities, doubts? Those feelings that could hold you down, young man. I hope you know what I mean.”
I understood, but not completely.
“So, you’re still getting that flower?”
I looked at the flower once again, a short pause happened before I made my choice, “Sure. It is beautiful.”
Mrs. Ambrosia gave me a pair of the flowers and that’s when I saw the clock and realized there were only two hours left before Lulu’s ship sailed. I panicked and began to run.
Where would Lulu be right now? The harbor? Yeah, I think so. Then, I decided to run to the harbor first, I searched and sought. Lulu wasn’t there. The sky began to darken. Whatever it’s holding since I got into Sweet Pollen, it’s about to be unleashed soon.
Heavy rain, had started to F
So, I ran to Lulu’s house, as fast as I can. I didn’t have any vehicle and the public transportation wouldn’t help. The traffic jam was in such a sinful condition. I ran, poured by the rain, punched by the wind, screamed by the thunder. At the same time, I realized something. The story, the flower, that kami. And I ran and ran- – – – – – – – – – like what Ryu did.
I admitted it. I was afraid, I was a coward, yes, I am in fear, but not of it all. I was afraid I’d be too late and the earthquake would come, and that kami would shatter my life and my love, and left nothing but rumbles of memories waiting to be found by someone. I was afraid Lulu was gone already and I’d never tried the different way – – – – – – – – – – not like what Ryu did.
Maybe, even though there’s only a littlest chance, if Ryu took that other chance to just tell the world that he and the priestess were in love. They wouldn’t end so sadly. Bleeding. Heart to heart. Buried under the destruction of the village.
So I ran, and right after I arrived there, I abruptly get into the room when it was opened by whoever it was (I didn’t pay attention). At the time I stopped running and had the chance to really catch breathe, I could see the society, there they were, Lulu’s parents.
I walked closer to them. I knew I looked like a loser. Soaked wet. Messy. Poor. Weak. And in this moment, I could feel that kami appeared and tried to lock my tounge but I fought it and I won. I walked even closer and stopped before I broke into their proximity zone.
“I love Lulu.” I whispered, but my voice’s clear. They were startled as I had expected. Lulu’s father almost said something before a sweet voice I know so well interupted his response.
“Miguel?” Lulu ran down from the stair. “What are you doing here? What… what happened to you?”
I said nothing. I took a pair of flowers I brought and gave them to Lulu.
“I just don’t want us to end like this. So, please don’t leave.” I smiled. Lulu was perplexed but still smiled back at me. But…
Beyond my attention, Lulu’s dad suddenly dragged me out of the house, rudely. He also made me dropped the flowers. In the heat of the moment, I saw the flowers fell on the floor, stepped on and died. “Get out, you hopeless bastard! Don’t you ever dare to come back here. Or I’ll kill you!” He yelled at me and threw me out the house.
I fell down to the ground, painfully. My heart broke. Is this the end? I asked myself. I failed? The rain was still pouring. I looked at the sky. At least I tried, I flattered myself. I could hear that Lulu’s having a fight inside the house. The screaming, the yelling. It hurt me more. I got nothing more that I could do there to save the situation. So I went home, I drunk myself to sleep, I hope I just died. I felt so insignificant. Without Lulu.
The next morning, I was awakened by the sunlight that slapped my face. I got up after more than 10 times trying. My head and heart ached. I took a bath hoping it would make me feel refreshed but it didn’t. I put my best clothes today, I wanted to apply for whatever job I could get and moved on. On the road, the newspaper boy yelled so loud and caught my attention.
“The SS Aquamarine sunk last night after a big storm hit it! All passengers are declared dead or missing!”
What? No! This can’t be! I screamed at myself. I ran, once again, to Lulu’s house. My tears started to fall. Dammit! No! I ran, and ran, and I fell after I stumbled over a rock, my right knee and elbow bleed, I didn’t care at all. It couldn’t be like this. I tried. I tried, god dammit!
After some minutes of running, I almost reached the house, I could see the ground where I lost last night. I ran faster, but before I knocked the door. Lulu’s parents had opened it first for me. I took a deep breath, preparing for the worst as I saw his father’s blue face and his mother’s wet eyes. I said, “Please… just, please…”
I begged. I thought I was gonna be thrown out once again when Lulu’s father raised his right hand. But, I was wrong, he patted me on my shoulder and said warmly to me, “Thank you for saving Lucas’ life.”
His mom hugged me and cried. And that’s when I saw Lulu standing behind his parents’ back. He smiled at me. I said to myself in my head, “I beat you, you kami ass-hole!”