Taki, If this missive finds you, we request your assistance. A young man is dying, and we can not cure him. He is asking for death, however it is against our spiritual beliefs to take the life of another, no matter the intention. Therefore, he has specifically requested that you end his life. He says he does not want to merely exist and be a burden. You do not have to reply or to help, but I am sure he would appreciate very much if you did so. House of the Dragon leader, Mushai. Taki clutched the tattered, worn parchment. House of the Dragon... it sounds familiar. Where have I heard this before? She turned the term over and over in her mind as she continued her journey to the location of the Dragon clan. House... of the Dragon. I know this term, but how? For three days Taki walked, and for three nights she slept under the stars. She was beginning to wonder if she were on the right track, or why she had taken up this Spirit-be-damned request. Finally as she crested a large hill, she saw the forested valley that the House of the Dragon called home. At long last, Taki made her way into the village. She asked a young woman gathering water where she might find Mushai, showing her the note. She was directed toward a building that, aside from the House of the Dragon crest, could have been indistinguishable from the outside to one of the various inns or shops. Taki knocked on the door. "Who is there?" called a voice from the other side. "It is Taki. I received your missive regarding the ill young man. I am here to see him." "Ah! I see." Mushai opened the door and stepped out. He was thin, old and very wise looking, like what you might expect an elderly leader of a clan to look. He pointed down the road. "The seventh building on your right is his house. He is waiting. Please let me know when you have finished so that we may deal with the body. Thank you for answering his request." He bowed gracefully and retreated into his house. Taki wandered off down the road. Trees grew anywhere and everywhere, even in the middle of the crude dirt walkway. Taki came upon the house at last. These buildings are certainly spaced far enough apart, she internally grumbled. She knocked on the door. "Hello?" a voice on the other end called. It couldn't be... thought Taki. "Hello. I received word you were sick, and requested aid." "Taki? Is that you?" The young man was clearly having a hard time speaking. "It is." "Please come in. The door is unlocked." The latch of the door made a click sound, and Taki stepped over the threshold. She closed the door behind her. "It is good to see you again. It has been a while, has it not?" Taki regarded the man with thought. He seemed familiar. He certainly knew and remembered her. "Please accept my apologies, but I do not recogni-" she stopped short as she saw his dragon-handled dagger on the wall mount. Realization set in. So that is why the House of the Dragon was familiar... I do know this man. "Hayaso? Is that you?" He smiled. "You remember." Hayaso looked almost gaunt. Gone were his chiseled good looks. His flawless windswept hair had given way to a thinner version. His muscular frame was decidedly less muscular. Still defined, but his body seemed to have lost 35 pounds. His eyes were slightly jaundiced. "Hayaso... what happened?" "One yer after our... our encounter... a disease I had been carrying dormant suddenly activated. There is no cure. It is also not contagious" he said, sensing her alarm. "You do not have it. In my blood line, you are either born with it, or you are not. If you are not, you will never get it. But if you are... then it is as good as a death sentence. I have been suffering from more and more debilitation for the last four years. Some days I am unable to function on a basic level. Walking is difficult. I am certain that if you were in my position, you would wish the same thing I am: simply to die a dignified death and not to prolong the suffering." "Understandable. I am very sorry this affected you. I.. I must admit that I... enjoyed our last encounter..." Taki tried not to look flustered. She failed at it with Hayaso's next words. "Yes... I know you did. It was... quite evident. I felt it, and then I saw it... and surely you must know I felt the same way." Taki brought herself to look at him again. "I gathered as much. Let me ask you something: When you came to me intending to battle me... was there ever any intention? Or did you fully expect what happened to happen?" Hayaso met her gaze. "When I first proposed the fight, I did intend to fight. I had only heard of your legendary skill, and I did wish to defeat you. But as I saw you facing me down, I... well.. things changed..." He looked frustrated. "I had vowed things would be different next time, but now due to my condition... there will definitely not be a "next time". "How would you like this done?" Taki asked. She brought out her daggers, Mekki-Maru and Rekki-Maru. "Well, I have another method in mind. This... this goes back to our last encounter. I want you to put your legs around my head and squeeze. I at least want to die a happy man. And don't even pretend to get indignant that I would suggest it. As I said, I know what happened the last time the two of us met." Taki smiled. "Indignant would not be the reaction I would have had... But why should we rush into this? You want to be happy before you go... let us see what can be arranged." With that, Taki swung one leg up and over him so that she was straddled over him, kneeling. She ran her hands over his chest. At the same time, she placed his hands on her thighs. She began to massage his shoulders. His hands explored the length of her bent legs. "Higher", she whispered. He moved up to her thighs. She shuddered lightly when he got to her inner thighs. Feeling it, he stayed there, gently rubbing her. Every rub brought a small but noticeable vibration from Taki. She reached back and undid the belt on his pants. At the same time, she guided his hands up to her shoulders and chest. He began to massage her shoulders, digging deep. A fighter he was not anymore, but he still had strength when it counted. He dug as deep as he could into her shoulder muscles. Her neck craned with the stimulation. She pulled the belt from his pants, and before he knew it, she had torn her suit and had guided him into her. Hayaso could not believe this was happening. He decided to pour all if his physical strength into this, if this was going to be his last living act. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he threw her to the side and rolled, so that he was now on top of Taki. He finagled a little with her top, but could not undo the one-piece. Taki, sensing his frustration, cooed "Just rip it. I have already consigned this one to an early demise." He grabbed the fabric of her suit and pulled hard. He was rewarded with the sound of tearing. Peeling the suit away from her down to her midsection, Hayaso began to thrust, continuing to dig his hands into her shoulder and neck muscles. Taki tensed with every one. Hayaso was beginning to get exhausted due to his condition, but there was no way he was going to let himself get tired now. He pressed on. Taki began to moan. This only drove Hayaso further, renewing his strength. Taki tensed harder, feeling the moment arrive. The two of them climaxed in unison. Then they shared a long, passionate kissed, still locked together. Finally, Hayaso's strength gave out. They lay there breathing hard for a moment. Taki untangled herself from Hayaso. Hayaso spoke. "Thank you, Taki. That was quite well above and beyond what I had hoped for... I will certainly die happy today. I... I am ready." Taki shifted to a seated position by his head. "You are sure you want it done this way?" "I am sure. Also, when it is over, please take anything from my house you would like. There is a small bag under the floorboard over there-" he indicated with a point- "-that contains some money and other valuable pieces you may make use of." Taki nodded. Positioning the back of his head on one of her legs, she placed the other one over his neck with his head caught at her knee, so that she could pull back on her foot and squeeze his head, plus squeeze him with a scissor. This would ensure he did not suffocate too terribly long before succumbing. "I am sorry that nothing can be done about your condition... I am very sorry." "Thank you, Taki." Taki began to pull back on her leg and squeeze. Hayaso's channel of oxygen closed. He began to weakly and reflexively flail. His already weak flailing weakened further. Spots began to dance in front of his eyes. His body tried to hiccup to draw air in forcefully. All that happened instead was his body lurched. He instinctively pulled on her leg as if to dislodge it, but in his condition he had nowhere near the physical strength required. He doubted he would have been able to do so even five years ago. Hayaso's arms dropped to his sides as everything got blurry. Then his eyes closed, unable to hold them open any longer. Hayaso felt as if he were floating. Taki continued the hold, one eyes releasing a single tear. She wiped it away. Hayaso lay limp in his bed. To make sure, she continued the hold for another few minutes, guaranteeing that his brain would have shut down. Finally, with a heavy heart, she released him. His body did not start attempting to draw breath. She felt his neck for a pulse, and did not get one. It was done. Taki redressed him so they would not find him in an awkward position. She pulled back the floorboard and pulled out the bag he said was there. To her astonishment, there was enough wealth in that bag to sustain her for the rest of her life. She looked over at Hayaso's physical form. "Oh, Hayaso... I do so wish things could have been different... thank you for this gift." Her eyes wandered up to the dragon-handled dagger on the wall bracket. Use and age had dulled the one-razor sharp blade, but she did not need it as a weapon. Remembering his words, she took it and stuffed it in her traveling bag. Taki changed into her last clean set of clothes. It would have to do for the three days journey back. Taki turned back to Hayaso one more time. She kissed him gently on the lips. "I hope you have the peace you wanted. If only things could have been different..." She set back out for her journey home.