For a thousand years, I had been a prisoner to the future, knowing all that would come without being able to change a single thing—be it to turn something good into bad or bad into good. Robbed of vision, I could see only the future. I walked down the street according to memories of how I had predicted it to be, avoided crowds according to where I remembered people would be, tripping deliberately time and again to remove any doubt as to my blindness.
I made a mistake once, and that mistake cost me a thousand long years: by saying out loud what I predicted, the divine took away my vision, cursing me to live perpetually unless I was killed or the curse was broken. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, when I looked into the future in search of either the end of my own life or the end of my curse, all roads led to the same person: you. You, collateral damage. You, a misplaced soul in the phoenix’s body, would kill me. When I first saw this future of mine, I thought nothing of it. Somebody must kill me someday, regardless of how long it would take, be it one or a thousand years. When I thought about it more, however, I became slightly puzzled.
Foresight showed me your entire life; hindsight taught me there was only ever one outcome. You would kill me, and that was that. Despite knowing this, I foresaw myself picking you up as an abandoned infant, raising you, allowing you to hone the very same skills you would eventually use to end my life, watching you polish the very blade that would be driven through my chest. I knew, even then, hundreds of years before it was destined to happen, that I would not blame you for attacking the person that raised you. I would not, for I knew that it was not you, but the phoenix within—the phoenix whose existence you would never even be aware of. To you, the person that killed your master would forever be a stranger, an outlaw eternally on the run, whom you would always chase to the end of your days. You would remain blissfully unaware of the blood shed by your own hands, with your consciousness overtaken every time the phoenix became active. If ignorance is innocence, you would never be guilty.
Even then, hundreds of years before you would even be born, I knew all of this. Certainly, I would not lose this knowledge by the time I would find you. Why, then, would I still bring you into my home? Had I gotten tired of living? I discarded this possibility. If I wished to live no longer, I could just as easily end my own life.
Foresight is only ever just that: a painfully accurate prediction of what would happen. It did not grant insight into the human mind. I relished in this small mystery, its being the only thing left in the world for me to wonder about.
Nearly a thousand years later, I took slow steps to the place where you would be found crying alone. In truth, I was already making my way there before I even heard you. This was to be my moment of truth—the moment for me to find out why I would decide to take you in despite knowing what I knew. For the first time in a long time, I was curious. Then, as I stood in front of you, I could see you in my mind’s eye, but that, still, did not give me any answers. I halted for a minute, waiting—but no revelation came, so I picked you up anyway. Maybe that would answer my question.
Answer my question it did.
The moment I took you into my arms, you stopped crying. Unrelated but concurrently, a tender warmth filled my heart.
I see, I thought. This is why I could not fathom the reason before: there is no reason. I suppose human sentiment has not fled me in spite of the years.
“Shall I call you…Azka?”
Suddenly, I understood why everything would happen. I had known what would happen, but now, I knew the reason as well.
I shall accept this change.
The natural thing to do would be to raise you as my own child. That, however, I could not do. The reasons were several. Eventually, you would find our physical age gap narrowing. My death would not be due until you were approximately the same age as I had been when I first became cursed; if you were to see me as a parent, if you were to call me thus, it would cause problems quite soon. Furthermore, with the feudal system essentially having collapsed, parricide became the greatest sin, and you were destined to kill me. Although you would in all likelihood never even discover that it was you, on the slim chance that you might, I could not bestow upon you that guilt.
For those reasons, I made you my apprentice instead. My only duty was to put a roof over your head and food in your stomach. I decided to keep my distance, but if you grew to love me, then perhaps I would actually try for the millionth time to change the future—with little hope of success, but if the fulfillment of that hope would make a material difference for you, and when I already knew the worst that could happen, why not hope, just one last time?
From the day you entered my life, I began to exist in the present again. I knew all that would happen, and I still saw many times a day the distant future of the phoenix, in you, driving a burning blade into my chest. And yet, every day, I woke up to wonder what kinds of emotions you would stir in me that day. Would I be annoyed when you would spill ink over my scrolls, or would I be amused?
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