It started with a dream...
Sunlight scattered through the trees, quietly dancing across the windswept ripples in the ponds, sparkling through little streams. It warmed the leaves and the flowers, and they reached towards it eagerly. All was peaceful and quiet, static but for the changing of the seasons - an unbroken cycle of continuity. Time passed, and red light bloomed across the horizon as the sun gave up its last caresses for the day and slipped away to bestow its gifts elsewhere. Stars seeded themselves through the darkness, and beneath their blanket crept out the first sliver of the new moon.
The sunlight was gone, and the shadows of clouds stretched across the sky, catching the burgeoning first light of the new year's night. They reached down and touched the restless trees, the wild grasses, and the palest of the orchids. Ghosts within their cradles, they stretched out their arms to the shadows and welcomed them in. Across the quiet land the shadows crept, ivy turning to darkness, bringing shade to all it touched. Beneath it, the greenery withered and faltered and died, and by the time the sun struggled upwards from the east, there was nothing left but barren land, broken trees, and dead gardens.
The remains of a withered maple tree stood in the middle, flecked by the tiny white blossoms of the orchids whose tendrils pierced its bark, tearing it slowly down as it rotted from within.
The New Year dawned, with resolution.
Kaede Mitsuri sat up carefully in bed in the cabin, looking out the window. What an odd dream. She'd been having a number of those lately. Ever since the ghost orchid had come to life in her sanctum. She knew what it was doing, the way it was focusing the shadows, the way they left bits of themselves that sank into the Arboretum and poisoned it. As tied to it as she was, how could she not be aware? And yet, she did nothing to stop them. That was not who she was, and it would have broken her to oppose them. She would not - but more, she could not, not and remain who she was. Challenging them would bring about change, it would mean putting her own interests ahead of others, it would mean provoking conflict rather than peace. That was not Kaede, and so she waited quietly and chose to let others make their own choices, offering only words and hints and encouragement. Sometimes, that was enough.
Sometimes it was not. She would have to see what it would be this time. For herself, she slipped out of bed and dressed slowly, picking up a stick to walk with on her way out and leaving the cabin behind, making her way to the circle of blight in the midst of the Arboretum where the ghost orchids grew and everything else died. Kaede stopped, and watched the circle. She did not step within it. Even so, it crept steadily closer towards her, necessitating her to take a step back to resume her stewardship.
I wonder what is going to become of today.