Fandom: Gravel Kingdom
Disclaimer: Gravel Kingdom and its characters are property of Yuki Kaori; all I have are scanlations and big ideas.
Notes: For the "manual labour" challenge, in just over 50 minutes. A little too pessimistic in tone for Kishiru, perhaps, but everyone has their bad days.
In the Execution House, under the desert, they work.
Sometimes they dig for water where no water is, picks and shovels yielding nothing more than a dark, damp stain in the sand, the false promise of a trickle of moisture. There are deep reservoirs already down here, no need for more wells, but they dig anyway.
Sometimes they fracture rock into lumps and chisel lumps into blocks and build blocks into walls to replace the rock they tore down in the first place. Then, months or weeks or days later, they pull the walls down again and rebuild them anew.
There is no reason for these endeavours, except that the guards are quick with their whips and uneasy at the thought of prisoners with free time. So they dig, and build, and break, and repeat, and the guards are always nervous and nasty, unhappy so far beneath the ground in the company of such dangerous men.
Kishiru had swordsman's hands once, his fingers and palms callused in particular ways that, to those who knew, spoke louder than words of his profession. He could tell another swordsman's touch in an instant, could feel it always in Kanai's hands as they slid over his bared skin, the precise, perfect pattern of calluses that so closely matched his own, that made him shiver with the familiarity of their touch. The sword was Kishiru's weapon, just as it was Kanai's, so close to being a part of him that he felt naked without it.
His hands are no longer swordsman's, but labourer's, the skin thick and tough all over from all the long hours of futile effort. He doesn't think his hands would recognise a sword now, would fit the curve of the hilt the way they used to. A sword would be nothing more to him than another crude tool; oh, he could wield a blade all right - better than most - but compared to the way it once was, he might as well have a lump of shapeless metal in his grip.
Kishiru knows how clumsy and coarse his hands would feel to another swordsman; it is how Kanoe's hands feel to him, rough as sand against his skin, no pattern to the ridges of thickened skin, no meaning to them save that the Execution House is cruel. He knows his own touch is the same, and wonders what sort of hands Kanoe had before. Were his swordsman's hands too, perhaps, or craftsman's, or thief's, or charlatan's? It's impossible to tell now; all traces of history that the man's hands might have held have been scraped away and the harsh facts of this place scored into the skin in their place.
Sometimes, Kishiru can scarcely bear the touch of those hands, reminding him of his own just as Kanai's did when he loved to remember what his hands were. But he rarely pushes them away, because it's easier to forget about the sand and the rock and the dark when you have someone to forget it with. And in the touch of skin on skin, rough and sand-scraped and all, Kishiru can forget, although the vivid sun-shot of release bleeds all too quickly back into darkness, into remembrance.
And afterwards, they go back to work again.