Chapter Three ~ Siren, Goddess of All Fae
The sweet smells of dawn came to Rydia's senses as she slowly opened her eyes to the rising sun. The scenery around her was unfamiliar and a light breeze swept through the branches in which she slept. Branches? Rydia thought to herself as she blinked away the sleepiness in her eyes. She sat up and looked all around her and finally…down.
"Ahh!!!" Rydia screamed as she found herself very high up in a tree.
"W-what in the world?"
"Oh, you're awake," a voice called below her.
She looked down to see Sakana, the majority of her features covered by a soft brown cloak.
"You sure are a bit strange for a mortal," Sakana commented, pulling back her hood. "To be able to not shift in your sleep. At some points, I though that you had fallen unconscious."
I'd have to thank Odin for that, Rydia thought as she remembered back to the very first days of her survival training. She smiled at the thought and shrugged her slim shoulders.
"I guess you can say that I'm not your average mortal."
She pushed herself off the branch and landed softly on the ground without a sound. A lone feather fluttered to the ground a second afterwards, and Sakana arched a curious eyebrow.
"A 'Float' spell," she said. "Not bad for knowing some spells."
Rydia laughed lightly to herself, not paying mind to the slight insult underlying the words. "Some isn't the word. I know plenty of spells besides the easy ones. See, I'm a sorceress."
Sakana blinked in confusion for she had never heard of the term before. "A sorceress?"
"Well, I'm still in training," Rydia meekly replied and blushed a light pink. She did not notice her new acquaintance's confusion. "I'm really good with fire spells, and it takes some time for me to cast the more powerful ones. But Master Odin told me that I would be full-fledged summoner in no time…before he died, that is."
Sakana saw a faint glimmer of sadness in Rydia's mismatched eyes, but she decided not to say anything and let Rydia continue.
"Anyway, you're a part of the Mirai clan, right?" Rydia asked, surprising the sky faerie. "Maybe you can help me."
"How, how did you - "
"It just came to my mind while watching the stars with you last night. Master Odin told me a lot of legends and myths about the ancient past, fae included. I was just so out of it yesterday that the thought never occurred to me."
Sakana had finally caught onto the name of Rydia's teacher and her jaw dropped. "Odin? Did you say Odin? The Odin?"
It was Rydia's turn to be confused. "Well, I don't know of anybody else named that. He's my teacher." A slight pause before correcting herself "...was my teacher."
The sky faerie let the information sink in, the realization dawning upon her. Is that why the star fell? "Lord Odin…was your teacher?"
Rydia nodded sadly, hiding her grief.
"Yes…he was attacked and willed himself to become a guardian. Master Odin…he told me to run and find my guardian angel." She let out another light, bitter laugh. "Although… I'm not sure what he meant by that. So I decided to find the other guardians wherever they may be."
Hmm…she doesn't look what she seemed to be at first… Sakana thought and smiled. Maybe… "Well, I'm not sure where the guardians may be, but I can help you find Lady Siren…"
Rydia blinked in surprise. "Siren? The Faerie Goddess?"
Sakana nodded. "I'll accompany you, Rydia, on your journey. It seems that what is following you may be something that my clan has to step in and prevent…"
She hesitated, realizing the decision she was about to make. Rydia looked a bit worried at the fae's hesitation.
"Sakana…are you okay?"
Sakana forced a smile. This was her burden and hers alone.
"Lady Siren might be able to help you. She lives on Mount Collaseaus, just southeast from here."
Rydia's eyes brightened with hope, and she gave the sky faerie a big hug. Sakana was a bit surprised at first at her forwardness but hesitantly returned the gesture. The young sorceress was very much like a young child despite the circumstances surrounding her.
"Oh yeah, nobody will be able to see you, huh?" Rydia asked her as soon as they broke contact.
"Well, not if they have fae sight."
"Hmm…" Rydia thought for a moment before she snapped her fingers. "I've got it!"
Sakana could feel magic surrounding her body as Rydia's spell reacted. After a few seconds, the magic disappeared and she looked at herself. Nothing appeared to have changed.
"Rydia, what did you do?"
"Go to the pool and see."
Sakana hovered above the pool of white water, looking at the reflecting it mirrored back. Her hand touched her cheek to see what she saw was true.
"Human? Yeah, I cast a disguise spell on you so at least people could see you. It's not that strong of a spell, though, so I really can't do anything about your eyes or wings."
Sakana turned to Rydia with a questioning look on her face. "But why do I look - "
"To you and me and to whoever else has what you say 'fae sight', you still look the same. That's the side effect of the spell," Rydia explained with a small smile on her face, proud of her knowledge.
Sakana turned back to her reflection, gently placing her hand on the human ear the white water reflected. She was quite interested in seeing herself as a human woman despite her quiet pride in the clan.
"How long does this spell last?" she asked her new friend.
"When I decide to change the spell or when I, the caster, die," Rydia replied, receiving a stunned look from Sakana. She laughed. "It's all right! I won't die THAT easily."
<Tanvancia - Home of the Dragoons, some days later>
"Wow…" Sakana murmured as she and Rydia entered in the grand metropolis of Tanvancia.
"I've never seen a city so big…" Rydia breathed out. She looked down at the map she was given earlier. "The map doesn't seem to be accurate, though."
Sakana snapped out of her daydream while continuing to gawk at Tanvancia's inhabitants. There were not just humans, but other creatures lived in the dragoon city as well.
"Huh? It's not accurate?"
"Well…" Rydia rolled back the ancient map in her hands. "Tanvancia's grown since that old man who gave us this. The roads beyond the city aren't accurate anymore, so I guess we have to ask around."
"Ask around?" Sakana asked, finally taking her eyes off the city's surroundings and inhabitants. "Rydia, don't you think that'll be a bit pointless when this city's so big?"
"It doesn't hurt to ask," Rydia insisted and stashed away the map. "But I remember someone telling me that he lives here and go visit him sometime when I start traveling."
"I didn't know that you knew so many people, Rydia."
"The temple was really an inn for wanderers or travelers who run into it. He used to be a regular visitor. Blank, I think was his name."
"How long has it been since you've seen this man…Blank?"
"About ten years ago," at this Rydia let out a laugh. "But I'm not sure if he actually lives in Tanvancia or not." She grabbed Sakana's hand. "C'mon, let's go explore first!"
Before the sky faerie could say another word, Rydia led her through crowds of people and the various buildings around them. The numerous shops, people, bright green lights, and landscape around her were making Sakana dizzy. Although both companions were still tourists of the city, Rydia was still more experienced than Sakana in direction. She had never been in a mortal city before, and Tanvancia was such a metropolis that not everything had sunken in just yet. It was more of a dream - meeting Rydia, the very first mortal she had known to actually see her, the various encounters on their way to the city, and entering Tanvancia. It was all just a dream to her right now.
And she snapped out of that dream when Rydia pulled to a sudden stop. Her pupil-less violet eyes followed the sorceress' gaze to the building before them. It was shabbier than the ones she had seen when they first entered the city, more natural. The shop's earth tones stood out in the buildings around it, all which were different shades of blue and green. There were actually windows on the outside of the shop, revealing beautiful tools of war and peace. It looked inviting, odd enough, while the others displayed a more seclusive exterior.
"What is this place?" Sakana managed to say.
"It's a weapon shop," Rydia explained, heading towards the shop's entrance. "I want to see if there are any new weapons on display."
Rydia just shook her head and led her friend into the weapons shop. Before they had entered, however, a young man stepped out and locked eyes with Rydia for a split second before continuing on their separate ways.
Why does he look so familiar? she thought as she and Sakana entered the shop.
They were greeted by the owner at the counter, a man in his late thirties, who was slightly built in structure with deep scars around his body that would never fade even if Archangel's Kingdom above allowed it. A black patch covered his left eye to complete the vision of a man who had seen too much of life over his short span of three and odd decades. Rydia saw that the owner strikingly resembled someone she had met in her past, but she was soon distracted when a pair of diamond-studded daggers caught her eye.
"Um…Rydia, don't you think that we should -"Sakana began, feeling uncomfortable in the presence of weaponry.
"Oh, wow! These are made of mythril, aren't they?" Rydia asked the owner eagerly.
Sakana sighed and shook her head, knowing that her companion was too absorbed in the make of the weaponry. Just like a child. The owner smiled at them and took out the daggers in question, setting it out so that Rydia could get a closer look.
"They're a lot better than that, missy," the owner replied. "These pretty little things I made myself. Forged together with diamond and an Angel's tear."
Rydia examined the daggers carefully, not completely listening to the owner's words. The daggers themselves were a beautiful mixture of blue and dark green, the colors of her mismatched eyes. They looked innocuous, but Rydia could see the deadly gleam of the edges that the diamond possessed. The handles were a complicated design, serpents swirling around the hilt as if they were alive.
"Forged?" Sakana asked the owner. She was still fresh to the knowledge of weaponry.
"Aa, you meld two items together and then link it to an already existing weapon," the owner replied.
"So, it's combined with an Angel's tear?" Rydia said knowingly, still fascinated with the weapons in her hands. "Those are really hard to find."
The owner couldn't help but smile in pride, his dark eye amused at the sight of Rydia. Mismatched eyes and hair the color of the grass blowing across the plains of Esclanker…
"Well, if you know where to find them, then it's pretty easy."
"How much is it, sir?"
"Five million gold."
The two young women nearly fell out of their shoes.
"Now, don't be so surprised, ladies. Finding an Angel's Tear and melding it with a pure mythril dagger is a long and hard process nevertheless a dangerous trip to find an Angel's Tear. I just simply can't let it go that easily."
"B-b-but, can't you…make a discount or something?" Rydia begged. Her eyes were wide and filled with fake tears.
However, the owner did not fall into her trap. He had too much experience with women to fall into such a simple trap. "No can do, missy. If I did, then I'd lose my business and what would my wife say if she found out that I sold such a superb weapon to two beautiful ladies like you?"
"But you don't have a wife," Rydia pointed out.
The owner was taken aback. "Now what makes you think that I'm not married, missy?"
She pointed at her own ring finger. "You don't have a ring here."
Damn, she's got good eyes, the owner cursed to himself. "Well, the main point is: if you don't have the money to pay the price, then I can't sell these beauties to you. Is there anything else that I can help you with?"
Sakana poked her friend in the ribs with her elbow. "Why don't you ask him about directions?" she whispered.
Still a little bit disappointed that she lost the argument, Rydia sighed and decided to follow her faerie friend's advice in a way. "Well…we're kind of new to the city, and um, we're looking for someone who can guide us to Mount Collaseus. He goes by the name of Blank."
Sakana couldn't help but smack her forehead. That wasn't what I meant. The owner, however, arched a curious eyebrow.
"The name's Blank here."
Both Sakana and Rydia's eyes widened in surprise. Rydia blinked for a couple of seconds before she could match a face in her head. She gasped at the match she made in her head. He looked older…but then again, it was ten years ago.
"Did you used to travel around the world and stop by Sefia's temple often?"
He nodded. "And aren't you the little munchkin that tended to all of the temple's visitors?" When Rydia numbly nodded, he grinned. "I thought so. You might've grown to a pretty young lady, Rydia, but you still look the same."
Rydia let out a light laugh, blushing, and scratched the back of her head. In observing all of this as an outsider, all that Sakana could think of was how confused she was. So they do remember and know each other even though they have aged, and Rydia lived with Lord Odin at Sefia temple which is…ah, mortals are too confusing.
"Well, everybody seems to say that about me," Rydia replied.
"This your friend?" Blank asked her, eyeing Sakana with curiosity. There are no pupils in her eyes. Is she blind?
"Oh, this is Sakana, a…er, we met along the way," Rydia explained, being careful to not reveal her friend's secret. "She's helping me out on some things."
"Hello," she mumbled in reply. At that moment, Sakana wished that she would disappear. As the trait of any other fae, she began to dislike the industrialized, societal word.
"Do you know of anyone who can lead us to Mount Collaseus?" Rydia asked, not catching the hesitant tone in her friend's voice.
Blank pointed at himself. "You've found the right person, Rydia. Me and my gang live in the forest nearby. What're you two planning to do there, anyway?"
"To see Lady Siren," Sakana answered quietly.
Once again Blank arched a curious eyebrow. "Siren? You mean the faerie goddess?"
"Yeah," Rydia began to explain. "Master Odin told me to find my guardian angel. Although…I'm not sure what he meant."
"By the look in your eyes, I'm guessin' the old man passed away," Blank remarked thoughtfully. Rydia did not reply; she looked away. "Ah, well, it would make sense for you to go to Siren. Rumors say that she knows practically everything. However, that mountain's full of monsters; it's not a place for young ladies like yourselves."
Rydia's eyes suddenly brightened with hope. "So then you mean…"
Blank couldn't help but grin. "Usually, I don't take travelers, but I'll make an exception. I would guide you there myself, but with the store and all, I can't do that. I'll take you to meet the gang, see if anybody'll help you out. Come back 'round closing time, okay?"
Night came into the city and its surrounding areas fairly quickly. Myths and legends of old say that there were parts of Archangel's Kingdom that always remained on the verge of darkness. Darkness always meant evil, and it would creep out of its hiding places in the light. Those who had sinned too much, those who strayed from their path would always be endangered by the evil of Morcadia. They would prey on the innocent, those who were ignorant to the dangers of the night. And darkness would always win when on its own turf.
Rydia never liked complete darkness. Much recklessness made many mistakes and dangers whenever she went against her teacher's warnings about the night when she was young. Bad experiences of the dark came flooding back to her mind, experiences that she barely survived had it not been for Odin's intervention. She clung onto Sakana's arm tightly as Blank guided them to his home.
"Rydia, are you okay?" Sakana whispered to the young sorceress, noting the frightened look in her eyes.
Realizing that she was holding on too tightly onto her friend's arm, Rydia immediately let go and vainly tried to look cheerful. She thanked Hyne, however, that it was dark and Sakana probably couldn't see her face very well despite the sky faerie's superb eyesight.
"I'm-I'm fine!" Rydia exclaimed. Then she added a bit more quietly, "I'm just fine…"
The sky faerie did not fall for the sorceress' façade, however. She stared at Rydia with her serious, pupil-less violet eyes.
"Are you sure? You look like ---"
"Sorry to interrupt the mild conversation, ladies, but we're here," Blank announced ahead.
The dim glow of the torch he carried created a ring of light around the small camp where Blank inhabited. Four or five tents were strewn around a cold fire, and nobody seemed to be around.
"Hey you big bunch of drunks!" Blank bellowed out in a voice that the two women with him had never heard before. "Get your shiny asses out from your hiding places 'n' look decent 'cuz we got some company!"
For a few seconds, only an unnerving silence answered Blank's orders. Then, slowly, groups of shadows of humans staggered out from their hiding places. Many were men; staring at Rydia with lust in their eyes and making the sky faerie feel a bit uncomfortable. A few women and children had also crawled out of their own hiding places, their faces obscured in the darkness. The two women could see that almost everyone was in rags, patches of clothing sewn together to become a shirt or a pair of pants. Only a few seemed able to afford some decent clothing.
Blank gave the men staring at them a threatening glare and they turned away.
"Hey, Boss, who're the women with ya?" someone asked in the crowd.
This…can't be really happening, Sakana thought as she resisted the urge to grab her sorceress friend and run out of the camping ground as quickly as she could. She could not help but tear her eyes away from the group before them, not used to so much attention. All the meanwhile she wondered how could Rydia withstand all of the tension of the air.
"These're some friends of mine," Blank replied, gesturing with his free hand to Rydia and Sakana behind him. "They're goin' to the mountains tomorrow to visit some friends of theirs, so I invited them to stay here for the night."
"They're going to Mount Collaseus, so what?" asked a young man leaning against a tree looking bored. "You never let any outsiders stay with us unless you know 'em. What's the catch?"
I've seen him somewhere before, Rydia thought as she and the speaker looked eyes in the dim light. A faint blue rose to Sakana's cheeks or rather a light rouge according to those whom did not have the ability to see her true form.
Blank couldn't help but chuckle and grin at the younger man, who looked around twenty years of age. He tossed the torch into the empty campfire. "Damn, sharp as ever. Can't trick you, can I, Kentarou?"
Kentarou smirked. He was one of the few wearing clean, decent clothing, not the rags that most of the inhabitants of Blank's "home" wore. His dark brown hair was tied back in an unusual ponytail with the front part of the navy blue fabric holding up his bangs to give everyone a good view of his uncanny amber eyes. His eyes were first looking at Blank before deciding to change subjects and met Rydia's mismatched ones.
Then it suddenly hit her. "Ah! You're that guy who ran into me in Lilandre!"
Everybody looked at her curiously, including Blank and Sakana. Kentarou, too, looked a bit stunned before a small smile crept to his lips as the memory sunk in.
"Oh yeah…you're that neko-girl with the shopping bags," Kentarou murmured. "Your old man got his bottle of sake before he could smack you, then?"
Her grief over her teacher, the ordeals she had gone through the past week, suddenly blew up. Sakana had to hold Rydia back with all her might before the sorceress could possibly spill blood.
"First of all, that sake bottle was NOT for my old man 'cuz I don't have one; it was for my master and now he's dead!" Rydia shouted at him with all the anger that possessed her. "Second of all, I'm not a cat, dammit! What makes you think that I look like a cat in the first place? And third of all-"
"Rydia, calm down a bit," Sakana pleaded with her friend.
The reasons of the outburst were unknown to Kentarou, but he also didn't seem affected by the outburst himself. He just shrugged with the look of innocence on his face.
"Geez, neko-chan, I was just play around…" he trailed off when Blank gave him a look that said 'shut up' as Rydia took in several deep breaths to calm herself down.
"Since these ladies are going to Mount Collaseus, I want somebody to accompany them," he said after a momentary pause to get to the point and back on subject. "And since you look so eager to leave, why don't you accompany them, Kentarou?"
You mean apologize to the green-haired girl 'cuz she's a long lost friend of yours and is suffering through a whole bunch of shit that I don't even know of. Kentarou read between the lines as he sighed and pushed himself off.
"Fine with me."
"How about not," Rydia muttered under her breath, glaring at him.
If looks could kill…Sakana wondered.
<Mt. Collaseus - the next day>
An uneasy silence lingered among the three weary travelers, and it neared the brink of explosion. Rydia and Kentarou were both on uncomfortable and bad terms; she still angry at him especially without his apology and he seethed at Blank for putting him into this situation.
Geez, what did I do to deserve this? If I'd've known that this old monk who was her freakin' GUARDIAN died, then I would've said nothing' to her about it. Man…Blank's gonna pay for this even if he is my boss…Kentarou grumbled in his head while leading the women along the mountain path. Not far behind him were Rydia and Sakana.
I shouldn't have yelled at him, Rydia thought a bit guiltily, but still! It was his fault for blurting out that anyway. And what's up with calling me 'neko-chan'?
"Rydia, if you keep glaring at him, your face will stay that way," Sakana whispered some words of wisdom.
"I think it's already stuck, Sakana," Rydia mumbled, not allowing herself to tear her mismatched eyes away from mentally boring holes into his head.
Sakana just sighed and shook her head. Mortals, I swear…the two of them are too stubborn to admit to each other that they're both at fault. She also couldn't help but think that she might have to face this for a long time. Hyne, why am I putting up with these two?
The colorful, spring-like mountain path quickly changed into a bleak winter environment. The monsters became few; only the strongest of them could survive such a harsh, cold environment. Despite her heavy clothing, Rydia couldn't help but wrap her arms around herself against the bitter wind. She secretly wished that she had bought a cloak like Sakana's, who seemed unaffected by the cold.
You know, come to think of it, where are all the monsters that were following us? Did they finally give up on us? She wondered while looking around. She almost ran into Kentarou if it hadn't been for her amulet's warning. In front of the trio stood an ice pillar that was at least twenty times their size and around fifty times as thick. Kentarou approached the pillar and knocked on it as if testing its resiliency. He turned back to Rydia and Sakana with his hand still on the pillar.
"Hey, do any of know fi-"
Rydia quickly snapped her fingers, and a wall of fire engulfed the pillar with its power. Kentarou moved his hand away just in time before the flames could scorch his hand while watching the ice melt in a matter of seconds. When the flames died, he turned back to Rydia, a bit annoyed.
"Hey, you could've just waited for me to finish what I was about to say---"
"I already know what you were about to say," Rydia interrupted and calmly walked past him. "So, it's a waste of time for you to ask."
Kentarou watched her walk away from him, his anger slowly dying away. Sakana approached him with slight concern in her eyes.
"Kentarou, are you okay?" she asked.
Kentarou scratched the back of his head as he finally mustered the strength to follow the sorceress in green. "Yeah, I'm fine. Geez, your friend sure has a short temper."
"Rydia's…she just has a lot on her mind," Sakana explained.
Kentarou chuckled bitterly. "Yeah, I know. Blank told me…" He paused. "So, what are you doing here? I mean, besides accompanying neko-chan over there."
Sakana hesitated upon answering to her true purpose, but she was fortunately saved by Rydia who had turned around, hands on her hips.
"What are you asking her, amber eyes?" she demanded.
Kentarou waved his hands innocently in the air. "Nothing! It's nothing big; I was just wondering why your friend was coming along with you."
She continued to stare at him, unaware that his expression had changed for Rydia was too far away to see his face. "Listen, all you have to do is to guide us to the top of the mountain, not ask us ---"
"Rydia, behind you!" Sakana interjected.
The young sorceress had turned around to face a rather large and hungry Behemoth. Its face grimaced at her for she disturbed its slumber, and it growled in a tone that sent a tremor in the ground. Too frozen in a mixture of surprise and fear, Rydia stood still as the creature's catlike yet poisonous claws swung. The creature's deadly weapon struck flesh and blood spewed out from the wound. Sakana gasped in amazement and was unsure how to react. Her mind was still trying to comprehend what she had just seen.
Kentarou had rushed in just before the Behemoth's claws could come into contact with Rydia, and he had taken a slight graze across his right shoulder. They tumbled together in the snow before Rydia could open her eyes. When she did, she stared up into Kentarou's concerned ones.
"Hey, you all right, neko-chan?" he asked her.
He had called her a cat again but didn't recall it. She felt warm, safe in his arms.
"Um…I-I think so," she stammered to form the words.
He smiled in relief and turned his attention back towards the snow Behemoth, setting Rydia's feet back on solid ground.
"Keh, he's mad…" Kentarou mumbled, drawing out his katana.
Rydia, too, turned back to the Behemoth, sensing something strange about the monster. It has something inside of it…
A bolt of lightning struck one of the Behemoth's horns, and it yowled in a mixture of pain and anger.
"Sakana?" Rydia asked aloud.
"Now's your chance!" Sakana yelled, diverting the Behemoth's attention to her. "Attack it!"
Kentarou charged forwards before Rydia could stop him. "Kentarou, wait!" she shouted after him before huffing out a breath of annoyance. "Ah geez…" Do I have to do this all by myself?
She closed her eyes, whispering the incantation from her memory. The rolled syllables of the ancient tongue spilled from her lips like water. Kentarou skidded to a stop, seeing the fireflies of life circling around him. What the…
Rydia continued her chant as the Behemoth, too, looked around in confusion. Sakana felt uneasy by all of the life she was beginning to sense. She could feel another aura other than the Behemoth beginning to form. What is this? She frantically looked around for the source before her ears caught onto the incantation. The language she couldn't understand, but the voice was…familiar.
The Behemoth growled at hearing Rydia's words. Its strength would be cut in half if her spell would be completed. It abandoned its new prey, heading after the one who had woken it from its slumber in the first place.
Kentarou cursed to himself as he chased after the bulky creature that was now surprisingly fast. That thing's going at three steps behind my true speed…I can't up my speed up a notch to catch it in time!
"Hey, neko-chan!" he yelled. "Get the hell out of the way! It's coming after you!"
Rydia opened her eyes, the incantation complete. "Cho! Release yourself!"
The life particles whirled towards their new master, letting her absorb them into her spirit. The Behemoth once again yowled in pain, stopping in its tracks. It continued to thrash its tail to and fro, flinging piles upon piles of snow onto the dead trees and cliffside.
"Kentarou!" Rydia shouted at the swordsman. "Don't just stand there and gawk at it! Now's your chance!" She began chanting another spell, preparing for attack.
Kentarou snapped out of his daze and charged forward with a warrior's cry, clicking on a button on the hilt of his weapon to reveal its true form. One katana on each hand, he jumped for the kill.
The Behemoth finally began to get used to the sudden loss of its power and looked up, sniffing the scent of the enemy.
"Firaga Sword!" Rydia shouted, distracting the creature.
Flames swirled around Kentarou's weapons as he swiftly maneuvered the swords like a paintbrush before landing softly on the other side. The Behemoth screamed in agony as the flames consumed it before falling onto the snow as charred flesh. Kentarou slowly stood up, looking at his katanas as the fire died away. What…how could she do that?
He looked up, seeing the two women run to him. Rydia had suddenly stopped as Sakana ran past her, noticing a large blood stain tarnishing the spotless white jacket on his right shoulder.
Did he…did he get that when he saved me?
Guilt welled up inside, but she forcefully pushed it back down as she managed her legs to move and walk forward.
"Kentarou, you're injured!" Sakana exclaimed as she too noticed his wound.
He sheathed his katana back into its place, shrugging off the pain. "Oh this? Don't worry, it's nothing."
His lips curled into a faint smile, looking at Rydia. "Probably got it when I saved Miss-Damsel-in-Distress back there."
Rydia frowned as she continued walking towards them. "I didn't ask to be saved, you know."
Kentarou's smile widened into a grin. He had to admit, the sorceress was pretty cute when she frowned. "Oh, would you rather be cat food, then? Oh, wait, that's cannibalism there."
She ignored the last comment, ordering softly. "Let me see."
He was surprised at her reaction, expecting her to snap back with a witty response. "See what? I told you it's nothing."
"That Behemoth holds poison in its claws," Rydia explained to him. "Even one graze by them can put you into a coma. Let me see it; I can probably extract the poison out."
Rydia…how does she know that? Sakana wondered.
Kentarou hesitated for a moment at her request before complying. He gingerly pulled away the jacket at the wound. His entire right shoulder had been tattooed with a dragon from the East, its red eyes seemingly glaring back at Rydia. Across the dragon's eyes, though, was the grazing wound from the Behemoth.
"Good, it hasn't reacted yet," Rydia murmured as she reached out, concentrating on the wound.
"What do you mean it hasn't reacted?" Kentarou asked as a soft green aura encircled her hand and his wound.
"You mean, you don't know?" Rydia asked incredulously.
"Behemoth's poison spreads through its intended victim's body like fire," Sakana offered to explain. "It eats away at the flesh turning it black as it travels through. So, to sum it all up, it's like you're being eaten inside out. That's how Behemoths can catch fast prey."
"Huh, interesting," he murmured.
"You're a bandit who's traveled around the world and you don't know anything about that?" Rydia said with disbelief. She released the antidote spell. "There, it's done."
"Ah, well, never paid attention to what my boss taught me," Kentarou replied as he pulled back his jacket into place. "Can't honestly say when was the last time I read a book."
"Well, anyways, that's my payback for letting you get hurt."
"Since when did you ever owe me?" Kentarou smirked. "I did that out of the goodness of my heart."
"Whatever, amber eyes."
"Um…" Sakana tried to intervene. And I'd thought that they would've stopped arguing after that…
"Well, done, visitors," a melodic female voice called from the sky.
The trio looked around them in confusion, trying to find the owner of the voice. Golden fireflies of light floated in the sky, slowly merging together into a human form. The trio shielded their eyes from the blinding light as the female figure glided down to the ground. Her honey-blonde hair swirled around her body as if they had a life of their own and angelic wings crowned her head. She wore golden robes wrapped around her body only to stop just above her knees. Her emerald eyes were warm and welcoming - eyes that held knowledge of a thousand years. She was barefoot, and as she touched the snow, it was replaced by crystal tile. A skyline ceiling held itself above them.
"Who are you?" Kentarou asked with suspicion, only to be hit on the head by a certain green-haired sorceress.
"Idiot, be respectful!" she hissed.
"Ow! Why?" he replied, rubbing his head.
Sakana stepped forward, bowing before the woman who stood before them.
"Lady Siren," she addressed to the golden woman in her own native tongue, "Forgive them, they mean no harm."
Kentarou was baffled by the strange tongue and looked at Rydia for an answer.
"Just what in Hyne's name is going on?" he asked. "And what's your friend saying?"
Rydia ignored the first question, awed by Sakana's language. "She's speaking in fae."
It was too late to cover Sakana's secret now."Sakana's a sky faerie."
"My daughter, there is no need for you to be so formal," Siren said to her in the modern tongue. "Please, stand."
A bit surprised at the goddess' kindness, Sakana stood. Siren turned towards the other two with amusement underlying her calm face. These two are going to be quite a show later on.
"Whoa…I didn't know that fae even existed…" Kentarou murmured in disbelief, scratching his head.
Those words hit Sakana hard, but she hid her pain, watching him and Rydia.
"Idiot, they've existed for thousands and thousands of years, keeping the planet in balance," Rydia told him. She sighed. "You really don't know anything, do you?"
"I told you before, I've never paid attention to a damn word what my boss said. The only things that perk up my ears are gold, swords, and treasures. Besides," he folded his arms, "I've never heard anybody seeing 'em."
"That's because you can't, idiot -"
Sakana decided it was time to interrupted, clearing her throat. The two immediately stopped, realizing that they had been going back and forth for a while and looked away from each other, embarrassed. Siren chuckled, and their blushes deepened.
"I'm aware of the situation that you face, Rydia," she said. Much more than you know yourself.
Rydia was surprised that Siren had called her by her name. "How do you know my name?"
"Your eyes remind me of someone the same age as you were long ago," Siren answered with a smile. "Having trained under Odin, you know the ways of obtaining a guardian."
Rydia nodded with slight hesitation, holding her hand to her chest out of habit. Siren continued to smile, remembering back to other times. Just like her mother…
"Then your trial will begin." Siren's eyes began to glow white. "By witnessing your powers earlier, this trial will be a difficult one. Are you ready?"
Rydia thought back to the time of Odin's death, which oddly felt like a lifetime ago. She nodded, this time without hesitation.
The floor disappeared beneath her, and she fell into the depths of the unknown. Kentarou had tried to grab her hand before it disappeared - suddenly not wanting her in harm's way like before - but it was too late.
<Siren's Palace - Void Realm>
In what seemed like she was falling for eternity, Rydia finally landed on something. Hard.
"Ow…" she groaned, getting up and rubbing her backside. She blinked and blinked again, thinking that this was some kind of illusion. She couldn't possibly be…
Rydia finally willed her legs to move forward as she looked at her surroundings. The temple in front of her was just as she left it - alone and quiet. The birds chirped in the trees and she could see not far off was the waterfall that she had always adored to play in. But something was amiss; she couldn't help but feel that there was something wrong.
A dark shadow rustled in the bushes behind her and she whipped herself around, a hand instinctively closing in on her daggers. An evil, familiar aura crept to her senses. Her eyes narrowed, and her grip tightened.
"No, this isn't the temple," she whispered.
She turned around again, hearing the large sound of rustling leaves. And then her heart froze.
The demon that caused her master's death was charging straight for her with her life as its target.
<Siren's Palace - Crystal Hall>
"Rydia!" Sakana cried out as her friend was slashed across the back.
"What the hell is that girl doing, just trying to weakly strike like that?" Kentarou muttered with equal concern.
Siren continued to watch on silently, her eyes narrowing. Incredible…
<Siren's Palace - Void Realm>
Rydia gritted her teeth at the searing pain, not daring to let her eyes stray from her enemy. The combination of the miscalculated throw and the opening for the demon to slash her back with its claws had somewhat snapped her back to reality.
This is a trial. I can't let Master Odin's death get the best of me, she chided herself as she grabbed for more of her daggers.
That is true, but can you let yourself accept it? was her second thought. Rydia blinked in surprise as the demon and the temple faded away and she stared back at her own reflection in the mirror in front of her. Her mirror stared back at her-smiling maliciously.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Who am I? I'm you," the mirror replied.
"No you're not."
"I'm the you who hides deep inside of you. The opposite of what you think you are. The you in the mirror."
Rydia frowned, delving in the information. Her mirror self laughed.
"That won't work on me, Rydia," she said. "You eyes can't 'forsee' beyond this reflection because you're looking at yourself."
"I don't need to hear anything from you," Rydia coldly replied. "You're not me."
"Idiot, you still don't get it, do you?" her mirror said. "No wonder why Master Odin died. You're too slow."
Too late, too late, too late, the words echoed in Rydia's head. She shook her head.
"Why should I? You're the one who let him die."
"…I didn't let him die…"
"Then you should have killed the creature who killed him. But no, you let him go."
"…I had no choice…"
"Choice? Yes you did. You could have chased after him, send your strongest spell. But no, you let that demon go - and let Master Odin die."
Rydia shook her head again but more angrily. "That's not true! I didn't let Master Odin die!"
A soft blue aura began to surround her. It didn't matter to her if she was bleeding to death, it didn't matter if her aura was expelling itself. She knew the truth - she had known it long after Odin's death but failed to realize it.
Her mirror took a step back, surprised by the explosion of energy. "What are you…"
"Master Odin didn't die," Rydia said softly. "Only his physical state did."
The aura began to get stronger and her mirror's eyes widened in shock. "You couldn't possibly be…"
Rydia fell back into that power that lie inside her, that power which held the truth for all to see. The power that Odin had desperately tried to control when she couldn't when she was younger.
"He's one of the guardians just like Siren!" she exclaimed. "Master Odin's spirit can never die! He's been inside of me all along!"
Four seals formed on the "ground" around her in a circle. Spirit. Kill. Evil. Strike.Rydia's mirror image backed away even further in fear.
"I-impossible…that's impossible!" her mirror shouted with wide eyes. "You couldn't possibly control him yet!"
Thunder rolled into the void and a horse neighed from afar. Rydia's eyes glowed a strange blue-white hue as a six-legged horse and its rider appeared out of the void. The rider was a human-like creature decked in armor; its piercing green eyes peered out of the helmet. It raised its weapon - a swallow - over its head and willed its horse to charge and attack. Her enemy tried to run only to get shattered into pieces by the mysterious intruder. The horse rider disappeared as soon as it came, leaving Rydia to herself as something lifted her back up to the main hall.
<Siren's Palace - Main Hall>
The aura around Rydia's body and the glow in her eyes had vanished as she finally succumbed to the extent of her injuries - both physically and mentally. Kentarou caught her in his arms before she hit the floor.
"Hey, don't got fainting on me now, neko-chan," he said to her in a lighthearted manner.
Rydia lifted her head; her lips curled into a faint smile. "I'm going to get you for calling me that again, amber eyes."
"As long as you keep on calling me amber eyes." Kentarou smiled despite the circumstances. He was glad that the sorceress still held her sense of humor, but he was more concerned about the wounds on her back.
Sakana ran to them, frantically asking, "Rydia, Rydia, are you all right?"
Rydia smiled again, but her voice was weaker this time. "Mmhm, just tired…"
Siren observed from her throne, still absorbing the powers she had just witnessed. This girl…she is going to be a formidable foe against him… To be able to see through my spell and defeat her doubts and fears…
"You are a remarkable mortal, Rydia," she said. She smiled as the trio looked up at her. "Beyond the powers of any mortal that I know. You live true to your bloodline."
Golden fireflies of life began to circle around Rydia. "…My bloodline?"
She still does not know…poor girl, Siren mused. "As promised I will lend you my powers. Call on me anytime."
You are the only one capable of preventing the resurrection of Orion to its full strength…