Chapter Four ~ Confrontation in the Rift
And in a flurry of golden sparkles, she - and the palace - was gone. All that remained was the rather disheveled trio of sorceress, sky faerie, and sword-wielding maniac.
Rydia, looking very much like a rag doll, moaned softly and slumped forward in Kentarou's arms. Sakana ran to her and held her up.
"Give her to me," she said, and Sakana took Rydia from a dazed and confused Kentarou. She lay her face down in the snow. The snow around her slowly turned red. Rydia flinched and made a sound like a kitten.
"I'm sorry, Rydia, I know it's cold," Sakana's sympathetic voice said musically. She was kneeling down next to Rydia, smoothing a stray lock of hair back into place. "But I have to look at that back of yours."
Sakana gently pulled back the shreds of her kimono. Rydia's pale skin was slashed open, exposing the red muscles that quivered with her pulse. The edges around the wound were white and jagged, and blood angrily flowed crimson over Sakana's hands.
Sakana's purple eyes widened and her skin got even whiter. She had the unfamiliar feeling of everything spinning around her. She bit her lip and shook her head like a raven in the rain. You can't let it get to you like this, she thought. You're not any help to her if it does. Sakana set her jaw and opened her eyes with a look that was pure determination. Forcing back the dizziness, she once again examined Rydia's bloodied back. A sudden stab of fear grabbed her as she saw what only fae eyes could see. Much slower than the oozing blood, Rydia's aura leaked from where the "demon" had torn her flesh.
"Dammit, don't die on me, Rydia," Sakana hissed. Then softer: "Please, don't die…"
Sakana had seen Rydia's wounds heal on their own while fighting off various creatures along the way, but she didn't have the energy for it now. Sakana's mind raced. Rydia knew Healing magic, but that was out of the question. Sakana could only learn Sky magic, and her pool of white water was very far away.
"Kentarou, do you know Healing magic?" she said briskly. Kentarou was still looking shell-shocked, and speaking coherently was a lot to ask.
There was an intensity in Sakana's voice that caught him completely off-guard. She usually seemed a bit…distant. Nice, but something was off. But a faerie? She doesn't look like one. Keh, I don't get it.
"I'd give anything to stop the blee---" Sakana stopped and realized there was something. Reaching under Rydia's torso, she found the sleek row of throwing knives.
"….huh?..." Rydia managed to say.
"Easy, Rydia. Relax," Sakana said as she took the first knife her fingers came across. "Now, I'm going to help you, but you have to trust me and listen."
She didn't let Rydia protest. Rydia had to listen, or she'd die.
Sakana shakily held the weapon, something she most definitely hated about the mortal world. Rydia made a soft sound of pain, cold, and fear, and Sakana's hand steadied. Holding it in one hand, she turned her other arm upward and laid the blade across her wrist. She took a deep breath and -
"Stop it!" Kentarou yelled, brought out of his silent reverie. He reached for Sakana.
---slit open the vein underneath. A brilliant sky blue liquid welled up. The sight of it stopped Kentarou just as he was about to take the knife from her.
"What the hell…" he gasped.
Sakana forced herself not to yell out against the terrifying new sensation of broken skin. She pursed her lips together and her vision grew blurry with the tears she refused to let fall. With her free hand, she squeezed her forearm just below the cut, causing more blood to come up.
Lying down on her stomach, she moved as close as she could to Rydia. Sakana turned Rydia's face up towards her and put her slit wrist, which was dripping with the glistening blue, up by Rydia's mouth. Rydia's lips were wet with red blood and saliva, and her lusterless eyes dimly stared at the fresh wound in front of her. Sakana wiped off Rydia's mouth and put her wrist against it. The mismatched eyes widened and flicked up at Sakana.
"Drink it," Sakana said heavily. She didn't want to waste too much of her blood.
Rydia's eyes continued to stare at her in fear. Blue poured from Sakana's arm as red grew sticky on Rydia's back.
Rydia opened her mouth and drew in the hot blood. She choked and spluttered against its heat and the odd metallic taste that felt like sake on her throat.
"C'mon Rydia…there you go…good girl…" Sakana's words of encouragement murmured in the stillness as Rydia lapped up the dripping faerie blood. And Sakana could already see the flow of Rydia's aura begin to slow.
Something began to twitch in Kentarou's cheek. He blinked a few times, and then he snapped.
"WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?"
Sakana looked up in surprise. Kentarou had stood up and started pacing, gesturing wildly with his hands.
"I mean, okay, two women going up to Mt. Collaseaus is a bit weird, but whatever, then they're going to find Siren, Siren, the freakin' goddess mind you, so then there's snow and wind and whole damn packs of…I don't know, ice demons from hell---"
"You don't find ice demons around here…or in hell, for that matter," Sakana interjected good-naturedly.
Kentarou laughed, though he didn't find it at all funny, and then began rambling again. "How the hell do I know? I'm a bandit! A damned thief! And before you can say 'Blank, you son of a bitch, why didn't you warn me,' I'm holding court in front of a goddess with my two seemingly unassuming ladies, who turn out to be a really bitchy sorceress who almost incinerates my stupid ass when I ask for help, and then gets the crap kicked out of her by a demon while Ms. Mystical Goddess doesn't do a damn thing -" he paused to wipe a fleck of spit off his chin - "And then there's her friend who isn't even human for Hyne's sake…"
Sakana, who was binding her wrist with a strip from Rydia's tattered kimono, stopped suddenly at his words. She felt numb and aching inside. Isn't even human…
"…bright freakin' blue, and little miss sorceress sucks it up like a…a damn vampire -"
"Don't you EVER call her dark fae again!" Sakana snapped, trying to sound angry, which was hard to be towards Kentarou. "I…I don't know what Rydia thinks she'll find…I don't think she even knows…but I'm going to help her because even if she's mortal, she sees me as I really am…and…doesn't care if I…if…I'm h-human or not…"
Something wet splashed onto Sakana's hand. Don't cry, Sakana, dammit, you're stronger than that, she told herself as a third, fourth, fifth teardrop fell.
Kentarou turned a dark shade of red. Oh, real good. You couldn't keep your damn mouth shut, no, you had to make her cry. Idiot.
"Sakana…I…I didn't mean it like that…" he stammered. "I've just never seen fae, not like you anyway, and well…you did kind of spring it on me."
Sakana furiously tried to brush away her tears, but they didn't seem to have any intention of stopping. Kentarou heard her mutter something that sounded like, "…no reason to be crying…"
He helplessly searched for something to say. Tentatively, he knelt down beside her and put an arm around her. Then the other, holding her close. Sakana's heart fluttered in her chest.
"I'm sorry, Sakana. I wasn't thinking. I don't care if you're fae, I just…I'm sorry."
Through her tears, Sakana was amazed at the feeling of being so physically close to someone. Oh sure, she'd been hugged by Rydia, or they would curl up and go to sleep; but it wasn't like this. Sakana hesitantly rested her head on Kentarou's shoulder. He held her tighter. His arms were strong, powerful, and though she knew he could've crushed her with them, she felt safe. He would protect her, he would make sure she was all right. And Sakana cried, not just because of Kentarou's misplaced comment, but fro the face she wore that wasn't hers, and almost losing Rydia, and the throbbing pain in her wrist, and all the things about mortals she didn't understand, and for everything she had left behind.
Kentarou understood. He didn't know the thoughts in her head, but he had some idea of the hurt inside her. After all, he'd been there. Only he didn't have someone to hold him. I wonder what her real face looks like, he mused as he consoled the delicate creature in his arms.
Sakana wanted to stay there, but she tore herself away and sat up. She blinked the last few tears away. She wouldn't make eye contact with him, because she knew she'd have an even harder time looking away. What's wrong with me?
"None of this is helping Rydia," she said awkwardly, and turned her attention back to the girl on the ground. Rydia's eyes were closed and she wasn't moving. Kentarou started.
"Don't worry, she's asleep," Sakana said, knowing his thoughts. "Aside from having healing properties on mortals, faerie blood makes them sleep. See, the bleeding's stopped. The wounds should close up in a while. We need to get her out of the snow, though. My blood will keep her warm for a while, but not long enough. That kimono isn't doing much good either…"
Without thinking twice, Sakana untied the cloak about her neck. It fell around her shoulders, revealing the shimmering dress and her wings. She wrapped the chocolate brown cloth around Rydia and pulled her close to her.
Kentarou's mouth hung open. Since Sakana's faerie coloring and features were hidden from him, her wings looked especially out of place. But somehow they added to her graceful figure. Kentarou had grown used to the grubby, sun burnt women in patched-up clothing that lived in the tents with his friends, and often moved from tent to tent. Sakana, on the other hand, she was something else. The thought that the same was true for Rydia, maybe even more so, flickered across his mind. He shook it off and made himself think of their current situation.
"You sure you want to give her your cloak? I mean, that dress isn't terribly good at covering you up, you've lost a lot of blood…Hyne, you're barefoot, too?"
Sakana fought back a smile, listening to his concern for her. "She needs it more than I do; besides, I'm fae. I'm a lot harder to kill than you think," she said, giving him a challenging smirk. "C'mon, let's find somewhere we can take her."
She started to pick up Rydia, but Kentarou moved Sakana aside and took Rydia into his arms, being careful not to wake her.
Sakana felt a twinge of ---- something. She wasn't sure what to call it, as she'd never felt it before. For some odd reason, she strongly wished that it was she in Kentarou's arms and not Rydia. It was an ugly feeling, and it scared her. She stood up, brushed the snow off of her legs, and spread her wings as far as they would go.
"Oh, it's been so long since I could stretch my wings," she said and noticed the look Kentarou was giving her. "I'm not used to walking, all right? But I'll keep it slow so you can keep up."
Her wings fluttered, and she hovered over the ground. Kentarou forced himself not to stare. He got a better grip on Rydia and started through the snow.
"Shit, what have I gotten myself into…" he mumbled under his breath.
<An hour or so later>
"Hey, Sakana, can we stop for a minute?" Kentarou panted. Rydia was getting heavy, and he had to walk very fast to keep up with Sakana, even if she was going "slow".
"Mortals," Sakana sighed. "Can't take them anywhere."
"Hey, that's not---"
"Kidding, Kentarou. We can take a break." She floated down onto a log lying on the ground. Kentarou lay Rydia down and sat beside Sakana. Rydia twitched in her sleep and smiled faintly.
"Wonder what she's dreaming about…" Kentarou said. Sakana smiled at the look on Rydia's face.
"Yeah," he said and paused. Then hastily: "In a scrawny kid sister sort of way, of course."
Sakana started to say something, but she stopped dead. Kentarou couldn't see her pointed ears prick up, but he could see the uneasiness written on her face.
"Sakana, what's wrong?"
She wasn't sure. At all times, she could feel the auras of everything around her - human, tree, rock. They flowed about like water. She was very sensitive to it, and so there was no mistake that something had made it ripple. She sent her sense deep into the field around her, finding out just who had disturbed it.
"Sakana, what is it? Sakana?"
Kentarou's hand moved to his katana. Sakana held out her hand to stop.
"Don't…not dark…wait…" Everyone's aura was different, and so the ripple everyone made was unique. It was just a matter of…
Sakana's eyes opened slowly and she cocked her head. Her sudden intense concentration reminded Kentarou of a cat.
"…Viola?" Sakana whispered. Kentarou jumped and scanned the area, but Sakana could see what he could not. Perched on a large pile of rocks about twenty feet away was a winged creature, crouching like she did not want to be seen. Before Kentarou could blink, Sakana was standing before her.
"Viola, sister, it's me-"
You should not have come here, a rasping whisper echoed through Sakana's mind.
The creature on the rocks was a mind faerie, one who has the power over time, space, and thoughts. Her skin was a reddish-purple, her hair a tangle of onyx black, her wings a deep indigo. In disturbing contrast to her dark body were her eerie eyes. Like Sakana, she lacked pupils, but instead of the dazzling purple, Viola's were the color of smoke. They were piercing, and her face reflected the weary burden of knowing and feeling too many things.
"What? This forest isn't yours."
You think in such three-dimensional terms. This is my rift.
A rift was a sort of tear between dimensions that could be accessed by those capable of mind magic. They could be used as getaways to any other rifts in the universe. It was something Sakana could never understand, just as Viola could never hear the stars move through the sky.
"I'm sorry, Viola, you know I have now way of knowing that. I meant no harm, sister."
You are not my sister anymore, Viola rasped angrily, but Sakana could hear the sadness hidden behind it.
"Sister by blood as well as soul," she said in a low tone.
Sister by blood, perhaps, but not by mind. You have severed the tie. I should not even be talking to you. Or have you forgotten the rules of the Clan?
"You think I could forget? You think I did not know when I joined Rydia?"
You joined a mortal.
"What does it matter if she is mortal or fae?"
Shame on you, Sakana, Viola hissed. Her ears lay flat and her wings rose up. Sakana instinctively did the same. You deny the rules and mock everything we are. You wear mortal skin and forget your wings. And --- Sakana felt a tingling sensation in her brain and knew Viola was sifting through her thoughts.
And you are in love with a mortal as well. Viola's pale eyes narrowed and she sneered in contempt. The one with the amber eyes. Two rules broken.
"I don't love him!" Sakana blurted out.
If not yet, you will. You know love between fae and mortal is not possible.
"That has nothing to do with it! Viola, I had to join her. Did I have a choice? Did you not feel it the night the star fell?"
Viola shivered. I felt a deep terror and despair like I have never known. But I don't see what -
"Rydia was raised by Odin, Viola. She has powers like I've never imagined in a mortal. I think she may explain what happened."
Viola's gaze was fixed on Rydia. The anger had changed to confusion. Mortal, yes, but her aura has something else, too…not fae, but magical…that's odd.
There are traces of your aura in her as well.
"I gave her my blood. She was dying, and she will die if she stays in the cold."
Viola's eyes widened in disbelief. You bled for a mortal?
"For a friend, Viola." She paused and dropped her eyes to the ground. "For a sister."
Viola probed deep into Sakana's mind, and felt for herself the love for Rydia and the fear of losing her.
Oh Sakana, she moaned. Little lostling, how did you lose your way?
"I know who I am," Sakana said through clenched teeth. "The question is, do you?"
They stared at each other, the trees rustling with the energy radiating off of them. Viola stood up, raised her hands above her head, and closed her eyes. A loud crackling sound filled the air. Beside Sakana, a black oval had appeared. Its edges sparked with that looked like purple and silver electricity.
The rift is open to you. Go. But if we meet again, I will not know you.
Sakana gasped, then bowed deeply. "Thank you, Viola." She turned to Kentarou. "Kentarou, c'mon!"
"Were you just having a conversation with a rock?"
"I'll explain later. But we have to go now."
"Hell, nothing's going to surprise me after this," he said as he picked up Rydia. He stared at the black hole, took a deep breath, and stepped through.
Sakana looked at Viola. "I will not forget this. The Fae's blessings on you, and may we meet again, sister."
Viola sharply turned away, not saying a word. Sakana couldn't see the grief of losing her friend in her eyes. Sighing deeply and putting aside this new hurt for later, Sakana stepped through the portal and into the location on the other side.